SHE saw more deadly action than some of the local soldiers who enlisted in World War I.
Yet when army nurse Elizabeth McRae wearily returned home from the Western Front, her name was not featured on local honour boards — only the men in uniform were.
That historical injustice was partly reconciled last Thursday when the signs for "Elizabeth McRae Avenue" went up in Minto.
It is to become a major thoroughfare in Landcom's housing renewal project in the suburb. And a fitting tribute, given the nurse lived nearby on what was the Ben Lomond farm.
Matt Cameron of Currans Hill, a contractor for TRN Group at Minto One, installing the new Elizabeth MacRae Avenue signs. Picture: Jeff McGill.
A campaign to name a local road in her honour was launched by the Advertiser in 2006 and, two years later, the Minto site was identified and Campbelltown Council enthusiastically supported the idea.
Planners initially proposed "McRae Avenue", but Cr Meg Oates moved that her first name be added to the sign as well — to ensure the nurse's place in local history was secure.
The Advertiser has researched her career and discovered that Sister McRae was born near Young in 1878, trained at Orange Hospital from 1903-07, and worked at South Sydney and Kurri Kurri hospitals before going into "private nursing" in Campbelltown.
She was living with her father, John, at his farm in Minto when she enlisted on April 26, 1915 — the day after the Gallipoli landing.
The 37-year-old embarked weeks later and worked in hospital ships, and military hospitals in Egypt (tending the wounded from Anzac Cove) and then in England until she was transferred to France in 1917.
None of her previous wartime postings could have prepared her for the horrors she witnessed there, attached to a casualty clearing station just behind the front line.
This was as close as any woman was allowed to the fighting, with the daily thunder of battle and German bombardments tearing medical tents to shreds and sending nurses diving for cover.
Qualified in surgery, the nurse was in big demand because the clearing stations saw a lot of emergency theatre work, usually in shell-cratered buildings or tents.
Sister McRae was also praised by General Birdwood — the commander of the Australian forces — for her "conspicuous services".
After the armistice in 1918, she continued to tend to war victims and in 1920 was welcomed home with a celebration at Campbelltown Town Hall as one of the last local veterans to return from the war.
She was presented with a gold brooch by a thankful town, and publicly hailed for her work.
But she was left off local honour boards listing only the Diggers — and she faded from local memories.
Back in 2008, when the council approved the street name, Councillor Paul Hawker suggested an official naming ceremony might be held, with local military nurses invited.
He told the Advertiser this week he was still keen to propose such an event in coming months.
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