VIOLET MAUD TROTT, A.R.R.C. – Hanmer Springs hospital matron’s war medals found in Rest Home safe 41 years after she died.

22/378 – VIOLET MAUD TROTT, A.R.R.C.    

In October 2016 I was contacted by a resident nurse at St. Nicholas Hospital & Rest Home at Ilam in Christchurch.  Nurse Kim M-B. advised that the hospital was closing permanently in a few weeks and that in the course of re-locating their records and administrative facilities to their new premises, medals belonging to Miss Violet Trott, a former resident, had been found in the hospital safe.  Kim told me that Violet had died in 1975 and that her medals must have been forgotten (or unclaimed) by family and had remained untouched in the safe ever since.  Kim also said she was unaware of any surviving record of family or relative, and could I help to find someone in the Trott descendants to return the medals to ?

Violet Trott’s medals found in the hospital safe.

Violet’s medals were in excellent condition for their age with the original ribbons attached.  In addition there was a rather intriguing bronze cross awarded for proficiency in mental health nursing.  The bronze cross was not issued with a ribbon.  The Royal Red Cross  however, which I later discovered Violet been honoured with in 1920, was not with the medals.  There was also no written record of the safe’s contents nor any notation of whom the medals should be returned to in the event of Violet’s death.

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Violet Maud Trott was one of 12 children born to farming couple George Trott and Mary Ann FERRICK of Springston Canterbury, on 10 April 1888.  Of these children five had died at birth or shortly thereafter.  Violet, the forth born Trott child, was schooled at Springston and her surviving siblings at Waimate.  In 1911 the Trott family moved to Waimate and another property the Trott’s named ‘Glenlogan’ .  This became the Trott family home for the next fifty years or so.  A local newspaper recorded the Trott family’s departure from Springston  

The PRESS – 27 Sep., 1911

SPRINGSTON.  A very successful social was tendered to Mr and Mrs George and Mary Ann Trott and family, who are leaving the district for Waimate, in the local Public Hall on Monday evening by the Springston Methodist Circuit. There was a large gathering, the hall being filled with friends and well-wishers. The Rev. J. T. Pinford, 8.D., presided, and expressed the appreciation of the circuit for the faithful way in which

Mr Trott had for many years fulfilled the varied offices to which he had been elected. The Rev. C. Abernethy spoke from a personal standpoint. The following gentlemen also delivered short addresses:—Messrs Wm. Chamberlain (Ellesmere), Pitkin (Weedons), Blakemore (Springston), W. Campion (Broadfield).

Mr W. Early, as the oldest office-bearer, on behalf of the subscribers, presented Mr and MrsTrott with a handsome Chesterfield suite of furniture, suitably inscribed.

The Chairman afterwards presented Miss Violet Trott, who for some time has been organist at the Springston Church services, with a gold and bejewelled pendant.

Presentations were also made to Mr H. J. Trott and Masters Frank and Lionel Trott.  During the evening the school children gave three action songs, and the following contributed to the programme:—Misses Smith, H. Chamberlain, Dennison (2), Downs and Messrs Smith, W. Early and Master Frank Trott. At the close of the programme all present were regaled with refreshments, provided by the ladies.

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Violet showed an early aptitude and enthusiasm for nursing, the Waimate Hospital being one of the largest for many miles around.  Violet completed her nursing training at the Waimate Hospital in early 1915 and in June,  successfully gained her Certificate in Nursing and passed the State nursing examinations for nurse’s registration.  Violet Trott was enrolled as Registered Nurse (R.N.) number: No.1769.  

In August 1915 the Hospital’s replacement Sister was delayed for a number of months and, at the request of the hospital committee, RN Violet Trott agreed to temporarily fill the vacancy until the new year.  The Committee decided to pay Nurse Trott £7O per year, and would also make arrangements for her to have a holiday.

Waimate Daily Advertiser – 10 Feb., 1916

PERSONALAt yesterday’s meeting the Waimate Hospital Committee appointed Miss M. B. Bremner, of Dunedin, to the, vacancy caused on the staff by the resignation of Miss Trott, the Sister of the institution.  A hearty vote of thanks was accorded Miss Trott for her capable and dependable services in a strenuous time and for considering the Committee’s convenience and remaining on till other arrangements could be made. It is understood that Miss Trott will be leaving in the course of a few days. 

