What did your sister die from?
Well my twin sister died from diphtheria when she was thirteen months old. As a matter of fact on Anzac Day it would have been eighty two years since she died, I don't know her of course and my elder sister, Sheila, would have, she had
We opened a hospital up down there. The happiest time of my life was when 'cause I was a nursing orderly down there was when they someone rang me to say, "Well you're going onto the hospital ship in a couple of days. Come back up to Sydney and put up your colour patches." and I could hardly believe it and I'd been at home for a couple of days you know on leave and my sister-in-law rang up, she wasn't my sister-in-law then, and said. "I'm going too." so the two of us went on together
which was wonderful. Onto the ship.
done our rookie training would you believe and I had to report back to Concord Hospital and then somebody said, "Oh you've got to be brought down to the Women's Hospital. They're just opening that." One of the people down there had seen my name and decided I'd like to work at the Women's Hospital. So I had to pack up and go down there at nine o'clock at night where I scrubbed floors with various people and they opened it oh that's when we went to do our rookie training
after we were there. I could hardly get away quickly enough because my sister-in-law and one of the other girls volunteered to come to the Women's Hospital too but that's when we did our rookie training, after that.
Was there anything that you hadn't come across before that?
No not there no, but I think the poor things they were trying to put us in hand. We were rather surprised because we were just, we were ourselves and just marched around quite happily but I don't know, my friend Ida and I were kept there after the others went. They were going to send us to…. oh they made us into drill instructors would you believe? I mean I was a nursing orderly and
You had 9th Division there. Were they from El Alamein?
Yes. Actually the patients we had on the hospital ship, the Imperial patients you know, Canadians, British, Scottish, Irish, South Africans, they were a lot of those were from El Alamein. Wounded from there.
remember one in particular a lovely young fellow and his I can even remember his name which was Douglas Berman from South… I think he lived he must have lived in Durban and he said, "When we get to Durban nurse, I'm going to take you to the Bar Escape." I said to Mary,"What on earth's the Bar Escape?" but of course the poor thing couldn't go anywhere, he was a bed patient, and they went up to Pietermaritzburg [South Africa].
And how did you get there?
Train from Rocky Creek. I suppose we must have gone in a truck or two, we went everywhere in a truck or two. Train down to Cairns and into the ship there.
We're in Cairns yes and there was the ship and I think while we were in Cairns we must have had a day off because they took us on a boat trip would you believe to some island. Half the people were seasick so you feel very, you feel very
superior when you know you won't be seasick.
what did you see when you arrived?
Not much. There was just, the place was just a wreck it had been the battle was only just over, I mean we never go anywhere where there's a battle, so most of the buildings were demolished and half the trees were just half of them there and the natives had gone over to Rancha Rancha, a little island while the battles were on but of course it was pretty horrible, pretty horrible
I'd go out for looking for Ward… I went out one night looking for Ward 20 and all 'round the place we had these great big trenches dug I don't know whether it was for the water or for something else but I thought. "Heavens I'm about to fall in." so a little torch you know you went around and we had electric lighting in Borneo which we didn't have at the Tablelands but it was very, very faint but looking for wards you go from ward to ward to find Ward 20 and the next night you'd go out and it'd be Ward 40 you know, Ward 20 was the last one
up but they just kept putting up more wards because we had all sorts of patients there. There was prisoner of war people, poor things.
'round him and he was an absolute treat and they had to tell us why we were still staying there after the war was ended. They had a beach girl parade, I wasn't in it, and Sister Crittenden won it, she had long bloomer things on and a little umbrella, little bathing cap. She looked great. As a matter of fact Sister Crittenden was on one of these
archive things a few years back.
because people were dying from that bomb but they were so cruel. I mean I just think of all the people who went away and all their relatives and their wives and children and how they must have suffered all those years when they were didn't even hear from them. Didn't know whether they were alive or not so we didn't really care about the bomb. My daughter says, "Oh well, never again mum." and I said, "Well you know at the time it was
a very good thing." Sounds very cruel I know but…..
and the rats and the snakes and a few snakes there, not too many. My tent mate, Gwynne, was asleep one morning and we looked over the three of us you know in the tent and we said, "Gwynne don't get out of bed there's a snake under your bed." This great big thing and it had swallowed a rat probably, it was all swollen up. Fortunately it walked out because none of us were going to get up but that was the only snake I saw there.
Very pretty coming through I can't remember the name of the island, somewhere up around New Guinea there and we came and little palm trees hanging over the side of the lagoon I suppose and I think Robert Louis Stevenson used to write there and another island with a big, big black cloud over it from a volcano
a big mountain, but to come home to Sydney yes, it was just really something and then they loaded us onto would you believe onto buses? My mother and a few friends were down to greet us and I didn't see them. They took us for a trip around the city. We nearly all died laughing it sounds so stupid doesn't it? Just it was so ridiculous.
has to be looked at and bits taken out of it if you said anything wrong so when you're stuck in a place like the Atherton Tablelands for some time you can just write about people and you're not supposed to, they're not supposed to know where you are and it just becomes very hard to write something that you'd really be proud of and you can't say, “Well we're going here there and somewhere else.” but
she was quite upset when I went away on a hospital ship. My uncles told her that at one stage we'd been sunk off the island of Madagascar 'cause our hospital ship it got out of Singapore as a cruise ship then got out of Singapore just ahead of the Japanese and they also they all said it was going to be they would
well I don't know about sink it but they were going to grab it. It was going to be a prize. So we used to go very fast in some places but no, it was good to be home but it's very funny trying to get back, get some clothes and after nearly five years it's very hard to get back into civilian life.
