Farm girl turns wartime nurse

LEST WE FORGET: Natalie Currie (nee Campbell) served with the Women's Auxiliary Army.
- Advertisement -

Hearing and seeing footage of the horrors of war prompted 18-year-old Methven farm girl Natalie Currie (nee Campbell) to sign up for a first aid course with the Voluntary Aid Division(VAD).

The course lead to her serving with the Women’s Auxiliary Army.

In World War 2 women served in female-only auxiliary services in support of the navy, army and air force.

These were not combat roles.

Natalie recorded memories of her life, prior to her death in 2016, including her service.

‘‘Gradually one after the other started to go … and all you could think was doing something that could help. The Red Cross nursing work seemed to be a place I fitted into,’’ she said.

She wasn’t allowed to serve overseas until she was 23, when she served with the Women’s Auxiliary Army as a VAD nurse.

‘‘I reckon I had as much sense at 20 as I did at 23, and why wait so long?’’

Natalie left New Zealand on the Empress of Scotland (formerly Empress of Japan) troop ship to Egypt in the nursing division of the 14th echelon.

She deployed for ten months serving in Egypt, Italy, and England.

During her time in Italy, her fiance Tom Currie was also serving there with the artillery division of the New Zealand Army. They exchanged many letters.

While nursing in Italy in both Bari and Senigallia, she had one day off a week. She worked in the physical and surgical wards in Senigallia. At one point, the New Zealand hospitals were moved closer to the front line.

Natalie Currie.

Natalie was drawn in a ballot to go to England, where she nursed Prisoners of War. She was in England for Victory in Europe Day.

On Natalie’s return to Ashburton, Tom was waiting on the Ashburton railway station platform for her.

Natalie and Tom married in 1946. They had three children Campbell, Catherine Trott (nee Currie) and Russell.

Natalie was given an honorary membership of the RSA in Ashburton. For her services she was awarded the War Medal 1939-1945 and New Zealand War Service medal.

In 1995 through Returned and Services Association, Natalie, another women and eight men went to England and Crete for Victory over Japan Day commemorations.