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   Jul 05

Family place medals and flowers on grave of heroine WWI nurse Alice Cashin

When the Gloucester Castle was torpedoed Nurse Cashin made sure soldiers onboard were safe before she took to the boats. Jennifer Furness and Lyndell Ford (right) placed Nurse Cashin’s medals on her unmarked grave. Photo: Nick Moir
Nanjing Night Net

Jennifer Furness and Lyndell Ford (right) visited Nurse Cashin’s cemetery to reunite her with her medals. Photo: Nick Moir

A little piece of World War I history has been discovered after The Sun-Herald last week told how a highly-decorated Sydney nurse was lying in an unmarked grave.

The story of nurse Alice Cashin, awarded the Royal Red Cross medal and the French Croix de guerre, emerged when Kathleen le Gras from Engadine started researching the family tree of her mother, also named Cashin. It led her to Woronora Cemetery in Sutherland where, coincidentally, her parents are buried, and to the grave where she found only a blank patch of grass.

The story was read by Jennifer Furness in Belrose who realised it might be her great aunt.

“I knew the family came out from Ireland in 1838 and that she had been a matron but that’s all we knew,” Mrs Furness said. “I thought it must be our Alice. It fitted in. Women then didn’t have much choice of career, they either went into nursing or domestic service.

“I had a box in the wardrobe so I went straight away to check. My auntie left it to me years ago and I never really thought to look in the box. It’s got RRC [Royal Red Cross] on the lid and there are six medals. One has Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve on it and another has ‘RRC’.”

On Thursday Mrs Furness and her sister, Lyndell Ford, daughter Sarah Marynissen and her two sons, Liam and Thomas, visited the cemetery to place flowers on the grave and briefly reunite nurse Cashin with her medals.

“My daughter Sarah was stunned when we visited the grave and saw that nothing was there,” she said. “She is thrilled to have a famous great, great aunt.

“There is so much we still don’t know about her. I would like you to thank Mrs le Gras for all her research. It is so strange how these coincidences happen.”

Nurse Cashin was on the hospital ship Gloucester Castle when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat and and made sure the injured were all safe before she took to the boats. For her actions she was awarded a bar to the Royal Red Cross medal she had already received, becoming the first Australian to receive the honour during World War I and was twice mentioned in dispatches. She lived in Redfern and trained at St Vincent’s Hospital.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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