I always found something to do, we would yabby in the drains, there was a big drain running along which I believe is non-existent now. And we used to yabby and we would look at birds nests, and there was all sorts, you know the hays, the birds would nest under there, I don’t know we always had something to do and I can’t remember. We did go to a beach sometimes in the holidays.
Can you tell me something about your school years when you were at primary school?
Primary school, well we had to walk about three miles to the school, and we had sport, and what else can I say, yeah we had, it was a small school and we had one teacher and he did everything
So what was this women like, I suppose you would have had to spend a bit of time with her?
Yes, well we didn’t see her very much except at meal times and we went home at the weekend. She was a very nice lady, she was very capable and busy, she had other people as well as us there.
And who did you play in sport?
Well we just played amongst ourselves, or another little village you know, sometimes tennis, when we were playing tennis, we would get some, we would be in opposition to some little village around the district. And that was basketball and tennis but very seldom went away from home.
And when you were at high school, what did you think you would be when you got older when you left high school?
Well my parents were always saying that you have got to be a school teacher. Well I suppose I was just doing it because they said so, but of course as I say I wasn’t terribly bright. And my father had been in hospital a bit and he said, “I would like somebody to be a nurse”
What kind of drug, did they use drugs then on the mothers?
Yes, but I can’t think of the, because that lady, they called it twilight sleep but I just can’t think of the name of the drug, but she was certainly helped
Would there have been a higher mortality rate then for babies and for mothers?
I think for mothers not necessarily, I don’t think that I saw any mothers and only that one baby the still born one. No they were very efficient these ladies that ran the hospital, they were very efficient and the Doctors were good you see, they usually, I don’t recall another one.
Why did you leave Mt Gambier?
Well because it wasn’t a training hospital there was a general hospital there but I don’t know why, I don’t know that there was training there, no I don’t think they trained there at that time, there wasn’t enough patients I suppose and I had to come to Adelaide to get, go to a training hospital.
So you get to Parkland, which is a training hospital, what kind of things were they teaching you there?
There was medical and surgical there, a lot of surgery, they did a lot of surgery and you went into the… [Tape stops]Well you gave out drugs and you took temperatures and I don’t know, you do what
How did you treat pneumonia in those days?
Well just sitting them up, a bit of lung massage you know, nothing much because, as I say there were no antibiotics, and just keep watching their temperature, there was not much
earlier that you weren’t that good at school, you didn’t think you were very bright, but you passed your physiology and anatomy?
Yeah well my brains must have come back. No I think the teaching at the school wasn’t as good as it is now because children go to year 12, if anybody was going to year 12 when I was at school, they were a genius. You know there were very few people that did that,
at that time? What are your memories at that time?
Well when I was at the Adelaide or the Parkland and it wasn’t very far out of the city and I used to walk there and have a look around because it took me a long time to find, to find Adelaide. I suppose there wasn’t as many shops because, it was pretty big, Rundle Street was pretty big, you know
with other nurses and sisters at the Royal Adelaide Hospital?
Well nurses were great, well we had a lot of fun you know we would have to clean what they called backs at night and we had a terrific amount of them, we had to do the bed pans and things like that you know, we would all be giggly and laughing and getting into trouble. Some of the old sisters were very stern.
What was your training like at Woodside, what did you do to train there?
Well at the time there was a, a lot of chest infections, we called it dogs disease because they were coughing, coughing, coughing, and there were a lot of them
What were your quarters like at Woodside, how did you sleep and eat?
They were huts. They were quite comfortable, cold, they were quite comfortable, a bed and just a dressing table and but you know they were huts.
being on leave when, the rumour went around that we were going to be shipped out, yes we did. And we had vaccinations, typhoid and small pox and the small pox was particularly bad it was sort of done with a needle and I had a terribly bad arm and so did my friend
and we were going around moaning about our arms.
Sorry hang on a moment. Can you tell me what you got as a going away present?
It is in there it is a leather thing, what do you call them, it is a leather case anyway for papers and documents and I used to keep my letters in it because I still have letters from my brother, who was in the Middle East and I kept them, I still have all those letters.
