Veils and tin hats

Peter Henning

Tasmanian Nurses in the Second World War.

More than 200 Tasmanian nurses enlisted in military forces during the Second World War.  The vast majority joined the Australian Army Nursing Service, smaller numbers joined the RAAF and the RAN nursing services and some joined military nursing services in England.

These women served in most theatres of war where Australian troops were sent, including the Middle East, Greece, Ceylon, Malaya and Singapore, New Guinea, Morotai, Bougainville, New Britain and Borneo.  They worked in army hospitals and casualty clearing stations. Some went to Canada with trainee air crew while others served on hospital ships, particularly the Wanganella.

Some were captured by the Japanese and two of them died in captivity. Many others narrowly avoided being killed, injured or captured by enemy forces in Greece and in the flight from Singapore.  Others avoided being bombed by Japanese raids on Colombo harbour, as they were en route back to Australia from the Middle East.

Others worked in military hospitals throughout Australia, including the Northern Territory when it was exposed to regular Japanese air raids.

At the end of the war many of them continued to work well into 1946 outside Australia, as members of medical reception centres for allied prisoners of war.  Some went to Manila, others to Rabaul and some stayed on at Morotai.

The impact of the war on these nurses cannot now be fully evaluated.  Their silence about their experiences has been more complete than the silence of men who went to war because it has been largely unnoticed.

This book is for Tasmania’s war nurses whose stories, in their diversity and in their similarity, have never been told.

Soft cover, Nominal roll, photographs, 306 pages.

Veils and tin hats