Willingly into the Fray comprises the personal stories of sixty-five individual nurses, their voices preserved and their words, often fraught with emotion and mired in distress at what they have seen, endured and railed against, carefully retained. Many of these stories are told for the first time, particularly those of the recent campaigns, peacekeeping operations, disaster relief and humanitarian missions. These are men and women who, like those before them, often worked in the most primitive conditions, as one nurse remarked tellingly, ‘with TLC and little more’.
It is typical of Australian Army nurses to proceed ‘willingly into the fray’, often with little warning, but always with courage, determination and a strong sense of humour. In the hundred or so years since the first intrepid Boer War nurses set out, Australian Army nurses have forged a proud and enviable reputation. They are justifiably renowned for their determination to provide quality medical care despite extreme privation, perilous circumstances, and a lack of the most rudimentary medical equipment. If this is the reputation they can forge in the face of such adversity, then we have much to look forward to over the next one hundred years.
Willingly into the Fray provides a rare opportunity for the reader, to take a personal journey through the lives of Army nurses from the early days of 1899 to modern times, and to experience the vast changes in society that accompanied those hundred or so years.