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Deacon, Clare (1891–1952)

by Barrett J. Carr

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Clare Deacon (1891-1952), nurse, was born on 13 March 1891 at Pipers River, Tasmania, daughter of William Deacon, farmer, and his wife Ruby Ellen, née Dixon. No details of her early life are known; however, she trained at Hobart Hospital, passing her general nursing examination in 1912.

Clare Deacon enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 29 November 1914 as a staff nurse in the Army Nursing Service and was posted to the 2nd Australian General Hospital. She embarked for Egypt on the Kyarra with the first contingent and served at Mena throughout the Gallipoli campaign. Promoted to nursing sister in December 1915, she left for France next March and remained with the 2nd A.G.H. in 1916. She was transferred to the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital in February 1917, then in June was temporarily attached to the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station at Trois Arbres near Armentières. On the night of 22 July the station was bombed and Sister Deacon, who was off duty at the time, ran into one of the shattered wards and removed the patients to a place of safety: she was one of four Australian nurses who risked their lives to rescue patients from the burning buildings. For 'coolness and devotion to duty' she, with Sisters Dorothy Cawood and Alice Ross-King and Staff Nurse Mary Jane Derrer, was awarded the Military Medal, a distinction only awarded for bravery under fire. These were the first Military Medals won by members of the A.A.N.S.

In August Sister Deacon resumed duty with the 2nd A.G.H., remaining with this unit until her return to Australia in April 1918. She was discharged from the A.I.F. in Tasmania in March 1919. A contemporary source described her as 'fresh and girlish-looking', with a charming personality. She married James McGregor, a dentist, on 2 May 1922 at a Melbourne registry office; there were no children of the marriage.

McGregor predeceased her in 1941 and her last years were spent at Crows Nest, Sydney, where she died of meningitis on 7 August 1952.

Select Bibliography

  • A. G. Butler (ed), The Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War of 1914-1918, vol 3 (Canb, 1943)
  • London Gazette, 28 Sept 1917
  • Australasian Nurses' Journal, 15 Jan 1913, 15 Sept 1917
  • Sunday Sun (Sydney), 21 July 1921
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 8 Aug 1952
  • war diary, 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station, AIF, July 1917 (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

Barrett J. Carr, 'Deacon, Clare (1891–1952)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 26 October 2016.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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