Monday, 21 November 2016

Margaret Dorothy Roberts (1870 - 1917) – British nurse

Margaret Dorothy Roberts was born on 30th October 1870 in Dolgellau  Union Workhouse in Merionethshire, Wales.  Her mother was Laura Roberts, her father unknown.   Margaret’s mother died from TB when Margaret was five years old.  She was educated at the Board School in Dolgellau and then St. Augustine’s Upper Grade Girls School in Kilburn, London. When she was thirteen, Margaret was sent to work for the Sisters of the Church in Kilburn, an Anglican order.  She took a job as a children’s nanny, trained as a nurse, specialising in fever nursing, and from 1900 to 1907 worked at the South Western Hospital in Stockwell.  Margaret emigrated to Australia in 1907, recruited to work in an orphanage south of Perth.  In 1908, Margaret went to work in the Children’s Hospital in Perth.

Margaret returned to Britain in September 1909 where she worked in the Park Hospital in Lewisham as a Staff Nurse.  In 1912, she went back to Australia as Matron of a ship taking domestic servants and immigrants to Australia.   In 1913 Margaret was appointed Sister in Queen’s Memorial Hospital, Fairfield.  Margaret’s next assignment was as nurse to an Aboriginal Settlement in Taroon, Queensland.

Margaret was 45 when WW1 broke out – too old to join the Australian Army Nursing Service - so she applied to join the British Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service.  She was accepted, providing that she returned to Britain at her own expense.  Back in Britain, Margaret worked at the Fargo Military Hospital in Larkhill on Salisbury Plain, which treated the Australian and New Zealand troops based in Britain before being sent to the various theatres of war.  Many of those Australian soldiers died and are buried in Wiltshire cemeteries. (For information about the Australian soldiers buried in Wiltshire, see posts on

On 17th December 1917 Margaret began preparations for service in Egypt.  She boarded the Hospital Ship “Osmanieh” on 28th December 1917 and was drowned when the ship hit a mine, exploded and sank near the entrance to Alexandria Harbour.   With seven of her nursing colleagues who were also on board the “Osmanieh”, Margaret was buried in the Hadra War Memorial Cemetery in Alexandria, Egypt.   Margaret Dorothy Roberts is also commemorated on the QAIMNS memorial plaque in York Minster, York, UK.

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