Chapter 34


Gay Halstead

Service Details

Gay Halstead (formerly Sister G.E. Bury, RAAFNS) joined the RAAFNS in1951 until 1954. She served at the RAAF Hospital at Iwakuni (Japan) and at the BCZMU inKorea. On her return to Australia she was posted to the Queen's Flight for HerMajesty's first tour of Australia and completed 20 flights. Gay is married with 2children and 2 grandchildren and lives in rural Victoria. Hobbies include horse riding,nature and Australian history and has had numerous works published including the STORY OFTHE RAAF NURSING SERVICE 1940-1990 (1994), THE STORY OF TERREY HILLS AND DUFFY'SFOREST (1988), THE STORY OF ST IVES, NSW.,(1982), THE STORY OF METUNG (1977). In 1984 Gayreceived an Advance Australia Award for her outstanding contribution to Australianliterature.

Editors' Note

The following is an extract from THE STORY OF THE RAAF NURSING SERVICE1940-1990 (Chapter 17) by Gay Halstead and published by Nungurner Press Pty Ltd in 1994..A small group of dedicated Australian Nurses of the RAAF carried out important andmeaningful duties during the war as many Australian and Commonwealth troops will attest.They are certainly the unsung heroines of the Korean War. Gay Halstead served in Korea andin her book has accurately chronicled the contribution made by the RAAFNS and all veteransof that war are extremely grateful that she and Nungurner Press Pty Ltd have grantedpermission for Chapter 17 to be reproduced in Korea Remembered.

Enquiries pertaining to The Story of the RAAF Nursing Service 1940-1990should be directed to Nungurner Press Pty Ltd, PO Box 115, Metung, Victoria, 3904. Phone(051) 563-262. Fax (051) 563-298.


. On 25 June 1950 North Korean troops, in large numbers, crossed the38th parallel capturing the southern capital of Seoul in three days. By August they hadpenetrated as far south as Pusan. The UN acted instantly, calling upon its members todefend the recognised Republic of Korea, 16 nations immediately responded, the first beingAustralia.(1)

At Iwakuni, 77 Squadron, having completed its mission with BCOF, wasready to return to Australia, ; all personnel, wives and children had packed ready toleave when the call came via the Commander in Chief of the US Army, General DouglasMacArthur, under the directive from the UN Security Council, for the squadronsinvolvement. The dependants left as scheduled but the RAAF personnel remained, includingthe RAAF Nursing Sisters.

South Korean and UN forces had pushed into North Korea by November 1950and the war seemed nearly over, when a large force from the newly establishedPeople's Republic of China entered the fighting, which again moved into South Koreanterritory. After a long seesaw contest, the front was stabilised, ironically enough, nearthe original partition line of 1945.


With the incursions and the subsequent pushing back of the aggressors,came casualties. The RAAF was responsible for the evacuation of all Commonwealth woundedback to Iwakuni in Japan. Two of the first Sisters to be involved in medical evacuationsfrom Korea to Iwakuni, 150 miles (240 kilometres) across the Sea of Japan, were Ethel("Moggy") Morgan and Joy Salter.

Sister ( "Moggy") Morgan (now Thompson) recalled her postingto BCOF 77 Squadron, Iwakuni, Japan, on 16 May 1950. "When I arrived, Squadron Leader"Das" Morgan was the MO in charge and Lucy Rule the Senior Sister. When NorthKorea invaded the South on 25 June 1950 we, as members of the UN, became involved in thewar, with planes from 77 Squadron flying daily into the war zone. We set up one large wardwithin our hospital to accommodate possible casualties. At first, all medical evacuationsfrom Korea were carried out by the American 5th Air Force and Commonwealth casualties weretaken to the Australian Army Hospital at Kure (Japan).

When they had recovered sufficiently for the flight home, they weretransported by train and escorted by Australian Army Nursing Sisters to Iwakuni, wherethey were hospitalised overnight in the RAAF hospital and then flown to Australia in achartered Qantas DC4. (The first such medivac to Australia was on 8 July 1950 with fivepatients). "

" One of our Sisters and a RAAF medical orderly always accompaniedthe patients. The flight took approximately 27-30 hours. During my time, the first leg wasto Manila, about 9 hours flying time, where the patients were off-loaded and taken to theAmerican hospital at nearby Clark Field, for the night. Next morning, they were returnedto the aircraft for the next leg of the journey, a ten-hour flight to Darwin. Most of thetime we were busy attending to patients, some of whom were quite ill. On arrival inDarwin, the patients were again off-loaded and transported to the RAAF SSW there whereSister Margo Maloney and her staff fed and bathed them. We stayed for about two hours inDarwin then returned all the patients to the plane for the final onward journey to Sydney,flying all night. At Mascot, Army ambulances and staff escorted the patients to ConcordArmy General Hospital. Our responsibilities over, we were free to go and catch up on somesleep. We usually had a week to await the next Qantas flight back to Japan. I accompaniedseven of these medical evacuation flights back to Australia , with a total of 502 flyinghours with Qantas".

" On 6 July 1950 an American medical unit, from Johnson Airfield,arrived to share our hospital. Lieutenants Mary Macguire and Jean Molraney, and CaptainStanton were the Flight Nurses, plus their Corpsmen (Orderlies). The RAAF Nursing Servicewere in charge but the Americans looked after their own patients. In January 1951, webegan conducting our own medical evacuations from Korea, in C47 Dakotas, still attached to77 Squadron. We flew almost daily, taking off between., 0500 hours and 0600 hours, firstlyto Taegu and Suwow, then later to Pusan and Kimpo, near Seoul. RAAF Sisters were not basedin Korea while I was there. I had thirteen trips, escorting patients from Korea betweenJanuary and June 1951".

Sister Joy Salter (now Carmody) was posted to Japan to replace JoanMills, who had married Squadron Leader Dave Hitchins and, in accordance with RAAFregulations, as a married woman was no longer permitted to remain as a member of theRAAFNS. Joy recently recalled her time at Iwakuni. " I served in Iwakuni for 12months from October 1950. The Senior Sister was Lucy Rule with Senior Sister Tess Clearyassisting her. The other RAAF Sisters there at the time were Gwen Threlkell, Ethel("Moggy") Morgan, Joan Mills, Muriel Monger, Lou Marshall and Eunice Feil. RAAFmedical orderlies, such as Corporal Sinclair, (the first medical orderly to receive a RAAFcommission and now Group Captain {Ret}) were based in Korea during the early part of ourinvolvement, looking after casualties until our Dakota of 30 Squadron (later 36 Squadron)could fly them out, after discharging a contingent of troops and cargo. During April 1951,when the fighting was particularly severe it was nothing to bring back 28 stretcherpatients and often make two flights a day ".(2)

Sister Pat Leeming (now Oliver) (3) remembered her posting to Iwakuniin November 1951. "It was freezing at the time, particularly leaving Iwakuni at 0400hours in pitch darkness when it was snowing heavily ; the external air temperature, whenwe flew up to 8,000 feet, was minus 20 degrees C.!. Our bones ached, as it was alsosub-zero in the cabin of the unlined Dakota - even our breath froze. In those days welanded at the busy air force strip at Kimpo (K14) and continued to do so until one day anaircraft was sliced in two by another, henceforth we landed at Seoul (K16) some milesaway.

The set up in those early days of medical evacuations from Korea wascatastrophic. The wounded were brought down in buses from the MASHs (Norwegian, Swedish,American etc) accompanied by an American MO, and put into a hut by the strip. While weawaited the patients and the unloading of our aircraft cargo, along came the ' hotair men ' in their ' hot air machine '. A group of US Negroes hooked up anenormous plastic concertina tube to the door of the aircraft, sealed it and pumped in hotair ; this intended to - and possibly did - help alleviate secondary shock among thecasualties. When the patients arrived we did a round with the MO; most of the wounded weredebrided only. If they were fit enough for the flight they were loaded aboard the aircraftbound for Iwakuni, if not or the risk considered too great for flight in an unpressurizedaircraft, the patient had to return to the MASH. I had the responsibility on one occasion,of making this decision with a patient with third-degree burns. We were trained for theseeventualities but it was always a difficult decision. All round it was a jollyunsatisfactory state of affairs and some were transported when obviously unfit for flying.Something had to be done ".


Something was done, as Sister Pat Leeming describes, " Latein 1952, Senior Sister Helen Cleary, Flight Lieutenant Jimmy Morrison and I were sent overto Kimpo to visit the Canadian hospital, to liaise and negotiate with the RCAMC andarrange for a ward in their hospital to be handed over to the RAAF for the purpose ofassessing and caring for the Commonwealth wounded until they were fit enough to undertakethe flight to Iwakuni and the onward journey by hospital train to Kure. The building - anold High School - was in an outer suburb of war-torn Seoul. The CO of 77 Squadron, WingCommander Kinninmont organised transport - a jeep and driver - and off we went. It was amost depressing journey through the broken city and the reception we received from theBrigadier and the Matron was almost as cool as the Arctic weather. However we were shown alittle of their hospital and given a ward ; they considered it unnecessary but they had nochoice. We returned to Kimpo, where Wing Commander Kinninmont gave us his tent for the twonights we were there.

The facilities of the transit RAAF Medical Evacuation Ward, and indeedthe hospital, were pretty awful. It was a particularly cold winter with the groundfreezing to a depth of 12 feet (4 metres) and the snow soon turning to slush. Theaccommodation for the Sister (later two Sisters) sent over was primitive, to say the least; hence, the duration was, in those days, only for about six weeks. I recall LorraineJarrett, one of the first to go over, coming down to meet me at the strip with herpatients, her face spattered with mud and mud all over her uniform. I hardly recognisedthe former smart, spic and span Sister ".

After the establishment of the Medical Evacuation Ward, within theprecincts of the British Commonwealth Z Medical Unit (BCZMU), Sister Cathie Daniels (4)was posted to Korea to organise and take charge of it. She recalls "The CommandingOfficer of the Unit was a Canadian, Major R.A. Smillie. There was an Australian ArmySister, a Red Cross worker and two English Army Sisters from the Queen Alexandra'sRoyal Army Nursing Corps, who nursed in the British General Hospital section. We were thefirst group of Commonwealth women to serve in Korea. The American nurses were alreadyattached to their American unit. We lived in an old school, which had been bomb-damaged,and set this up as a receiving depot, making the lower floor as comfortable as possiblewith a pot-belly heater. Our own beds, in canvas cubicles of about 6 feet by six feet(less than 2 metres by 2 metres) separated by hessian. The female members of the unitlived here and were on call 24 hours a day. For ablutions we walked across the paradeground to the men's showers, at our appointed time ; a guard was posted outside.

We experienced some bad times when too many young men came in woundedfrom the front, among them the young British National Service boys, who suffered not onlyfrom bad wounds but also from shock and psychological effects. We were always desperatelywaiting on supplies from Japan. In one incident, an orderly came rushing in to say that avery big box of supplies had arrived. We rush to open it up - expecting all sorts ofgoodies and medical supplies. We found that the Stores department in Japan had sent us acrate of glass urinals !. An experience I will always remember was flying in areconnaissance plane to the front line to inspect a front line dressing station."


In March 1952 Nathalie Oldham (now Wittmann) (5) was posted to Iwakunifor medivac and nursing duties at the Base Hospital. She recalled recently, " In JulyI became attached to the 801st Medical Air Evacuation Squadron (MAES), USAF, based atTachikawa, Japan. This squadron was engaged in the medical evacuation of sick and woundedAmerican military personnel, and personnel of all other allied countries except for theCommonwealth, who were evacuated by the RAAF. Flights with the 801st MAES originated fromTachikawa to various pick up points in Korea, such as Kimpo (K14), Yungdungpo, Wonju,Taegu and Pusan. Patients on these flights were usually taken to the hospital at Itami orTachikawa in Japan by C54 aircraft.

I August 1952, I left Tachikawa to spend some time with four USAFFlight Nurses from 801st MAES. We were accommodated in tents, on the airfield atYungdungpo, our duties were to fly in C47 aircraft to small airfields or forward stripssuch as Wonju, Yang, Kunsan and Chunchon, to escort wounded personnel back to Yungdungpofor transfer to hospital in Japan.

While at Yungdungpo, I accompanied a couple of USAF Flight Nurses tovisit the USN Hospital ship Repose, anchored in Inchon Harbour , Korea. The USNHospital ship Haven was also in the harbour.

These ships were equipped with helipads and seriously wounded soldiers(specially with head wounds) from all allied countries were usually evacuated to them byhelicopter for urgent treatment. Later that month I returned to Tachikawa in a C124 and,after I had been there a few days, one of the staff confided that they were all relievedto see me in uniform as they were expecting a nun; they were confused by our rank of RAAFNursing Sister and insisted on referring to me as 'that Australian Lieutenant'.After a few days, I returned to Iwakuni. In December I was attached to the BritishCommonwealth Z Medical Unit in Seoul, in the RAAF Medical Evacuation Ward. During my 13month posting to Iwakuni and Korea, I also had four medivac flights ( per Qantas) toAustralia and two flights (per RAF Hastings), escorting UK patients to Changi Hospital,Singapore."


I recall my posting to Iwakuni, Japan in early 1953. Pam Leahy and Iflew Qantas Constellation Hong Kong Trader via Darwin and Hong Kong, and arrived onthe tarmac at Iwakuni to be greeted by Cathie Daniels, the Sister whom I was to relieve.We were taken by jeep to one of the four houses allotted to the RAAFNS in the marriedquarters area. Each house consisted of sitting and dining room, and kitchen downstairs ;two bedrooms, bath and store rooms, upstairs. Pam and I had house 4B, with Matisador-san ,our little house girl who was awaiting our arrival. She bowed deeply, looking at us withgreat interest and murmuring our names 'Leahy-san, Bury-san'. I found out laterthat she supported her husband, aged mother and four children on the small wage she earnedand the odd leftovers from our kitchen, which we gave her. She would arrive at 4B at 7-30am. and, if we were not up, would stand timidly in the doorway and enquire timidly"Holiday ? ", if it were, up would come a tray of toast, marmalade and tea. Thehouse was then cleaned from top to bottom, until lunchtime, then the house girls would allmeet in the kitchen of 4A (the transit house) and over their rice dishes the tongues wouldwag with the house gossip. It was amazing the personal interest that they showed towardsus. If there were pending parties on the Station, Matisador-san would ask me what dress Iwas wearing before I had even heard of the party. The drab shirts, the worry of our liveswhen we were in Gorshu (as Australia was called) now appeared starched andbeautifully ironed. One day I watched her work. The shirt was washed thoroughly andstarched in the ordinary way, except that a dessert spoon of soap jelly was added, then itwas hung on the line. As soon as it was dried, it was immersed in warm water and ironedwet, with a very hot iron. The results were remarkable.

