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Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Queen's Nurse QAIMNS (R) #5113 1863 - 52yrs 1 Apr 1915 1919 5
Nurse Clara Northall  (1863 – 1934)
Family background and early life

Clara Northall was born in 1863 at Yorks, Brightside, England to Daniel and Mary (nee Edwards) Northall.   The date of her birth is believed to be 19 December 1863 although the only record found is that of her baptism on 21 February 18641 .

Clara’s parents, Daniel and Mary Northall, were both born in Tipton, Staffordshire  and were married in the Parish of Sedgley, Staffordshire2, England in 18563.   Their three eldest sons (John, James and Daniel) were born in Tipton, Staffordshire; the family then moved 152 km to the Sheffield area, where Clara and her younger siblings were born at Brightside, Staffordshire.

The 18712 United Kingdom Census of Sheffield shows the family living at 64 Industry Road, in the village of Darnall, Attercliffe, Sheffield.   At this time the family consisted of Daniel (aged 38 years), Mary his wife (38), John Thomas (14), Daniel (12), James (10), Clara (8) and Samuel (6).  Clara was listed as a scholar in the census and her elder brothers, John Thomas (aged 14) and Daniel (aged 12) were listed as “Labourers in Steel Mills”.  

Daniel Northall’s occupation was given as a “Roller” in the 1871 Census and a “Master Roller” in other documents6.  A “Roller” was an iron and steel worker and, at the time, there would have been plenty of work at the steel mills around Sheffield.   

Daniel worked in the Rolling Mills which converted cold billets of steel (or mill bars – flat bars of iron).  The cold billets were heated in a furnace to a temperature which enabled their thickness to be reduced by several passes through pairs of rollers with ever reducing gaps.    The Roller’s job was an important one, usually located at the end rolls making sure the finished bars were the correct size.  His job required heavy manual labour to be undertaken in an uncomfortably hot environment.

This is a list of the names for workers on a rolling mill, though they differ between mills4:

Under roller
Middlers (front and back)
Cog backer
Belter down or cogger down
Furnace man or puller out
Charger or pusherman.
Runner out
Odd lad


In the 1881 English Census5 , Clara was 18 years of age and living with her parents at 330 High Street, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England.  Her younger siblings (not mentioned on the 1871 census) were Eliza (9) and William Daniel (5), both shown as scholars.  John Thomas (24) was now a Roller Assistant (or Under Roller) but James, the other brother, was not listed in this census.

Clara’s father died in April, 1889 at the age of 56 years.

Education and Training

Clara was educated at a Private School in Sheffield, England6.   

For reasons unknown, almost one year after her father died, on 7 March 1890, Clara (26) and her younger sister Eliza (17) travelled for 75 days aboard the HMS “Jumna” from England to Brisbane, Australia.  Their occupation was given at the time as “D.S.” or domestic service7.

From 1 July 1890, Clara was a student nurse at the Ipswich Hospital, Queensland. There is a photograph of her in 1891 with nursing staff wearing the first hospital uniforms issued by the Ipswich Hospital8,9.  

On 30 November, 190210 Clara Northall and four other nurses graduated with certificates as trained nurses from the Ipswich Hospital.   She had successfully completed her studies passing her examinations in (1) Elementary anatomy and physiology, (2) surgery and surgical nursing and (3) medicine and medical nursing. 

The 1903 Annual Meeting of the Ipswich Hospital, which was recorded in the Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser of 26 February 190311 reported that: 

“Nurse Northall, after a service of 12 years severed her connection with the Hospital, carrying with her the best wishes of your board.” 

Some insight into Clara’s time after she left the Ipswich Hospital in 1903 was found in newspaper advertisements.  Notices of her delivering “Ambulance Lecturettes” on First Aid to the “Y Union”  (possibly the YMCA) were discovered for 30 June 190312.

Details of Clara’s subsequent life are not known until Saturday 26 January 1907, when an advertisement appeared in the Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser recording her return to Ipswich:

“Nurse Northall, after an extended holiday to Sydney and Southern parts of Queensland, has now RETURNED to Ipswich, and RESUMED DUTY.  She wishes to acquaint her Friends and Intending Patients that the following address will find her:-  NURSE NORTHALL, care of Mrs W. Gordon, Thorn Street, Ipswich.”

It is noted that, during this period, Clara’s younger sister Eliza was resident in Sydney.

