Wight Rose

Name   Rosetta Joan Wight Rank: Sister

Number VX61239

Battalion/unit 13th Australian General Hospital

Place of Birth   Fish Creek 3 December 1908

Next of Kin Leslie Wight her father was NOK. She was the daughter of Leslie Rivers Wight and Rosetta Frances Wight, of Beaumaris, Victoria, formerly of Fish Creek

Date and place of enlistment   8 August 1941 A A M C DRILL HALL, VIC

Location on enlistment    Fish Creek

Occupation. Nursing Sister

Date and place of death 16 February 1942 Banka Island in present day Indonesia, aged 33

Location of grave or memorial

Rose is remembered on the Singapore Memorial and on the memorial in Fish Creek

Relationship to Woorayl Shire

Rose was from the neighbouring South Gippsland Shire but she worked in Woorayl Shire most notably in Meeniyan.

Military History

The 13th Australian General Hospital was formed at Melbourne’s Caulfield Racecourse on 11 August 1941. Its personnel and equipment were assembled over the ensuing fortnight, and it sailed, from Melbourne, for service overseas on 2 September 1941. At the time of its departure the 13th comprised 18 officers, 44 nurses, 3 masseuses and 146 other ranks; it was equipped to treat 600 patients.

Arriving in Singapore on 15 September 1941, the hospital was set up at St. Patrick’s Boys School on the island’s south coast. With few patients many of its nursing staff were attached to other units or establishments, including the Singapore General Hospital. They also spent much of their time training in the treatment of tropical diseases and modern military surgical practices.

Between 21 and 23 November 1941, the 13th relocated to the Malayan mainland and setup a hospital at Tampoi, six and a half kilometres from Johore Bahru. The 13th was still at Tampoi when the Japanese launched their invasion of Malaya on 8 December.
The 13th was the last Australian hospital unit on the peninsula and treated most of the casualties that resulted from the AIF’s battles in Johore. It effectively became a large-scale casualty clearing station. Eventually the Japanese were closing in and the 13th withdrew to Singapore on 23 January.

Like all medical units, the 13th nurses were overwhelmed during the fighting for Singapore. Mounting casualties soon outstripped the hospital’s ability to accommodate and treat them and patients had to lie on the lawns around the hospital. It was decided to evacuate the 13th’s nursing sisters. Rose was in the last contingent of 27 nurses evacuated on board the Vyner Brooke on 12 February. The Vyner Brooke was hit by Japanese bombs and Rose was badly injured. She was helped on deck by colleagues and placed in a life raft. Rose and the other nurses landed on Banka Island in the Straits of Malacca. They set up on the beach and cared for their patients. The Japanese came and executed the wounded. They then made the captured nurses line up and walk into the sea. Rose who could not stand was held up by colleagues. When the women were waist deep in water the Japanese shot them. One nurse survived by pretending to be dead and was later able to tell the story.

The Unit information came from the Australian War Memorial website.

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