In February 1916 Violet took up a position as a Staff Nurse at the Wellington Public Hospital.  The recruiting of nursing staff to support the war effort and provide replacements for the initial volunteers never ceased since the Gallipoli Landings in April 1914.  The need for doctors, RNs, nurse aids and physiotherapists as the Western Front battlefield casualty numbers soared, reached a peak in 1916-17.  The necessity to maintain qualified medical staffing levels on hospital ships and troop transports between France, England and New Zealand were just as essential to maintain as the land based hospitals and battlefield Casualty Clearing Stations.  For Violet Trott, a newly qualified and enrolled RN, it was a case of not if, but when she would be required to serve her country in one of these roles. 

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22/378 S/Nurse Violet Maud Trott was enlisted into the NZ Army Nursing Service (NZANS) at Auckland on 06 Nov 1916 .  The NZ Matron-in-Chief, Hester Maclean (1863–1932), head of the Army Nursing Service from 1915, selected and equipped all Army nurses. The first group of 50 nurses sailed to Egypt in April 1915 with Maclean as escort.  They later went to England, with 35–40 crossing to France in 1916 and Belgium the following year.  Violet Trott was assigned to go with the 2nd Charter.

As a Registered Nurse Violet was appointed to the rank of Staff Nurse (S/Nurse) at enlistment – all nursing staff were given officer status which rankled some of the older  military medical heads but M-in-C Maclean had insisted upon this from the outset and the decision stood).  Two weeks later on 19 November  S/Nurse Violet Trott, NZANS joined HMNZ Hospital Ship (HS) Marama for the Second Charter voyage to England. 

HMNZ Hospital Ship Marama

The Marama, like her sister ship the Maheno (HMNZ Hospital Ship No 1), was also a Union Steam Ship Company vessel and became Hospital Ship No. 2.  The Marama was 6437 tons, 420 feet in length and 52 feet wide.  On the first voyage the staff consisted of nine Medical officers; 66 Other Ranks; one matron (Matron Brown, 1st voyage) and 22 NZANS nurses. Patient accommodation could handle 592 cot (stretcher) cases.

HMNZ Hospital Ship Marama – c1917

The first commission of Marama took the ship to Alexandria, Southampton,Alexandria, Marseilles, Salonika to Stavros where she was used a base hospital in the Gallipoli Campaign, then on to Malta and Southampton. From this time both Maheno and Marama were part of the ‘White Fleet’  (the white painted hospital ships) which carried the wounded from the battles of the Somme and Belgium to England.  During the Somme offensive  (Sep 1916 >) the Marama made numerousl Channel crossings from Boulogne to England transporting a total of 10,346 patients.

The Marama’s final voyage was made on 28 February 1919 to England transporting patients to various ports en route; after this she went into service for the British.

Source:  100 YEARS – NEW ZEALAND MILITARY NURSING: New Zealand Army Nursing Service – Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps: 1915 – 2015. Sherayl McNabb : Published 2015

HMNZ HS ‘Marama’ medical staff, 1917

For the next six months of 1916 S/Nurse Trott stayed with the Marama shuttling between England and New Zealand, tending the wounded and sick who were being repatriated home.  In May 1917 S/Nurse Trott was transferred from the Marama to a shore post in the No. 1 NZ Stationary General Hospital at Port Said Alexandria, Egypt where she was to stay for the next 12 months.  She was again transferred in April 1918, this time to the place most aspiring nurses wanted to go – the war zone in France.  She landed at Etaples located on the NE coast of France, a military camp and the site of the NZ Overseas Base Camp through which all NZ soldiers and nurses would pass before proceeding to the front.  S/Nurse Trott arrived in time for her first exposure to enemy action.  

NZ Reinforcements Camp at Etaples

One of the hospitals at Etaples after the bombing in 1918.

1918 remembrance service in the Etaples Military Cemetery on the 4th anniversary of the war.

 

 

 

 

 

  Before 1914 Etaples had been a small fishing and commercial port town of about 5000.   During the First World War Etaples became a vast Allied military camp and then a giant ‘hospital city’ with many medical facilities established by the Australians, New Zealanders and British.  Wounded soldiers were consequently often sent to Etaples to recover or en route for Britain.  Conditions in the hospitals were chaotic and relatively primitive at best.  After two week at Etaples many of the wounded were only too glad to return to the front with unhealed wounds.

Violet’s arrival at Etaples heralded a chapter in the air war.  The town’s medical prominence did not escape the attention of the German high command, which organised a number of air raids on the town.  Four such attacks in May 1918 were launched using incendiary bombs directed against the various hospital sites.  Given that literally hundreds of patients were suffering from fractured legs many were unable to move to safety during these raids.  Accordingly they were assisted by nurses and hospital orderlies – who themselves came under machine gun fire from low-flying aircraft, pilots watching out for just such activity.  Violet escaped unharmed.

