When I arrived they said, “We wanted a football team.” Then another brother was born after I was and two more girls. I grew up with all my brothers. My father was a very successful businessman in Woollamia, he had several businesses.
He was a public figure. Then we had this huge 1921 flood which just came up over night and flooded the town, everything was destroyed, destroyed every business he had. I remember as a little child, we were living a little bit out in the country, out of the town I mean. I can remember waking up at night and our beds
were floating around in the water. We all got together and were put on the table and from that day I still see the green cover that was on the table, it was only small. We had to go up onto the roof and stay all night on the roof, to stay safe.
cattle and the sheep, and everything else was out being drowned and everything else. I can remember this, the younger ones we had to stay up in the attics. We were warned so strictly that we had to stay off the rafters, if you went on the rafters you would go straight through the roof. I remember that really was a hard thing for us to do. We were there all night and then in the morning a boat came and picked us up and we got
through a window into the boat and went up to my grandmother’s place. She lived right on the riverbank, but she was high and she was not flooded. One of my very earliest things. I grew up with a lot of cousins around me, we were a big family ourselves and we had a lot of cousins and we had our own fun and everything. We had plenty of ground to play on and so forth. I went to school then in Woollamia
until I was about eight, then as I said my father was almost ruined financially after this flood. We moved out onto our farm down at Toombulgam, it’s about half way between Woollamia and Tweed Heads. On the highway we had a farm there. Then my brothers said there was no convent
school there just a state school. They all had to go to the state school. “No” they said, “She’s got to go away to a convent, she has got to board and make a lady out of her.” I believed when I was little that I was always up the street, up the trees.
or so, with my brothers they took me to dances they took me everywhere they could, they were really good. They looked after me, and told me about the pitfalls, what I should do and what I shouldn’t do at dances and so forth. Then I entered. Went to Bowral and that’s where we trained to be nuns.
I stayed there for eighteen months and then came down here to this place, and this is our mother house in Australia. I came here and finished my studies in music and I had one more exam to do in music so I finished it up here and then I was sent out to Mascot, down to Mascot to teach.
After that we turned to Bowral for what we call final vows. You get eighteen months training, to be a nun more or less, we came here for twelve months to finish our studies, whatever we had to do, and you were taught how to teach and all that time you were
free to go home if you wanted to, you weren’t tied down. Then after five years you can make your final vows, so I went back to Bowral to make my final vows. I was sent up to Berryville, it’s up in the North Coast and I taught there and also helped with the Aboriginals, we had an Aboriginal school,
at that time they were segregated and we had our own school, we had a white school and an Aboriginal school, so I helped with both. I was there for two to three years. And from then I got word that. To go to the missions, what we call the missions anywhere outside Australia,
you volunteer to go, you’re not sent, you volunteer to go. I had volunteered so they called me up and said you’re going to Rabaul. The war had already broken out in Europe, at this time. I went up on the McGuire and it was blackout all the way up, we didn’t know where we were called, didn’t know when we were leaving or anything like that, it was just blackout.
They told us half way up that we were being chased by a submarine; I don’t know what it must have been a German submarine. I arrived at Rabaul in the middle of the night. The first impression I got was the smell of sulphur, terrible smell of sulphur from the volcano, but I didn’t know that at the time.
We had two schools in Rabaul. A Chinese school, a few of the sisters taught in the Chinese school. I was sent up, when they built this smaller school for the mixed raced children, both of those were at the wharf to welcome me into Rabaul, the convent in Rabaul. I taught there until the war broke out.
Vunapope, that’s mission headquarters. It’s like this, this is our head house in Australia, and everything works from here. Up there everything worked from Vunapope our onto the mission stations, I don’t know if you know what I’m talking, a station I suppose but all that little places out and around the islands are called stations, people, priests and nuns are sent out to those stations.
I was in Vunapope, we heard this noise, everyone looked up in the sky and it was reconnaissance plane we couldn’t see what mark was on it, it was strange. It went constantly around, around and around. That was the first inkling that something was happening. Previous to this,
we had quite a number of Japanese in Rabaul, businessmen doing all sorts of things. Quite a number of them were disappearing, someone would say, “Did you see so and so, I haven’t seen him for a while, don’t know where he has gone.” They had a nice teaching half-caste boy; it was a mixed race,
we don’t say half-caste these days we say mixed race, to the Japanese. His father was very good to us. That was the first thing. Then this other happened, they just sort of disappeared. I remember one; Gordon Thomas was the editor of the Rabaul Times this day
and this was printed one day in his paper, he had a little Japanese up in a tree, and an Australia underneath. That was a sort of a suspicious, why? What’s happening? What’s happening? We’re certain it was a Japanese reconnaissance plane
that was over, but we didn’t know at that time, we couldn’t see a sign or anything.
“Pearl Harbor, the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor today and we are at war with the Japanese.” He said “We have to close the school, they have to take the two mixed race Japanese boys with me, they will go with their mother, they would be alright, we will sent them into the bush, they will be alright. Their father is already on the plane to Australia.”
Asem was a good man, we felt sorry. We never heard from him again, we don’t know what happened. The next thing we had to close the school, move out to Vunapope to our headquarters, and because the government ordered all the European women to be evacuated. The Chinese, they didn’t bother about the Chinese, they were just left to their own fate, and we had a lot of
Chinese. The bishop came to us and said, “We have got orders from the government and we have to be evacuated,” he said, “Do you want to go? We will give you a choice? Do you want to go?” And we Australians, we were only nine Australian sisters altogether and our community consisted of mostly of Dutch sisters, we had a couple of German and Irish but most consisted of sisters.
We were the only ones who were given the choice to go, we didn’t want to go, we said, “We will stay.” We thought we were able to carry on our own work, even though whatever happened they would let us go on with our own work. We chose to stay and work this way you have to do Red Cross work, the only condition we were allowed to stay. We got to work and made little
crosses and had the white habits to put on. That was it. Several weeks I was in Vunapope, we were all waiting then we heard about how Japan was moving down and moving down quicker and quicker. We knew that eventually they would come to Rabaul. This is where the administrator,
Harold Page, was an assistant administrator at that time he said, “Send us help, send us help, they’re coming quickly down, no way can we beat them with what we’ve got.” we had old fashioned machine guns, whatever they had was outdated and we didn’t have enough for anybody.
All the European women had gone; the civilians were starting to move out. You’ve heard of the eruptions with the volcanoes that we had there, they were erupting all the time and all this, and I would always rush out to the mission. We always had a civilian population at the mission.
We were opposite the big volcano called Madapit, we were across the harbour from there, almost directly across the harbour. We never got the dust and stuff that would fall over Rabaul all the time, it was falling over, they would always rush out there. They were there; we had a lot of men, civilians.
The night of the invasions, just before and a lot of the men came out, a lot had joined up with the army with different sections of the army and that sort of thing. We had the carpenters and Burn Philps, managers with us, they had rushed to the missions too and they said, “We’re going to
the bush, we’re getting out.” they said, “Here’s the keys, go down and take what you want from our stores, take it.” Then the Japanese started coming over one morning. It was January they started coming over,
no it was December, December they started coming over. Before the war, before any of this happened at all, we were still teaching. A Japanese ship came into Rabaul Harbour and we had Japanese everywhere, taking photos, photos and photos. This was before anything had happened.
You must have been very helpless?
We did. There was nothing we could do. The bishop straight away offered our hospital at Vunapope, they were in need of a hospital, we were always in need of a hospital for the Australian wounded, straightaway that day, straight after that bombing they started coming out to us, they bought the Australian soldiers out to our hospital. Bombings, bombings, bombings all the time, at everything,
the aerodrome. The last thing left were two little As and we used to watch these dogfights, they’d come in hundreds, the skies would be full of them. Anyway this day everything was hopeless, we knew it was hopeless, we had nothing, nothing to hold them back. These two little pilots said, “All we have are two little As and we will go up
and attack.” That would be today, ‘I salute you’, their last words, they went up and that’s it. We had nothing then, they were free to walk in.
we had to stay there. We said we would stay. We were looking after soldiers, we had to stay for the soldiers, they kept bring them out to our mission. I wasn’t looking after the soldiers, I wasn’t a nurse, I was a teacher. We were cooking; I was in a little hut and cooking for the soldiers with a couple of other sisters. The Australians we were teachers, the Dutch sisters were nurses mostly, the German sisters
they belonged to another congregation they were mostly nurses. They were all looking after the wounded soldiers, we were in this little hut. Then Burn Philps and the other carpenter told us to get their supplies, everyone would rush down and took out everything they could and brought it up to the convent and we got hit everywhere.
This little hut we had, we had a little attic up on top and had a lot of stuff hidden up there, and that was what we used to make up a big pot with, we’d make kind of a stew thing for the soldiers. We had a ladder and we used to run up. We were guarded by this time, the Japanese had landed.
We were guarded and they were going around and around and around our little hut. We had a ladder, we used to put it up and you had to watch, when they went around this way and a quick up and down and put it away. When they could come down and pull the ladder away. It took them a couple of weeks too, the Japanese were funny. They only saw what they saw.
We used to say they had one-track minds. They just came for one thing, if you reverted from that they forgot what they came for. Unfortunately, this day someone didn’t get the ladder back in time, so they went up the ladder and found all this food up there so that was a (UNCLEAR), we could never come back again.
We had to go back and stay in our convent, we couldn’t go down and feed the soldiers, but they were still nursing, they were still allowed to nurse until they were well enough, they could walk and they were taken back into Rabaul this Christmas. We had guards all this time we had Japanese and eventually we saw no more soldiers.
everything. We saw what was going on, we saw the ships being bombed, we are not sure how many got away but we saw them. We were guarded and we couldn’t go outside our fence, we had no fence but it was just a… We had no contact with anybody, not with the missionaries either for one week.
Then after a week the bishop, who was a very marvellous man, he was Polish, a lot of people thought he was German, no he wasn’t, he was Polish born. He was conscripted into the army in the First World War as an Englishman but he was Polish. He was the only one allowed after a week to come over to see us.
Right from the beginning he stood up against the Japanese and he just went down, he said, “I’m in charge of this whole mission, whatever happens I’m responsible and I am the bishop.” They really played up to it you know. He said, “If anything is done, I’m responsible.” So they put him through lots and lots of interrogating stuff and he would say, “I’ve got
Irish people here.” First of all he started off with, “I’ve got old brothers here and surely you’re not going to do anything to them.” Talk, talk and talk then he said, “We’re leaving.” Then he would say, “I’ve got some Irish sisters here, Ireland is not in the war and what are you going to do about them? Surely you’re not going to take them
away?” This was the way that he approached the Japanese. “I’m responsible for all these people and I want to know.” They’d talk again and they would say, “Oh no they would be allowed to stay.” He went through the Dutch the same way, “They’re not at war with you.” they’d say, “Well, they can stay.” “What about the Germans? The Germans were not at war with us really.” “If you’re here you will have to take the same with everybody else.” He said that,
“That’s alright, we stay together, I want them all kept here together and I’m responsible, you do nothing without coming to me.” We found this out that he really stood up to the Japanese; he sort of stood up to them. He really did that and we don’t know really what he went through to save us. He was the spokesman
for the whole of the missionary the whole time.
in a way it didn’t help what they did (UNCLEAR) medals. We won’t do anything, we just looked after ourselves. We were all kept in this compound and the night of this invasion, this is going a bit backwards and forwards just as it comes. In the middle of the night a Methodist pastor
came and said, “I’ve got six of my nursing sisters here,” there were missionary sisters who had volunteered to stay behind too, and they didn’t live with us or anything, he said, “Would you take them in.” We said yes so they came and joined us. Same thing again with six Anglican nurses, they were missionary nurses. Then the military
nurses, there were six of those. So they all joined up with us and they all lived with us for six months. We were all just in this little compound. We had no contact with the other missionaries that were living on this compound. The same mission grounds. Then about April/June,
in the meantime, the bishop came to visit, he used to come over everyday to give us whatever. The Japanese would say to him and that was the only contact we had. He said, “I’ve got bad news for you today, the Japanese have said that all the Australian nurses and sisters have to go to Japan.” The bishop said, “Look I’m
sorry, I’m sorry I have no jurisdiction as such over the military nurses.” he said, “But the sisters you will not touch over my dead body.” We didn’t know what was going to happen; we had our little bags packed in case we had to go. But eventually they did come and took the nurses and they went to Japan
and that’s another story. They took one of our Australian fathers, and Australian brothers but they managed to keep us.
everything, and they said, “You are seeing too much, we want your house.” so they put us back further in the mission grounds, you move into those native huts back there. “You have to go tomorrow.” We had strict orders to go tomorrow. By this time we got a bit cranky. We said, “Oh no, we can’t be out by tomorrow, you give us three days,
we pack up and go.” No argument, “Alright, we give you three days.” All the time we are being watched, because they thought we had radios, we didn’t possess such a thing. They were always suspicious right up until the end. They were suspicious of us that we had radios. Which we didn’t, nobody at the missionary had a radio. They said,
“Okay, three days.” so three days, we got to work, that’s us, our community, and we moved every chair, every table, we took every picture off the wall, we needed the whole place and we pushed and pushed back into these huts that they told us to go. The ordinary soldiers had no control over what we did,
they were there to guard us, they couldn’t stop us from taking anything, so we took everything, we even took a piano, and we pushed a piano about three miles.
we had our own, whatever you wanted it was done on the mission, We had the hospital, we had the dispensary, we had like bookbinding, we had a shoemaker’s, we had a dentist, all amongst the brothers, they could do all this, we had everything, we were completely self… The bishop had said to us,
“It’s getting a bit hot, if you’re got anything special,” he said, “I’d advise you to put them away.” They were buried in the big mountains and the brothers put a toilet block in front of it and it was still there after the war. They never suspected that there was anything behind that toilet block in the mountains. That’s how we preserved
some of our things. Then of course the food was running out, and this is where the little indigenous sisters came in, they were trained by our sisters. They’d creep in at night and drop something somewhere and when we got up in the morning we’d find it there. We weren’t allowed to talk to them
or see them or anything like that. They knew we needed food so that took a bunch of bananas or potatoes or anything.
so the bishop said, “No, in the big mountains we have got to build trenches right through this big mountain” and night and day all the menfolk would work to build trenches underneath the mountains. We, or I was [(UNCLEAR)] but for a long time they never touched the mission. They never bombed the mission.
All this activity was able to go on, you know, going on to Rabaul, and when we were moved back behind the wire we saw nothing, we didn’t know what was happening. We used to watch the dogfights and who was killed. The only way we knew was we used to count the Japanese planes that were down, count how many came back and we knew how many they
lost and the same as our own planes, we watch them coming in again. The Japanese used to have great joy in coming over and say “Oh, we brought down so many planes today.” and we’d just turned around and say that was right. They always told us the wrong thing, we learnt, we were watching, we knew what went out and what came back so we knew.
Not that they tried to teach us Japanese in the beginning. We were in our house, we had blackboards up and they decided they try and teach us Japanese in the beginning. This guy came and he would write on our blackboards, I’m sorry now, but we pretended we were so stupid, in the end they said, “You’re too stupid.” so he gave up in the end
and that was the end of the Japanese. That was right in the beginning. These big trenches were built. The planes used to come over, we used to watch them coming over the sea and we didn’t know where the base was coming from but we knew it was from Knell Island, which is a little island
not far away and that’s were they had a base and they would come across and it was a magnificent sight, you’d see an Australian or American and we didn’t know and they would be coming across in the hundreds in perfect formation and they would come across, these little silver birds across the ocean and it was a magnificent sight. We used to watch them on the bows,
count how many would get away and that was how we spent our days in the beginning.
Those poor creatures, we used to feel so sorry for them. They were just there, no sanitary conditions, nothing. How we lived through it I don’t know. How we didn’t get all the diseases, anyway we lived through it. The piano, we had it on the little veranda out the front, it was just near the barbed wire not far from the barbed wire. These poor little creatures
would come along and they would listen, and when you finished they’d clap their hands, “More, more, more!” You felt so sorry for them. After a while they bought their nurses, their own nurses out and they were placed just over from there, over the other place, just this side of our compound. They were beautiful girls, their spotless white uniforms and they would come over to these fellows.
They tried to give them injections, they chased them miles around the place, they thought they could catch them. We got a lot of laughs out of it; really, it was so serious but still. They would line up at our fence and watch everything we were doing. Anything we did they would sort of imitate; they’d try and imitate us.
A lot of them were just little teenage boys, they were just dressed up as soldiers, they were dragged in from the country. It was also in Australia. While we were still there, because we had machines, we had bought in our machines with us and we would be sewing, and so forth. After a little while some of them, we didn’t know the Japanese
and they’d would ask, they had torn trousers, torn shirt or something else, we would understand what they wanted. We said, “If you give us Atebrin or Quinine.” There was long grass between us and they would leave their little bundle of stuff there and walk away and they would put the Atebrin or Quinine stuff in there.
We had a little bit of that against the malaria, for a while when that happened. Later on. Now where here, our place is here, the hospital is there and their nurses are there, and on this side was where they put their shell-shocked. We had them screaming all day long, it was sad.
You would see the doctor coming along when they got really bad, and you saw it many, many times and they would come and give them an injection and that was it.
very nasty. I didn’t meet him. But our doctor did, because he had a little daughter, she was about two years old. She got some sort of a, I don’t know what it was, typhoid fever, or something. He begged the Japanese doctor to give him the serum, an injection that could save that child,
and he wouldn’t, and the child died. His own child. He was a nasty doctor; we had a bit to do with him later on. We didn’t like him, a lot of us didn’t, he was nasty. He was the one who took Captain Graham, and that is another story, behind the barbed wire, right in front of us. They put this Australian soldier, we found out since it was a Japanese, Captain Grey,
they tied him to a coconut tree, and it was right in sight for us and for days they tortured him and tortured him, and tortured him, trying to get information, and he didn’t open his mouth, never opened his mouth. After some days they took him down the back of our place. We had some seminarians
there, they are only starting to be priests. They were allowed to stay in our compound. They took him down behind their place and they cut his heart out while he was still alive and they saw it. We never, never spoke about that until just lately. The last few years we thought it would have been terrible if their relatives ever heard, it was the cruellest thing to do.
We also heard, he was only in Rabaul one week, when he was captured. He wouldn’t have any information whatever.
you just had to watch it. That was all behind the barbed wire that was the worst. Then after a lot of bombing in Rabaul, they used to go over the top of us, we felt pretty safe, they were not touching the mission and they finished Rabaul and bombed everything out. Then they brought us something and it came
from the other direction. Just before that, the Japanese had moved out a lot of their ammunition just in front of us, near our compound, not in our compound just outside our compound. They put a big red cross on top of it. We thought, ‘What’s this going on?’ Our people are not fools, they know they have got ammunition there, they had been watching. We thought, ‘We’re doomed,
that will be the end of us.’ They did come one day, they came and bombed us. We would just run to the trenches. One day, they were in charge of this old sister, she was an old French sister and she got to the trench safely. We were late and she couldn’t hurry and this plane came over the top of us, we thought ourselves, everybody else had got there
and we were all left behind, and we just threw ourselves on the ground and this plane went over the top, it was one of the worst moments, and you could feel the shadow passing over, you know it came down about four times. Three times I tried to get up, twice I tried to get up but I couldn’t, my legs just wouldn’t. Fear, they say fear paralyses you,
I just couldn’t get up. The attempts I made they kept coming backwards and forwards and it was just like this, just waiting every minute to get a machine gun in your back. Eventually got up and got there, it went away, and I realised well I don’t know we were all dressed in white. We got to the trenches. That was one of the
really bad moments. A couple of others. Before we were still in these little huts that we were in the compound. And I was doing some tortoiseshell work this day, I used to work on the tortoiseshell and we used to get tortoiseshells from the thing. I don’t know if you have done any tortoiseshell work, it is beautiful?
but it gave joy to these poor old men. Another time we were in the trench and it was in the middle of the night, and we were all in the trenches and another bombing. We were nine hours in those trenches sometimes, and they would come over, it was our own planes, they would come over the top of us and the ground would shake like that and very minutes we thought it was going to
go through but nothing would penetrate it, thank God. This night, we heard this terrible noise, it had been raining and when we came out in the morning there were a whole lot of shells, they had shelled us from the sea. The first time and the only time they ever did it. A lot of unexploded
shells because of the dampness. At that time our guards were only one. We said, “Now is our chance and we will go out and see what we can find.” it was terrible. Three of us went out, a Dutch sister, another sister and an Australian and we thought we could see what we could find with nobody about. All these tins were of
food, had been bayoneted it and every time they saw a tin they would just bayonet it. I found a whole lot of nails that day which was no use to me. Which we were going down and we weren’t far from the sea, we were going down to the sea. We saw some huts and went down there and we got to the door of
this hut, but who should appear but a Japanese soldier, He couldn’t speak and we couldn’t speak. We made him understand, we had a look in and he had a whole lot of mattresses and we didn’t have any mattresses by this time. We bargained with him, “You give us some mattresses and we will give you some bananas.” we had no bananas with us, and we didn’t know where we were going to get them,
and we thought that he would forget about it. He gave us a mattress each and we came home so proudly with a mattress. We found a mosquito net too that day. Then we saw all the, those big things those things that the soldiers get on?
The tanks then came back from out of the bush, we thought that we should get, so we got back into our trenches. We got a mosquito net, which a sister used, for the rest of the time and a mattress each. But as soon as we laid the mattress down, it had nothing in it. The laugh was on us, they all laughed at us and they all thought it was a great joke.
‘What are we going to do, we have got no bananas, what are we going to do, what are we going to do if he... He’ll forget about it, he’ll forget.’ Sure enough, in the afternoon we saw this fellow and he walked across and here he comes he wants his bananas. We had a marvellous Mother Superior and she was Dutch, she said, “”Don’t worry, I’ve
got some, I brought them in last night and I’ve got a whole bunch, don’t worry.” So when he came over we had to give him the bunch of bananas. It was a miracle, I never thought. It was really a rash thing to do but. Anyway, he went off happy with those bananas but we had nothing then. Different little things happened like that.
no water. We all sort of got skin diseases and things. When we went out that tunnel we found some soap. We brought that back. Then we caked ourselves with soap, with the rashes we’ve got and we got the soap and just plonked it on ourselves, it would relieve the itch a little bit. It was terrible in those trenches, it was terrible.
Especially when they came over and started to bomb us. The mountain, they were really high mountains, and they would be going like this. One day it would come through and that would be the end of it. Anyway, we survived that. So then they decided, the fathers decided they’d try and get an airshaft through. Oh dear they worked, they worked
and worked right through this and I don’t know how many miles, but right up, but eventually they got through. How? The day that they got through, the dust and air that went through was just marvellous. And what happens, the Japanese came over and said, “It’s not safe here for you anymore.” we lost everything. “It’s not safe for you here anymore we have to move you out to a safe place.”
They were just waiting for the airshaft to get through, the vent.
trekking out, we didn’t know where, and the bishop said, “Alright, you are going to take us out there? You must allow me to send two brothers to find somewhere, where are you going to take us?” so they said, “You are going down there.” so the brothers left and they built a couple of little huts for us.
Anyway, we didn’t know where it was. It was all virgin forests and nobody had lived there before. We set out and they were just bombing and we would lie flat on the ground and wait for everything to blow over, then we would go on a bit further. So we arrived at the top of the gorge and it had been raining, they said, “Descend, descend.”
We had to descend, so we slipped half of the way down and got down eventually, down to the bottom, a long way down. When we got down to the bottom we could not see the sky, from the trees and the undergrowth and everything. We couldn’t even see the sky.
there was a little river running along and you weren’t allowed to touch these big things, they used to write these big notices up for us. ‘You’re not allowed to go near the river because that is for Japanese to bath in.’ The menfolk got to work and I don’t ask me how they, but when these things happened, somehow you managed, they got a pump of some sort and
pumped the water up, from this little place, so we had this little bit of water and that’s how we lived. It was the water that was pumped up from this little river that we weren’t allowed to go near. It was terrible, it was so damp. The undergrowth, you would slip everywhere because you would be caught in all the undergrowth where you walked. Eventually, there were three hundred of us by this time, three hundred. Gradually the undergrowth
began to die. The sun shined through and it was wonderful when the sun shined through. I had charge of getting the washing dried. We washed once a week, and I would have to go around and try and get the clothes dried, it took me a whole week. I would run after a little bit of sun wherever it shined, and move the clothes and tried to get the sun, it took me a whole week
to get things dry. Then it was time to put them on again. In time, it was quite good. It was the best of it all.
brought it down to us, what was left. That’s how we existed for a while. Then we had all sorts of weeds. The bishop was a very, very remarkable man, when you have lived in the bush and worked in the bush. There was another, not a young fellow, a very small fellow, also knew a lot about the plants, not the plants the weeds and things ‘what you could eat, what you couldn’t eat, what was poisonous and what wasn’t poisonous.’
They were able to tell us, you would take the leaf off this and you can eat the rest of it, so we would take the seed out of the middle of it, and the rest of it is alright. They knew this so we used to boil up these weeds and that’s how we lived there for a long time, just on those weeds and bits and things. Pigweed was our principal thing.
That went on for a long, long time. Then another day, it was a very sad day. I forgot to tell you in the mission right when they first entered we had a mission that was self supporting and we had our own farm and they had allowed one Brother and one Father to stay out on that farm. Of course they looked after themselves and they had to take the stuff into the Japanese all the time. So one day,
amongst the grass and stuff they had, they left this horse for us, so we got the horse and we had to eat this horse, this little horse, oh dear. We cut this horse up and we ate this horse. Then when we went to Rawley, if there was anymore they didn’t have to. They weren’t slaves they were supplying the Japanese all the time. I don’t
know why, I can’t remember why it was but anyway it was that the Brother, he had a little cart I believe and he was bringing something into us at Rawley, and I can’t remember why or what allowed this day to come in. On the way, we were all called up and we went into the chapel and there he was, he was in the cart bringing stuff in for us, and he was bombed and killed.
That was in Rawley and it was a Saturday.
kept ourselves busy. Before we moved, I don’t remember when they moved in here, we already had a little sister over from the islands, from the Solomons, she was French, as French as French can be. She had been over with us before the war to see the doctor and she was on retreat so she was there. Then later on they brought in
two more French sisters and a Alsace sister and they brought in two French fathers and an American Father from the Solomons and they all came in and they brought them all out to us and they were with us. I can’t remember when that was, but I knew they came. Then the time came when they wanted to learn German and we were learning German,
we were teaching them English and they were teaching us French and we had all these languages and things. Then the doctor would give us everything in medicine, he knew, we had lectures on that and we were kept busy. We kept busy mending and sewing, the best we could. We were kept busy.
they took ten of us first into a military hospital in Rabaul, and we had the soldiers looking after us. Things were in a bad stage really, in Australia I mean. They had no transport for us. Eventually they got a sea plane and we went down to Jacquinot Bay down the coast and the nurses had a hospital down there, the military nurses
had a hospital down there. They took us down there and they had no transport and they couldn’t get us away. I don’t know how, but eventually. Another old sister and myself we were taken over to Lau and the others followed. We went by plane over to Lau, and we were in Lau for easily, six weeks. They had no transport, they couldn’t get us to Australia.
In that time a lot of sisters had come out and a lot of priests were waiting and they thought we might as well as go back to Vunapope, and they went back and they didn’t even bother coming down after, the transport, back to Rabaul.
There were some of the instruments, like we used to watch these, reconnaissance planes owls, they used to come out at night and the Japanese would have these spotlights and you would see this little plane coming around and this spotlight chasing it
all over the place. In our huts it used to keep us up for hours. We never saw one of them come down. They’d drop a bomb somewhere. That day we went out to see the museum, we saw these searchlights, they were huge. We couldn’t believe
the size of it. Then we went upstairs, and this was a little cottage and they had only just started and one of men we had with us said, “There’s a part of a plane, that’s my plane, that’s the one I came down on!”
Which now, they are all gone and my nieces and nephews they’re scattered everywhere. They are not growing up the same as we grew up. They don’t even know their cousins, we did. Our cousins were all family and my grandmother was very much a part of our lives, my grandfather died much earlier than that. She was a very
strong, domineering Irish woman. Every Sunday we would go to grandma’s. After grandfather died one of my brothers always lived with her. Every Sunday we would be at grandma’s. The cousins would be there. My grandfather had a big, very big orchard with every
fruit imaginable, fruit you could imagine. We were allowed to have anything but they had to be ripe. That didn’t satisfy my brothers, they would have to get them before they were ripe. One day, one of my brothers was up in the tree and was after something that wasn’t ripe and my grandfather he was a very quite man and he was an Australian. He was just down hoeing and Stan was up the tree
picking this green fruit, he just went around, around and around. Just to stop Stan, he knew Stan was up there, but he didn’t even get down but in the end he had to come down, it was just so amusing. I used to take part in my brothers things. Like all boys and young girls they would go out.
We had three old bachelors who were very good to us and they also had a lot of fruit trees, especially mulberries and stuff. They decided to stay back home and lob these things. You only had to ask and you could have gone and got it. It was more fun.
came along, I had to go up the tree to watch. We got away with that anyway. We used to walk to school, it was about three miles into the school. We’d come through the paddock. I remember one day I had a red dress on and I was chased by a bull and I can still see the running off this bull, I got away from it anyway.
An uncle of mine by marriage, he had a mango tree and he lived on the road, and the mangoes used to drop over the side. He had a terrible temper, he had a real temper. The boys were always doing something they shouldn’t be doing. We came home from school and we were picking
up these mangoes we weren’t taking them, and he’d come out and say “stop taking the mangoes” and anything else. It was just the fun of taking it, we took more than was over the tree and fence of course. That was all part of living, it was all fun.
it was a very big place, and he was the president of the shire and I remember my mother used to say to me, and he often spoke about it, meetings and things and his mates used to say “you should go, you should join.” My mother said “no.” and my father said “no, I will never become a
volunteering.” he said “they’re straight, they’re good when they get in.” that’s what he said. That was his idea of volunteering. He never mixed with them, never, ever again. He was very public minded. Anything I would say, he would say. When the Queen came out, she was a Princess at that time,
for many, many years she visited the Tweed and my father was president of the of the Shire Council and he went down there and entertained the Queen.
the eldest of fourteen children. His two younger brothers left Ireland and came out to Australia. Then for a long time his parents didn’t hear anything about them. And in those days it was a long time before any mail went from one country to another. My grandfather then was sent out, the eldest of the family, he was sent out to see where the
two boys were. That’s how he came out. He went to Ballarat first, of course, they might have been there but they weren’t there, and he couldn’t find them. Eventually he went to New Zealand and they had gone to New Zealand, and you will find out name towards over there. But they had gone to America, and finally they settled
in America. So that was were they were, and we also have the name in America. His youngest brother, who came out later on, the youngest of the family, he settled up in Tweed and he didn’t go to Woolooma. You might have been told about it, it’s a heritage home now, it’s under Lisenger
an Irish home in Ireland. It’s a heritage place now. One of the decedents have returned it to it’s original, all the old buildings. When my grandfather died he said it was to be the home for the two girls
until they marry. These two girls were very artistic, a creator, they had beautiful work, beautiful stuff around the place. They lived to an old age there and they didn’t have anything done to that house, nothing was done. They died some years ago. It would have been a second cousin
and he’s taken it over and he put it back to what it was in the early days. It’s a tourist attraction at the moment.
would you like to go to somewhere. There is a teacher going to such and such a place, you did. You talked about it. It’s quite different, it was called ‘blind obedience’. You just went were you were told to go. Your superiors saw the need in some place and you would fill that need and you were sent there.
That was what you vowed, you never questioned it. But it’s different because you are asked would you like to go, ‘somebody is needed here, you’ve got qualities,’ see it’s that situation. You weren’t free to say no, “I don’t wish to go.” and that’s it exactly. The vow of chastity, of course. You don’t marry.
It doesn’t stop you having very close relationships with anybody. You met up with a lot of people, male people anyway, which you become very friendly with. There’s no objection to any of that. It’s just that you don’t marry or get any close relationships. That’s what the vows are.
Yes. This is December, which was before Christmas and I was asked to go out, to one of the stations. So I sent out to Tapo about ten mile or more. I was up there and this night we had girl boarders, we had boarders and the Japanese were coming bombing, bombing at
night and we had to run to little trenches there. Anyway in the middle of this night we were just going along, continuing as usual, there was school and there was nursing. Father came down. Up to this time, the Germans, after that First World War, after
the Australians took it from the Germans in 1914 the rule was the German missionaries that were there were allowed to carry on their work but a curfew was put on them from 6.00 pm to 6.00 am. They were not to leave their stations and that was carried on.
In the middle of the night this native man came with a note from a plantation owner who lived miles away and it said, “There is something you must know, come up and ring up.” He had a telephone we didn’t. Father being German
could not read this and he came down to us and said, “I’ve got this note would you be willing to go up and ring up?” there was a great big native fellow there to guard us. We went up and arrived at the plantation owner’s house and it was just, you had no idea. Chairs ripped, tables upset, bottles everywhere
it just wasn’t right. He took us over to where the telephone was and I rang up and the other sister was a Dutch sister and I was the only Australian and I rang Vunapope and I said, “I think there is something you have to know.” and Father Benjamin couldn’t say anything on the phone.
He said, “No, no, everything is fine, you don’t have to worry about that.” Before I could put the receiver down there was this Australian voice cut in and he said, “Are you Australian?” and I said “Yes.” he said, “Expect to evacuate.” We were expecting an invasion tomorrow. You couldn’t image how we felt. I would like to just know to this day who
that Australian was, I will never know. They had taken over Kokopo, which was a few miles over, and we were listening to every thing. He said ‘yes’ and we came home with the Father. I remember it was a moonlight night, beautiful moonlight night. Four of us set out, we stood out in the moonlight and we said, “What will we do?” and we said there was nothing we could do we will just stay here.
Early in the morning Father came down, they were just having breakfast and he said, “The people just came up to me and said they had just found an Australian soldier in their dug out and he won’t move, and they can’t move him.” Father said, “We will take a stretcher down.” so we went down with Father and a nurse
went down, it was a shell-shocked Australian soldier. Who had got away from our hospital, he had run away that night, shellshock, he didn’t know what he was doing. Father said, “I’ll take him up and I’ll look after him but you will have to go ahead and report him.” We didn’t know the invasion was on. We were told it was going to be expected but he said, “I won’t be able to
keep him without reporting him to the Australian authorities.”
So we set off the two of us, and neither of us knew the way and these Japanese planes were coming over the coconut tops like that, and here we were in our white habits walking along the road. We said, “We’ll have to get off the road.” We got off the road and we got lost.
All along the roads were broken cars, broken down cars, every instrument, everything you could image, bikes, trucks all broken down left there, everybody had cleared off, it appeared that everybody had cleared off to the bush. There wasn’t a native to be seen anywhere, they’d cleared out. Here we are the two of us walking along on the way to Vunapope to report this soldier who was there.
We got there, we went around all day long, it was 7 o’clock in the morning when we left, about 3 o’clock we found our way and we said, “We have to get back, we have to find the road again.” so we did, we found the road and we walked to Vunapope and we were in Vunapope by this time. As we came, the hospital was there, the road was running along there
and here this big truck came out full of Japanese soldiers. They’d landed alright. They stood up and they flicked their bayonets out at us like this. I thought, ‘This is it!’ They yelled and screamed and all of a sudden there was this order, you know how they scream the order out, they scream the orders out in military things and all of a sudden they all
just sat down like that and the truck turned and went the other way. We ran for our lives. We got there and the bishop was there and the minister. The bishop looked to the side and said, “Where have you come from?” We said, “Tapo.” He said, “We’re prisoners, you can’t go back, we’re prisoners.”
That was the end, I had to stay there. The two of us stayed there. The other sister was left out there for three months alone and she didn’t know what had happened to us, we had no communication, no money.
eyewitness, one of the fathers, a Father from Rabaul, he was not an army man he was the parish priest at Rabaul, and he was captured. When he knew these soldiers had to stay behind he would look after them, he was an Irishman by the way, and a great friend with the soldiers. They were very upset that they had to stay and face the enemy while the others were told to go and get away. Every man for himself. They had to make it to the bush.
The Father had said, “I’ll stay with you.” so he stayed. He was captured of course and imprisoned in Rabaul for six months or more. He got dysentery and he was dying and they brought him out to the mission. He told me about that on the shores of Rabaul. As far as I know he would be the only one alive who would know but he died eventually afterwards.
That has to be written in history. They didn’t not move, they knew there were more soldiers in Rabaul, but they thought they had gone up to the mountains and they were going to come down but instead of that they were trying to get away and were told to go, get away. They delayed three months in Rabaul, waiting for that to happen.