Our arrival in Japan could not have happened at a better time for us,the bleak Japanese winter was over and spring had arrived - the Japanese festive season.Accustomed as our blood was to the hot Queensland summer, the change in climate was verymarked and we felt the intense cold, specially when flying. We were warned by the moreexperienced Sisters to "put on everything but the kitchen sink" under our flyingsuits. However, every day seemed to become warmer and, by July, we had never experiencedsuch heat. The extremes of climate we were taught about in our geography books were notexaggerated.

The day after our arrival, we decided to have a look at oursurroundings, as we had been granted the day off to be "cleared" on to theStation and unpack. The airstrip was built on the delta of the river Nishiki, which we sawlater when we visited West Iwakuni and walked across the Kintai Bridge. Around the stripon the north-east were hangars, workshops, and so on ; on the other side were bullrushesand a road leading to the slipway. here there were numerous workshops - British andAmerican - and many launches, tied up or moored in the small harbour. RAF seaplanes wereanchored further out in the Inland Sea and further out still were aircraft carriers of theUS Navy, Royal Navy, and Royal Australian and New Zealand navies, put in for shore leaveor repairs from Korean waters.

Our staff consisted of six Sisters - two based in Seoul, Korea ; one toaccompany the Australian and New Zealand patients to Australia ; one (occasionally) totake a medical evacuation to Singapore ; one for the very frequent medical evacuationsfrom Korea and the remainder to look after the hospital. All the Sisters, prior to leavingfor Japan and Korea, had undergone an intensive Medical Air Evacuation Course. On theextreme left of the hospital stood a high, cream building, which had been used by thefirst RAAF Occupation Sisters in 1946 and was now the home of the USAF Nurses. Directly infront of the hospital was a large oval, used for ceremonious occasions and sports, andsurrounding this were the USAF, USN, and RAAF administrative buildings, stores, AmericanPost Exchange, men's quarters etc. Behind the headquarters was the Officers'Mess, with the remains of a Japanese garden surrounding it - miniature shrubs were inabundance, with flowers growing among the rocks. Along the driveway was a small Shintoshrine placed between two large rocks.

It was here that the kamikaze or suicide fliers, of the Japanese AirForce would receive their last blessings before being placed in their planes, with thecanopy screwed into place so that if they had a change of mind, at the last minute beforethe death plunge, exit would be impossible.

On our first morning on duty it was raining, and the appearance ofdozens of Japanese men and women, enroute from the village to work in various parts of thecamp, was a most extraordinary sight - all rode bicycles and were clutching their specialtype of large brolly. At the hospital we were presented to the Medical Commanding Officer,Wing Commander D.A.S. Morgan and, later met the rest of the staff, and Senior Sister - in- Charge, Helen Cleary (who later became Matron - in - Chief). There were several Englishorderlies and a Japanese pharmacist , an ex - Colonel of more than middle age. As apharmacist he was excellent and most obliging. There was Jeanny-san, who was the assistantcook and produced meals at all hours for us, before or after our medical evacuationflights - her omelettes were superb efforts. There were also three girl-sans who were wardmaids and kept the floors gleaming and Chick-san and Jackie-san -- boys of about 16,always laughing and joking. They assisted the head cook, old Poppa-san, until he droppeddead with a heart attack one morning, then Jackie-san took over the cooking.

The hospital had been working at fever pitch for many weeks, since thefighting in Korea had renewed in intensity, and this morning was no exception. As was thecustom, the day before, the Flight Sergeant had received the breakdown from Korea,indicating the number of patients to be flown out and the details of the cases, which hethen wrote up in chalk on the big blackboard in the Senior Sister's office. She, inturn, would arrange which Sister was to go over for them, organise the staff to provideearly morning meals and calls, transport for the Flight Sister, morning coffee, tea andfood for the patients in flight and lunch for them on arrival at Iwakuni.

In the meantime, the Flight Sergeant was busying himself and themedical orderlies - blankets, replacement litters, rubber mattresses (for fractures andabdominal cases) and extra pillows were loaded on to ambulances. Oxygen cylinders andpanniers checked and also loaded aboard. At 0900 hours, the following day, we received asignal from K16, Korea, to inform us that the patients were due to arrive at Iwakuni at 12midday. The ambulances and a large bus were to be on the strip, as soon as the pilot ofthe RAAF Dakota signalled that that he was overhead, and we went to work to organise beds.Blankets were placed over the 16 ready-made beds with hot water bottles in each. On eachlocker the girl-san had placed a basin, towel, washer , soap and tooth mug. Jeanny-san wasbusy setting up a table in the annexe for her nine guests and sixteen trays for the bedpatients. Poppa-san and his boys were busy cooking. At 1100 hours the Army Sister from theBritish Commonwealth Hospital at Kure ( a few miles, as the crow flies, across the InlandSea) arrived, ready to escort her charges by the hospital train to Kure. At 1145 hours weheard the plane overhead and, simultaneously, received the signal that our patients werearriving. The Medical Officer was notified and departed in his jeep to the air strip. TheFlight Sergeant organised his crew, drivers and ambulances, and off they went. About tenminutes more of calm prevailed.... and then the first ambulance arrived. One by one, themen were carried in on their litters and placed, litter and all on the beds. The walkerswere directed to the toilet rooms, and then to the luncheon room. Each patient (exceptthose suffering from a mental illness) had a small envelope tied to the end of the litter,and it was simple to see what treatment each required. Washed, seen by the MO, dressingschanged and so ; the men were now ready for their meal. The Army Sister was given thehistory of each patient, by the Flight Sister, with any additional details such as howthey flew, or any peculiarities, and, once again, they were placed into the ambulances andtaken to the awaiting hospital train at Iwakuni Station. Their next stop was Kure.

Back at Iwakuni base hospital, the cleaning-up process began and,within the hour, it was difficult to imagine that 25 people had quietly come and gone.Routine continued until 1600 hours when we received the break down for the next day -another 25 patients only this time my name was on the board as Flight Sister. Each Sisterhad her own First Aid Box of white wood, measuring about 2 feet by 1 foot (60 x 30 x 30centimetres). In these we put air sick remedies , cures for nasal or ear pressure,sedatives, antiseptics, bandages, haemorrhage packs, and other items - these boxesbelonged to us and were our personal responsibility. In addition, we were given a pannier- a large tin trunk with a dark green canvas lid - in which there were wonderful surprisepackets and a little of everything, from bed pans to "Deadwood Dicks" (trashynovels).

