Australian WWI nurses unsung no more

Almost every Australian World War I history lesson will include an insight into how difficult life was as a soldier. 

Just as likely is that there will be no mention of Australian nurses who, says actress Carolyn Bock, were as inspiring as the men on the front line.

"We don't learn about the 2300 women who served overseas during the war and the appalling conditions they served in," she says.

Bock, along with friend and fellow actress Helen Hopkins, utilised her theatrical prowess to co-write The Girls in Grey, a play highlighting the difficulties Australian nurses went through during the war.

"It's based on real events; only a few of the nurses' conversations were made up."

Bock, who plays one of the production's three nurses, grew up in Mooroolbark and attended Billanook College. She's excited to be showcasing the play to an audience at Mooroolbark Community Centre this Friday.

She also believes there are many lessons to be learned by the audience.

"You can't get away from the story's sadness, and people will feel a great sense of our communities' history. The tragedy of war is woven deep into our fabric."

The idea of the play came from a letter that Bock read. "For Anzac Day, Helen Hopkins' sister wrote a speech for a local member of parliament that discussed nurses who served on the Greek island of Lemnos.

"We looked at the speech around the start of 2010 and decided we wanted to make it into a play. Most of that year was spent researching and drafting."

That research included visiting the Australian War Memorial and reading historical letters and books from and about the nurses.

Bock boasts an impressive CV including appearances on Neighbours, Blue Heelers, Winners and Losers and City Homicide.

In 2009, she and Hopkins formed their own production company, Shift Theatre, and The Girls in Grey is their first major show.

"To act and write it means a lot," Bock says. "When you're performing you forget it's your own play."

The Girls in Grey will also be staged next Tuesday at the Knox Community Arts Centre in Bayswater. Details: knox.vic.gov.au.

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