Shrapnel tore into Rachael Pratt’s shoulder and lung when a bomb from a German aircraft hit a casualty clearing station in France on July 4, 1917.
Though seriously wounded, she continued to nurse her patients before collapsing, recalling later, ‘[I] felt no pain immediately but just the consciousness of having been hit by some terrific weight.’
The Mumbannar-born, Ballarat Hospital-trained nurse had enlisted just two weeks after Australian soldiers landed at Gallipoli in 1915.
An operation failed to remove the shrapnel from her lung and Sister Pratt later suffered from chronic bronchitis.
For her coolness and bravery during that air raid at Bailleul, she was awarded the Military Medal by King George V at Buckingham Palace.
After three months’ recuperation, Sister Pratt worked in Australian military hospitals in England before returning home late in 1918.
In a letter to a Victorian newspaper in February 1918, she wrote: “I have charge of a dressing ward and small theatre. We do over 200 dressings daily.
“The sisters are working dreadfully hard (in France), as I have worked in the past. Hardships there have been and privations not a few, but, oh the reward for it all, the wonderful results of our labours among the sick and wounded.”
Rachael Pratt died in Melbourne in 1954, aged 79.
This story was published as part of the Road to Remembrance series developed in partnership with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Fairfax Media.