Did you know what he was doing there, was he allowed to tell you where he was?
No it would just say abroad, AI for abroad his letters would be and they were censored, so I knew he was, I knew where he,
Did you take anything from home because you knew you were going now to war, did you take anything back that you were going to take with you?
No you were fairly restricted to what you can do, to take we had a cabin trunk, a big cabin trunk and you could only take what they issued you with,
So what happened from Woodside, what sort of transport did you get and where did you go?
Well we had a, came down in a truck, an army vehicle and we went to the railway station and we got on the train at night, I think it was
No I don’t really remember, it was quite a time because I can remember being seasick, it was quite a time because you had to sort of travel so that you were out of range of any war like things although at the time there wasn’t a war but you know, but that is what they did, they sort of travelled so that they were out of the danger, water, also there were
we had to have this drill to show us how to use the gas masks and tin helmets, we had that for just about half an hour in the morning. I can remember them dancing on the deck with the crew, but I didn’t, and we just, we didn’t have any work to do
because it was all staff. There was a hospital staff there on the ship so we didn’t have to do it.
to Raffles, you know you have heard of Raffles Hotel you see, we had to go and see Raffles and this man came along, he was an Englishman, “Oh” he said, “You should not be doing this” he said, “European ladies never walk anywhere.” And so and we wondered what we were supposed to do. We were supposed to get a taxi of course you know with very little money. We weren’t encouraged to take money with us.
You know we weren’t supposed to take, bring money and we went to Raffles and had a look at it. Very disappointed, it was very ordinary at that time.
mainly because the war wasn’t on then and it was mainly sickness, you know maybe chest complaints but a lot of them malaria and then when I, I wasn’t long at St Patrick’s when I was sent up to Malacca to relieve some of the girls so that they could go on leave, they would go on 2/10th Hospital, they would go on leave
and we would go up there to relieve them. I went up there several times.
Weekly and it said that army nurses are living like film stars, so I thought isn’t this wonderful I am going to be a film star and when I got there it was a culture shock I can tell you because we were out on a veranda, slept out on a veranda with all the mosquitoes and the little geckos used to fall down on us, it was a hatched,
a hatched roof on this veranda so it was far removed from Hollywood.
evacuate, be evacuated from Malacca and they were machine gunning and we had to get out of the train and an army truck came and took us to quarters at Johor. At Johor we had huts the same as we had anywhere else but we didn’t, quite often at night we had to go into the
jungle because the siren would go and we had to take, we had to take rubber boots and tin hats, tin helmets into the jungle and a ground sheet and we had to have it all ready and that happened quite often and you would see the tracer bullets you know in the jungle, you would hear gun fire
but it was a fair distance off.
made us get out of the train and stand in the station and they must have gone away, because I remember the train went so far and the man who was driving it was a local native and he wouldn’t take us any further, he was too you know afraid, and he wouldn’t take us any further, but they did find somebody amongst the Australians who was
had been an engine driver and he took us on to Johor and from there we would have had an army truck I can’t quite recall that but I do remember going to Johor and we lived in these huts and the hospital was some distance away and we they used to come and get us at night in this transport that they called a Leaping Lima and
bring us home. But if you missed the transport you had to walk which I did quite often.
what did you know about the progress of the war at this stage?
Well we knew that the Japanese were moving, on the move and we knew that we would have to move sometime or another. And I was on, I always seemed to be on night duty, I was on night duty at that time and sleeping in the hut and then they came and told us that we would have to go, and
because they were blowing up the causeway the bridge and I thought I am sure I am going to be stuck I seemed to be the last one to go and I went in an army truck, I was quite late at going, a whole lot of them had gone and they went back to St Patrick’s hospital, college, and yes I had to, I got back at say 4 o’clock
and I had to go on night duty.
European community treat the nurses, were they very welcoming?
No no, English hostesses were very spoilt, it was a great place for the ladies, there weren’t so many men, civilian men there. No we weren’t very popular. I can remember when we came off the boat and we were coming down the gang plank and the
and fighting the boys were laughing they said that you know the Japanese were frightened of their noise, they made so much noise. But there was an older man, he was a very sensible man he said, “Well don’t you make any mistake about it, they are not, it is no push over you know it is going to be, we are going to be pushed back” and he had a wound, he had a bullet wound in his chest, I don’t know how he would have got on because we
were moved about a lot, but he you know he sort of saw the writing on the wall
Because they told us, they said they didn’t have enough to fight with, or very little to fight with. And I can remember one day, when I was on light duty and we lived in one of the houses that had been evacuated, we slept there, and they told us we had to go to another place because it was too dangerous there and we went to another place
and we were right by the guns, and the guns couldn’t be turned, they were facing out to, facing the wrong way, they couldn’t be turned, they were a fixture. The Japanese came over bombing and dropping bombs and we had to get out of this place, we had to hurry out you know and I had to go back and get my shoes and they said,
“What on earth are you doing?” I said, “There was a fella came in last night and he had his heel all sliced off, just sliced off.” They said, “You don’t want to die, you want to die with your boots on.”
Couldn’t the surgeons do anything?
Well there wasn’t, there wasn’t any time you know they worked night and day, you know they worked as long as they could in the operating theatre and that wasn’t very adequate, well no there was nothing, they could only do what they could do and they were working very hard.
in his neck, but apart from that there were no injuries. We had one boy with a bullet in his femoral artery or near his femoral artery and they couldn’t take it out and he threw himself out of bed when he heard the bomb and you know he was bleeding a good bit and they took him away I suppose to the operating theatre and when anybody could
be spared they would come up to see if they were all right. One of the doctors I can remember coming up and seeing if we were all right and telling me to give them some sort of sedative if they were too agitated.
So this would have, you would have been seeing a lot of sights that were quite foreign to you I imagine I mean you had done your nursing training in Australia, could anything have prepared you for some of the injuries you saw in Singapore?
Apart from car accidents and things like that, yes you were, yes you would get a car accident but other than that there was nothing
were mentally disturbed by what they had experienced?
No no. They were all, I can remember going, you know having a line of them there and they were all quite cheerful, you didn’t hear anybody complain, no.
And what sort of food was available to the patients at that time?
Not a lot, we mainly had bully beef and that sort of thing, that is like corn beef only it is out of a tin can no food was running out, everything was running out and then when we were told to go,
that was terrible, you know they came and said “you you and you”, you know “go out on the lawn, assemble on the lawn” and then they told us that we were going and nobody wanted to go I mean there was a lot of tears shed, and well apart from that, we were frightened to go, you know you didn’t know where you were going to go.
And when I got, when we're taken to the wharf, we were taken by truck, when we got to the wharf well I thought, well do we have to do this, because the wharf was on fire down the end and there was smoke everywhere and there were oil tanks I suppose they were on fire, they had been for nights. It just looked so eerie and so dreadful and then to get on this up on this rope
ladder onto the ship and the captain didn’t want to take us because he thought he was over crowded and we were taken down to the hold where they had, there was meat, it was a cargo boat, these meat hooks were all there clanging around and yes we had about that much room you know to sleep on the floor
of the hold but anyway they started machine gunning and bombing the ship, we were in the hold you know and I remember we were all sitting around in a circle and there was an Englishman there and he made us sing,
and we were singing something and then anything and then it got very bad, the ship got a direct hit you see and it knocked, it set the ship on fire and it just seemed as if, the bombs weren’t very accurate and they were dropping and it felt as though the ship was lifting up in the air.
Apparently some people on the guns on the ship some the crew were killed, the first mate and there were two girls and they had been up on the deck when this happened and they rushed out and pulled some of these boys in and they got decorated for this bravery. Of course we were down the hold and we didn’t see all that sort of thing, we hadn’t gone up top.
