Thursday, 29 June 2017

Dr Phoebe Chapple (1879 - 1967) – Australian; first woman doctor to receive the Military Medal

Born in Adelaide, Australia on 31st March 1879. Her father was headmaster of Prince Alfred School, Adelaide. Phoebe studied science, medicine and surgery at Adelaide University.
By the time WW1 broke out, Phoebe had gained a reputation as a skilled doctor, however the Australian government’s policies precluded her from military service.  In 1917, Phoebe travelled to Britain paying her own fare and joined the Royal Army Medical Corps.   Initially Phoebe became House Surgeon at the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot.

As time went on, the British Army overcame its initial reluctance to allow women doctors to treat the wounded and in November 1917 Phoebe was posted to France, attached to a unit of Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps.  During an enemy air raid near Abbeville in May 1918, Phoebe’s calmness and care for those wounded, regardless of personal danger, led to her being awarded the Military Medal.  She was the first woman doctor ever to receive this decoration for bravery.  She then served as a Major in Rouen and Le Havre.

After the war, Phoebe went back to Australia to continue working as a doctor.  She died on 24th March 1967.

Find out more about the women who served during the First World War and were killed or died and are buried in cemeteries in Belgium and France, see the book “Women Casualties of the Great War in Military Cemeteries Volume 1: Belgium and France”, available from

With thanks to Stanley Kaye for telling me about Phoebe.


The Military Medal, created on 25th March 1916, was a British Military Medal awarded to personnel of the British Army and other Services for bravery in battle on land.

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