NZ Le Gallais siblings in Great War

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NZ Le Gallais siblings in Great War


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Two brothers and a sister, born in New Zealand after their father, Horation Nason Le Gallais, emigrated from Jersey, served during the Great War. In 2016 the sister, Charlotte (Lottie) Le Gallais, was featured as the centrepiece of a Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa exhibition


Lottie Le Gallais and colleagues on the hospital ship Maheno

Lottie Le Gallais was on the nursing staff of Auckland Public Hospital when war broke out, and was one of 79 in the second contingent of New Zealand nurses chosen, in June 1915, to serve overseas. From this group of 79, Lottie was selected to work on the hospital ship Maheno, which would transport sick and wounded soldiers to hospitals away from Anzac Cove.

Heading to war

The Maheno left Wellington on 11 July 1915. Many on board signed a linen cloth during the voyage. The nurses embroidered their names in red, and the cloth was sent back home to be sold to raise funds for the war effort.

When the Maheno arrived in Egypt in August, Lottie contacted her sweetheart, Charles ‘Sonnie’ Gardner and described the effects of the fighting on Gallipoli:

‘It was terrible to see the wounded, they all say Gallipoli is hell and death from what we can hear, the losses are awful’ - 23 August 1915.

For three months Lottie endured ‘terrible clean ups’ on the Maheno as the ship shuttled sick and wounded men between Gallipoli and hospitals on Lemnos island and in Egypt, Malta, and England.

Two brothers and a sister

Like many others, more than one member from Lottie’s family volunteered for military service. Lottie’s brother Leddie departed in April 1915, and Owen left later that year. The third Le Gallais brother, Kenneth, was keen to join up, but Owen discouraged him.

Before landing on Gallipoli in June, Leddie’s troopship anchored off the island of Lemnos, where he composed a final letter to his family:

‘Well, Dad’, he wrote. ‘I never thought that I would be a soldier, but now I am one, I am determined to be a good one … If I have bad luck , well I suppose it had to be’ - 3 June 1915.

Leddie was killed in action on 23 July 1915 – a month before Lottie arrived in Egypt, where she thought she might meet him. His father found out about his son’s death on 4 August. Lottie did not know until November, when her unopened letters to Leddie were returned to her, one of them stamped ‘Killed, return to sender’.

Going home

At the end of November 1915 the Maheno carried invalided troops and a bereft Lottie back to New Zealand. After arriving home on 1 January 1916, Lottie worked again at Auckland Public Hospital and cared for her ailing father. Her sweetheart ‘Sonnie’ was conscripted at the end of 1917 and, despite an appeal, went into Featherston Military Training Camp six months later. Married to Sonnie by now, Lottie had a final stint of military nursing at the camp’s hospital during the 1918 flu pandemic.

After the war Lottie supported her local Returned Soldiers’ Association. She was also involved with the Auckland Ex-servicewomen’s Association, which sold poppies for Anzac Day. Material related to her military nursing is held in the library at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

In 2016 a giant statue of Lottie Le Gallais was the centrepiece of an exhibition at the Museum of New Zealand, She is depicted having just received the letters she wrote to her brother, returned after his death
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