Archive number: 1258
Preferred name: Kitch
Date interviewed: 21 November, 2003
You are listening to the interview audio
Loris can you tell me what year you were born in, and where you were born?
I was born in Mt Gambier in 1914.
And can you tell me a bit about the family that you were born into?
My mother and father of course and three sisters and one brother, an older sister and a younger one and no two sisters, God.
So two sisters?
Two sisters and a brother.
And what did dad do for a living?
We lived on a farm, yeah so.
So can you talk, what sort of farm was it?
Oh sheep and wheat and sheep and a bit of cattle.
And did your mum work around the house?
Around the house, she was a sewer and she was always sewing, making our clothes.
Did she make money out of that?
Not really, she made it for friends, you know made things for friends, mainly for, but she was a great sewer.
So she sewed
all of your clothes?
That would have been helpful during the depression when people didn’t have much money?
Yes yes it was the World War I years when I was born you know.
And what do you remember of your childhood in Mt Gambier?
I wasn’t in Mt Gambier, I was born in Mt Gambier, Tantanoola it was yes. Well I was never bored, you know
I always found something to do, we would yabby in the drains, there was a big drain running along which I believe is non-existent now. And we used to yabby and we would look at birds nests, and there was all sorts, you know the hays, the birds would nest under there, I don’t know we always had something to do and I can’t remember. We did go to a beach sometimes in the holidays.
Can you tell me something about your school years when you were at primary school?
Primary school, well we had to walk about three miles to the school, and we had sport, and what else can I say, yeah we had, it was a small school and we had one teacher and he did everything
you know. He played the piano for our singing and for our choir and you know he taught us as well.
Was he a good teacher?
Oh very good teacher, he taught us so we got a scholarship you know some of us you know and that was unusual.
How did you get a scholarship?
Through the marks in my year 7.
did that mean if you got a scholarship?
That I could go onto secondary school, and they paid a certain amount. I don’t think it was very much, I think it was about 30 shillings a quarter or something like that but of course 30 shillings was quite a lot of money.
And what sort of person was your mum, what was your mum like?
Very feisty, no she was very capable and a good cook.
And as I say she was a good, she would rather sew than do housework.
I suppose it gave her a bit of peace and quiet did it?
Yes she used to get on the old threading machine and sew and into the night she would sew you know. She would do her work in the daytime and then sit up at night and sing and treadle.
Can you remember some of the songs?
They were always sad songs, they were I
said to her, “Don’t you know any happy songs?”
I can’t just think now, there was one about a man he was in the church and there was, he was getting married and a woman came in and said that is my husband and this is our little child.
And another one about in the luggage van ahead that was some sort of a body in there. She never had too many happy songs.
Do you know if they were Australian songs; do you know where the songs came from?
Oh they would be I suppose because she was born there, here, yeah.
She was from that area, the south west?
No no she wasn’t she was in Milang up near
Murray Bridge that way, that is where her parents were.
So how did your mum and dad meet each other?
I think she must have, I think she went down there for a holiday. And yes and she met him then.
So we were just talking about where,
where you think your mum and dad met each other?
No my mother, I said Milang but my mother was a dressmaker in Melbourne and she came for a holiday in Tantanoola and met him, met him so.
And they fell in love with each other?
Yes I think she had another boyfriend in Melbourne but she sort of got her eye on my father.
So was your dad a good looking man?
Oh I thought so.
And so she went and lived on the farm with your dad. So was it hard work on the farm?
Yes well all farms are fairly hard.
What and did you have any animals on the farm?
Yes horses and cattle and a few cattle and sheep
And did the kids help out, did the children you kids have to help out?
Not very much no, oh we used to have to collect the eggs and things like that and help with the sheep sometimes but not a lot. It wasn’t a very big farm.
So he just managed it by himself did he?
So you went to
school and you got a scholarship for secondary school and where was the secondary school?
So how did you attend school from Tantanoola?
Well we used to have to board away for the week and go home on the weekends.
And who were you boarding with in Millicent?
A lady a sort of a spinster lady that ran sort of a
And she looked after you and cooked you meals?
Yes. I have just got something stuck in my throat. Pardon me.
So what was this women like, I suppose you would have had to spend a bit of time with her?
Yes, well we didn’t see her very much except at meal times and we went home at the weekend. She was a very nice lady, she was very capable and busy, she had other people as well as us there.
So were there other kids living at the boarding house?
No not other kids there were other people, mainly people who were out of work. I can
remember a couple of men who were there and they were out of work, unemployed you know.
I wonder how they paid their rent at the boarding house?
I don’t really know, I suppose they must have had some money.
So did you notice many people out of
work in those days?
Quite a lot, quite a lot I think most of the population in Tantanoola anyway, there was nothing there really to, some of them went away to work on railways and things like that but there was no nothing much to do there. And people couldn’t afford to employ them on the farms.
So what did
they do all day?
Go looking for work I suppose, but you know there wasn’t much money in farming or anywhere.
And can you describe to us what sort of a town Millicent was, was there a main street?
Can you talk a little bit about what the township was like?
There was a main street, just one main street, I can’t recall the name of it and that is where the
high school was on the main street and there was shops, there was shops, but it is much bigger now of course.
What kind of shops?
Well there was a big grocery store and men’s clothing and all clothing, women’s clothing too, perhaps a couple of delicatessens or but not a lot at that time.
Nowadays shops look a lot different from when they did then. So are you able to describe when you walked into the shop what did you see in a shop; what were the clothes like that they sold, can you?
Well it was mainly they used to be very junky shops you know you had to walk around things and the grocery shops in particular you had to sort of jump over things.
The clothes were quite, well for that era they were quite good.
And did they have cash registers?
Yes I can remember those things they had up on the wire and they would shoot the change down. And then they altered that of course they had the ordinary cash
register. But I can remember those things shooting around.
And did you have much money to spend in the shop?
No. No, very little money and everybody was in the same boat, you know it wasn’t just us. It was everybody.
So it was a depression era at that time?
Well yes until well it was in the 30's until 39 and then suddenly they
seemed to get money from (UNCLEAR) and things.
Were the people depressed I mean was it a very sad time?
People were depressed. You know they were very shabby and yes. See they did have a thing called rations and they did have food, they were allowed a certain amount of food.
And what was the food and how much were you allowed to
We didn’t have it of course because we had eggs and bacon and all the rest of it. I don’t think it was very much, a certain amount of butter and a certain amount of sugar and meat I guess but not a lot, they you know as I say it was rations, so it wasn’t a lot of food.
And so could women buy stockings in those days?
Yes you could buy them if you had the money.
But people didn’t have a lot of money and yes everybody seemed to be the same.
Were people helping each other out?
Well my father used to grow vegetables and he would take them to people and give them to people and invite them to come and get them you know, lettuces, and cabbages and cauliflowers and all that sort of thing. And he would give them to them.
So you were in quite a good position?
Well as far as food was concerned, but that was all,
there wasn’t any money.
So you never got to go to the shop and buy some lollies or anything?
Oh yes, I think it was three pence a week.
How much is that nowadays?
Well I don’t know, I don’t know. But you know you got quite a bag of lollies for that, boiled lollies.
And it was only boiled lollies?
Well that is all we could afford.
Or pittance or something like that.
And did you enjoy high school?
Yes yes, I wasn’t terribly good after that.
Not terribly good at what?
Well I wasn’t very good at school I had been up to when I went to high school and I didn’t seem to understand algebra and all that sort of thing, you know. No I didn’t
seem to, my sister was much better than me.
What did you enjoy about school, what did you think you were good at?
Sport. I used to play tennis and basketball, that is it. But I liked that.
English I used to like writing stories, I suppose English was the thing I liked best. French, I liked French. But I yes, I still when I started nursing, I still had my French books with me and used to look it up occasionally but I can’t remember now too much.
Can you remember any of the stories
you wrote for English?
No I can’t remember they were probably just essays, we used to call them compositions and yeah no I don’t, but I know that I used to like doing it.
And who did you play in sport?
Well we just played amongst ourselves, or another little village you know, sometimes tennis, when we were playing tennis, we would get some, we would be in opposition to some little village around the district. And that was basketball and tennis but very seldom went away from home.
And when you were at high school, what did you think you would be when you got older when you left high school?
Well my parents were always saying that you have got to be a school teacher. Well I suppose I was just doing it because they said so, but of course as I say I wasn’t terribly bright. And my father had been in hospital a bit and he said, “I would like somebody to be a nurse”
and he thought the nurses were wonderful so that is what happened. I went to a little private hospital to start when I was young and from then on I did my training.
Were you happy to do that job?
Yes yes I did, I liked it immediately.
So if you dad hadn’t of suggested it do you think?
I wouldn’t have no, I didn’t know much about it and it didn’t appeal to me I suppose but
he said about it you know he would like someone to do it and I thought “oh well” you know and he was a gentle kind man you know and I thought to please him I will do it. And I got the job too. There was very little work about so I was very pleased to do it.
So your dad was a lovely man?
Yes yes. Very gentle man you know, very honest you know and gentle, didn’t like
anything shady or you know.
And did he always work on a farm, did his family come from the land as well?
Yes yes yes yes they came out from Germany, Switzerland I think it was and they bought this place so it was sort of handed down.
So you remember did he come from the French part of Switzerland or the German part?
The German part.
And did he speak German?
Oh no it wasn’t my father, it was his parents.
And did your father speak any?
No no, because my grandmother was Scotch and my grandfather was a you know a German. They go back to Germany sometimes some of them.
So when you started your nursing carrier where were you then?
I was in Mt Gambier in
a little private hospital and then, I was there for about 12 months maybe and then I came to Adelaide and went to so many hospitals asking if I could train and I eventually got one that could take me. And it was called Parkland and I trained started my training
there. And then I went to the Royal Adelaide [Hospital].
So you had a year in Mt Gambier training, how many years training did you need to have to qualify?
Well I had to have four years because I did two years at the private hospital and two years at the Royal Adelaide. Had I gone straight to the Royal Adelaide I would have only done three years.
What sort of things did you start off with, when you were in Mt Gambier what sort of things were
they teaching you?
It was a little maternity hospital and I was just there, well I was called, but I enjoyed it and it was interesting, occasionally they would take another patient, but it was nearly all maternity cases.
What sort of things did you do there?
Look after the babies, change their nappies help
feed some of them and take them to their mothers.
And who was delivering the babies?
A doctor, there were three or four doctors in Mt Gambier.
And you weren’t present at the birth of the babies?
Do you remember the first time you saw a baby born?
Yes I did, it was a breach baby and it had one little foot
out and they said you have to foam out the foot, that was hot foam outs, and I thought it was the woman’s foot I had to foam out and they came in and said, “No no no, it is the babies foot you have to keep warm.”
Why did they do that?