They’d been there three months and the Americans joined the Australian Navy. Coral Sea battle took place, we’ve heard it. We saw them going out, the Japanese going out and their ships going out and we saw them coming back, the war, it is a terrible sight. Seeing them coming back wounded and everything. That’s something that’s not known.
and the Tol Massacre took place. They were told if they surrendered they would be alright but as soon as they landed they just shot them. There was a Father, an Australian Father down the coast there, who helped the Australian to get away, he helped them a lot and they got away, Father Harris. The Japanese came along and they took him out to sea and we don’t
know what happened, they shot him and his body was washed up onto the shore. He had helped the Australians to get away. He refused to leave them so he helped them himself and wanted to stay and look after the lot. Further down the coast was an Irishman, the same thing happened to him, he helped the Australians get away, he was shot. Nobody was allowed to touch his body. That was seemed to be there.
In Rabaul too, the natives say that some of the bodies that were washed up, and that is the big question with a mark after it at the moment. We are trying to get that enquired into, who was really on that ship? Because when the bodies were supposed to be been washed up around Rabaul. We don’t know, we don’t know, whether they really went all the way around,
or if they only went some of the way, or massacred. They are all things that are mysteries, we don’t know.
She would have been very worried I’d imagine?
We were worried about her, she’s all alone, we were safe we were with the others. No, I don’t know. That was early, it was in the early part, they were far more lenient towards the missionaries, and they would bring them in and put us all together. One Father, I’ve got his photograph there, Father Fankue[?], he was a German,
he was tortured and tortured and tortured, three times he was brought into Rabaul and tortured, for helping the Australians get away. He continued to do it, to get though the war. He went back. While I was down the coast he stayed with the missions and I thought this Father would get away to Australia with the Australian soldiers, they probably lost their lives.
Others were tortured, all Germans, they were tortured for helping them. Later on when they were dying, they thought they were dying, they’d bring them into our camp, you would really think they were dying, but they lived.
native boys, a lot of them would have been mixed race and also the girls. The brothers would be teaching all those boys, we didn’t have those not then. The other German sister would be teaching the bigger girls. Then we had a boarding school of girls.
We also had a little nursery of babies whom their mothers had died in childbirth, looking after babies until they were fostered out to somebody later on. We had quite a bit of trouble there in the beginning with those, because they were away in the little, it wasn’t a hospital, a nursery, where a sister lives, one sister
lived with this baby, there would have been about half a dozen or more. She would be there all day nursing those babies, looking after them and feeding them. She was downstairs. In the beginning they were getting into everything. She had trouble with the Japanese trying to break in and that kind of thing. So she had to be removed and
brought over and the babies had to be sent home.
about that. Not amongst us as a civilian population. It was, I believe amongst the administration, because they were petitioning Canberra all the time. “Send us more help, send us more help, they’re moving down quickly, they’re taking this place and that place and they’re coming along, and now they are just outside the harbour, can’t you send us help, can’t you do something?”
By this time I was out in the compound by this time. No, nobody saw that I could recall. I think even if we did, I don’t even recall I don’t think even thinking, we thought, ‘well they’re our friends’. We’d known so many, no it just didn’t enter my head anyway.
worker up there, was a missionary, at a different place to what we were he was out the other side of Rabaul. After the war, he came up and he was reported being on the Montevideo Maru, and the father came up and went out to the Methodist Mission. They were already building houses
and everything and he was introduced as Mr Beasley, and this native boy said, “Mr Beasley, Mr Beasley. Mr Beasley helped me build these houses.” He questioned. He said, “Yes, he went on the ship and I saw him get on the ship and I carried his things, his tools down to the ship.” Whether that is true or not we don’t know. Mr Beasley checked everything there then he went to Japan
and checked everything with the Japanese, and what the Americans had said happened then what the Japanese had said happened to the ship really. It coincided and everything seemed to match. He was convinced he was on the ship. Nobody knows.
to our imprisonment. First, when we were imprisoned in our own house. We had guards going around all the time. We were never without them; they just went round, round and round the house. The property was only from here to the end of this building, really, just outside. At night, the same thing they would walk around, and we had a veranda right around,
and it went round, round and round. We didn’t get undressed or anything for weeks. We were so terrified with what was going to happen. We were all just huddled into one room at night. The guards would be going around and they’d come and knock and try and get in. We were just terrified. Once the bishop got control. It was about a week to ten days before he really
got control and he said, “That’s got to stop, such and such has got to stop.” we couldn’t stop the guards coming around that was alright, but they sort of threatened us more or less. Then during the day, but those nights were terrible because we never knew what was going to happen? They’d tram up the stairs and they would tramp around and around. During
the day, not only just the guards but other soldiers would come in too and they would have their bayonets and they would throw them at us like this and say, “Blood of an Australia soldier, blood of an Australian soldier.” They used tomato sauce and we didn’t know whether it was true or not. They’d try and intimidate us in ways like that. Everyday we were checked,
everyday without fail, you were called downstairs and we would have to line up on the veranda and they’d count us. One, two, three, four up to twenty. Most of them sent to check on us couldn’t go past twenty, and they would have to start off. They couldn’t count past twenty, there were more than that, there were thirty-five,
who were really decent and knew what we were and they would obey that and they didn’t have a lot to say. In fact one of them, he said to us on one occasion, he said, “Never let a Japanese find you on your own.” so that was good advice. We never, we always kept together; we were one wherever we went and that was in the beginning, the first weeks.
It was a terrifying time, when we were in our houses. I said they did try to get into this house where the sister was looking after the babies, she was nursing those babies and she had a lot of trouble. She’d complained to a doctor and the bishop went to the highest, he would always say, “I go to Major so and so.” he learnt all their names by degrees, “No, I go to Major so and so and complain.”
I had never seen anyone, this was with those soldiers. They were disciplined; they dare do anything once they were. Their nurses, when their nurses came, as I said they were put opposite us, by the barbed wire fence and there was a notice put up. A soldier never went within cooee of that place.
one day they came along, and there was a crowd of them this time, and overnight, we’d just arrive in Rabaul, and early in the morning we heard, ‘come downstairs’ or whatever, in a rough big voice. So we all jumped up and went downstairs. nThere were so many Japanese around us, we were surrounded. A whole battalion
moved in overnight and we didn’t hear a sound. They were silent, they never spoke to one another during the day, even when with these particular ones, they never spoke to each other. They were so silent all the time. The discipline, it was just amazing. We’d see then, I’d say it was the fence or something but we’d line up every Saturday,
or whatever day it was, out within our days which was when we were back behind the barbed wire, just as far from here to, it wouldn’t have been as far as the church. They’d be all lined up and the officers would come along, right along the fence, slapping both cheeks, evidently that was their punishment, we don’t know what for.
That just went on all the time. You never heard them, you never heard them talking. They were just so silent. Discipline, as I say once the order was there they were very disciplined. They imposed that on us too, right from the first. If you do anything, if you run away, or if you do something
we don’t like your head comes off. Not only you, but ten more heads come off. If two of you do it, then twenty heads come off. They’d say things like that. There were all sorts of threats but they’d write it up. Funny English, we used to laugh, it would give us a laugh,
because it was so ridiculous with the way they tried to express themselves. They used to scare us with, ‘you are going to be shot to death.’ That was all, there, we didn’t know what would have been done, surely, no doubt about that.
at the other congregation as well. First we could say we kept them. All of a sudden one of the girls developed TB [tuberculosis], it just came up quickly like that. So she had to be removed because it was real, real bad. I was put in charge of her, and I used to have to carry her out and put her in a little hut that was
down beside our place she was there all day. Then at night I would have to carry her back. At this time all the other girls were told they had to go to the bush, but the little babies were still there. I used to carry her in to where the babies were for her safety during the night and then I used to carry her back again. She only lasted about a week or so. She didn’t need anything she didn’t want anything. She was dying.