This pannier had to be checked, before and after use ; the drinkingbottle cleaned and refilled, barley sugar, toilet paper, magazines and comics replenished,the oxygen mask cleaned and checked after use.


I must admit to no little excitement, when at 0315 hours I climbed intoa woollen singlet, long woollen underpants, woollen jumper, khaki skirt, woollen socks,fleecy lined flying boots, blue, fur- lined flying jacket, fur-lined gloves, forage capand, with scarf, fountain pen, watch and First Aid box, was ready to go on my firstmedivac flight to Korea. Poppa-san was tooting down below, so I gathered my gear togetherand clambered down the stairs to be driven to the hospital. Jeanny-san had prepared adelicious omelette and a pot of tea. After breakfast she gave me the tins of sandwichesand coffee in a large thermos, for the return journey ; she then stood in the doorway ofthe hospital and bowed deeply as we drove off towards the strip.

The Dakota was being busily loaded with supplies and mail for troopsour in Korea and, at 0400 hours, we took off. It was first light and a bluish mistshrouded the numerous islands of the Inland Sea. My flying companions were fast asleep onthe mail bags, expressing their complete confidence in the ability of the famous RAAFTransport Squadron.

After an hour's flight, we descended and put down at Pusan, aseaport on the southern tip of the Korean peninsula to deliver supplies. The township wassome distance from away from the airstrip so I had not yet viewed Korean civilization. Thestrip appeared to have been carved from the side of the mountains, on one side was theStrait of Korea and directly in front were sheer mountains. We took off again, almostimmediately, flying towards the mountains, then banking steeply and climbing up abovethem. It looked most forbidding country - jagged mountains rising steeply out of the greenvalleys just freed from snow. Most of the higher mountains were snow-capped. As we climbedhigher, the country lost its perspective and reminded me of a plasticine model. Wecontinued on our way for two and a half hours and, as we approached Seoul, the skippersent word for me to come forward to get my first impressions of the city. We descendedgradually, the tiny dots becoming recognisable ; we were over the outskirts of the city,and below were the homes of the peasants. They were similar in shape, size and colour, themajority of mud brick, thatched roof and built in communities strangely merging with thegreening earth. We descended still further and there below was the swirling Han River,over which the famous bridge - bombed, repaired and re-bombed - looked somewhat precariouswith the torrent of blue water surging below. The river banks were of the whitest sand andI felt faint surprise that there was not more evidence of the three tremendous battlesthat had been fought in this area. As we landed, I caught a quick glimpse of the numerouskhaki tents housing American, Commonwealth and United Nations Military Personnel.

A slight bump and we were at K16, the code name the airport at Seoul.The strip was a hive of activity and reputed to be, at this time, the busiest in theworld. Huge American transport aircraft mingled with tiny reconnaissance Austers, flown bythe RAF and some Army fliers - there appeared to be every type of aircraft there. Ouraircraft door was opened by some Korean boys, dressing in semi-military clothing. Severaltrucks drove alongside, containing Army officers to receive the cargo, the RAF/RAAFMedical Air Evacuation Unit jeep, driven by the Medical Officer, and several other jeepson other business. We exchanged greetings and, while unloading continued, I went with someof our crew to the British Air Head for a cup of coffee. The Union Jack fluttered proudlyat its masthead between a wooden office and the several tents behind.

The Army Captain in command was supposed to be quite an amazingpersonality - a connoisseur of many foods, wines and coffees. His tent was furnished withtaste, but according to circumstances. The floor boards were partially covered withintriguing matting, on the right of the 'room' was a wooden table, several canechairs, a small table choc-a-bloc with Tatlers, Spheres and first-rate American andCanadian journals. In the left-hand corner was a built-in-bar, containing liqueurs andwines with attractive and unfamiliar labels. The 'other' guests consisted of anEnglish Major, a Canadian Captain (both in battle rig and just down from the front) and anAustralian Lieutenant. Our host never appeared so I did not have the pleasure of meetinghim until many months had passed, but he always held open house at coffee time. Hisboy-san, Kim, brought in cups and saucers from an annexe and plugged in the percolator,which bubbled merrily away while we chatted. The coffee was superb. Refreshed and warm, wereturned to the plane.

Unloading was almost completed and our Australian Medical Orderlies(with whom I had worked on RAAF Stations in Australia) were busily fitting the Dakota withthe litter brackets, pulling and testing each. The six ambulances arrived and were linedup awaiting loading. The RAAF Sister from the Medical Air Evacuation Unit accompanyingthem came over and we exchanged news and mail, and started the round of patients.

She had each patient's documents and, on a duplicate form ormanifest had the details of pre-flight sedation, airsickness precautions, condition ofwounds etc. I took 3 copies of the manifest, all the documents and, one by one, met thepatients. Some were very ill indeed and were carefully sedated for the journey, some withtheir whole bodies in plaster but nearly all managed a cheery smile, with the exception ofa 'psycho' who was snoring loudly......much to my relief.

The loading, in itself, was quite a work of art. The ambulances werebacked up to within 10 feet (3 metres) of the open door of the plane. Four orderlies wereon the ground and two in the plane. Each patient was numbered according to his place, thatis , fractured left leg in the top left litter (L1) so that the injured leg would be in aposition for treatment and high enough to be out of the way. Chest cases would be L4 orR4, at floor level, so that the litter space above could be left free and they could bepropped up with pillows. The most serious cases were placed in first, and nearest thebulkhead because it is the position of smoothest flying and also because the Flight Sisterusually sits on her pannier between these litters for take-off and landing so can be nearat hand. Loading commenced with two orderlies pulling each litter while two others tookthe other end and carried it to the doorway of the plane. Here the orderlies in the planewould note the number slipped under the patient's belt, pass it to the Flight Sister,who checked it against her manifest and supervised the loading inside the plane. Next camethe walkers and they sat on the canvas seats provided, and fastened their safety belts.Most of my patients were Australians and some New Zealanders. "The Hook got it lastnight", the Sister had informed me before we took off and I nodded, understandingly,as If I knew all about "The Hook", and I soon learnt of the bloody battlesfought at this strategic point. Before take-off the skipper enquired about the patients.If there were any chest or head cases, or those possibly requiring oxygen en route, hewould fly as low as safety permitted and, in all cases make the journey as smooth aspossible . The co-operation and courage of these men was worthy of the highest praise. TheDakota was not pressurised so our ceiling was about 10,000 feet.

At last, airborne and levelled out my work commenced. It was still ascold as the journey to Korea had been and the chill air seeped in, causing one'sbones to ache. The navigator turned on the heating system and, with the introduction ofhot air into the cabin and the distribution of blankets, we travelled more cheerfully. Ithen gave out my supply of magazines and comics - the demand for the latter was colossaland it was difficult to maintain supplies. The next item on the agenda was morning coffee.We had our tins of Jeanny- san's sandwiches, some Red Cross plum cake, the coffee,milk, sugar and mugs. I was always fortunate on medivac with my walkers. A volunteer wouldhelp deliver drinks to the other patients and thus enable me to give more time to thelitter cases, many of whom drank through the rubber tubes provided in the pannier. My"psycho" patient was having a pleasant journey, so I didn't disturb him forcoffee. The majority of such patients travelled well under these circumstances and Iremember only one instance when a walker with this infliction became very excited andtried to hurl himself into oblivion. I was busy with a litter patient, when I heard aslight scuffle aft, on looking around, I saw to my horror, two of the walking menstruggling with another who had the exit panel out - fortunately he'd forgotten toundo his safety belt. I called the navigator and, together, we managed to get the exitpanel back and to settle the poor unfortunate patient down for the rest of the journey.