Clara was then recorded as working as a Staff Nurse at the Charleville Hospital, in Queensland from 20 October 1907 until 20 March 1908.   

In the 1908 Electoral Rolls Clara was again living in Ipswich at “The Manse, Limestone Street” with the occupation of Nurse.  (The only church in Limestone Street, Ipswich was St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church which also had a manse attached, so it is presumed that this is the address referred to in the Electoral Roll.)

Travel to England and return to Australia

Immigration records show Clara departing on 28 April 1908 from Pinkenba Wharf, Brisbane onboard the RMS Ortona heading for London.  This was also reported in the newspapers under their shipping news columns13.

Clara apparently returned to Australia as in her enlistment papers6 for service in WW1 she records that she worked at the Scone Hospital, New South Wales from 16 September 1912 to 16 June 1913 as a Charge Nurse.

In 1914, Clara once again travelled to the United Kingdom before undertaking training at the Manchester “Hulme Home” from 10 September 1914 to 10 March 1915 as a Staff Candidate.  She attended many lectures there where subjects studied included sepsis and asepis, tuberculosis, diseases of women and paediatric nursing.

Enlistment in the QAIMNSR in England

Following her time in Manchester, Clara Northall joined Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Regiment (QAIMNSR) Reserve on 1 April 1915.  Her birth year on these records is given as 1873, so making her 42 years of age (or 10 years younger than she actually was).  Her appointment was published in The British Journal of Nursing14.

An extract from the History of Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps:  The British Army15 describes the QAIMNSR Reserve in which Clara served: 

“In 1866 provision was made for the appointment of nurses to all British Military General Hospitals, but it was not until 1881 that an Army Nursing service was formed.  Following the experience of the South African War of 1899 in which 80 of the 1400 nurses sent were supplied by Canada, Australia and New Zealand and the reorganization of the Army Nursing Service, the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service was established in 1902 under Royal Warrant under immediate control of Her Majesty.

Formation of the QAIMNS Reserve and the Territorial Force Nursing Service quickly followed and in the first week of WW1 these nursing services mobilized for duty with the Expeditionary Force, serving through the war years on every front, in every campaign .”

Another description of the QAIMNS from “Scarlet Finders”16 reads:

“Although there had always been a small “Reserve” of women who augmented the numbers of the regular QAIMNS, the effects of the Great War demanded that many more women needed to be recruited quickly.  The figures for enrolment vary, but one reliable source shows that 10,404 women joined Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Service Reserve between August 1914 and the Armistice.

Like their counterparts in the regular service, these women were educated, of good social standing and had all completed a three-year nurse training in a hospital approved by the War Office.   They were, with very few exceptions, over 25 years of age and single, but as the war progressed a shortage of staff resulted in some married women being allowed to serve.  Women were engaged on yearly contracts or until their services were no longer required, and most had been demobilized by the end of 1919 to return to civilian life.

The majority of women who served with the QAIMNS Reserve during the Great War have personal files at The National Archives (UK), although these files were ‘weeded’ during the 1920s and 1930s and much of interest has been lost.  Combining the information that remains, with details of medals and awards, articles from nursing journals and family history sources, a full picture can be built up…”

At the time of writing, the service records for Clara Northall with the QAIMNSR have not been found; it is known many of these nurses’ records were destroyed in the German bombing of Southwark, S.E.1, London on 1 September 1940.

Return to Australia

It appears that Clara completed her contract with the QAIMNSR after 15 months of service; she would have been 53 years of age.  Clara embarked in London on 28 July 1916 aboard the “Osterley” of the Steamship Line, Orient bound for Australia.

Post War life and work

On her return to Australia, the Electoral Rolls show Clara was living at ‘Ardgowan’, Qualtrough Street, Woolloongabba in 1917.  On 17 March 1917, an article in the Warwick Examiner & Times reports that Nurse Northall was managing at the Warwick Benevolent Society Home, in Warwick.  Another report in 1918, in the Family Notices, thanks Nurse Northall for being in attendance as midwife for a birth.

The Wharf Street Congregational Year Book of 1919 (held in the Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church Archive) shows that Clara was on the Registered Members List.  At this time, her address was given as the Creche at 94 Windmill Street, Fortitude Valley (Spring Hill).  Clara worked as a Nurse at the Creche and Kindergarten (as shown in the photographs) for at least two years.  This is the Creche and Kindergarten known to Brisbane families as “C&K” which started in 1907 and ran for more than 100 years, closing in 2011. 

