Sister Olive Lilian Creswell Haynes
Australian Army Nursing Service, AIF
Olive Lilian Creswell Haynes was born in Adelaide on 7January 1888 to Reverend James Crofts Haynes and Emma Haynes (née Creswell). She was educated at Tormore House in North Adelaide, where she developed early interests in the arts and social issues. Beyond her keen interests in reading, music, and sometimes painting, she also developed a strong concern for the lives and welfare of others. In October 1909 she began three years of training as a nurse at Adelaide Hospital. Upon finishing, she worked at the hospital as a charge nurse from February to December 1913. Haynes spent the following months working as a private nurse and travelling until she enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service in August 1914, aged 26.
Haynes departed from Adelaide on 26 November 1914 for Melbourne, where she boarded the SS Kyarra on 5 December. Following a stopover in Fremantle, Western Australia, Kyarra arrived in Alexandria on 13 January 1915. A week later, Haynes began duty with No. 2 Australian General Hospital (2 AGH) at Mena House, previously a tourist hotel. The initial months were not particularly busy, though there were increasing cases of smallpox, measles, pneumonia and later cholera.
The real test for Haynes came in late April when casualties from the Gallipoli landings began to arrive. On 29 April she recorded in her diary: ‘over 2,000 landed at Alexandria’. 2 AGH became so overcrowded that in May a second hospital was opened in the nearby Ghezireh Palace Hotel. For the next four months, staff ferried between the two sites, struggling to contend with continual arrivals of several hundred cases at a time. In addition to wounded soldiers, many were victims of the typhoid and dysentery spreading through the trenches. Their infections were exacerbated by the severe heat and the huge numbers of flies. Haynes described a ‘[g]hastly smell like decomposing mummies’ in the hospital. In a letter to her sister on 16 July, she wrote:
We got 300 more in today, so now we have about 600 between the two of us [Mena and Ghezireh]. They can’t sleep for the heat and wander about and smoke and scratch; the sandflies are beyond anything.
Long and arduous shifts in these conditions took their toll on the insufficient staff. On 25 May, Haynes recorded:
On all day … Hotter and hotter. The insects are the limit. Night duty tonight at 12.00. I’m sure I’ll never get up. Never felt so tired in my life.
Although granted one week of respite in Alexandria from 2 to 9 August, she returned to the massive casualties from the August offensive on Gallipoli. On 11 August she wrote, ‘Another convoy 400 … Didn’t get off until 2.30 am – on again at 7.00 – very busy.’ Overworked and weak, many nurses also became ill – Haynes referred to a number of sisters who died from infections such as septicaemia.
As the offensive concluded, Haynes elected to transfer to the island of Lemnos. After enjoying a day of leave to shop at bazaars, visit the zoo, and dine at the popular Groppi restaurant in Cairo, she left Egypt aboard SS Assaye on 15 September.
Haynes landed at Mudros, the central harbour at Lemnos, on 18 September 1915. Located less than 100 kilometres from the Gallipoli peninsula, Mudros had become a major staging and medical base for the campaign. Although conditions at Lemnos had improved slightly since No. 1 Australian Stationary Hospital’s arrival in March, they were still austere in September. Haynes joined No. 2 Australian Stationary Hospital and found serious shortages in tents and beds as hospital ships with up to 700 casualties arrived at the harbour. She observed ‘poor old chaps lying everywhere’, suffering further because of inadequate water supplies and terrible sanitation. Haynes herself endured ramshackle tents, half rations and ailments such as neuralgia, lumbago and dysentery.
Conditions only worsened as winter approached, bringing with it severe winds and rain. The 1915 November and December blizzards caused particular hardships, as well as a surge in the number of frostbite victims from Gallipoli.
Listen to Sister Haynes describe, in her diary entries and letters home, the privations she suffered as a nurse on Lemnos and the treatment of frostbite victims:
Owing to the successful evacuations of Gallipoli in December, work for Lemnos medical staff eventually eased. Haynes left for Egypt on 15 January 1916. After two months of comparatively quiet work at Ghezireh and Heliopolis, and three welcome days of leave at the Luxor Hotel, on 26 March she embarked on HMHS Braemer Castle for Marseilles to support troops on the Western Front.