Well I suppose for circulation but of course that is old hat now no doubt, but yes this little foot and it was terrible
birth, the baby was stillborn, terrible birth.
That must have been very sad?
Yes yes it put me off.
It put you off doing?
Well yes I didn’t well I would have done maternity, I would have done it only the war came you see and I either went to the war or did my midwifery.
Was that a common thing for babies to be still born in those days?
No no I didn’t see any other, that is the only one I had seen.
Did they try and turn the babies in those days?
Yes yes they did, yes.
How did they do that?
Just with manipulation, but they couldn’t do this one you see because I suppose the foot was out,
it was out for so long.
What kind of drug, did they use drugs then on the mothers?
Yes, but I can’t think of the, because that lady, they called it twilight sleep but I just can’t think of the name of the drug, but she was certainly helped
by this, whatever it was I just can’t recall that name.
And was caesareans common?
No, no I don’t know that I saw a caesarean, no they just had to be in labour for goodness knows how long. My mother was you know she said, but her births were terrible.
Well so long, yes, she had one stillborn baby but it was so long too before they were born all of us.
Would there have been a higher mortality rate then for babies and for mothers?
I think for mothers not necessarily, I don’t think that I saw any mothers and only that one baby the still born one. No they were very efficient these ladies that ran the hospital, they were very efficient and the Doctors were good you see, they usually, I don’t recall another one.
And then you went to Adelaide after Mt Gambier?
Why did you leave Mt Gambier?
Well because it wasn’t a training hospital there was a general hospital there but I don’t know why, I don’t know that there was training there, no I don’t think they trained there at that time, there wasn’t enough patients I suppose and I had to come to Adelaide to get, go to a training hospital.
What did your mum and dad think about you leaving Mt Gambier?
Well they were
glad. Because you know because they knew that I wasn’t going to get anywhere other than just sort of run around and do the chores and you know I could, I always attended the births but I wasn’t going to be trained.
And what were you, had you been to Adelaide before?
Yes I had been but I really didn’t
know where to go to all these hospitals and a girl came with me that I knew in Adelaide and we tramped around all day and that was the last one that I went to that I got the job.
Why did they give you the job?
I think because I came from the country and they thought that I was going to be able to do anything and I had been working in a hospital
so they you know knew that I knew a little bit about it.
And which hospital was this?
Parkland on the East Terrace I think it was, it is still there anyway.
So you get to Parkland, which is a training hospital, what kind of things were they teaching you there?
There was medical and surgical there, a lot of surgery, they did a lot of surgery and you went into the… [Tape stops]Well you gave out drugs and you took temperatures and I don’t know, you do what
you generally do with nursing dressings, a lot of dressings of course because it was surgical.
So was that a bit scary the first time you were in surgery?
Well no not really, we used to go to the theatre, no not really.
And you would assist the doctors in the surgery?
no one of the sisters did, I was just a nurse. You sort of wash instruments and watch what was going on but no you didn’t do a lot of assisting because they had the, the theatre sisters.
What was there common illness or disease at that time? What were you treating quite a lot of?
Appendicitis. Oh well yes appendicitis and sometimes fluey [influenza] things that you know people had to be in hospital and pneumonia, and pneumonia was never cured, the antibiotics weren’t about and you would get a mortality rate with pneumonia.
So it is not like it is
today, it was a sort of frightening thing then?
Oh absolutely people always seemed to die with pneumonia.
How did you treat pneumonia in those days?
Well just sitting them up, a bit of lung massage you know, nothing much because, as I say there were no antibiotics, and just keep watching their temperature, there was not much
treatment. And they used to give them some cough medicines and things like that, there was no other treatment, fluids.
Did you see much polio?
Yes I did but that was after I went to the Royal Adelaide. I didn’t see a lot of it but it was there about.
And when you were
at the training home, where did you live?
We had quarters there. We used to sleep on the veranda.
You slept on the veranda? Well people don’t do that much any more.
No no you wouldn’t be able to any more would you, it would be too scary. No
well we all slept on the veranda but we did have a room with our clothes in it, but I don’t know why we, but we slept in some stables and some mosquitoes used to get at us all night.
You didn’t have mosquito nets?
No not there we did in the army of course.
And did you make good friends?
Yes yes I made a lot of good friends, people
that I am still friendly with.
That is a long time?
Well why did you leave Parkland to go to the…?
Well I had to to finish training, but that was only a part time training school.
And what kind of things were you doing at the Royal Adelaide in that final training year?
Well the first year we were just
doing bed pans and running trays around and that sort of thing, and then we got to, well taking temperatures and sponging and then we got to doing more things like taking blood and blood pressures. You know that sort of thing.
Did you have to sit any exams?
Yes. Yes you had to do physiology and
anatomy. The first one was cook, invalid cookery and I wasn’t very good at that and the next one was physiology and anatomy and I don’t think there was anything else but every year we had an exam at the Adelaide surgical one and a medical one and then the finals. And that was both medical and surgical.
earlier that you weren’t that good at school, you didn’t think you were very bright, but you passed your physiology and anatomy?
Yeah well my brains must have come back. No I think the teaching at the school wasn’t as good as it is now because children go to year 12, if anybody was going to year 12 when I was at school, they were a genius. You know there were very few people that did that,
they couldn’t afford it for one thing and another thing, no the teachers weren’t as good as they are now.
What do you remember about Adelaide city
at that time? What are your memories at that time?
Well when I was at the Adelaide or the Parkland and it wasn’t very far out of the city and I used to walk there and have a look around because it took me a long time to find, to find Adelaide. I suppose there wasn’t as many shops because, it was pretty big, Rundle Street was pretty big, you know
there were cinemas and delicatessen and Myers, David Jones, not David Jones whatever that was I can’t remember and John Martins and Harris Scarfe’s.
Were more people working here, you said that there wasn’t very many people who had jobs in?
No it was still a depression time,
until 1939. Then they went into missions and that sort of thing, but you know they had jobs but not, you know a lot of unemployment and poor pay. We were very poorly paid, the nurses were we were very poorly paid.
What were you getting as a nurse then?
I think we were getting, I think it was, no I want
to be right about this, I think the first year. It was about 13 shillings and then the next year was 15, I think that was right.
How often did you get paid that amount?
I think it was every fortnight, it was paid into the bank and we had to go and get it.
what did the unemployed men do in the city? What did the unemployed men do in Adelaide?
Looking for work I guess, there was employment but they still didn’t get very much money, you know it was still a bit poor, yeah they would go round looking for work the same that they would be doing now.
Can you talk about the ballot because
not everyone would understand that?
The ballot that you had to line up for jobs?
Oh I don’t know because I never did it.
Did you see that?
I did see it, yes these men lining up see they advertised all, amounts of a certain jobs and these men would line up and yes it was done by ballot.
How honest it was I don’t know.
Interviewee: Loris Church Archive ID 1258 Tape 02
Loris when you weren’t training or working at the Royal Adelaide Hospital what would you be doing with your time off?
Sleeping, sleeping and then I would quite often go to town, go to
a movie, but walk around, I never had much money for shopping but I would have a look at the shops, and go to a movie. I didn’t go to anywhere much else. We didn’t go to dinner or anything like that because there wasn’t enough money.
Did your girlfriends do that with you, your girlfriends from work?
Did they come with you to the cinema?
Oh yes yes, quite often two or three of us would have a day
off together and we would go to the cinema.
How often would you be allowed a day off?
Once a week.
One day a week yes.
What films were you going to see at that time?
I remember Robert Taylor, a very good looking man a love story I guess, mostly romances I guess, Gone With the Wind. That is all right it was after.
So what was it like working
with other nurses and sisters at the Royal Adelaide Hospital?
Well nurses were great, well we had a lot of fun you know we would have to clean what they called backs at night and we had a terrific amount of them, we had to do the bed pans and things like that you know, we would all be giggly and laughing and getting into trouble. Some of the old sisters were very stern.
Can you tell us about
Well they had been there for many years. And they were very efficient, you know looking back I see how efficient they were. They were very strict. But of course you know, we weren’t when we were finished our training because we didn’t want to be like that.
Why were they so strict?
I think it was just their
training. They were probably brought up the same way as they were, trained the same way as they were.
How much older than you were these other sisters?
Well they were 40ish and 50. To me that was quite old, when you are in your 20's you know, early 20's.
Were you ever given more periods of leave other than the one day off?
Yes you had three weeks holiday, once a year, I think it was three weeks and I would go back to the farm.
What would you do there?
Rest mainly, and help I used to clean, I used to do some work for my
mother as I say, she was so busy sewing, she didn’t like housework much and I would go out, I would go and visit people.
So during this three weeks back at home, you would mainly be resting?
Yes and helping about the place and
talking and visiting, I still had a lot of friends down there, school friends and people round the district.
What were they up to back home?
Well one that I was particularly friendly with had a business, a general store and she worked there and most of them were on farms or.
So they got work that way?
Yeah well the farms generally belonged to them you see and they would help out the place.
Did anybody else from home go to Adelaide to work?
Were your parents proud of you?
Well that is what they wanted me to do or my father wanted me to do because he had been in hospital and he had seen what nurses were doing and he.
So can you tell me about graduating?
Well you had as I say three exams,
medical and surgical and apart from anatomy and physiology and then you had your finals. There was no graduation you just went and collected your certificate, which I just saw in my draw there, you just went and collected your certificate and then you know you had to go and find a job.
Were you glad to receive your certificate?
Oh yes yes. That is what we were working for, aiming for.
So at this time did you know that the war was coming?
Yes well yes we did know. I think I finished in 1930 at the end of 1938 and by 1939 the war was on. I was then a staff nurse at the Adelaide, I was at the Royal Adelaide and then I
well they were taking, after the war started they were taking so many nurses you see and then we were on the staff. It was a staff nursing and we were in charge of wards.
So you got a job because nurses were already starting to go off to war and there were some vacancies and, is that how it worked?
No no not really
you were told earlier that you would be taken on the staff, before you finished your training. I worked with somebody who recommended me, one of the older sisters.
Well that must have been nice to know you were going into a job?
Yes yes it was, because, well you could do private nursing and that was more lucrative and there were
plenty, I think there were plenty of jobs about, I don’t think anybody was out of work, I don’t think nurses have ever been out of work.
Were you getting paid better now that you were a general staff member at the hospital, was the pay any better now that you were a general?
Yes it was about two pounds a week I think. Yes it was more than you got.
were your brothers and sisters doing during this time?
My brother was still at, no my brother he went to school until he was about 17 or 18 and then he left and he went to work with my brother, my brother in law who was a builder and my sister my
sister was married when she was quite young. She had been doing some nursing but she left it because she, you know it was a bit too hard for her, she wasn’t very strong and she was doing some nursing too.
Were you all keeping in close contact, were you writing?
oh yes all the time.