Clara was still nursing in 1922 and had moved to live at Knowles Street Auchenflower (Toowong).  It appears she retired sometime after this as she is listed in the Electoral Roll for 1925 as living at Henry Street, off Merton Road, Buranda with her occupation recorded as “HD” (or home duties).  She had moved to Young Street off Ipswich Road at Coorparoo by 1928. 

Link to Saint Andrew’s

The Wharf Street Congregation, of which Clara was a member, was part of the 1977 amalgamation of the Presbyterian, Congregational and Methodist churches, so  forming the Uniting Church in Australia.  Saint Andrew’s Ann Street Uniting Church inherited the WW1 Honour Boards from the Wharf Street Congregational Church on which Clara Northall is listed.

Return to England

In 1933 Clara returned to England to be united with her friends.  A farewell afternoon tea, arranged by members of the City Congregational Church and friends, was held at “Tan-y-coed” - the home of Miss Mary Thomas, at The Drive, Bardon.   The farewell was reported as follows in “The Brisbane Courier” 17:

“To enable a few church friends to bid farewell to Nurse Northall, who will leave for England on July 13, Miss Thomas arranged an afternoon at Tan-y-Cold, the Drive, Bardon.  Miss D. Maynard, on behalf of the Rev. P. Watson, M.A., officers and members of the City Congregational Church, gave greetings and best wishes, stating that a warm rug would be forwarded on Monday to Nurse Northall from the members of the city church.  Those present included Mesdames C. H. Harley, T. Smith, Esau. J. Morris and Misses Northall, Maynard and Thomas.  The guest of honour also received personal gifts from Mesdames Harley, J. Morris and Miss Thomas.”

Clara Northall embarked in Brisbane on the Orient Line, S. S. “Orsovo” on 13 July, arriving in London on 31 August 1933.  She gave her address on the passenger list as “Hazel Grove, Stockport, c/- Commonwealth Bank of Australia”.  (Hazel Grove is a suburb in the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport, Greater Manchester, England.)


Less than a year after her arrival in England, word was received through the newspapers in Queensland that Nurse Clara Northall had passed away in England on 9 June 1934 in her 71st year.   She had suffered much ill health in her later years, reportedly the result of her war service.

Clara’s younger sister, Eliza Northall (b.1872), who accompanied her to Australia in 1889, moved to Sydney on 29 April 1898 and is shown on the Electoral Rolls of 1903-04 as living at 223 Glenmore Road, Paddington, Sydney.  Eliza married Arthur Sydney Harris in 1905 and lived for the rest of her life in New South Wales.

Select bibliography
1. England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975, FHL Film #6343745.
2. 1871 UK Census, Sheffield District. Source:
3. England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915, for Daniel Northall, 1856, Registration District: Dudley, County: Staffordshire, Vol 6c, page 132.
4. Rolling Mill workers.  Source:
5. 1881 UK Census, Sheffield District.  Source:
6. From the UK & Ireland Queen’s Nursing Institute Roll of Nurses 1891-1931, Roll No. 5113, Vol 22 (1915-1916), page 63 for Clara Northall.
7. Immigration passenger log for HMS “Jumna”, 7 March 1890, page 92.  Source: Queensland State Archives.
8. Ipswich First – WW1 Nurses Remembered.
9. Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser, 25 May 1938, page 6 “Hospital Staff of 1891”.  Source: Trove, NLA
10. Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser, 15 Nov 1902, page 3. Source: Trove, NLA
11. Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser, 26 Feb 1903, page 2. Source: Trove, NLA
12. Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser, 23 Jun 1903, Page 1, “Advertising”. Source:  Trove NLA.
13. The Telegraph, 28 Mar 1908, page 8, “Late Shippings”. Source: Trove, NLA.
14. The British Journal of Nursing, 8 May 1915, Vol 54,  page 395.  Source:
15. History of Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps:  The British Army.
16. Scarlet Finders – Researching British Military Nurses and VADs and military hospitals in the Great War period and documents from the National Archives of the UK www.
17. The Brisbane Courier, 10 Jul 1933, page 16, “Farewell Afternoon”.  Source: Trove, NLA.

Researched and written by Miriam King, Brisbane, August 2018.  Edits and additions by Miriam King, March, May 2023. ©



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