Oh probably, well I didn't really want to get married. I wanted to go overseas, I wanted to go to England but we did, we got married '47, '46, '47, maybe '48. Isn't it terrible, I can't tell you the right date and anyway I didn't, I eventually got back to England I got to England about ten years twelve years
Okay I think that that's pretty much covered an overview so perhaps we could step back a bit and just go back to your earliest memories perhaps of growing up in Sydney?
Well I can remember living at Waverley for a while. We left there when I was about nine I suppose. We left Willoughby when I was probably four and we went to live in Waverley for a while because my mother had a nursing friend. As I said she was alone just with me, oh that's not quite true because my grandparents came down from Wellington and they lived with us
but my Mum wanted to be near Viv, her friend, so we stayed there until as I said the house had been sold and the fellow who'd bought it decamped without paying so we went back and my mother eventually lost that house back at Willoughby but I can remember Waverley quite well. It was during the Depression. There always seemed to be somebody on the
street corners sprouting about politics which frightened me to death and then we went back to Willoughby and I really grew up there I suppose, but I belonged to the girl guides, isn't it dreadful I was a joiner. Anything to get out and about I suppose with no brothers or sisters.
talked about my father a lot yes. She remarried when I was about eleven but she did talk about him a lot but she talked about my sister, Sheila, I think and of course my twin was so young when she died but it was always emotional. I remember we used to go out to the Rookwood [Cemetery] and sit on the on the side of the grave. My father was buried with my twin sister and we went once
and I just remember crying away there and we didn't go again and I've never been. Isn't it terrible? I haven't been to see…. my father had a headstone put on by the Repat [Repatriation] and I've never seen that but I do, it was really terrible going and sitting there I suppose poor Mum she'd just think of all of them dying.
nurse, was he supportive of that?
No I think because my father had died in a way he really didn't support me because, oh he must have to a certain extent but I was still getting a pension because my father had died, I was what they called a war orphan, and I think I got a pension 'til I was about sixteen. My mother received it for me but no.
loyalty, were they strong personal feelings for you?
Oh yes. We all loved our country and loved Britain because lots of people, most people had relatives living there as I said like my father came out from Britain. I found his ticket, ship ticket. I've got the most amazing lot of things that my mother left behind. They're all in an old case. Sometimes I look for some photographs and there it is, a travel ad from
young ones that went but most of them were old First World War fellows. Yes, Angus and Jack and Ray oh a couple of others that I can't remember their names. Isn't it awful but they enlisted yes, they enlisted probably in probably '40, mm, or '39 even. Went down to see them off.
Out in the road you know, having marched through the city.
I can't really remember that but I just know that I came home from the office on Friday night and there was this letter telling me to report to Concord Hospital. The 113th Hospital I beg your pardon, on Monday. So I'd applied for leave and they turned it down. Said I was the first woman in the public service to go into any of these things and after me I think everybody had their pay made up and kept their job afterwards
but not me, I just packed my bags, wrote a letter, put it in the letter box and went off to Concord on Monday morning.
So tell me about that day.
Well there was this photo of us walking in, the three of us, great big suitcases, and in uniform and had to report to oh gosh, I can't remember who you reported, to isn't that amazing?
I shared with somebody and my roommate, Maude, Maude, I said to her one morning, "You look terrible. You're all covered in a rash." and she said, "Oh I've got to get up and go and look after the boys." and I said, "You've got measles. Stay where you are." So I got sister and sister came along and off went Maude and she had scarlet fever. So the room was blocked off and to do
whatever they do with it and I'm there 'cause I was staying in the hospital for the weekend and I'm there with no clothes except what I was wearing because I couldn't get into the room to get anything.
tests for ulcers. Having six patients sitting around looking at you rather ominously wondering what was going to happen and had them all swallow a tube, which tucked into a little belt. Had an Italian POW [prisoner of war], poor thing, and he was so nervous. He cried the whole time. He was an officer but from over at the POW ward and they'd swallow that and then you'd spend
every half an hour you'd take some of the their through a syringe and then you'd give them porridge and then every half an hour you'd go over and test to see you had all these little things around the place. Each one had his own thing.
exactly, little thin over to put on the stretcher and sheets and anything else that'd fit in there. When I came home from Borneo I had sheets, Sister Steen gave me some sheets. I'm getting away from how we kitted up and there, as well as that we had a suitcase but then as things advanced we also got a kit bag and I remember coming down on leave once
from the Tablelands and I'm trying to carry the thing home you know and I'm dragging it along the road. This fellow came up beside me with a painful look on his face took it right to the gate and said, "Goodbye." Had a hole in the bottom of the kit bag but we had far too much. When we went to Borneo we just took a kit bag, a holdall for bedding and little suitcase.
Tell me about when Japan entered the war what was the reaction like?
Well it was pretty awful because we heard you know that they'd bombed Hawaii I think it was, wasn't it? Hawaii? We'll say Hawaii, that's good enough, and we knew it'd you know, be all on but they'd been having a war with China for years
I think some of them were still on board. I don't know but I went home and had a few days' leave before I went and I can't remember how many days before we actually sailed but I remember I was I was sitting on deck, everybody else had a leave pass, and I was sitting, I hadn't done anything and I was sitting on deck with a bag of peas I think it was, peeling peas, and they took the troop ship for a trial run. It was so funny.