She said, “I want watermelon.” We didn’t have any, and we didn’t have anything. She said, “Watermelon.”
So I said to this dear old Dutch priest Father Nolan who was with us, I said, “She wants watermelon.” He said, “Don’t worry.” And in no time he came back with watermelon. Don’t ask where he got it from.
She just took a sip, just a sip of it, and she was dying. That was a real miracle because there was no watermelon within sight.
Did you see them do any religious rituals?
Not exactly, we saw them, it was within our grounds, in the early part, we would go for a walk down to our cemetery as I had told you and they had this, I don’t know what you would call it, an arrow pointing towards this way and we would see the soldier laid out on a sort of a bed thing and he would be all dressed
in clothes and gloves and socks and shoes and everything else. We would see a Buddhist priest, they had great big beards. He’d be there, and there would be fire underneath it, they used to burn them. I will never forget the first time I saw this, and then all of a sudden the body sat up, like that.
We got the shock of our lives. It was reflex. That was what they did and it was the only thing that we ever saw. They did reverence a bit. For how long that went on I don’t know, but they did send the ashes home. That was a terrible sight, just an immaculate dress,
gloves and everything and they just burnt it.
and bring all your books down, all your books, any books.” so papers, books. We brought those down. They said, “Kneel on them.” We had to kneel on them and had to put them in front of ourselves, and here were they with big guns and bayonets and everything else and big spades. They all carried a spade, a rope with them,
and that meant that you were going to dig your own grave. That was the idea. They were all around us and we were here, I had to kneel down, and we knelt for ages and they went through everything, examined everything in front of us. They didn’t find anything; except they took some books away that they thought looked suspicious. One sister had
had an exercise book that she had done at her training school, she was a teacher, I don’t know what the subject was but she had something about the white race, the yellow race and the black race or whatever it was. It was taken away. We thought, ‘That’s gone.’ We didn’t know that that was in it when they’d taken it at the time. We thought that was the end, we’d never see any of those again.
But they brought them back. This particular exercise, they went through it, they’d gone through those things. They had yellow race: 1; black race: 2; white race: 3. We knew they must have at least read that and other things. They did bring them back to us. That enlightened us a little bit,
that they did something. Another time, we were upstairs and even though they had threw all those, and they let us take them back. I had a music book, like a printed music book, a hymn book and they wanted to take that and I said, “Oh, that’s no use you know.” and they said, “Uh, uh, uh.” and they let me keep that, they couldn’t be bothered it. After that they just left then.
We thought they were very, I don’t know what. We did meet some very well educated people but the majority of them were very ignorant, they were the soldiers. The sailors came, they had nothing to do with us they just came through. But the time came when the air force and gave us a visit.
They were nasty, they we big, tall, all hand picked men, big, tall men. They’d have ten or twelve watches and things all over themselves, taken from prisoners from somewhere. They were nasty fellows, they were really nasty. As a whole they were nasty. They were the educated people.
Which sounds strange I suppose in a way, but we didn’t like that. We didn’t see much of them and we didn’t want to see much of them. They only came when we were in this first stage. Then another day, it was announced to us that the Prince is coming today.
we could understand what he wanted. Later on we had this other ‘Tago’, he was a tall man and we had him. I can’t remember whom we had; I don’t remember when we were behind barbed wire. We didn’t seem to have an interpreter at all, everything was the bishop and he demanded. The bishop he had a bell,
and they had to ring that bell before they came into the compound. He would go to them. I don’t remember having an interpreter as such in that second place, even though they were going around all the time. Tago when we were down in Rawley and he was a tall fellow. Tago was friendly towards us accept when they’d lost planes, we’d see the planes somewhere and we knew they’d lost planes somewhere.
He’d be a bit nasty to us. Talk to us nasty. Just his whole attitude towards us. Otherwise he wasn’t cruel or anything which we found one doctor who was. After the war, several
sisters were called to the group mess, a different one. They said, “Tagi had been pretty good to us since, he didn’t make any trouble with us or anything else.” He was found in some other place that he had, [(UNCLEAR)] and I read it in another book. He was given five
weeks jail, ten weeks jail or something like that. He had admitted atrocities in other places but he didn’t do it to us.
her father was a state schoolteacher, had a family of teachers, and she was a good teacher too. She was funny; she used any sort of language that she liked, because that was her set. We were still in our houses and we had little coconuts around us and these
little fellows, kids or soldiers, they’d wanted a coconut and they go to cut down the tree and she’d go out and say, “No, no, no, no, you go out, go!” she’d chase them away. They’d go. She was a great one. Then we had another one, she was very funny, Sister Odilla[?], another Australian.
Strangely enough her brother, she came from a school teaching family too. She was funny; she’d make fun all the time. She was out at the station, she was not with us in the beginning, and it was some months before she came in. There was always a laugh when she was around. She’d do something stupid or purposely
do something stupid, and make you laugh. She’d found an old pair of Japanese shoes, don’t ask me where she found them, our shoes were worn out by this time. Wearing these Japanese shoes, that was a great joke.
for ages and she was only a little one. She had this dog called ‘Nip’. When we were still in our houses, Nip was with us and he’d go around and be out on the veranda of the night and he wouldn’t interfere with the soldiers and they would let him go around. This one night, there was this change of guard and
Nip was making all these terrible noises; there was howling and growling going on. She said, “Something is the matter, something is wrong.” W didn’t know what was wrong. She said, “Could you come out with me?” I went out with her and around to where the soldiers were changing at the bottom of the steps and they were trying, and Nip was at the top and they were trying to bayonet him,
and he was going from side to side and pointing the bayonet and that was what they were doing, they were trying to bayonet him. So she went alone and said, ”No, that’s alright.” so we let them come up the stairs and quieten him down and he was all right. She was brave, nothing feared her. She didn’t know what fear was. She was only a little thing, and when we were in Rawley and they let us go out
and make our own garden, only twenty of us were allowed to go at one time and they would never allow her to go and she was little, “too little.” She was never allowed to go out which she wasn’t very happy about.
and she had some fowls and she looked after these fowls and a couple of goats, she looked after them and took them over when we went into the compound, they were there. Don’t ask me how she fed them, but she kept them alive. She was gentle all the time down there. I was only young, and there was another younger sister with me, the other sisters had been there for many, many years. We were told we would have to
study. Fill in our time studying. In our compound there was this funny looking little hut, wouldn’t have been as wide as this, and it just went up, you know how they go up like this to a peak. We were told we had to go down there and study. This lady and myself had to go down and study and sit there and study. We used to call it ‘the university’.
We would go down to the university and study. Schoolwork, we would go over it what we would be teaching and so for. There was just room for us, just the two of us to fit in. Sister Edna, who had all these fowls and things, she was a real artist and she decided that she was going to come and join us. She wanted to come into the university and she brought some beautiful
satin stuff that she brought over and she was painting on that and she brought it into the university. We had to move over and make room for her. We only had enough room for ourselves so we made room for her. On this shoulder she’d have a chook [fowl] and this shoulder another choock. They’d just sit there watching her wave her hand. We’d be studying.
