Lest We Forget
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Adams, Margaret Lamont; Callaghan, Eileen Mary; Chambers, Norah; Dryburgh, Margaret;
Everard, Ruby Clarice
Freeman, R. Dorothy; Greer, Jenny: Hanna, Margaret Jean; James, Nesta; Wilton, Mona;



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©Although Angell Productions is a Commercial Company, the "Brave Women" segment of its website is voluntary. All material thereon is copyright to the contributors and must not be reproduced, downloaded or otherwise replicated without written permission from Angell Productions.

(Extracts from "Patchwork" July 1943, the magazine of Presbyterian Ladies College, Melbourne and
reproduced with the kind permission of the college. First printed in "The Messenger".)
"Sister Margaret Lamont Adams, lost when the hospital ship Centaur was torpedoed, was the elder daughter of the late Mr. T.L. Adams and Mrs. Adams of East Malvern... She was a student at P.L.C. from 1928 till 1930 when she reached the Honour standard...

"Sister Adams had all the training and equipment of a highly qualified nurse but possessed, in addition, high courage and a strong and enduring faith. She nursed in the Children's and the Women's Hospitals, and also at St. George's Hospital, Kew. She enlisted in 1941 and saw service between Australia and the Middle East on the hospital ship Oranje. After that ship was transferred from the Australian service, Sister Adams was chosen as one of the nursing staff on the Centaur. Her loss comes with peculiar poignancy... she has left to a wide circle of friends the priceless memory of a beautiful life."

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Article and photographs© by courtesy of
Rod Miller 25th February 2001
Sister Eileen Callaghan did her nursing training at Calvary Hospital S.A., after which she joined the staff of the Broken Hill hospital as a theatre sister, and later was attached to the staff of the Yass Hospital, NSW. She was of a shy retiring and charitable nature. Known to all her friends as “Cal”, she held the respect and love of all who came into contact with her.
In 1940, along with Kay Parker and Mavis Cullen, she volunteered and enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service, and served with the 2/10th Field Ambulance in Rabaul. She was captured at the Vunapope mission and transported to Japan with the other five members of her unit, five missionary nurses, seven government nurses and Mrs. Kathleen Bignell. (Click here for the full list of the Rabaul women prisoners)

Due to the privations of being a POW Eileen developed pulmonary tuberculosis which severely incapacitated her. She was bed ridden for the last eighteen months of her internment and would not have survived the war if it weren't for the constant attention of her companions.

Cal 2

Eileen was a devout Catholic, she was the personification of unconquerable faith, hope and courage and had complete trust in God.  An Irish Priest in Japan delivered the last rights to her, so serious was her condition. This gave her great comfort.
On liberation she was too weak to be repatriated with the other women who flew to Manila. On the 23-9-1945 she embarked on the Hospital ship “Tjitjalengka” where her condition was listed as serious.

Upon her return to Australia she never fully recovered from her ordeal, convalescing for a long period till her sudden death on the 21st of March 1954.
Note: ©Article and ©photographs are copyright to Rod Miller.

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A graduate of the Royal Academy of Music in London, she lived on and off in Malaya for nearly forty years, first with her parents and later when she married John Chambers. He was a government civil engineer. They evacuated their 5 year old daughter to England when the Japanese invaded Malaya, but the Chambers were nearly caught. They made a harrowing 5-day trek through the jungle, finally finding a railway line and arriving in Singapore as full-scale evacuation was in progress. After their rescue vessel the Vyner Brooke was bombed and sunk, they were interned in separate camps. (Source: "Song of Survival")Norah Chambers
Norah Chambers combined her talents with those of Margaret Dryburgh (see below) to transpose the music for the vocal orchestra that was formed in the prison camps of Sumatra and Bangka Island. Norah trained the singers, whose performances inspired the internees for as long as the "orchestra" was able to continue. The only reason for its demise was the gradual death, from starvation and deprivation, of its brave members.
Her story has been told in Bruce Beresford's movie "Paradise Road", which depicts life in a prison camp which closely resembled that known as "The Men's Camp" at Bangka Island, off the coast of Sumatra. Some critics accused the movie of exaggeration, but the storyline devoted to Norah Chambers is true to her and to her spirit.

