The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX76275) Sister Mary Eleanor McGlade, 113th Australian General Hospital, Royal Australian Army Nursing Service, Second World War.

Place Asia: Netherlands East Indies, Banka Island
Accession Number AWM2016.2.43
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 12 February 2016
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use
Description

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Meredith Duncan, the story for this day was on (NX76275) Sister Mary Eleanor McGlade, 113th Australian General Hospital, Royal Australian Army Nursing Service, Second World War.

Speech transcript

NX76275 Sister Mary Eleanor McGlade, 113th Australian General Hospital, Royal Australian Army Nursing Service
Executed 16 February 1942
Photograph: P02785.002

Story delivered 12 February 2016

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sister Mary Eleanor McGlade, who was killed during the Second World War.

“Ellie” McGlade was born on 2 July 1902 in Armidale, New South Wales, to Francis Aloysius and Agnes Beatrice McGlade. Her mother died shortly after her birth, and her father followed in 1905. She was taken in by her aunt, Mrs Walter Scott

From a young age McGlade attended St Ursula’s Convent in Armidale as a boarder. At first she slept in a cot beside Mother Berchman’s bed, and as she grew it became a beloved childhood home. On completing her Intermediate Certificate in 1920 she had won prizes for singing, violin, piano, and Christian doctrine, and had already begun to care for girls who fell ill. The School Report of 1921 noted:

Owing to the kind solicitude of their College Infirmarian no one has a chance to get seriously ill before she is reported and nursed back to normal by the indefatigable Ellie.

On leaving school McGlade visited relatives in Scotland and Ireland, returning to begin training as a nurse at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. Graduating in 1927 with certificates in General Nursing, Cooking, and Dispensing, she became a Mothercraft Nurse in the Hunter Valley.

McGlade often visited St Ursula’s, and was well known there even after her departure. The 1927 school magazine remembered Ellie as a “winsome little toddler … playing about the Convent grounds with Rex, the collie, or her family of dolls”, and later as a “girl of amiable
disposition, still loved by those who surround her … untiring and unselfish in her care of the sick”.

In January 1941 McGlade enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service. Called up that August and appointed to the 2/13th Australian General Hospital, she embarked for Singapore on the hospital ship Wanganella, arriving in September.

Here she worked with the 13th AGH in Tampoi, near Johore. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the fall of Singapore became inevitable, most Australian personnel were evacuated from the island, but the 13th AGH remained until 12 February, when they, too, were evacuated. McGlade was one of 65 Australian nurses who left Singapore aboard the Vyner Brooke, but two days later the ship was bombed by the Japanese and many lives were lost. Those who could swim made for the nearby Banka Island.

Some of the survivors travelled to the nearest port to formally surrender to the Japanese, but McGlade was among the 22 Australian nurses who remained on the beach to tend the wounded.

On the morning of 16 February a group of Japanese soldiers arrived and ordered the wounded around a headland, where they were subsequently killed.

The rest of the survivors were ordered to walk into the sea. When the water reached their waists the Japanese opened fire with machine-guns. Of the 22 Australian nurses ordered into the sea, all but one were killed, including Ellie McGlade. She was 39 years old.

Back home in Armidale a Requiem Mass was held for her at St Ursula’s Convent chapel.

Sister McGlade is commemorated on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with some 40,000 others from the Second World War. Her photograph is displayed beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Sister Mary Eleanor
McGlade, who gave her life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Christina Zissis
Editor, Military History Section

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