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Elizabeth Rennie Hay

Group portrait of Fourth Contingent NZ Rough Riders from Otago and Southland. From left to right: "Nurse Monson, Nurse Harris, Nurse Williamson (Superintendent), Nurse Piper, Nurse Ross, Nurse Hay, Nurse Campbell." Muir & Moodie. (ca. 1899 - 1902) Nurses' Contingent. Auckland War Memorial Museum copy neg. C30702. Image has no known copyright restrictions.

Group portrait of Fourth Contingent NZ Rough Riders from Otago and Southland. From left to right: "N …


  • Title
  • Forenames
    Elizabeth Rennie AWMM
  • Surname
    Hay AWMM
  • Ingoa
  • Also known as
    Mackenzie AWMM
  • Service number
  • Gender
    Female AWMM
  • Iwi
  • Hapū
  • Waka
  • Rohe
  • Religion

Civilian life

About birth

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  • Birth
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Birth notes
  • Address before enlistment
  • Post war occupation
  • Next of kin on embarkation
  • Relationship status
    Unknown AWMM Single AWMM


Wars and conflicts

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Military decorations

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Training and Enlistment

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  • Military training
  • Branch Trade Proficiency
  • Enlistment
  • Occupation before enlistment
  • Age on enlistment


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  • Embarkation details

Prisoner of war

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  • Capture details
  • Days interned
  • Liberation date
  • Liberation Repatriation
  • POW liberation details
  • POW serial number

Medical history

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  • Medical notes

Last known rank

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  • Last rank

Biographical information

Biographical information

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  • Wife of Robert Mackenzie, mother of three.

    Elizabeth Hay was a New Zealand trained nurse who served in the Boer War. She had to approach the Prime Minister, Sir Joseph Ward, to ask for permission for New Zealand nurses to go to South Africa to nurse sick and wounded New Zealand troops.

    Seven nurses left from Dunedin and five from Christchurch: from Dunedin, Nurse Williamson, Superintendent Nurses Harris, Piper, Hay, Manson, Ross and Campbell.

    Upon arrival in South Africa the New Zealand nurses were drafted to different British Hospitals. Nurse Hay did a lot of night duty. Because the English nurses kept getting lost in the dark she was always being called on duty!

    One of her duties was to escort wounded and sick on hospital trains to the coast. There they were transferred to a hospital ship. Laurenco Marques was the usual port.

    On one occasion she was sent to England to care for hospital ship patients. In England the Army HQ discharged her saying there was no recognised nursing training in New Zealand. Nurse Hay was staying with a kinsman, Sir John Dalrymple Hay, an Admiral of the British Navy. He confirmed that New Zealand nurses were registered and fully qualified. She was given back pay and asked if she would rather return home or to South Africa. She returned to South Africa.

    Her last posting was to assist during the typhoid epidemic at Langman Hospital, British Military No. 5 General Hospital, where Dr Arthur Connan Doyle was in command. Matron Hardarman was in charge of the nurses. Nurse Hay was the only New Zealand nurse. Five thousand died between April and May of typhoid. The Boers had thrown their dead into the water supply of the British and the troops were drinking infected water at Paadeburg. The Langman Hospital was not equipped to cope with such an outbreak. Queen Alexander visited the hospital after the war ended.

    The Union Jack and the Red Cross flags were presented to Nurse Hay because she was the last nurse to leave the hospital. She also brought back the bugle that sounded the retreat at Paardeburg. The flags are now held in the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

    Elizabeth Hay married Robert Mackenzie, a farmer, of Pretoria and stayed there for several years. Eventually (1913?) she returned to New Zealand with her three children.

    Captain Bruce Somerville Hay (406 9/530), her brother, served in the South African War and was killed in World War I.

    Portrait in Kendall, 1990 p. 4. National Archives New Zealand. PRO File WO 100/370 Page 306 Register of Individuals entitled to KSA Film 197

    It is understood that the Queen Elizabeth II Army Memorial Museum, Waiouru, has a tape recording of the interview with Nurse Hay's son, Mr Bruce B. Mackenzie. AWMM
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About death

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  • Death
    21 March 1944 AWMM
    Te AwamutuWaikato AWMM
  • Date of death
  • Age at death
  • Place of death
  • Cause of death
  • Death notes
  • Cemetery
  • Cemetery name
  • Grave reference
  • Obituary
  • Memorial name
  • Memorial reference



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Leave a tribute or memory of Elizabeth Rennie Hay

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  • Elizabeth was my paternal grandmother, and my father was Alexander Rennie Mackenzie, named for her father, Alexander Rennie Hay. The bugle that is mentioned in the information on this website remains in the family, with my brother Grant Mackenzie who now lives in Australia. We also hold more information on the family, including photos of Elizabeth, and would be interested in hearing more historical information if available.
    Public - Jillian Esme Sommervell - Direct descendant - 30 September 2015



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  • External links
  • References
    • New Zealand Military Nursing - A History of the R.N.Z.N.C. Boer War to Present Day AWMM
    • Returned Army Nursing Sisters. Records, 1984. Auckland War Memorial Museum Library. MS 2003/136. AWMM
      The Auckland Museum Library Manuscript collection holds a transcript of an Oral History recording of Mr Bruce B. Mackenzie, son of Elizabeth Hay, made by Margaret Dunmore, a previous president of the Returned Army Nursing Sisters Association. It was recorded on 26 January 1984 on Waiheke Island. AWMM
    • Service Women Project: Sponsorship to research this record was kindly provided by the Auckland Returned Services Association, Returned Servicewomen's Branch; Marjorie Traill, Dorothy Grant, Daphne Shaw and Margaret Woollett. AWMM
    • Stowers, R. (2009). Rough riders at war : history of New Zealand's involvement in the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902 and information on all members of the 10 New Zealand contingents. Hamilton, N.Z.: R. Stowers. AWMM


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DateFirst namesLocationRelationshipContact
30 September 2015Jillian Esme SommervellAuckland, New ZealandDirect descendant

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