Norah Chambers
©"Song of Survival"


Was born in Sunderland (England) on 21 February 1890 and died in the prisoners camp at Belalau, Palembang, Southern Sumatra, on 23 April 1945. Apart from being a missionary Margaret Dryburgh was also a qualified nursing sister. Since June 1967 her grave has been moved from Palembang to Semarang (Central Java) in the Dutch War Cemetery. It is located in Plot V Row III No. 194 Useful link

"Miss Margaret Dryburgh, B.A.,
(By Betty Jeffrey in her booklet "Sammie", privately published)
was a Presbyterian Missionary from Singapore and lived in a garage in our camp with a small group of missionaries and teachers. I would think she would be in her late fifties when she came into camp. (Note: she was actually 52)

"We were so lucky we had her with us, in her quiet way she did so much for everyone. She organized Church Services, hymns, anthems, singing, writing, short stories, poetry, songs - then, after a while, writing music with Norah Chambers for the singers, both the "Glee Club" and the "Orchestra" (of voices), the latter being light classical music written in four parts to be hummed or "ah-ed" which gave the effect of an orchestra.

It was Miss Dryburgh who wrote the wonderful "Captives Hymn" which we all sang every Sunday morning at Church on the lawn by her garage. The missionaries conducted the Services.

Margaret DryburghHer "Alice in Internment Land" is a gem. It begins - "Is this a barracks?" said Alice, looking around a dusty square, enclosed by wooden sheds with thatched roofs. "I see no soldiers but - surely those are the women and children I have seen before - can they still be interned?"
"Yes, alas" said a voice at her feet. Alice noticed a black cat.
"Midnight, at your service" said he. "I can give you any information you want."... and so it goes on.
This was true - we did have a black cat in camp with us whom we called "Midnight" and it did know everything!

Miss Dryburgh died in our camp hospital on the 21st April, 1945, a few days after we had been transferred to Loebok Linggau. She had become very ill on that grim journey of three days and three nights from the Bangka Island camp - across the Bangka Strait followed by that long train journey across Sumatra to Loebok Linggau."

Betty Jeffrey went on to say: "I wrote in "White Coolies" at that time -
"That awful move from Muntok (on Bangka Island) was too much for her. What a wonderful person she was, and how hard she worked to give the people in the camp such pleasure...
Miss Dryburgh's death has caused much sadness throughout the whole camp.
Extracted from her booklet "Sammie"
To read "The Captives' Hymn" Click Here.
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(Known to her family as "Auntie Clack")
Clarice Everard was born at Marshfield, Keswick, Adelaide in 1889. She did her nursing training at the Adelaide Hospital in 1910. In May 1915 she volunteered to join the Australian Army Nursing Service to go overseas, but until she was posted abroad she served as a Sister in the Home Service.
She sailed from Australia aboard the S.S. Afric in November, 1916.Everard
Around February 1917 she was sent to France with the 3rd AGH and, while it was waiting to be set up at Abbeville, the nurses were attached to other short staffed hospitals. Clarice went to an un-named British General Hospital at Treport. She later returned to the 3rd AGH and remained with that Unit until the end of 1917.
During a German attempt to reach the channel forts, from March 21 to August 8, the 3rd AGH acted as a Clearing Hospital, taking cases directly from the battle fields.
July 1919, Clarice returned to Australia aboard the S.S. Ormonde.
Mentioned in Dispatches:
She received her 2 service medals, one with an Oak Leaf, for being Mentioned in Dispatches - a well deserved honour, according to the men whom she served. Two old Veterans told the Contributor that they were in tents, taking sick and wounded directly from the battle fields in mud and slush, with bombs dropping around them. The nurses were constantly running out of dressings and they operated in the snow, freezing cold. "They were so brave," the Vets said.
Clarice kept diaries but they disappeared at the time of her death and she was not known to talk of her personal experiences during her lifetime. "As far as I can make out," the Contributor wrote, "She didn't nurse after 1919." However during the Second World War, Clarice and her sister used to spin wool and knit socks for "the boys".
The Contributor:
Mary Gibson (Sr K.M. Everard, SFX13822)
Was born in Minlaton SA. She trained as a nurse at Adelaide Hospital, joined the AANS and met her future husband, Lance Gibson, (later a PoW of the Japanese) when they were being posted abroad on the Queen Elizabeth. She served in the Middle East and was later sent to serve with the 2nd 2nd AGH on Suez Canal. Following the war she continued nursing and was in charge of a ward of ex-prisoners-of-war of the Japanese. She continued to serve the community and was later awarded the O.A.M. for her services to war veterans and to the community, specializing in victims of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Chemical Intolerance.
Mary has been responsible for much useful input to our "Brave Women" pages, and we thank her.
Sr. R.D. Freeman, 2nd 10th A.G.H.
(From "While History Passed" by Jessie Elizabeth Simons)
"Little presents we would have scorned in other days were very precious... a small camp-made powder puff came my way in 1942 from Dorothy Freeman and Rene Singleton. Right then, I had no powder to use it with, but I will always treasure that little thing, embroidered with a spray of blue flowers and my initial, in memory of two girls we buried in Sumatra." 
"Dot Freeman, 2/10th AGH, another Victorian, was a sweet girl with whom internment went very hard. She slipped out one night early in August..." (8/8/1945)
(From "White Coolies" by Betty Jeffrey)
"Dorothy Freeman who was my senior in pre-war training days in Melbourne and worked for so long in the bakery business with Iole (Harper), Rene (Singleton), and me, having lots of fun with us, died on 8th August. For some time she had been getting a lot of malaria, dysentery, and beriberi, which would not let up. She was in hospital and died quite suddenly one night after she and Flo Trotter had had a cup of tea and a chat. Flo was on night duty and was terribly shaken, as we all were."
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Jean Keers Pemberton - nee Greer, 2/10th AGH
Born in Petersham, Sydney, Australia, Jenny was one of four daughters and a son born to Isaac Greer. She met her husband Duncan while he was visiting Sydney in 1940 from Borneo. They married in Singapore in 1947, but much had happened in Jenny's life in the meantime.