When did you hear about the Centaur?
Oh I was in, I'd just taken some new recruits out to Victoria Barracks and I was coming into town and I was waiting for the tram to pick them up. The paperboy was singing out, "Hospital ship torpedoed!" and I quickly bought a paper and there I was standing in Elizabeth Street all alone, I mean thousands of people around me I suppose, but
to read this terrible story and just think it was only March that that photo was taken and this was May, beginning of May and so many of them had gone. Very emotional. I still get very emotional about it.
all the young fellows. Nell Savage, she was the only sister saved and I've got a letter there, 'cause I look after our hospital ship thing now. I write to everybody who's left. Tom handed it over to me some years ago and there's a letter there from a young American who was on the ship that, I think he said he was eighteen or seventeen,
he heard a woman's voice on the ship that picked them up and they called out, "Is there a woman there?" and she said, "Yes." and but course all her clothes had been so they sent her down a jacket to put on and she was the only Sister saved. She died a few years ago, on Anzac Day. We'd been down to Sydney Hospital
and Lorna and I came out together and walked across the road and she came up with one of the Dennehys and they were going to get her a cab and got up to the footpath there and she just dropped dead.
me about some of the ports that you visited.
Oh well we went to Suez. I only got off once in Suez. Also Aden, went to Aden, and of course you're not allowed to eat or drink anything in any of these places and these American fellows picked us up you might say and said they'd take us out for a drive, but they took us for lunch and I really felt terrible,
us out to have a look at the around where the ships were being built. Not ships like we were on, I mean sort of dhows and things and to a place called the Queen of Sheba’s Baths and somewhere else. They were a couple of nice boys. They just liked to see and maybe that's what matron used to say. "When you go to Aden people will come and talk to you and want to take you out. Go." because they hadn't seen women for years some of them
but then we another time we went and this English gentleman picked us up and he took us for an ice cream and there am I absolutely thinking, "I'm going to die eating this." It must be camel's milk, that's the only milk around, and it came in a great big glass and all melting, this melting ice cream in the bottom which we duly ate up thinking "Oh we're going to be poisoned."
start sponging patients and giving them drinks and handing around the urinals which are big glass urinals and of course some of them had been on trains for hours and hours and they'd be so full you'd be absolutely terrified they'd spill over and you wouldn't be able to cart them out anyway but poor things, we made them feel very much
at home. The English and Scottish see they were really so grateful for everything we ever did. We had them on board once for Christmas and we were out on the deck on the way to collect them, packing stockings with oranges and oh anything the Red Cross'd give us so everybody got a stocking for Christmas and padre took us around singing, I was going on night duty I think, took us around singing carols. Never heard anything like it.
The night before and we all had to pack up and go and leave him to it.
both ends. I know one night I went onto night duty and there was no milk. No no millick. I had to go 'round to the galley to get some and I came back and as I came back I walked through the ward from the side door there and there was a fellow getting into a top bunk and as I got to him he changed his mind
and the foot he was going to put up he put down straight in the milk, fell to the floor, this great big jug, and the lights went out and it was fairly rough so there was milk going everywhere. Oh dear oh dear. It couldn't have been timed better. It was so perfect. Never seen anything like it. If you tried to do it you wouldn't have been able. Never forget that. His foot coming straight into the jug. Big white enamel jug. Had a
mechanical cow on board. That's what they called it.
Was it noisy in the wards?
No. No it wasn't. They all talked a lot and they played music every afternoon. Lorna, one of our VAs, who's up in that photo, used to play records, requests, in the afternoon
So what, all the men burst out laughing?
Well I think they did, yes and Vera Lynn of course was played constantly, day and night. Well not quite night but day and who else? Oh some of the favourite songs I mean you know, really you know I
all ate it up. I think they'd been you know, the food they'd been getting had been pretty terrible. It would have been an improvement but they had lovely meals. I'm sorry I haven't got a menu to show you and we always had a bit of a celebration for the birth of one of the Dutch princesses or the Queen's Birthday, Queen Beatrix, no Queen Wilhelmina and Princess Beatrix and
there was always something special on like that.
I was just wondering what the Dutch knew about Australia?
Well until they'd been coming to Australia I don't really know because the crew itself you know, the boys, they were Indonesian, most of them, and the officers were Dutch. The wireless operators and the,
head fellow was a really big fellow and he used to wear all black and one of those funny little hats on his head and while we were busy cleaning up he used to come down, "How much do you girls get a day?" We'd tell him "Oh oh, how much do you get a week?" "How long do you work?" He knew very well but couldn't help just telling us how much more they were all getting than we
ever did and we'd be working away, scrubbing everything down, and then the officer'd come 'round with you know, all these pipe things and go, “Not clean enough.”
And what was the day-to-day routine on that ten day trip?
Oh well up at the crack of dawn unless you were on night duty and off to work. You'd sponge everybody, well unless the night duty staff had sponged them already you'd be doing the rest of the sponges. They came on at seven I think and we went off at half past seven if we were on night duty or perhaps they came on at six. Probably six and then off at ten.
So it was a…. you know, you could go for your meal and just keep working but nobody minded. I mean you had to do it and there it was.
How about, were there any fears about enemy submarines on these trips?
