She was the youngest of Christina and Hugh Clark’s six children. Isabel grew up in North Otago and had attended local schools including Oamaru South and Waitaki Girls’ High. When she finished school she decided to become a nurse like her older sister Elsie. She trained at Waimate Hospital and then at Oamaru Hospital.
Isabel was working in Auckland when she volunteered for the NZANS New Zealand Army Nursing Service Corps. She was one of the first NZANS nurses to leave New Zealand.
In 1915, Clark enlisted in the New Zealand Army Nursing Service for service in the First World War. She left Wellington on board the SS Maheno and sailed to Port Said, Egypt.
She joined a contingent of nurses working in a stationary hospital there.
Casualties poured in from Gallipoli. As well as terrible wounds, the nurses treated dysentery and enteric fever (typhoid). They worked extremely long hours, sometimes from 7 a.m. until midnight or later.
The Marquette was a British Merchant ship of 7,057 tons. It sank when a torpedo launched from a submarine hit it 36 miles south of Salonika Bay. Twenty nine crew and 182 troops were lost.
Ten of those who died were New Zealand nurses who had been working at No.1 New Zealand Stationary Hospital in Port Said in October 1915 when they were ordered to prepare to go to Lemnos. The hospital was to be set up there to care for casualties being brought back from the Dardanelles.
The Transport Ship Marquette took on board officers and men of the New Zealand Medical Corps, 36 New Zealand Army Nursing Staff, 610 officers and men of 29th Divisional Ammunition Column , 541 mules and some ammunition in mid October sailed for Salonika. The French torpedo destroyer Tirailleur joined the convoy on 22 October which gave credence to the idea that there was a real danger of being attacked by German submarines in the Mediterranean.
The torpedo destroyer left the convoy that night and at 9.15 am on 23 October the Marquette was hit by a torpedo on the starboard side and began to list. Within about 15 minutes she sank. Nurses lost their lives in the evacuation as lifeboats tipped over as they were lowered into the sea, some boats falling on others, with some being left on the ship and going down with her.
Survivors reported that Clark and fellow nurse Marion Brown comforted each other on the deck of the ship before holding hands and leaping into the sea together. Neither Clark nor Brown was seen again.
In Oamaru Isabel Clark is remembered by a memorial oak, a plaque at the hospital and a gravestone at the cemetery.
[Oamaru RSA/Facebook Retrieved 24/10/2021]
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Text in italics supplied by Cenotaph Online, Auckland War Memorial Museum