Cairns Military History

As International Women’s Day approaches it is appropriate to remember the service of Australian women in uniform.

Cairns cenotaph is unique in that it lists the names of two women, nurses who served in the First World War.  Their names are on the Eastern face of the cenotaph, facing the Coral Sea.

Pearl Stella Goodman – Australian Army Nursing Service WW1

Pearl Goodman trained at the Orange Hospital NSW and was senior sister at the Cairns District Hospital from February 1914, and acting Matron from May 1915 until her enlistment.  She subsequently became matron of the newly established Enoggera Military Camp

She embarked from Sydney 29 December 1916 to Plymouth, England, and then proceeded to France on 12 March 1917.  Pearl was posted to the 7th General Hospital, Rouen, France on the 14 March 1917. On the 22 October 1917 Pearl was admitted to 36th Casualty Clearing Station and was transferred to Southwell Gardens Hospital, England on 18 November 1917 suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. After her return to Australia on the 16 February 1918 she spent time in Prince Alfred Hospital, knitting socks for soldiers until she became too weak to continue. Pearl was reported to be very ill and was discharged on the 15 August 1918 due to medical unfitness.

She died in the Malabar Convalescent Home in Pennant Hills on the 6 March 1919 and was buried at Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney, with military honours.

Lydia Wilhelmina Falconer GRANT, Voluntary Aid Detachment

Lydia was born in Scotland but her family set sail for Australia and arrived in Brisbane on the in 1880, when Lydia was only 10 months old.

Lydia’s father Peter George was a Police Magistrate and so the family moved around Queensland arriving in Cairns c1908.

She trained as a nurse in the Mackay District Hospital and in 1914 was a Matron at the Emerald General Hospital. In the same year Nurse Grant enlisted as a member of the Australian Army Nurses Corps.

Lydia Grant then joined the V.A.D., Voluntary Aid Detachment.  At the start of the First World War, Australian VADs were restricted from travelling overseas and so many chose to travel on their own initiative and join British detachments, often in Australian hospitals. In 1916 however, the policy was changed and the first detachment of thirty official Australian VAD’s to serve overseas left Australia in September 1916.

It is believed that Lydia Wilhelmina Falconer Grant was amongst this first detachment of 92 Australian women and Lydia was one of 5 deaths that were recorded.

Lydia contracted measles and was treated at the 2nd Western General Hospital Manchester, her two brothers, who were serving in France, were sent for. Her condition deteriorated and Lydia died on the 1st April 1917 and is buried in the Manchester Southern Cemetery, Greater Manchester, England.

On reporting her death on Wednesday 16 May 1917, The Cairns Post Reported:  We have a few notes from Mrs Darvill, in which she says “Hers was a fine personality and character, and everyone who came in contact with her felt better for doing so.  I am sure no girl went forth with a higher sense of duty than she did, and she has given her life for her country, just as much as any soldier has done.”


Orange City Council

Cairns Family History

Southern Cemetery, Manchester, Lancashire War Graves



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