She joined the Australian Army Nursing Service early in the war, became a member of the 2nd 10th Australian General Hospital and was posted to Malaya in 1941, embarking from Sydney aboard the Queen Mary during January of that year. She was nursing at Malacca until the Japanese invasion of the Malayan peninsula forced the hospital to evacuate, retreating south and constantly re-establishing itself then retreating again under fire until the 2/10th found itself in Singapore during the last bloody days before the island fell to the Japanese.

For their own protection the nurses were forced, under protest, to evacuate and Jenny found herself amongst 65 nurses aboard the Vyner Brooke - a grossly overcrowded little vessel. In the midst of the terrible shambles and scramble that was the evacuation of Singapore, and as the ship left, Jenny is known to have done a lusty impersonation of Gracie Fields singing 'Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Good-bye!' in order to cheer everyone up.

Two days later, on 14th February the Vyner Brooke was sunk by Japanese bombing. After abandoning ship, Jenny found herself swimming in the water amongst the debris, the survivors and those who had not survived. She grabbed hold of a piece of wood and was soon joined by nursing colleagues Beryl Woodbridge, Flo Trotter, Joyce Tweddell and Jessie Blanch (all of the 2/10th AGH). "Jenny's a bit of a wag," Jessie Blanch reported, "And as we got into a current, it took us quite quickly away and Jenny started to sing 'We're Off To See the Wizard.' We all joined in. Surprisingly enough, the Captain got into a different current to us, went to Sumatra and got home. He reported, 'There were some Australian Sisters on my ship. I don't know how many or what happened to them, but they were singing 'We're Off to See the Wizard,' and our people at home wouldn't believe it.' "Anyway,"  Blanchie asserted, "It was true."

JennieThen followed many hours spent trying to survive in the water and trying to reach Bangka Island in the distance. A couple of the nurses in Jenny's party almost gave up but their colleagues kept urging them to hang on. Eventually the nurses stumbled ashore and were captured by the Japanese.

Jenny spent the next three and a half years as a prisoner of the Japanese, under squalid and cruel conditions, acute starvation and humiliation. When the nurses were liberated, Jenny was so close to death that she had to be carried onto the plane. She weighed only about 5 stone (32 kilos). (See Left)

In 1947 Jenny married her Scotsman and they lived in England. He died in 1971 but Jenny remained in Chichester where she made her home until her death on 7th December 2001.

