Chapter 34


Gay Halstead

Service Details

Gay Halstead (formerly Sister G.E. Bury, RAAFNS) joined the RAAFNS in 1951 until 1954. She served at the RAAF Hospital at Iwakuni (Japan) and at the BCZMU in Korea. On her return to Australia she was posted to the Queen's Flight for Her Majesty's first tour of Australia and completed 20 flights. Gay is married with 2 children 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 OF THE RAAF NURSING SERVICE 1940-1990 (1994), THE STORY OF TERREY HILLS AND DUFFY'S FOREST (1988), THE STORY OF ST IVES, NSW.,(1982), THE STORY OF METUNG (1977). In 1984 Gay received an Advance Australia Award for her outstanding contribution to Australian literature.

Editors' Note

The following is an extract from THE STORY OF THE RAAF NURSING SERVICE 1940-1990 (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 and meaningful 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 and in her book has accurately chronicled the contribution made by the RAAFNS and all veterans of that war are extremely grateful that she and Nungurner Press Pty Ltd have granted permission for Chapter 17 to be reproduced in Korea Remembered.

Enquiries pertaining to The Story of the RAAF Nursing Service 1940-1990 should 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 the 38th parallel capturing the southern capital of Seoul in three days. By August they had penetrated as far south as Pusan. The UN acted instantly, calling upon its members to defend the recognised Republic of Korea, 16 nations immediately responded, the first being Australia.(1)

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

South Korean and UN forces had pushed into North Korea by November 1950 and the war seemed nearly over, when a large force from the newly established People's Republic of China entered the fighting, which again moved into South Korean territory. After a long seesaw contest, the front was stabilised, ironically enough, near the 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 wounded back to Iwakuni in Japan. Two of the first Sisters to be involved in medical evacuations from 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 posting to 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 North Korea invaded the South on 25 June 1950 we, as members of the UN, became involved in the war, with planes from 77 Squadron flying daily into the war zone. We set up one large ward within our hospital to accommodate possible casualties. At first, all medical evacuations from Korea were carried out by the American 5th Air Force and Commonwealth casualties were taken to the Australian Army Hospital at Kure (Japan).

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

" One of our Sisters and a RAAF medical orderly always accompanied the patients. The flight took approximately 27-30 hours. During my time, the first leg was to Manila, about 9 hours flying time, where the patients were off-loaded and taken to the American hospital at nearby Clark Field, for the night. Next morning, they were returned to the aircraft for the next leg of the journey, a ten-hour flight to Darwin. Most of the time we were busy attending to patients, some of whom were quite ill. On arrival in Darwin, the patients were again off-loaded and transported to the RAAF SSW there where Sister Margo Maloney and her staff fed and bathed them. We stayed for about two hours in Darwin 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 Concord Army General Hospital. Our responsibilities over, we were free to go and catch up on some sleep. We usually had a week to await the next Qantas flight back to Japan. I accompanied seven of these medical evacuation flights back to Australia , with a total of 502 flying hours 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 Captain Stanton were the Flight Nurses, plus their Corpsmen (Orderlies). The RAAF Nursing Service were in charge but the Americans looked after their own patients. In January 1951, we began conducting our own medical evacuations from Korea, in C47 Dakotas, still attached to 77 Squadron. We flew almost daily, taking off between., 0500 hours and 0600 hours, firstly to Taegu and Suwow, then later to Pusan and Kimpo, near Seoul. RAAF Sisters were not based in Korea while I was there. I had thirteen trips, escorting patients from Korea between January and June 1951".

Sister Joy Salter (now Carmody) was posted to Japan to replace Joan Mills, who had married Squadron Leader Dave Hitchins and, in accordance with RAAF regulations, as a married woman was no longer permitted to remain as a member of the RAAFNS. Joy recently recalled her time at Iwakuni. " I served in Iwakuni for 12 months from October 1950. The Senior Sister was Lucy Rule with Senior Sister Tess Cleary assisting her. The other RAAF Sisters there at the time were Gwen Threlkell, Ethel ("Moggy") Morgan, Joan Mills, Muriel Monger, Lou Marshall and Eunice Feil. RAAF medical orderlies, such as Corporal Sinclair, (the first medical orderly to receive a RAAF commission and now Group Captain {Ret}) were based in Korea during the early part of our involvement, 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 stretcher patients and often make two flights a day ".(2)

