Characters: Some stories of some of those who lived and or worked there. Funny stories, everyday stories, biographical and more.  As information about various people is found, it will be added. Any information is truthful and correct to the best of my ability. Please inform us if any info is wrong or copyright has been infringed by accident. Thanks.

Digger James

 Maj Gen William Brian / 'Digger' James -AC, AO (Mil), MBE, MC, OStJ. (OC 8 Fd Amb, DGAHS and Past President RSL National Australia)


One only needs to mention the name 'Digger James' among the RAAMC family to know that this refers to a great man among men as well as the Other Ranks Club at Rhyndarra, Yeronga, named in Major General William James' honour. There is so much more to this fine gentleman and his family however and a little of his story is included here…

Major General William Brian James grew up at Shepparton, Vic. His Irish father established the first fruit orchard and later was a founding member of the Shepparton Preserving Co. (SPC). He got his nickname Digger following the loss of his older brother in WWII. Some time later, he entered the Royal Military College at Duntroon where he was particularly interested in football. He graduated in 1951, and during his first posting as a Lieutenant Platoon Commander, in 1952 he was sent to Korea.

 

As a Platoon Leader in the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment on 7/8 Nov 1952, he was in command of two NCOs and ten ORs. He and his men were tasked to occupy Calgary Feature with the object of killing or capturing any enemy encountered.

Within a short distance of the enemy, there was a heavy explosion in the midst of the patrol, resulting in the wounding of five of the patrol. Lt James and his two NCOs were seriously wounded.

 Despite having his left foot completely blown off and his right leg badly broken and mangled, he refused to relinquish command of his patrol. He set about organising for the evacuation of the other wounded, all of whom were less seriously injured than he was.

 The patrol had only one stretcher and the whole process was a lengthy one. Digger James remained there for over thirty minutes in great pain until all his wounded men were evacuated first. Finally, he allowed himself to be evacuated to the rear.

During the whole time, he managed to cheer and encourage all the members of the patrol who remained with him.

 The example set by Lt James and his leadership, devotion to duty, self-sacrifice and extreme fortitude when in great personal distress was an inspiration to members of his battalion.

For his efforts in that action, Lt James was awarded the Military Cross.

He recovered from his wounds and adapted to an artificial leg,. He was then posted as Adjutant at the Armoured School at Puckapunyal but eventually decided he had no future as a regular army officer and resigned his commission.

Digger James then undertook Medicine at University of Sydney in 1957 and graduated in 1963 as resident physician, Ryde District Soldiers Memorial Hospital.

He later rejoinined the Army as a medical officer and Captain ancd was subsequently posted to Vietnam in 1968 with the First Australian Task Force at Nui Dat; returning to Canberra as a Lieutenant Colonel.

He then undertook postgraduate studies in England in 1969 qualified in tropical medicine and industrial and public health.

With the assistance of the old boys' network, he obtained the Prime Minister's approval to go to Biafra to re-establish a health service in Ozoro, in 1971.

He returned to Brisbane where he was promoted to Colonel and became Deputy Director, Army Medical Services, Northern Command.

He was involved in relief work in Brisbane as well as Darwin during Cyclone Tracy. He then became Queensland Assistant District Surgeon for St. John's Ambulance and in 1975 was promoted to Brigadier and posted to Melbourne as Director of Army Medical Services.

Digger James was pretty much fully resposible for the modernisation of  the Medical Corps when Government funding for the ADF after Vietnam had been reduced drastically.

At that time he declined to resign from the Army to take up an offer of directorship of Pratt Industries and instead he provided Professor Fred Hollows with a mobile field hospital as a base for his work on Aboriginal eye problems and other causes in Northern Territory  for the Aboriginal population.

He then went on to become Director General of Army Medical Services in 1982 as a Major General as well as Honorary Physician to the Queen, in 1986 he retired from the Army and decided to settle in Brisbane with his wife Barbara and family.