Well I think a lot of people were but oh look, I don't know. Someone mentioned a time when, might have been before my time on the ship, when a submarine, they all stopped in the middle of somewhere.
the ones that I was most amazed by were the some of the fellows that came out on the lighters with you know, petrol some of them. There was one lot and early in the morning the head fellow got up and washed himself all over out of the sea with water and dressed himself up and then he sort of looked like Ronald Coleman [Hollywood actor] and he had this troop of people and they were all pulling things and doing exercises and some sort of you know it must have been,
I can't believe, it he must have been something to do with they were probably all Muslims and that but and Allah and somebody used to get up and call out of a tower early in the morning but I'll never forget this lot with this fellow that looked like Ronald Coleman. All performing something or other I've no idea, but it was very entertaining.
I'd already crossed the line umpteen times but no, there wasn't on the hospital ship. That would have been not the right thing to do but going up on the Manunda or Wanganella, one or the other, they had a crossing of the line ceremony and my one of my tent mates was one of the mermaids. She had long hair and the trouble with her long hair was she decided to wash it on the way up to Borneo and the trouble
there was that we didn't realise that the water on board, we thought it would be perfectly okay, it'd had been highly chlorinated and her hair came, she had long, long hair and it came out like stiff like this, like rope. It didn't matter what we did we couldn't get it…. somebody said put vinegar on it. Oh dear oh dear. the water was. As I said we thought it would be perfectly alright on the out trip.
But no, highly chlorinated.
Ah well Peggy, I thought I'd start with something nice and light that was interest to me interesting to me though yesterday was you talking about how important reading was when you were younger.
Oh yes, I couldn't get enough reading. My mother was always singing out, "Peggy put out that light!" and I'd say "Yes mum, as soon as I finish this chapter." but I could as soon as I could read she was absolutely delighted 'cause she didn't have to read to me and then she probably thought afterwards, "Heavens above, what have I started?"
Choose who to prioritise.
I don't know what it would be like in other units you know except hospitals, but a hospital is a hospital. You don't sort of get up and go and out in the early hours and go and parade before you go to work because when you get out of bed you go, quickly have your breakfast and rush up to the ward so the one that's up there can come back and have breakfast and go to bed. So it's quite a different life to what would be perhaps the norm in the navy and the air force. I would think. They always tell you
about having to go on parade first thing in the morning.
plain army guys who'd ended up….
Some of them had been nursing before they enlisted. They'd been mostly psych [psychiatric] nursing in those days but one of our fellows, poor old Bern not Bernie, one of them anyway, when he came out of the army I think he must have gone back to nursing but his two daughters went nursing and he had a son in the bank
I think there was one other and they had some handy excuse. He went off. John took him to Marrickville with all these women screaming and yelling. Wouldn't let me go and he went off and like a lamb I suppose like a lamb and did his training but it all finished. Gough Whitlam [Australian Prime Minister] came along and I think it was Billy McMahon [Australian Prime Minster] that finally said no more were to go.
Gough Whitlam finished it off altogether. Jim wasn't too pleased to come back and find that everybody at work had sort of advanced and he was sort of left, however he's done quite well. Didn't do him any harm doing some military, he was always a school cadet.
happen with our poor things that have gone away this time because I mean they've gone and they've done what they're supposed to do but it never looked like being a winner, did it? The French had been fighting there for years but no, I don't suppose any of us like our children going. That's what I say. I'm amazed at some of these young women that are going off and they're leaving their baby behind them for somebody else to look after while they whip off to the war.
Once upon a time if you were married you were out straight away but good on them, I mean it's really good but I don’t know if anything happened to them, who looks after the child? Or children even? Some of them have both mum and dad away.
And the machinations of global politics?
We always saw Hitler doing something horrible and I remember when, oh what on earth's the name, Finland came into the war at least I think Germany went in and attacked them and there you know all these people frozen where they stood. With guns. Their clothing wasn't good enough. No, it was pretty horrible but everybody was a bit frightened of Hitler. I mean what would
Did it seem to you at the time a just war or did you not even think of it at the time?
Yes, well I really thought the war was a good thing because they'd invaded, look at all the places in Europe. People were in the most disgraceful, poor things, in disgraceful conditions being bombed out of their homes. They just ran roughshod over everybody.
Just took over everything and then Russia must have come into the war. I can't remember when they came in but some of their soldiers were sort of, you'd see photos of them frozen stiff just standing there and they had shoes with cardboard soles in them in the snow oh it was very, very, very cold climate in Russia. Terrible but they of course
then sort of took over Germany when the war was over and had that great wall built, the Berlin Wall.
really very sad, but I remember it was so good to have known all the people. I still know, well I mean if they're alive I know them, but yes it we all said it was a good thing and we all said it was a good thing they dropped the bomb 'cause it still might be going on. My daughter was really upset with me when I told her that but it's true. It stopped the war
and as I said when it first started you know it might be a year or two, that was '39 but it finished in the end of '45 so that's six years. Too much.
Over there may maybe just a month
Well we left Australia in July I think, or was it the end of June, something like that, and we stayed with these 2/5th or the 2nd yeah the 2/5th at Morotai for a while. There was water there. They'd turned the water off. Everybody'd be under the shower there all soaped up and there'd be one trickle left without about fifty people trying to get under it to take the soap off. Very busy there. The airport, someone took me out there at night.