Aside from its reputation for medical facilities Etaples also hosted a vast military cemetery, containing some 12,000 graves.

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Having gathered herself after the bombings S/Nurse Trott was dispatched to take up duties at the No 1 NZ Stationary Hospital located in the town of Wisques where she experienced most of what the casualties of war had to challenge her with.

NZ Stationary Hospital staff at Wisques – August, 1918

Forty New Zealand nurses worked in the 1000-bed hospital at Wisques. The work was tough and constant: three hours off a day and a half-day’s leave once every 10 days – unless there was a rush of wounded, and then all leave would be cancelled. This was one of the hospitals that treated New Zealanders wounded in Passchendaele during October 1917.

For her dedication and capabilities S/Nurse Trott was promoted to Sister (SStr.) and in Dec 1917 transferred to the UK  semi-peaceful surroundings of No 2 NZ General Hospital at Mt. Felix, Walton-on-Thames (or Walton Hospital as was its short title).  After 1o months there SStr. Trott’s tour of war duty overseas was complete and after a short break she embarked the HMNZT ‘Ionic’ on 08 Sep 1919 for the return voyage to New Zealand.  SStr. Trott arrived back in Wellington on 23 October 1919 to start a three month demobilization process including leave due to her for war service. 

SStr. Trott was officially discharge from the NZ Army Nursing Service on 01 Feb 1920 and resumed her civil nursing career (as simply Nurse Trott) after taking several months leave at her home in Timaru where she had lived with her mother and sister. 

Awards:  British War Medal, 1914-18, Victory Medal;

Other:  M&PA Proficiency in Mental Health Medal; RN Badge No. 1749; NZANS 22/378 Badge

Service Overseas:   3 years 334 days

** You can listen to Violet Trott talking about wartime nursing here:

INTERVIEW WITH VIOLET TROTT WHO NURSED AT QUEEN MARY HOSPITAL, HANMER, AFTER WORLD WAR I.  http://www.ngataonga.org.nz/collections/catalogue/catalogue-item?record_id=216632

Footnote:  Violet Trott’s older brother was 29 year old, 17017 Sapper Albert James TROTT – NZ Engineers: attached Div. Signals Unit, 17th Reinforcements.  Albert was a life-long bachelor and sheep farmer from Waihou Forks where he farmed with his father George.  He embarked in Sep 1916 and served until July 1919, 2 years 272 days overseas.  Albert returned to NZ unscathed, and died in Timaru at Sealy Street in 1961, aged 74.

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Waimate Daily Advertiser – 7 November, 1919

WELCOME TO SISTER TROTT.

In spite of the very inclement weather prevailing, a large crowd gathered at the Amo Soldiers’ Memorial Hall on Wednesday night to a welcome home social tendered for Sister Trott who has just returned from nearly four years service abroad.   During the evening Dr. Scoullar of Waimate presented Sister Trott with a gold medal subscribed by the residents of the district. The doctor spoke affectionately of Sister Trott as a nurse having done duty under his supervision in France.  At all times he had found her a willing and efficient nurse, and high praise was due to her for her the valuable work which she had done for her country.  After doing her duty in France she was transferred to Walton Hospital in England where she was successful in gaining  one of the highest positions possible for a nurse to gain, and was put head of an operating theatre where she proved herself most capable.

Mr John MacPherson responded on behalf of Sister Trott, and warmly thanked the residents for the present they had her, and for their appreciation of her duties. He also thanked Dr Scoullar for his very kind remarks. Supper was then handed round, after’ which dancing was resumed. Songs were rendered by Nurse Fuller, “Ave Maria” (Waimate) and Mr Kane sang “The Trumpeter” in fine style, receiving a great round of applause, excelling him to respond to the house.  The music was supplied by Miss J, Tavesdale and A. Shepherd, Mr John Wall being quite up to his old form as MC.

All hands were joined, and songs “Auld Lang Syne” and “She’s a Jolly Good Fellow” were lustily sung bringing a very enjoyable evening to a close.

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In December 1919, 22/378 Sister (Rtd.) Violet Maud Trott, NZANS was awarded the Royal Red Cross, 2nd Class (Associate) for her leadership and diligence over almost four years of war service aboard the HMNZHS Marama, the transport ships and in NZ military hospitals in Egypt, France and England.  The award entitled her to the post-nominal letters of ARRC.  The ARRC was presented to Violet at an investiture ceremony attended by her family, at the Government House in Wellington on 9th June 1920. 

London Gazette supplement, p15459 – 12 December 1919.