There was never any mess was made on that floor, lovely silk stuff she was painting. She was remarkable in that way. Anyway, the day came and we’d lost everything this day. They’d bombed the two goats we had and they’d bombed all the chooks, they were all gone and everything was lost. We found a big pot
and we’re going to have a party tomorrow. We were still living in the trenches and we had nothing left by this time. Everybody got together and carved up the chooks and the goats and everything and put them all in this big pot, and we were going to have a party the next day. We spent hours, hours and hours getting that ready. Anyway you wouldn’t believe it, first thing the next morning they
bombed, and what did they bomb? Right in the middle of that pot. It was unbelievable. Nothing, nothing was left after that. We came out the next morning and there was nothing left. Funny things happened. You had to laugh, you couldn’t. That just had to be. Where the bomb dropped.
Could you talk a little bit more about her?
I don’t know anything about her except she was an outstanding person. I’d say a born leader, a born leader. She was taken away from us. She was a wonderful person. And died an unsung hero. I believe, but I didn’t know her.
This day I don’t know how I didn’t know, they say she died up in Rabaul. I was here at the time, I was in Daisyville, I didn’t know about it. Years and years afterwards. I believe she married, to the wrong man I think, and he just didn’t want anybody near her, she was just buried without any honours or recognition.
Which I consider very, very sad because she was a remarkable woman.
no nothing. Armistice came, who found them, an American found them all on the road, that’s how they were rescued. Australia didn’t even know they were there. Terrible. They didn’t get much of a welcome when they came home either. Which I think is a very sad case, this girl Whitie, I called her Whitie.
She married a New Zealander and moved over to New Zealand, she had her family in New Zealand and she came back here a couple of years ago and went up the coast, the Gold Coast or the Sunshine Coast, and bought a unit and wanted to settle down there in New South Wales. She had some sort of trouble with her leg, she broke out with rashes, rashes all the time and the doctor said,
“No, you have to go back to New Zealand.” Now she can’t get a gold card, because she’s not living in Australia. Yet, she gave all that service in the Australian Army, and she couldn’t get that because she wasn’t living here. These injustices.
way of doing things, but they didn’t even do that. No, it was very, very sad. Then when they tried and this big bombing came and they were all blasted to bits, we had to pick up the bits. Legs and arms, terrible, it was a terrible time. Just passed them back over to the fence to them.
We had an old German Brother who was just away from us, he had a little bit of a garden. He used to spend all day in that garden. This particular time, he was in there all day. After we came back we asked, “Have you seen the Brother?” and they didn’t want to know. We looked around and he wasn’t in the garden and nobody had seen him. He hadn’t been in the trench
and we didn’t know what to do, he was bombed at 12 we thought. We found an arm and we thought it must have been the brother’s arm, so we gave it a great big religious burial, for the arm. It was very, very late, dusk and comes strolling from out under there, he’d been inside it all day
and we thought, you know, and that was funny. So why the Japanese got this particular ceremony, I don’t know. We were so overjoyed, it must have been brother’s arm. It appeared from nowhere, no one knew where he was, we searched the who place, everybody searched everywhere, as we thought he got somewhere.
and they worked day and night, day and night, day and night, and they were very damp and as I said the water would be trickling down the side of it. But one day they just met in the middle like that, perfect. The sister that took on the cooking, she volunteered, I thought I’ll boil the water, I’d boil all the weeds, that’s all we had at that time, weeds and water. The Japanese came along
and said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but no smoke, no, no, no smoke. Smoke must go through the trench and right around the trench and out.” right away from where we were. It was terrible, she had to cover all the entrance from where she was boiling the water, covered it all up. How she didn’t go blind I don’t know. She lived amongst
smoke all day. That was it, the smoke wasn’t allowed to come out, it had to go right up the trench, up the trench and out beyond. Why they tried to hide the stench I don’t know.
Can you explain that in a little bit more detail for us?
Well the openings, you had to crawl in, you’d get in. Anyway you were able to stand up, could stand up. Then in the beginning we were able to get a few coconut trees and some of them were lined in the trenches. They would be about as, there was just enough room at night to lie down,
you were stretched out and that took up the width of the other trench, but you could stand up. We had one trench coming this way, then another trench coming that way. We lived in this one. The brothers lived in that one. Later on the seminary boys made another little one
coming from that way. That was ours. The bishop and the other congregation had another trench, built kind of the same way.
Was it at this stage that the feeling of not knowing when it was going to end, at it’s worst?
It was more in Rawley, it was more at Rawley. I think we still thought we had a hope, but once we went to Rawley it was so damp and so depressing. That was my feeling. My greatest worry were my people.
They didn’t know anything, they think I’m dead, they don’t know. I had a brother who was very friendly, with some of the politicians and this particular politician, he did tell me his name but I have forgotten. He looked at him and said, “Do you know where my sister is, what’s happened to my sister?” He said, “We don’t know.” They volunteered to stay to get to know me. They had no idea where we were, or if alive or dead.
any of that. Terrible dislike for people, just everybody was sort of accepted, just as they were, and that’s what we are meant to be. I worked among the poor people off the streets, most of them have schizophrenia. Now they’re despised by so many people.
It’s there when we really realise, and when they take their medication, because they are put out of the homes and everything that should have been kept. Because they can’t manage themselves. When they take their medication, good, they’re as good as you and I. You take them off medication and their personality changes,
they are a different person, and I’m working with those people all the time. So many people don’t understand it, they say, “Why should I?” and the sad part is that a lot of them are so violent, when they are off their medication, it changes their personality altogether and they will attack people and they will do people they live very dangerously.
In Ramu did you lose anyone else, while you were there?
Yes. We lost a little French sister, she was only little like that. She would come over to the mission before the invasion. She was sick and she would come over to our doctor. She was there when the Japanese arrived, she was actually a very, very happy little nun.
Sister Domatilla[?]. When we were down in Rawley she got something, typhoid, I don’t know what kind of thing. She was dying and she was in the trenches, and she was died in the trenches. She was lovely, she just fitted in with everybody else, and she was just like one of us. She was happy to do anything for anybody. That was
very sad for us when she died. Then there was the old sister who died of cancer. Only two sisters, no Australians died.
Just a wonderful book. We were in there for a while and there was no transport. Australia was in Italy. There was no transport to get us away. They were looking after us and eventually there was a sick plane and they transported us by seaplane over to Jacquinot Bay, which is down the coast. The military nurses, the Australian military nurses had a hospital there,
so we were detained there for perhaps two weeks or something. They got a plane, then a couple went over by plane to Lau, followed later on by plane over to Lau. Then we were delayed in Lau, they had set up Lau, and there were a lot of people in Lau, a lot of civilians and army people in Lau.
We were delayed there for a long time and we couldn’t, we were alright we had food and everything.
This is what a lot of people are surprised at. That I can talk about these things. Some other sisters couldn’t, some of the sisters lived here but their all dead now, they could not talk about it. This Dutch sister, I was very fond of this Dutch sister, Sister Ignatia, she went back to Holland about five years ago or so.
I wrote to her just, she died not last Christmas just the Christmas before and I’d written to her. She was writing back to me, she’d half written the letter and she had a heart attack and she died a couple of days after, but they sent that letter on to me.
I told her when I had gone; I’d written went I went back to Rabaul that time. I wrote what we did and she wrote, “I couldn’t do it,” she said “I can’t, I can’t talk about it, I can’t talk about it.”
I don’t think it did anything but sorrow for our own soldiers, the civilian population and the natives. A lot of those adults that came back with us, and I only met them when I was there, they were evacuated as children,
and some of them couldn’t even remember their fathers, some could just remember when they were only two or three or something like that. The rest of all of those years, all they wanted was to go back to where their father had first lived and they didn’t know what had happened to them. It was just that they had to go back, had to go back. Coming back they said,
“Just something to lift us.” It was very, very touching. Someone said, “Now we can get on with our lives.”