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Kingswood parishioner Marnie Watts has
been overwhelmed by global interest
in the 100-year-old Anzac story of her
grandmother Olive Haynes, a World War I
nurse whose character was a favourite in
this year’s hit ABC series Anzac Girls.
“Total strangers – one from as far as
England, and others from across Australia
– are emailing me...and they ask the most
phenomenal questions about Olive: when
did she cut her hair?; what were the names
of all her children?” said Mrs Watts last
“People clearly have connected with her
story and want to be a part of our lives.”
Olive’s story was among that of five nurses
depicted in the television series which
aired in August to commemorate the 100th
anniversary of Australia’s involvement in
World War I. Actress Anna McGahan played
Olive using a compilation of more than 122
letters, diary entries and photographs from
1914 to 1917 in the book We Are Here Too,
edited by Olive’s Adelaide-based daughter
“The response has been fantastic –
everybody loves Olive,” said Mrs Young
The book was first printed in 1991,
reprinted two years later and a third edition
was released earlier this year. Sales of the
current edition of 2000 printed books have
been steady. Mrs Watts has been selling
the latest version after Sunday morning
Mass at Our Lady of Dolores Church, in
“I think the parishioners at Kingswood
would have very much appealed to Olive,
as she would have to them,” she said.
Mrs Watts said Olive’s work at the frontline
had inspired many, however her largely
unknown charitable works post-war in
Victoria, with her seven children and
husband, Australian soldier Pat Dooley,
were equally stirring.
She said her grandmother was instrumental
in establishing a school for people with
intellectual disabilities still operating at
Ivanhoe, Victoria. Olive raised funds to
support the school through raffles, donated
goods and knitted dolls until her death at
the age of 90 in 1978.
At one stage during World War II, children
with disabilities, including Olive’s daughter
Phyll, who had Down syndrome, were
schooled in the family dining room.
“I remember 12 or 13 children in our house,
all of them with a disability, and the teacher
the parents employed taught them how to
write their names, to colour in and to read,”
said Mrs Young. “They loved her and she
“Olive was a much admired woman in her
day, but she would never seek publicity.”
Olive was well known for liberally offering
her nursing experience to sick and injured
neighbours at any time of the day or night.
She continued helping soldiers during
World War II by repairing and classifying
books with the Australian Comfort Fund,
rolling bandages for the Red Cross and
acting as a voluntary aid detachment
member with the Women’s Hospital. She
would use her own food vouchers to make
up food parcels for soldiers on the frontline,
and her home was a refuge during the
Depression to numerous homeless men
“I remember her as a very strong woman
with a can-do attitude and as grandchildren
we were always encouraged and affirmed
that we could do anything,” said Mrs Watts.
“Her legacy to her grandchildren through
to her great-great grandchildren has been
a zest for life and the strong sense of
acceptance of all people,” she said.
Mrs Watts and Mrs Young last month
represented Olive at the opening of the
National Anzac Centre in Albany, Western
At the opening, the pair spoke of Olive’s life
as an Australian nurse in Egypt, the Greek
Island of Lemnos and France, and her
marriage in 1917 to Pat Dooley, which led
to her resignation from the Australian Army
Nursing Service and her return home to
Australia in 1918.
They said Olive’s letters were testament to
the difficult living and working conditions
of Australian wartime nurses, who were
largely the forgotten heroes of World War I.
It was a fact not unnoticed by then 26-year-
old Olive almost a century earlier in Egypt.
In April 1915, Olive wrote to her sister Nell:
“They are always so keen on ‘our boys’,
no-one ever hears of ‘our girls’, but we are
For more information on the book,
We Are Here Too, visit
contact Marnie Watts on 0439 030 734.
There’s more to Olive’s Anzac story
By Rebecca DiGirolamo
LEGACY: Kingswood parishioner Marnie Watts with a cherished photo of her grandmother, Australian nurse Olive Haynes, and
(L-R) Olive’s daughter Margaret Young, great granddaughter Emma Cother and great-great granddaughter Ada Cother.
WAR HISTORY: From left – Olive’s biscuit ration tin from Lemnos (1915) and other memorabilia; (centre L-R) Sister Deere and Olive in Egypt, 1915; Anzac Girls actress
Anna McGahan as Sister Olive Haynes. Photo: Matt Nettheim.
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