Major General James adapted well to civilian life and became Queensland Director of Pratt Industries.

He was invited to assist the Minister of Veteran Affairs by becoming Chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Vietnam Counselling Service to address problems of Vietnam servicemen.

in 1991 he became Qld Vice-President of the Returned Services League (RSL) then in 1993 became the National President where he was active in regaining the support of Paul Keating and further RSL issues including the repatriation of the Unknown Australian Soldier and his entombment, his involvement on the Council of the Australian War Memorial.

He was also very much involved as a Monarchist delegate at the Australian Constitutional Convention.

 So often when folk talk about old bosses and prominent figures from their past, there is usually at least one person who may make a disparaging remark, or offer some form of criticism about people. HOWEVER…When it comes to the subject of ‘Digger James’, it is a whole different story…Even when it comes to people from different Corps and even different services; they ALL - without exception – had nothing but complete respect and reverence for Digger James.

Those, like me (Chris Heinjus) who have had the privilege to meet him on one or more occasions can all recall those occasions. They spoke of his professionalism, his kind and gentle nature and especially his fantastic sense of humour and fun. Digger James demonstrated his willingness to be ‘one of the troops’ – to be accessible and a part of the crowd-a fellow Digger in more than name alone.

 


There are several funny stories relating to you and many a laugh has been shared whilst reading these. Here are just a few examples…

 

1)  Ex RAAMC Pte Chris Heinjus:  As a new Private, fresh out of 1RTB, Kapooka, newly inducted into the RAAMC for IET as a Medical Orderly at the School of Army Health at Healesville, Vic, I was tasked, together with Ian ‘Spider’ Webb to polish the floor of the ball room at the School at Norris Barracks ready for a big wigs’ conference.  

 

We were in the midst of further honing our skills with bees wax and industrial electrical floor polishers, when in came three prominent figures of the Army, Navy and Air Force… possibly after a few late night ports and cigars in the Officers Mess.

 

The three senior officers were led by a Rear Admiral who was pretending to be a Bofors Gun, firing away madly at the RAAF, Air Vice Marshall who was busily ‘strafing’ back; arms akimbo, as make believe wings on a jet fighter… Then followed Brigadier Digger James, with  eyes rolling and muttering comments to the effect of informing these two that they were ‘wankers who knew nothing about real wars as only the Army did the real dirty fighting work’… All in good humour of course!

 

Then to us two young Privates’ horror we looked on as one of Brigadier James’ feet caught a rolled rug and sent him lurching…Consequently one leg came free and shot ahead of the other two officers. “Haha!” Digger James laughed as he hopped forward and popped his AWOL leg back in situ… “Even my leg wanted to kick your arses!” (or words to that effect!)

Well, Ian and I didn’t quite know how to respond. I guess all the three officers saw was too red-faced young Medic trainees with our jaws on the floor!  Needless to say, next thing Digger James returned with two bottles of port. Passing one to each of us, he said “Not a word, OK fellas?”

“Yessir...Nosir! Thankyousir!” we echoed, bothe braced solidly to attention, looking at each other slightly bewildered and grinning at the same time…With that, ended my first ever of several  very pleasant encounters with Digger James…



2) Ex RAAMC Corporal Stephen Hammond said; “My first Army posting was 4 Camp Hospital, Lavarack Barracks Townsville 1977. I was a Medical Orderly but moved across to Q Store/Pharmacy. I also qualified as a projectionist and worked in the Lavarack Barracks Cinema. I was pretty chuffed to meet Digger James and act as his projectionist (overheads, slide camera and 35mm film). I was so stressed that I'd bugger something up. All went well...” Steve was really thrilled to receive a personal letter from Digger James to thank him. He has treasured that letter since 1980.