A few people had been decapitated by the planes coming in. Seemed to be no light and all these planes going and coming and turning into places and you I didn't want to go there again but then we took off and off we went to up to Labuan and a lot of sunken ships in the harbour there.
Sunken ships and ruined buildings. Bombed out buildings.
As a matter of fact at Morotai there was a little Japanese hospital ship that had been captured because all the patients were soldiers bandaged up. Tiny little thing it was, so that was a good thing to see. They'd got their own back but no I was never worried and I was never seasick. I could on the the Oranje I could walk down a passageway there with a bowl of water in my arms and everybody'd be throwing
it around all over the place and I could do a straight line and I that's what I was proud of. I was a good sailor but oh I really could do that. I loved being at sea, it was terrific.
some patients in there and there was bread and Vegemite and all those things so they could snack away but some of them of course had had a horrible experience had had, of course they'd had a horrible experience in a POW camp, but they used to pinch everything you know. You'd go away for half an hour and come back and all the bread'd be gone. Somebody would have snuck it away in their little bag or whatever. Poor things. I mean they really were in a terrible plight and I often think
how did they get on when they went home? They hadn't seen their family for what three or four years and some of them would be so it would have been such a difficult transition for them to go home and be human after being treated the way they were.
been, I think she'd been wounded in the leg. She'd been shot and there was she was with, nobody seemed to want to claim her so she was in the hospital so everybody called her little Audrey because little Audrey had (UNCLEAR) dandruff and they did so much for her. They loved her. Everybody loved her. She was only about six I would think, but dreadful I don't know what happened to her parents and then
we went over to Brunei for a quick trip one day. I only went over once and went to this little Chinese restaurant of corrugated iron and the father said would I come out and have a look at the little girl. She must have been about three and she had the most dreadful attack of malaria. I didn't have anything for her so I told them when I got back to see if they'd send something
over for her. She was just a tiny little thing. Dreadful. Malaria's a terrible thing.
We were just talking about, yes, malaria and if you could describe to me the symptoms and what you'd encounter when you saw it and the way in which you treated it.
Well let's look at it this way. I mean on the Tablelands just about every patient that came in they'd probably all been to New Guinea and it didn't matter what they came in with. I mean they might have pneumonia or a broken leg or something else, appendix out, and they were
also seemed to always have an attack of malaria as well. I said to a patient one morning, I was doing 6am temps [temperatures], "How are you this morning?" and he said, "I don't feel so well today, nurse." and I took his temperature and it was a hundred and six, which was very high in those days. I mean it's different readings today but then they get so cold and you cover them up with lots of blankets and then they sweat and like mad and as soon as
they finished sweating you'd go and sponge them off and change all the clothes and bedding and they probably would have been on Atebrin at that stage. I took Atebrin for some time.
plague proportions sometimes, but not because of malaria, there was no malaria there, but they'd picked it up probably in New Guinea. We had nets like, oh sort of green and like a canopy and nets sleeves down and nets up at six o'clock and you sprayed the place with a little
bomb. Fortunately I didn't have malaria. I thought I might have had it when I came home but we had something else but it was a very unpleasant thing. I think people still get it these days I mean you know even if they haven't had it for ages they'll suddenly get an attack. It was very hard on… you know they already had
other things to worry about. Debilitating was the word I was looking for.
we heard about the death march [Sandakan] because somebody's brother and someone's husband I said you had to leave when you were married but Edna was married and her husband had been a POW so she was allowed to come along. I remember when they came and told her that he'd died on the death march and Cynthia, another lass, her brother had been,
he was only a kid, about twenty, he'd been killed and Betty's fiancé had been beheaded so they were really you know they terrible times. Betty used to pull all the, we had Japanese patients in too, she used to pull all their drips out so they had to move her to another ward. Someone said the other day they'd never felt the same
about Japanese since the war.
different places but they were so cruel. I mean they had had a…. they'd burnt all these Indians' feet and had their heads in a in a tin thing. I mean they were just cruel and terrible oh but it was so, I think you know it sounded so much worse when we heard about it then than it did when we were actually there because we were so busy working
but no, fancy being putting them in a fire and burning their feet and I think it was another tin thing full of heads and they were cruel. I had Captain McCarter there as a patient. He had a Korean batman
and I've forgotten when I was going oh he tried to commit suic… hari kari with a with a hospital knife. You could hardly cut butter with it, let alone anything else.
everybody, I think you treated them as well as they could but you know very hard to think back and I'm right back there after awhile the natives started to plant their paddy fields again see with their water buffalo, putting in rice, and the water buffalo'd be the same colour as the soil.
So would whoever was doing it and they'd sort of dragged up things that they'd had hidden. Try and sell them to you.
and he took us over to Rancha Rancha to his wife's for lunch and of course the CO heard we were going over in a prow and nearly had a fit so we had to wait until he'd found he'd found a something more suitable to go over in. We went over there and we sat down. We only saw mother once and she rushed out and grabbed a chook running 'round, pulled out its feathers, we saw that, and cooked it up. We had a beautiful lunch. Rice
with fresh eggs in it and her husband chatted away to us but she was right in the kitchen and they played the gramophone 'Chinese war go' 'Chinese girl going to war.' Yeah that was very funny and on the way over of course everywhere we went everybody stopped and we must have this lovely drink and it was a Lady Blamey with condensed milk and hot water.
Horrible but you'd have to drink it and in case you don't know what a Lady Blamey is, it's a bottle, a beer bottle with a top off and there we are. It's a beautiful drinking vessel.
