A Milton heroine is one of three women from the district who feature prominently in a South Coast historian’s latest historical book.
Historian Robyn Florance has released Shoalhaven Women Heroines of WWI, which documents the efforts of many thousands of South Coast women during the war and their efforts at home and aboard.
Mrs Florance recounts the tale of Milton’s Angel of Mercy, Sister Kitty Porter, Fanny Caines and Agnes gruer, of which the later two will feature in articles in the coming weeks.
Katherine ‘Kitty’ Lawrence Porter was born at East Milton on December 17, 1882, a daughter of John and Mary Porter.
READ MORE: Shoalhaven World War 1 heroines highlighted
Kitty went to Milton Public School and undertook her nurse training at Sydney Hospital, where she was employed after graduation.
She was single and aged 29 years when she enlisted at the AANS at Paddington on March 20, 1915, Mrs Florance writes.
She joined the no.1 Australian general Hospital staff and at the time, she was engaged to Dr Howard Bullock of Sydney, a surgeon at Sydney Hospital.
She embarked from Sydney on board the troopship Kyarra on April 3, 1915 and served on board the hospital ship Gascon throughout the Gallipoli campaign – the only ship taking wounded Australian soldiers from ANZAC Cove.
The ship had arrived an hour before the landing and was positioned 300 metres from shore, but she did not drop anchor. Wounded men were ferried to the Gascon lying off Anzac Cove and by the evening of April 25, 1915, 560 wounded had been taken on board.
For the next nine months the Gascon ferried over 8000 wounded and sick soldiers between the Gallipoli Peninsula and the hospitals on Imbros, Lemnos, Salonika, Alexandria, Malta and England.
As Kitty was engaged to be married, she felt her heartache when private Thomas Anderson Whyte died on the evening of April 25. Mr Whyte was writing to his fiance Eileen Wallace Champion each day.
Kitty sat beside Private Whyte as he died, and months later on January 26, 1916 she wrote to Eileen to comfort her.
“I remember Private Tom Whyte very well,” Kitty wrote.
“The poor man came on the Gascon during the morning. He had an abdominal wound and was taken to the operation room almost at once and everything possible was done for him. The only thing he was worried over was some package being delivered to his friend I feel certain that there must have been some message for you in it...it was knowing that he was engaged made me stay on duty a little longer to be what comfort I could to him.”
After the evacuation of ANZAC Cove Kitty was transferred to France. She served near Ypres during the Somme campaign and was promoted to second in command of her hospital unit. It was during this time in August, 1916 that she was notified that her fiancé had been wounded.
When the allied forces were being driven back in April 1918, she was stationed at the town of Roye, and when that town was captured by the enemy she and her comrades, narrowly escaped being taken prisoner.
All her outfits and her souvenirs were lost as the retreat was so hurried that only the wounded could be removed. She escaped only with the uniform she was wearing.
She was mentioned in Sir Douglas Haigh’s despatch on November 8, 1918 while attached to the No. 25 General Hospital.
She returned to Sydney on the transport Medic in charge of invalids on April 9, 1919 and was given six months furlough.
She returned home to Milton in June, 1919 to the warmest family and civic welcome. Locals called her the ‘Milton Angel’.
They were very proud, not only of her war services, but also of her imminent appointment as Matron at the Military Hospital at Randwick.