Agnes Cullen Jones
- Born: 19 Mar 1886, Harrietville, Victoria, Australia
- Died: 4 Sep 1936, 29 Greenhills St, Croydon, New South Wales, Australia at age 50
- Buried: 4 Sep 1936, Presbyterian Cemetery, Rookwood Cemetery, Lidcombe, , New South Wales, Australia
Cause of her death was Coronary Thrombosis/ 1/4 hour.
In 1903 Agnes was living in Harrietville, probably with her parents, occupation Home Duties. By 1909 she was at Wangaratta, living in Green St and a nurse. She is believed to have been undertaking her nurses training at the Wangaratta Hospital at this time. By 1914 she was still a nurse but now living in Melbourne at Lower Malvern Rd, Glen Iris.
Agnes or "Cully" Jones enlisted in the A.I.F. on the 14th August 1916. She was a single, 29 year old Nurse. Cully was just 5 feet tall, and weighed 115 lbs. She had a fair complexion, grey eyes and light brown hair. She was Presbyterian and listed her mother, Mrs W. Jones of Bright, as her next of kin.
Cully embarked from Melbourne on the SS Orsova on the 6th December 1916, disembarking in Plymouth, England on the 17th February 1917. By the 28th February she was on her way to France where she was posted as a Senior Nurse to the 4th General Hospital in Rouen arriving there by the 2nd March. On the 15th July 1917 she joined the 3rd General Hospital, also in France. On the 19th November 1917 she was assigned to the 38th Stn Hospital in Genoa, Italy. She returned to England on 22nd January 1919, disembarking at Southampton. On the 7th February 1919 she boarded the Lancashire bound for home, disembarking in Melbourne on the 31st March 1919. She was discharged from the Army on the 1st May 1919.
Cully was the recipient of the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
The following article from the Australian War Memorial Journal, refers to Sister Cullen Jones:
The exact number of women from the north-east [of Victoria] who volunteered as nurses is difficult to identify, but they numbered at least forty. Most enlisted in Melbourne, where they worked, like Myrtleford's Elizabeth Rothery. All, of course, were single.
In the patriotic brouhaha that accompanied the enlistment of the region's men, the nurses were often overlooked. Few attended the farewells given for the male volunteers and, when they did, they were something of an embarrassment for the male speakers, who found it hard to shift their focus from the need to kill the "Hun" to the role a woman might play in the conflict. The women themselves seemed to prefer a private farewell with friends and family, a quiet dinner in the local cafe or tea room, or a social at home. In many respects, these women had already left the region years before.
Nurses from the region worked in England, France, South Africa and on the hospital ships at Gallipoli. They also proved to be indefatigable letter writers, and their letters were widely circulated or printed in the local newspaper. The letters were important to women in the region, for they often lacked the evasions and pragmatism that characterised the letters written by the soldiers. They were, in a sense, an alternative to the masculine voices so dominant in the war effort.
Sister Agnes Cullen Jones, from Bright, was among the most eloquent. In 1917, she found herself on the banks of the Somme. Its beauty was marred by the simple fact that it was the "bloodiest battlefield in the history of the war". She was sickened to see a lad fishing in the river and vowed never to eat fish again in France. She particularly remarked on the wild flowers that grew on the graves of the Australian dead and found them a more fitting tribute to the men, now "finished with the heart-scalding" experience of war, than the formal wreaths laid by the Queen. She assured her readers that "it would do many an Australian woman's heart good if she could see how beautiful the resting place of her boy is."  She frequently wrote home with news of the local men at the front and was not averse to commenting on their appearance. She found her brother, for example, "as fat as ever". She described the emotional difficulties she faced when nursing wounded Australian soldiers and, although she accepted as inevitable that the men would return to the front, it still grieved her to see them go. She had enormous respect for the German prisoners of war, claiming that they were unmatched in their ability to endure pain; she also noted that many of them by 1918 were little more than "boys". And it was Agnes Jones who alerted the region to the serious nature of the Spanish Flu: as she remarked, "We have all got the wind-up pretty badly about it." She returned home in 1919 and was rather non-plussed by the presentation of a large bunch of roses by the local patriotic committee.
The presentation made to Agnes Jones reflected genuine respect for the women who had volunteered. Every memorial in the region that names all who served lists the nurses. In Beechworth they were given their own marble panel.
