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27 Apr 2018

Senior member of the AMA, and retired colonel, Associate Professor Susan Neuhaus became the first woman to deliver the Anzac Day dawn service address at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

She used the occasion to highlight the often overlooked role of women in the armed services and in particular the Australian Defence Force.

Colonel Neuhaus, a surgeon, spoke of the sacrifices many Australian women made during armed conflicts as far as the Boer War.

And she shared the horrific story of 22 nurses executed by the Japanese in WWII after being ordered into the sea.

“When their ship, the Vyner Brooke, was torpedoed in the Banka Strait, they swam through the night to the shore,” she said.

“There, on Monday the 16th of February 1942, shortly after 10am, they were lined up along the beach, still in their uniforms, a red cross emblazoned into their left sleeve and at bayonet point they were ordered into the sea.

“They were under no illusion as to their fate.

“In those last moments before the machine guns opened fire, Matron Irene Drummond turned to her nurses with words of comfort and of courage and her words speak for a nation: ‘Chins up, girls. I’m proud of you, and I love you all’.”

Colonel Neuhaus added that she had: “No faded photographs of men or women in uniform on my mantelpiece and don’t know of any family members who served on the beaches of Gallipoli, on the muddy fields of the Somme or indeed the jungles of south-east Asia.

“And yet,” she said, “like all of us, I benefit from what they have done.”

CHRIS JOHNSON

 

Photo: Australian War Memorial

 


Published: 27 Apr 2018