Haynes spent the next two months in Marseilles with 2 AGH. With the exception of a spate of smallpox in mid-May, work was steadier here, and when not nursing she enjoyed occasional leisure time and the coastal countryside. She also made great use of her gramophone, which became a treasured source of entertainment and comfort both for her and her patients. In a letter to her mother on 14 April, she explained how ‘The men simply love it, and I have to promise it days ahead to different huts and tents.’
Haynes’ time in Marseilles contrasted with her next placement, in Boulogne, where she joined No. 13 Stationary Hospital (13 SH) on 14 June. Within days of commencing work there, she recorded arrivals of up to three convoys in one day flooding into the hospital. Large numbers of casualties continued to arrive for weeks, and many suffered from particularly severe wounds. In a letter to her parents on 16 July, Haynes wrote:
Convoys of wounded coming in all the time and, poor dears, they are so badly wounded … Both legs, an arm, head and back [wounds] all on one man is quite common, and such a lot dying.
In another letter to her mother, she explained that 13 SH received ‘all the worst wounds’ because it specialised in surgical cases:
They have a special Jaw Ward here, where they have all the smashed-up faces, and really they do wonders. They have a special French sculptor – most frighteningly clever – who makes new jaws and noses and faces.
In August, Haynes was transferred from Boulogne to aid the newly established No. 2 Australian Casualty Clearing Station (2 ACCS). Situated close to the front line at Trois Arbres, 2 ACCS was very vulnerable to enemy attacks. On 25 August, soon after her arrival, Haynes wrote to her mother:
We had a bit of excitement the other morning picking up bits of shell and shrapnel which landed just outside the tent … The aeroplanes are always flying around here above us and, as soon as the Germans spot them, they open fire and we do the same when theirs appear. There is a huge gun (14 ins.) just near us … when it fires the windows smash in the houses around and everything shakes.
Only days later the hospital’s war diary recorded:
Half a shell from one of our anti-aircraft guns landed just outside camp in field … applying for helmets for personnel.
While at 2 ACCS, Haynes also first spoke of having to deal with the deaths of her patients, many of whom she had become close to. In a letter to her mother on 12 September, she wrote:
They call dying ‘going west’ … We always write to their mothers if they die. I have had some of the sweetest letters from the poor mothers … it is so sad to see them die … You’d give anything or do anything to save them.
Harrowing moments were not confined to the hospital. In another letter to her parents on 24 October, she wrote:
Sister Dickson and I had such a sad experience the other day … we heard a machine gun and, looking up, saw a Bosch aeroplane firing on the Observation Balloon, and it sent a bullet … bang – into the balloon, and in two seconds the whole thing was on fire and coming down. It made us feel sick to watch it … We hurried to the fallen balloon in time to see the officer put on a stretcher … It did give us a shock, as he was the very officer who had asked us to tea. He died about five minutes after … It was so sad. He was only about 21, and such a nice man … These things happen every day up this way, we know, but it’s different when you see it and anyone you know.
But Haynes also had some good fortune during this period. In early December 1916 her diary first made reference to an Australian soldier named Pat, later explained to be Norval Henry ‘Pat’ Dooley. After frequent entries in the following weeks about their time spent together, Haynes wrote to her parents on 30 December that she and Dooley were engaged. Their relationship would continue throughout the war, through written correspondence and occasional meetings in France and England.
After two weeks of leave in London during January 1917, Haynes moved on to Wimereux to work again with 2 AGH. Now located near Boulogne, 2 AGH was a large central hospital which treated thousands of patients and evacuated many back to England. Haynes remained there until the end of the year, observing at first hand the developments on the Western Front. On 8 June, the day after the allied success at Messines, she wrote:
The news has been great the last two days. The men are coming in all the time and they are very bucked. The Irish and the New Zealand[ers] reckon they pulled this last stunt off. Of course, the Aussies helped.
