The Nurses’ bell

  • Height  711 mm
  • Width  889 mm
  • Weight  417 kg
  • Note  A#
Bell Inscription

(N.Z. Army Nursing Service Symbol)

The Nurses Bell
Dedicated to the New Zealand Nurses and V.A.D.’s who made the supreme sacrifice in the Great War, 1914–18.
By the New Zealand nurses.

The 'nurses'’ bell, bearing the symbol of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service (NZANS), is dedicated to the memory of New Zealand nurses and members of the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) who lost their lives in the First World War.

New Zealand Army Nursing Service

New Zealand did not have an official army nursing service when war broke out in August 1914. The government initially refused to send any nurses overseas, believing that sufficient nurses would be available in England, but it soon changed its mind. In January 1915 the New Zealand Army Nursing Service (NZANS) was formed. Its nurses served in Egypt, on the Western Front, in England and on hospital ships, working long hours and enduring many of the same dangers and discomforts as the men. Over the course of the war around 550 nurses served with the NZANS, while another 100 or so New Zealand women nursed with British and French organisations.

Many VADs also served in the war, although they were not part of New Zealand’s official military structure. New Zealand had no VAD scheme of its own during the war, so the majority of those who worked as VADs in New Zealand military hospitals were New Zealanders already living overseas or those who had travelled to offer their services. Their duties included scrubbing floors, cleaning medical instruments, dressing wounds and comforting patients.

Remembering those who died

Sixteen nurses died during the war, including ten who drowned when the transport ship Marquette was torpedoed in the Aegean Sea in October 1915. The others died due to sickness or accidents; one was killed during an air raid in Flanders. At least three New Zealand VADs are also known to have died.

In 1926 nurses from around the country contributed £130 to purchase one of the bells in memory of their fallen sisters. Nurses from Wellington Hospital gave £35. Jessie Bicknell, the director of nursing for the Department of Health and matron-in-chief of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service, was the driving force behind the purchase of a bell. Assisted by a committee, Bicknell helped to organise the fundraising effort.

In the years that followed, the bell was sounded during carillon recitals held on special occasions, such as the anniversary of the sinking of the Marquette, and for gatherings of nurses to remember their fallen comrades.  

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Geraldine Sellens

Posted: 11 Mar 2022

Where is it situated?

Jamie M

Posted: 20 Oct 2022

It is in the Carillon in Wellington - see: