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Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service

B series

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Bit of background information to set the scene.


Sister Helen Greenhalgh was from Lancashire and trained as a nurse,  and around 1914 joined the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Corps. After additional training she was posted to Alexandria, Egypt. British and Australian casualties from the Gallipoli campaign and the landing of troops at Cape Helles in April 1915 were transported to Alexandra for treatment in several hospitals in the area. 



The journey from UK to Alexandria, via Marseilles & Malta was on the troop ship  HMT Aragon, accompanied by destroyer escorts including HMS Attack., but on 30th December 1917 whilst waiting to enter Alexandria docks the Aragon was  hit by a torpedo fired from German U Boat UC34, approx 600 men & some Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses were lost with the ship. HMS Attack picked up  many survivors. Sister Greenhalgh escaped in a life raft and took the picture below, she and many others where rescued by a trawler. Another ship, the Osmaniem was also torpedoed by the same U boat, this ship had aprox 40 QAIMNS reserve service nurses onboard and many injured troops. HMS Attack and the trawler picked up some survivors. The rescued troops annd nurses on HMS Attack had stripped off their wet and oiled covered clothing just before HMS Attack was hit amidships by a torpedo and it broke in half and sank very quickly. 100's had to abandon the ship and just jumped naked into the oil filled sea. The trawler crew tried to rescue as many as possible from both ships but it was very difficult to get hold of oil covered skin a drag people aboard, and the trawler was already overloaded and could not possibly carry all the people from two other large ships. The trawler skipper knew the  the U boat was still around in the area, so they had to head for port and leave so many still in the water. Once on dry land the rescued were transported to a military mess for clothes, tea and brandy.



A friend of Sister Greenhalgh, Sapper John Pugh of the 98th Light Railway Company RE was lost when the HMT Aragon was sunk, he is buried in Hadra War Memorial Cemetery, Alexandra, Egypt.


Military hospital, Cairo


Sister Greenhalgh at the 98th Stationary Hospital, Gaza, Sinai.   taken 17July 1918



Horse drawn ambulance fitted with wide wheels for travelling on sand, and wire matress style spring flooring to aid comfort. Sinai 1917




Sinai 1918, army staff car with officers & nurses. Sister Greenhalgh is far right.  Note plenty of spare wheels and tyres.


Sister Greenhalgh possibly learnt to drive in one of these vehicles, and with several ambulances. She had an early interest photography and motor vehicles, and liked driving if given the chance. Whilst serving with the QAIMNS she purchased with her own funds an Indian motorcycle which caused a bit of a fuss at the time. It was unheard of for a QAIMNS nurse to have her own transport, let alone a motorcycle, but after some investigation there was no law against it. A story goes that one day she was riding her Indian somewhere near her hospital and at a crossroads she collided with another vehicle. The other vehicle was an ambulance from her own hospital. Sister Greenhalgh was injured but not so badly, both she and her Indian were loaded into the back of the ambulance and taken to hospital. Seems she spent a few nights in her own ward to recover. While she was in hospital an army workshop repaired the Indian, did a really nice job with it, and one night someone wheeled it into the ward and parked it at the end of Sister Greeenhalgh's bed so she would see it when she woke the next morning.  All went well and she was delighted. But there was a big fuss about the Indian being in the ward, however no matter who was asked, nurses, and mechanics, it was not possible to find anyone who seen anything or knew anything about it.  It was further pointed out that as the Indian had been repaired it would speed Sister's recovery and wellbeing, and that nurses were in short supply and the matter was dropped due to lack of evidence. 


QAIMNS Hospital train that Sister Helen Greenhalgh served on in Palestine 1918.  She meet her future husband, a Captain J.P. Graham in the Royal Engineers whilst he attended the hospital for an eye injury. He had been using a pick axe, which caused a piece of stone to enter one eye causing loss of sight.



Captain John Patrick Graham RE, 7th Laird of the Graham's of Limekilns family, Lanarkshire, Scotland. Royal Engineers 1916-1920



Sister with Ford Model T, at Hadrah Bridge, Palestine May 1919.



I will post additional pictures.

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Soldier Graham during WW I in Sinai, Royal Engineers.



Soldier John Graham and Sister Helen married circa 1920 at the Military Offices, Cairo, Egypt.  They then lived in the Suez Canal Zone, Trans Jordan and later Palestine. They had a son John who led interesting life which I have briefly detailed in a thread in British vehicles titled 75 CRE (Works) RE Palestine Trans Jordan WWII.


Mrs Graham with son and Hassan their Gaffir / watchman  Kantara 1922



Nurse / Mrs Graham and husband J P Graham, this was his 1st car, a Ford Model T at the Suez Canal ferry crossing Canal Zone, Eqypt  1923. Note single acetylene headlamp.