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

The set up in those early days of medical evacuations from Korea was catastrophic. 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 we awaited the patients and the unloading of our aircraft cargo, along came the ' hot air men ' in their ' hot air machine '. A group of US Negroes hooked up an enormous plastic concertina tube to the door of the aircraft, sealed it and pumped in hot air ; this intended to - and possibly did - help alleviate secondary shock among the casualties. When the patients arrived we did a round with the MO; most of the wounded were debrided only. If they were fit enough for the flight they were loaded aboard the aircraft bound for Iwakuni, if not or the risk considered too great for flight in an unpressurized aircraft, 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 these eventualities but it was always a difficult decision. All round it was a jolly unsatisfactory 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, " Late in 1952, Senior Sister Helen Cleary, Flight Lieutenant Jimmy Morrison and I were sent over to Kimpo to visit the Canadian hospital, to liaise and negotiate with the RCAMC and arrange for a ward in their hospital to be handed over to the RAAF for the purpose of assessing and caring for the Commonwealth wounded until they were fit enough to undertake the flight to Iwakuni and the onward journey by hospital train to Kure. The building - an old High School - was in an outer suburb of war-torn Seoul. The CO of 77 Squadron, Wing Commander Kinninmont organised transport - a jeep and driver - and off we went. It was a most depressing journey through the broken city and the reception we received from the Brigadier and the Matron was almost as cool as the Arctic weather. However we were shown a little of their hospital and given a ward ; they considered it unnecessary but they had no choice. We returned to Kimpo, where Wing Commander Kinninmont gave us his tent for the two nights we were there.

The facilities of the transit RAAF Medical Evacuation Ward, and indeed the hospital, were pretty awful. It was a particularly cold winter with the ground freezing to a depth of 12 feet (4 metres) and the snow soon turning to slush. The accommodation 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 Lorraine Jarrett, one of the first to go over, coming down to meet me at the strip with her patients, her face spattered with mud and mud all over her uniform. I hardly recognised the former smart, spic and span Sister ".

After the establishment of the Medical Evacuation Ward, within the precincts 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 Commanding Officer of the Unit was a Canadian, Major R.A. Smillie. There was an Australian Army Sister, a Red Cross worker and two English Army Sisters from the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, who nursed in the British General Hospital section. We were the first group of Commonwealth women to serve in Korea. The American nurses were already attached 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 possible with 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 unit lived here and were on call 24 hours a day. For ablutions we walked across the parade ground 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 wounded from the front, among them the young British National Service boys, who suffered not only from bad wounds but also from shock and psychological effects. We were always desperately waiting on supplies from Japan. In one incident, an orderly came rushing in to say that a very big box of supplies had arrived. We rush to open it up - expecting all sorts of goodies and medical supplies. We found that the Stores department in Japan had sent us a crate of glass urinals !. An experience I will always remember was flying in a reconnaissance plane to the front line to inspect a front line dressing station."


In March 1952 Nathalie Oldham (now Wittmann) (5) was posted to Iwakuni for medivac and nursing duties at the Base Hospital. She recalled recently, " In July I became attached to the 801st Medical Air Evacuation Squadron (MAES), USAF, based at Tachikawa, Japan. This squadron was engaged in the medical evacuation of sick and wounded American military personnel, and personnel of all other allied countries except for the Commonwealth, who were evacuated by the RAAF. Flights with the 801st MAES originated from Tachikawa 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 or Tachikawa in Japan by C54 aircraft.

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

While at Yungdungpo, I accompanied a couple of USAF Flight Nurses to visit the USN Hospital ship Repose, anchored in Inchon Harbour , Korea. The USN Hospital 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 by helicopter 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 relieved to see me in uniform as they were expecting a nun; they were confused by our rank of RAAF Nursing 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 British Commonwealth Z Medical Unit in Seoul, in the RAAF Medical Evacuation Ward. During my 13 month posting to Iwakuni and Korea, I also had four medivac flights ( per Qantas) to Australia 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 I flew Qantas Constellation Hong Kong Trader via Darwin and Hong Kong, and arrived on the 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 married quarters 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 with great interest and murmuring our names 'Leahy-san, Bury-san'. I found out later that she supported her husband, aged mother and four children on the small wage she earned and the odd leftovers from our kitchen, which we gave her. She would arrive at 4B at 7-30 am. 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. The house was then cleaned from top to bottom, until lunchtime, then the house girls would all meet in the kitchen of 4A (the transit house) and over their rice dishes the tongues would wag with the house gossip. It was amazing the personal interest that they showed towards us. If there were pending parties on the Station, Matisador-san would ask me what dress I was wearing before I had even heard of the party. The drab shirts, the worry of our lives when we were in Gorshu (as Australia was called) now appeared starched and beautifully ironed. One day I watched her work. The shirt was washed thoroughly and starched in the ordinary way, except that a dessert spoon of soap jelly was added, then it was hung on the line. As soon as it was dried, it was immersed in warm water and ironed wet, 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 very marked and we felt the intense cold, specially when flying. We were warned by the more experienced Sisters to "put on everything but the kitchen sink" under our flying suits. However, every day seemed to become warmer and, by July, we had never experienced such heat. The extremes of climate we were taught about in our geography books were not exaggerated.

