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Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Nurse / Domestic 19y9m 16 Dec 1915 Discharged: 26 June 1918 6

Amy (Biddy) Jean Brockway (1896 - 1981)                  


Family background & early life

Amy Jean Brockway was born on 17 March 1896, at Southport.  She was the second daughter of Dr Archibald Birt Brockway and Ellen Maria (nee Dennis) Brockway.    Amy was fondly called by her family nickname “Biddy”.  She had an older sister, Dorothy Mary, who was born in 1890.

While in Brisbane, the family lived at "Thrums", 51 Wickham Terrace, Brisbane from 1900 to around 1922.

Both sisters attended Somerville House;  Amy from 1900 until 1913 and her older sister, Dorothy, from 1899 until 1908.

Enlistment and service

Amy enlisted as a 19 year old with the AIF on 16th December 1915 as a “Domestic” with Australian Nursing Service; her mother was listed as next of kin.   The embarkation roll showed her rank as “Probationary Nurse/Ward Assistant” as part of the Hospital Transport Corps.   It can be seen on her enlistment papers that “Domestic” is underlined in red and a notation, also in red ink, is made of her not being a member of the Australian Army Nursing Service and dated 5 September 1918.  This situation, over which she had no control, ended with her being discharged from duty and left in Sydney on the 8th April 1916 and her appointment terminated on the 26th June 1918.

The No 2 Hospital Ship “Kanowna”, which Amy was to join in Sydney, had just been fully refitted as a hospital ship in England and sailed from there in September 1915 bringing back to Australia some 450 seriously wounded troops.   It arrived in Sydney in December 1915 and it had been decided, as an experiment, to take onboard female domestic staff instead of male orderlies freeing up the men for fighting roles.  

While the ship was docked at Garden Island for three weeks a controversy broke out.  The 14 domestic staff who had enlisted were given nurses uniforms and often referred to as “probationary nurses” and a misunderstanding with the ATNA (Australian Trained Nurses Association) ensued.  They argued that there were many trained nurses waiting to fulfil roles in overseas service and that using untrained women was a danger to sick and wounded men.

Regardless of the controversy, Amy and the other 13 female domestic staff/ ward assistants departed from Sydney on the No. 2 Army Hospital Ship, HMAT “Kanowna” on 22 December 1915.  During the voyage from Australia to Egypt and back again, these women quite capably carried out duties that had little to do with nursing.  Although a few did have some nursing training, most had come from previous occupations as “domestics” and their skills were utilized in similar “housework” on board the ship. 

Unfortunately, the pressure from the ATNA prevailed, and after disembarkation in Sydney in April 1916, all 14 women were discharged and left there.  Many of the troops on this journey were convalescent patients compared to the previous trip and there were no deaths.  The Commanding Officer, Lt Col Archibald Birt Brockway (Amy’s father), the medical staff and Matron Strickland highly praised the women who were discharged, to the extent that the matron supplied each with a letter of appreciation for their work.

Perhaps Lt Col Brockway could be forgiven for not standing up to the pressure from the ATNA, when it’s considered that his daughter Amy was one of those discharged, and he may have faced an accusation of nepotism.

Life after World War 1

Amy returned to Brisbane, and on the 14th October 1920, married Ormand Presley Hill at All Saints Church, Wickham Terrace.  The Rev A. Maxwell of Gympie conducted the service.   Ormond was the eldest son of Mr E. O. W. Hill and his wife Phillis who lived at "Fassifern Station".  Phillis was eldest child of Mr and Mrs Charles George H.C. Clark of Talgai, Allora, on the Southern Downs Region of Queensland.  At the time of their marriage, Ormond Presley Hill's occupation was listed as a grazier.  (Amy's husband, known as Presley, served in Egypt in WW1 in the 4th Camel Regiment of the AIF as a Lance Corporal.  He suffered a gunshot wound to the chest on 3 April 1918 and was admitted to the Australian General Hospital in Egypt on 10 April.  Ormond returned to duty and was demobilised on 11 March 1919.)

After their marriage, Amy and Presley lived for a short time at a WW1 soldiers' settlement block called "Buress" at Warwick.   They later moved to "Fassifern", the family property, where their only child, Ormond Guy Hill, was born in 1924.  

In 1929, Presley was successful in the land ballot draw of a block off "Saltern Creek Station", Barcaldine.  The block was called "Moonya".  ("Saltern Creek Station" had been taken up as a run initially by the Weinholt family who were first cousins of his father, E.O.W. Hill.  They had also owned "Fassifern" before it was purchased by E.O.W. Hill.)  

When Biddy (Amy) and Presley moved into "Moonya" they sold "Fassifern Station".  They remained at the sheep property "Moonya" until retiring in 1954, and then moved to Brisbane, living at 15 Houthem Street, Camp Hill.

Amy continued to reside at Camp Hill after the death of Presley in 1961, but in 1968 moved into a unit at 74 Thorn Street, Kangaroo Point.  This unit complex was the first high rise on that part of the river commanding views of the city to the west, and the story bridge and Evans Deakin Shipyard.  Amy remained at Thorn Street until 1975 when she elected to return to Barcaldine to live.   The same year, her elder sister Dorothy died in Brisbane.

Amy 'Biddy' Hill died in Barcaldine Hospital in 1981, after a long illness, aged 85 years.  Amy was survived by her son, Ormond Guy Hill and granddaughter Penny Hill.


Despite the previous controversy regarding her service in the AIF, on the 27th August 1923, Amy received the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal for her service as a Nurse on the 2nd Army Hospital Ship.

Select Bibliography
• Australian War Memorial - images as cited
• "A ship's life: the Kanowna Story - SS HMAT A61; D14; No 2 Australian Hospital Ship", National Archives of Australia – Discovering Anzacs
• National Library of Australia: Trove – Digitised newspapers – The Brisbane Courier & The Queenslander
• State Library of Queensland - onesearch - images as cited
• John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland - images as cited
• WW1 records,
• Family photographs: Penny Hill - images as cited

With thanks to Penny Hill, granddaughter of Amy 'Biddy' Brockway and great-granddaughter of Dr Archibald Birt Brockway, for her assistance with information on Amy's life after the war and numerous photographs of her grandmother and great grandfather.

Researched and written by Miriam King, April 2015 ©  Revised March 2016.  Coloured images uploaded by Miriam King February 2023 © 



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