When it got, when the ship got the direct hit you know you could feel it shuddering, this fellow told us to join hands and sing nearer my God to thee, and I thought at that time “you know this is the end.” That is the only time I every felt frightened. I have talked to various ones afterwards and they say the same thing, that
is the only time that they felt this is the end. And we stayed there, we practically had to stay there all day and I wasn’t very keen on going upstairs again, I thought they would come back, but they left us when the ship was on fire. And so we could keep on sailing, although the hold was all peppered with machine guns and
we went upstairs and the captain had a thanksgiving service, and he was a strong stern man and he had lost some of his crew and when he sort of thanked the lord for saving us he put his head down on the thing and wept. It was dreadful, it was a touching moment to see that you know strong man who had been a captain of a ship through various
things, battles to do that. But he was so overcome. And then from then on we were very popular because when we went and looked after the people who were wounded down in the somewhere in the bows of the ship, you know we did all sorts of things. And there was blood on one of the decks, we washed that off and scrubbed it and looked after
the people and so we were very popular.
What happened to the soldiers in the hospital?
Well we went, I don’t know how long it took us, that is something I don’t recall, to get to what was Java, Batavia at that time,
Were they evacuating just the nurses or were they evacuating anyone that could walk?
No only nurses at this time, see it was too late, I mean they, yeah you know, the Japanese were there they were shelling up the road from the hospital so there was no, there was no time.
to do that I can remember, dreadful. Because I can remember one of the fellows saying, “Well what is going to happen to us?” I don’t know, we were walking, going back, we had to collect a little attaché case and take the bully beef and a biscuit for the ship and everybody was weeping you know.
I don’t want to go, I wouldn’t want to go anyway it was too dangerous.
And I had no idea what happened to anybody, it wasn’t until, you know we really knew when we ended the war what had happened. See we were taken in two lots like some of the people in the theatre had to stay behind until they, yes they had to take them and they went on a different ship, we were on a ship called the
Empire Star and they were on the Vyner Brooke and that was the one that was torpedoed and that was another dreadful thing because they just lined up those girls and shot them.
they got to Bangka Straits and I don’t know they must have been separated because there were about, I am not sure of the number but there was something like 24 girls. And they made them go walk, march down to the beach and they shot them in the back. They killed them all but one, that is how we know what happened. One got away, she was a tall girl
and they shot her through the hip and she just fell down and they thought she was gone. That was Bullwinkle, Vivien Bullwinkle and so she was able to wander around until she found the camp, she didn’t tell them about the wound which I would have done. I would say look what you did to me, but she didn’t, she just had a water bottle or something and just kept it over her wound and she was able to tell them about the shooting of these people.
And it was very sad because there was one girl that I started training with and I knew her all through the war and all the training and all through the war, a pretty little girl.
And that could have been you?
Could have been, I doubt if I would have made it swimming, I wasn’t that strong, although I think there was all sorts of ways, I don’t know how far they were from the bank, from the shore, but there were civilians too there on that
Did you become very attached to some of the soldiers that you nursed in Singapore?
Yes, there was not a lot of time, sometimes they were moved about you know to somewhere else, yet I can remember some of them but no no not terribly, there were just so many, I can’t remember any one person or a group of people that
So in the course, in those days just before you were evacuated from Singapore, what did your duties, I mean you were often on night shift even at that stage were you, so what did you do all night, basically were you running from bed to bed?
We had to yes, you had to give out medicines and do dressings you see. There was one man who had gas gangrene and
he had to be done pretty often, not as often as I could do it, you know there was just too many, the place was full of, this big ward was full, I can’t, I can’t I always say there was 120 but I am not sure it was just so packed with people and there was only me and this orderly and we just had to do what we could do, give them drinks and attend to what they wanted you know.
A wound on his shoulder, I can remember this one fellow having this awful wound on his shoulder and you know it was quite, and that had to be attended to, I was supposed to be every quarter of an hour and when one person was supposed to do it, you really couldn’t do it, I only did it as much as I could.
he was sitting on the steps and I thought he was dead, he was just so staring you know, he was so tired, I touched him on the shoulder and he almost fell over. He was so tired. There were older men, there were several men say in their mid 30's and they were very good, very brave and you know very you know sensible.