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

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

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

On our first morning on duty it was raining, and the appearance of dozens of Japanese men and women, enroute from the village to work in various parts of the camp, was a most extraordinary sight - all rode bicycles and were clutching their special type 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 English orderlies and a Japanese pharmacist , an ex - Colonel of more than middle age. As a pharmacist he was excellent and most obliging. There was Jeanny-san, who was the assistant cook and produced meals at all hours for us, before or after our medical evacuation flights - her omelettes were superb efforts. There were also three girl-sans who were ward maids 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 dropped dead 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 the fighting in Korea had renewed in intensity, and this morning was no exception. As was the custom, 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 he then wrote up in chalk on the big blackboard in the Senior Sister's office. She, in turn, would arrange which Sister was to go over for them, organise the staff to provide early morning meals and calls, transport for the Flight Sister, morning coffee, tea and food for the patients in flight and lunch for them on arrival at Iwakuni.

In the meantime, the Flight Sergeant was busying himself and the medical orderlies - blankets, replacement litters, rubber mattresses (for fractures and abdominal cases) and extra pillows were loaded on to ambulances. Oxygen cylinders and panniers checked and also loaded aboard. At 0900 hours, the following day, we received a signal from K16, Korea, to inform us that the patients were due to arrive at Iwakuni at 12 midday. The ambulances and a large bus were to be on the strip, as soon as the pilot of the 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 each locker the girl-san had placed a basin, towel, washer , soap and tooth mug. Jeanny-san was busy setting up a table in the annexe for her nine guests and sixteen trays for the bed patients. Poppa-san and his boys were busy cooking. At 1100 hours the Army Sister from the British Commonwealth Hospital at Kure ( a few miles, as the crow flies, across the Inland Sea) arrived, ready to escort her charges by the hospital train to Kure. At 1145 hours we heard the plane overhead and, simultaneously, received the signal that our patients were arriving. The Medical Officer was notified and departed in his jeep to the air strip. The Flight Sergeant organised his crew, drivers and ambulances, and off they went. About ten minutes more of calm prevailed.... and then the first ambulance arrived. One by one, the men were carried in on their litters and placed, litter and all on the beds. The walkers were directed to the toilet rooms, and then to the luncheon room. Each patient (except those 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, dressings changed and so ; the men were now ready for their meal. The Army Sister was given the history of each patient, by the Flight Sister, with any additional details such as how they flew, or any peculiarities, and, once again, they were placed into the ambulances and taken 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 Sister had her own First Aid Box of white wood, measuring about 2 feet by 1 foot (60 x 30 x 30 centimetres). In these we put air sick remedies , cures for nasal or ear pressure, sedatives, antiseptics, bandages, haemorrhage packs, and other items - these boxes belonged 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 surprise packets and a little of everything, from bed pans to "Deadwood Dicks" (trashy novels).

This pannier had to be checked, before and after use ; the drinking bottle 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 into a woollen singlet, long woollen underpants, woollen jumper, khaki skirt, woollen socks, fleecy lined flying boots, blue, fur- lined flying jacket, fur-lined gloves, forage cap and, with scarf, fountain pen, watch and First Aid box, was ready to go on my first medivac flight to Korea. Poppa-san was tooting down below, so I gathered my gear together and clambered down the stairs to be driven to the hospital. Jeanny-san had prepared a delicious omelette and a pot of tea. After breakfast she gave me the tins of sandwiches and coffee in a large thermos, for the return journey ; she then stood in the doorway of the hospital and bowed deeply as we drove off towards the strip.

