Sister Ada Joyce Bridge

Accession Number ART93167
Collection type Art
Measurement Overall: 59.8 x 49.8 cm
Object type Painting
Physical description oil on canvas
Maker Jerrold-Nathan, Reginald Henry
Place made Australia: New South Wales, Sydney
Date made 1947
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Item copyright: External copyright


The work is a posthumous portrait of Sister Ada Joyce Bridge (1907-1942) wearing grey dress, white veil and red cape of the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS). It should be noted however, that the style of uniform portrayed by the artist post-dates that worn by Sister Bridge in her life time and there are several other inaccuracies in the way the artist has portrayed the subject.

The dress would have been of a button-through style with long sleeves and detachable broad white starched cuffs (not shown). The wide pointed starched collar was attached by a stud at the back and pinned together at the front with the 'Rising Sun' badge. The veil is made from a large white square of voile folded diagonally and the epaulettes of the collarless cape bear the two 'pips' of lieutenant, the formal army rank introduced in March 1943 and appropriate to army nursing sisters other than Senior Sisters. Sister Bridge did not live to be formally commissioned, but some official records list her as 'Lieutenant', the rank assigned to nurses classified previously as 'Staff Nurses'.

Ada Joyce Bridge was born at Scone, NSW, on 6 July 1907 and from 1930-1934 trained as a nurse at St Luke's Hospital in Sydney. She left St Luke's some time after graduation and undertook private nursing until the outbreak of the Second World War. Bridge enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service on 8 April 1941.
Sister A.J. Bridge (NFX76284), known as 'Joyce' to her colleagues, was posted to 2/13th Australian General Hospital (AGH) and travelled to Singapore aboard 2/2nd Australian Hospital ship Wanganella arriving 15 September 1941. After arriving in Singapore, Bridge and nine other sisters were attached to 2/10 AGH at Malacca in Malaya, where they stayed for three weeks. All ten sisters then returned to Singapore to commence work at 2/13 AGH, which was located at St Patrick's School. Between 21-23 November 1941 the entire hospital was moved across the Strait to Tampoi Hill on the southern tip of the Malay peninsula. However, due to the swift progress of the Japanese invasion force, most of the hospital staff was evacuated back to Singapore in late January 1942. Bridge and sixty-four other nurses were ordered to leave Singapore and boarded the Vyner Brooke 12 February 1942. Over 250 civilian men, women and children were also evacuated on the ship from Singapore, three days before the fall of Malaya. The Vyner Brooke was bombed by Japanese aircraft and sunk in Banka Strait on 14 February 1942. Of the sixty five nurses on board, twelve were lost at sea and 53 struggled ashore on various parts of Banka Island. Sister Bridge was one of 22 nurses who were washed ashore on Radji Beach, Banka Island together with survivors from other bombed ships. Two days later on 16 February 1942 the survivors decided to surrender to the Japanese occupying force on Banka Island. Later, on the same day, the entire group was massacred; the men were shot and bayoneted and the nurses together with the sole civilian female survivor were ordered to march into the sea where they were shot. Only Sister Vivian Bullwinkel and a British soldier survived the massacre. Both were taken POW, but only Sister Bullwinkel survived the war.