Very few patients were airsick, due no doubt to the carefulprophylactic precautions taken before flight in many cases. Some needed oxygen en routeand some fresh dressings, so the three hours flying time sped quickly by. The manifest wasfilled in with comments, documents were tied to the end of each litter and then my taskswere almost completed. The skipper came aft to inform me that he was calling up forpermission to land at Iwakuni and asked me if there was anything of urgency I wished toinform the hospital of. I replied that there wasn't. After landing, the patients intheir litters were lifted carefully and transported by the awaiting ambulances to thehospital - so ended my first medivac trip.

KOREA 1953

I was posted to Korea on 17 April 1953. Sister Lorraine Jarratt wasalso scheduled to fly over in the Dakota to accompany a medivac back to Iwakuni. LeavingIwakuni, as usual before dawn, we settled down on top of the cargo and slept part of theway to be awakened by the pilot, "Want to hear a voice from home ?". Through hisradio we heard Russ Tyson's breakfast session on Radio Australia. The plane waspitching and tossing, like an unhappy ship, due to turbulence. Two hours later we landed,at K16 Seoul) and disembarked, together with three rather green looking Army officers.When all the waiting patients were loaded and the plane left on its return journey, Isuddenly realised that I was here to stay. The wind tore along the tarmac carrying with itsand and dust, soon rain began adding to the discomfort. I was directed to the jeepbelonging to the RAF Medical Officer and sat awaiting his return.

A huge US Globemaster landed and taxied around, not far from the jeep.Its great jaws opened and a seemingly never ending centipede of men filed out , carryingvarious souvenirs of Japan ; they had returned from Tokyo after a few days rest andrecreation (R & R). Another group, who had been sitting behind a ranch-like fence onthe other side, stood up, were briefly drilled, then they filed in, to be engulfed by themonster. Most looked tired and worn, and the majority in need of a good wash. I was amazedat the sight of these men, few were under 6 feet (183 centimetres) ; I lost count after 75had, with exaggerated and characteristic leisure of Americans, entered the aircraft. Atlast I recognised the grey-blue uniform of the RAF approaching and Flying Officer Dicksondropped his massive form into the driver's seat. With great relief we motored away.

I can't remember much of the journey from the Airport to our firststop, the US Evacuation Hospital, , except the colossal bomb damage. Few houses stood,most brick ones were just heaps of rubble and the mud and plaster ones were riddled withbullet holes. Amid one heap of debris , a bright yellow flower, slightly resembling theevening primrose, proudly stood, waving to and fro in the breeze. The roads from 121Evacuation Hospital were third rate, even by Korean standards, and the jeep slithered andslushed in the mud. However, it was not long before we reached the main road to Kimpo,which was a wide road, the trees on either side beginning to show signs of life after thelong frigid winter. On the flat below, on either side of the road, were paddy fields butevidence of their pastures were not yet apparent. At last the huge airstrip at Kimpo cameinto view, as we proceeded along comfortably on the newly made American road. SeveralSabres were about to take off as we approached and their hot smelly fumes nearly blew usoff the road. We drove along past rows of khaki-grey tents, separated from the road by abarbed wire fence. On the left side were anti-aircraft guns, built in on the rise. At lastwe came to a sign reading "77 Squadron RAAF and, turning left, we drove through thegateway. The medical tent was our first call and here I renewed acquaintance with FlightLieutenant "Rass" Rasmussen, the RAAF Medical Officer, who was posted fromAmberley only a few weeks before I left there for Japan. After I had signed my"clearing in" sheet, he took me to be presented to the Commanding Officer and Ire-met Wing Commander John Hubble (who had been at Canberra RAAF Station while I was therefor a short time). I blinked for a moment, after introduction, for he had grown amoustache to oust all moustaches and with his 6 feet 2 inches (188 centimetres) height andtwinkling grey eyes, he as indeed a dashing specimen of Australian manhood !.

After lunch in the mess, the "clearing in" completed and the77 Squadron scarf presented, (6) we made our farewells and departed back toward Seoul andthe British Commonwealth Z Medical Unit (BCZMU). The views during the journey werepathetic and tragic ; casualties of the many battles fought in the city. The squalor wasbeyond belief, with the stench of the foul-smelling seepage everywhere. Everything andanything was thrown together to form some sort of shelter for the unfortunate inhabitants- old tin, sacking, packing cases, opened-out drums - oil lamps and fires provided lightand cooking facilities. There were numerous maimed children, hobbling about with makeshiftcrutches, often wood poles supporting their stumps ; all ragged, barefoot, someshell-shocked and crazy, with part of their faces blown away. This was summer.....mostwould not survive the cruel winter.

On arrival at BCZMU, Flying Officer Dickson drove me to the front ofthe rickety stairs leading to the female quarters. I dumped my meagre luggage , to seekout the Sister I was to replace. Pat Tansy was relieved to see me ; she had been managingon her own for several days and was overdue for R & R. I followed her up the stairs,past the wooden privy, half way up and entered a large morbid looking room. Brown hessianmats partly covered the floor and the furniture consisted of an old settee (goodness knowswhere it came from) and a wooden chair.

Up at one end was an oil stove, on top of which continually sat a largetub of water - the only supply of warm water for washing in the mornings. The outlet tothe stove was the far window, so that the walls received their share of black soot on thesmoke's journey.

There were three rooms adjoining, one occupied by an Australian ArmyMatron, (7) one reserved for VIPs and the third our sleeping quarters. This again was alarge room, divided into cubicles about 5 feet by 6 feet (1.5 x 1.8 metres), between eachwas a wall of plywood reaching up to a height of 5 feet 10 inches (2 metres). A curtain ofsome heavy material hung over the doorway. In all there were six with a washstand andbasins at the end, and a can of water, which was brought up each day by a Poppa-san andwas the only water we were permitted to drink. I was fortunate in that my cubicle happenedto coincide with a window, allowing in fresh air - as well as foul kitchen smell and noise- but I counted my blessings for it also allowed in considerably more light than theothers received. It was not until a few hours later that I realised that the air raidsiren also blew a few feet away !.

I placed my suit case and other articles on top of the narrow bed,which didn't give an inch. It was quite comfortable, though, and it was a pleasure tospend time in it I discovered. The old faded and tattered quilt I replaced with a cheapJapanese tablecloth, which I had brought with me, and my room began to assume somesemblance of atmosphere.

