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A Red Cross field worker who served in many war theatres. For Biddy Moriarty the war brought tragedy, hard work, travel, and adventure.

Biddy Moriarty

Barbara Irene Moriarty (née Goff) (1902–1979)

Biddy Moriarty went to the Middle East as an Australian Comforts Fund representative to be closer to her husband, who was serving with the 2/1st Battalion AIF. Tragically, Captain Boyd Moriarty was killed by a German sniper on 22 May 1941 while leading his men in battle on Crete.

Now a war widow, Mrs Moriarty devoted herself to the welfare of other soldiers and joined the Australian Red Cross Society’s field force in Egypt. In 1942 she came home and travelled extensively for the Red Cross. Next year she was sent back to the Middle East to help recovered prisoners of war.

In 1944 Moriarty was attached to the Australian army staff in London. After the surrender of Germany, she worked with the AIF Reception Group, helping to repatriate former prisoners of war. She came home with some of the liberated men in August 1945.

Not home long, she was next sent to Singapore to assist the 2nd POW Reception Group, handling men who had been held by the Japanese. She later recalled, “a group of men just as we found them… naked to the waist, ulcered [sic] limbs roughly bound, stomachs distended by bad diet; but every friendly face grinning and animated.” She returned to Australia with the last of the released troops in November.

Few Australians saw as many war theatres as Moriarty, and she was always welcome. “Full of energy and charm. Even in uniform she dressed with flair. She was very good at achieving the impossible.” For her war work she was awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal.

After the war Moriarty wrote of her experiences for the annual services’ publication As you were 1947, was involved in war widows’ activities and worked for David Jones Ltd in Sydney until 1965.

Barbara “Biddy” Moriarty

An injured Australian soldier gets a light from Biddy Moriarty of the Australian Red Cross Society.

Mrs Moriarty, a Red Cross representative in the Middle East, outside an Australian Comforts Fund tent.