Memories of Gallipoli

A unique personal collection of autographs, notes, cartoons and poems penned by soldiers from the Gallipoli campaign has been launched at the Mount Maunganui RSA.

Crafted into a book with the assistance of Kate McCarthy, a personal historian with Forget-Me-Not Life Stories, ‘Memories of Gallipoli’ gives a glimpse into the lives of the soldiers that served during the campaign. Dating from mid-1915 to early 1917, the collection, filling three autograph books owned by Sister Florence Duckett, are the personal, poignant and sometimes humorous signatures, notes and drawings of the soldiers she nursed.

Florence served on the HMHS Galeka, a Red Cross hospital ship transporting the injured from the battlefields of Gallipoli to hospitals in Egypt or Malta. In mid-1915, Florence sailed to Alexandria, Egypt to serve in Gallipoli, where the battle had been raging since February that year.

Her daughter Joyce Atkinson, 89 and now living in Auckland, felt it was important the autograph books were shared with the public.

“Sister Florence Duckett was my mother; a compassionate, loving person who volunteered and nursed the wounded coming off the Gallipoli battlefields,” says Joyce.

“She cared deeply about these young men and the autograph books were her way of giving them something to do and a way to express themselves.”

A warm and engaging person, in her spare time Florence visited wounded soldiers in their hospital beds and asked them to write an entry in her autograph book. She wanted to give them something to do and a chance to take their minds off their plights. The three resulting autograph books, the pages of which were photographed for ‘Memories
of Gallipoli’, contain the odd proposal among the cartoons, poems and autographs from the allied soldiers.

Endorsed by the Returned Services Association of New Zealand, with a foreword written by former Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae, ‘Memories of Gallipoli’ has been published in remembrance of Sister Florence Duckett, hospital ship, medical and ambulance staff and the thousands of soldiers who fought in the Gallipoli campaign. Each dated entry from the New Zealand, Australian, Canadian, UK and Indian soldiers carries the writer’s name and rank.  

“It’s now time to bring these autograph books to public notice and to remember them; what they gave up, and the tremendous personal sacrifice they made,” says Joyce.

“They gave up their today, so we could have our tomorrow and they need to be remembered.”

Joyce was unable to travel from Auckland to the launch at the Mount Maunganui RSA, where Kate presented the first book to club support manager Peter Moss.

One copy of the book has been sent to every RSA club in New Zealand for people to view and copies are available for $25 plus postage from: