Today's Honour Roll
|Name||Date of Death||Conflict|
|BEATTS, John Ellenduff||27 Sep 1917||World War 1|
|CLARK, William James||27 Sep 1917||World War 1|
|FERINNIE, Bernardo||27 Sep 1917||World War 1|
|ANDREWS, Sarsfield||27 Sep 1917||World War 1|
|BANKS, Malcolm James||27 Sep 1943||World War 2|
Reflections on Service and Sacrifice - Dr Susan Neuhaus AM CSC
Dr Susan Neuhaus AM CSC
We were honoured to have our Patron Dr Susan Neuhaus AM CSC as the guest speaker for our annual fundraising lunch at the end of July. Dr Neuhaus delivered an exceptional speech which we are delighted to be able to share with you.
Dr Susan Neuhaus is a distinguished surgeon and former Army Officer having served in both the Regular Army and the Reserve for over 20 years.
She has deployed to Cambodia, Bougainville and Afghanistan, held command positions and is a graduate of Command and Staff College. Susan has a passionate interest in military history – and in 2012 co-wrote (with Sharon Mascall-Dare) Not for Glory – A Century of Service by Medical women to the Australian Army and her Allies which was adapted into the award-winning play, Hallowed Ground – Women Doctors at War, that toured both the Adelaide and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals.
Susan is a former Chair of the Veterans Advisory Council SA and member of the Council of the Australia War Memorial.
Susan was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross (CSC) in 2002 and in 2020 was admitted as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for services to medicine.
She has been a long-time supporter and patron of the VWMA.
Every year thousands of Australians access the Virtual War Memorial homepage.
Some are driven by curiosity.
For others, it is a valuable research tool.
And for the many school children participating in the Premier’s Anzac Spirit School Prize, it is a platform that helps them unlock powerful stories of life and service.
As we trawl through more than 1.5million digital records on the site we find a gallery of photographs of those that served.
Some look straight down the lens, confident and smiling. Others seem less sure of themselves.
But behind each one of these captured moments – frozen in time - is the story of an Australian and when we discover their stories we gain, not only insights into their experiences – but they help us make sense of our own.
Because stories have power.
Story appeals to our raw human empathy – as we share the struggles, the triumphs, the shame and victory of our characters.
It is through stories we define our heroes and our villains.
And through stories that we pass our traditions, our history and our values from one generation to the next.
I have spent many hours trawling through dusty archives, and online - discovering the stories of characters whose names are scarcely known - and it was there that I first met Vera Scantlebury.
There was something about this diminutive Lieutenant, - who paid her own passage to England to take up a position as a war surgeon at Endell St Military Hospital - that spoke to me.
Perhaps I was drawn to her because she was 27 years old at the outbreak of the First World war – the same age I was when I deployed on my first overseas operation to Cambodia.
But I found so many threads that connected her journey to my own.
It humbled me that a hundred years before I worked as a surgeon in Uruzghan, this young women from Melbourne – a woman I had never heard of –– was saving limbs and lives of allied servicemen.
As I followed her journey, I felt her angst – at the politics and the power struggles playing out in the hospital.
I felt the strain as she grappled with her long-distance relationship – and questioned whether the ‘…silken threads of loyalty’ to her patients would prove stronger than those to her fiancé.
I shared her anger and frustration at the war that had brought these patients to her; the merciless and devastating injuries; the cruelty that humans can impart on each other and I understood when she wrote:
‘…I think war surgery is horrid, but I suppose I shall become used to it.’
I shared her pride at small victories – such as restoring movement to a mutilated hand.
And I felt shame – shame that I had never known her story or those of more than a dozen of her colleagues – the Australian women doctors who served this nation during WW1– in tented battlefield hospitals in Egypt, in Europe often under conditions of unimaginable hardship and danger – service that still to this day goes largely unrecognized.
Dr Kevin James Fagan AO
Move forward a century, and I trained, like many military surgeons – in the shadow of the towering figure that was Weary Dunlop.