The next and most important visit was to our ward. This was known asthe RAAF/RAF Medical Evacuation Unit, and was a large wooden building. The main wardaccommodated about 32 patients, at a pinch, and 25 comfortably. In the centre of the wardwas a table made of two boxes joined together, over this was draped a crisp blue linen matupon which stood, proudly, two home-grown Korean azaleas, supported by a painted Capstantin. I noticed that the floor was uneven and was informed that it was always caving in andhad to be reinforced with anything handy. The windows looked bright with airforce bluedrapes, obtained from the RAAF at Iwakuni. By each bed was a painted box for thepatient's clothing (if any) and their toilet articles, the opening covered by a pieceof material, also obtained through close liaison with the Sisters at Iwakuni. "Theward is an absolute palace to what it was when Sister Daniels first walked into it" Iwas told. The ward was full because there had been another skirmish at The Hook (astrategic hill occupied by the Commonwealth Division) and our casualties were heavy.

The procedure for preparing our patients for their two hour flight toIwakuni was cut and dried. The other RAAF Sister and I alternated our duties, so that onewould be rising early one morning and later the next ; as I had just arrived and had notexperienced this part of the business, it fell to my lot to get up at 0400 hours , after asemi-conscious one hour's sleep, dreamily pull on my khaki slacks, shirt and jacketand find my way down the stairs. On nearing the ward, I could see lights ablaze and thewhole place a hive of activity. The walkers were busily washing themselves and some werepacking their toilet articles in the small pull-string bags, supplied by the Red Cross.

All water for washing and drinking was carried into the ward by an oldKorean Poppa-san - two large tins at a time, supported across his back by a coolie-typepole. Some water was put into a large tub and heated over an old oil stove, which ninetimes out of ten was, in the Leading Aircraftsman's words " on the blink" ;fortunately this morning all was well. Two days later, however, the worst happened and,rather than subject the unfortunate patients to an ice-cold bath we decided on a"lick and a promise" - just hands and face. The next day I received a curt notefrom the RAAF Hospital at Iwakuni, stating that certain patients' toenails were dirtyand would I ensure that it did not occur again. The next items on the agenda were thedressings, then placing each patient on his litter, which was then placed on the bed. At0700 hours, breakfast was served ; some of the men too excited to eat, for each stage ofthe proceedings would be bringing them just that much nearer home. At 7.20 am. sedativesgiven to any cases prone to airsickness or anxiety neurosis and at 0730 hours they wereloaded, according to their numbers, into the waiting ambulances.

The other Sister, meanwhile, breakfasted, checked the manifest,patients etc., and, complete with her First Aid box and flying gear was ready to precedethe convoy, in the jeep with the MO, to K16.We were always prepared to fly, in the eventof Iwakuni being unable to supply a Flight Sister, and so it happened in this case. Afterthe general exit, a few orderlies and I were left behind to clean up the chaos. I had beento breakfast and returned to the ward, which closely resembled the morning after acolossal party. On every locker there were papers, cigarette packets and, nearly always, asmall item of uniform, which had been forgotten ; over the months we collected quite aselection of hats and caps, badges and webbing.

It was rather amusing, but also pathetic, to watch the Poppa-sansappear from all over the hospital on evacuation morning ; like vultures on the rubbish -popping everything and anything into their tin containers for sorting out at theirleisure, later. It took about two hours to achieve some semblance of order ; the floor wasscrubbed then disinfected, beds aired and remade with clean linen - if theQuartermaster would provide it - all ready for the afternoon influx. I returned to theoffice, a room just off the ward, to rule up the report book, when my eye caught sight ofa diagram describing the methods of evacuation from the FRONT, nailed to the wall. It wasclear, concise and described exactly our position in Seoul.

Later that day we received a call on our field telephone to meet thehospital train from the Front as there were 16 Commonwealth patients on board. Fourambulances were arranged, the MO and I leading them in our jeep to the station, a mile ortwo to the east. We arrived a little ahead of schedule and were inundated by smallchildren begging for sweets ; I always remembered to take some on my other trips. Thetrain arrived and we climbed up the ladder into the British Commonwealth compartment. Itwas a streamlined US hospital train, beautifully appointed with six or eight litters ineach compartment. We were greeted by an American nurse and doctor. With the latter, our MOproceeded to examine his patients. He decided that 14 were fit for transportation to ourward and they were loaded into the waiting ambulances ; the remaining two were carried onto the 121 US Evacuation Hospital for specialized treatment until fit for travel.

When we returned to the ward five skin cases had been received from theArmy division of the hospital for evacuation, so of course we prepared for another medivacnext day. I left some orderlies behind to clean while I accompanied the patients to K16.It was always a great thrill to meet the RAAF Dakota from Iwakuni, for with it came allfresh news, gossip and, best of all, mail from home ; this morning was no exception. Armedwith half a dozen letters and some magazines ( the only reading matter in the mess was a1940 Punch and a few ancient Strands, donated by the Red Cross). I decidedto return to BCZMU in one of the ambulances, as the MO had to go on to the 121 EvacuationHospital.

As we turned in through the gates, we passed a Poppa-san leading a purewhite kid goat on a bright red lead. I asked the driver to pull up and asked the price.Poppa-san looked very wise and said $5. Alas! I only $1-50 so we drove on. A little later,in the ward, I heard some footsteps, then silence ; turning around quickly I saw to mydelight the little kid poised in the doorway, behind it were the smiling faces of theorderlies, "Poppa-san has reduced it to $1-50 for you and is waiting at thedoor". I paid him my $1-50 and Marilyn Monroe belonged to us ! Marilyn was the envyof all the other wards but it wasn't until the Commanding Officer's inspectionthat she could really become official. As luck would have it, we had acquired a new CO ;this was his first command and, eager to put to practice the old idiom that a new broomalways sweeps clean, he started, with a vengeance, on Marilyn. Orderlies had built her,just outside the ward, a structure resembling a dog kennel, in which she used to sithappily and chew her cud. The day before the CO was due, it was mutually decided, after asmall conference with our MO, that we should give her a disinfectant bath. This wasperformed with warm water, disinfectant and very little fuss, except that her beautifulwhite throat suddenly became a bright pink - the red lead, which was still on, had oozed,its colour rendering added distinction. The CO had almost completed his round when hespotted her. "And what is that ?". I answered that it was a kid goat, completelyaseptic and our mascot. "You will get rid of her immediately", he boomed. Thisorder led to great consternation and an inter-camp crisis almost occurred, when somefights took place in the men's quarters late that day. The Army gloated, the AirForce seethed and the culmination of it all was that I decided to take Marilyn to 77Squadron at Kimpo. An airman took her in his arms in the back of our jeep and, with theCorporal driving we set off for Kimpo. When we arrived we drove straight to the CO'soffice and made the presentation. All were highly delighted - they already had variousspecies of rabbit, but no goat.

On 19 April 1953 there was great excitement when the first Prisoners ofWar were exchanged in what was known as Operation Littleswitch. Flying Officer Dickson andI motored up to the 121 US Evacuation Hospital to see the Commonwealth POWs and to decideif they were fit for flying. We waited on the steps of the hospital for General Wells, theAustralian Commander - in - Chief. At the appointed time, heralded by a squad of motorcycles, he alighted from his staff car and we accompanied him upstairs to the receivingward. The doorway to the ward was closely guarded by two heavily armed US soldiers, moreto keep out unwanted persons than to keep anyone inside.

