Olive May Kelso King was a young Australian woman with a passion for adventure.
She came from a wealthy background and in 1914 moved to England to help her sister with the arrival of a new baby. During this time she heard of the outbreak of war; noting her adventurous spirit she just had to be a part of the action.
Olive was determined that she would support the war effort and volunteered to become an ambulance driver. Her past experience as a rally driver held her in good stead for such a role. She was so determined to volunteer that she used her own funds to purchase an ambulance. As the Army had purchased all available ambulances, Olive was forced to buy a second-hand timber truck that she had customised for use as an ambulance. It had the capacity to carry sixteen seated patients or four stretchers. It also had a stove for making hot beverages and a medical supplies cabinet. Olive called her pride and joy ‘Ella the Elephant’ and so the adventure began.
After completing a first aid course and undertaking instruction in mechanics and repair she applied to volunteer for the Allies Field Ambulance Corps. She paid her own passage and that of Ella to get them across the English Channel and close to the front. Olive found the work challenging and at one time was captured by the Germans, interrogated and later released along with Ella. Upon her release she headed for the channel and boarded the ferry to return to the UK.
This story does not end here; Olive and Ella continued to serve throughout the war and eventually ended up in Serbia before returning to Australia.
Want to know more search the Australian War Memorial website or read the source book.
Source: Heroic Australian Women in War – Susanna de Vries