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Elsie Clare Pidgeon

Elsie Clare Pidgeon

Female 1879 - 1956  (76 years)

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  • Name Elsie Clare Pidgeon  [1
    Born 28 Sep 1879  St Leonards, North Sydney, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Gender Female 

    • PIDGEON, ELSIE CLARE (1879-1956) Hospital matron, was born 28 September 1879 at St Leonards, North Sydney, eldest of four daughters of native born parents Thomas Pidgeon, shipping clerk, and his wife Emily Louisa, nee Cobcroft. In December 1904 she entered Sydney Hospital as a probationer and four years later was granted her certificate and appointed head nurse; she was promoted charge sister in January 1910.

      Sister Pidgeon was not a member of the Army Nursing Reserve but enlisted at the outbreak of war in 1914 and left Sydney with #3 Australian General Hospital in May 1915 for Egypt. She nursed mainly medical patients at Mudros, Cairo, Brighton England, and Abbeville, France; with a six-month break in 1917 on duty with #1 Australian Casualty Clearing Station in France. She disliked nursing officers with whom she was mainly associated: 'they always expect more - and if you can't get it, it is very distasteful nursing them'. She was awarded the Royal Red Cross (2nd class) and returned to Australia in 1920, resuming duty at Sydney Hospital in May.

      Elsie Pidgeon acted as assistant matron after Rose Creel's death in August 1921 and when Maud Kellet assumed office in December the appointment was confirmed. The two made an effective team for over twenty years: Matron Kellet's hardness was tempered by the kindly understanding of her deputy. The relationship was severely strained in 1935 when Miss Pidgeon became the fourth Australian awarded the Florence Nightingale medal by the International Red Cross and again during Miss Kellet's sad decline after October 1942, when she interfered from the sick bay until June 1944.

      Every Saturday it had been Elsie Pidgeon's custom to dine with her three sisters. She was well informed on ballet, theatre and art and took special interest in the activities of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but most of her considerable energy was devoted to her profession. Her hospitality at the Sydney Hospital was proverbial. She had joined the Australasian Trained Nurses' Association in 1909 and was honourary treasurer from 1946 until her death. Related committee activities included the New South Wales Bush Nursing Association, Florence Nightingale Committee of Australia, College of Nursing, Australia Nurses' Club, Nurses' registration Board and the local Institute of Hospital Matrons. She was also on the committee of the Returned Army Nursing Sisters' Club.

      Miss Pidgeon had been appointed matron of Sydney Hospital retrospective to 23 October 1943. Her age had been understated by five years on her personnel record card. No retiring age was imposed on hospital matrons until 1961 and she never did retire but was admitted to sick bay on 21 February 1956 and died there on 4 July. Her funeral service at the Congregational Church, Pitt Street, was largely attended.

      Aust Nurses' J, July, Aug 1935, July, Aug 1956; Syd Hospital, Annual Report, 1956; E.C. Pidgeon, Notes of war experience, 29 Apr 1919 (Butler collection, AWM); Matrons' report-books, House Cttee minutes, Syd Hospital; information from Mrs N. Campbell, Moss Vale, NSW, and Mrs D Greive, Mosman, Syd. ANN M. MITCHELL
      Source - Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume II 1891-1939, p227

    • Awarded Royal Red Cross
      For several years Sister Pidgeon was a member of the nursing staff of Sydney Hospital, but when war came its call was insistent, and the light to which she turned was the lamp of Florence Nightingale; to the succour of sick and wounded soldiers of Australia it led her to within sound of the guns on Gallipoli, to the parched sands of Egypt, and to the stricken fields of France, where German brutality spares not even the Red Cross, and where only a few months ago nine heroic women working beside her were killed in the night by bombs, and nine others were wounded. the consistent bravery of this Sydney girl has now been recognised by the award of the Royal red Cross - an honour rare and highly prized amongst the thousands of noble women of the British race who, under the Red Cross, have added new and wonderful glories to the traditions of womanhood during the present war.Leaving Sydney about three years ago with the 3rd Australian General Hospital, under Dr. Fiaschi, Sister Pidgeon, who is the eldest daughter of Mr. T. Pidgeon, of 98 High Street, North Sydney, went to Lemnos island, where she remained for eight months. After this she spent six months in Egypt, followed by a similar period at the new Kitchener Hospital at Brighton (England), and then she went to France, where she has been ever since. The ribbon of her decoration was presented by General Birdwood, and the cross itself is to be pinned on by the King. - The Sydney Daily Telegraph (?), 1917