The General and Flying Officer Dickson slowly singled out theCommonwealth prisoners, while I chatted to others. "Chatted" is rather anambiguous term for our conversation, as it definitely one sided ; in fact, it was athoroughly eerie experience. The ward was full of men, some lying on stretchers, somesitting and a few strolling about but, curiously enough, all had the same facialexpression that reminded me of sleepwalkers ; their eyes completely devoid of emotion.Only a few were on the thin side and these were suffering from various illnesses. Themajority had obviously been given clean clothes and fattened up for the occasion. Oneyoung American was quietly sobbing, his head in his hands, a figure of total dejection. Iwent over and asked him what was wrong, but he didn't appear to hear, just mutteredover and over again "Oh my God! Oh God what am I to do ". The most normal of thegroup seemed to be two heavily bearded Indians, who nodded and grinned at the slightestprovocation , and seemed altogether overjoyed at the prospect of their new-found freedom.The American nurses were moving among the men, quietly and efficiently, some sponging,others feeding or administering in some way, while the Medical Officers examined each man.

Our mission was completed after Flying Officer Dickson had madearrangements with the US authorities to have the POWs at K16 (Seoul) next morning and weretuned to BCZMU to make arrangements for an RAAF medivac Dakota to be flown over forthem. In complete contrast, six weeks later, on 2 June 1953 a cocktail party was held atthe British Commonwealth Officers' Club, in the north-east of Seoul, for theCoronation of Queen Elizabeth 11. Every off-duty officer of the Commonwealth forces wasinvited, as well as the General Commanding US Forces in Korea, Mark Clark, other AmericanOfficers and officers representing every country of the United Nations. The President ofSouth Korea, Syngman Rhee, was also invited but declined, pleading a previous engagementand sent his representative (he did not approve of the negotiations for peace talks atPanmunjon preferring unification). The varied uniforms were fascinating and theconversation, punctuated with gesticulations, added to the charm of the spectacle.National anthems of all the nations represented were played by the band, assembled in thecourtyard below. We were indeed the United Nations that memorable night. Some of the ArmySisters and I were taken over to be introduced to General Mark Clark and, while we werechatting , an unfortunate English steward came round the corner carrying a tray withglasses of champagne. I can only imagine he was dazzled by the three stars on theGeneral's lapel for he lost his footing and, with bulging eyes , deposited the lotover the General's tunic. With quiet nonchalance, the latter wiped off the fragmentsof glass and drips of French champagne, and to the spluttering, apologetic steward said," Forget it, it could happen to anyone ", then turned to continue hisconversation with us.

Despite such occasional excitement, life at "Brit-Com"(BCZMU) went on as usual. We continued to have our nocturnal visitations from"Bed-Check Charlie" (9) and medical evacuations nearly every day. Every morning,at 0800 hours (sharp !), the CO held a parade of his troops in the ground sloping beyondthe Officers' Mess, where he held kit inspection and issued daily orders. Onemorning, standing stiffly to attention beside an Australian Staff Sergeant was a tinyfigure, dressed in the uniform of an Australian private - to scale of course. It was Kim,a Korean orphan aged four, who was found abandoned as a small baby in a roadside ditchnear Seoul from which he was rescued and reared by a group of American Marines. Hecontinued to live with his 'foster fathers' until they had to move on,reluctantly relinquishing their protege to an Australian Sergeant who took over theresponsibility and brought him to live with him and his fellow sergeants in the sergeantsmess. Kim was given a specially constructed bed and was, of course, subjected to messdiscipline. Often he would confide to me that he had been fined for swearing or some othermisdemeanour and, as punishment, sentenced to only three cokes a week. I can't helpwondering what has happened to him, for he was certainly a stranger in his own land, notbeing able to read or write one word in his native tongue.

One night, when we were returning from Kimpo in the jeep, travellingalong a fairly lonely stretch of road, just before entering the main highway to Seoul, wewere fired upon by an unknown assailant, apparently hiding in the paddy fields. Needlessto say, we did not wait to investigate but instead sped along for the protection of thecliffs, which we were nearing. I was recounting our adventure to a member of the Red Crosslater that evening and she asked me to describe the vicinity in detail. "Well, forheaven's sake ! It sounds like the very spot ", and she told me of anouting she had had the previous week.

The road had been suffering for several weeks with an enormous quantityof rain and, consequently, was in an even a worse condition than usual. She was perchedbetween the driver and a Canadian Lieutenant in a jeep, when they swerved to dodge aparticularly large hole in the road ; the jeep spun on two wheels and leant dangerouslyover the edge then it righted itself. The driver wiped his brow, "Phew ! That was anear thing ! Crikey ! " but he was talking to himself, his passengers havingdisappeared. He got out and peered around - there they were, sitting up, rather dazed, wetand smelling like nothing on earth in the paddy fields below. The only casualty was theCanadian, who had lost his upper dentures, and who dryly commented, "They'll geta shock when they find them at harvest time ".

On 25 June 1953, the third anniversary of the war in Korea, we wereconfined to barracks. However, contrary to expectations, the local populace also remainedindoors while "Charlie" waited until the following night to skip over anddislodge four bombs, on various targets in and around Seoul. At the same time, anotherhazard, which we had to overcome, was the thawing and consequent flooding of the HanRiver. It threatened to take with it the strategic bridge over which we passed with ourambulances en route to the airport. The US personnel camped along the banks and nearer K16were flooded out, likewise dozens of Korean farmers, who had their paddy fields ruinedand, because of this, eked out a lonely hungry existence, isolated by swirling waters intheir tiny shanties built on the highest part of their tiny holdings. I was staggered tolearn that nearly every spring the same thing happened - just how fatalistic can one get ?

Early in July I received wonderful news. A signal arrived informing methat I was to proceed back to Iwakuni, prior to accompanying a medevac to Australia. Bythat time, the route to Australia was via the American Naval Base at Guam thence to PortMoresby and Sydney but retuning, as usual via Darwin and Manila. My worry, however, wascrossing the flooded Han River on the scheduled day. The day dawned, the sun shone and theHan River had broken over the bridge and was rising rapidly. With apprehension, we set offwith our convoy of ambulances. At the bridge, several US Military police had the situationin hand ; they were halting vehicles and checking weights ; if these were satisfactorythey were allowed to proceed slowly, cautiously and singly over the bridge. The waterlapped at our wheels as we crept across but we made it.


On arrival at Iwakuni I reported to the RAAF hospital to receiveinstructions for my medivac flight, by Qantas Skymaster, to Gorshu (Australia), toreceive the patients' documents and to check my pannier and First Aid box for thenecessary requirements for the journey. Flight Sergeant Bob Martin, who was to accompanyus, checked the oxygen cylinders, and organised blankets and pillows. About midday, thepatients, mainly walkers, with six litter cases, arrived, escorted by an Australian ArmySister. One badly wounded man had a colostomy, which necessitated extra dressings and asealed receptacle. We departed at 1600 hours and landed at the US Naval Station at Guam at0300 hours where the patients were off-loaded to a sick bay near the airstrip and attendedto by American Nurses, ready for a 0100 hour departure the following day. We arrived atPort Moresby eight hours after leaving Guam and were welcomed by the local native pipeband. No sooner had our engines stopped than they dropped their bagpipes, raced to thesteps of the plane and, with characteristic gentleness, carried the stretcher cases outand into the terminal, where they were washed and fed by the Red Cross.

