303 The Nurses Memorial Chapel, Central City, Christchurch

The story

303 Nurses Memorial Chapel, Central City, Christchurch

Reason for the name

This Chapel was originally built to commemorate the nurses who died on military service during World War 1, by the sinking of the Marquette.  It also commemorates the nurses who lost their lives in the subsequent influenza epidemic.  It now honours all nurses who have lost their lives in military conflict.

The chapel is located on the site of Christchurch hospital, fronting Riccarton Avenue. It is a beautiful brick building adjacent to parks and gardens as displayed in the gallery. This is the first Poppy Place to be located in Christchurch. Much more detail about the sinking of the Marquette can be found in the recent book by Anna Rogers "Stand for All Time".

Among the thousands of New Zealand deaths in the First World War, the 32 caused by the 1915 sinking of the Marquette were particularly poignant, shocking – and scandalous. Along with a British ammunition column, No. 1 New Zealand Stationary Hospital sailed from Egypt bound for Salonika on 19 October. Not marked as a hospital ship and therefore vulnerable to German U-boat attack, the Marquette was torpedoed in the Aegean Sea on the morning of 23 October. Ten New Zealand nurses and 22 mostly Medical Corps men died. Several more were injured, some severely. And the disaster was entirely avoidable: medical personnel should never have been on board. The Nurses’ Memorial Chapel in Christchurch honours the three local nurses who were lost in the sinking. It is the country’s first hospital chapel and its only memorial chapel to women who perished in all wars or in the 1918 influenza epidemic. It is thought to be the only purpose-built hospital chapel in the world that commemorates nurses who died in the Great War. Yet this lovely building was twice threatened with demolition in the 20th century and only survived thanks to a passionate, hard-fought campaign. Then came bad damage in the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010–11, followed by superb restoration and reopening in 2018. This vivid, compelling and attractive book tells the story of the Marquette sinking, and the scandal surrounding it, and of the creation of the chapel and the challenges it has faced. It will help to ensure that tragedy of the Marquette, the names of those who died and the special building that honours them, will never be forgotten but stand for all time.

Author: Lynne Lochhead   (lynnelochhead@gmail.com)

The Nurses Memorial Chapel was built during 1927 and 1928. The impetus for the chapel was the desire to commemorate the 3 Christchurch nurses who died in the attack on the Marquette on the 23rd of October 1915 in the Aegean Sea. The British Transport ship, which was carrying the No.1 New Zealand Stationary Hospital from Alexandria, was torpedoed by a German U-boat as it approached the city of Salonika (now Thessaloniki). The medical unit, which included 36 nurses of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service, was en-route to Northern Greece as New Zealand's contribution to the Allied campaign in the Balkans. A total of 32 New Zealanders were drowned, the majority of them medical orderlies and nurses. Ten nurses lost their lives that day, the deadliest day in the history of our military nursing.  The event caused public outrage, especially when it was revealed that an empty hospital ship sailed from port on the same day.

 Calls for a memorial began as early as November 1915 and the nucleus of a fund for the building of a chapel was begun.  The foundation stone was laid on the 15th of March 1927 with the chapel being dedicated to the 3 Christchurch Marquette nurses and to the two Christchurch nurses who contracted influenza in November 1918 while on duty. Although this chapel is not the only memorial to the Marquette nurses, nor indeed, the only memorial to nurses who have died on active service, the chapel is believed to be the only purpose-built hospital chapel in the world dedicated to nurses who died in WW1.

 It is also one of only two public memorials within the English speaking world to the little known Salonika Campaign


No Commemorations have yet been recorded for this place

Council records

Christchurch City Council,

53 Hereford St

Assets and Network Unit

Christchurch City Council

PO Box 73014

Christchurch 8154




P03 941 8999

infinmail - info@ccc.govt.nzwww.ccc.govt.nzps://www.ccc.govt.nz

The building is owned by Christchurch City Council but administered on its behalf by the Nurses' Memorial Chapel Trust Board   Chairperson: Robyn  Bisset email: rolexbisset23@gmail.com