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Lasting legacies

Congratulations to the following winners of last month’s ANZAC day commemorative coin competition which honoured the courage and sacrifice of Australia’s military nurses.

Sister Ellen Savage

I most admire Sister Ellen Savage who demonstrated the adaptability and compassion of nursing when faced with a dire situation. Sister Savage was the only surviving nurse of AHS Centaur when it attacked and sunk by a Japanese torpedo in 1943, taking 268 lives. Sister Savage with other survivors, endured 36 hours in cold, shark infested waters until they were rescued by USS Mugford. Despite her own considerable injuries Savage provided care and support to other survivors and attended to their injuries with Dr Outridge, a medical officer.

Although Savage reported her actions as no more than that which her profession demanded, I assert that her nursing care was extraordinary. Not only did she provide tender care and physical aid, but she also boosted morale, inspiring the survivors to sustain hope of a rescue. After the war Savage continued her professional development and was awarded the Florence Nightingale scholarship to study at the Royal College of Nursing in London. I believe her courage, compassion and professionalism are exemplary attributes of nursing that should continue to define the profession in the 21st century.

Dr Deborah Prior RN, PhD, FRCNA. President of the Centaur Memorial Fund for Nurses.
In remembrance of the unknown nurse

In keeping with a long-held belief that nurses were not sufficiently recognised in war commemoration, I pay tribute to the unknown nurse as my choice. There have been articles and books written about specific nurses with famous names having their contribution recognised.

However, the unknown nurses gave their all to military service and as such should be to whom we pay tribute. I have given a number of speeches at ANZAC Day ceremonies and illustrated amazing examples of bravery, excellent care and love of Australia in each. The unknown nurse gave as much dedication to the often difficult tasks at hand. They worked in tents, in challenging situations and with young soldiers who might have surrendered their lives despite this self-less service.

My husband's grandfather was an ANZAC who lost his sight at Gallipoli. He never saw his wife, children or grandchildren. Unknown nurses cared for him on hospital ships and in Alexandria. To all these wonderful people: lest we forget. Nurses in war deserve due recognition. We should never forget.

Judith Hopwood
Elaine Lenore Balfour-Ogilvy

The military nurse that I admire the most is Elaine Lenore Balfour-Ogilvy. I live in the Riverland, South Australia and there is a road in Loxton north called Balfour-Ogilvy. I knew it was named after someone in one of the world wars and this is the connection I have now found.

Balfour-Ogilvy was a nursing sister, she served in the Australian army from 1939-1942 but sadly she was executed on Banka Island, Indonesia at the age of 30. She served on AANS 2/4 Casualty Clearing Station. She enlisted in Renmark, SA on September 13, 1940, at the age of 28. She was born in Renmark on January 14, 1912, and lived there until she went to war. She had two brothers who also went to war. She left her parents’ home in Australia and never returned.

I believe that this is one of the most selfless things a person can do is to leave their family at home in Australia knowing the fact that they may never return to see them, and in this case this is true.

She never got to see her parents or siblings once the war finished. She was only 30 when she died in another country. I found this story of Balfour-Ogilvy very sad but this is the reality of war that many that serve for us many never return. May she rest in peace.

Annaliese Gilles


Vivian Bullwinkel

As a second-year nursing student I know the name Vivian Bullwinkel and have always held with deep respect the courage and tenacity of this great Australian. Bullwinkel’s bravery during her World War II experience of being the sole survivor of the Banka Island massacre would have lived with her forever.

The fact that she could turn such horrific events into a light for her future pathway dictates the calibre of this icon. Her accolades in Australian society are great, not least being awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal, an MBE and the AM. What does this tell you of her strength of character and purpose?

Bullwinkel did not retire from the army until 1947, so her reputation was monumental throughout its ranks. An RSL president and former officer during World War II recounted the esteem that she was held in by all that had the privilege of working with her.

As I write, it is Anzac Day and as I stood watching the floral tributes being laid at our local dawn service I reflected on all those nurses who were part of such a huge humanitarian effort during our war efforts. It is our nursing forebears that inspire ANZAC pride and cherished remembrance with Bullwinkel remaining uppermost in my mind.

Joanne Boon
Bullwinkel: An inspiring leader

I began my nursing career 23 years ago at Fairfield hospital in Melbourne. As a student enrolled nurse we did our PTS (some of you will know that means) at the Vivian Bullwinkel education centre onsite. The legend of Vivian Bullwinkel’s war service, the Banka Island massacre, and her post-war work as matron at Fairfield was well remembered throughout the hospital during my time as a student and later as a staff member.

When I graduated in 1989, I had the honour to meet Bullwinkel as she handed us our certificates. I can still see her walking toward us, limping but proud. Vivian’s legacy and her values of service, compassion, unconditional regard and determination inspired me then and now as a representation of the core values of our profession. She inspired me to continue with my career and take every opportunity that it presented. I now pass on her legacy to my students each year, who never cease to be amazed by her contribution. May we never lose the gift she has given us.

Gregory Furness RN, FRCNA, teacher (nursing) University of Ballarat.

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