Title: Veils and Tin Hats – Tasmanian Nurses in the Second World War
Author: Henning, Peter
Edition: 1st Edition
Publication Date: 2013
Cover: Soft Cover without Dust Jacket – 306 pages
Comments: The story of the Tasmanians who served in the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps during World War 2. The author, Peter Henning has previous written “Doomed Battalion – Mateship and Leadership in War and Captivity : the Australian 2/40 Battalion 1940 – 45” and is an authority on Tasmanians who served during World War 2.
More than 200 Tasmanian nurses enlisted in military forces during the Second World War. The vast majority joined the Australian Army Nursing Service, smaller numbers joined the RAAF and the RAN nursing services and some joined military nursing services in England.
These women served in most theatres of war where Australian troops were sent, including the Middle East, Greece, Ceylon, Malaya and Singapore, New Guinea, Morotai, Bougainville, New Britain and Borneo. They worked in army hospitals and casualty clearing stations in most of these places. Some went to Canada with trainee air crew. Others served on hospital ships, particularly the Wanganella.
Some were captured by the Japanese and two of them died in captivity. Many others narrowly avoided being killed, injured or captured by enemy forces in Greece and in the flight from Singapore. Others avoided being bombed by Japanese raids on Colombo harbour by a matter of hours, as they were en route back to Australia from the Middle East.
Others worked in military hospitals throughout Australia, including the Northern Territory when it was exposed to regular Japanese air raids.
At the end of the war many of them continued to work well into 1946 outside Australia, as members of medical reception centres for allied prisoners of war. Some went to Manila, others to Rabaul and some stayed on at Morotai.
Also at the end of the war an entirely new army hospital was formed of experienced combat nurses to go to Singapore which was the main centre for receiving POWs before they returned home. A number of Tasmanian nurses were members of this unit, including some who had served in the Middle East, some in New Guinea and the south-west Pacific, and some who had escaped from Singapore in February 1942. One of the most emotional experiences in their lives was caring for the nurses who had been their colleagues in Malaya and Singapore in 1941-2 and who survived the war as prisoners of the Japanese.
The impact of the war on these nurses cannot now be fully evaluated. Their silence about their experiences has been more complete than the silence of men who went to war because it has been largely unnoticed.
This book is for Tasmania’s war nurses whose stories, in their diversity and in their similarity, have not been told at all, or have not been told within the context in which they worked, as active participants, closer to the action and to the realities of war than most members of the military except combat troops who actually fought the battles.