Australians on the Western Front: Patients and duty above all else

TENACIOUS: Sister Pratt with her Military Medal. Photo: AWM P05664.001

TENACIOUS: Sister Pratt with her Military Medal. Photo: AWM P05664.001

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 she 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.

Rachael Pratt died in Melbourne in 1954, aged 79.