NAME: Evangeline Amelia ROUNTREE
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1884
PLACE OF BIRTH: Hamilton
DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 1915
AGE AT ENLISTMENT: 31
UNIT: Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service
FATE: Returned to Australia – 1918
Born in 1884, Evangeline Rountree was a daughter of Hamilton chemist James Hughes Rountree and Margaret Kitchen. The family lived in Gray Street and Evangeline attended Alexandra College (below) and the Christ Church Sunday School.
Most of Evangeline’s siblings entered a field of medicine and Evangeline chose to nurse. In 1909, she was a probationary nurse at the Hamilton Hospital and completed her exams in Melbourne. There were eighty-two candidates and Evangeline received top marks, taking first place in the order of merit.
Evangeline was a very good pianist and the advent of silent films opened a new avenue of performance for her. On a Saturday night, Evangeline on piano would join Mr Dempster on violin in accompanying the silent films played by Leitch Pictures in Hamilton.
In 1915 at the age of thirty-one, Evangeline enlisted with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and left Australia on 15 December 1915 as a Staff Nurse. She arrived in England on 10 February 1916 and joined the No. 4 General Hospital at Camiers, France. In April 1916, she moved on to the No. 16 General Hospital at Le Treport on the coast west of Amiens. It was there she wrote the following letter to her sister. The place names were censored:
It is simply beautiful here at present. The days are warm, and we sometimes walk along the cliffs to the beach and have a dip in the briny. I wish you could see this place. It is divine and all the beauties of nature are at their height of glory. The fields are full of buttercups, daisies, wild poppies. and cornflowers. Further out towards the horizon one can gaze on the stretch of beautiful blue ocean. Last Sunday I had a half-day off: got away at 2 p.m, and walked to the next village about three miles right along the cliffs. Then I came to beautiful big woods, full of huge trees and lovely flowers yellow wisteria in abundance. The perfume of the flowers and trees was simply beautiful. After a two-mile walk through the forest of — I returned to the little French village of— had a look at a Belgian camp and caught the train home reaching — laden with boughs and flowers for the huts. A flower about cheers up the place for the poor sick Tommies, but all the same I guess they would rather have a cigarette. There is a ‘large hotel within walking distance of — which is used by tourists in the season, and a lovely golf course alongside. The hotel is owned by an English lady who gave it to the French wounded for a hospital early in the war. However it is closed down now and we have some of the wounded French soldiers here, They cannot speak English but try hard to learn. We are busy enough at present in the heavy surgical huts. The poor lads are very wonderful through all their sufferings and some are not only down with one wound but with many and you marvel that their poor tired frames can survive the suffering. However, they do wonderfully and the results are splendid.
On 19 November 1917, having returned to England from France, Evangeline requested to resign from service so she could return to Australia to be with her sick mother. At the time she was staying at the Eversleigh Court Hotel in South Kensington. Her passage home was confirmed on 7 January 1918 and she left Liverpool, England on 19 January 1918 aboard the SS Saxonia, travelling home via New York. A report written about her service stated she was a very good surgical nurse, capable and kind to her patients.
Back in Victoria, Evangeline returned to Hamilton, living at the family home Enniskene, Mill Road. On 23 April 1918, Evangeline visited the Lake Bolac State School telling the students her stories from the war and showing them badges and other artifacts she had collected. She also spoke to the members of the Red Cross at Lake Bolac and Wickliffe. By 1931 Evangeline was living at Alanbrae, Plumpton Ave, Glenroy the home of her sister Mary and her husband jockey Bobby Lewis.
In 1930, Evangeline spent time in Edinburgh, Scotland, and around 1936, she went to South Africa to join her sister Dr Jean Rountree. Evangeline worked at Shabanie Asbestos Mines Hospital in Southern Rhodesia. She and her sister returned to Melbourne in late 1937. In 1939, she attended a reunion of Military Nurses at Anzac House in Melbourne. Prior to that she had once again travelled with Jean to England. Sadly, Jean died in Melbourne in 1941. By 1949, Evangeline had moved to Riddell. She died at Bendigo in 1966 aged eighty-two having never married.