An early photo of John C Graham (jr) in the Ford Model T  at Kantara railway compound, Suez Canal Zone Egypt. 1923



Mrs Graham and son. In the background is the the family bungalow at Kantara, with the Suez Canal on the right. Canal Zone, Egypt 1923.




Young Ms Miller and John Graham with the Ford model T at the Miller's Survey Camp near Sarafend, 1925.



Capt Graham with his Morris Cowley. This vehicle was shipped to Jaffa in a crate, there was no harbour at the time so it was unloaded on to a barge to the beach.  It was the first British car in Palestine circa 1924, registered JA 428. This was possibly a 1923 model purchased while in leave in the UK. It was chosen because Mrs Graham liked the front radiator styling. It had a outside handbrake, and no front brakes. The engine was a Hotchkiss 1550cc. Most trucks in the area at the time were US manufactured and they left wide spaced ruts in the dirt roads which the Morris with a narrow track did not like. The clutch facing on this vehicle was maintained using bottle corks thinly sliced using a new Gillette razor blade, spare corks, glue and blades always kept to hand in the vehicle. 


Mr Graham and son outside their bungalow which was constructed using old WW1 army huts.  The Railway Compound, Lydda Junction, Palestine 1924



Plan of Palestine Railways Compound at Lydda Junction, 1925.



Abdul Majid and master Graham marking out the tennis court in the Palestine Railway compound at Lydda 1924.



Layout of the Graham's bungalow at the PR compound Lydda, Palestine 1925



Old Turkish gun which stood in the PR compound at Lydda, with the pigeon aviary in background. 1925.



Mr J P Graham,  in front of his bungalow at the PR compound, Lydda Palestine. Taken with a Kodak 620 folding camera and developed at home using Kodakcolour paper colouring strips. 



Trolley boys, Mohd & Abdul at the PR compound Lydda, 1925.



In about 1926/7 the Graham family moved to Trans Jordan and the vehicle was re registered as B186. One day on the road between Amman and the railway station the chassis broke on the rough road. The vehicle was towed by an RAF Morris Commercial 6 wheeled truck to the railway repair shed at Amman Station. The railway repair shed was next to the Graham's bungalow, so it was easy to watch a steel patch being riveted onto the chassis to make a good repair. The vehicle was last seen in Hafia, converted into a pick up truck being driven by a German dairy farmer delivering milk in 1941.




Morris Cowley in Jericho, Palestine 1925



Approx 1920 Mr Graham started work with Palestine Railways and was later appointed District Engineer.  They lived for a while at the British Residence, Amman Trans Jordan. The British resident at the time was Col  Cox and his family, and both families shared the building together with other official staff some servants.

Later the Graham moved a short journey to a bungalow at Amman Station, Hedjar Railway,  which was an interesting place. It included a railway station, goods platform, engine turntable and locomotive sheds. Also up a steep climb behind the station area was RAF Amman, to the N East the Trans Jordan Frontier Force Headquarters, and quarry used for railway ballast, and to the S East the Headquarters of the Arab Legion and barracks. It was a short walk the the British Residence.

Master Graham, in kilt,  in the garden of their bungalow at Amman railway station. The fence around the property was constructed using old locomotive boiler pipes as can be seen in the photo.  Amman, Trans Jordan, 1928.




District Engineer Graham had his own train which included sleeping car for his family, a cooking resturant car, saloon car and finally servant quarters and a flat bed wagon for his Morris car. The internal layout was a dining room and lounge at one end, and at the other end a coal fired galley, and of the connecting corridor a wash room & WC.  With this train the engineer and family would tour the railway system as far as Ma'an inspecting all the works and any damage. (Lawrence had made a mess of the remainder to Mecca). These inspections could take several weeks and often included social visits to a summer house, royal palaces, holidays or evening events.

The train was often parked in a siding near to the Graham's bungalow, and one day it was shaken of the of the rails during an earthquake. This train was also used when a "Royal Train" was required by  Emir Abdulla (the grandfather of the current King of Jordan).

Mrs Graham, son  and "her home"  coach HR No 80, and the family Morris at Zerka station, Trans Jordan 1927.
















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TransJordan Frontier Force Camels at Ma'an, TransJordan  March 1928




The children in Ft Lt Cook's aircraft in hanger at the RAF station at Amman, TransJordan 1927.  Vickers machine gun at the ready.




Mr Graham's 3rd car a Morris Oxford 16 hp, it seems this vehicle might have been a type modified for export markets. It was a Morris Commercial chassis with four wheel brakes, fitted with a Morris touring 10 hp body, The RAF used the same specification for staff cars, which is why the Graham's selected this vehicle because it used common spares and could be serviced at RAF Amman. Pictured 1929.




