Honouring those who have come before us: Nurse Alma May Beard

On February 11, 2019, ACN attended the Last Post Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra to commemorate Sister Alma May Beard, 2/13th Australian General Hospital, Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS).

From the limited information that is available on the Second World War Army nurse, we learned from the War Memorial’s records that:

“She was one of 65 Australian nurses and over 250 civilian men, women and children evacuated on the Vyner Brooke from Singapore, three days before the fall of Malaya. The Vyner Brooke was bombed by Japanese aircraft and sunk in Banka Strait on 14 February 1942. Of the 65 nurses on board, 12 were lost as sea and 32 survived the sinking and were captured as Prisoners of War (POWs) of which eight later died during captivity. Sister Beard was one of the remaining 22 nurses who also survived the sinking and were washed ashore on Radji Beach, Banka Island, where they surrendered to the Japanese, along with 25 British soldiers. On 16 February 1942 the group was massacred, the soldiers were bayoneted and the nurses were ordered to march into the sea where they were shot. Only Sister Vivian Bullwinkel and a British soldier survived the massacre. Both were taken POW, but only Sister Bullwinkel survived the war.”

It is currently listed that she is buried at Singapore Memorial.

ACN strongly believes in paying tribute to the individuals and organisations that have shaped nursing’s history. By laying a wreath at this Ceremony for the men and women who gave their lives, ACN commemorates their individual stories on behalf of the nursing profession.

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