Ethel Hannah Barnes, born in New Zealand on 7 June 1884, was the daughter of Philip and Eleanor Barnes, of Cornwall, England. It appears Philip and Eleanor Barnes emigrated to New Zealand and lived at Johnsonville, Wellington. Ethel’s sisters were Helena Elizabeth, born 1881, and Violet Mary, born 1889. The three girls all attended school in Wellington with Ethel at Johnsonville, Te Aro and Mount Cook schools.
Ethel passed her nursing exams, Nelson Hospital registration no.1555.
Ethel was first appointed to Westport Hospital followed by appointment as Charge Sister at Nelson Hospital. On 7 July it was reported in the Dominion newspaper that 69 nurses required for service in the military in England were leaving on Saturday in the Hospital Ship “Maheno” thus completing the quota of 100 nurses which New Zealand was asked to send. Ethel Barnes was one of these nurses along with Nelson nurse Ethel Hooper, as members of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service Corps. The nurses were to report at No.1 NZ General Hospital, Codford, England. In November she was sent back to New Zealand with heart strain on the ship "Tahiti".
She returned to the United Kingdom on staff of the hospital ship "Maheno" and promoted to Sister.
By March Ethel had returned to duty from New Zealand to No.2 New Zealand General Hospital as staff nurse. In October, suffering tonsillitis, she was admitted to No.2 New Zealand General Hospital. She then returned to duty at No.2 NZGH.
In May sick with influenza Ethel was admitted No.2 New Zealand General Hospital then returned to duty No.2 New Zealand General Hospital
May saw her promoted to Sister and readied for demobilisation in October when she was struck off NZEF and placed on reserve of NZANS.
Ethel married Mr Cyril Sanderson Spear of 77 Nile Street, Nelson on 20 October 1920. She died at Nelson, aged only 39 years, on 27 July 1923 of chronic nephritis and syncope (loss of consciousness), with her death attributed to war service. She is buried at Wakapuaka cemetery (C/E B 17 P 13). Cyril died in 1958 and is buried in the RSA section of Wakapuaka cemetery.
"On the 31st July 1923, the death occurred of Mrs. Spear (Sister Ethel Barnes); late of the N.Z.A.N. S. Mrs. Spear was trained at Nelson Hospital, and qualified in 1914. She joined the Army Nursing Service in 1915, went to Egypt with one of the early contingents of nurses from New Zealand and served in an Imperial hospital in Cairo during the great rush of wounded and sick from Gallipoli. She was invalided back on account of heart strain, and was a patient at the Lowry Bay Convalescent Home, but as soon as possible resumed work when nurses were badly needed, and then acted as charge nurse at the Convalescent Hospital, where she was a great favourite with the returned men and staff. After her marriage she lived at Nelson, where nurses were warmly welcomed in her home. Her early death is greatly regretted by all who knew her." (Source: Kai Tiaki : the journal of the nurses of New Zealand, Volume XVI, Issue 4, October 1923, Page 181)