Can you tell me about enlisting in the army, what you had to do and why you did it? Enlisting in the army?
Oh well I could hardly wait, as soon as just after war broke out and you had to wait your turn. See
I was called up in 1941 and it was two years after the war started, but we were all very anxious to go.
Why were you anxious to go?
Well it was overseas and I just felt it was a nice thing to do looking after soldiers who were wounded and it would be something
I hadn’t done, I hadn’t done any wounded soldiers before.
Did you think you had a good idea before you left what it would really be like?
No not really no no it was quite a shock.
Can you tell us about what the other nurses were thinking at that time?
Well we were all the same, we wouldn’t have just sort of joined up if we didn’t want to go and it was a chance of
going overseas as well, we were all very anxious and we didn’t really know what was going to happen, well nobody did.
So what did you do in between being called up, you were still working at the Royal Adelaide?
From 1939 and 1940 to 1941?
Yes and then I went to Woodside, women were called up and went to Woodside, for quite a
short time because we went away in a hurry.
How much notice were you given before you left for Woodside?
Notice how long did they give you?
A very short time, I would say it was only maybe a couple of months that we were in the camp and then I went home on leave, it was called embarkation leave that gave us an idea that we were going to go somewhere and
while I was on that leave I got a phone call to say to come back and I came back on the Saturday and by Monday we were leaving.
What was your training like at Woodside, what did you do to train there?
Well at the time there was a, a lot of chest infections, we called it dogs disease because they were coughing, coughing, coughing, and there were a lot of them
down with that, but otherwise there wasn’t very much because they were just training, the boys were just training the same as us.
Did you have to learn how to march or anything like that?
No we didn’t have that. They do now but we didn’t, we didn’t salute and we didn’t march.
What sort of uniforms were you given at Woodside?
That one in there, in the cupboard.
Can you describe it to me?
Well you can have a look if you like. We had a grey uniform and very stiff collars and cuffs, they were sort of like celluloid and a veil which was now obsolete and a red cape and brown shoes and brown stockings.
Can you tell us a bit more about the dogs disease?
Well they were coughing, coughing and temperatures you know we would sort of have to give them plenty of fluids. At that time I think there was an antibiotic about, yes yes it was about, but not very
much, it wasn’t known as it is now. We didn’t have the range of antibiotics that we do now. Only fluids and take their temperatures and make sure that they would be dry because they would be perspiring a lot.
Was dog’s disease common in Australia, was it all over Australia?
No I don’t think so, I think it was only because
this camp, it was very very damp up there at Woodside. And it was only because, and I suppose because they were out in the open a good bit when they were doing their training.
What were your quarters like at Woodside, how did you sleep and eat?
They were huts. They were quite comfortable, cold, they were quite comfortable, a bed and just a dressing table and but you know they were huts.
What were they made from?
I think they were sort of timber with an iron roof.
And where would you eat, was there a common eating area?
Yes yes dining room.
And did you have any time off during your time at Woodside, did you have one day off a week?
Yes yes, I don’t know about one day a week, but we did have time off because I can remember
being on leave when, the rumour went around that we were going to be shipped out, yes we did. And we had vaccinations, typhoid and small pox and the small pox was particularly bad it was sort of done with a needle and I had a terribly bad arm and so did my friend
and we were going around moaning about our arms.
What was wrong with them?
Well it was all blistered you know sort of and painful, very painful.
How long did that last for?
Oh two or three weeks, it was like a scab and it would fall off.
So during your leave you went home only to find that you were going to be called back?
Yes. I was going to say actually I was visiting those two ladies where I worked the first job I had when the phone call came, see it went to my home and
then they rang them and told me, you know that I had to get back.
So it was quite urgent to get hold of you?
Yes yes because I had to come, I only had the weekend to leave, before we left.
How did your family feel about you leaving?
Well I think they were worried, but they were proud, happy too, you know because that is what I wanted.
And while I was there, there was a party for me, I can remember, so they knew, it was embarkation leave and so they knew that I would be doing and we had a party because I can remember getting a present.
Do you remember what that was?
Yes it was one of those.
Sorry hang on a moment. Can you tell me what you got as a going away present?
It is in there it is a leather thing, what do you call them, it is a leather case anyway for papers and documents and I used to keep my letters in it because I still have letters from my brother, who was in the Middle East and I kept them, I still have all those letters.
your brother already in the Middle East at this time?
Yes he went away, he went away in 1939 to the Middle East.
Did you know what he was doing there, was he allowed to tell you where he was?
No it would just say abroad, AI for abroad his letters would be and they were censored, so I knew he was, I knew where he,
well I knew he was in the Middle East but I didn’t know exactly where.
What was he telling you about his experiences over there?
Nothing very much because it was heavily censored. Yes he liked it, he said he would do it all over again if he had the opportunity. And of course he was in the field regiment,
You know where the machine gunners and it was just, I don’t suppose it was terribly pleasant but he didn’t even complain about it. And he didn’t complain about the desert.
Do you remember who came to your going away party?
Some of the local people, I remember an uncle, he was the one that presented me with that thing, and
some of the local people, relatives mainly because there were quite a lot of relatives down there.
Did you take anything from home because you knew you were going now to war, did you take anything back that you were going to take with you?
No you were fairly restricted to what you can do, to take we had a cabin trunk, a big cabin trunk and you could only take what they issued you with,
like they issued you with underclothes, stockings, uniforms, that is all you took.
Were you allowed jewellery?
No. no. never. A watch but nothing or a watch you pinned on.
So what did you pack, what did the army make you pack when you
got ready to leave?
Just the, the issued, issued underclothes and the stockings and two pairs of shoes and an outdoor uniform and a hat, well because I wore that away the hat and the outdoor uniform, the grey working clothes and the veils
and we had, the cape had the rising sun, the uniform had the rising sun and two pips our rank and they had silver buttons, I have got them in the draw over the, and silver buttons down the indoor uniform, the working uniform.
What rank were you at this point?
soldiers have to salute you?
I guess they did, yeah well not really no they didn’t.
Were you paid the same as a male lieutenant?
No no, we were paid eight shillings a day, the same as a private.
Did that seem unfair at the time?
Yes yes well after all we were qualified, I didn’t think about it until I came back. I
just thought, well you took everything for granted, you just did as you were told. But afterwards I thought about it.
So what happened from Woodside, what sort of transport did you get and where did you go?
Well we had a, came down in a truck, an army vehicle and we went to the railway station and we got on the train at night, I think it was
called an express or something and from there we went to Melbourne and from there we went to the boat.
Do you remember how you and the other women were feeling at this time?
Well I think we were all quite excited. When you are young nothing is going to happen to you anyway. But we were all very excited. But we didn’t know where we were going. And I was quite sure we were going to Darwin.
You know I don’t know why I thought that, but I was quite sure and when we got where we were going I couldn’t believe it you know.
So you arrived at the ship, had they told you when you got to the ship where you were going?
No we weren’t told at all. Except that we were given lectures on tropical diseases but I still thought it was going to be Darwin.
Where were you given the lectures?
On the boat.
The doctors were on the boat, they were coming with us and they were telling us about tropical diseases.
Did the doctors know where you were going?
Oh yes everybody knew but I just couldn’t be convinced.
What what was the name of the boat?
The Wonganella it was a hospital ship.
And do you remember how long the trip was on the Wonganella?
How long the trip was, how long it took
No I don’t really remember, it was quite a time because I can remember being seasick, it was quite a time because you had to sort of travel so that you were out of range of any war like things although at the time there wasn’t a war but you know, but that is what they did, they sort of travelled so that they were out of the danger, water, also there were
mines, we had a minesweeper on it anyway. But I just can’t remember how long, I would say it would be over a week.
What were the conditions like on board?
Very nice, the food was very nice, it had been because I didn’t eat because I was seasick but the menu was beautiful, you know
And your quarters?
No I think that is what made me sick I was down, I could smell the engine and hear it and smell it and we were in bunks, I think there were four of us to a room, a berth, and you know I could smell that oil.
Could you hear the engine as well?
So when you weren’t being seasick what else were you doing on the sip when they weren’t giving you lectures, did you have any leisure?
Yes we had, gas masks and packs and you know
we had to have this drill to show us how to use the gas masks and tin helmets, we had that for just about half an hour in the morning. I can remember them dancing on the deck with the crew, but I didn’t, and we just, we didn’t have any work to do
because it was all staff. There was a hospital staff there on the ship so we didn’t have to do it.
Was it a ship that was a Red Cross ship, would people?
So you felt quite safe on there?
I did at that time yes.
And then where did you land?
Yes in the harbour there and then we were yes, we were taken to the, it was called St Patrick’s College and they turned it into a hospital and we were taken there and that is where we had to work.
Do you remember your first impressions of Singapore, you first trip away from home?
Yes we had a day to look around and I remember with my friend walking
to Raffles, you know you have heard of Raffles Hotel you see, we had to go and see Raffles and this man came along, he was an Englishman, “Oh” he said, “You should not be doing this” he said, “European ladies never walk anywhere.” And so and we wondered what we were supposed to do. We were supposed to get a taxi of course you know with very little money. We weren’t encouraged to take money with us.
You know we weren’t supposed to take, bring money and we went to Raffles and had a look at it. Very disappointed, it was very ordinary at that time.
Was all your money being paid to you or did some of it go home to your family?
Oh no, I think they did keep sixpence or something a week or something
but no no it didn’t go to my family it went to me but as I say it was eight shillings a day, it wasn’t you couldn’t do very much with it, you had to save to go anywhere to look around.
Did Singapore smell or feel different to Australia?
Yes yes you had the people going through the streets spitting betel nut, I thought they all had
tuberculosis. I didn’t realise it was betel nuts and I thought “I better keep away from you.” And they were very, the shops they used to try and barter try to get you to you know bargain.
Did you like that?
Oh yes because you usually got your own price.
Well of course you didn’t eat, you didn’t eat in the restaurants there, you weren’t encouraged, you also weren’t encouraged to drink the water.
That must have made it hard when you had any time off?
Yes yes. And the shops at that time were very cheap. I was very lucky, in that,
well I had some money before I went away and I wasn’t going to throw it away so I took it with me in my money belt and I was able to buy quite a lot of things, you know something like nice blouses and things for 2 and 11 pence that sort of thing and I sent them home to the family so they did very well.
Did they like the things you sent for them?
Yes oh yes the blouses were lovely they were all. But we didn’t even eat when we were, and there was a swimming pool there, we used to go to that a public pool and we did that on our time
off. Have a swim.
What about the water?
Well it didn’t bother us, we went there quite often and there was a hotel, the Seaview Hotel, when we had enough money we would go and have a meal there. But we didn’t, I don’t think we ever had a meal at Raffles.
Do you remember your bathing suit?