Family friend, Iain Webber said: "I shall never forget Jenny's utterly wicked sense of humour, and the peals of laughter which resulted from her mischief. Most of all I will remember the way Jenny would 'do her bit' to break down the famous British reserve. She would pick on the most pompous looking person in the restaurant and deliberately engage them in conversation. It was wonderful to watch the change in the poor victim from, frequently, one of indignation, to the point where they would appear to have been the best of friends for years. Sheer magic!" 


Lt. Col. Margaret "Jean" Hanna won the Royal Red Cross for outstanding military service during World War II, during which she attained the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Her motto was: "Be diplomatic, be fair, listen to everyone."
Born 1902 in Walwa on the Upper Murray River, Jean Hanna was the daughter of a grazier. She was educated at the Melbourne Presbyterian Ladies' College, after which she entered the Alfred Hospital in 1927 and graduated in 1931. She then studied midwifery at the Women's hospital before returning to the Alfred. From there she furthered her training in England, arriving back in Australia just before the outbreak of World War II.
JHannahWhen war was declared she joined the Australian Army Nursing Service and was appointed sister-in-charge of the 2/1st CCS (Casualty Clearing Station). This unit was
posted to the Middle East in 1940. First casualties it nursed under Jean Hanna's leadership were at Mersa Matruh during the Battle of Bardia on January 1st 1941, perilously close to the fighting. The presence of women so near the front line caused great controversy at the time.
Hanna served in Palestine, Egypt (Alexandria) and Syria before being promoted to Matron of the 2/4th AGH (Australian General Hospital) in 1942 in Jerusalem. She set up hospitals in Colombo and Borneo, and in Queensland when the war moved closer to Australia. In 1945 she was in Borneo and attended the ceremony for the signing of the peace there. She was discharged from the AANS in 1946.
In 1947 she returned to the Alfred Hospital as Deputy Matron. By 1952 she had become Lady Superintendent and Director of Nurse Training, in which position she effected great changes in nursing life. She allowed nurses to live outside of the hospital, and she was the first administrator to accept males to train as nurses. She retired in 1962 and became sister-in-charge of the Children's Health Bureau for Anzac House – a position she held for 12 years, retiring aged 74. However she remained a member of the Victorian Nursing Council and the Florence Nightingale Committee.
She was the last of the nurses who trained at the Alfred Hospital to become its Administrator.
Jean Hanna was multi-decorated. In addition to the Royal Red Cross, she gained three campaign stars and three war medals.

Captain N. James, RRC, RAANS, VF39347
(Written and supplied by Presbyterian Ladies College, Melbourne)
Nesta James enlisted at the end of 1939 and was called up the AANS in January 1941. She was appointed Deputy Matron of the 2nd 10th Australian General Hospital and sailed for Malaya in February where she served for almost 12 months in Malacca. With the Japanese advance, the hospital was evacuated to Singapore. (For a vivid eye-witness account of the retreat from Malacca down the Malay Peninsula Click Here).
Two days before the fall of Singapore Nesta James and 64 other nurses from the two Australian General Hospitals plus the 2nd 4th Casualty Clearing Station were ordered to leave. They were some of over 300 passengers, mainly civilian women and children, who were loaded on to the Vyner Brooke. Nesta James was one of 32 nurses who survived the shipwreck and landed on Bangka Island. She had been 12 hours in the water.
There followed almost 4 years of extreme privation at the hands of their Japanese captors. Lack of food and water, crowded unhygienic conditions, ill treatment and scarcity of medical supplies led to malnutrition, illness and death. Most of the nurses lost about 20 kg in weight. The 24 nurses who survived were rescued on 16th September 1945. News reports were the first conclusive information families received on the nurses' fate, including those who had died (in the shipwreck, in captivity and in the Bangka Island massacre).
Captain James gave evidence to the Australian War Crimes Board of Inquiry in November 1945. She had been mentioned in Dispatches for her work during the evacuation of Singapore and received the award of the Associate of the Royal Red Cross. The citation reads as below:-
Nesta James
"During AIF operations in Malaya, Captain James was second in command to the Matron of the 10th General Hospital. Her conduct during the fighting on Singapore Island when the hospital was under mortar and steel fire was conspicuous in the disregard she had for personal danger and the quality of leadership she exhibited in the performance of her duties.