Somewhat naively, early in my career, I was under the impression that he was the only surgeon on the Thai-Burma railway- just as I once thought that Simpson had only one donkey at Gallipoli.
But amongst the 106 Australian doctors held in captivity, on that gaping wound that extended from Singapore to Burma, I found a personal resonance with another surgeon – a man whose name is known by few Australians – Kevin Fagan – who served with the 2nd/10th.
Fagan was detailed to a party of 3,500 men set to work twelve to fifteen hours a day cutting through solid rock with picks and shovels.
The conditions were beyond appalling and the men were starving. Within weeks they were reduced to little more than a slave gang - suffering malaria, dysentery and malnutrition.
In the jungle aid posts patients simply lay on bamboo mats, often too weak to even crawl to the latrines.
In one six-week period 1 in 4 died from cholera…. And then the ulcers appeared.
Doctors like Fagan had to innovate. They made their own sutures, created their own instruments and even used their knowledge of chemistry to perform blood transfusions.
Ulcerated limbs, often infected with maggots (revolting even to the most experienced surgeon) were amputated. Men were resuscitated and men were buried.
But Fagan’s story resonates not just for his courage and resourcefulness. As the historian Russell Braddon wrote:
‘Not only did he [Fagan] treat any man needing treatment …, he also carried men who fell. He carried the kit of men in danger of falling... If we marched 100 miles through the jungle, Kevin Fagan marched 200 miles, and when at the end of our nights trip we collapsed and slept he was there to clean blisters, set broken bones and render first aid. And all of it he did with the courtesy of a society specialist who is being richly paid … and with the ready humour of a man who is not tired at all…. He is the most inspiring man I have ever met… Some 20000 British and Australian troops share my view.’
At an Anzac Day event in Roseville, over 50 years later, a now deceased former POW, shared a story – held close for many years - of helping Kevin Fagan.
He described holding down a fellow prisoner’s severely ulcerated leg when he became aware of drops of water falling into the wound. He said that when he looked up, he saw they were Kevin Fagan’s tears.
It is not the long lists of names engraved onto a wall, or shelves of leather-bound official records filled with battles, dates and the numbers of the dead that help us make sense of war.
It is the stories of individuals - in their bigness and their smallness, in the good and the bad, in the ordinary, the mundane and the exceptional.
Not just stories of courage,
But also, the stories of our shame.
Because in the chaos and uncertainty of war, the worst of humanity is unleashed.
Bad things happen and good people do bad things.
We must never walk away from that shame, because to do so it to deny the wounds that are inflicted on generations.
It is to deny the very reason we fight so hard for peace.
But in doing so we should also remember that, for all its horror and brutality, there is also good which we must cherish and hold onto.
Acts of courage and love like those of Kevin Fagan, that tear at your heart, and reaffirm your faith in humanity.
I have experienced that love from an Afghan man…from a man whose only son had died in my care; a man who chose to make a long and difficult journey back to our facility; who, despite the deep aching in his own heart sought, not to offer retribution but to absolve me and my team from our shame of failure - with the single and most humbling gesture I have ever received –‘…Inshallah’. It was the will of God.
Such moments remind me that it is in our darkest hours we are called to be our best selves.
That every day we choose what values we hold up for ourselves.
Australians, like Vera Scantlebury and Kevin Fagan chose to go to war, not to fight an enemy, but to fight for the lives of those they served with.
Their stories are just two of a cast of characters that can keep us company through our own trials and tribulations; and guide us through even the darkest of hours in our own lives.
We owe it to them to tell their stories. We owe it to ourselves to hear them.
Lest we forget.
Ensure we remember them always Make a Donation
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The Human Cost
From the Boer War to Afghanistan, 102,784 Australian men and women have been killed serving their country.
Honour their service by:
- - Contributing to the profile of a serviceperson
- - Making a dedication on the page of a serviceperson
- - Giving generously to the VWMA to enable our work to continue
Help us keep the promise - We Will Remember Them All
How to Tell Your Story