Yes one piece, yes a one-piece bathing suit, floral, it was rather pretty, that got left behind you know when I.
Was that army issue or did you have to buy it?
No I bought that, my sister sent it to me, I didn’t realise you know that we would be able to swim and she sent it to me so you know. I thought it was very
Can you tell us of your first impressions of St Andrews when you first got there what it was like?
When you first arrived at St Andrews?
St Patrick’s, sorry what your first impressions of St Patrick’s was?
Well it was a fairly big building it was two or three storeys. But we just had a, we had rooms, bedrooms there and just sort
of, I have forgotten what they were called and what is the trouble.
They were kind of rope mattresses and we had a mosquito net, which was very hard to sleep with this mosquito net on because
it was very humid.
So did you get any airflow through that?
No not really, no it was very very humid there and very hot.
And did you have a room to yourself?
No we shared a room, just two of us but we used to find that mosquito net a bit airless.
Did you use it?
I didn’t dare not.
So what were your first duties when you got to St Patrick’s, what were you told that you were going to be doing?
Well we had malaria and typhus patients and we had to look after them. They had (UNCLEAR) you know they had drugs for that,
mainly because the war wasn’t on then and it was mainly sickness, you know maybe chest complaints but a lot of them malaria and then when I, I wasn’t long at St Patrick’s when I was sent up to Malacca to relieve some of the girls so that they could go on leave, they would go on 2/10th Hospital, they would go on leave
and we would go up there to relieve them. I went up there several times.
Were the men that you were treating or was it all men that you were treating?
And were they all western men or were they locals?
No we didn’t have any locals no, they were all army personnel.
And where had they got malaria from,
just from being in Singapore or?
No not Singapore further up, I don’t know where they were but it was just further away up in the jungle part where they were doing their training.
And then they would be brought down to you for treatment?
Tell us about Malacca the first time you went there, how was that?
Well I had seen a thing in the Women’s
Weekly and it said that army nurses are living like film stars, so I thought isn’t this wonderful I am going to be a film star and when I got there it was a culture shock I can tell you because we were out on a veranda, slept out on a veranda with all the mosquitoes and the little geckos used to fall down on us, it was a hatched,
a hatched roof on this veranda so it was far removed from Hollywood.
Did you have mosquito nets at Malacca?
But they didn’t keep the geckos off?
No I don’t think we always used the mosquito nets there because I can remember a gecko falling on my chest and I threw it down, jumped out of bed and put my foot on it.
What were the nurses like at Malacca, did you get along well with them?
Yes yes there was several of that I knew from Adelaide, when I say several there weren’t from Adelaide, one I had trained with.
No at the Park, the Royal Adelaide.
So at this
time you weren’t getting war wounded?
No no war wasn’t much of a threat, occasionally somebody would say something about Japanese but it really wasn’t a threat at that time.
How were you feeling away from home?
Well I didn’t mind it because I had always been away, you know I went to Adelaide I had been away for several years from home.
So that didn’t bother me.
Were you writing home much?
Yes I wrote home quite often and they would look forward to the letters.
Did you receive any mail from your brother while you were away?
Yes yes. I have still got the letters. Yes I got letters from him and they would write every week from home my
sister and mother and father, yes I got quite a lot of mail. And sometimes we would get a parcel a pudding or a Christmas cake or something like that because Christmas was coming soon, you know.
Do you remember your first Christmas there?
Yes well that was the only Christmas.
That is when the war started.
Can you tell us about that time?
Let me think I was up in Malacca when that started and we had to come down by train to Johor Bahru and the train was attacked, the Japanese were attacking it at that time and we had to
evacuate, be evacuated from Malacca and they were machine gunning and we had to get out of the train and an army truck came and took us to quarters at Johor. At Johor we had huts the same as we had anywhere else but we didn’t, quite often at night we had to go into the
jungle because the siren would go and we had to take, we had to take rubber boots and tin hats, tin helmets into the jungle and a ground sheet and we had to have it all ready and that happened quite often and you would see the tracer bullets you know in the jungle, you would hear gun fire
but it was a fair distance off.
Interviewee: Loris Church Archive ID 1258 Tape 03
So Loris can you tell us again about when you were leaving Malacca on the train and you were talking about the tracer bullets?
No it was just machine gun bullets on the train. It wasn’t terribly near but they
made us get out of the train and stand in the station and they must have gone away, because I remember the train went so far and the man who was driving it was a local native and he wouldn’t take us any further, he was too you know afraid, and he wouldn’t take us any further, but they did find somebody amongst the Australians who was
had been an engine driver and he took us on to Johor and from there we would have had an army truck I can’t quite recall that but I do remember going to Johor and we lived in these huts and the hospital was some distance away and we they used to come and get us at night in this transport that they called a Leaping Lima and
bring us home. But if you missed the transport you had to walk which I did quite often.
They called it leaping lima?
Yeah I think it was just an old, an old, an old transport truck.
And you said that you often used to miss the transport home, why was that?
I don’t know, well, just because you were doing something
you know and you couldn’t leave it.
And how far did you have to walk home?
Well it was several metres you know it was through the coconut grove.
And were you ever frightened?
Yes I was there, I didn’t like it very much and we were right next door to a mental hospital and they would be wailing and going on and yeah our quarters were right next door to it.
what did you know about the progress of the war at this stage?
Well we knew that the Japanese were moving, on the move and we knew that we would have to move sometime or another. And I was on, I always seemed to be on night duty, I was on night duty at that time and sleeping in the hut and then they came and told us that we would have to go, and
because they were blowing up the causeway the bridge and I thought I am sure I am going to be stuck I seemed to be the last one to go and I went in an army truck, I was quite late at going, a whole lot of them had gone and they went back to St Patrick’s hospital, college, and yes I had to, I got back at say 4 o’clock
and I had to go on night duty.
So we are back in Singapore now?
And you went back on night duty?
Yes but while we were at Johor there was a lot of activity you know, well we had to get out in the jungle at night, when the siren went we would have to go, and I used to think sometimes I can’t do it.
You couldn’t be bothered?
I am too tired.
So you got back to Singapore, were you feeling relatively
safe in Singapore?
Yes yes I wasn’t ever worried about it, I didn’t think it was ever going to happen. And Christmas that is when they bombed Singapore and you could see it from where we were from the hospital. And then you began to think, well there is a war.
Just going back a bit how did the
European community treat the nurses, were they very welcoming?
No no, English hostesses were very spoilt, it was a great place for the ladies, there weren’t so many men, civilian men there. No we weren’t very popular. I can remember when we came off the boat and we were coming down the gang plank and the
European ladies were there to look them over and one of them said, “Well they certainly didn’t pick them for their looks.”
Why do you think you weren’t popular with the?
Well they didn’t have anything to do with them. One time there was one lady there that invited us out to play tennis, she had a tennis court and we played tennis there, there were some Australians
who were right but no the English ladies weren’t, didn’t like us much at all.
Because you would think in wartime that people would look after each other?
Yes yes yes.
Do you think that maybe they saw you as a bit of competition?
Yes a threat a bit of a threat. Because when we were on the boat, you know they took us on the boat, the captain didn’t want to take us because he said he didn’t have room. He had a lot
of the English ladies and children and that and after we got back they said that, well somebody some of them said that the nurses were clambering to get on the ship and knocking people down just a bit but that wasn’t so because if you ever asked me to get on that boat and get up that rope ladder, you know you are just told to
do it. If I had a choice I would not have done it.
This is when you were told to evacuate Singapore?
And before that you were saying that you could see the bombing of Singapore start, what did you think was going to happen?
Well I realised then that there was a war that it was on and we were getting casualties too you see, we were getting quite a lot
of casualties, bullet wounds and injuries.
And where were the soldiers coming from?
Well up north you know up were I don’t know just where it was, well they were being pushed down anyway. Up north.
Did you get much news from the soldiers about what was going on?
Well the first day that war broke out there and there was actual
and fighting the boys were laughing they said that you know the Japanese were frightened of their noise, they made so much noise. But there was an older man, he was a very sensible man he said, “Well don’t you make any mistake about it, they are not, it is no push over you know it is going to be, we are going to be pushed back” and he had a wound, he had a bullet wound in his chest, I don’t know how he would have got on because we
were moved about a lot, but he you know he sort of saw the writing on the wall
And did you find that the soldiers mood, did it change at all over time as the fighting was intensified?
Yes when they came in with wounds and they were being pushed back they realised that it was you know going to be a real war.
But when my brother heard I was going to Singapore, he wrote to my mother and said at least I would be safe.
It didn’t quite turn out that way?
No I thought I will come back to Australia and I wouldn’t have done anything except look after a few malarias.
So the wounded soldiers started coming in the war casualties soldiers started coming into the hospital what
were the most frequent injuries you were seeing then?
Some bayonet wounds but mainly bullet wounds. But there were bayonet wounds too they would you know put a bayonet in their stomach and yes there were quite a lot of quite a lot of bayonet wounds.
Did you have the facilities to
No no. We were running out of everything and staff. You had to do what you could do you know, you had to do what you could. You would go down the line of soldiers and do their dressing and as many as you could do. And everybody was involved the dentists and the chemist and you know doing something, and they would come back with blood transfusions, you know they must have had some blood. And I’d, you know I can remember
seeing the dentist doing, sort of looking after the blood transfusion because they wouldn’t have anything to do and the chemist wouldn’t because we didn’t have the drugs and the soldiers didn’t have the equipment to fight, they didn’t have enough equipment.
So they were fighting with one hand behind their back?
How did you know that they didn’t have the
Because they told us, they said they didn’t have enough to fight with, or very little to fight with. And I can remember one day, when I was on light duty and we lived in one of the houses that had been evacuated, we slept there, and they told us we had to go to another place because it was too dangerous there and we went to another place
and we were right by the guns, and the guns couldn’t be turned, they were facing out to, facing the wrong way, they couldn’t be turned, they were a fixture. The Japanese came over bombing and dropping bombs and we had to get out of this place, we had to hurry out you know and I had to go back and get my shoes and they said,
“What on earth are you doing?” I said, “There was a fella came in last night and he had his heel all sliced off, just sliced off.” They said, “You don’t want to die, you want to die with your boots on.”
And did the nurses ever get frightened?
No no you are young and that will never happen to me.
You feel a bit bullet proof?
Yes this won’t happen to me, this is great
you know, this is war, this is what I came for.
So it was still all a big mad adventure was it?
Yes although it was very sad you know I mean, they weren’t all surviving and some of them I don’t know what would have happened to them because they were lying in a row and they were mainly people with, I can’t think of the word,
you know stomach, what did I say?
Yes stomach wounds and they had bowl clamps on waiting for treatment and I can still this man following me with his eyes, you know do something, help me. There was just nothing you could do. You just had to go past and weep.
It must have been a terrible feeling for you?
Where were the surgeons?
Couldn’t the surgeons do anything?
Well there wasn’t, there wasn’t any time you know they worked night and day, you know they worked as long as they could in the operating theatre and that wasn’t very adequate, well no there was nothing, they could only do what they could do and they were working very hard.
They were marvellous the way they worked.
So at that point they were over run with the amount of casualties?
Yes and the wards were full. Because I know I was by myself on night duty with just one orderly and the bomber came over and he sort of dropped the bomb and it sheared down the ward sort of and you could just sort of see outside and I can remember this tray of bacon they
must have had food still, bacon all in a line and it was all covered with rubble and all the rubble was coming into the ward, and the boys weren’t concerned.
What about you, what did you do?
Well I sort of had to go round and see if anybody had been injured. At the glass, there was glass shattered you know. One fellow had some glass
in his neck, but apart from that there were no injuries. We had one boy with a bullet in his femoral artery or near his femoral artery and they couldn’t take it out and he threw himself out of bed when he heard the bomb and you know he was bleeding a good bit and they took him away I suppose to the operating theatre and when anybody could
be spared they would come up to see if they were all right. One of the doctors I can remember coming up and seeing if we were all right and telling me to give them some sort of sedative if they were too agitated.
What kind of sedatives were available?
It was (UNCLEAR) and …
Which is I, which is very effective or?
Mild yeah mild.
So you didn’t have access to
They did but then they needed that for the more serious injuries.
Where were your supplies coming from, where were your medical supplies coming from?
Well we would have had them with us I guess, yeah, we weren’t getting them from anywhere. Nothing was coming through anymore.
So this would have, you would have been seeing a lot of sights that were quite foreign to you I imagine I mean you had done your nursing training in Australia, could anything have prepared you for some of the injuries you saw in Singapore?
Apart from car accidents and things like that, yes you were, yes you would get a car accident but other than that there was nothing
like we saw, no. And the boys were coming in from wherever they were fighting and they were absolutely black you know they had no, with smoke and they had no equipment you know and they were just so tired that they would just sit and stare you know they were so tired.
Did you find that many of the soldiers
were mentally disturbed by what they had experienced?
No no. They were all, I can remember going, you know having a line of them there and they were all quite cheerful, you didn’t hear anybody complain, no.
They were still able to crack jokes with each other?
Yes. But the, you didn’t hear many
complaints at all.
What did the men do to keep their spirits up when they were in hospital?
Nothing much just talk, there was nothing to do you know, if there was anything to do they would do it, you just had to be there in the bed.
No one was playing cards or?
Well no there was nothing like that and there was no, no it wasn’t like that, It was all
And what sort of food was available to the patients at that time?
Not a lot, we mainly had bully beef and that sort of thing, that is like corn beef only it is out of a tin can no food was running out, everything was running out and then when we were told to go,
that was terrible, you know they came and said “you you and you”, you know “go out on the lawn, assemble on the lawn” and then they told us that we were going and nobody wanted to go I mean there was a lot of tears shed, and well apart from that, we were frightened to go, you know you didn’t know where you were going to go.
And when I got, when we're taken to the wharf, we were taken by truck, when we got to the wharf well I thought, well do we have to do this, because the wharf was on fire down the end and there was smoke everywhere and there were oil tanks I suppose they were on fire, they had been for nights. It just looked so eerie and so dreadful and then to get on this up on this rope
ladder onto the ship and the captain didn’t want to take us because he thought he was over crowded and we were taken down to the hold where they had, there was meat, it was a cargo boat, these meat hooks were all there clanging around and yes we had about that much room you know to sleep on the floor
of the hold but anyway they started machine gunning and bombing the ship, we were in the hold you know and I remember we were all sitting around in a circle and there was an Englishman there and he made us sing,
and we were singing something and then anything and then it got very bad, the ship got a direct hit you see and it knocked, it set the ship on fire and it just seemed as if, the bombs weren’t very accurate and they were dropping and it felt as though the ship was lifting up in the air.
Apparently some people on the guns on the ship some the crew were killed, the first mate and there were two girls and they had been up on the deck when this happened and they rushed out and pulled some of these boys in and they got decorated for this bravery. Of course we were down the hold and we didn’t see all that sort of thing, we hadn’t gone up top.
When it got, when the ship got the direct hit you know you could feel it shuddering, this fellow told us to join hands and sing nearer my God to thee, and I thought at that time “you know this is the end.” That is the only time I every felt frightened. I have talked to various ones afterwards and they say the same thing, that
is the only time that they felt this is the end. And we stayed there, we practically had to stay there all day and I wasn’t very keen on going upstairs again, I thought they would come back, but they left us when the ship was on fire. And so we could keep on sailing, although the hold was all peppered with machine guns and
we went upstairs and the captain had a thanksgiving service, and he was a strong stern man and he had lost some of his crew and when he sort of thanked the lord for saving us he put his head down on the thing and wept. It was dreadful, it was a touching moment to see that you know strong man who had been a captain of a ship through various
things, battles to do that. But he was so overcome. And then from then on we were very popular because when we went and looked after the people who were wounded down in the somewhere in the bows of the ship, you know we did all sorts of things. And there was blood on one of the decks, we washed that off and scrubbed it and looked after
the people and so we were very popular.
It is a hard way to win popularity isn’t’ it?
Yes although he was glad that he took us you know.
What happened to the soldiers in the hospital?
Well we went, I don’t know how long it took us, that is something I don’t recall, to get to what was Java, Batavia at that time,
I don’t really know whether they took them off there and took them to hospital, probably they did because when.
I’m sorry I didn’t mean to interrupt you, the soldiers at St Patrick’s in Singapore?
No well that was the saddest saddest thing we just had to tell them we were going, I mean it was no good us saying “we won’t go” because they would make you go, you know we all have to be evacuated.
Were they evacuating just the nurses or were they evacuating anyone that could walk?
No only nurses at this time, see it was too late, I mean they, yeah you know, the Japanese were there they were shelling up the road from the hospital so there was no, there was no time.
That must have been very difficult leaving those men?
It was the worst thing that I have had
to do that I can remember, dreadful. Because I can remember one of the fellows saying, “Well what is going to happen to us?” I don’t know, we were walking, going back, we had to collect a little attaché case and take the bully beef and a biscuit for the ship and everybody was weeping you know.
I don’t want to go, I wouldn’t want to go anyway it was too dangerous.
So most of the nurses would have preferred to stay with the men?
Oh well all of us yes well that is what we were there for.
And did you wonder in later years what happened to those men?
Well I don’t know what would have happened to some of them with wounds, I don’t think the Japanese would have bothered to do anything.
And I had no idea what happened to anybody, it wasn’t until, you know we really knew when we ended the war what had happened. See we were taken in two lots like some of the people in the theatre had to stay behind until they, yes they had to take them and they went on a different ship, we were on a ship called the
Empire Star and they were on the Vyner Brooke and that was the one that was torpedoed and that was another dreadful thing because they just lined up those girls and shot them.
The girls that were on?
On the Vyner Brooke see they were torpedoed and they were in the water and some of them got to safety, some of them were drowned, some of them got to safety, Bangka Straits
they got to Bangka Straits and I don’t know they must have been separated because there were about, I am not sure of the number but there was something like 24 girls. And they made them go walk, march down to the beach and they shot them in the back. They killed them all but one, that is how we know what happened. One got away, she was a tall girl
and they shot her through the hip and she just fell down and they thought she was gone. That was Bullwinkle, Vivien Bullwinkle and so she was able to wander around until she found the camp, she didn’t tell them about the wound which I would have done. I would say look what you did to me, but she didn’t, she just had a water bottle or something and just kept it over her wound and she was able to tell them about the shooting of these people.
And it was very sad because there was one girl that I started training with and I knew her all through the war and all the training and all through the war, a pretty little girl.
Well I imagine.
Well those people that weren’t, apparently because I certainly wasn’t there, those people that weren’t dead they bayoneted them.
And that could have been you?
Could have been, I doubt if I would have made it swimming, I wasn’t that strong, although I think there was all sorts of ways, I don’t know how far they were from the bank, from the shore, but there were civilians too there on that
Did you become very attached to some of the soldiers that you nursed in Singapore?
Yes, there was not a lot of time, sometimes they were moved about you know to somewhere else, yet I can remember some of them but no no not terribly, there were just so many, I can’t remember any one person or a group of people that
I was attached to.
So in the course, in those days just before you were evacuated from Singapore, what did your duties, I mean you were often on night shift even at that stage were you, so what did you do all night, basically were you running from bed to bed?
We had to yes, you had to give out medicines and do dressings you see. There was one man who had gas gangrene and
he had to be done pretty often, not as often as I could do it, you know there was just too many, the place was full of, this big ward was full, I can’t, I can’t I always say there was 120 but I am not sure it was just so packed with people and there was only me and this orderly and we just had to do what we could do, give them drinks and attend to what they wanted you know.
What is gas gangrene?
Well now you have got me, I don’t think I will answer it, I will tell you later.
Is it unpleasant?
Yes yes it is a fatal sort of thing you know.
How did soldiers get that?
From his wound and some sort of an infection.
A wound on his shoulder, I can remember this one fellow having this awful wound on his shoulder and you know it was quite, and that had to be attended to, I was supposed to be every quarter of an hour and when one person was supposed to do it, you really couldn’t do it, I only did it as much as I could.
So it was from a wound not being able to be treated properly and then it would just deteriorate?
Yeah he had obviously been up the jungle,
you know the jungle fighting and had this wound.
Did you have many amputations in the hospital?
Not that I know of. No. I suppose there were but I can’t just recall any, they were mainly wounds you know either in the stomach or those sort of wounds
and their legs, no doubt there were but I can’t recall them.
Was the gas gangrene almost like an ulcer?
Yes it is a very deep sort of thing, he had a very deep wound there. And it had to be more or less open because I was supposed to be syringing it every quarter of an hour but of course that was hopeless when I had so many other things to do, I have never worked so hard in all my life.
And who, if a soldier was dying, who would be with him?
No one. No one. But I don’t recall having many deaths there they were mostly wounds and bad wounds you know, but I don’t recall anyone dying when I was on
that floor, ward.
And was there a sort of average age of men you saw there?
Well they were mainly young 20's odd, but there was younger than that. A couple of boys I knew were 18. And there was a little one that was about 20, he was covered in soot or dirt, smoke I suppose and
he was sitting on the steps and I thought he was dead, he was just so staring you know, he was so tired, I touched him on the shoulder and he almost fell over. He was so tired. There were older men, there were several men say in their mid 30's and they were very good, very brave and you know very you know sensible.
How old were you at that time?
I must have been 26.
And what was the soldiers’ attitude towards the nurses?