They were obviously very integrated with the environment there. Did you feel a part of the jungle there or did you feel quite detached from that?
Oh no look we were quite detached from it. Actually we didn't see, there wasn't a lot of jungle, there'd been a battle there and there wasn't much in the way of trees standing but, no, the climate was you know terrible and our clothing wasn't well when you think about it was really thick. Thick
they were building up the town the and lots of the little shacks and things that people lived in had kerosene tins with bougainvillea growing in them just sort of around their little shacks and some of them I think some of them still lived out in the water. They have these houses that have they call them something and I can't remember what
and especially in Brunei they were all living there still and they were still living in those things when we went over on the return trip. They're houses on sticks and when the water comes in they're right over it but they told me in Brunei when we went back that public servants live there and they have washing machines and television sets and you think it'd all go through the floor
but the natives as I said most of them were living out at Rancha Rancha because of the battle that had been there. Some of the fellows still chewed betel nut and that wasn't when that was when we went back, but no I wouldn't have liked to have lived there but it was great to go back to they had a beautiful hotel built and
beautiful meals and when we went over to Brunei we got into a lot of trouble with meals there. They had another beautiful hotel but we just sort of wandered in and sat down. First of all they charged they were charging us up for all sorts of things that we didn't ever have but nobody came to tell us it was a buffet and we could go into the other part and have something else but anyway I do remember
that dear lady who went out and caught the chook and cooked it for our lunch and it was beautiful.
Oh there was always scrambled egg, but that was powdered egg, and you know it got to make lovely sandwiches but then we didn't have any bread for some time. We just had dog biscuits but the old scrambled egg they with tomato sauce made a good sandwich. I can't even remember what we had for lunch but sometimes you'd have dehydrated vegetables. Potato and cabbage white and another famous meal was
with whitebait. You know those tiny little white fish. White cabbage and dehydrated potato. All white. Pretty horrible but all the best food was for the patients of course. They had to be fed. Fed well. It was just funny the way they came and they went. We had another, my tent mate and I went out to
a rest camp for a couple of days and something must have happened. Some of them were going home and they were all down, whoever was looking after the place downed tools and went. We were there alone so we had a ride in an ambulance and went back to the unit and we got into trouble for coming back. We were trying to explain, "But there's nobody there, only us." It was a bit weird.
When the blood bank was just opening up we had a fellow rushed in and he said, "Oh I've just flown over Kuching and I just know that there are Australians there." We didn't know whether there were or not but he was so excited he had to tell we must have been the first tent he passed you know the first thing but he was right. A lot of people there.
When we went on this return trip Jackie Sue had been a belonged to the Z detachment [Z Special Force – or more accurately, Services Reconnaissance Department] and he was of Chinese origin but he was Australian/Chinese and he dressed as a Chinese coolie and went in to get information from the station master at one place and the station master
said, "I can I can just summon someone right now and you'll be dead." and he said. "If I'm not back within a certain amount of time your wife and children'll be dead too." so he gave him the information needed about the number of Japanese that were there and Jack kept went on his way but he was a real hero, Jack Sue.
he's still alive. He's just written a book. I've just finished reading it actually called, 'Blood over Borneo' 'Blood on Borneo' and Alan Jones [radio broadcaster] was talking about it on the wireless the other day and he sent it to Joan. When I went over I had a film about the, a video about the trip back, the return trip, and I paid for it and it never came but
when I went over to see my daughter we went up to Midlands to see Jack. He had Western Australia Diving and Jack gave me a couple. One for somebody else who paid money as well but he was terrific. You know he was a real hero. One of ….you don't meet that many.
air force I think it was and they wouldn't have him because his parents were Chinese and had been born in China. So he joined the, he was about sixteen I think at this stage. Sixteen, seventeen, he joined the merchant navy and sort of sailed around for some time. Then he came ashore and he thought he was going to have another go at enlisting and that might have been when he joined the air force. I'm not quite sure
but he volunteered for this Z detachment and they you know they were terrible. Really the things they did were so extraordinary. One of our girls' brothers was with the Z detachment. I don't know where he was but when they had the march down at the beach here a couple of Sundays ago I saw one of the fellows get off the bus with his Z and I spoke to him because I said I've just finished reading
Jack's book and he said they were having a big conference sort of wouldn't be too many left in Sydney in a few weeks' time but they were outstanding people. I only went and I did what I did but I mean there were true heroes, which you probably never hear about.
except when we went to Borneo. We wore those pants and things and boots and gaiters and socks. It'd take you half an hour to get dressed. Slouch hat. That's all I've got left, a slouch hat. No. Not really. I suppose it sounds ridiculous to you but we were always treated well. The troops tried hard never to swear in front of us.
Some of them I think could swear just as well but no, we were treated well. I can't say I ever felt uncomfortable about anything. Course perhaps you go around with your you know, my head in the clouds and don't notice as many things as you probably should.
and had three children by the time I came back. My mother had given all my clothes to her 'cause you know coupons were hard to come by, and my dolls and my books and she said what a lovely time I'd been having you see and it was a dreadful thing that her children couldn't have any prunes and rice because they'd all gone to the troops. I said, "If I'd have known I'd have sent mine back." but no they were sort of interested but they'd been getting on with their own lives.
