2/R-B/28 SISTER SYLVIA BROWN ~ Nurse’s war efforts recognised with medals gifted to Nelson Hospital.

UPDATE – 02 December 2019

Matron Sylvia D. Brown, SRN, NZRN

Following the presentation of Matron Sylvia Brown’s war medals to the Nelson Hospital, wet weather postponed a planned commemoration at her grave in Wakapuaka Cemetery to lay poppies and flowers in honour of her nursing service.   On 02 December 2019, Brian and myself from  MRNZ, joined a gathering of senior nursing staff from Nelson Hospital led by the Director of Nursing and Midwifery, Pamela Keisanowski, and assembled at Matron Brown’s grave to complete the original planned ceremony.  Prayers were said by the Hospital Chaplain, the Last Post was played and all present acknowledged Matron Brown’s life and nursing career, and her war service in France as a Sister with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service during the First World War.


International Nurses Day, 12 May 2019

When Constable Ben Wallbank of the Nelson Police called me in 2017 to ask if I could return a war medal he had recovered, my response was as it always is – yes, it will be my pleasure.  Little did I know how long this journey would last but last it did, for 18 months of research!

The decision to return the medal of a WW1 nurse to her ‘descendant nursing family’ at Nelson Hospital, was a heartwarming occasion. The celebration of International Nurses’ Day 2019 seemed the perfect occasion to reunite these medals as it also underlined the valuable and valued contribution the New Zealand nursing community makes every single day.

Very little was known or documented of Sylvia Brown’s background from the time she arrived in New Zealand in 1912, became Matron at Nelson Hospital from 1920 until 1937, and died a spinster in Nelson in 1950.

Sylvia Brown was a private person and so her background was almost completely anonymous with the exception of her service in England and France during World War I.  Her story was one that took considerable time to piece together with very little clues to go on – and still there are gaps.  Sylvia’s complete life story may be read here:  Sylvia’s story

The STUFF newspaper article can also be viewed: 


Medals from left: Registered Nurses’ Badge (top) and QAIMNSR Cape Badge; British War Medal 1914-18 and Victory Medal.

Matron Sylvia Brown, second left, at morning tea with her Charge Sisters – Nelson Hospital, c1925