On the 5th March we had our formal monthly meeting at Epping. Our guest speaker was Peggy Dickinson, a volunteer guide at the Military Nurses Museum at Concord Hospital, once Concord Repatriation Hospital. Her talk started with the Boer War (to which 3 Australian nurses went), through World War I, the Middle East and New Guinea, and she especially mentioned the primitive conditions that Matron Edith White coped with in the Northern Territory after the bombing of Darwin. Peggy told us of how as a child in Sydney during the Second World War she and her family had to get under the table during the shelling of Bondi, and being curious, she looked out and saw the searchlights and heard the planes overhead.
The final part of her talk concerned the nurses who left with the evacuation of Singapore and their stories of survival and death in prison camps for 3 years and 3 months on Banka Island in the Dutch East Indies. Stories from legendary nurses like Violet Bullwinkle, Betty Jeffries (who wrote "White Coolies" after the War) and Pat Darling. Peggy told us she has had the honour of meeting Pat Darling. Finally she mentioned the amazing survival story of Sister Savage who was aboard the hospital ship the Centaur when it was targeted off the Australian east coast with 363 on board and sank in 2 minutes. Sister Savage was 36 hours in the water before she was picked up by a US ship.
There were obviously many more stories, based on the exhibits in the Museum, she would like to have told us, but time ran out and she gave us some information booklets and invited us all to come to the Museum some time and see for ourselves. Peggy is a volunteer guide there on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.