I think it must have been fairly difficult with all a place full of other troops and things. I don't know but you know people ask you and as soon as you start to tell them they either did the same thing themselves or they'd think of something else.
suppose we found out how to ask them and it was still much the same when you came back but of course a lot of troops had been back for awhile before we came home but oh they had black outs and you know and places were blacked out and they just made do with their coupons. I think my mother's always tried to get some more coupons for the butcher,
meat coupons or some more meat without coupons, 'cause my stepfather was a pretty good meat eater and then I came home and of course I'd taken up smoking and you had to get a you know, put your order in for cigarettes into a certain place and I put it into the local greengrocer and the wretched woman there she used to give me something called three threes. You only got nine cigarettes to a packet, little packet, so I didn't do very well there and my friend Gwynne put her
ration in at David Jones. She didn't smoke but she had a ration just the same so I was sorry I hadn't done that too. It took a long time for cigarettes to come back on the market and then at one stage petrol was also terribly scarce and then I think it must have been the Liberal Government promised to get petrol if they got in and they did and they
bought petrol from France I think it was so everybody was able to drive around again. We didn't have a car so we didn't need petrol. I mean my mother and stepfather.
I was tired and thin and looking forward to things like lettuce. Isn't that ridiculous? That you'd look forward to a lettuce, tomato, something raw. We had, in Labuan we had a mango tree growing close by but they all fell on the ground and became full of grubs so no
fruit. As I said yesterday someone bought us that great big bunch of bananas, big, oh I'll call it a bunch 'cause I can't think what else to call it. All the bats wanted to eat it before we got them but there was very little fruit. No meat but back to after the war it took a long time for things to come back
on the market and we were given a few coupons for clothing but Gwynne and I spent half our life in town trying to get something to wear. To get a pair of shoes. Set of boots. Took ages to just to get a bit of a wardrobe together.
but it is funny that as I said everybody at home must have had a fairly rough time too trying to get things to carry on with and so probably having such a hard time, I know my mother was I suppose she was proud of me 'cause all the hospital ship mothers used to meet once a week and I think they kept it up all through the war and she got a little badge with a little dot in it
because I was away but she probably talked about me all the time but when you come home you know it's sort of different. You could hardly wait to get home then I opened up all the windows and then by the time it's nine o'clock they've closed the windows in case the sun comes in. That was me running around opening the windows 'cause I couldn't stand it after living in a tent and my mum running around closing them again.
I'm still a fresh air fiend. I have everything open unless it's blowing a too much of a gale.
Was there an excess of nurses?
I don't know. Can't tell you. Probably not because they'd been very short during the war. Probably the hospitals were probably glad to see them all back but I wasn't a trained nurse so you know there was no point. I had thought of going to do my training but as I said before we were all so exhausted and thin from being up there in the tropics but it'd be lovely to live in the tropics if it was you know in a civilised time. It'd be very good
but when everything's sort of wrecked and you're working hard and different times.
he came in and then we met John and said, "How do you do?" but I was interested in somebody else at that stage but when we came back we'd we somehow got together again and as I said I was wanting to go to England. One of our girls wanted to go to America with her because she was going to be Sister [Elizabeth] Kenny. You wouldn't know Sister Kenny either, she was a marvellous nursing sister who had a marvellous treatment for poliomyelitis,
infantile paralysis they called it, but she had this wonderful treatment and she was doing it in America. Jean wanted me to go to America but I wanted to go to England but instead of that I got married. Didn't go anywhere for many years.
you know sort of throwing in their jobs here and rushing off to England. They were able to get good jobs too. My daughter, this is later on, she stopped working at the Children's Hospital and she went off to England and the continent and everywhere. She went twice and the first time after she'd been to the continent she came back and she had a job with three
fellows from the oil rig up in near the near the Shetland Islands there. She worked there for quite awhile. They were very good to her too. I think she flew up once to the Shetlands and when she went back next time she was working for somebody else altogether but she could always pick up a job and she'd been working in pathology and that isn't what she did while she was away
but everybody wanted to go to England. Anyway I thank goodness I got there before I was too old. I wasn't too young either but still. Never mind.
to see. You'd have to be there for ages. We didn't do too badly but my friend Gwynne was living there then. She took us out a couple of times. She took us to some terrific restaurant down near the near the Thames [River]. It's off the Thames. There's a little church and a mill and a waterfall there and all the film stars and famous people go there to dine.
We had a gorgeous lunch there and it was really a gorgeous place but in the distance on the it must have been on the river there were all these boats like they have down at The Spit. I mean I really hadn't thought of England having ships like that boats like that at all so it would have been a lot of money with all those lovely boats but no, we had a great time, mm. I didn't ever get to see my
Joan's relatives but she's been over two or three times and she always goes to see rellies [relatives]. I didn't have any I suppose but I do like travelling.
