New WW1 photographs of Lemnos discovered

Jim Claven reveals Adelaide staff nurse Olive Haynes’ never before seen photographic collection

You would think that after more than a century that there wouldn’t be much new to discover about the Gallipoli campaign – and particularly the Greek Aegean Island of Lemnos’ important link to it. But you would be wrong.

Recently I had the good fortune to be sent some of the unpublished and to my knowledge undiscovered photographs taken by a young Adelaide nurse during her service on Lemnos during the Gallipoli campaign. As someone who had studied Lemnos link to Anzac and especially its photographic legacy I was astounded.

Olive Lilian Creswell Haynes had been born in Adelaide in 1888 and trained and worked as a nurse at Adelaide Hospital. 26-year-old Olive then enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service in November 1914 and was appointed as Staff Nurse with the 2nd Australian General Hospital. She departed Australia for overseas service aboard the transport Kyarra the same month.

Sarpi Village.

From the moment she departed Australia, Olive was determined to record her experiences, in her diary and in many letters home. These tell of her transport from Australia and service across the various fronts of the war. In this she has left us one of the major accounts by an Australian nurse who served in Greece in WW1. To this is now added the revelation of the survival of her collection of unique photographs.

It was in Egypt that Olive heard that the war would bring her to Greece. The recent launch of the August offensive had resulted in a massive influx of casualties and a change to their treatment. This resulted in a massive expansion of the military medical facilities on Lemnos, which had brought the first Australian nurses there in early August. Olive was one of the 25 Australian nurses who were transferred from service in Egypt to the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital (2nd ASH) on Lemnos’ Turks Head Peninsula complementing the other Australian, Canadian and British medical facilities there. The staff of the 2nd ASH was overwhelmingly recruited from Western Australia, although eight nurses and 29 year old medical officer Captain William Campbell were Victorians.

The hot springs baths at Therma, Lemnos 1915-16. Olive and many other Australian (and other Allied) service personnel visited these baths during their time on Lemnos.

Olive’s written account described her arrival in Mudros Bay aboard the transport Assaye early on the evening of 17th September, recounting the “beautiful harbour” being full of battleships, destroyers, submarines and hospital ships. Coming ashore the next day at the North Pier – “a little landing place” where Matron Grace Wilson and the nurses of the 3rd Australian General Hospital had arrived in August – Olive and the nurses were met by Piper Albert Monk and led to the hospital site where she would being her service on Lemnos.

Mudros Harbour.

Olive’s account goes on to detail her service on Lemnos, the influx of sick and wounded and their treatment, the vagaries of the weather that they were all exposed to (from summer heat to winter storms) and the illnesses that the medical staff were subject to (including herself in October). She wrote of her birthday celebrations, organised by the hospital staff, and social visits to the Australians camped at Sarpi. It was also on Lemnos that Olive was promoted to the rank of Sister, on 1st December 1915. Finally she would write of their final departure from Lemnos 14th January 1916 following the end of the Gallipoli campaign.

Village Street Mudros East, Lemnos 1915-16. Note the great cathedral in the background, which was visited by many Australians during their time on Lemnos. The church and many of the village buildings remain to this day.

Her photographs help bring her words to life, revealing important location information regarding the Australian presence on Lemnos. She photographed the harbour full of ships, location of her own hospital on the Turks Head Peninsula as well as that of the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital across the bay located to the north of Mudros town. There are not many photographs that have survived of these hospitals which identify their locations. We are immensely grateful to Olive for these. She also depicts a number of her colleagues at the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital as well as some of the key infrastructure developments on the Turks Head Peninsula, from the construction of the water condensing plant to the South Pier. She also photographed a group of Ottoman prisoners on Lemnos and the great Anzac rest camp established at nearby Sarpi.

One of the most moving and unique images in the collection is that of the Canadian nurses graves at Portianos Military Cemetery. Matron Jessie Jaggard and Sister Frances Munro died due to illness during their service on Lemnos, the only nurses to die and be buried on Lemnos during the campaign. Every year, during the annual Gallipoli commemorations on Lemnos, the local representatives of the Greek Red Cross, honour these nurses by laying wreaths at these graves. There are very few photographs of these graves taken during the campaign and none with the same degree of detail as Olive’s photographs. Her photographs show the original stone crosses erected at the graves, before they were replaced by the standard Commonwealth War Graves Commission slanted stone grave markers.