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

After an hour's flight, we descended and put down at Pusan, a seaport on the southern tip of the Korean peninsula to deliver supplies. The township was some distance from away from the airstrip so I had not yet viewed Korean civilization. The strip appeared to have been carved from the side of the mountains, on one side was the Strait of Korea and directly in front were sheer mountains. We took off again, almost immediately, flying towards the mountains, then banking steeply and climbing up above them. It looked most forbidding country - jagged mountains rising steeply out of the green valleys just freed from snow. Most of the higher mountains were snow-capped. As we climbed higher, the country lost its perspective and reminded me of a plasticine model. We continued on our way for two and a half hours and, as we approached Seoul, the skipper sent word for me to come forward to get my first impressions of the city. We descended gradually, 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, the majority of mud brick, thatched roof and built in communities strangely merging with the greening 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 precarious with the torrent of blue water surging below. The river banks were of the whitest sand and I felt faint surprise that there was not more evidence of the three tremendous battles that had been fought in this area. As we landed, I caught a quick glimpse of the numerous khaki 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 the world. Huge American transport aircraft mingled with tiny reconnaissance Austers, flown by the RAF and some Army fliers - there appeared to be every type of aircraft there. Our aircraft door was opened by some Korean boys, dressing in semi-military clothing. Several trucks drove alongside, containing Army officers to receive the cargo, the RAF/RAAF Medical Air Evacuation Unit jeep, driven by the Medical Officer, and several other jeeps on other business. We exchanged greetings and, while unloading continued, I went with some of our crew to the British Air Head for a cup of coffee. The Union Jack fluttered proudly at its masthead between a wooden office and the several tents behind.

The Army Captain in command was supposed to be quite an amazing personality - a connoisseur of many foods, wines and coffees. His tent was furnished with taste, but according to circumstances. The floor boards were partially covered with intriguing matting, on the right of the 'room' was a wooden table, several cane chairs, a small table choc-a-bloc with Tatlers, Spheres and first-rate American and Canadian journals. In the left-hand corner was a built-in-bar, containing liqueurs and wines with attractive and unfamiliar labels. The 'other' guests consisted of an English Major, a Canadian Captain (both in battle rig and just down from the front) and an Australian Lieutenant. Our host never appeared so I did not have the pleasure of meeting him until many months had passed, but he always held open house at coffee time. His boy-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, we returned 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 with the litter brackets, pulling and testing each. The six ambulances arrived and were lined up awaiting loading. The RAAF Sister from the Medical Air Evacuation Unit accompanying them 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 or manifest had the details of pre-flight sedation, airsickness precautions, condition of wounds etc. I took 3 copies of the manifest, all the documents and, one by one, met the patients. Some were very ill indeed and were carefully sedated for the journey, some with their whole bodies in plaster but nearly all managed a cheery smile, with the exception of a 'psycho' who was snoring loudly......much to my relief.

The loading, in itself, was quite a work of art. The ambulances were backed up to within 10 feet (3 metres) of the open door of the plane. Four orderlies were on the ground and two in the plane. Each patient was numbered according to his place, that is , fractured left leg in the top left litter (L1) so that the injured leg would be in a position for treatment and high enough to be out of the way. Chest cases would be L4 or R4, at floor level, so that the litter space above could be left free and they could be propped up with pillows. The most serious cases were placed in first, and nearest the bulkhead because it is the position of smoothest flying and also because the Flight Sister usually sits on her pannier between these litters for take-off and landing so can be near at hand. Loading commenced with two orderlies pulling each litter while two others took the other end and carried it to the doorway of the plane. Here the orderlies in the plane would 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 came the 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 last night", 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 battles fought 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, he would fly as low as safety permitted and, in all cases make the journey as smooth as possible . The co-operation and courage of these men was worthy of the highest praise. The Dakota was not pressurised so our ceiling was about 10,000 feet.

