Wartime nurse awarded for service

Last Post rings out as soldiers buried at sea

Last updated 11:15 23/04/2014
Iris Allan
Iris Young (later Allan) in 1936 after she qualified as a pediatric nurse
Iris Allan
Iris Allan New Years day 2014

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Just weeks shy of her 100th birthday, Blenheim woman Iris Allan has been awarded for her service as a nurse in World War II.

The medal, awarded by the Marlborough Returned and Services' Association, was a great source of pride for Mrs Allan, 99, and her family, said daughter Elizabeth Turnball.

Like many war veterans Mrs Allan did not talk a lot about the war, preferring to forget the difficult memories, Mrs Turnbull said.

Mrs Allan was born in Kamo, a small township north of Whangarei in the North Island. At age 17 she went to work in the big smoke, where she gained a position at Auckland Hospital to train as a general nurse.

"It was not the norm for young women to work towards a career back then, but my mum was determined to be a pediatric nurse, and she was," Mrs Turnbull said.

Mrs Allan qualified as a registered pediatric nurse in 1936 and then went on to complete her Karitane and Plunket training. She was about to start work as a pediatric nurse when she was asked to join and help with the war effort.

A stint of military nursing training followed and about 1941 she boarded the Maunganui Hospital Ship to bring back wounded soldiers from the battle fields in Egypt.

"They worked 12-hour shifts taking the worst injured soldiers back to New Zealand. One memory my mum did share was remembering the sounding of the Last Post as the soldiers that died were buried at sea one by one."

In 1942 Allan was posted to Egypt with the No 1 New Zealand General Hospital (1NZGH). There she helped recover injured soldiers from the frontline. The 1NZGH was then moved on to Italy and was present at the battle of Forli and in 1944 at the Battle of Monte Cassino.

"I am very proud to know my mum helped so many soldiers including those that were injured in the Monte Cassino bombing

"Mum also remembered the good times they had together as nurses and officers during the war - not all her memories were horrible and she made life-long friends."

On her return to New Zealand after the war, again aboard the Maunganui Hospital Ship, Mrs Allan found love and married John McGregor, to whom she had three children.

"My memories of my mum growing up are of an enormously supportive woman that had high ideals for each of us. She would get right behind us and support us every step of the way. She expected from us only as much as she expected from herself," she said.

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- The Marlborough Express


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