“His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to award the Royal Red Cross, 2nd Class (ARRC)  to the under mentioned ladies in recognition of their valuable nursing services in connection with the War”: —

NEW ZEALAND ARMY NURSING SERVICE

AWARDED THE ROYAL RED CROSS

2nd Class

Royal Red Cross, 2nd Class (female award)

Miss Catherine Rose Clark, Sister.

Miss Alice Blanche Finlayson, Sister.

Miss Edith Grace Hay, Sister.

Miss Sarah Elizabeth Morley, Sister.

Miss Alice Brash Smith, Sister.

Miss Violet Maud Trott, Sister.

TROTT, Violet Maud 22/378
A.R.R.C.
Sister, NZ Army Nursing Service

“In recognition of her valuable nursing services in connection with the War.  The investiture ceremony  will take place at Government House on 9 June 1920.”

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Queen Mary’s Military Hospital for Sick & Wounded Soldiers,  Hanmer Springs

After several months rest and travel Nurse Trott was asked if she would like to go on the staff at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Hanmer (then a rehabilitation hospital for “shell shocked” and severely disabled returning soldiers) which she was pleased to do and took up the appointment in early January 1920. 

The hospital was opened on June 3rd, 1916 “permission having been given for the hospital to be so-named from Queen Mary”. The building consisted of three wards, the Edith Cavell Ward, named after heroine nurse who was executed by the enemy in WW1, plus the generals Kitchener (CinC British Forces) and Joffre (CinC French Forces). “The New Zealand Goverment having asked permission from these two famous soldiers, Lord Kitchener and General Joffre, to name the wards after them. Their consent was willingly given and they stated they were honoured to be associated with gallant New Zealand soldiers”.

Prior to the opening of the Queen Mary Hospital (QMH) returned servicemen were nursed at The Lodge (now Heritage  Hanmer Springs) which Mr. Duncan Rutherford had put at the disposal of the authorities to be used as a Red Cross Hospital. This was opened October 1, 1915 and 218 patients were treated there during that time.

No women had been employed at QMH Mary until September 5, 1919 when Miss Edna Pengelly, R.R.C., was appointed Matron, along with three nursing sisters, three masseuses and three volunteer ambulance drivers (VADs).  Colonel Eardley Fenwick became officer commanding in early January 1920 but Colonel Chisholm took over in February and the hospital changed from being a soldier’s convalescent to psychiatric hospital.

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After a few months leave and travel, Violet (36) returned to the hospital in January 1920 and was appointed Sub-Matron (S/Mtn.) to Matron Hodges ARRC.  Treating soldiers with ‘shell shock’ injuries and other mental disorders presented a whole new challenge for the staff at QMH plus they would have to manage women patients for the first time with similar disorders.  Violet was placed in charge of the women’s section.

Reverse

Medico-Psychological Association’s medal for Nursing Proficiency in Mental Health – Obverse.

In December 1923 S/Mtn. Trott (36) was sent to England by the Dept. of Health to train and study at five of the major hospitals in the UK, and one in Edinburgh, the pioneering nursing and rehabilitation techniques for soldiers with disabilities and mental illness, such as “shell shock”.  

Violet also spent time on the staff at two of London’s leading mental specialist hospitals – Cassel Hospital (nervous diseases) and Maudsley Hospital (mental-psychological nursing), the latter still the largest mental health training institution in the UK.  Whilst there, Violet sat and passed her examination for the Certificate in Medico-Psychological Nursing, and was presented the Medico-Psychological Association’s medal for Nursing Proficiency in Mental Health.

After nine months in England Violet returned to NZ via a Hospital in Sydney, in September and resumed her duties as Sub-Matron of Queen Mary Hospital in November 1924. 

The PRESS – 10 September, 1924

CHRISTCHURCH.  Sister V. M. Trott, sub-matron of the Queen Mary’s Military Hospital, Hanmer Springs returned from England and resumed her duties after an absence of nearly nine months. Sister Trott was sent Home (England) by the Department of Health for the purpose of gaining experience in hospital administration and in nursing cases of nervous disease.  She visited six of the largest hospitals in London and was for some weeks attached to the staff of the Maudesley Hospital. Following that Sister Trott visited the larger hospitals in Edinburgh and was attached to the staff of the well-known Craig House Hospital for nervous diseases, and whilst there sat for the examination for the medico-psychological certificate in nursing. Later Sister Trott visited several of the larger hospitals in England and also the Cassel Hospital for functional nervous diseases. Sister Trott received the utmost courtesy and assistance at all hospitals, and specially mentions in this respect Dr. Robertson, professor of psychological medicine, University of Edinburgh, in whose institutions she worked while in Edinburgh.  On her return journey to New Zealand Sister Trott visited the Lewisham Hospital, Sydney, and the Sydney Hospital. 