 

3) Peter Agius who served in the RAAMC for 30-plus years, said: “A long story made longer about Digger James and myself and Baz Connolly ... When I got posted to RAP 2 CER (92-94) Digger James was our contract MO... Anyways this one particular young officer LT burst into the RAP and promptly informed Bazz and I how [expletive deleted] important and busy he was and that he needed to see the doctor/MO ASAP...

 

He used such profound words as: you there SGT and CPL!  I need to see him ASAP and I will not be vetted... Duly informed the said most very important LT in the Australian Army that we shall speak with the MO... Blah blah blah, Bazz and I probably spent 5 minutes character assassinating this nutbag's already shabby character and allowed him in to see the MO... At no time did Bazz or I tell him who the doctor was...

 

When he came out of the doctor's office holding his now newly torn arsehole, [Peter’s words - I hope you don’t take offence!] we took great pleasure in seeing how his meeting went with the good Major General, did he insist on you calling him Digger? (not)... Apparently he wasn't the most important LT in the Aust Army after all...

 

We laughed so hard that some wee came out... We would always pass on the General's regards to him...”

4) The story regarding the opening of the Digger James Club when the old Sergeant’s Mess was changed at 1 Mil was hilarious…

“Folk who were there on that occasion laugh until they are red in the face and recall a certain as yet UNNAMED individual who had kept the beers pouring for Digger and then managed somehow to remove one of his legs so he could not leave until they WANTED him to! It was truly evident that Digger James is one of the most revered and admired gentleman who has served in the Australian Army.”


  

Sadly, Digger was gravely ill at the time of the 2015 Reunion. His son, Bill was going to be there to represent the family, but Digger's health slipped so low that Bill decided to be there with his Dad (and rightly so) Digger and his wife Barbara kindly passed on a message. I believe that this could well have been his last message to anyone apart from those who were with him at the time of his passing.

 

 

MESSAGE FOR THE “BIG BASH REUNION”

 2ND-5TH OCTOBER 2015

 

 

You will know how much I would like to be with you at this great “reunion bash” and I am sure you will all have the best time ever. 

 

 Everywhere these reunions are so important to maintain the camaraderie, just to keep us all in touch over the years.  This has to be a particular time in the history of the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps, to be cherished and recorded when in this day so many traditions and values are considered “old fashioned” and completely abandoned.  Such a loss in so many ways and for so many young people.

 

A big thank you must go to Chris Heinjus and Darrall Harvey and their team for this magnificent function.   An extraordinary effort from them all:    the success of putting the whole weekend together and contacting so many people. 

 

A big thank you to all who are here to make it the success it will be.

 

Good luck one and all and once again have a magnificent weekend.  Barbara and I would love to be with you.

 

Digger James

 

2nd October 2015

Digger's Memorial Service at the Church opposite the Town Hall in Brisbane was huge. It was attended by hundreds and televised live nationally. I was extremely privileged to be asked to attend and sat among many dignitaries and mates. The service was one that I am certain Digger would have been thrilled to see, even though he was a modest man and not one for the limelight. I am sure that if he was able to give a speech that day he would have talked about his family and US - his military family - and not him.

RIP Digger...

Helen Francis Adamson - Colonel RAANC

Early life; civilian nursing training and experience; joined Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps (RAANC) in 1959; first posting to Puckapunyal in Victoria; describes uniform; posted to Ingleburn in NSW then to Malaya in 1962; describes nursing duties; relationship between Australian and British nurses; suitability of uniform in tropical climate; leave and recreation; returned to Australia; posted to hospital at Royal Military College Duntroon in Canberra; posted to 1st Military Hospital, Yeronga in Queensland; description of the type of injuries and illness dealt with; posted as Adjutant to Citizens Military Force (CMF) training unit in Brisbane from 1964-68; posted to Townsville to establish camp hospital for Laverack Barracks; posted to Puckapunyal as Matron; posted as Senior Sister to SAS Regiment sick bay in Western Australia; returned to 1st Military Hospital, Yeronga in 1973; promoted to Assistant Director in Headquarters, Queensland District; promoted to Matron in Chief, Army Headquarters, Canberra in January 1980; administrative problems caused by married nurses, particularly those married to service personnel; duties as Matron in Chief; duties of Australian sisters posted to the Pacific Islands Regiment hospital in New Guinea; overseas exchange programs; whether army nurses should be trained to use and carry weapons; recounts story in Malaya of cart containing milk rations accidentally tipping over in monsoon drain; relations between military and civilian nurses/nursing; acceptance of married nurses in the army; introduction of new nurses' uniform in the 1970's. (AWM) For the complete audio interview, copy and paste the URL , below. 