The walkers, crew and I were taken to a small, thatched-roofed pavilionwhere the Red Cross and other voluntary organizations provided us with morning tea andhome made cakes. The native boys had picked up their bagpipes and recommenced playing. Weate to the accompaniment of "The Skye Boat Song", "Bonnie Scotland",and "Waltzing Matilda" until ready for departure at 1100 hours, flying over theCoral Sea and down to Sydney.

After a few hours of overland flying, the beloved lights of Sydney cameinto view. A hush descended on the occupants of the cabin and the emotional silence helduntil we touched down at Mascot. It was just before we passed over Mackay, when I wassorting out the patients' documents and health certificates that the awfulrealization struck me - I had left my own documents behind. With the crew'scollusion, we decided that if I talked rapidly and charmingly to the health inspector hemight overlook the discrepancy. So, with my fingers crossed and with a warm smile, Igreeted the efficient looking gentleman who arrived on board immediately our enginesstopped.

He peered through the documents, one by one, then at each patient whileI bombarded him with questions about the weather, told him how too, too divine it was tobe back in Australia and asked him whether he missed it as much as me when he wenttravelling, flashing maniacal smiles every now and then. At last he said, " Yes,Sister, they seem to be in order.....and where is yours ?". I was led to a littleoffice in the overseas terminal where the brute (with apologies, I must admit)re-vaccinated me against smallpox while I watched the last Melbourne-bound aircraft takeoff on its journey south. I flew down to Melbourne next morning and, after some leave,returned to Iwakuni.

On 29 May 1953 the Chinese and North Koreans launched a tremendousoffensive, throwing 12000 troops against the UN defences on central and western posts. On14 June they pushed into UN positions in suicidal attacks on the central Korean front and,on 14 July they unleashed their biggest offensive for two years, sending 35,000 menagainst South Korean positions. Thirteen days later, at 10 p.m. the fighting ended.

The Korean War was technically suspended on 27 July 1953, by anArmistice agreement but even after the signing of the Armistice , UN forces remained inKorea and medivac flights continued. Since 1953, the stalemate has continued with hundredsof meetings of the Armistice Commission at Panmunjon, where both sides continue to protestagainst alleged violations of the truce. The Korean War wreaked untold damage on bothsides, thousands of lives, of all nationalities were lost, families were separated and arift in a nation, which had boasted unity and independence for nearly 2000 years, wasperpetuated.

For most of the RAAF nursing Sisters who served in the Korean War -Sisters H.A. Cleary, P.M. Leeming, C.B. Daniel, E.L.Feil, (10) E.L. Jarrett, J.M.Bengough, C.B. Jamieson, I.P. Tansey, G.E. Bury, H.F. Blair, N.L.M. Oldham, W.J.McCormack, P.A. Leahy and P.R. Scholz - it was time to be posted back to Iwakuni, orelsewhere. The base at Iwakuni continued operating for three more years . In 1956, aftermore than ten years of occupation of Japan and three years after the signing of the peacetreaty in Korea, it was time to withdraw. For the RAAF at Iwakuni it was the end of theServices' longest period overseas. The Transport Unit was the last to leave andSisters Betty Washington (11) and Bette Edwards (later Matron - in - Chief), were the lastSisters at Iwakuni, working on medical evacuation duties right up to the end. BetteEdwards had flown more than 150 hours on medivac duties from Iwakuni and Betty Washington,259 hours , during her ten-month posting to Japan.

In the two months between April and July 1956, as Commonwealth forceswere withdrawn from Korea , the RAAF Transport Squadron flew 700 troops to Iwakuni fortheir journey home, as well as wounded and POWs. By September, most of the personnel haddeparted from Japan ending a 14 year association between the RAAF and the US Fifth AirForce. The Commander of the 5th USAF, Lieutenant General Roger M. Ramey, said at afarewell ceremony "It is always hard to say goodbye to friends...... we will neverforget what the RAAF has done. Their fighting spirit, unsurpassed courage , friendship andinspiration has meant much to us ".

1 The 16 nations despatched either ground, air or sea forces to Korea ;some sent all three ; five nations sent hospital ships with supplies.

2 More than 12,000 wounded were flown out of Korea by the RAAF as wellas 100,000 passengers, and approximately 26 million kilograms of freight and mail wereflown in.

3 Leeming, Patricia Margaret,, N22238, trained at St Vincents Hospital,Sydney, joined RAAFNS 1949 until 1954. Postings included 3 RAAF (Concord), 6 RAAF(Laverton), Forest Hill, East Sale, Iwakuni (Japan), Korea, OTS,, SSQ Rathmines.

4 Daniels, Catherine Bernadette, N12427, trained at Albury BaseHospital, joined RAAFNS 1950 until 1954. Postings included Japan, BCZMU (Korea), 6 RAAFand 3 RAAF.

5 Oldham, Nathalie, N35859, trained at Mildura Base Hospital, Victoria,joined RAAFNS 16 July 1951 until 20 November 1953. Postings included6 RAAF, Point Cook,391 Squadron (Iwakuni), BCZMU(Korea), and 801st MAES (USAF, Korea).

6 The 77 Squadron RAAF scarf was light magenta - fluorescent for warmthand also for signalling if shot down. The Americans had various scarves according toSquadron ; I remember one "heckle and jeckle".

7 Captain Perdita McCartthy, later to become Matron - in -Chief/Director of Nursing Services of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corp(1970 - 1972)was the senior female officer - in - charge at MCZMU at this time ; a most popular andkindly person.

8 General Mark Clark had succeeded General Mathew Ridgway, in May 1952,as Commander of the American 8th Army. He was later to sign the final agreements for thecease-fire on 27 July 1953, at Panmanjon, on behalf of the United Nations Command, alongwith Marshal Kim Il Sung (North Korea) and General Peng Teh-Trudi (China).

9 "Bed Check Charlie" was an intrepid Chinese pilot of asmall plane, who flew from the North, under the radar screens to deposit bombs, by hand,and at random, on Seoul, Inchon and other towns.

10 Feil, Eunice Lillian, N502656, trained at Toowoomba GeneralHospital, joined the RAAFNS 28 March 1949 until 28 March 1953. Postings included Amberley,Japan, and Korea, 6 RAAF.

11 Washington, Betty F., N11486, trained at Balmain District Hospital,Sydney, joined RAAFNS 28 March 1949 until May 1962. Postings included6 RAAF, Darwin, 3RAAF, 391 Squadron (Japan).

12 Information from Australian War Museum; Department of Defence (AirForce) ; George Odgers, The War Against Japan 1943-1945, Norman Bartlett (ed) With theAustralians in Korea ; Odgers, Pictorial History of the RAAF, 1965 ; Gay Halstead, Lampover the East, 1958 ; written memories from RAAFNS Sisters and others.


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