Queen Mary Hospital staff, 1933 – Sub-Matron Violet Trott is 3rd from right, rear (wearing medals)

 In 1938 Sub-Matron Violet Trott was appointed Matron of Queen Mary Hospital, vice Matron Hodges ARRC (above center), a position she held until her retirement in 1948 at the age of 60.

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Following her retirement Violet, a life-long spinster, went to live with her mother Mary Ann, and sister Gladys Rubina Trott (also a spinster) at their residence at 15 Sealy Street in Timaru.  Violet busied herself with community work, in particular the Red Cross, R.S.A, and was also an active National Party supporter in South Canterbury.  Violet’s mother and sister had both died by 1965 and so Violet sold the family home at Sealy Street and moved to a smaller residence at 23 Wai-iti Road.  In 1973 she, no doubt reluctantly, submitted herself into the care of the St. Nicholas Private Hospital in Christchurch.  It was now Violet’s turn to receive the care she had so selflessly spent her lifetime giving to others.

22/378 Sister (Rtd) Violet Maud Trott, ARRC – late NZANS, late Matron of Queen Mary Hospital, Hanmer Springs, died at St. Nicholas Hospital, Ilam on 28 May 1975 at age 87.  Violet Trott is buried with her sister Gladys in the Timaru Cemetery. (2) (3).   The Christchurch Press newspaper carried the following obituary:

The PRESS – 4 June, 1975 

CHRISTCHURCH.  One of the last of the New Zealand nurses who served overseas in the First World War died in Christchurch last week.  She was Miss Violet Maud Trott, probably better known in Canterbury for her long association with Hanmer Hospital as a sister, and later as matron.  For her outstanding services to nursing during the war, Miss Trott was awarded an A.R.R.C.  After her retirement Miss Trott went to Timaru, to live with members of her family.  She became actively associated with the Red Cross, the R.S.A, and the National Party in South Canterbury.  Her recent years were spent in St. Nicholas Private Hospital in Christchurch.

Notes:

  1. Violet’s older brother, born in 1886 at Springston, also served during WW1 – 17017 Sapper Albert James Trott, NZ Engineers, 17th Reinforcements, NZ Divisional Signallers was a bachelor sheep farmer from Waiho Forks.  Albert returned to NZ in 1919 after 2 years 272 days overseas; died at Timaru 19 May 1961, age 74.
  2. Violet Trott’s headstone in the Timaru Cemetery incorrectly credits her with the award of OBE – it should read ARRC.  Research by Medals Reunited NZ confirmed with the DPMC Ministerial Honours Unit that an OBE was not awarded to Violet and no Gazette notice has been found to validate the claim.
  3. When Violet Trott was admitted into St. Nicholas Hospital, her two war service medals (minus her ARRC) and Medico-Psychological Association medal were placed in the hospital safe. St. Nicholas Hospital was permanently closed in October 2016 and when the premises was being cleared for relocation, Violet’s medals were found still safe and secure in the safe where they had lain for the last 41 years!  Staff Nurse Kim B. of St. Nicholas Hospital sent the medals to Medals Reunited NZ hoping we could locate a descendant to pass the medals to – the medals were reunited with descendant family in September 2017.  It is believed Violet may have passed her ARRC to a family member prior to her death.

Note: OBE should read ARRC.

In a previous post (refer MARCH) I indicated the contact I had with Diana Humm of Taupo, the NZ Genealogists Society Taupo branch secretary, resulted in her and her husbands claim to three LOST TRAILS posts on this website.  Husband Peter’s great-grandmother Ellen Elizabeth Ferrick was the sister of Violet Trott’s mother, Mary Ann Ferrick.  Peter is Violet’s cousin twice removed.  Another happy coincidence is that Diana is writing a history of Violet Trott’s life, a copy of which has been requested by the NZ Army Nursing Association.

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Nurse Kim thankfully saved Violet Trott’s medals from potential oblivion when St Nicholas’s Hospital closed, thus preserving a valuable piece of New Zealand’s military nursing history – I am grateful she had heard of MRNZ and contacted me.  It has been a most enlightening and pleasurable case to research.  With Violet’s medals being locked away for so many decades, the medals of this diminutive and gallant lady who saw more than her fair share of man’s inhumanity to man, toiled tirelessly to repair the damage, and devoted the remainder of her life to healing and easing the suffering of the returned ‘scars of war’, have now been passed back to her extend family – the Humm family now cherish’s their custody.  Well done Kim and thank you. 

The reunited medal tally is now 161.

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