Source: Enlistment for the First World War in rural Australia:
The case of north-eastern Victoria, 1914-1918, by John McQuilton, Journal of the Australian War Memorial, Issue 33, 2000. Sourced from the AWM Website: http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/10061/20020413-0000/www.awm.gov.au/journal/j33/mcquilton.htm
As noted in the previous article Cully was a prolific and articulate letter writer. Some of her letters were published in The Alpine Observer which was the local newspaper in Harrietville and surrounding areas. Her letters reveal a thoughtful, sensitive and intelligent woman with a very clear grasp on the wider issues in the war, and a real empathy for the charges in her care - the "boys". Two of them are transcribed below. The first is a poignant account from her time in the Somme, where her sister's husband had died just a few weeks before. The second, from Italy, reveals the nervous optimism, no doubt felt my many, about the impending end of the war, tempered by the fears about the emerging Spanish Influenza epidemic.
From The Alpine Observer Friday 21st September 1917
Harrietville Nurse in France
Writing from No. 3 Australian General Hospital in France to her sister (Mrs R J Tobias), Sister Agnes Cullen Jones says:- "I am getting rid of all my letters while things are quiet here. We are right on the banks of the Somme here. It is a magnificent river, but somehow when one looks on it's beauty, one shudders and remembers - for I suppose it is the bloodiest battlefield in the history of the war. That is where Harry Martin [NB her brother-in-law Thomas Henry Martin] went out in the biggest fight Australians ever set out on. I saw a boy fishing there the other day, and I registered a vow never to eat fish again here. It made my very soul sick. We travelled through miles of the most gorgeous country to get here, and places that were battlefields in the early history of the war are now all planted with crops. Growing amongst them are cornflowers, poppies, daisies, and many other flowers. Then one would pass acres of land marked with its little wooden crosses, with plenty of wild flowers growing over the little mounds. These places are well tended by the French and by the troops out on rest, and I think those at rest underneath are really the best off, as they are finished with the heart scalding that those behind are suffering. The Queen passed along the other day and placed flowers on the graves, but I think nothing could be as sweet as the decorations nature has provided - cornflowers, poppies, marguerites, tiny forget-me-nots, and lily of the valley. I think it would do many an Australian woman's heart good if she could see how beautiful the resting place of her boy is, and she would be glad he had done his bit."
From The Alpine Observer Friday 10th January 1919
Harrietville Nurse in Italy
SISTER AGNES C. JONES RELATES HER EXPERIENCES
Writing under date 2/11/18 from Italy, Sister Agnes C. Jones says:- "I received several letters from home to-day. I shouldn't wonder if they do not send any more nurses from Australia now as peace seems imminent. Thank goodness ! I think the German nation is at last pretty well on it's knees. If it were not for this rotten epidemic of Influenza we would all be in the seventh heaven of delight. But it seems to have had such a hold on us here that we have all got the wind up pretty badly about it. Three of the Australian sailors died of it this week, and the Australian prisoners and Italians are having a rotten time of it. I hope ------- will like the Caulfield Hospital. [NB name to be edited out in the Newspaper article] It was a lovely place when I was there. It is nearly two years since I left home. Time does fly round. It will soon be Xmas again. I do hope that we will be home for next. I am still home-sister, and get pretty sick of it at times. Tonight for dinner I have just the kind of soup you used to have at home with everything 'in to it' (Scotch 'intilt'), and it's going to be just the thing. We have had a succession of thunderstorms this week. But to-day is a perfectly glorious Italian day, with Italy's blue sky at it's best. Word has just come that another Australian sailor has died of Influenza. It's awful, really, and doubly sad as two of the boys are brothers. I wonder what this rotten disease is. It seems like an awful plague. Things are very busy with us, as our fellows have just put up a fairly decent stunt on this front, and have got a good deal battered about, and with Spanish influ. still going strong, things hum some. But we are feeling in wonderful form, as to-day we have word of Turkey having given access to the Dardanelles, I think the Austrians have almost caved in. Of course, Fritz is still game , and will keep going while he's got men on two legs. But we'll soon get him worn out too, and there will be a lot of tired nations resting on their oars. Please God, we will never see another war. I wonder if our boys at the Dardanelles made their sacrifice all in vain. I think not. I think their big effort laid the foundation stone for this great surrender of the Turks. We are having very decent weather, thank goodness - not yet painfully cold. As coal in Italy is conspicuous by it's absence, we dont want too many frosts. Plenty of snow caps on the Alps, though. Our poor old Australian sailor boys have had a very bad time here lately. Five of them have 'gone out' with the Spanish influ'. It is much more alarming here than the cerebro-spinal was at home. I think, after I have been at home for a while after the war, I will come back to