Australian War Stories: Nurse Olive Haynes held dying soldiers in her arms in World War I

Olive Haynes was a bright-eyed 26-year-old when she signed up to serve her country. But nothing about her could prepare her for the horrors she saw from her and that would haunt her all her life.

Exclusive: Nurse Olive Haynes signed up for Australia’s war effort when she was 26 and looking for “a little adventure”.

Instead, like many of our volunteers, she witnessed horrors that would haunt her all her life.

It was 1915. Gallipoli.

The soldiers arrived at their field hospital in pieces. Mutilated and unrecognizable. Many died in his arms.

“At first, of course, like everyone else, he thought it was going to be a very short concert, that it would all be over by Christmas… a little fling,” his granddaughter Marnie Watts, of Adelaide, told News Corp.

For the first time, Nurse Haynes’ commitment to the families of men lost in action can be revealed, long after their deaths, through a new family history project called Australian War Stories by Memories.

His wartime story, from enlistment and training to embarkation and action, is one of more than 330,000 featured on the website, which looks specifically at World War I.

Mrs. Watts explained that writing to the family members of the excavators was her survival mechanism.

“Olive found it very difficult to watch the men die and she was very sorry… (writing the letters) was her way of trying to ease the pain of the mothers too,” said Ms Watts.

“She would let them know how the last days or hours of the soldiers went…and try to put the minds of the mothers to take care of the mothers as best she could.

“So she was taking care of the children and their families.”

Mrs. Haynes’s World War I odyssey began in December 1914 when she sailed to Egypt, a month after the first troops left Port Adelaide.

She treated wounded soldiers brought back from the bloody Gallipoli battlefield, before being transferred to the Greek island of Lemnos.

“Olive and all his colleagues were receiving the injured quite quickly and they were quite shocked by the number of people who were injured and what had happened,” said Ms Watts.

“Some of the soldiers were terribly injured… nearly every bone in their body was possibly broken.

“It was horrible what they were seeing.”

Away from the battlefield, he had his own brush with danger on Lemnos.

“A Turkish plane came and dropped three (bombs) on Christmas Day, but they didn’t hit us,” Haynes wrote in his diary.

“We expected to be missed every time.”

Like the soldiers she diligently cared for, Ms. Haynes suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

However, there was a bright spark among the darkness.

In December 1916, Mrs. Haynes met Australian soldier Pat Dooley and within a year they were married.

Their partnership lasted 60 years. They had seven children and 17 grandchildren.

“Olive’s unconditional, loving love, her nonjudgmental treatment of everyone is something we have all benefited from in every way,” said Ms. Watts.

“I hope we all take her values ​​of caring for others in our lives and continue to care for other people the way she did.”

To discover your ANZAC hero and receive a FREE online memorial, visit

Explore an expanded Memories memorial to Sister Olive Haynes’ wartime journey.

Originally published as More than pumps and bandages: Nurse Olive Haynes held ‘dying soldiers’ in her arms

Leave a Comment