Roslyn Rutherford: Wartime adventures

RNR in 1918

My mother, Roslyn Newel Rutherford, was born on the 18th of October, 1893, at Murrumbidgerie, New South Wales. She had wanted to be a doctor, but (according to her story) was called home to assist her mother with the house work when her elder sister, Katherine, had decided to move out into a flat.

When the First World War broke out she was determined to take part in it, but could not do so unless she had a professional qualification. I was under the impression that she had actually started a medical degree at Sydney University, but in fact she had not matriculated, and could not enter University until she had done so. After some research she decided that the only qualification she could hope to get before the war was ended was a Diploma of Massage from Sydney University (this was roughly the equivalent of Physio today).

She completed her studies in 1916, and arranged to join the Almeric Padgett Massage Corps at Leeds, in England. When she got a copy of her birth certificate, so that she could get her passport, she found she had been registered as a man. She had been born on the family property, some distance from Dubbo, NSW, the nearest town, and the next time her father had gone into town to attend the sales, he went looking for the registrar of births, and found him in the pub, where he had given him the details. Unfortunately the registrar was apparently a little the worse for wear, and got the details wrong.

My mother had a lot of trouble getting this mistake rectified. I still have both birth certificates. Travel to England was severely restricted, because of the shortage of shipping, and none was available for females wishing to go to the war, so she had to travel via the United States, and spent a short time there, while waiting for a ship. She visited Boston, and also (unofficially - she should have had a visa) an uncle who lived over the border in Canada. She finally arrived in England late in May 1917.

My mother received no official encouragement at all. While she was working at Royaumont her pay was 35 per annum (out of which she was expected to buy various odds and ends), but her second class fare to England via Vancouver was 69.9.4d -- substantially more than her total wages. On her return home in 1920 her first-class fare from San Francisco to Sydney was 47.10.0

However she did receive some compensation (I don't know how much) several years after the war.

Original Birth Certificate

Revised Birth_certificate

 © Roger Riordan 2004-2019

Introduction: Getting to England