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Dorothy Gwendolen Cawood (1884–1962)

by Jacqueline Abbott

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Dorothy Gwendolen Cawood (1884-1962), nurse, was born on 9 December 1884 at Parramatta, New South Wales, seventh child of John Cawood, carpenter, and his English-born wife Sarah Travis, née Garnett. No details of her education are known but in 1909 she began four years nursing training at Coast Hospital, Little Bay, Sydney, and was registered with the Australasian Trained Nurses' Association on 14 May 1913.

Dorothy Cawood enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 14 November 1914 as a staff nurse in the Army Nursing Service; she was posted to the 2nd Australian General Hospital and embarked for Egypt on the Kyarra with the first A.I.F. contingent. The hospital was based at Mena in 1915 and Sister Cawood served there throughout the Gallipoli campaign as well as doing duty on hospital ships and transports. She was promoted to nursing sister in December, then in March 1916 went with the 2nd A.G.H. to France. After serving at Marseilles and at Wimereux, near Boulogne, she was briefly attached to the 8th Stationary Hospital and the Australian Voluntary Hospital; she returned to the 2nd A.G.H. in July, then from December 1916 to August 1917 was attached to the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station at Armentières. On the night of 22 July 1917 the station was bombed and Sister Cawood, with Sisters Claire Deacon and Alice Ross-King, risked her life to rescue patients trapped in the burning buildings. The three were awarded Military Medals—the first won by members of the A.A.N.S.—for their 'coolness and devotion to duty'. Advising her parents of the award Sister Cawood wrote: 'Do not blame me for this. It is Fritz's fault. He will do these dastardly tricks'.

On 1 August she was transferred to the 38th Stationary Hospital at Calais and in November to the 6th British General Hospital; while there she was mentioned in dispatches for 'distinguished and gallant service in the field'. She was soon posted to Genoa, Italy, with the 38th Stationary Hospital and, except for several months in 1918 when she was hospitalized, served there until January 1919. She was then transferred to England and was attached to the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford and the 2nd A.A.H. at Southall before returning to Sydney in May.

After demobilization Sister Cawood nursed in the State hospital at Liverpool, then from 1928 until her retirement in 1943 was matron of the David Berry Hospital, Berry. In 1944 she moved back to her old home in Parramatta and, unmarried, died there on 16 February 1962; she was buried in Rookwood cemetery with Anglican rites.

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)
  • J. Gurner, The Origins of the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps (Melb, 1970)
  • London Gazette, 28 Sept, 24 Dec 1917
  • Australasian Nurses' Journal, Jan, June 1913, Oct 1917, May 1918
  • Sydney Mail, 2 Jan 1918
  • S. G. Kenny, The Australian Army Nursing Service During the Great War (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Melbourne, 1975).

Citation details

Jacqueline Abbott, 'Cawood, Dorothy Gwendolen (1884–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 21 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


9 December, 1884
Parramatta, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


16 February, 1962 (aged 77)
Parramatta, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.