Veronica Magdalene (Von) COGHLAN Update Details

COGHLAN, Veronica Magdalene

Service Number: SX3046
Enlisted: 21 May 1940, Adelaide, SA
Last Rank: Captain
Last Unit: Australian Army Nursing Service WW2 (<1943)
Born: Stockwell, South Australia, 18 January 1914
Home Town: Brighton, Holdfast Bay, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Nurse
Died: Natural Causes, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 10 October 1995, aged 81 years
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
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World War 2 Service

21 May 1940: Involvement Captain, SX3046
21 May 1940: Enlisted Adelaide, SA
21 May 1940: Enlisted SX3046, Australian Army Nursing Service WW2 (<1943)
15 Apr 1946: Discharged
15 Apr 1946: Discharged SX3046, Australian Army Nursing Service WW2 (<1943)

Help us honour Veronica Magdalene Coghlan's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Alan O'Connor

Von was born in 1914 at Stockwell in South Australia after her teaching parents had migrated from Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides in 1911.  After schooling she decided to study nursing. She trained initially at Clare Hospital in 1932 before 3 years at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.  She received the Gold Medal as the leading student in 1937.  She lived with her parents in Kensington Park, Adelaide and enlisted as a sister on 21 May 1940.

Von was one of 19 nurses who responded to an urgent call from Defence to enlist for overseas service. She left from Adelaide on the Stratheden on 27 May 1940. She met her husband to be, Dr John Connell onboard the following day. Von was a gifted sportswoman playing tennis, swimming and many ball games.  John took many photos and videos of Von and other passengers running and having 3 legged races.

Von was posted to the 3rd Army General Hospital in  xxx on arrival in the UK. She often met up with John and had many close calls during the Blitz.  In 1941 she left her respirator on a train carriage and when she went to retrieve it the carriage was destroyed by a bomb blast along with many nearby buildings. She embarked soon after for the Middle East on the Llandovery Castle.

Sadly Von lost her brother Frank during a battle with the Germans at El Alamein in 1942.  

Von treated Australian patients in Egypt and when on leave saw King Farouk present prizes at the Gezira Swimming Club in Cairo. She also visited the Pyramids with nursing friends. With the entry of Japan into the war all AANS nurses in the Middle east were brought home – in Von’s case on the Mauretania in January 1942.

In March 1943, Von was appointed a Captain and in September 1943 was posted to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Here she met up again with John who was treating Aussie troops on the Kokoda Track.  The AWM has a picture of Von sorting mail at Aitape.  There were around 2000 men in the hospital at Buna under very trying conditions.  Those not wounded were often suffering from tropical illnesses such as scrub typhus.

On 24 March 1945 Von received a letter saying that she had been mentioned in dispatches for bravery in the field. She was appointed to RMC Duntroon in November 1945 and discharged from the Army in March 1946.

Von married John in Surrey Hills on 6 January 1947 and joined him in his new practice in Kyneton Victoria.  She had two children, Sue born in 1948 and John born in 1950. John was the driver behind the establishment of Windarring, an association for the Intellectually Disabled. Sue was made a Life Governor and was also heavily involved in many community organisations as well as the local golf club.

Von ‘retired’ with John to Goolwa in South Australia where John was soon enticed into joining the local medical practice. After John’s death in 1989, Von moved to Glenelg and then to Melbourne near her son where she passed away in October 1995.