https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C314094?search

John 'Tiny' Erwin

At the time this piece was added here, Tiny was going through a big struggle with his health. He wrote the following piece , orriginally to be read out as a speech at the 'Big Bash Reunion Main Event on 3 Oct 2015. Due to poor audio on the night the speech was skipped. However, here it is-The final version from Tiny, which sums up so well about what the unit at Yeronga meant to all who lived, worked and played there...

It's a fact of life that as we grow older we sometimes encounter events that bring forth a flood of memories...

 Over recent months with the event of the Digger James 1 Mil Reunion on its way such memories have flooded back.

 I don't think it really matters if one was at Yeronga from the conception of 1st Military Hospital or there at the closure, i believe that we all either experienced or witnessed what I want to share.

 For those of us who were re posted from field-force units 1 Mil defied the rules of a military establishment,

 For those just inducted and on training courses 1Mil was not a true introduction to military life.

 How things changed; from the "Grotto' underneath OPD, the ''Pussy Bar" and finally the Digger James Club.

 Each a separate identity and each with its own memories and secrets. Some of us were lucky and experienced the whole range of venues and some didn't, but the comradeship and compassion never changed.

 I witnessed the dedication shown by those who cared for and attended those of our Defence Force who were in hospital.

I saw and felt the pain our young people went through when a candle burnt out in the wards and the elation when a long term patient finally left their care. The total commitment from all, from ICU, theatre, x-ray, pathology and to all the general nursing staff was always there.

I believe the heart of 1 Mil was the DJ Club...it provided the pressure relief valve that was needed to keep such young people under so much pressure sane.

The social interaction was a vital part of survival and the DJ Club provided that. It allowed members to chill out and get some stress relief.

It bought together a mix of age groups, backgrounds and military experience...a great big melting pot.

Personalities appeared and many provided that touch of humour needed to brighten up your day, and then some were rather frightening or a little on the weird side, all part of the pot...

Tight and long life friendships were established, many loved and many hearts were broken, relationships formed, and some resulting in permanent partnerships; some didn't.

The most important thing was that we all cared about each other, no one had to suffer or be sad alone; there was always some one who would listen or offer that hug of reassurance. Everyone pulled together and supported each other whether it was everyday events, assisting students in their studies, assisting in tasks not normally part of your duties or times of civil crisis.

It’s a shame that 1Mil could not have remained separate from the military establishments as the separation gave it the peaceful atmosphere that was need for those under care but no matter where it is based the staff will always show the same dedication to those under their care.

The 2015 reunion has helped to rekindle many friendships and strengthen the bonds that only those who have served experience…

God bless you all and especially those who were part of my life at Yeronga… 

Tiny Erwin October 2015

Margaret Fay Hopcraft (nee Ahern)- One of the Fab Four

Margaret Fay Hopcraft (nee Ahern) as a captain nursing sister 8th Field Ambulance later 1st Australian Field Hospital, South Vietnam 1967-1968, interviewed by Jan Bassett