At last, airborne and levelled out my work commenced. It was still as cold as the journey to Korea had been and the chill air seeped in, causing one's bones to ache. The navigator turned on the heating system and, with the introduction of hot air into the cabin and the distribution of blankets, we travelled more cheerfully. I then gave out my supply of magazines and comics - the demand for the latter was colossal and 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 would help deliver drinks to the other patients and thus enable me to give more time to the litter 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 for coffee. The majority of such patients travelled well under these circumstances and I remember only one instance when a walker with this infliction became very excited and tried to hurl himself into oblivion. I was busy with a litter patient, when I heard a slight scuffle aft, on looking around, I saw to my horror, two of the walking men struggling with another who had the exit panel out - fortunately he'd forgotten to undo his safety belt. I called the navigator and, together, we managed to get the exit panel 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 careful prophylactic precautions taken before flight in many cases. Some needed oxygen en route and some fresh dressings, so the three hours flying time sped quickly by. The manifest was filled in with comments, documents were tied to the end of each litter and then my tasks were almost completed. The skipper came aft to inform me that he was calling up for permission to land at Iwakuni and asked me if there was anything of urgency I wished to inform the hospital of. I replied that there wasn't. After landing, the patients in their litters were lifted carefully and transported by the awaiting ambulances to the hospital - so ended my first medivac trip.

KOREA 1953

I was posted to Korea on 17 April 1953. Sister Lorraine Jarratt was also scheduled to fly over in the Dakota to accompany a medivac back to Iwakuni. Leaving Iwakuni, as usual before dawn, we settled down on top of the cargo and slept part of the way to be awakened by the pilot, "Want to hear a voice from home ?". Through his radio we heard Russ Tyson's breakfast session on Radio Australia. The plane was pitching 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, I suddenly realised that I was here to stay. The wind tore along the tarmac carrying with it sand and dust, soon rain began adding to the discomfort. I was directed to the jeep belonging 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 , carrying various souvenirs of Japan ; they had returned from Tokyo after a few days rest and recreation (R & R). Another group, who had been sitting behind a ranch-like fence on the other side, stood up, were briefly drilled, then they filed in, to be engulfed by the monster. Most looked tired and worn, and the majority in need of a good wash. I was amazed at the sight of these men, few were under 6 feet (183 centimetres) ; I lost count after 75 had, with exaggerated and characteristic leisure of Americans, entered the aircraft. At last I recognised the grey-blue uniform of the RAF approaching and Flying Officer Dickson dropped 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 first stop, 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 with bullet holes. Amid one heap of debris , a bright yellow flower, slightly resembling the evening primrose, proudly stood, waving to and fro in the breeze. The roads from 121 Evacuation Hospital were third rate, even by Korean standards, and the jeep slithered and slushed 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 the long frigid winter. On the flat below, on either side of the road, were paddy fields but evidence of their pastures were not yet apparent. At last the huge airstrip at Kimpo came into view, as we proceeded along comfortably on the newly made American road. Several Sabres were about to take off as we approached and their hot smelly fumes nearly blew us off the road. We drove along past rows of khaki-grey tents, separated from the road by a barbed wire fence. On the left side were anti-aircraft guns, built in on the rise. At last we came to a sign reading "77 Squadron RAAF and, turning left, we drove through the gateway. The medical tent was our first call and here I renewed acquaintance with Flight Lieutenant "Rass" Rasmussen, the RAAF Medical Officer, who was posted from Amberley 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 I re-met Wing Commander John Hubble (who had been at Canberra RAAF Station while I was there for a short time). I blinked for a moment, after introduction, for he had grown a moustache to oust all moustaches and with his 6 feet 2 inches (188 centimetres) height and twinkling grey eyes, he as indeed a dashing specimen of Australian manhood !.

After lunch in the mess, the "clearing in" completed and the 77 Squadron scarf presented, (6) we made our farewells and departed back toward Seoul and the British Commonwealth Z Medical Unit (BCZMU). The views during the journey were pathetic and tragic ; casualties of the many battles fought in the city. The squalor was beyond belief, with the stench of the foul-smelling seepage everywhere. Everything and anything 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 light and cooking facilities. There were numerous maimed children, hobbling about with makeshift crutches, often wood poles supporting their stumps ; all ragged, barefoot, some shell-shocked and crazy, with part of their faces blown away. This was summer.....most would not survive the cruel winter.

On arrival at BCZMU, Flying Officer Dickson drove me to the front of the rickety stairs leading to the female quarters. I dumped my meagre luggage , to seek out the Sister I was to replace. Pat Tansy was relieved to see me ; she had been managing on 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 hessian mats partly covered the floor and the furniture consisted of an old settee (goodness knows where it came from) and a wooden chair.