They thought it was unfair that only the officers got to be going out?
Yes only the officers, but there was no time to be going out anyway, you didn’t know many officers so it didn’t really matter. No they thought it was unfair, I remember this chap saying about it, “All you do is go out with the officers” and I thought “well you
So was there any romance amongst all of the dreadful things that were going on?
I think, the girls from Malacca, that is why we used to go to Malacca to relieve them so that they could go on holidays, I think they you know met up with some fellows there, but no
Loris could you take us through getting onto the ship that had subsequently caught fire in the bombing,
getting onto the actual ship, how did you get on there?
On a rope ladder there was a ladder sort of from the wharf to the boat and we had to get, climb up that and that is what terrified me I thought “well you know I will fall in the sea and drown.”
Why were some shot and others not?
They were all shot but some weren’t, they were still alive and they bayoneted them to make sure they were dead. I don’t know what they did with them like they were in the sea, they had to walk into the sea, but I don’t know what they did with the bodies or just left them, I never heard about that.
A lot of, they machine gunned, you know swept over us, machine gunned the hull was all holey, or funnel whatever it was and of course that is when some of the crew was killed because of the machine gunning, more than the bombs, there were, bombs were not dropping on the ship they were dropping on the side and that one that hit it did and then the ship caught on fire, but you know it just felt like it lifted
time, they had a nightclub and they were dancing and prancing as if nothing happened, was happening, but they had a lot of soldiers, Javanese soldiers, they were very very jumpy, very jumpy. You know we went around we couldn’t find a toilet, we went around the back of this building to, and they came and were prodding us with their bayonets you know “move, move” you know sort of thing, whatever they said in their language.
And even when we went back to the ship they were standing there on the wharf telling us to get on the ship. That was back on the Empire Star. We only stayed on that white ship for meals, for the you know and while the ship was being patched up.
Do you know why the Japanese were bombing?
Anything that was moving, it was, yeah any hospital ship they would bomb, they didn’t worry about who they were bombing, they just wanted to get rid of you know, bomb anything.
Who told them that you had been taken prisoner?
Nobody told them, well they were told that people were taken prisoner I suppose you on the wireless radio. They thought that we had all been taken prisoner. So when we got back we sent these telegrams. There were some of the women who had met some air force fellows and they were, they flew back to Adelaide and they told their parents but I didn’t know about
that, so yeah we just had to send a telegram.
town hall, well the hall, institute it was called, and morning tea and speeches and things. And while I was home, I had about a week or something to you know to recuperate, we came back on a troop train you see, it was very uncomfortable and when I
got home, I had to go round talking about for the war bonds they were selling war bonds and I had to go and talk and my father had to take me around in the car and he had to get petrol when he could you know because petrol was rationed and I would go to these various towns. That was for the week I was home.
Where was the hospital located?
Well South Daws Road. What is the Repat now, what is called the Repat now. And I was there for I don’t know how long I was there, I suppose about 18 months and then we were shifted to Western Australia, back to Western Australia to Northam and there we were,
What what were the resources like in Adelaide when you came back to work at the hospital here compared to how they had been in Singapore?
Well that was very good down at Daws Road [Repatriation General Hospital], they were nice wards and nice accommodation, nice rooms, we had nice rooms there, nice accommodation.
Had the men received medical attention before they come home or did they come straight home for medical attention?
No they’d had it but not terribly good, but they had had medical attention, there were lots of, I can’t think of the word, no there was a lot of illnesses that we don’t normally
How had he got drunk, at the hospital?
Oh no no in the township, but he probably came back to camp and they sent him to hospital, I think he had fallen over, yeah, but he was pretty noisy, but no there weren’t very many there at all. Because if one came in with pneumonia we would send him off to a bigger hospital. There was a bigger hospital called Hollywood [Repatriation General Hospital] in Perth and they would be sent there by
We might go back there then who, who were you engaged to and how did you meet him?