The two Canadian nurses’ graves at Portianos Military Cemetery, Lemnos 1915-16.

She also describes her visits during periods of leave to the various villages across the Island, accompanied by other nurses and service personal, of her trips on donkeys to the capital Myrina, the thermal baths at Therma and many more. In this Olive enjoyed the same experiences as thousands of other Allied personnel, but Olive has given us all a window into these experiences through dedication in keeping her written record. Now we have photographs to depict these experiences.

These photographs viewed by the author contained many unique images of the locations concerned. Along with a photograph of Olive with some colleagues riding local donkeys they would have hired to visit Lemnos’ sights and villages, there are photographs depicting the villages of Mudros, Portianos (modern day Portianou), Sarpi (modern day Kalithea), Kondia (modern day Kontias) and Therma.

Water condenser, Turks Head Peninsula, Lemnos, 1915-16.

This author finds these photographs truly amazing. One of her photographs of Mudros reveals both the great church of Evangelismos Theotokou and houses that can be seen to this day, as well as the myriad of wooden structures erected for the campaign, possibly taken on her many visits there between October and December to view the village, buy foodstuffs and enjoy its hospitality. On 29th September she wrote of visiting the church itself with a group of her fellow nurses, lighting a candle and saying a prayer, before climbing the stairs inside the church for the view of the harbour from the top of the church. Her photographs of the other villages are also unique. Portianos is shown from above the village, revealing its houses and extent, as is the case with both her images of Sarpi and Kondia. The latter were probably taken when she visited the village and bought some mandarins and nuts. I have not seen images of these two villages with such clarity.  Kondia is viewed from one of the hills above, giving a uniquely revealing overview of the village. Another unique image of Olive’s of the rarely photographed Sarpi village, around which the great Anzac rest camp was located.

Greek Ploughing on Lemnos.

This is also the case with her photograph of the thermal bathhouse at Therma. These baths were regularly visited by thousands of Allied service personnel throughout the Gallipoli campaign, including not only Olive but also Colonel John Monash and the future British Prime Minister, Lieutenant Clement Attlee, many of whom recorded their experiences here for posterity. They would enjoy a hot bath for the first time since leaving their home nations, as well as a meal and a rest, provided by the English-speaking local Lemnian proprietor. Olive wrote of visiting the baths in December, being told that “Helen of Troy used the bath”, its being crowded with soldiers and enjoying lunch while waiting for their bath. Olive’s photograph truly amazes me, an echo of my own photographs of the restored working bathhouse at Therma. All of these village scenes are complemented by her beautiful photographs of a local villager ploughing his field and the windmills surrounding a nearby village, probably Portianos.

Kondia village est. 1915.

After the end of the Gallipoli campaign, Olive departed Lemnos with the rest of the 2nd ASH staff from the Turks Head Peninsula’s South Pier. She would see service at military medical facilities in France and in England. Olive was discharged at London on 11th December 1917 following her marriage. Returning to Australia in May 1918 aboard the transport Wiltshire, Olive would reside in the Melbourne suburb of Ivanhoe.

All of us interested in the Hellenic link to Anzac – both in Australia, Greece and beyond – owe Olive a massive debt of gratitude for her diligence and determination to leave posterity this vibrant record of life on Lemnos over one hundred years ago. Her photographs can now be viewed alongside those of the collections of Staff Nurses Lucy Daw, Evelyn Hutt and Mary McIlroy. So let’s raise a toast to Olive Haynes and the other Anzacs who have made such significant contributions to Lemnos’ Anzac archive.

The annual Greek Red Cross’ commemoration at the Canadian nurse graves. Photo: Jim Claven 2013
Portianos War Cemetery today, where the two Canadian nurses are buried. Photo: Jim Claven 2013.

*Jim Claven is a trained historian, freelance writer and has been Secretary of the Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee since its establishment in 2011. He has researched the Hellenic link to Anzac across both world wars for many years. He is indebted to Gil Daw (the descendent of another WW1 Lemnos nurse, Staff Nurse Lucy Daw, who also kept a photographic collection of her service on Lemnos) as well as the family of Olive Haynes for bringing Olive’s photographs to his attention. Jim is the author of Lemnos and Gallipoli Revealed: A Pictorial History of the Anzacs in the Aegean 1915-16. To order a copy please contact Jim at