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

There were three rooms adjoining, one occupied by an Australian Army Matron, (7) one reserved for VIPs and the third our sleeping quarters. This again was a large room, divided into cubicles about 5 feet by 6 feet (1.5 x 1.8 metres), between each was a wall of plywood reaching up to a height of 5 feet 10 inches (2 metres). A curtain of some heavy material hung over the doorway. In all there were six with a washstand and basins at the end, and a can of water, which was brought up each day by a Poppa-san and was the only water we were permitted to drink. I was fortunate in that my cubicle happened to 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 the others received. It was not until a few hours later that I realised that the air raid siren 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 to spend time in it I discovered. The old faded and tattered quilt I replaced with a cheap Japanese tablecloth, which I had brought with me, and my room began to assume some semblance of atmosphere.

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

The procedure for preparing our patients for their two hour flight to Iwakuni was cut and dried. The other RAAF Sister and I alternated our duties, so that one would be rising early one morning and later the next ; as I had just arrived and had not experienced this part of the business, it fell to my lot to get up at 0400 hours , after a semi-conscious one hour's sleep, dreamily pull on my khaki slacks, shirt and jacket and find my way down the stairs. On nearing the ward, I could see lights ablaze and the whole place a hive of activity. The walkers were busily washing themselves and some were packing 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 old Korean Poppa-san - two large tins at a time, supported across his back by a coolie-type pole. Some water was put into a large tub and heated over an old oil stove, which nine times 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 note from the RAAF Hospital at Iwakuni, stating that certain patients' toenails were dirty and would I ensure that it did not occur again. The next items on the agenda were the dressings, then placing each patient on his litter, which was then placed on the bed. At 0700 hours, breakfast was served ; some of the men too excited to eat, for each stage of the proceedings would be bringing them just that much nearer home. At 7.20 am. sedatives given to any cases prone to airsickness or anxiety neurosis and at 0730 hours they were loaded, 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 precede the convoy, in the jeep with the MO, to K16.We were always prepared to fly, in the event of Iwakuni being unable to supply a Flight Sister, and so it happened in this case. After the general exit, a few orderlies and I were left behind to clean up the chaos. I had been to breakfast and returned to the ward, which closely resembled the morning after a colossal party. On every locker there were papers, cigarette packets and, nearly always, a small item of uniform, which had been forgotten ; over the months we collected quite a selection of hats and caps, badges and webbing.

It was rather amusing, but also pathetic, to watch the Poppa-sans appear 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 their leisure, later. It took about two hours to achieve some semblance of order ; the floor was scrubbed then disinfected, beds aired and remade with clean linen - if the Quartermaster would provide it - all ready for the afternoon influx. I returned to the office, a room just off the ward, to rule up the report book, when my eye caught sight of a diagram describing the methods of evacuation from the FRONT, nailed to the wall. It was clear, concise and described exactly our position in Seoul.

Later that day we received a call on our field telephone to meet the hospital train from the Front as there were 16 Commonwealth patients on board. Four ambulances were arranged, the MO and I leading them in our jeep to the station, a mile or two to the east. We arrived a little ahead of schedule and were inundated by small children begging for sweets ; I always remembered to take some on my other trips. The train arrived and we climbed up the ladder into the British Commonwealth compartment. It was a streamlined US hospital train, beautifully appointed with six or eight litters in each compartment. We were greeted by an American nurse and doctor. With the latter, our MO proceeded to examine his patients. He decided that 14 were fit for transportation to our ward and they were loaded into the waiting ambulances ; the remaining two were carried on to 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 the Army division of the hospital for evacuation, so of course we prepared for another medivac next 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 all fresh news, gossip and, best of all, mail from home ; this morning was no exception. Armed with half a dozen letters and some magazines ( the only reading matter in the mess was a 1940 Punch and a few ancient Strands, donated by the Red Cross). I decided to return to BCZMU in one of the ambulances, as the MO had to go on to the 121 Evacuation Hospital.

