Ilma Georgianna May Toomath was born on 5 January 1876 in Kilmore, the daughter of the Rev Andrew Toomath and Emily Dobson. Her father was the Church of England minister at Kilmore 1873 to 1891; he died at Armadale in January 1914 aged 82 years.
In 1890 Ilma attended Tintern Ladies College and in 1892 she gained prizes for Music, Geography and History at Parkville Ladies College. After schooling Ilma trained as a nurse at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital for three years. She then nursed in Melbourne, including as Matron of the Foundling Hospital and Infants’ Home.
After joining the Australian Army Nursing Service, Ilma volunteered to serve overseas on 5 November 1917 at age 41 years. She departed Melbourne on the SS Indarra on 26 November 1917 and arrived in Bombay on 18 December 1917 where Ilma nursed at the Colaba War Hospital until July 1919. She then transferred to the 19th British General Hospital at Rawalpindi until 1 October 1919. In August Ilma spent 9 days on temporary duty with the British Ambulance Train “A”.
After spending 15 days in the Sisters Hospital in Bombay in October with paratyphoid, Ilma remained in Bombay until she embarked on 26 November 1919 on the SS Medic for Melbourne. Ilma was promoted to Sister on 26 November 1919 and was discharged from the Nursing Service on 3 May 1920. She was awarded the British War Medal, Victory Medal and the 1914/15 Star.
Ilma continued nursing after the War and lived with her sister at Berwick, then at Norman Avenue, South Yarra. She retired in the late 1930s and lived with her sister Henrietta at Ferntree Gully. Ilma died on 4 April 1944.
Reproduced in the North Central Review, 7 April 2015, p13