Mrs Graham with the new red Morris 10/6 at Wadi Kelp, Palestine 1935




Arab Revolt Palestine 1936 - 1938


Standard motor trolley pushing a mine exploder, operated by the Royal Engineers using Palestine Railways equipment and locally produced equipment. Sometimes the mine exploder would be loaded with local hostages to warn crews when a mined section was approached.




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British military operated Ford V8 truck converted with armoured body.

Mr Davies of the Permanent Way Instutution (P.W.I.),  with the red flag. 

The PWI was staffed by the Australian Railway Construction and Maintenance Group at the request of the British government.





Two Ford V8 armoured trucks coupled together for fast speed in either direction "sweeping" the line. The overhead guard is for protection against bombs thrown from bridges and cuttings. July 1938 Palestine.




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There is more to the story;


The caption to this photograph is: Light Ford Ganger's trolley which has it it's own turntable, passing over temporary bridge repairs.



British military patrol with pick up converted for railway use at Kilometer 142.225



On the Hedjaz Railway, a washed out bridge at Makarram in the Yarmuk Valley, Trans Jordan Feburary 1935. Engineer Graham up on the line wondering what to do about it.



Hedjaz Railway, washout at Kilometer 345.822 between Amman and Ma'an, Trans Jordan 11 November 1937.  This was a near thing, on the outward trip the driver did not spot it in time and crossed at 40 mph. Trolley is recrossing in low gear unmanned with Permanent Way Institution (PWI) staff waiting to jump in and stop it.



One of the faithful Baldwin S.G locomotives near Haifa. One of approx 40 of the type in use on the railway.



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Has my favorite  BBC TV channel group from the UK ever done a special show or series on this very subject that is being dicussed here?  I would sure like to read and see more about this subject from a historical standpoint!  I can also see the idea for a great TV historical mini series!  Maybe the right people will read and make it happen!   🙂


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Engineer Graham standing on bridge looking at another problem, washout on the Nablus Line on 10 Feburary 1935.



Another view showing the twisted track.



Mr Graham and his son aged 14 with their new red Morris 10-6 on the Nazareth Road 10 June 1935. Graham junior was self taught driving this car on the desert roads of Palestine. The negative has been processed using a book of Kodak colour swatches which was a very early way of colouring negatives during home film development.



In 1938 the family took extended leave and visited the UK to see friends, and also to allow Mrs Graham to establish contact with her Morris Cowley which she had garaged in North Wales back in 1930. They could have used the Morris Cowley, but the UK government paid for the family Morris 10-6 transportation to the UK for the leave period. The Morris Cowley was sold in 1941 due to Mrs Graham unable to return to the UK to use it.

Here we see the Morris 10-6 fitted with UK QA 7770 temporary import plates, on the Strome ferry, Ross-shire, Scotland 1938.

The Morris 10-6 was shipped back to Palestine at the end of the leave period, was used through WWII, and was sold in Hafia in 1946. 



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Hello B series.

Are you related to those folks who are the subject of this nice write-up?  I had no idea that area of the world had rail improvements to the extent that you are describing.  Great story and nice Baldwin Locomotive picture.


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The SS Orama on 12 September 1937 leaving Haifa for UK on what would turn out to be a record breaking 5 day run. This was the "school boat" taking children back to UK boarding schools. Mrs Graham son sailed on this journey, and then onto boarding school. Master Graham attended Ardvreck School in Crieff from summer 1931, and Loretto School in Musselburgh 1935-39, Scotland.





Mrs Graham's son outside the Royal Bank of Scotland branch, Skye, Scotland 1938. He was later to join the Royal Engineers and serve during WWII on the Hafia- Baghdad military road (see British vehicle thread titled 75 CRE (Works) RE Palestine, Trans Jordan) which I have tried to make interesting.



The sinking of the SS Patria on 25th November 1940 in the port of Haifa by the Haganah. This picture shows the SS Patria sinking from the position of the Graham family apartment in Abbass Street, Haifa.  The SS Patria had 1800 Jewish refugees onboard from Nazi occupied Europe who where being deported by the British to Mauritius, it sank in 16 minutes. There was a delay in loading the refugees on board, so sailing was later than planned. The Haganah group (Zionist underground paramilitary ) timed the bomb to go off when the ship was clear of the harbour and only intended to disable the ship and prevent the journey going ahead, but the loading delay meant the ship was still in the harbour when it exploded, and they miscalculated and sank the ship. More than 200 were killed trapped in the holds as the ship rolled over. 


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With the commencement of WWII it was expected that the German Afrika Corp would overrun Egypt from the south, and the Russian army would invade from the north, so all British women and young children not in essential occupation had to evacuated, via the Suez Canal to South Africa.

Mrs H Graham reluctantly departed Palestine via Suez Canal in 1941. She never saw her husband or son again.

Her husband Capt Graham RE and later Chief Engineer Palestine Railways was required to stay at his posting because the railway system was deemed essential work. 