We were only supposed to, although we were only paid as privates, we were supposed to only go out with officers and they didn’t like that at all.
They didn’t like that they were going out
with the officers?
They thought it was unfair but everybody did, nobody took notice of that anyway.
They thought it was unfair that only the officers got to be going out?
Yes only the officers, but there was no time to be going out anyway, you didn’t know many officers so it didn’t really matter. No they thought it was unfair, I remember this chap saying about it, “All you do is go out with the officers” and I thought “well you
know I didn’t have time to go out with too many officers.”
So was there any romance amongst all of the dreadful things that were going on?
I think, the girls from Malacca, that is why we used to go to Malacca to relieve them so that they could go on holidays, I think they you know met up with some fellows there, but no
it wasn’t that sort of a situation.
Romance happens in all sorts of situations?
Yes it does doesn’t it but.
Not for you?
No I didn’t ever have any boyfriends. I did go out once with a couple of, my friends and I went out to the pool and then we went to a hotel for dinner with a couple of fellows but I didn’t see them anymore and I believe one of those
boys was shot the first day. He was an officer and he put his head up and that is what they told me, whether they had the right man or not I don’t know.
So when you were leaving the hospital the nurses are being evacuated to the truck to go down to the wharf, what was your last, what was the last vision you had?
Well we had I can remember somebody bringing a bucket of milk, I don’t know where they
got it from or two or three buckets and I can remember we were running down the row of soldiers giving them this milk and then we had to go you know we had to line up and we didn’t say goodbye.
I couldn’t do it no, we just walked out. Well we were told and it is no good objecting because you would be made to go.
See some people thought that we ran away, but that wasn’t so, I mean we were told to go.
Was that because they were concerned about what the Japanese might do to women?
Were you concerned?
No no nothing frightened me, I was young.
So you get down to the ship and see that everything was burning?
Yes it was black with smoke you know and it was horrible, you know. And to see this sort of ship swaying, and I didn’t know how I was going to get up that rope ladder but we got there.
And how were the other girls coping?
I think we were all right, we were talking amongst ourselves, see when we left there we had visions of setting up somewhere else. We thought when we got to
Java we thought we would set up another hospital. That was the big idea I think, but it didn’t happen, because we were no sooner there than the Japanese came.
Had you ever seen any Japanese?
No I didn’t see any there, I have seen them since.
What were your feelings about the Japanese at that time?
Well at that time I just thought that is war, that is what we are fighting, they are fighting, we are
doing to them what they are doing to us. But when I heard about those girls, I couldn’t believe that you know that anybody could be so callous you know and what did they do it for what were the girls going to do, you know what could they do and I think they were badly treated in the prison camp, see several died there with sickness and
You were very lucky to get out of there.
Interviewee: Loris Church Archive ID 1258 Tape 04
Loris could you take us through getting onto the ship that had subsequently caught fire in the bombing,
getting onto the actual ship, how did you get on there?
On a rope ladder there was a ladder sort of from the wharf to the boat and we had to get, climb up that and that is what terrified me I thought “well you know I will fall in the sea and drown.”
Could you swim well?
No I could swim but no, I just wonder sometimes if the other ship that was bombed whether I could have made it you know because I wasn’t a good swimmer,
you know the Vyner Brooke was bombed, torpedoed.
It doesn’t sound like it would have matter much even if you had survived that after what happened to those girls?
It didn’t happen to everybody though, there were some that were taken prisoner. But there were about, I think there were about 24 that were shot, what did I say stabbed.
Why were some shot and others not?
They were all shot but some weren’t, they were still alive and they bayoneted them to make sure they were dead. I don’t know what they did with them like they were in the sea, they had to walk into the sea, but I don’t know what they did with the bodies or just left them, I never heard about that.
Did you then after the fire on board and after the thanksgiving service with the captain, did you then sail on that boat?
Yes we stayed on there and that came back to Australia, that same boat, they fixed up whatever they had to fix up in Java and yeah.
Was that, what kind of damage
had the ship sustained?
A lot of, they machine gunned, you know swept over us, machine gunned the hull was all holey, or funnel whatever it was and of course that is when some of the crew was killed because of the machine gunning, more than the bombs, there were, bombs were not dropping on the ship they were dropping on the side and that one that hit it did and then the ship caught on fire, but you know it just felt like it lifted
up in the air, but I don’t suppose it did but it just felt like that.
So what, what repairs did they do before you set sail or was the captain happy to be in the machine gunned holed boat?
He was a very strong man, that is what amazed me when he broke down and cried but no we got off onto a big
ship in the harbour and I can always remember them giving us a, they had a big white enamel teapot and they gave us this lovely black sweet tea and a bit of salami and I can still see it, all this salami and bread because we were so hungry.
And who was providing that for you?
Obviously the Javanese. Somebody on the boat you know of this big ship, it was a big white clean
ship as to what we were on you know it was terrible, because we were in the hold you know lying side by side. But I can always remember that tea and the salami and bread, it was so welcome, because we hadn’t had anything you see we had a tin of bully beef and a biscuit but we didn’t expect to be so long on the sea.
How long were you on the sea?
That is something I can’t tell you, I can’t tell you how long
it took us to get back to Australia, it was something like a fortnight I couldn’t recall it.
And to get to Java?
Yes we got to Java and I don’t know how long that took you see, because I can’t just, it took days anyway. Yes we stayed in Java, we were allowed to go into the township to see if we could get food, which we did, it wasn’t very good but still. And people were having a lovely
time, they had a nightclub and they were dancing and prancing as if nothing happened, was happening, but they had a lot of soldiers, Javanese soldiers, they were very very jumpy, very jumpy. You know we went around we couldn’t find a toilet, we went around the back of this building to, and they came and were prodding us with their bayonets you know “move, move” you know sort of thing, whatever they said in their language.
And even when we went back to the ship they were standing there on the wharf telling us to get on the ship. That was back on the Empire Star. We only stayed on that white ship for meals, for the you know and while the ship was being patched up.
So then you took the Empire Star back to Australia?
Yes because everyone was amazed when it went into Fremantle again,
the damage that was done to it you know, they did seem to manage to patch up the holes where the bomb had hit but you know the hull was all, well I think it is the funnel was all holey.
You have just in this period of time you have seemed to go through an extraordinary set of circumstances, and things that have happened to you and things that you have seen happen, scary
things by anyone’s standards being in the hold when the ship catches on fire etcetera.
Yes we didn’t know what was going on.
How were you feeling on the trip back was there any trepidation?
You are young, nothing will happen to you, it happens to somebody else. No I, the only time I felt a bit nervous was when we had to leave the hold to go up onto the deck for the Thanksgiving service. I was very
and I think everybody else was, we sort of all put our heads up to fear they got shot off again or shot off.
Do you know why the Japanese were bombing?
Anything that was moving, it was, yeah any hospital ship they would bomb, they didn’t worry about who they were bombing, they just wanted to get rid of you know, bomb anything.
Do you remember how many planes there were?
I didn’t see them, no I don’t remember because you know I didn’t see them. I don’t think there were many, they were sweeping backwards and forwards, but yeah I wouldn’t think there would be many.
So what can you tell us about the trip back to Australia after Java?
Well that was very, that was all right it was quite you know,
we weren’t comfortable of course we were just in the hold still but it was plain sailing.
Was it hot down there?
Mmmm it was in the tropics, as we got towards Australia it wasn’t quite so bad, but it was pretty hot going to Java, of course when we went to Java we thought we were going to set up a hospital there. We got the shock of our lives when we were ordered back
on the boat. But it was no better staying there because the Japanese were taking it over anyway.
And what was arrival back in Australia like?
Well when we got back there was a bus or truck or something took us up to a hospital in northern in Western Australia and we had to
rest. They gave us beds and some of the girls brought around a meal, food you know but we were in bed and we soon got out of bed and yes they looked after us there. We were there for some days and then we were allowed to come back to Adelaide. And when we got to Western Australia we were allowed to notify our people that we were all right.
So it was a fortnight that they hadn’t heard anything my mother said.
Did they know that there was trouble?
Yes oh yes they knew, they thought we were all taken prisoner that is what, that is what they were told yeah and of course they thought you know that is what happened to us. But anyway they got this telegram and there was great excitement I believe.
Who told them that you had been taken prisoner?
Nobody told them, well they were told that people were taken prisoner I suppose you on the wireless radio. They thought that we had all been taken prisoner. So when we got back we sent these telegrams. There were some of the women who had met some air force fellows and they were, they flew back to Adelaide and they told their parents but I didn’t know about
that, so yeah we just had to send a telegram.
Can you tell us about arriving home what that was like?
Yes I went down to my, the farm and here was all these people on the railway station and I thought good heavens what is happening you know I will have to sneak through this mob but it was for me. And then they had a big turn out at the
town hall, well the hall, institute it was called, and morning tea and speeches and things. And while I was home, I had about a week or something to you know to recuperate, we came back on a troop train you see, it was very uncomfortable and when I
got home, I had to go round talking about for the war bonds they were selling war bonds and I had to go and talk and my father had to take me around in the car and he had to get petrol when he could you know because petrol was rationed and I would go to these various towns. That was for the week I was home.
Can you tell me about
the war bonds, what are they?
What were war bonds do you know Cheryl?
Oh we can’t do you know?
Well they were sort of you paid for them, you bought them I suppose they were like a cheque and after the war you could cash them but yes you paid so much for them. But I didn’t have any because I
you know I didn’t have any money.
So it was to encourage people to?
To save yeah. I don’t know what you do. Gosh it was so long ago that I can’t remember but I know that she bought them and you retained them anyway but you paid for them, it was sort of a donation.
And what were you telling people
about them, just encouraging people?
Well yes but it was mainly, they wanted to know what had happened and where I had been, it was just a talk really. But I know it was always a problem to get there because of the petrol.
So you were telling us about who you were giving these talks, was it more than one talk or just?
Oh yes it was various small towns
around Tantanoola, about three places I went because I didn’t have that much time and yeah. But it was always difficult to with the amount of petrol, I suppose they gave them some I don’t know but I know he used to say we can only do such and such a distance because of the petrol rationing.
And did you wear your uniform to these talks?
Yes that is about all I had at the time.
Which uniform were you wearing?
The one in the cupboard.
Yeah the outdoor one. And I don’t suppose I wore the hat, no I can’t remember doing that, grey like a suit it was a jacket and skirt and a white blouse and brown tie with a rising sun on it and the pips
on the shoulder.
And you were only back in Adelaide for a week and then where did you go?
I went to what is the Repat [Repatriation General Hospital] now it was called the 105th AGH [Australian General Hospital] at that time and I went there and yeah it was just there was only two or three wards there at that time and a few tents and a few huts and
well we looked after the soldiers coming back, mainly from New Guinea and the Middle East they were still coming back from the Middle East. I don’t know what I was going to say then. Well a lot of malaria from New Guinea and soldiers from the Middle East.