At Daws Road the hospital, he had feet, he had to have an operation on his feet you know how they used to troop march around and he had to have an operation on his feet and that is how I met him. And then I was married.
And then what were your next orders, what did you do next, what were your next orders?
We came back to Adelaide and I got married, I went down to my hometown and we were married there and then I came back and I went to Northfield [Northfield Infectious Diseases Hospital] and worked, I was there for 12 months after I was married.
results with the men or were any of them dying while they were there?
Yes I can remember one man dying in the middle of the night, I was on night duty again. And he just called out and he died, he had a heart attack, it wasn’t from any injury it was just his heart that gave out, but apparently it was a very painful death, but that is the only one I can remember dying
How were the men when they returned from the Middle East, were they cheerful or sombre?
Oh no they were all right, yes quite cheerful, they had all sorts of sayings and I can’t tell you what they were and but you know they were all fairly cheerful. It was when we started to take the ones from prisoner of war camp
Tell me more about these men and the state they were in?
Shaky, non compos [non compos mentis, not in control of one’s mind] yellow, some of them, some of them were all right, you know they just had malaria or something like that, but some were very vague and very you know and very thin, they were skin and
No not in the wards, because they were only put in the wards if they were sick or you know needed some sort of psychiatric treatment they didn’t talk about it then, but I have seen them afterwards you know when I met some of them, they would talk about it, but not a lot, nobody talked about the war very much.
It wasn’t a psychiatric ward but they would bring them in because they would have other things as well, dysentery and probably typhus and that sort of thing but I can remember one man who didn’t have anything. I was unpacking his things and I was talking and I suddenly woke up that he wasn’t
even able to listen to me. You know wasn’t even taking in what I was saying, he was just staring, and he was so thin, all his ribs were sticking out and his feet were just bones and dreadful.
Yeah well we had a buggy, you know a horse. And I remember my father coming up with the buggy and horse and she had to climb up and get on it, and she was quite happy to go to school and I was yelling “don’t let her go, don’t let her go” and my mother didn’t know what to do so she let me have this muff and I had my hands in it all day and I could hardly wait for her to get home and I was so sore
but it is a terribly thing to happen.
Were you still in contact regularly?
Well not, not, occasionally I ring them, they are in the country, or when she comes down, she used to come down,
What had happened to him?
He had something, his feet he had to have an operation on his feet, his toes got, it must have been the army boots and he was in Syria and he said he got frostbite and you know he had to have his toes straightened out. And his feet were never any good, he never walked properly afterwards. He had to
Why was the housing of such poor standard, was that a hang over from the depression?
Yes, well I suppose people were just staying in the houses. Eventually we got some rooms and then eventually we got a house that somebody was, well actually it belonged to my sister and her husband and we went to live with them and then they were transferred
And hows it been since he’s been gone?
I went to work again and I worked until I was quite old, every time, I went to a nursing home and every time I went to leave somebody would say, “Just wait until we have holidays just wait until someone comes back, just wait for something”
happy to go to work after because I have always been busy you know in the home and in the garden and I didn’t work when I had the children, no I was quite happy to go back to work and it was the company that I liked. You know I made a lot of friends and we had some good times, we used to go out to lunches and
things like that, dinners and things, I wasn’t lonely.
weren’t frightened, was that a faith, did you have a faith that sustained it?
Oh yes yes, very yes I have got faith yes. I always have had, we were brought up that way, sometimes in that little township we’d be the only people at the church, my sisters and mother and father and brother, there might be a couple of other people, but they didn’t bother, they were very interested in church
Is there anything that you would like to add to what we have talked about today, is there anything that you would like to say?
Well there aren’t any winners in war, we are all losers but it is camaraderie the deep friendships you make having been through that sort of trauma, you do make deep friendships, they have gone, a lot of them have gone now you see and I had a friend died last year,
well you know there is not a lot about or there is some disability that they are not able to, there is only a couple of us in Adelaide who can communicate. But no it is the friendship I think that kept you strong. No I don’t know
know that there is anything else, what else can I add?