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;
©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."
|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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Her "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?"This was true - we did have a black cat in camp with us whom we called "Midnight" and it did know everything!
"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.
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.
MARGARET JEAN HANNA, RRC, FCNA
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.
When 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:-
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.
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 .