My brother came back and he had pleurisy you know they were admitted there to the hospital.
Where was the hospital located?
Well South Daws Road. What is the Repat now, what is called the Repat now. And I was there for I don’t know how long I was there, I suppose about 18 months and then we were shifted to Western Australia, back to Western Australia to Northam and there we were,
no Merredin we were sent to and we had, we lived in tents and it was very very wet, nasty. That wasn’t good at all.
So what year were you, what year did you arrive back?
1942. It wasn’t very long, you know it seemed to me that we were no sooner there than we were gone again you know.
And yeah I went to Merredin and we lived in those tents and worked in the tents, the patients were in the tents and then we went to Northam and we were in tents again up on a hill and we spent every night hammering the ropes in.
What what were the resources like in Adelaide when you came back to work at the hospital here compared to how they had been in Singapore?
Well that was very good down at Daws Road [Repatriation General Hospital], they were nice wards and nice accommodation, nice rooms, we had nice rooms there, nice accommodation.
Were any of the girls still with you from Singapore?
Where Daws Road? Oh yes, yes quite a few.
Were you there when your brother came back with pleurisy, you were working?
Can you tell me about that?
Well he’d been away for, 1939 well 1943 he said he came back, so he was there for four years before he came back and he had pleurisy and then he had a collapsed lung and then he went back to his unit I think in Queensland
and then I think he went to New Guinea. So he has had a lot of war service.
What did they do for pleurisy and collapsed lung in 1942?
Nothing. Nearly I mean just have them sitting up and he was very much better when he got to, apparently he was carted off the ship on a stretcher and put in Heidelberg [Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital] in
Victoria. Because when all the boys came back I was madly looking for and he wasn’t there and so I, we got in touch with one of the women we had been in Singapore and to see if she would find out about him and that is what she found out, that he had pleurisy. So he was pretty well on the mend. But the collapsed lung is still collapsed.
They can’t re-inflate
No no. No he coughs, coughs like crazy.
How was that for you to see your brother?
I didn’t know about the lung at that time, of course I was terribly excited when he did come back but I didn’t know about, I knew that he had pleurisy but I didn’t know about the lung until later on. He is one of those people who doesn’t say much about anything. He never complained.
Well he wanted to go on, he wanted to go again to New Guinea and they seemed to let him go.
Had he told you about what he had been doing before he came back with pleurisy, had he told you about being in the trenches or?
No no, never talked about it, it is only recently you know that he has started to talk about it.
Did you ask or
was it a mutual understanding not to discuss it?
I asked but you didn’t get a lot of information. A lot of the men were like that they didn’t talk about it.
Why do you think that might have been?
Well I really don’t know why he doesn’t talk about it, apart from the danger and some of the men being killed his friends being killed
and he enjoyed it and he said, “I would do it again if I you know had to” he still keeps up in contact with some of them because they are still getting old like the rest of us, and but they I don’t know, they just didn’t want to talk about it. It was pretty awful and I think some of the men were killed, you know they were either on machine guns you know and they were killed.
What was your sister doing at this period of time? So your sister was married at this time, where was she?
Down in Tantanoola.
And was her husband fighting?
he went to New Guinea. I mean he had children but he didn’t want to leave, but he wanted to go but he didn’t want to leave her by herself too often so yes. I think she had four children at that time. That was one sister and the other one was doing her training at Renmark. The young one.
And was she planning to join the war effort when she had finished nursing?
Yeah well she did think she would and then and this boy came back from the war and then she was married so.
So after your week in Adelaide you then headed off, can you tell us about that,
where were you off to next after Adelaide
You mean when I was working at Daws Road, well I was a year there and I went to Western Australia on a troop train.
On a troop train and how long does that take?
It is several days but I don’t know I can’t recall just how much but I know we used to stop for meals and get out of the train and they would give you stew or something to eat,
and it was very slow.
Is a troop train different to a normal train?
Well it is a normal train but you were sort of packed in pretty well. We did have sleepers but they were fairly basic and uncomfortable but it would be the same as an old train back then. They are not as modern as they are you know they are not modern trains like they are now.
Were there troops on the train?
Yes yes. There were troops on the train, they were going to Western Australia too.
Did they sleep in a different section of the train?
Yes yes yes. I didn’t see any of them because I know they were there because we used to get out and stop for meals and we would get out of the train and they would have our meals there ready and we would line up and form a line and get our
meal with our tin plates.
And then you arrived in Western Australia how was that?
Well it was awful, because we went to that place called Merredin and we were put in sort of a tin shed which was leaking and we had to sleep on the floor. And you know we would get, have to be shifting about all the time because we were getting wet and then we went to the
hospital where they just had the tents too. The ward was in the tents, there weren’t many patients there and it was very uncomfortable there.
Where were they taking men from just?
Just the people either they had come back or were in the militia.
Of the men that were coming back, where were they coming from?
From Middle East, but there were very few,
I mean we only took about ten patients because there weren’t many of us there in the hospital anyway and they were mainly militia people who had joined or called up.
How did you find the militia men?
They were good they were nice, yeah, see they were young and I suppose I don’t well, they would be old enough I suppose to join up but
then there was nowhere really at the time other than New Guinea to go anyway.
So what kind of injuries were these men sustaining?
Mainly illness. There was no injuries it was just illness you know colds and strains and sprains and things like that but no injuries, because there was no fighting.
And of the men coming back
were any injured?
Well they were, not so much there, but at Daws Road they were, they had all sorts of injuries.
Well bullet wounds that, you know hadn’t been fixed up properly and illness a lot of illness,
but more illness than there was, than there were wounds.
Had the men received medical attention before they come home or did they come straight home for medical attention?
No they’d had it but not terribly good, but they had had medical attention, there were lots of, I can’t think of the word, no there was a lot of illnesses that we don’t normally
see and a lot of malaria of course, and they would have these attacks all the time.
What is a malaria attack?
It is shivering, being very hot and then shivering and they were treated with tablets, but they were very hot to start with and then they would shiver, it was very difficult to get them cool and
hot again and then warm.
Were they in a lot of pain?
No they weren’t in a lot of pain, it was just uncomfortable and a bit frightening when you are shivering.
So at Merredin your accommodation wasn’t very good, but your workload was lower than what you were used to?
Yes it was because I remember being on night duty
there and in the tent and it was terribly, terrible weather you know very windy and blowy and the tent was flappy and oh dear you know. I can’t there was a boy, I can’t think what was wrong with him now and we had one drunk. I remember one being drunk.
How had he got drunk, at the hospital?
Oh no no in the township, but he probably came back to camp and they sent him to hospital, I think he had fallen over, yeah, but he was pretty noisy, but no there weren’t very many there at all. Because if one came in with pneumonia we would send him off to a bigger hospital. There was a bigger hospital called Hollywood [Repatriation General Hospital] in Perth and they would be sent there by
After Merredin where did you go?
Can you tell me about Northam?
Well Northam was just, it was a bigger hospital but it was
we were still in the tents and then we eventually got some huts and slept in those but the tents were awful because it was up on a hill and the wind used to catch the tent and then we got into the huts. And I by that, when I was at Daws Road I was engaged and I came back in 1944 to get married and.
We might go back there then who, who were you engaged to and how did you meet him?
At Daws Road the hospital, he had feet, he had to have an operation on his feet you know how they used to troop march around and he had to have an operation on his feet and that is how I met him. And then I was married.
what was he like when you met him?
Handsome, tall, chatty.
And so you were engaged then, so while you were at Northam you were engaged at that time. And did you know where he was at that time?
No he had been, he had got out of the army because of his feet and
yes he was working in Adelaide, he had been away from 1939 anyway till 1943. And yes.
Like your brother?
Yes, well my brother wasn’t out of the army in 1943 he went onto 1945 because he went to New Guinea. But my husband, they used to call it boarded out and it was back in civilian
So at Northam what kind of patients were you treating?
God I can’t remember, I can’t remember whether they were injuries or whether they were just sick. I can’t recall a patient, we seemed to be moved about
so much, but I think they were mainly just sick you know with the coughs and colds and pneumonia and well flu and that sort of thing, whatever was going around.
And how long did you hang about there?
Well I was away for 12 months towards (UNCLEAR) so I suppose about nine months there and three months at Merredin.
And then what were your next orders, what did you do next, what were your next orders?
We came back to Adelaide and I got married, I went down to my hometown and we were married there and then I came back and I went to Northfield [Northfield Infectious Diseases Hospital] and worked, I was there for 12 months after I was married.
In South Australia?
Yes. Northfield yes. Well I don’t know what it is called now,
Hampstead I think.
And what kind of hospital was Northfield?
That was a military hospital we took patients coming back from the Middle East with injuries and sickness and it was pretty busy.
So similar to Daws Road, similar to Daws Road?
Except that they were sort of huts you know, they weren’t sort of buildings like
Daws Road, not at that time and then eventually they were they did have some buildings that we went to.
And do you remember treating people at that time, do you remember any cases that stood out for you?
Not some of them were pretty sick but they were all return soldiers, I can’t remember any, you know I know they were all fairly
sick, they had wounds that had to be treated. And illness of course you see because they probably weren’t looked after when they were coming back.
Were you well supplied?
Yes that was quite a good hospital.
And were you getting good
results with the men or were any of them dying while they were there?
Yes I can remember one man dying in the middle of the night, I was on night duty again. And he just called out and he died, he had a heart attack, it wasn’t from any injury it was just his heart that gave out, but apparently it was a very painful death, but that is the only one I can remember dying
How were the men when they returned from the Middle East, were they cheerful or sombre?
Oh no they were all right, yes quite cheerful, they had all sorts of sayings and I can’t tell you what they were and but you know they were all fairly cheerful. It was when we started to take the ones from prisoner of war camp
that they were so awful, dreadful, some of them just didn’t recognise you as a person, you know just sort of stared at you, you know, they were very sick and I wonder what became of them.
When did you start getting those men?
Towards the end of the war. Well we got them back after the war in 1945 when war was over.
It would be 1945.
Tell me more about these men and the state they were in?
Shaky, non compos [non compos mentis, not in control of one’s mind] yellow, some of them, some of them were all right, you know they just had malaria or something like that, but some were very vague and very you know and very thin, they were skin and
Why were they yellow?
Well probably, they probably, oh I can’t think, they probably had had malaria and wouldn’t have been treated.
And that results in a yellowy?
Did any of the men talk to you about being
POWs [Prisoner of War]?
No not in the wards, because they were only put in the wards if they were sick or you know needed some sort of psychiatric treatment they didn’t talk about it then, but I have seen them afterwards you know when I met some of them, they would talk about it, but not a lot, nobody talked about the war very much.
Did you see any of the psychiatric patients?