Italy; I would so like to see it under peace conditions. It is beautiful even now. The Australians in France are having a hard earned rest. They deserve it." On 6/11/18 Sister Jones wrote as follows:- "How glad you must be that the awful winter is over; but gladder still you will be when you realise that the most awful war is nearly over too. A city gone mad is the only term that suits this place at present. Fot two days processions and cheering have been the order of the day. Flags are waving from the most minute corners of the tiniest slums, and the Italians are rejoicing in the most hilarious manner imaginable; while hopeless and despairing the remnants of the once second greatest army in the world are ascending the valley which a year ago they descended so triumphantly with every confidence. Poor things ! One feels sorry for the badly beaten foe - and when one thinks they were starving and fighting at the same time. We are dreadfully busy, and for weeks have scarcely drawn breath. To-day we have numbers of badly wounded Austrians in. Our own Tommies are pretty badly cut up too. But worst of all is this awful Influenza; it is carrying our folk off in such a patheic manner. It makes ones heart ache. I have never known anythging so awful. It is distressing to see the boys going by such a dreadful disease at this period of the war, as they seem so near gaining the longed-for peace and return to 'Blighty'. 'Cest le guerre' is alright when a man dies of wounds - it is indeed the fate of war; but the other seems the most damnable possible fate when 'home sweet home' is almost in sight. We are now understaffed, as so many of our girls have influ'. So far 'yours sincerely' is keeping fit and well. Numbers of our girls here have already got their Xmas parcels. Their people certainly meant to be in time. I think we may get a move-on before Xmas, although we would all like another Xmas here; for if we go now, it will mean we will be on the move, or at least unsettled at that time. And really Xmas in hospital is so good, once gets such a lot of pleasure out of it, that one hates to miss it."
Following her return from the war Cully worked at the Military Repatriation Hospital in Kooyong Road, Caulfield in Melbourne. She is recorded as living there in the 1919 Electoral Roll.
In 1925 she was sent to Sydney and in 1930, 1933 and 1936 she was recorded as living and working at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick, another Military Hospital.
Sister Jones was renowned for her devotion to the rehabilitation of soldiers suffering from Shell-shock, perhaps more commonly referred to today as Post-traumatic shock syndrome. She would readily bring shell-shocked WW1 soldiers back to the family home over the weekend to aid in their treatment. She also organised a sort of cottage industry in which the men would get involved in basket-making to keep the men gainfully occupied and to aid in their recovery. She established a connection with several well known stores in Sydney to sell the baskets through. As a result she was taken to court by the NSW Government, led by the notorious Jack Lang, for taking away work from factories who normally made baskets. Cully represented herself in Court and won.
The following Obituary appeared in an unknown Newspaper:
SISTER A. CULLEN JONES
War veterans and particularly those who have been inmates of the Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick will be grieved to learn of the death of Sister A. Cullen Jones, affectionately known as "Culley".
During the war, after considerable service in France, she was transferred to the Italian front. On her return to Australia she joined the staff of the Repatriation Hospital, Caulfield, and was transferred to Randwick in 1925.
The secret of "Culley's" popularity with the troops was her sympathetic interest in the problem of the individual, and while at Randwick she specialised in giving her individual attention to nerve cases. Her activities did not cease with her official duties as nearly all her spare time was devoted to making things for those Diggers who could not afford the little luxuries in life.
Much more could be written of the stirling qualities of this popular Sister and every Digger who has passed through Caulfield and Randwick and been fortunate enough to come under her care, will feel that he has lost a great personal friend.
The funeral which took place at Rookwood was attended by members of the Randwick Hospital staff and patients.
The following is believed to be a transcription of another Obituary
"Sister Cullen Jones
War veterans & those who have been patients of Prince of Wales Hospital Randwick will be grieved to learn of the death of Sister Cullen Jones. During the war Sister Jones had long service in France before being transferred to the Italian front. On her return to Australia she joined the Repat Hospital in Caulfield and was sent to Sydney in 1925. The secret of Cully's popularity with the troops was her sympathetic manner and interest in their problems and her kind attention to nerve cases"
Sailed from Melbourne RMS Orsova 6 Dec 1916
Trained at Wangaratta Base Hospital.
Her Death Notice, in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 5th September 1936, referred to her as Sister Cullen Jones of the Randwick Military Hospital.
Cully is buried with her mother in the Presbyterian Cemetery at Rookwood, Location: Section 5F, Grave 2809. The Headstone reads:
In Loving Memory of / ELIZABETH JONES / who fell asleep / 31st Oct 1933 / Aged 76 Years / And AGNES / Loved Daughter / At Rest 4.9.36 / Aged 50 Years.