As we turned in through the gates, we passed a Poppa-san leading a pure white 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 my delight the little kid poised in the doorway, behind it were the smiling faces of the orderlies, "Poppa-san has reduced it to $1-50 for you and is waiting at the door". I paid him my $1-50 and Marilyn Monroe belonged to us ! Marilyn was the envy of all the other wards but it wasn't until the Commanding Officer's inspection that 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 broom always 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 sit happily and chew her cud. The day before the CO was due, it was mutually decided, after a small conference with our MO, that we should give her a disinfectant bath. This was performed with warm water, disinfectant and very little fuss, except that her beautiful white 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 he spotted her. "And what is that ?". I answered that it was a kid goat, completely aseptic and our mascot. "You will get rid of her immediately", he boomed. This order led to great consternation and an inter-camp crisis almost occurred, when some fights took place in the men's quarters late that day. The Army gloated, the Air Force seethed and the culmination of it all was that I decided to take Marilyn to 77 Squadron at Kimpo. An airman took her in his arms in the back of our jeep and, with the Corporal driving we set off for Kimpo. When we arrived we drove straight to the CO's office and made the presentation. All were highly delighted - they already had various species of rabbit, but no goat.

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

The General and Flying Officer Dickson slowly singled out the Commonwealth prisoners, while I chatted to others. "Chatted" is rather an ambiguous term for our conversation, as it definitely one sided ; in fact, it was a thoroughly eerie experience. The ward was full of men, some lying on stretchers, some sitting and a few strolling about but, curiously enough, all had the same facial expression 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. The majority had obviously been given clean clothes and fattened up for the occasion. One young American was quietly sobbing, his head in his hands, a figure of total dejection. I went over and asked him what was wrong, but he didn't appear to hear, just muttered over and over again "Oh my God! Oh God what am I to do ". The most normal of the group seemed to be two heavily bearded Indians, who nodded and grinned at the slightest provocation , 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 made arrangements with the US authorities to have the POWs at K16 (Seoul) next morning and we retuned to BCZMU to make arrangements for an RAAF medivac Dakota to be flown over for them. In complete contrast, six weeks later, on 2 June 1953 a cocktail party was held at the British Commonwealth Officers' Club, in the north-east of Seoul, for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth 11. Every off-duty officer of the Commonwealth forces was invited, as well as the General Commanding US Forces in Korea, Mark Clark, other American Officers and officers representing every country of the United Nations. The President of South Korea, Syngman Rhee, was also invited but declined, pleading a previous engagement and sent his representative (he did not approve of the negotiations for peace talks at Panmunjon preferring unification). The varied uniforms were fascinating and the conversation, punctuated with gesticulations, added to the charm of the spectacle. National anthems of all the nations represented were played by the band, assembled in the courtyard below. We were indeed the United Nations that memorable night. Some of the Army Sisters and I were taken over to be introduced to General Mark Clark and, while we were chatting , an unfortunate English steward came round the corner carrying a tray with glasses of champagne. I can only imagine he was dazzled by the three stars on the General's lapel for he lost his footing and, with bulging eyes , deposited the lot over the General's tunic. With quiet nonchalance, the latter wiped off the fragments of glass and drips of French champagne, and to the spluttering, apologetic steward said, " Forget it, it could happen to anyone ", then turned to continue his conversation 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 beyond the Officers' Mess, where he held kit inspection and issued daily orders. One morning, standing stiffly to attention beside an Australian Staff Sergeant was a tiny figure, 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 ditch near Seoul from which he was rescued and reared by a group of American Marines. He continued to live with his 'foster fathers' until they had to move on, reluctantly relinquishing their protege to an Australian Sergeant who took over the responsibility and brought him to live with him and his fellow sergeants in the sergeants mess. Kim was given a specially constructed bed and was, of course, subjected to mess discipline. Often he would confide to me that he had been fined for swearing or some other misdemeanour and, as punishment, sentenced to only three cokes a week. I can't help wondering what has happened to him, for he was certainly a stranger in his own land, not being able to read or write one word in his native tongue.

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

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

On 25 June 1953, the third anniversary of the war in Korea, we were confined to barracks. However, contrary to expectations, the local populace also remained indoors while "Charlie" waited until the following night to skip over and dislodge four bombs, on various targets in and around Seoul. At the same time, another hazard, which we had to overcome, was the thawing and consequent flooding of the Han River. It threatened to take with it the strategic bridge over which we passed with our ambulances en route to the airport. The US personnel camped along the banks and nearer K16 were flooded out, likewise dozens of Korean farmers, who had their paddy fields ruined and, because of this, eked out a lonely hungry existence, isolated by swirling waters in their tiny shanties built on the highest part of their tiny holdings. I was staggered to learn 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 me that I was to proceed back to Iwakuni, prior to accompanying a medevac to Australia. By that time, the route to Australia was via the American Naval Base at Guam thence to Port Moresby and Sydney but retuning, as usual via Darwin and Manila. My worry, however, was crossing the flooded Han River on the scheduled day. The day dawned, the sun shone and the Han River had broken over the bridge and was rising rapidly. With apprehension, we set off with our convoy of ambulances. At the bridge, several US Military police had the situation in hand ; they were halting vehicles and checking weights ; if these were satisfactory they were allowed to proceed slowly, cautiously and singly over the bridge. The water lapped at our wheels as we crept across but we made it.


