The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (501399) Sister Marie Eileen Craig, RAAF Nursing Service 2 Medical Air Evacuation Training, Second World War

Accession Number PAFU2013/013.01
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 24 August 2013
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 Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial every 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 Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on (501399) Sister Marie Eileen Craig, RAAF Nursing Service 2 Medical Air Evacuation Training, Royal Australian Air Force, Second World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

501399 Sister Marie Eileen Craig, RAAF Nursing Service, 2 Medical Air Evacuation Training
Killed in aircraft accident 18 September 1945
Photograph: ART24278

Story delivered 24 August 2013

Today, we remember and pay tribute to Sister Marie Eileen Craig of the Royal Australian Air Force Nursing Service.

The RAAF first trained nurses for work on evacuation flights late in 1943. Their work from northern New Guinea proved so valuable that a second group were organised and hurried through their training, Marie Craig among them. She learned "something of ocean and jungle survival", underwent compression chamber tests to demonstrate her "ability to sustain high altitude flying", and took lessons in tropical hygiene, emergency and aviation medicine and even weapons handling.

In 1945 Sister Marie Craig became a member of the No. 2 Medical Air Evacuation Training Unit and began working out of Halmahera Island. She was a very able nurse, and was Mentioned in Despatches for her "services rendered in [the] Northern Command Area".

Air evacuation was an effective way of moving seriously ill patients from areas which were inaccessible by other means. Craig regularly flew in and out of combat zones and nursed critically wounded and ill patients, often in difficult weather conditions.

On 18 September 1945, Sister Marie Craig and 27 patients and crew were in a RAAF Dakota on a flight from Biak to Horn Island. The flight never arrived. Extensive searches were made of the area over which the aircraft should have
flown, and local tribes and officials were asked for any news. But it seemed likely that the plane had fallen into the sea.

In 1970 the crash site was finally found by an American missionary on a helicopter flight. The site was at 13,500 feet in the West Irian highlands, and the investigating crews had to use oxygen. A number of personal effects were found at the site, including Marie Craig's lipstick - still intact. The RAAF no longer listed the dead as "missing, presumed killed".

Marie Craig was one of five RAAF nursing sisters who died on active service during the Second World War and who are commemorated on a plaque in the No. 6 RAAF Hospital, Laverton. In 2005 the remains of many of those who died in the crash were finally recovered, and Sister Marie Craig is now the only woman buried at Bomana War Cemetery, Port Moresby. She was 33 years old.

The name of Sister Marie Eileen Craig is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with the names of close to 80 nurses who were killed during service in the Second World War. Her portrait was drawn by Nora Heysen, and this is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Sister Marie Eileen Craig and all those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

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