Rank: Staff Nurse
Marjorie Grace Little was born in 1887 at Potts Point parish, Sydney, Australia, the daughter of Mrs Susan Little. Nothing is known of Marjorie’s schooling or nurse training.
At the time of enlisting with the Australian Imperial Force on 12 June 1915 she was 28 years old and living at Paddington, New South Wales.
14 July: Embarked from Sydney on HMAT4 Orsova ship.
3 September: Commenced duty 1st AAH [Australian Auxiliary Hospital] at Harefield, about twenty miles from London. The old manor house and grounds were loaned to the Australian Government for the purpose of establishing its own hospital in England. The hospital was completely staffed by Australian doctors, orderlies and nurses. Almost two and a half million soldiers were returned to England as ‘Blighty’ patients. An ambulance train ran right up to the side of the ships so patients could be disembarked directly and a casualty clearing hospital was established in each British port to help in rush times.
In July the rush of casualties from the Somme necessitated the opening of extra hospitals in England. Since May 1915 almost 300 Australian nurses had been serving with various British hospitals in England, although No.1 AAH at Harefield was the main centre of AANS (Australian Army Nursing Service).
12 December 1st (AGH) Australian General Hospital in France.
It was at the convalescent depot Harefield Hospital where Marjorie had been nursing since late 1915 that she first met her future husband Charles Robert Duke from Dunedin. Charles was in a ward run by an Australian doctor and Sister Little. They started to do a bit of serious courtship which continued at broken intervals of leave until they were married in January 1918 but during those two years they saw one another only at long intervals.
Charlie tells the story:-
“Marjorie, later in 1917, was sent to No. 3 Australian General Hospital at Abbeville, France and I used to duck away from the line at all sorts of odd times to see her. At Harefield we hired horses and went riding round those beautiful English lanes and in Abbeville we would hire a fiacre or landau with an old French woman on the box and drive along the banks of the Somme which was equally beautiful. We would drive a mile or two along the banks of the river, past several old chateaux which were architectural gems and have a meal of chicken, good wine and fraise de bois (wild strawberries) and cream.” . .
. . “I left my ‘nurse fiancée’ at Abbeville when I shifted to the Paschendale fighting, but we had decided to get married as soon as leave and other arrangements could be made".
Final discharge as a consequence of marriage to Charles Robert DUKE 14 January 1918, Scotland
Marjorie and Charlie returned to NZ and with a cousin, began farming at Collingwood on a rehabilitation farm. As a consequence of a crash in the farmers butterfat price from 2/8d a pound to 8d a pound, and a mortgage of £6500 the returns from farming were not enough to support two families. The Dukes moved to Nelson where Charlie practised as an architect.
Charlie and Marjorie had three sons: William L Duke, Robert E Duke and Peter L Duke.