Well yes yes.
It wasn’t a psychiatric ward but they would bring them in because they would have other things as well, dysentery and probably typhus and that sort of thing but I can remember one man who didn’t have anything. I was unpacking his things and I was talking and I suddenly woke up that he wasn’t
even able to listen to me. You know wasn’t even taking in what I was saying, he was just staring, and he was so thin, all his ribs were sticking out and his feet were just bones and dreadful.
What is the treatment for that?
Well I would say it was just good food and rest, but whether he ever
regained his mental ability I don’t know, I didn’t see him again.
How did the nurses feel about the prisoners of war?
Well we were very sad about it because it was dreadful, they were in such a bad physical shape you know they were ribs and their feet and their legs were skinny and their chest bones were sticking out
and you couldn’t help feeling sad because they were such, such malnutrition you know.
Did any of the men seem to have shell shock?
Not really because it was just the treatment that they had had for three years, three and a half years in the prison camp,
but they had been shell shocked they called it bomb happy.
Can you tell me what that is?
Well they are very jumpy, very nervous, frightened, noises start them off getting shaky and anxious.
Did you have to be careful not to make loud noises?
Well we wouldn’t be making them, but outside noises probably like a car or something starting up would make them very jumpy.
Was your brother like that when he got back?
No no no no he seemed to enjoy his war, no it has never affected him at all.
Interviewee: Loris Church Archive ID 1258 Tape 05
About three and a half.
You can remember back to three and a half?
Well I suppose it was such a traumatic thing you see.
Can you tell me about that again, you were just saying about the?
Well say I was four because she was nearly six when she went to school and she was older than me.
Yeah well we had a buggy, you know a horse. And I remember my father coming up with the buggy and horse and she had to climb up and get on it, and she was quite happy to go to school and I was yelling “don’t let her go, don’t let her go” and my mother didn’t know what to do so she let me have this muff and I had my hands in it all day and I could hardly wait for her to get home and I was so sore
but it is a terribly thing to happen.
Well she was your playmate?
Yes terrible thing to happen.
And were you bored when she went to school?
I wasn’t bored I was just terrified, you know I was just so sad about her going and when I did go to school I thought this is going to be wonderful, she is going to look after me and I kept holding her hand and she kept shoving me
off and I thought “oh God this is terrible.”
You weren’t the youngest though were you?
No I was the second one.
And so how did you treat your youngest?
My brother I treated him like a dog,
How did you do that?
I was just nasty to him you know, take things away from him, but my sister was
young, she was much younger, she was about nine years younger and I would take her for walks in the pram every night.
So you were closer to your sisters?
Yeah but my brother, he was always teasing us anyway. He is such a nice man.
Did your mum used to favour your brother?
Not really no, he was always getting himself
It sounds like you came from quite a loving family?
Yes we were very close yes. My sister just died a couple of weeks ago, my elder sister because she was in a place like this.
Were you still in contact regularly?
Well not, not, occasionally I ring them, they are in the country, or when she comes down, she used to come down,
she would come and see me she would stay with her daughter and she would come and see me and I’ve still got that feeling that I have got to tell her something, you know when I see her again I will tell her.
And is your younger sister still alive?
Yes she comes to see me every week.
And you two get along well?
Yes we all got along very well, there was never any fights
or anything, my brother was quite, I rang him the other day, he was quite good, terribly kind to my sister, she lived with him after her husband died. She had two husbands who died.
You have got longevity in your family?
Yes obviously, I think it is just although my mother and father were 80 and 81, one of them was 81 and one of them was 80, but
I think people are living longer with all the drugs and things.
I was just thinking when you were talking about meeting your husband, you met so many men in your nursing career, what was it about that man that made you stop and take some notice?
Perhaps he was the only one that noticed me. I didn’t ever meet
anybody that I particularly liked you know. I mean you did meet people, not so much when I went away in the army because there was no time and you had to go out in pairs, you only got a certain amount of leave to go out, you know you could only go out a couple of nights a week. Well I don’t know he was a good looking man and he was very kind. Good fun.
Even though he was in hospital?
Yes although, yes, he was quite good fun.
And he had been in the Middle East?
What had happened to him?
He had something, his feet he had to have an operation on his feet, his toes got, it must have been the army boots and he was in Syria and he said he got frostbite and you know he had to have his toes straightened out. And his feet were never any good, he never walked properly afterwards. He had to
have special boots and they were very heavy. He had to do jobs that you know he didn’t have to do much walking, he was in the Department of Agriculture after.
What did he tell you of his wartime experience?
Not a lot, no never heard much.
Did he ask you about yours?
yes he was always telling people what I did, but he never said what he did. None of them ever talked, he never said what he did.
Sounds like he was proud of you?
Well he was always telling people so I suppose he was.
So you got engaged and then you had to go and work in Western Australia?
What did he do when he left the hospital and he was discharged?
Yes and then he got this job and well that wasn’t the first one he got, some other
job, but he was in the Agricultural Department for about 25 years. And well you couldn’t get housing you see, we had to wait to get married, because you couldn’t get any housing, we didn’t get it anyway and also you know we didn’t have a lot of money, just starting back working.
you get housing?
Oh there was no, you couldn’t build a house you couldn’t buy one for love nor money. If you saw one advertised and you would rush off to see it they were usually poor area and very poor housing, houses, I never saw a decent house that was advertised. But they started to do war service homes but you could only build a certain amount of
it, you would have to add on afterwards and that was very difficult too.
Why was the housing of such poor standard, was that a hang over from the depression?
Yes, well I suppose people were just staying in the houses. Eventually we got some rooms and then eventually we got a house that somebody was, well actually it belonged to my sister and her husband and we went to live with them and then they were transferred
to Port Pirie so we bought the house. And that is were I was there for many years and when my husband died I went to live at Mitchell Park, it was a smaller house and a bigger yard.
So you served out the rest of the war in Western Australia and then you were able to come home to be with your fiancé
and where did you get married?
Went down to Tantanoola?
Where were his family from?
And you shared with your sister and when did your babies come along, was it after you got your own place?
No no my eldest son was born while we were living with my sister and her husband and the other one then came after we bought the
house. Three years after, there was three years between them.
Money must have been a bit tight then?
Yes the wages were very poor. They got about six pound a week, that was a good wage.
So you have got two children?
Yes two boys. God didn’t give me a girl.
Did you want one?
They were both supposed to be girls. But I am very happy with them,
they are nice boys.
And you had a happy marriage?
Yes. Yes my husband died suddenly in 1972. So I have been a widow for 31 years.
You had him for a long time though didn’t you?
Yes yes. 44 to
72 so. 28 years wasn’t it.
And hows it been since he’s been gone?
I went to work again and I worked until I was quite old, every time, I went to a nursing home and every time I went to leave somebody would say, “Just wait until we have holidays just wait until someone comes back, just wait for something”
and I waited and I waited and at last well I got sick anyway so you know I had to go to the hospital and I didn’t go back.
So you were working all around Adelaide?
No I was only working at the one place, in a nursing home.
Which nursing home?
It was Victoria Park but it is not anymore, it was sold.
And you didn’t miss nursing when you gave it up at last?
no not really because it got very hard, it was a very hard job, the lifting and heaving and the yeah it was quite hard.
And if you could change, looking back over your life, which has been full of adventures, is there anything that you would change if you could?
No no I was quite
happy to go to work after because I have always been busy you know in the home and in the garden and I didn’t work when I had the children, no I was quite happy to go back to work and it was the company that I liked. You know I made a lot of friends and we had some good times, we used to go out to lunches and
things like that, dinners and things, I wasn’t lonely.
I remember you saying earlier that when you were younger you were bullet proof nothing was going to happen to you that happened to anyone else when was it that you realised that perhaps you weren’t bullet proof?
I don’t know that I, maybe when that fellow sang
“Nearer My God To Thee” I thought “Well you know this is it”, but I was talking to some of the others and they said that they were still quite calm but I did think then you know that this must be end. But I don’t know that I was terribly frightened I was just sad I think.
That song “Nearer My God To Thee” is probably very well known to your generation but perhaps not so well known now can you remember how it goes?
Just nearer my God to thee, that is what my song shall be, not that is all I know, that is all my song shall be nearer my God to thee.
Do you remember the tune, do you remember the tune?
I couldn’t sing it anyway it would be pretty rough.
How is it when you hear that song again?
Well I haven’t heard it for a long time, I do go to church here but they haven’t had a, they sing hymns that I have never heard of.
It is a beautiful song?
Yes yes I have probably got it somewhere but you know
I don’t know where.
And just to finish up Loris when you think over your wartime experiences and all the things that happened in the late 30's and early 40's when you look back at that now how do you see those times?
I am glad that I did it. And I would do it again, yes they were good times and interesting times and
right up until I got this I used to go to the march, I didn’t always march because I always had such a bad back but I did you know go with my medals. I should have had my medals on today shouldn’t I?
You seem to be a very strong person and as you were saying even in times where it looked like you were going to die you had a calmness you
weren’t frightened, was that a faith, did you have a faith that sustained it?
Oh yes yes, very yes I have got faith yes. I always have had, we were brought up that way, sometimes in that little township we’d be the only people at the church, my sisters and mother and father and brother, there might be a couple of other people, but they didn’t bother, they were very interested in church
to try and do something to it you know and they had faith, but I have.
Was it ever tested?
No no. I still you know I have still got the faith, I always tell people that I am going to pray for them and I get an awful lot of people.
Were you praying that night on the ship?
Probably I can’t say yes probably, it was about lunchtime that that happened.
It would have been pretty, was it dark down where you were in the hold?
Yes yes it was quite dark. With all those clanging meat hooks.
Do you sometimes look back on it all and think how did I?
Yes how did I do it,
yes because if those things happened to me now I would run a mile I would be so nervous, yes I used to feel, I often think about it. I think if I had to do that now I would be very jumpy.
Just like those soldiers in Batavia.
Yes no I said to somebody you know I went to have an injection in my back and I said to the doctor,
“I am very nervous,” and then I said about, I don’t know how it came up about DVA [Department of Veterans’ Affairs] you see and I said to him, “Well one time I wasn’t, I could put up with anything and now I am frightened of my own shadow.”
Is there anything that you would like to add to what we have talked about today, is there anything that you would like to say?
Well there aren’t any winners in war, we are all losers but it is camaraderie the deep friendships you make having been through that sort of trauma, you do make deep friendships, they have gone, a lot of them have gone now you see and I had a friend died last year,
well you know there is not a lot about or there is some disability that they are not able to, there is only a couple of us in Adelaide who can communicate. But no it is the friendship I think that kept you strong. No I don’t know
know that there is anything else, what else can I add?
Any message for your grandchildren that might watch this?
That is me.
That’s all folks!
That’s me, that’s me up there on the picture.