As we pause to commemorate ANZAC Day this year, it is timely to reflect on the contribution of KRB during wartime.
During World War I, both students and alumnae were actively involved in fundraising for various patriotic funds, including charities to support Belgian and French war orphans. In December 1914, the School Journal records that “the children asked that the value of their prizes be given to the war fund”. A year later, on 4 December 1915, the students held a fair amongst themselves and raised £22, of which £15 was sent to support Belgian orphans. Comfort packages for the troops at the front, comprising socks and food items, were also prepared in support of the war effort. In July 1916, the Rose Bay Association ran a sock knitting competition amongst members resulting in 70 pairs of socks being knitted for distribution to Australian soldiers through the Australian War Chest Fund.
A number of alumnae joined their local branch of the nation-wide volunteer effort coordinated by the Australian Red Cross, while a number also volunteered as members of the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD), serving in a range of situations in hospitals throughout the United Kingdom. One such volunteer was Adele Brennan (RB 1896-1900). Part of a special detachment of probationers recruited to serve in British Military Hospitals, Adele left Australia in September 1916 and on arrival in England was posted to the 5th Northern General Hospital and served at Evington Hospital in the East Midlands city of Leicester. Evington was a substantial hospital, with a capacity of 800 beds. Adele was the first VAD allowed to serve on a ward, and was promoted to Staff Nurse in 1917, receiving a medal for 12 months service around the same time.
Two of Adele’s brothers also served during WWI. John Clive Brennan served with the 4th Battalion in France. Despite being wounded, he survived the war and returned to Australia in 1919. William Keating Brennan joined the Australian Light Horse in 1916. He died of wounds in April 1917 during the campaign for Palestine and is buried in the Gaza Military Cemetery.
Sadly, Adele did not return home to Australia when the war ended. In November 1918, she contracted influenza at the start of the pandemic that was to sweep the globe the following year. She died on 24 November 1918, less than two weeks after the Armistice. Accorded a military funeral, she was buried in the Military Section of the Welford Road Cemetery in Leicester.
Adele Brennan is one of 46 Australian women who gave their lives in service during WWI.
Lest we forget.