Topic: Nona Hildyard

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Nona Mildred Hildyard (Service no. 22/125) was a First World War Nursing Sister with links to Lyttelton.

Nona Mildred HildyardNona Mildred Hildyard was born in Lyttelton on 4th November, 1888, daughter of William and Betsy Ann Hildyard, who were originally from Tasmania, Australia. William was a boot maker.

Nona attended West Lyttelton School and Gilby’s Commercial College in Christchurch. She attended classes in First Aid and Home nursing at the Lyttelton St. John Ambulance centre. She trained as a nurse at Christchurch Hospital, and then worked for Dr. Sandston.

She was 5 foot 5 ½ “ tall, and had grey eyes and brown hair.

When the call was made for nurses to serve overseas, she joined the New Zealand Army Nursing Service. Before she left Lyttelton, she was given a ‘very hearty farewell by a large number of her friends’, and “a number of citizens of the borough met Nurse Hildyard and presented her with a purse of sovereigns. In making the presentation, Mr. W. C. Cleary remarked that the Lyttelton district had to date contributed about 200 men for the fighting line, but Nurse Hildyard was the first lady to represent the port”.

She left Wellington on the 11th July on the hospital ship SS Maheno, with 69 other New Zealand nurses. When the ship arrived at Port Said on 18th August, she was transferred to the No.1 Stationary Hospital. This was almost on the beach, and had about 500 beds.

She went with the New Zealand No. 1 Stationary Hospital across to Salonika, leaving Alexandra on 19th October, on the Marquette. On the 23rd October, the ship was hit by a torpedo from a German submarine, and sank within ten minutes.

A fellow nurse gave the following account of what happened to Nona:

When torpedoed we donned lifebelts, and Nonie and I were in the same boat, but it heeled over shortly after reaching the water, and I got separated from her. She regained the boat with several others, and was very bright and cheerful, singing “Tipperary’, etc, and helping to keep the others’ courage up….But the poor child eventually died from exhaustion before we were picked up. We were in the water for about eight hours and it was very cold. We all miss her awfully—she was such a good pal, and we had been together all through.”  

Nona was 28 years old when she died on the 23rd October, 1915.

She was posthumously awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal.

Her name is on:

The people of Lyttelton chose to remember her by having her portrait painted. Various groups, such as the Lyttelton Marine Band helped to raise money for this. The portrait hung in the Council Chambers, and later in the Christchurch Art Gallery.  There is an exhibition panel about Nona at the Lyttelton Museum.


Related resources



The BDM record shows Nona Mildred Hildyard as the registered birth name (registration number 1888/9822) while Archway (Archives New Zealand) has personnel records under Nora Mildred Hildyard, and Mona Mildred Hildyard.

There is a death record in the BDM for Nora Mildred Hildyard (registration number 1918/46963).

Her first name was also recorded variously as Nona, Nora or Mona in NZ electoral rolls and newspaper articles.

The first and surname is recorded incorrectly in the attached image from the Canterbury Times.


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Nona Hildyard

First Names:Nona Mildred
Last Name:Hildyard
Place of Birth:Lyttelton, Christchurch