Dianne Kay SKEWES

SKEWES, Dianne Kay

Service Number: F45178
Enlisted: 2 July 1969
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: 1st Australian Field Hospital
Born: Adelaide, South Australia, 10 June 1944
Home Town: Adelaide, South Australia
Schooling: Methodist Ladies College, University of Adelaide
Occupation: Physiotherapist
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Vietnam War Service

2 Jul 1969: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Lieutenant, F45178
2 Jul 1969: Enlisted Australian Army (Post WW2), Lieutenant, F45178, 1st Australian Field Hospital
2 Jul 1970: Discharged Australian Army (Post WW2), Lieutenant, F45178

Help us honour Dianne Kay SKEWES's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by VWM Australia

Introduction: Audio Interview with Dianne Fairhead

Author: Megan Spencer

This interview with Dianne Fairhead, formerly (Lt. D.K. Skewes), was conducted by Megan Spencer on behalf of the Virtual War Memorial Australia on the 21st of October 2020, in Adelaide, South Australia.

The topics covered in this interview are the experiences of Dianne Fairhead as an Australian Army Physiotherapist and Lieutenant during the Vietnam War, between 1969-1970, and the ‘impact of service’ before, during and after deployment, and within the family environment.

Dianne was born on 10th of June 1944 and enlisted in the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps on the 2nd of July 1969, SN F45178, serving with the 1st Australian Field Hospital in Vung Tau, Vietnam.

Dianne was the first physiotherapist in the RAAMC (Royal Australian Army Medical Corps) and also the “first woman to work as a physiotherapist” during the Vietnam War [1]. She was accepted for the position the day of her interview in 1969, and spent the next six weeks at the 2nd Military Hospital in Ingleburn, NSW, prior to flying out to Saigon.

Born and raised in Adelaide, South Australia, Dianne was educated in Adelaide where “she completed a 3-year diploma in physiotherapy in 1965”. Prior to her Army service in Vietnam, Dianne worked as a physiotherapist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and in the UK, where “she undertook locum work in Scotland as well as London”, also working in “the burns unit at Bangour General Hospital between Glasgow and Edinburgh”.  She also worked at the “renowned” National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in Queens Square, London. [2]

During the war - working closely with the medical team in Vung Tau - she was the only physiotherapist working in the hospital. She treated Australian soldiers, American solders and North Vietnamese prisoners-of-war.

In 2011, Dianne became the very first female board member of Legacy South Australia, the organisation that supports families of injured and deceased veterans.

Dianne’s remarkable service story is included in the landmark book Not For Glory: A century of service by medical women to the Australian Army and its Allies; Susan J. Neuhaus & Sharon Mascall-Dare (Boolarong Press, 2014).

This interview is in 3 parts (total duration 1 hour and 15 minutes), and accompanying transcripts are provided.


Special thanks to Dianne Fairhead for her generous time and for sharing such beneficial insights. Thanks also to Michael von Berg for suggesting Di as a speaker.


Discusses: enlistment, impact of service, war, injuries, mine injuries, Vung Tao, women in war, hospital life, Intensive Care, physiotherapy, outpatients, collegiality, danger, bearing witness, teamwork, effects of PTSD on family life, PTSD, recovery, life after service, military families, coming home, Welcome Home Parade, returning to Vietnam, family, women in services.

Mentions:1960s, Vietnam War, Red Cross nurses, medical staff, living quarters, MEDEVAC, working with amputees, physical therapy conference, women in a warzone, B-52 airstrike, Long Hai mountains, Nui Dat, Caribou aircraft, civilians, relationships in wartime, friendship.


Need help?

If this interview raises any issues for you, contact:

Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14

Open Arms - Veterans & Families Counselling on 1800 011 046

ADF Mental Health All-hours Support Line on 1800 628 036

[1] Online, ‘Legacy of a Female Leader’, Sam Kelton, Adelaide Advertiser, December 3, 2011, https://bit.ly/3ca7bRq.
[2] p.157, Not For Glory: A century of service by medical women to the Australian Army and its Allies; Susan J. Neuhaus & Sharon Mascall-Dare (Boolarong Press, 2014).



Audio Interviews such as this rely on the memories, perceptions and opinions of individuals; they are personal, experiential and subjective, and may contain the views and language from another time. While all reasonable attempts are made to avoid inaccuracy, interviews should not necessarily be understood as statements of fact or opinions endorsed by the VWMA.



Part 1 Interview with Dianne FAIRHEAD

Duration 11hr 05min 47sec. Recorded by Megan Spencer on 21 Oct 2020

Part 2 Interview with Dianne FAIRHEAD

Duration 10hr 48min 28sec. Recorded by Megan Spencer on 21 Oct 2020

Part 3 Interview with Dianne FAIRHEAD

Duration 10hr 51min 34sec. Recorded by Megan Spencer on 21 Oct 2020