Cramped conditions: Lieutenant Vi Hill (pictured top back wearing glasses) and other nurses tending patients inside the Hercules aircraft on the journey back home from Vietnam.
Cramped conditions: Lieutenant Vi Hill (pictured top back wearing glasses) and other nurses tending patients inside the Hercules aircraft on the journey back home from Vietnam. Courtesy Vi Hill

Aussie nurses given praise

INTERNATIONAL Nurses’ Day, celebrated this Wednesday, is a day to reflect on the dedication of our nurses here at home and during the many arenas of war.

RAAF Squadron Leader Sharon Cooper once said that ‘Australian Service Nurses have continued to exhibit great courage and sacrifice in every major military operation in which Australia has been involved’.

“Although conflict and war demonstrate the very worst ofhumanity, it also succeeds in revealing the very best; the courageous light that continues to shine through,” she said.

More than 2000 Australian nurses served in appalling conditions at army hospitals and clearing stations during both World Wars, at times under enemy fire.

They treated horrific injuries in Korea, including burns from napalm and phosphorous, but remained committed to their roles, often working for 12 or more hours straight.

Some flew aero medical evacuation (Medivac) missions, transporting seriously woundedcases to Iwakuni, Japan, on Australian-manned Dakota aircraft where, during winter, cabin temperatures were unbearably cold.

In Vietnam, Medivac services were undertaken using Australian-manned UH1 ‘Huey’ helicopters, with Flight Lieutenant Vi Hill, of Byron Bay, saying the logistics there ‘were quite astounding’.

“We also regularly flew by Hercules to Vung Tau to pick up wounded, including from the Tet Offensive,” she said. “Injuries were absolutely horrendous, but I’d never swap the experience for anything.”

Local nurse Les Lee worked two to three days straight, with 10 to 15 minute breaks between patients, in Afghanistan in ‘a fairly constant 45 degree Celsius dust storm’.

“There was lots of horrific wounds and the relentless dust. It was emotionally and psychologically draining, but it’s marvellous how we continued on so little sleep with the adrenalin pumping.”



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