ANZAC Girls is a dramatic, war, drama mini-series that aired on ABC1 in Australia. The series, which contains six episodes, is based on reports, letters, photos and historical events. The show focuses on the nurses that are treating soldiers of all nationalities fighting Germany during World War 1. During the show, the Australia New Zealand Army Corps, or ANZAC, nurses travel from Egypt to the Greek Island of Lemnos to Gallipoli to the Western Front.
When the show begins, we are introduced to a group of naive nurses, all of which have their own unique personality, beliefs and motives. Sister Olive Haynes (Anna McGahan) is the group’s bubbly, happy-go-lucky nurse, who rarely strays from her duties. Elsie Cook (Laura Brent) enlists as a way to stay close to her husband, Sydney Cook (Todd Lasance), who she recently married. Hilda Steele (Antonia Prebble) is the good girl, who lacks confidence in her nursing abilities. Alice Ross-King (Georgia Flood) quickly becomes the most eligible bacholerette. Matron Grace Wilson (Caroline Craig) is the backbone and motherly figure for the younger nurses.
As the show begins to develop its plot, the girls come and go, separate and reconnect. Along the way, they find love, hate, turmoil, devastation and ultimately triumph. While the show mostly focuses on the nurses’ aspect of events, we also meet some likable soldiers including Norval ‘Pat’ Dooley (Brandon McClelland), Harry Moffitt (Dustin Clare) and Xavier Leopold (Charles Mayer).
The war drama begins near the start of the war and ends at the end of the war. Along the way, friendships will be made, alliances will be formed, loyalty will be tested and the girls will face their very own personal struggles. They’ll be judged for their nationalities, sex and inexperience. Will they be able to rise to the challenge and save the lives of the soldiers, who’ve fallen on the battlefield? Or will they become casualties of the war? Will their friendships survive or will romance pull them away?
As the show started, I was immediately impressed with the awesomely beautiful introduction scene. I knew right away that this was going to be something special. From having watched Wentworth and House Husbands, I was familiar with Georgia Flood and Anna McGahan. At first, I was a little worried that Georgia, who is only 21 years old, would not be able to pull off such a sophisticated and dramatic role. However, my worries waned quickly. By the time the first episode had ended, I was actually impressed with the young Flood’s performance.
Anna’s character, Olive Haynes, was definitely the life of the party and very likable. It is difficult not to respect Caroline Craig’s Grace Wilson. While Laura Brent’s character, Elsie, comes off unlikeable at times, I still developed an interest in seeing her through until the end. And Antonia Prebble played the indecisive, unconfident Hilda Steele perfectly. To put things simply, this is a show, in which you’ll develop a genuine interest in the characters and their safeties. All of these ladies deserve credit for pulling off their roles.
This is one of the few shows that offer more than just entertainment value. The historical accuracy definitely lifts the show a notch and it is worthwhile, if to explore historical medicine and surgery alone. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to a grade school class, this is a show that will educate you, if you allow it. The show’s scenery is perfect for the setting and mood. Sometimes it is bright and beautiful, while other times the show is dark and bleak.
The pacing and writing of the show is excellent. While the show was based on “The Other Anzacs” by Peter Rees, Felicity Packard wrote and transformed the story into the mini-series. The writers took chances, which paid off, by showing the controversially treatment of the patients and nurses. When a new patient is introduced to the nurses, you will instantly feel their pain and desire to live, even though you’ve just met them. At times, you will laugh along with the girls, as they attempt to make light of their situation. Other times, you will want to curl up and sob like a baby. This is a show that will play on your emotions and bend you to its will.
If you’re looking for a show that is unrealistic, silly and hilarious, you’re looking in the wrong place. If you’re willing to experience history, heartbreaking stories of war and amazing personal achievements from World War 1’s most forgotten nurses, this is the show for you. While some of the characters were a little selfish at times, aren’t we all? Overall, I loved every minute I spent with the ANZAC girls and long for the days I am in their care once again. If you liked Birdsong or Parade’s End, you will love ANZAC Girls, which is heads above both. The series deserves an 9.5 out of 10.