On arrival at Iwakuni I reported to the RAAF hospital to receive instructions for my medivac flight, by Qantas Skymaster, to Gorshu (Australia), to receive the patients' documents and to check my pannier and First Aid box for the necessary requirements for the journey. Flight Sergeant Bob Martin, who was to accompany us, checked the oxygen cylinders, and organised blankets and pillows. About midday, the patients, mainly walkers, with six litter cases, arrived, escorted by an Australian Army Sister. One badly wounded man had a colostomy, which necessitated extra dressings and a sealed receptacle. We departed at 1600 hours and landed at the US Naval Station at Guam at 0300 hours where the patients were off-loaded to a sick bay near the airstrip and attended to by American Nurses, ready for a 0100 hour departure the following day. We arrived at Port Moresby eight hours after leaving Guam and were welcomed by the local native pipe band. No sooner had our engines stopped than they dropped their bagpipes, raced to the steps of the plane and, with characteristic gentleness, carried the stretcher cases out and 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 pavilion where the Red Cross and other voluntary organizations provided us with morning tea and home made cakes. The native boys had picked up their bagpipes and recommenced playing. We ate to the accompaniment of "The Skye Boat Song", "Bonnie Scotland", and "Waltzing Matilda" until ready for departure at 1100 hours, flying over the Coral Sea and down to Sydney.

After a few hours of overland flying, the beloved lights of Sydney came into view. A hush descended on the occupants of the cabin and the emotional silence held until we touched down at Mascot. It was just before we passed over Mackay, when I was sorting out the patients' documents and health certificates that the awful realization struck me - I had left my own documents behind. With the crew's collusion, we decided that if I talked rapidly and charmingly to the health inspector he might overlook the discrepancy. So, with my fingers crossed and with a warm smile, I greeted the efficient looking gentleman who arrived on board immediately our engines stopped.

He peered through the documents, one by one, then at each patient while I bombarded him with questions about the weather, told him how too, too divine it was to be back in Australia and asked him whether he missed it as much as me when he went travelling, 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 little office 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 take off 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 tremendous offensive, throwing 12000 troops against the UN defences on central and western posts. On 14 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 men against South Korean positions. Thirteen days later, at 10 p.m. the fighting ended.

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

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, or elsewhere. The base at Iwakuni continued operating for three more years . In 1956, after more than ten years of occupation of Japan and three years after the signing of the peace treaty in Korea, it was time to withdraw. For the RAAF at Iwakuni it was the end of the Services' longest period overseas. The Transport Unit was the last to leave and Sisters Betty Washington (11) and Bette Edwards (later Matron - in - Chief), were the last Sisters at Iwakuni, working on medical evacuation duties right up to the end. Bette Edwards 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 forces were withdrawn from Korea , the RAAF Transport Squadron flew 700 troops to Iwakuni for their journey home, as well as wounded and POWs. By September, most of the personnel had departed from Japan ending a 14 year association between the RAAF and the US Fifth Air Force. The Commander of the 5th USAF, Lieutenant General Roger M. Ramey, said at a farewell ceremony "It is always hard to say goodbye to friends...... we will never forget what the RAAF has done. Their fighting spirit, unsurpassed courage , friendship and inspiration 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 well as 100,000 passengers, and approximately 26 million kilograms of freight and mail were flown 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 Base Hospital, joined RAAFNS 1950 until 1954. Postings included Japan, BCZMU (Korea), 6 RAAF and 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 warmth and also for signalling if shot down. The Americans had various scarves according to Squadron ; 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 and kindly 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 the cease-fire on 27 July 1953, at Panmanjon, on behalf of the United Nations Command, along with Marshal Kim Il Sung (North Korea) and General Peng Teh-Trudi (China).

9 "Bed Check Charlie" was an intrepid Chinese pilot of a small 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 General Hospital, 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, 3 RAAF, 391 Squadron (Japan).

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


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