The CARSON siblings, William and Mary Catherine were born in Ireland in 1888 and 1889 respectively. Their widowed mother Eliza was living in the family home at Wittenoom Street Collie, and must have felt isolation and trepidation when she learnt that her son and daughter had enlisted for War Service, within 2 days of each other.
( 1 ) – CARSON, Sister Mary Catherine – No. 2 Australian General Hospital
Mary Carson had been working as a Professional Nurse at Fremantle Public Hospital WA for 3 years , prior to her enlistment. She signed an agreement with the Australian Army Nursing Service in Perth WA on 12 June 1915, and was assigned to No. 2 Australian General Hospital on 19 July 1915. There was an urgent need for Nurses in Egypt, particularly due to the impact of Gallipoli Peninsula casualties, and Sister CARSON was promptly embarked for Alexandria on the ” Orsova ” from Fremantle on 22 July 1915.
On arrival in Egypt on 15 August 1915, she was immediately posted to duty at the No. 2 Australian General Hospital at Ghezireh. Her working hours were very long, injured Soldier numbers were overwhelming, with Nurses dedication and devotion to duty continually put to the test. Brother William was at the Overseas Base Camp at Ghezireh from 15 August 1915, so there’s a slim chance they may have had time to meet. Sister CARSON was then transferred to the Mena Convalescent Depot in Cairo on 12 November 1915.
During her service at Mena, her brother William, who was recovering from illness acquired at Gallipoli, was transferred to the Australian Overseas Base at Ghezireh. Were they alerted to the opportunity for a meeting, possibly for the last time ?
The focus of the Great War shifted to the Western Front in 1916 and Sister CARSON was transferred for duty to the No. 2 Australian General Hospital Marseilles France on 4 April 1916. Rising casualty numbers and resultant increased demand for Nursing Staff, then led to the Sister’s detachment to the No. 14 Stationary Hospital at Wimereux France on 22 June 2016. After approximately 3 weeks at this location, she was transferred to the Australian Voluntary Aid Hospital ( also at Wimereux ) on 15 July 1916. During this work placement, we are not sure whether Mary was aware that her brother William was briefly admitted to the No. 2 Australian General Hospital at Wimereux, before being evacuated to England, suffering from Malaria.
The siblings had one further opportunity to meet, when both were on leave in the United Kingdom , in the week beginning 20 November 1916. It would be comforting to know whether they were able to meet during this week ,or at any time during their service, as William tragically died from wounds received in action in Belgium on 20 September 1917.
After completion of Leave, Sister CARSON resumed duties at No. 2 Australian General Hospital Wimereux on 28 November 1916, before transfer to duty at the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station at Wimereux. This posting proved to be the longest of her War Service career, beginning on 30 December 1916, and finishing on 29 September 2017 ( Nine days after William’s death ). Her subsequent transfer to the No. 3 Australian General Hospital Abbeville France, lasted almost 6 weeks, before she was transferred to the No. 2 Australian Aux Hospital Southall England on 8 November 1917.
Sister Mary Catherine CARSON was selected for Transport Duty on the Hospital Ship ” Karoola “, which embarked from Liverpool on 1 December 1917. This vessel docked at Fremantle WA on 4 January 1918 , with Mary being discharged from Active Service on 19 January 1918. Sadly, she was unable to share her return journey to peace time in Australia, with her brother, William.
Service Medals Awarded
1914/15 Star – No. 3879
British War Medal – No. 4445
Victory Medal – No. 4441.
( 2 ) – 1683 – CARSON, Pte. William, 28th Battalion, AIF.
William CARSON was working as a Miner in Collie WA, prior to enlisting for War Service on 14 June 1915. His widowed mother was also to experience the emotional drain of her daughter Mary signing an agreement with the Australian Army Nursing Service in the same week. William was allotted to the 28th Battalion 2nd Reinforcements at Blackboy Hill WA as a Private on 16 June 1915. After 5 weeks of training , he embarked Fremantle on 22 July 1915 aboard the ” Demosthenes “, bound for Alexandria Egypt. Ironically William’s sister Mary embarked from Fremantle on the same date, on the ” Orsova “, to pursue her Nursing Duties in Egypt.
Pte. CARSON joined his 28th Battalion comrades at the Australian Overseas Base Depot Ghezireh Egypt on 15 August 1915, whilst Mary was at the nearby No. 2 Australian General Hospital. On 12 October 1915 he was shipped to resume duty at Anzac, Gallipoli, where he was quickly impacted by sickness – separately diagnosed as Influenza/Pleurisy/Myalgia. He was firstly admitted to the 7th Field Ambulance, before treatment at the 16th Casualty Clearing Station. Within a week he was evacuated and admitted to a Hospital in Malta. He recovered sufficiently at a Convalescent Camp on Malta, before shipping to the Australian Overseas Base at Ghezireh Egypt. His sister Mary, was heavily involved with Nursing Duties at the nearby Hospital, at that time.
On 10 February 1916 Pte. CARSON was re-united with the 28th Battalion, on duty in Egypt. He was transported to Ismailia Egypt as part of a new line of defence in the desert ,on the East side of the Suez, as there was concern at the increasing number of Turks in the Sinai Peninsula. William remained in this capacity , until embarked for the Western Front in France, arriving in Marseilles on 5 June 1916.
The 28th Battalion were mainly used in supporting roles on the Western Front, until their first major involvement in battle at Pozieres. Near the end of the Pozieres action, William was admitted to the No. 1 Field Ambulance, suffering from Malaria. He was transferred to a Casualty Clearing Station, then entrained for admittance to the No. 2 Australian General Hospital Wimereux. Due to his lack of response to treatment, William was evacuated via Boulogne, for admittance to the 1st Eastern General Hospital Cambridge England. William spent 2 months under treatment and convalescence, before being discharged to the No. 4 Command Depot Wareham, and availing himself of Leave in England from 20 November 1916.
William returned to the Wareham Command Depot after expiration of Leave, then embarked from Folkestone, bound for the 2nd Australian Base Depot at Havre France. He rejoined the 28th Battalion in the field in France on 9 April 1917 and took part in heavy fighting during the Bullecourt Campaign, from 3 May to 17 May 1917. On 13 August 1917, William was admitted to the 10th General Hospital Rouen France, and placed under observation for a few days ( It is likely that a recurrence of Malaria symptoms could have been the issue ). On discharge he was transferred to the Base Depot at Havre, before rejoining the 28th Battalion in the field near Ypres, Belgium.
Tragically, William died from wounds received in action at the Battle of Menin Road in Belgium on 20 September 1917, at 29 years of age.
Service Medals Awarded
1914/15 Star – No. 22614
British War Medal – No. 16848
Victory Medal – No. 16782
Memorial Plaque/Scroll – No. 331415.
Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper, Belgium
Australian War Memorial Canberra – Panel No. 112
Collie War Memorial, Western Australia.