MAJOR ALICE APPLEFORD (1887 - 1968)

MILITARY NURSE AND RECIPIENT OF THE FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE MEDAL

Alice Ross-King was a military nurse known for her bravery, compassion and her sense of duty.

Born in Ballarat in 1887, Alice moved with her family to Perth while she was still young. There, a terrible accident resulted in the drowning of her father and two brothers. Alice and her mother relocated to Melbourne where Alice went on to train as a nurse.

In 1914 she enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service and weeks later, sailed for Egypt where she served in hospitals and on hospital transport ships before moving to France.

It was during this time she met Harry Moffitt, a 32-year- old Lieutenant from Bendigo. The two fell quickly in love and planned to marry, but it was not to be. Harry was killed in the Battle of Fromelles in 1916. On hearing of his death Alice wrote in her diary: Well, my world has ended. Harry is dead. His body was never identified.

Alice went on with her work and was sent to No.2 Australian Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) – a hospital where injured soldiers were taken if they could not be treated by field ambulance. By July 1917 the hospital was at capacity, with three operating tables in use throughout the day, and two at night. Alice had only been there five days when the CCS was bombed by German aircraft. Nurses rushed to tents shattered by the bombing. Alice helped to carry patients to safety, sheltering those that could not be moved. She and three other nurses were awarded the Military Medal for their bravery during the attack.

Bombings continued over the next few weeks. Alice wrote in her diary: The Last Post is being played nearly all day at the cemetery next door to the hospital. So many deaths.

Alice returned to Australia at the end of the war, and on the voyage home befriended the ship’s doctor, Major Sydney Appleford. The two were married later that year and settled in Gippsland, where they went on to have four children.

When World War II broke out, Alice again enlisted, this time with the Volunteer Aid Detachments, which would later be called the Australian Army Women’s Medical Services. Alice Appleford earned the title of Major and was appointed senior assistant controller for Victoria, where she was known for her untiring commitment, her fundraising skills, leadership and, above all, her humanity.

Alice was awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal in 1949 by the International Red Cross. She died in 1968.

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Illustrated by Mark Conlan

The Metro Tunnel’s green tunnel boring machine is named after Alice.