At  age 18 their son was not classed as a child, and therefore not allowed to travel via ship to South Africa with his mother. He was not authorised stay in Palestine and his visa did not allow working. There were no passenger ships to the UK due to hostilities. So to stay "near" his father he managed to obtain work assisting the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) /Royal Engineers with building the military road from Haifa to Baghdad, but only on the section in Iraq which was a neutral country at the time. It was the only option available even though he was in a different country to his father and a different continent from his mother.

Mrs Graham arrived in South Africa,  a strange country which she had never visited before and had no reason to be there, her husband, house and life was in Palestine and her son was in Iraq. She did not know anyone in South Africa, and had to start a new "temporary" life from scratch, so she obtained work as a nurse at a local hospital.

Mrs Graham with her Studebaker Champion car at Pietermeritzbugh South Africa 1942.


This is last known photograph of her, she died 25 September 1943 cause unknown, and is buried in South Africa, location unknown.

Her husband Capt Graham RE died 5 December 1949,  maybe in Palestine.

So a young girl from Lancashire joins the QAIMNS, is posted to Egypt during WWI, married, had a son, lived in TransJordan, Palestine, Sinai, Iraq, and ended being moved to South Africa by the British government where she lived for a couple of years and then died.





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As is said in the US by Paul Harvey, "And now for the rest of the story".  Only part of the story is concluded.  I hope you have more to say about the husband and son.  You have made an excellent contribution to this HMVF group.


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I have found this thread - forwarded to me by a friend - absolutely fascinating as I am writing a book on the history of Palestine Railways (which also operated the former Hedjaz railway lines in what became Palestine and Transjordan) - the washout on the Nablus line for example is well documented, it was caused partly by heavy floods sweeping trees and other debris to block the arches of a viaduct near Anebta until the pressure grew too strong and all was washed away. (1934 from memory but I must check) . Are the original photos still available? I am amazed that the son of a senior PR engineer could not be found a job in wartime when every one counted. Sad also that details of death and burial are unknown.   Walter Rothschild, Rothschild-Berlin@t-online.de 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 8/26/2020 at 8:56 AM, lynx42 Rick Cove said:

The forth photo is of a Rolls-Royce tender with the dual wheel spares on the rear.  Having a single spare wheel on the running board shows that it does not have duals on the front like this one.



Thank you Rick for instructing us the vehicle is a Rolls Royce tender, I did not know that. Interesting that the nurses had such quality vehicles available. Maybe my photograph depicted some special journey or event, but I do not know. 

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On 8/29/2020 at 11:17 AM, Rootes75 said:

That is a sad ending, I wonder what happened to her? And being buried unknown I wonder what also became of her son?

Hello Rootes 75,

I agree it is a sad ending to a life of service to the British Empire. But I think many of that generation and the next had very disrupted lives due to wars and government service overseas. 

As for her son, after he and his wife relocated from Iraq to the UK in the early 1960s, they became good friends of mine for 48 years. He died 19th April 2020 aged 98 or 99.

Some while ago he asked me to upload some of his many albums of photographs together with his detailed notes on to the web so that the images and the events would not be lost forever. He and his wife had no children and no surviving relatives. I cannot really add any more photo's because HMVF it is a military vehicle forum,  and although the many photos and related notes are very interesting, they are not military vehicle related so I might end up breaking some rules.

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This is a delightful story!  I feel that this story is most fitting to this Military forum venue.  I wish we had a similar Military story of my Wife's great-grandfather who served for a couple of years in SA during the Boerer War.  I hope you have set a good example for others who may have a Military story to tell.


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11 hours ago, Rootes75 said:

So do you think he ever tried to find out about his Mother?

I am sure he did, I think the problem was there was no way of starting the search,  as far as is known she died in the Pietermaritzberg area. I imagine civilian communications in 1943 would have been difficult between Iraq / Palestine and South Africa, especially as he was in Iraq & TransJordan and his father was in Palestine at the time.  But there must have been some kind of communication about her death from somewhere because the date of death is known. 

But as it was expected that Palestine would be overrun by either the Russians or the Germans, he and his father prepared to escape via either Aqaba or Suez maybe to South Africa or anyway possible to avoid capture. They could only keep what they could carry, but without water, clothes or luggage. So they destroyed most of the families photo's and documents (and maybe Mrs Graham's death certificate), and only filling one standard flat 50 cigarette tin (about 3.5 x 7 x 3/4 inch) with the most interesting photo's which could be carried in a pocket. That is why some of these photo's have survived. It was a shame that 100's of photo's from the 1920/30's where destroyed, because as the war progressed the Russians joined forces with the allies, and the Germans were defeated in North Africa, so there was no need for them to escape Palestine.

If I can find out how to edit posts, maybe I will back track and add more details.  


B series

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