"During the time the hospital was under fire, the Sister by her calm and deliberate manner did much to minimize additional casualties, and maintained a high standard of efficiency in regard to care of the sick and wounded.

"The highest qualities of leadership and the total disregard for personal danger were exhibited throughout the campaign by Sister James, and she was an inspiration to patients and fellow officers."

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Mona Margaret Wilton, 13th AGH, VX61225
(Information supplied by her brother, Tom Wilton,  in Mona's memory.)
Photograph ©copyright to the family of Sr. M.M. Wilton.
Born on 8th August 1914 at Hamilton Hospital, Mona's father Frederick was a blacksmith and her mother Christina (nee Stewart) was a nurse. She had an older sister Amy and later a younger brother Tom. The family lived in Willaura, Victoria, with Mona beginning her education at Willaura State School. In 1924 the family moved to Naringal, near Warrnambool when Frederick purchased a farm and Mona continued her schooling at Naringal State School. In 1928 she went to stay with an aunt, Mrs George Meyers in Brighton and attended the Mordialloc and Carrum High School for 1 year. MonaShe then returned to the farm at Naringal and worked as sewing mistress at Naringal State School until 1933. She played tennis with the Allansford Tennis Club and attended the Allansford Presbyterian Church where, for a time, she was organist for church services.
In 1933, she joined her sister Amy as a nurse at Warrnambool Hospital, completing her training in General Nursing after 3 years, after which she obtained her Midwifery Certificate. While Mona was training, she met Wilma Oram and the two became firm friends. On completing her training, Mona did some private nursing around Warrnambool and then went to Daylesford as Head Sister for a time.
She kept in touch with her nursing friend Wilma. In 1939, Mona decided to join the AANS. She began training at Darley near Bacchus Marsh. It was Mona who persuaded Wilma Oram to join the Australian Army Nursing Service and eventually they both found themselves attached to the 13th AGH. After their final leave, the two nurses boarded the Wanganella in 1941, expecting to go to the Middle East.
Arriving instead on September 15th at Singapore where they initially set up a hospital at St Patrick's School. Mona expressed disappointment in her letters as it seemed at first to the nurses that they were on holiday.  Next they transferred to Johore Bahru where they set up the 13th AGH. However, soon after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour the invaders approached overland from the north and the nurses and their patients had to retreat to Singapore.
Mona's family reports: "Tent hospitals had been erected as there were many wounded soldiers coming in to be looked after. The nurses also had to contend with Japanese planes directing their bombs at the hospital." (see footnote) During the retreat of all units to Singapore members of the 13th AGH set up hospital again at St Patrick's School, where they had been stationed when they first arrived. The situation rapidly became hopeless and nurses of all units, extremely unwilling to leave wounded soldiers behind, were ordered to evacuate by sea in various requisitioned ships. Mona's family reports: "Mona was one of the group that boarded the Vyner Brooke (12th February 1942). When the small ship was bombed and sunk by the Japanese, Mona and her friend Wilma were in the water together as the ship went down. Mona was not seen again after the ship listed onto them and sank." (For eye witness accounts of the sinking of the Vyner Brooke Click here.)
Mona's vivacious personality is remembered fondly by her family and friends, and is preserved in the optimistic and often funny letters that she wrote to her nursing colleagues at home.

A copy of "Alice in Internment Land" is deposited in the Australian War Memorial amongst the papers of Wilma Oram Young.
"Sammie" can be bought through the Nurses Memorial Centre, Melbourne.
Muntok to Sumatra , March 1945: Read "White Coolies" (Betty  Jeffrey, Chapter 22) also "While History Passed" (J.E. Simons, Chapter 12)
The movements of the nurses of the 13th AGH included postings to Malacca, to Johore Bahru and some, including Mona and Wilma, being attached to the 2nd 4th Casualty Clearing Station. It is not within the scope of this page to list these movements in detail.

Links on this site:
Vivian Bullwinkel  .  Betty Jeffrey  .  Wilma Oram  .  J.E. Simons  . Thelma Bell  .  Jessie Blanch  . 
Lorna Whyte  .  Vunapope Mission  .  Vyner Brooke  .  Empire Star  . 
Vietnam civilian nurses  .  Brave Women  . Presbyterian Ladies College, Melb
"Paradise Road" movie . Royal Academy of Music, London  . 

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