So you definitely felt like you'd grown up and
Yeah and the children my stepfather enjoyed the children too, which was good but they loved my mother. They still talk about my mother. All my friends talk about my mother. Said, "Oh wasn't she lovely? We can never forget her you know, she was such a lovely lady." I don't think anybody's going to
say that about me but she really was, she was a real sweetheart. An absolute lovely person but as I said it's funny when you come out you're dying to see them and they're dying to see you but then they say, "Oh look we've got to listen to the wireless.” and that. “We've got we've got to listen to Firstlight Fraser." or something or other. They've just asked you some something about what you did and you've opened your mouth to say it so you never get really to say anything much
but it was a happy time to be home, I think. Missed a lot of people that I knew. Another tent mate from the Tablelands went to live in Melbourne and I used to go and see her sometimes. Go down and see her and she her husband died oh some years ago and then Ida followed up quickly but her son came up on Anzac Day
from Melbourne just for the day to join us so it was just lovely to see him. It's like a also a friend of one of (UNCLEAR) come I invite her to Anzac Day every year and she rang me today to say that how nice of me to invite her and I said, "Well you you're one of the family." which she is, and she enjoyed herself and one year she came and it's a bit noisy at Sydney
Hospital on the balcony and I mean I always have a little service where you ask somebody to welcome the visitors and someone to say the ode and someone to say something else, somebody to remember absent friends, and one year we just didn't get to it and she said, "I'm really disappointed. I think I'll go home." so I quickly asked Joan to say the ode but that's all we did and I made sure on Friday that we at least had four people speaking. I didn't even ask them if they would. I just
said, "Joan would say the ode and Gwen would you thank the ladies at the auxiliary and somebody else would you thank welcome our visitors?" and they got up and said something but it's no use asking them. They'd probably say no if you asked them beforehand. Terrible thing to do, isn't it?
You don't say, "For heavens sake why didn't you write?" or anything. You're just so pleased to see them. It's surprising sometimes they recognise you, you know after all that time, but no lovely people. As I say there are so few of us left now. I just rang another one today. I thought, "Oh I meant to ring Hilda before Anzac Day." She just can't manage to come at all and I told her I was I'd gone to the march in a
wheelchair and she said, "Oh you're in a wheelchair." so you had to then explain no, no, you're not in a wheelchair, you went in the march in a wheelchair but no it was it of course when we got married trying to find somewhere to live was a really terrible problem. Eventually some friends were moving out of a small flat and we moved in as they moved out. We didn't ask we just
moved in. At Mosman and we stayed there and had two children there. We moved into Cromer when Diana was just a baby. I had another one there too but it was lovely having a house after living in a small flat but I sold my house because I was there by myself and I thought, "What's the use you know. Living in a four bedroom house all by yourself?"
At night I'd taken to sleeping in the back room because a lovely breeze came through and suddenly the front door banged. Oh you know I thought, "What on earth's that?" and then I remembered my neighbour was coming in. I'd left the door ajar for her and she hadn't come. I thought, "It's no great thing living by yourself." and when I came to live here I thought, "Oh I'll stay a few years." and it took me a long many years to regard it as home. I mean what's the use of living in a house
by yourself? You might as well live in something like this.
been exactly rosy and he used to tell me about some of the times they they'd forget to put the petrol in the tanks and you're flying and it'd say zero on the speedo thing. Wasn't a speedo, never mind, and they lived in the Western Desert. They lived in tents there and then as I said he did two tours in the Middle East and made some good friends
but they didn't get together after the war. Isn't it funny? Some of them rang up but I think they might have been very good drinkers, something tells me and when they came back to he went to I think it was it was with he was with 159 [Squadron] in the Middle East and he joined Squadron 2 and I think they were sort of in Darwin but
did everything 'round the islands.
and my sister-in-law's mother of course died when Joan was only about I think eleven or twelve and their father had remarried and I don't think any of them, they'd all grown up, and they weren't too keen about having a stepmother, just like I wasn't too keen about having a stepfather I suppose. I always said, "I'll never be a stepmother. I don't care what happens. I'm never going to be a stepmother." It's cruel but
it's very you know when you're bringing up little children it's as though it'll go on forever and then all of a sudden they've grown up. They've all left school and it it's funny when you're not going to P&C [Parents and Citizens] meetings and helping with stalls and it's all over.
yeah Jim was proud of his father but it's a shame you know, he really needed a father. He got married, I suppose he was twenty four when he was married. John said, "Oh too young." today it sounds like you know old, but it was a bit rocky their marriage and I'm sure if their father had been alive, oh it wouldn't have made any difference. It would have turned
out the same what am I saying? But his first wife was a funny girl. She loved me. I suppose I did all sorts of things for her and his second wife hated me and now he has a nice American girlfriend. She'd been in the air force in Okinawa. See
I'm telling you the family history now. I hope they never hear it but I hope he'll be happy. He does a lot of travelling. He works for Ricoh and he's just come back from New Guinea and North Queensland. He goes to Japan but he lives at Gosford and I can't be asking him to come and look at my computer all the time.
That's what I'm delighted about sometimes. People are quite impressed that I have a mobile phone and I've turned it off, a mobile phone and a computer.
My mother and stepfather were mad gardeners as well as being mad golfers. They were mad gardeners so I always had a beautiful garden there and we had a lovely garden at Marine Road. As a matter of fact when I sold the place I stayed there for five years after John died and I just couldn't stand I thought, "Oh way out. May as well come in where it's more it's easier
to get transport." and I enjoyed gardening. I love gardening. Don't do it now, I'm too old. Used to do the side garden here.
dear. They were lovely little kids. They were pretty little things and you think of the little plump cheeks, somebody told me once that I was carting around one of my big fat babies and I they should be carrying me but no it was a real treat to have them really. You think, "Heavens I'll never get through." but you do, but they were lovely little things. They could be very naughty like all children
and we always had a cat and a dog and somebody had a rabbit no, a guinea pig, and budgerigars. Jim had a garden. We had chooks [chickens]. The real suburban life.