ANZAC Girls: profiles

Sister Alice Ross King (Georgia Flood)

Alice is a beautiful, passionate, impetuous, insecure girl, initially wary of her fellow nurses whom she sees as rivals. Her widowed mother did not approve of her becoming a nurse and certainly did not approve of her going to war, but Alice went anyway — for duty yes, but also for the freedom it afforded her. A supremely professional and talented nurse, Alice goes to war searching for love and security, but most of all she is searching for herself...

Sister Hilda Steele (Antonia Prebble)

Painfully shy, Hilda has spent her life being a good girl — and a very self-effacing one at that. From her upper middle class background in Auckland, singing in the Presbyterian choir, to her charity work for the Children's Mission, she has never put a foot wrong, nor has she ever put her foot down. The chaos of war is the crucible in which this meek and mild girl from Remeura is forged into a strong and confident woman.

Sister Elsie Cook (Laura Brent)

It is Sydney's society wedding of the year when Elsie Sheppard marries former Australian Prime Minister Sir Joseph Cook's son Syd, just days before both sail for Egypt and war. So hiding her rule-breaking marriage from the chauvinist army authorities is the first of many challenges Elsie faces. But when the secret comes out and she is staring down dismissal, this kind, conventional, polite, middle- class girl unexpectedly stands her ground, and becomes the only openly married nurse in the AANS.

Sister Olive Haynes (Anna McGahan)

For lively, confident Adelaide girl Olive, going to war is both an adventure and a welcome duty. Truth be told, it is also a way of defying her loving but rather straight-laced clergyman father — as was becoming a nurse in the first place. Olive is a self-appointed "tonic" to the other nurses, always ready with a cheeky comment and an ironic take on whatever situation of hardship and bureaucratic idiocy she and her fellows face. But will the harshness of war wear even this nurse down?

Matron Grace Wilson (Caroline Craig)

A career nurse before the term was ever coined, modest, unassuming Grace serves as Matron first in Cairo, then at No 3 Australian Stationary Hospital on Lemnos Island. An exceptional leader, compassionate to her nurses as well as to the wounded, Grace is attractive, kind-hearted and popular, inspiring loyalty from all who work with her — even when she has to make and carry out some very tough decisions.

Lieutenant Harry Moffitt (Dustin Clare)

Reader of Omar Khayyam, an atheist and a patriot, Harry is also an accountant looking to the 20th Century as the time when Australia will become a truly modern, independent nation. The only son of a small town draper, Harry is interested in politics, in poetry, in philosophy... and he also believes in being the change you want to see which is why he has volunteered for the AIF. What he is not expecting is to meet in Cairo a beautiful, bright young nurse called Alice, who both admires and challenges him.

Major Sydney 'Syd' Cook (Todd Lasance)

Son of a former Prime Minister, Syd is well bred and well spoken. An engineer by trade, he wanted nothing more than to marry his sweetheart Elsie, start a family and live a solid, respectable life. But he is as orthodox a British Empire boy as any, so when war was declared, he never considered not enlisting... Affable, easy-going, well liked by his men, Syd is a good leader and quickly promoted from his initial rank of 2nd lieutenant. He is as in love with Elsie as she is with him, but as the conflict drags on into the dark years of the Western Front and he repeatedly faces the killing fields of the Somme, Syd's genial nature — and his marriage — face their greatest test.

Major Xavier Lodge (Charles Mayer)

Xavier is the son of a vicar from the Lake District. A caring and competent doctor with a successful general practice in London, Xavier has been too busy for love and had no time to think of marriage — at least that is what he has told himself. Now, approaching fifty, he has resigned to being a life- long bachelor. And then, all in a flurry, England is at war with Germany, he has joined up and found himself in Cairo, working with the Australian Imperial Forces. And that is when he meets the luminously beautiful, sensual, vibrant Australian nurse, Alice Ross King.

Colonel Thomas Fiaschi (John Waters)

Born in Italy to an Italian father and English mother, tall and handsome 62-year-old Thomas Fiaschi is a dignified and imposing figure. He's quick- tempered, rigid in his discipline, exacting in his standards — but he never asks anything of an underling he isn't prepared to offer himself. Conventional in his notions about the place of women in war, the Colonel doesn't welcome having a unit of nurses "foisted" on him by the army — as if life on Lemnos wasn't hard enough! He is a complex, deep thinking man, as well as being of wide culture, well read in both the general and medical literature of Italy and France.

Lieutenant Norval "Pat" Dooley (Brandon McClelland)

The son of two teachers, Pat had not finished his Melbourne University law degree when war was declared so was not eligible for the Officer Corps. Joining regardless, Pat enlisted as an orderly with the Medical Corps. Though he is quiet and unassuming, he is also quick-witted so it is not long before Pat's intelligence and capacities are recognised and he is selected for Officer training. Which would be fine except he had just taken all his courage and declared his feelings to the gorgeous, sassy, utterly terrifying Sister Olive Haynes.

Sister Catherine "Kit" McNaughton (Honey Debelle)

From Little River in Victoria, Kit is just a tad dissimilar to most of her fellow nurses. Being a Catholic in a predominantly Protestant group means she sees the world just a little differently to her pals. Not that she is devout; indeed, as the war drags on, Kit becomes increasingly cynical of the world and frustrated with the army and its chauvinistic MOs. Kit is forthright, confident and up for a challenge (which sees her volunteer for the hardship of Lemnos Island). She is also enduring — serving for the entire war.

Lieutenant Frank Smith (Thomas Cocquerel)

Frank Smith's left his job as an auctioneer in rural NSW to join up. Frank is a pretty conventional bloke — he believes there's an evolutionary hierarchy that sees the white middle class western male at the top of the pile. While not a deep thinker or a deep questioner, Frank's good-looking, friendly, affable, charming — the sort of chap a nice girl could take home to meet her mother. He's not been much challenged in his life so far and his apparent confidence and conventionality masks a deeper uncertainty about the world and his place in it.