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