      Advice has been received by Mr. Tom Pidgeon of North Sydney, that his daughter. Sister E. C. Pidgeon, has been awarded the Royal Red Cross.Sister Pidgeon was for several years in the Sydney Hospital, and resigned at the outbreak of the war for service abroad. She has been three years away, being eight months at Lemnos, six months in Egypt, six months at Brighton, (England), and is now in the danger zone In France. Sister Pidgeon already wears the ribbon of the Royal Red Cross. It was presented to her by General Birdwood. The Royal Red Cross will be duly presented by his Majesty the King.Writing from somewhere in France to her father, Sister Pidgeon refers to a sad event in connection -with the war. One night recently during a raid the Huns dropped a bomb near the hospital, killing- nine members of the women's auxiliary clearing station. They -were accorded a military funeral, all the sisters from the hospitals and many soldiers attending. It was a most impressive service. Sister Pidgeon goes on to sty that owing to these raids every precaution is now taken. The nurses all wear metal hats, and frequently have to go to the dug-outs and trenches to get the patients out of the danger zone. - (Unidentified newspaper clipping)

      As is fitting, the sisters of Anzacs have proved themselves in the nursing field just as their brothers have in battle, and the fine record of the Australian nurses has been recognised by the military authorities.TO date 23 nurses from New South Wales alone have been awarded distinctions varying from the Military Medal to the Royal Red Cross. In addition, a number of nurses have been mentioned in despatches for valuable work rendered while on service abroad.The usual method of recognising an army nurse's service is to decorate her with the Royal Red Cross, first or second class, according to the distinction of her work. The military medal is only given when she has displayed bravery under fire.When the Germans raided the British hospitals in France at full moon, a short time ago, the courage of the nurses was one the outstanding features of the event. Many lost their lives in defending their wounded patients under the rain of bombs showered upon them by the low-flying Hun airmen. And five were awarded military medals for gallantry under fire.Since then the contention has been raised that as an army nurse's military rating is equal to that of an officer, she should be rewarded accordingly.The latest N.S.W. nurse to receive the Royal Red Cross is Sister E. C. Pidgeon who was for several years in the Sydney Hospital. At the outbreak of war she resigned, and immediately departed for active service. She has been three years away, spending eight months at Lemnos, six months in Egypt, six months at Brighton (England), and is now in the danger zone in France. Sister Pidgeon already wears the ribbon of the Royal Red Cross. It was presented to her by General Birdwood. The Royal Red Cross will be duly presented by the King.The following nurses of the Australian Army Nursing Services belonging to N.S.W. are those who have already been honoured with decorations since the outbreak of War:-Royal Red Cross, first-class. - Matrons Nellie Gould, Adelaide Kellett, Louisa Stobo, Miles-Walker, Clarice Dickson, Bessie Peacock.Royal Red Cross, second-class. - Matrons Julia B. Johnston, Clementina H. Marshall, Alice Cooper, Margaret Veerman, Maud Russell, Head Sister Phillis Boissier, Sisters Daisy Richmond, Florence Spalding, Maud M'Nulty, Margaret Eldridge, Annie O'Neill, Edith Rush, Nellie Leake, Vera Steel, Gertrude Brown. Military Medal. - Sister Dorothy Cawood. - (Unidentified newspaper clipping)

    • Above is a picture of the Florence Nightingale medal, which has been awarded to Sister Elsie Clare Pidgeon, A.R.R.C., assistant matron of the Sydney Hospital. This award is made by the International Red Cross Committee in Geneva, and is given every second year to coincide with Florence Nightingale Day in England (May 12), in memory of the great pioneer of the war nurses. With the large medal is the tiny replica for wearing on dress occasions. The medal is thick, and is bordered with a gold band carrying the description, "Memoriam Florence Nightingale, 1820- 191O, A.D." In this is a beautiful engraving in silver of Florence Nightingale. It is attached to a brooch - a laurel wreath of green leaves and red berries, in the centre of which is a red cross in enamel. The ribbon is white water wave with red and gold edging. The medal and diploma will be presented to Sister Pidgeon by Her Excellency Lady Isaacs, president of the Australian Red Cross Society, at the annual birthday dinner of the Red Cross Headquarters Younger Set on July 16. This is only the second occasion on which this medal has come to Australia.
      - (Unidentified newspaper clipping)

      Australia is particularly fortunate in having secured this medal, recently awarded to Miss Elsie Pidgeon, four times, previously the other recipients having been Miss Edith Cornwall, Miss Evelyn Conyers and Miss Grace Wilson, all of whom are trainees of Australian hospitals and were on active service during the Great War. - (Unidentified newspaper clipping)
    Died 04 Jul 1956  Sydney Hospital, Sydney, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Person ID I23112  Mote/McInnes
    Last Modified 3 Oct 2004 

    Father Thomas Pidgeon,   b. 02 Jun 1848, Sydney, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 20 Jun 1925, North Sydney, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 77 years) 
    Mother Emily Louisa Cobcroft,   b. 22 Jan 1853, Wilberforce, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 26 Aug 1886, Petersham, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 33 years) 
    Married 20 Nov 1878  Congregational Church, Darlinghurst, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Family ID F3483  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Photos
    Sister Elsie Clare Pidgeon
    Sister Elsie Clare Pidgeon
    Sister Elsie Clare Pidgeon

  • Sources 
    1. [S76] Cobcroft Descendants, (Christine Trenorden,, 24 October 1999), Record # 31.