Early life; Margaret Ahern commenced civilian nursing in 1958; enlisted 4 July 1965; discusses Matron Mickie Sayer a prisoner of war of the Japanese during the Second World War; first posting to the 2nd Camp Hospital Ingleburn NSW; left Australia in 1966 in the first batch of nurses posted to 8th Field Ambulance, 1st Australian Field Hospital, South Vietnam; describes living and working conditions; describes casualty treatment; treating Vietnamese patients; supplies; recreation; visit to American 1st Division Headquarters; description of uniforms; professional relationship with doctors, American nurses and medics; returned to Australia in May 1968 and posted to the 1st Military Hospital, Yeronga in Brisbane; attitude to conscription and Australia's participation in the Vietnam War; posted to the medical centre at Terama Barracks, Papua New Guinea in November 1970; description of patients and illnesses treated; working and living conditions; returned to Australia in February 1972; discharged in April 1972; worked as a civilian nurse at 1 Mil Hospital 1981-86and later at Redcliffe Hospital Qld. For the full audio Interview copy and paste the URL below

https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C314100?search

"The Fab Four" Registered Nurses who were the first Aussie Nurses in Vietnam.

Gwyneth Richardson - First Woman ADF Pharmacist

Gwyneth Richardson served as a civilian pharmacist to the Army prior to her enlistment  with the rank of Staff Sergeant in the AAWS, on 16th December 1942. Her pay was 6/8d per day (68c) 

She was commissioned as a Provisional Lieutenant on 29 July 1944 and transferred to the Australian Army Medical Corps on 1st September 1944. Her appointment and commission as a Lieutenant AAMC was confirmed on 4th August 1944.

She was appointed formally as the Pharmacist to 2nd Australian Womens' Hospital, based at Rhyndarra, on the banks of the Brisbane River at Yeronga. She served there until March 1946. She was then posted to Port Moresby and Rabaul, where she served as a military pharmacist until July 1946.

QX577786 Lieutenant Gwyneth Richardson was discharged after on 1st April 1947.She served the Army loyally in this pioneering role.

Dulcie Thompson: a member of the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS), the Royal Australian Army Nursing Service (RAANS) and the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps (RAANC), 1940-1966

Early life; began nursing at the age of 19 in Adelaide; joined army reserve in 1937; after declaration of war in 1939 carried out part-time nursing duties for the army on days off from civilian nursing job; enlisted into Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) in December 1940; embarked on SS Queen Mary with Australian troops for Middle East in July 1941; nursing duties during voyage; arrival in Gaza; posted to 2/3rd CCS in Beirut; nursing casualties from Syrian campaign; describes hospital and food shortages; support from Americans in Beirut; moved to Tripoli and Gaza Ridge attached to the 6th Australian General Hospital (AGH); uniform; recreation; returned to Australia; posted to Atherton Tablands where the 6th Division was training; describes injuries and ailments suffered by troops; sent to Port Moresby and attached to the 1st AGH then moved to Finschafen; describes illnesses suffered by troops; coping with the tropical climate; describes food; contact with American units; nursing Japanese prisoners of war (POW); returned to Australia to Royal Australian Army Medical Corps (RAAMC) training battalion; demobilised and returned to civilian nursing; awarded Florence Nightingale scholarship and travelled to London in 1947; rejoined army in the newly formed Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps (RAANC) and appointed Matron with the rank of Major at Puckapunyal camp hospital; sent to British Commonwealth General Hospital at Kure in Japan; relations with British and Canadian nurses; attitude to nurses been given weapons training; types of injuries sustained by wounded troops from Korean War; facilities and equipment; returned to Australia, first to Yeronga in Brisbane then Ingleburn in Sydney then to Puckapunyal in Victoria and from there to Headquarters Eastern Command at Victoria Barracks in Sydney as Deputy Assistant Director; posted to Southern Command in Melbourne as Assistant Director for one year and then returned to Victoria Barracks, Sydney until retirement in 1966; discusses effect of army career on her life; effects of war on promoting advances in medical treatments; effect of First World War nurses on the nursing profession between the wars; recounts Battle of El Alamein; describes wounds and injuries of battle casualties; other ailments treated by the hospitals; talks about how the nurses always tried to improve their living conditions wherever they were. (AWM) 

Dr Francis Vincent Twohig Lt Col 2AWH 17 May 1944 – 1 Oct 1945

Dr Francis Vincent Twohig was born on 18 July 1900.

