The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (VFX38751) Sister Caroline Mary Ennis, 10th Australian General Hospital, Australian Army Nursing Service, Second World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.128
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 8 May 2018
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 Sharon Bown, the story for this day was on (VFX38751) Sister Caroline Mary Ennis, 10th Australian General Hospital, Australian Army Nursing Service, Second World War.

Speech transcript

VFX38751 Sister Caroline Mary Ennis, 10th Australian General Hospital, Australian Army Nursing Service
Drowned 14 February 1942
Story delivered 8 May 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sister Caroline Mary Ennis.

Caroline Ennis was born in Swan Hill on 13 August 1913 to Hugh Martin Ennis and Mary Josephine Graham of Moyhu, Victoria. She trained to be a nurse at Beechworth Hospital and passed her final examinations in March 1936.

Ennis was living in Cheshunt, Victoria, when she enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force on 20 August 1940 as part of the Australian Army Nursing Service. She was attached to the 10th Australian General Hospital, and in February 1941 embarked for service in Singapore.

Sent with her unit to Malaya, Ennis was variously detached for duty between the 10th AGH, the 2/9th Field Ambulance, and the 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station, treating the ill and wounded across the peninsula.

Ennis was working at the 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in February 1942. As the enemy forces advanced along the peninsula the nurses were forced to withdraw to Singapore and re-join the 13th AGH, the only Australian hospital left in Malaya.

Once the fall of Singapore became inevitable most Australian personnel were evacuated from the island, but nurses of the 13th AGH remained until 12 February, when they, too, were evacuated. Sister Caroline Ennis was one of 65 Australian nurses who left Singapore aboard the Vyner Brooke, but two days later the ship was bombed by the Japanese.

As the bombs exploded the nurses prepared for an evacuation, rushing to treat the wounded as best they could, before abandoning ship with the rest. Some were helped into lifeboats, others clung to rafts. Those who could swim made for the nearby Banka Island.

Sister Ennis and Sister Betty Jeffrey each grabbed a child and ran for the ship’s bridge, only to find it ablaze. They left the children with an Englishwoman and went back to help. Both eventually managed to climb onto a raft with five other nurses on it. The raft drifted away from the wreckage, caught in the strong currents, passing others during the night. Sister Ennis had taken responsibility for the children, and would hold them as they slept. On the second day, two of the nurses, Jeffery and Iole Harper, volunteered to lighten the vessel, and they swam instead for the land. The raft, however, could not beat the current and continued to drift. Ennis was cradling two small children – a Chinese boy and an English girl – as the raft disappeared. It was never seen again.

Caroline Ennis was 28 years old.

Sister Caroline Ennis is commemorated on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 others from the Second World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Sister Caroline Mary Ennis, and all those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

Christina Zissis
Editor, Military History Section

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