In the 1930s, Marjorie Silver was employed by The Far West Children’s Health Scheme and became their first permanent flying sister, based in Bourke. She fought a single-handed war against heat, dust and isolation of the outback to bring vital medical assistance to the far west of New South Wales, before moving on to central Queensland where she established a clinic at Mt Margaret station, in close co-operation with the flying doctor, based at Charleville. In 1964, she moved to Brunette Downs, Northern Territory, where she continued to make use of her nursing skills at the Aboriginal Camp and in the station’s hospital. This previously untold story also involves the topical Nancy Bird, who was employed as the sister's pilot for the first nine months.
Whilst Sister Silver was fighting a battle against the harsh elements of the bush, another dedicated woman of about the same age had graduated as a nursing sister with a view to overseas travel. Little did she know that she would shortly embark on a sea voyage to the exotic Far East, where she would engage in a battle for survival as an unwilling guest of the Emperor of Japan. Sister Pat Gunther joined the AIF and served in the Far East on the battlefield of Malaya and Singapore. She was captured and taken prisoner at Bangka Island, Sumatra. The story of the nurses imprisoned in various camps in Sumatra is not unknown, but this book delves far deeper than any other story to date and reveals the 'secret' that the nurses kept throughout their lifetimes. Author and military historian Lynette Ramsay Silver has an entire 'forensic' chapter devoted to the unravelling of this secret.
This book has been compiled from their edited memoirs, supplemented by various conversations and interviews. Interspersed throughout the book and printed in italics, are Lynette Ramsay Silver’s historical details providing additional narrative to compliment first-hand accounts.
The book also lists, for the first time, the name of every nurse who served in WW2. It also includes the fate of other internees that Sister Pat had met in Malaya and during her three years of captivity and the fate of the nurses evacuated from Singapore. It also includes the 29 women that served as doctors in the Australian Army Medical Corps during World War 2, as well as the names of the women who served as nursing sisters in the Royal Australian Navy, Royal Australian Airforce, Australian Army Nursing Service and the Army Hospital.
Angels of Mercy: Far West & Far East is a tribute to the huge contributions made by our nurses in the Australian Outback, and to those who served during wartime.
Author’s note vii
Angels of Mercy: Far West
1 Basic Training 3
2 Triple Certificates 16
3 The Far West Children’s Health Scheme 26
4 The Far West’s Aerial Service 48
5 Back of Bourke 60
6 Doing the rounds 102
7 Just part of the service 116
8 A new beginning 131
9 Back to the wide brown land 144
Epilogue Aftermath 161
Angels of Mercy: Far East
1 To Malaya 167
2 Halcyon days 186
3 At war 207
4 Shipwrecked 223
5 On Radji Beach 247
6 Bukit Besar and Irenelaan Camps, Palembang 260
7 The ‘Men’s Camp’, Palembang 283
8 Muntok New Camp, Bangka Island 299
9 Belalau Plantation, Loeboek Linggau 309
10 Free at last 324
11 The aftermath 340
Epilogue Unravelling the Secret 349
Appendix 1 Where is Radji Beach? 364
Appendix 2 The fate of other internees 367
Appendix 3The fate of the nurses evacuated from Singapore 373
Australian Army Medical Corps 377
Royal Australian Navy 378
Royal Australian Air Force 379
Australian Army Nursing Service 387
Army Hospital 432
Select Bibliography: Bush Nurse 433
Select Bibliography: War Nurse 435