Hon­our­ing the fallen

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - FRONT PAGE -

LO­CAL res­i­dent Betty Snell bravely pre­pared to walk in the 1946 An­zac Day pa­rade to hon­our the young men who did not come home.

WHEN World War II ended in 1945, Bent­ley res­i­dent Betty Snell was pre­pared to walk in the fol­low­ing year’s An­zac Day pa­rade to hon­our the young men and friends who did not re­turn.

She had pre­vi­ously marched with her sis­ter in mem­ory of her un­cles who served in World War I, but when her time came it be­came too much.

“My sis­ter and I used to go to all the An­zac pa­rades (to com­mem­o­rate WWI) … I had two un­cles who were in Gal­lipoli,” she said.

“Af­ter (WWII) I was in the An­zac pa­rade and I got too emo­tional, I couldn’t do it, it was too emo­tional for me. I don’t know why, I feel like it was quite a lot to re­mem­ber (and) I had a lot of friends who were ser­vice­men.”

Now 93, Mrs Snell’s ser­vice as a nurse in WWII be­gan in 1942 when she was 18 and was posted to Kal­go­or­lie af­ter a brief stint at Hol­ly­wood Hospi­tal.

“When I joined up, we had a stag­ing post where peo­ple went and they were posted out,” she said.

“I was posted up to Kal­go­or­lie and I nursed there. We had pa­tients who were com­ing down from Dar­win, and they came as far as Kal­go­or­lie be­cause in those days they couldn’t go on a long trip home and were left at our base hospi­tal where we nursed them un­til they could come to Perth.”

Through­out the war, Mrs Snell’s friends were among those who signed up for the army.

“A lot of the young fel­lows went away, a friend joined and went to Dar­win. I thought ‘why is he go­ing to Dar­win?’, then the place was bombed and I never saw him again,” she said.

The air strikes in Dar­win and Broome were jar­ring mo­ments in the com­mu­nity, Mrs Snell said.

“The Ja­panese came as far as Broome and bombed Broome. I re­mem­ber in Perth the air sirens started and we sat in a base­ment for an hour won­der­ing what was go­ing on; ap­par­ently the Ja­panese got down as far as Fre­man­tle,” she said.

“It was kept fairly silent at the time (be­cause) they didn’t want peo­ple to get dis­turbed about it.”

As a nurse, Mrs Snell formed strong bonds with her pa­tients, many of whom had their lives changed by the war.

“One lad named Jack, I knew him be­fore the war and he went to Dar­win around the time the Ja­panese went to bomb Dar­win and he came back and had lost a leg,” she said. “An­other fel­low needed a spe­cialised nurse.

“He had dived into the surf at Bus­sel­ton and broke his neck. He was in an iron lung (and) we had to make sure his breath­ing was all right; I have of­ten won­dered how he got on.

“And there was Richard, a very good friend of mine. He was an ar­mourer and when he had a mu­ni­tions duct blow out and he was badly burned down his front, he was very ill and I nursed him for about three weeks be­fore he was fit enough to go to Ade­laide.”

Mrs Snell’s nurs­ing ca­reer ended af­ter she was di­ag­nosed with rheumatic fever, an acute fever caused by a strep­to­coc­cal in­fec­tion and that causes in­flam­ma­tion in the joints.

“I loved nurs­ing; as a mat­ter of fact I was sorry I couldn’t con­tinue. I wasn’t fit enough to go back in to nurs­ing, I went to col­lege and worked at the tech­ni­cal col­lege in Perth in the of­fice,” she said.

Mrs Snell said she re­mem­bered the war as if it was yes­ter­day and pledged to con­tinue to pay her re­spects to those who served.

Pic­ture: Jon Hew­son www.com­mu­ni­typix.com.au d452191

Betty Snell, now 93, served as a nurse dur­ing World War II.

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