Sunday History Photo / Person

Submitted: Sunday, Jul 06, 2014 at 08:36
ThreadID: 108617 Views:3981 Replies:3 FollowUps:0
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From "The West Australian" Perth, W.A - Friday, 13 March 1942
Death of an A.I.F. Sister
Sister Margaret de Mestre of Victoria has been killed as the result of enemy action. Her death occurred when the Japanese bombers attacked the hospital ship Manunda which, with its big red cross clearly showing, was lying in Darwin harbour when that town was raided. Her name will appear on the Honour Roll of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital as the first A.I.F. nurse to be killed ion action in this war.
Ever since her school days Margaret de Mestre had wanted to be a nurse and had worked to accomplish that aim. Her aunt, Sister Sarah de Mestre, then a senior sister at the Royal Prince Alfred, had been awarded the Royal Red Cross for her nursing services during the Great War. When she was 19 Margaret entered the hospital as a probationer, graduating four years later as a sister.
When the war came she was one of the first nurses to enlist and made many trips on the hospital ship Manunda. On the outbreak of hostilities in the Pacific she was sent to Darwin. Although Tokyo radio has claimed that their airmen spared the hospital ship in the harbour at the time of the raid, photographs already published show that the bombs which caused the death of this 26 year old sister did extensive damage to the ship."

Sister Margaret Augusta De Mestre (NFX70211) was born in Kalang via Bellingen, New South Wales, on 16 November 1915 to James Augustus and Alice Isobel De Mestre (nee Morey). Her parents owned and operated a dairy farm and she was the first of six children, four girls and two boys.
Sister De Mestre trained at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney in 1935. Her Aunt Sarah Melanie De Mestre had also trained at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and served in World War I. In 1940 Sister De Mestre enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Corp with other nurses from the hospital and sailed twice to the Middle East on the 2/1 Hospital Ship, HMAHS Manunda. While the ship was being reconditioned in 1941, she served at the 113 Australian General Hospital at Concord. She rejoined HMAHS Manunda in January 1942.

HMAHS Manunda was anchored in Darwin Harbour near the merchant ship Zealandia and the oil tanker British Motorist when it was first hit by shrapnel and then a bomb during the first Japanese air attack on Darwin, 19 February 1942. Twelve members of the crew and hospital staff were killed, including Sister De Mestre, and forty-seven others were wounded. The medical and nursing staff quarters were destroyed, B and C decks were severely damaged and fires started on board. Despite the chaos, Manunda continued to treat incoming wounded and staff manned the life-boats rescuing injured men from the sea.

One of the aid-posts was hit. By this time there were many fires on board the "Manunda". The medical and nursing staff quarters were totally destroyed.
Sister De Mestre died of shrapnel wounds received to her back and abdomen. She was twenty-six and the first Australian Imperial Force nurse to be killed in action on Australian soil.


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Reply By: Nomad Navara - Sunday, Jul 06, 2014 at 09:14

Sunday, Jul 06, 2014 at 09:14
Thanks Doug, a great tribute to a great Australian.
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Reply By: Member - Tony H (touring oz) - Sunday, Jul 06, 2014 at 09:51

Sunday, Jul 06, 2014 at 09:51
Thanks Doug,
My mother did her training at RPA about the same time, there is a good chance that they may have known each other
Insanity doesnt run in my family.... it gallops!

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Reply By: Life Member - Dunworkin (WA) - Tuesday, Jul 08, 2014 at 21:25

Tuesday, Jul 08, 2014 at 21:25
Thanks Doug for another very interesting Sunday History Lesson, have been absent for some time, will have to go back and check out all your SHL.....

Simba, our much missed baby.

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