Nurses are angels of war Opinion
OUR finest sailed in rare wartime luxury but within a few months were trying to cool their beer in sandholes.
Seventy years. Only Nike Shoes Australians 75 years and older will recall the grim Anzac Day of 1940 with wartime worse to come.
The Queen Mary brought unexpected hope when she sailed into Sydney Harbour from New York in March 1940. The Cunard liner, fastest ship in the world until 1952, needed a troopship refit to lift capacity to 5500.
The Queen Mary was painted grey with portholes blacked out but some luxury trappings remained when the Sixth Division etc sailed in May 1940. Probably just as well because passengers were to include inexperienced, genteel young nurses known as the Voluntary Aid Detachment.
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Heroics, sacrifice and time have tended to push the VAD World War II contribution into the background. Nike Shoes Only a handful of their distinctive sky blue ward tunics still hang in wardrobes outside the Australian War Memorial.
The Queen Mary and other Cunard liners went back and forth to Britain and the Middle East. The VAD girls with their officers privileges lapped up the luxury in the first class saloon. Regular cocktail parties maintained the momentum even if they had to sleep shod and cuddling life jackets during submarine scares.
The Australian General Hospital stationed at Gaza in Palestine took the aftermath of the battles around El Alamein between July and November 1942. Flies, sandstorms, scorching heat and brave soldiers blasted to bits. No antibiotics for wounds, just oily Ichthyol dressings.
“Hurry up, There an air raid. Shove a spare mattress over the serious cases.”
Counselling? It was “Pull yourself together, nurse” or a cuppa with the kindly Salvos.
Yellowing snaps of occasional parties in Cairo or Alexandria hint at the desperation of a war bloody, tragic and far from won.
Back in Gaza the beer ration helped keep them sane. VAD Private Doreen Galligan, a thirsty Queensland team golf rep in Sydney in 1939, pounced on any spare beer chits. Every time a dozen could be rounded up, a genial Italian POW was delegated to dig a deep hole inside a tent. The beer bottles were lovingly wrapped in wet hessian bags and buried. Best you could do in the desert to cool down beer for a discreet party.
Eventually the VADs were on their way back in Australia the Queen Mary had lost all its lush fittings by 1943. There was another submarine scare off the WA coast. VAD Galligan Nike Shoes had bought a bottle of Johnnie Walker black label as a coming home present for her dad. Rather than see this treasure torpedoed, and her three cabin mates had yet another session.
Just as well the Queen Mary had retained her speed. The VADs played strip poker, polishing off the whisky and were legless and naked except for their life jackets!
The nurses were rewarded for their distinguished Middle East service with another troop train trip to the scrub at Rocky Creek on the Atherton Tablelands for a cooking course!
The nurses laughed at first. Until the male cooks went bonkers on lemon essence leaving the nurses little alternative but to man the primitive stoves. The RAAF were little help. They circled the nurses hessian showers before they landed at a nearby strip. The girls complained at first. Ignored, they gave in and started waving.