However, she and 2 AGH soon faced casualties arising from initial stages of the terrible fighting at Ypres and Passchendaele. She wrote to her mother on 19 August, ‘[w]e are very busy again. Kept going pretty well all the time’. Medical staff were among the victims she treated. Haynes explained:
Fritz has been very busy shelling the C.C.S.’s [Casualty Clearing Stations]. Ever so many Sisters have been wounded and some killed. There were a few brought up the other day and one has lost an eye and the other eye has almost gone.
Haynes herself experienced serious enemy fire at 2 AGH. By September 1917, evening bombings around the hospital were frequent, forcing staff to work in darkness in an attempt to remain concealed. In a letter to her mother towards the end of month, she wrote:
Fritz … came over again tonight. Some raid, too – bombs were dropping like one thing and guns going and shrapnel dropping on the roof. The poor patients, naturally, got the wind up.
She ended the letter by noting, ‘I am sending my will home, as we are supposed to make one.’
Haynes had a reprieve of sorts when she fell ill with bronchitis in October, leaving 2 AGH for treatment at the nearby No. 14 British General Hospital. By November, she had recovered and was transferred to Britain, where she spent several days on leave before joining the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital in Dartford. Just a month later, on 11 December, she and Pat Dooley were married in Oxford. For Haynes, this meant that she would soon have to return home to Australia – at the time, women who married during active service were forced to resign from the AIF.
After the war, Haynes and Dooley started a life together in Melbourne, Victoria, Dooley’s home town. Over the next 60 years they raised a family of seven children and 17 grandchildren. Their home in Ivanhoe became known for its open doors to those in need, particularly during the Great Depression. Frequently they offered shelter, meals, and money to men who had lost their jobs, homes or health. Haynes also provided free medical assistance in the neighbourhood.
Haynes pursued a number of projects beyond the home. Perhaps most notably, she was instrumental in establishing a school for people with intellectual disabilities at Ivanhoe, in north eastern Melbourne. Their second daughter, Phyll, had Down Syndrome, and rather than concealing the condition Haynes encouraged open and strong support. Around 1940, she and another mother of children with intellectual disabilities began a small ‘school’ in their own homes, which came to accommodate 12 children. The school provided great support not only for the children, but also for their parents, and raised awareness about intellectual disabilities in the community. In the late 1940s the school moved to St George’s Sunday School Hall, in Ivanhoe East. From there it evolved rapidly, growing in size and gaining more experienced teachers. In the early 1950s it became the Helping Hand Association in Heidelberg, eventually catering for 60 children. In 1976, it developed into the Ivanhoe and Diamond Valley Centre for Intellectually Disabled Adults. For the rest of her life, Haynes continued to support the Centre with various fundraising activities.
Haynes’ work at the school was accompanied by a range of other voluntary roles. She worked full-time assisting war efforts during the Second World War – repairing and classifying books with the Australian Comforts Fund, rolling bandages for the Red Cross, and acting as a Voluntary Aid Detachment member with the Women’s Hospital. She also worked with Save the Children, and was active in fundraising for the church. Her efforts coordinating raffles, fêtes, and donating goods continued to within months of her death. Haynes died on 10 April 1978, aged 90, and her husband Pat just five months later.
Australian War Memorial, Australian Imperial Force unit war diaries, 1914-1918 War, AWM4 Subclass 26/63 - No 2 Australian Casualty Clearing Station
Bassett, J 1992, Guns and Brooches: Australian Army Nursing from the Boer War to the Gulf War, Oxford, Melbourne
Butler, AG (ed.) 1930, Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War of 1914-1918, vol. I, Australian War Memorial, Melbourne
Butler, AG (ed.) 1940, Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War of 1914-1918, vol. II, Australian War Memorial, Melbourne
Harris, K 2011, More than Bombs and Bandages: Australian Army Nurses at Work in World War I, Big Sky Publishing Pty Ltd, Newport
National Archives of Australia: Australian Imperial Force, Base Records Office; B2455, Olive Lilian Creswell Haynes’ First Australian Imperial Force personnel dossier, 1914-1920; HAYNES O L C SISTER, 1914-1920
Young, M (ed.) 1991, ‘We are here, too’, 2nd edn, Australian Down Syndrome Association Incorporated, Adelaide