He died on 18 February 1987, aged 87 years.

Bertram Barney Wainer, Lt Col  1 Camp Hospital 21 Jan 1963 – 6 Jun 1966

Bertram Barney Wainer (1928-1987), medical practitioner and advocate of abortion law reform, was born on 30 December 1928 in Edinburgh, youngest of three children of Harold Barney Wainer, medical practitioner, and his wife Bethia Whitelaw, née Borthwick. His father, who died before Bertram was born, was of Jewish South African descent; his mother was Scottish. During the Depression the family became destitute, and moved to Gallowgate, a Glasgow slum. This experience developed in him a deep concern for families suffering poverty and hunger. He won a scholarship to attend Whitehall Senior School, but left aged 13.

After national service with the Royal Corps of Signals, Wainer migrated with his family to Australia in 1949, settling in Melbourne. Deciding to study medicine, he completed his secondary schooling in eighteen months, and entered the University of Melbourne (MB, BS, 1958). His success was the subject of an advertisement aimed at attracting migrants to Australia. He had married Barbara Joyce Code, a fashion buyer, in 1953 in Melbourne. In 1960 he began service in the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps, Australian Regular Army, as a regimental medical officer, with the rank of captain. Posted to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, in January 1961 he was injured during the suppression of a mutiny by soldiers of the Pacific Islands Regiment. He studied tropical medicine at the University of Sydney (DTM&H, 1962). In 1963 he became commanding officer of 1st Camp Hospital at Yeronga, Queensland, and he was promoted to temporary Lieutenant Colonel in 1964. His marriage suffered from the pressures of service life, and he and Barbara separated in 1962. Resigning from the army in January 1966, he set up a private general practice in Melbourne. His request to re-join the ARA the following year was unsuccessful, in part because an internal report described his methods as ‘unorthodox’ and questioned ‘his general acceptability in medical circles’.

In 1967 a woman came to Wainer’s St Kilda practice haemorrhaging after an illegal abortion. This case motivated him to campaign for the reform of the laws making abortion a criminal offence. The decision of Justice C. I. Menhennitt in R. v. Davidson (1969) potentially liberalised the law. Wainer decided to test this, and informed the press and the police that he had performed an abortion on a woman who threatened suicide if forced to carry her pregnancy to term. The police did not prosecute. Nor was he charged for two later abortions that he reported to the police. The operations were conducted by an experienced abortionist, but he accepted legal responsibility. He personally performed very few abortions in his career.

Wainer learned that police were accepting bribes from abortionists in return for immunity from prosecution. Using bold and sometimes impetuous methods, he gathered evidence of systemic police corruption. He used the press to draw attention to his claims, and by 1969 was a well-known figure. Tall and imposing, with an air of authority reinforced by a Scottish accent, he was an impressive media performer. Despite official indifference, threats by criminals to kill or injure him, and a smear campaign by the police, he succeeded in forcing a public inquiry under the chairmanship of a barrister, William Kaye. The Kaye inquiry, in 1970, was a spectacular exposure of police and medical corruption: four police officers were later charged and three gaoled. But while the report largely vindicated Wainer’s allegations, it also attacked his character and credibility, suggesting, for example, he was motivated by a desire for personal publicity.

The strain of the inquiry and the assaults on his reputation left Wainer bankrupt and in poor health. He moved to Queensland in 1971, establishing a practice at Caloundra. On 10 November 1972, at Nambour, Queensland, he married Joanne (Jo) Richardson, founding secretary of the Abortion Law Reform Association. She worked closely with him in his activism for the rest of his life.

