Annie Buckley MBE ARRC and the Hallway Gong
Written by Jeremy Seed on March 31 2021

In the hallway of my house in Wellington hangs a brass gong that was bought in a market in Cairo over 100 years ago. I walk past it several times a day and it hangs as a silent reminder of a time and a place, literally, a world away. The gong was purchased and brought back to New Zealand by Annie Buckley who had traveled to the Middle East as a nursing sister with New Zealand troops fighting in the First World War…this is her story.

Image: The first contingent of NZ Army Nursing Service nurses departing Wellington on 8 April 1915 onboard SS Rotorua


Annie was born on the 27th of July 1878 in Canterbury. She grew up as part of a rural family and like her brothers and sisters became a strong, practical, and able member of the community. Annie was raised in a family that held education and intellect in high regard and like her siblings was raised to not be afraid to ask questions or to assert herself, but always to do so politely.

In 1904, at the age of 26 after training as a nurse at Waimate, South Canterbury, Annie took, and passed the state nursing exam and became a registered nurse. Working initially at Waimate, when war came in 1914 she was quick to volunteer her services when nurses were called for.

Nurses from across New Zealand had argued strongly to be included in the NZEF. Seven nurses had sailed with New Zealand troops to Samoa in August 1914 but returned to New Zealand after several months. The New Zealand Army Nursing Service (NZANS) was finally formally established in 1915 after the Army Council in London had accepted New Zealand’s offer of 50 nurses in January of that year.

Those first 50 nurses were deliberately selected from hospitals across New Zealand, they were all unmarried, all pakeha, all had at least 6 years of nursing experience and their average age was 27. The contingent sailed on 8 April 1915 on SS Rotorua from Wellington and amongst their number was Sister Annie Buckley who had volunteered for service with the NZEF on the 26th of March, 1915.

The nurses initially sailed to the United Kingdom, but in fairly short order found themselves in transit to Egypt where they were staffing hospitals set up to handle the casualties coming from the Gallipoli Peninsula. Annie found herself being rotated between service on hospital ships transporting the wounded away from Gallipoli and in hospitals in Egypt. Annie eventually became matron of the Morant Hospital in Brockenhurst, England, and was made an Associate of the Royal Red Cross (ARRC) for her work there, in addition to the ARRC, Annie was also Mentioned in Despatches twice for her service.

After the war, Annie returned to New Zealand where she resumed her nursing work, became an accomplished beekeeper, and was active in church and nursing associations. Annie led community and nursing organisations throughout the 1930s and the war years. Her work in nursing training and leadership was recognised in 1947 with her creation as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

The New Zealand nurses were the first New Zealand women to have been deployed to a war zone. They initially faced a hostile reception from male medical staff who questioned their abilities and commitment. However the first 50 nurses had been well selected and despite having to wear traditional heavy, restrictive nursing uniforms and work in, what to them, were completely foreign and at times horrific environments, they rapidly proved themselves as hard-working, practical, and more than up to the task.

Whilst in the Mediterranean, Annie kept a diary and it is in this diary that she recorded a trip to Cairo on May 4, 1916, during which she purchased a brass gong. That gong that hung in her house, then in her nephews who served with the New Zealand Army in World War Two and The Korean War before it came to hang on my wall. I served with the New Zealand Army in Timor Leste and that hallway gong, purchased by that remarkable pioneering nurse, unites us all in service.

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The Hallway gong
The insignia of a Member of the British Empire (MBE) awarded to Annie Buckley 
The insignia of an Associate of the Royal Red Cross (ARRC) awarded to Annie Buckley.
The 1914-15 Star, The British War Medal and the Victory Medal with Mention –in-Despatches oakleaf awarded to Annie Buckley .
Annie Buckley’s Registered Nurses medal, obverse and reverse.
Annie Buckley MBE ARRC and the Hallway Gong
Written by Jeremy Seed on March 31 2021

In the hallway of my house in Wellington hangs a brass gong that was bought in a market in Cairo over 100 years ago. I walk past it several times a day and it hangs as a silent reminder of a time and a place, literally, a world away. The gong was purchased and brought back to New Zealand by Annie Buckley who had traveled to the Middle East as a nursing sister with New Zealand troops fighting in the First World War…this is her story.

Image: The first contingent of NZ Army Nursing Service nurses departing Wellington on 8 April 1915 onboard SS Rotorua


Annie was born on the 27th of July 1878 in Canterbury. She grew up as part of a rural family and like her brothers and sisters became a strong, practical, and able member of the community. Annie was raised in a family that held education and intellect in high regard and like her siblings was raised to not be afraid to ask questions or to assert herself, but always to do so politely.

In 1904, at the age of 26 after training as a nurse at Waimate, South Canterbury, Annie took, and passed the state nursing exam and became a registered nurse. Working initially at Waimate, when war came in 1914 she was quick to volunteer her services when nurses were called for.

Nurses from across New Zealand had argued strongly to be included in the NZEF. Seven nurses had sailed with New Zealand troops to Samoa in August 1914 but returned to New Zealand after several months. The New Zealand Army Nursing Service (NZANS) was finally formally established in 1915 after the Army Council in London had accepted New Zealand’s offer of 50 nurses in January of that year.

Those first 50 nurses were deliberately selected from hospitals across New Zealand, they were all unmarried, all pakeha, all had at least 6 years of nursing experience and their average age was 27. The contingent sailed on 8 April 1915 on SS Rotorua from Wellington and amongst their number was Sister Annie Buckley who had volunteered for service with the NZEF on the 26th of March, 1915.

The nurses initially sailed to the United Kingdom, but in fairly short order found themselves in transit to Egypt where they were staffing hospitals set up to handle the casualties coming from the Gallipoli Peninsula. Annie found herself being rotated between service on hospital ships transporting the wounded away from Gallipoli and in hospitals in Egypt. Annie eventually became matron of the Morant Hospital in Brockenhurst, England, and was made an Associate of the Royal Red Cross (ARRC) for her work there, in addition to the ARRC, Annie was also Mentioned in Despatches twice for her service.

After the war, Annie returned to New Zealand where she resumed her nursing work, became an accomplished beekeeper, and was active in church and nursing associations. Annie led community and nursing organisations throughout the 1930s and the war years. Her work in nursing training and leadership was recognised in 1947 with her creation as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

The New Zealand nurses were the first New Zealand women to have been deployed to a war zone. They initially faced a hostile reception from male medical staff who questioned their abilities and commitment. However the first 50 nurses had been well selected and despite having to wear traditional heavy, restrictive nursing uniforms and work in, what to them, were completely foreign and at times horrific environments, they rapidly proved themselves as hard-working, practical, and more than up to the task.

Whilst in the Mediterranean, Annie kept a diary and it is in this diary that she recorded a trip to Cairo on May 4, 1916, during which she purchased a brass gong. That gong that hung in her house, then in her nephews who served with the New Zealand Army in World War Two and The Korean War before it came to hang on my wall. I served with the New Zealand Army in Timor Leste and that hallway gong, purchased by that remarkable pioneering nurse, unites us all in service.

The Hallway gong
The insignia of a Member of the British Empire (MBE) awarded to Annie Buckley 
The insignia of an Associate of the Royal Red Cross (ARRC) awarded to Annie Buckley.
The 1914-15 Star, The British War Medal and the Victory Medal with Mention –in-Despatches oakleaf awarded to Annie Buckley .
Annie Buckley’s Registered Nurses medal, obverse and reverse.
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