Australian Red Cross Society cloth bag: Captain Lillian Grace Schaefer, 2/5 Australian General Hospital

Accession Number REL47409
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Cotton, Cotton tape
Maker Red Cross
Place made Australia: New South Wales, Sydney, Roseville
Date made 1940
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Blue and white gingham Australian Red Cross Society toiletry bag with drawstring top. A white cotton label has been sewn on the front with the Australian Red Cross Society logo on it and the following information printed from a rubber stamp: 'N.S.W. DIVISION / INCORPORATED / ROSEVILLE BRANCH'. The bag is discoloured from use.

History / Summary

Australian Red Cross gingham toiletry bag given by the Roseville, NSW branch to Lillian Grace Schaefer just prior to her embarkation. Lillian Schaefer was born at Armidale, NSW on 21 November 1908 and at the age of 20 began training as a nurse at Royal Alexandra Hospital for children. Graduating in 1933 she completed a midwifery course at Royal North Shore Hospital. Upon completion of her training Schaefer joined the Bush Nursing Association and was based at Maitland for two years. Until the beginning of the Second World War, she relieved at various hospitals in country New South Wales.

Schaefer enlisted on 12 June 1940 with the Australian Army Nursing Service and was given service the number NX34690. She was assigned to 2/5th Australian General Hospital (AGH) and embarked aboard the SS Queen Mary on 20 October 1940, heading for Palestine via Bombay. She was temporarily attached to 2/1st AGH at Gaza, before the 2/5th AGH left for Greece, disembarking on 12 April 1941 at Piraeus and setting up a hospital in a pine forest. As the Germans advanced the nurses were forced to evacuate on 21 April 1941 (although leaving 165 mainly male staff behind), leaving most of their equipment behind. When they arrived back in Egypt, after being bombed en route, they were for a time seconded to the 2/2nd AGH before being sent to Eritrea. Captain Schaefer was in a small group of personnel to be sent across the border to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) to care for troops involved in the fighting in Syria who needed long term convalescence, until the cessation of hostilities there in December 1941. The 2/5th AGH then embarked for Australia, arriving in March 1942 where they set up a hospital at Armidale, Schaefer’s home town.

While at Armidale, Lillian received the news that her brother, 403439 Pilot Officer Bruce Astor Schaefer had been killed during a training exercise off the coast of Scotland flying Spitfire V4421 attached to 164 Squadron RAAF on 18 August 1942. He had struck the sea while on an Army co-operation exercise – there was no evidence his parachute had been deployed. He had previously flown with 602 Squadron. He was 28 years old.

After serving in New Guinea from the end of 1942, Schaefer returned to Australia, where she served with 113rd AGH at Concord in Sydney until the end of the war. Post-war, she returned to Concord Repatriation Hospital where she worked until 1970. Lillian Grace Schaefer died in 2007 at the age of 99.