Thermometer : Captain B H Peterson, Regimental Medical Officer, 2/7 Battalion

Place Oceania: New Guinea
Accession Number REL40653
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Medical equipment
Physical description Glass
Maker Unknown
Place made Japan
Date made February 1942
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Japanese navy medical thermometer. The base of the tube has a pointed bulb containing mercury with the glass stem or small capillary tube running up the temperature scale. Graduations printed on front of internal plate span from 35 to 42 degrees with 10 increments between each degree. The reverse of the internal plate is printed with a red ship's anchor followed by Japanese text. Translation of the text reads 'Navy 1942 February'. Following this is printed what is probably the manufacturer 'KASIWAGI [triangle] MITAZIRI' and '1935' in italic script.

History / Summary

Related to the service of Captain Bruce Henry Peterson who was born in Greenwich NSW on 21 September 1918. On 25 July 1942, shortly after marrying Dorothy Katherine Spiers at Temora, the young doctor enlisted as captain NX77377 in the Australian Army Medical Corps and appointed Regimental Medical Officer to 2/7 Battalion.

Embarking on the 'Tasman' in Brisbane on 13 October, Peterson arrived with the battalion at Milne Bay on the 20th noting the low number of infectious disease cases during the voyage 'considering the crowded conditions'. The battalion moved to their camp near No 1 Air Strip on the 23rd and Peterson was called into service almost immediately when two members of another unit received serious injuries when a grenade they had found exploded unexpectedly.

Peterson's reputation for his care of wounded soldiers while under fire or imminent threat grew rapidly. At times he formed relay posts up tortuous tracks where '100 yards... was like a mile'. By August 1943 newspapers reported on Peterson who 'has come close to death dozens of times. At one time he was within 10 yards of the Japanese while applying a splint to a man with a broken leg'.

'I don't know how many lives he has saved', said Corporal Stan Hair, 'at Lababia Ridge, when our company was surrounded by Japanese for 2 days and nights, he looked after every injured man'. For his actions during May near The Pimple where he had the 'amazing capacity in finding the wounded in the densest of undergrowth' and during the battalion's attack on Lababia Ridge on 9 May, Peterson was awarded the Military Cross.

Finally his battalion commander had little choice but to restrict the Peterson's movements to ensure his safety, as his selfless disregard for his own safety when tending to the wounds of the front line soldiers exposed him to unacceptable levels of risk. Further accolades followed in December with a Mention in Despatches for his 'gallant and distinguished services in the South West Pacific Area'.

Peterson returned to Australia in October 1943 and three months later succumbed to malaria and was admitted to 2/2 Australian General Hospital at Rocky Creek, Queensland. Following convalescence, Peterson was attached to the hospital before returning to New Guinea and rejoining 2/7 Battalion at Aitape in November 1944. A short time later he was detached to 2/7 Australian General Hospital in Lae before returning to Australia for the final time. In July 1945 he was posted to 113 Australian General Hospital in Concord to assist returning Prisoners of War. Peterson was discharged from the army on 1 April 1946.