Because doctors in Victoria remained unwilling to perform abortions openly, Wainer returned to Melbourne in 1972 and launched the first overtly operating abortion clinic in Australia. The Fertility Control Clinic, as it became known, was intended to provide safe and affordable abortions and to act as an agent of social change. The clinic became the target of protests, sometimes violent, by anti-abortion groups. The Right to Life Association convenor, Margaret Tighe, was a prominent critic. In 1972 Wainer published an account of the abortion campaign, It Isn’t Nice.

Police corruption continued to be a target of Wainer’s campaigning. By late 1974 he had persuaded the Victorian government of the seriousness of several complaints, and in March 1975 a board of inquiry into police misconduct was established. He was again criticised for his occasionally ill-considered methods of investigation—the inquiry’s chairman, Barry Beach, said he had ‘some of the shortcomings one sometimes encounters when dealing with crusaders’. However, he was once more substantially vindicated. Beach made adverse findings against fifty-five police officers, and recognised the existence of systemic problems in the force. The police union reacted with fury, and threatened strike action. After the premier, (Sir) Rupert Hamer, capitulated to this pressure, the Beach report was effectively shelved. Wainer continued to be a thorn in the side of authority, and to be harassed in return. In 1982 the Australian Federal Police raided the Fertility Control Clinic and his home. The raid was ostensibly related to medical fraud, but no charges were pressed and the police eventually returned more than a thousand seized documents.

By the mid-1980s Wainer considered that he had become ‘almost respectable’. Reform of the criminal law relating to abortion remained elusive, but safe abortions were routinely available. The single most important figure in making safe and affordable abortions accessible to Australian women, he personally ‘loathe[d]’ the need for abortion, but regarded it as ‘the lesser of two evils’. He ranks with Australia’s most courageous and effective social reformers. The years of stress had taken their toll on his health, however; he had endured throat cancer, pancreatitis and several heart attacks. Survived by his wife and their daughter and his daughter and three sons from his first marriage, he died of myocardial infarction on 16 January 1987 at Glenlofty, Victoria, and was buried in Eltham cemetery. At his funeral the Uniting Church minister Dr Francis Macnab described him as ‘a man of justice, determination and compassion’, who was moved by ‘the sight of human suffering’.

 

 

The movie made about Major Bertam Wainer after his time at 1 Camp Hospital.

Sidney Edward Coolwell Jr

Sid Coolwell at the Last Gasp Reunion at 1 Mil Hospital 1996

Sid was one of the chief groundsmen and gardener extraordinaire at 1 Mil Hospital. 

There was a lot more to Sid and very few knew much about him until many years after he retired. 

He was born at Stradbroke Island in 1932. He was one of the Indigenous Noonuccal Tribe from Stradbroke Island. Much respected and loved by many, Australian Icon, Oogeroo Noonuccal AKA Kath Walker was also one of Sid's mob. 

As Sid was a quiet , unassuming fellow, he was often seen but not heard much. However if you took the time to sit and chat with him, he became a wealth of information. 

He knew all there was to know about gardening and the grounds at 1 Mil were always immaculate, thanks to Sid and his team. Quite often, work parties made up of members of the unit, including patients on Rehabilitation helped Sid with his work, at his direction. This was never an onerous task, due to Sid's charm and good sense of humour. 

Sid had an afinity with the past spirits whom were said to be still about the grounds. He once spoke of a little girl, long since gone, but her troubled soul seemed to remain in Sid's Garden shed- what was once a cellar that led to a tunnel beneath the grounds that led to the river. He used to talk with her and tried to calm her troubled soul. 

It was said that as an Indigenous man, Sid was quite a good hunter of Dugong , among other creatures and fish which inhabited Moreton Bay. (It was the folk that settled much later that almost brought about the Dugong's extinction.)

Apologies for the quality of the picture of Sid. It was taken from video footage from the Last Gasp Farewell Party for 1 Mil Hospital in 1996. If/when a better pic is found it will be added.