Throughout 2018, the Australian War Memorial in Canberra is conducting its moving Last Post Ceremony to commemorate the service and sacrifice of seven Australian Service Nurses during times of war.
Each nurse’s service to the profession and their country is being celebrated at individual ceremonies held in the Commemorative Courtyard that include advocates laying wreaths and floral tributes.
The ceremonies share the stories behind names on the Roll of Honour, which records and commemorates more than 100,000 members of the Australian armed forces who died during or due to war service.
Five of the seven nurses being recognised hail from Victoria, with Sister Hilda Mary Knox, Sister Kathleen Margaret Neuss and Sister Caroline Mary Ennis already honoured this year.
The Last Post Ceremony for Corporal Sister Caroline Mary Ennis took place in May.
Sister Ennis enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service in 1940 and a year later embarked for service in Singapore.
In 1942, three days before the fall of Malaya, Sister Ennis was among 65 Australian nurses and over 250 civilian men, women and children evacuated on the SS Vyner Brooke.
Days later, Japanese aircraft bombed the ship and it sunk in Banka Strait on 14 February 1942.
Thirty-two nurses survived the sinking but 12 others, including Sister Ennis, were lost at sea and never seen again.
Accounts recall Sister Ennis cradling two small children, a Chinese boy and an English girl, before the raft disappeared.
Those who made it to shore eventually surrendered to Japanese troops, who then ordered them to walk back into the sea before they were machine-gunned to death.
A sole nurse, Sister Vivien Bullwinkle, survived the massacre.
In Canberra in May, ANMF Assistant Federal Secretary Lori-Anne Sharp laid a wreath to remember Sister Ennis.
“It was an honour and a privilege to commemorate the courage and bravery of Sister Ennis,” Ms Sharp said.
“She clung to those children and her priority was trying to save them. Her selflessness and compassion was undeniable.”
Retired Air Force Nursing Officer and Member of the Council of the Australian War Memorial, Sharon Bown, said it was important to recognise fallen nurses.
“In doing so, we honour all Australian nurses that have served and continued to serve, and those for whom they have provided such devoted care.”
Australian War Memorial Last Post Ceremonies for Australian Service Nurses
26 March – Sister Hilda Mary Knox
7 April – Sister Kathleen Margaret Neuss
8 May – Sister Caroline Mary Ennis
11 September – Staff Nurse Normal Violet Mowbray
27 September – Staff Nurse Irene McPhail
31 October – Staff Nurse Amy Veda O’Grady
20 November – Sister Blodwyn Elizabeth Williams