Alma May BEARD

BEARD, Alma May

Service Numbers: WFX11175, W16368
Enlisted: 19 June 1941
Last Rank: Sister
Last Unit: 2nd/13th Australian General Hospital
Born: Toodyay, Western Australia, 14 January 1913
Home Town: Perth, Western Australia
Schooling: Toodyay Government School and the Sisters of Mercy Our Lady’s College, Perth (now Mercedes College).
Occupation: Nursing sister
Died: Murdered - POW of Japan in the Bangka Island massacre, Radji Beach, Bangka Island, Netherlands East Indies, 16 February 1942, aged 29 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorials: Augusta Australian Army Nursing Sisters Monument, Australian Military Nurses Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Ballarat Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial, Bicton Vyner Brooke Tragedy Memorial, W.A., Kapunda Dutton Park Memorial Gardens Nurses Plaques, Launceston Banka Island Massacre, Singapore Memorial Kranji War Cemetery, Toodyay Alma Beard Medical Centre & Memorial
Show Relationships

World War 2 Service

19 Jun 1941: Enlisted WFX11175, General Hospitals - WW2
4 Aug 1941: Enlisted W16368, General Hospitals - WW2
15 Aug 1941: Enlisted Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Sister, WFX11175, Perth, Western Australia
7 Dec 1941: Involvement Australian and Colonial Military Forces - Boer War Contingents, Sister, WFX11175, 2nd/13th Australian General Hospital, Malaya/Singapore
12 Feb 1942: Embarked WFX11175, 2nd/13th Australian General Hospital, Evacuated - Embarked Ship: SS Vyner Brooke (with 65 other nurses, and 116 civilians) Date and Place of Departure: 12/02/1942, Singapore; to Bangka Strait (by Bangka Island) Attacked by Japanese Aircraft; Disaster - Sinking of SS Vyner Brooke - Date: 14/02/1942; (AWM) Sinking of the SS Vyner Brooke.
16 Feb 1942: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Sister, WFX11175, 2nd/13th Australian General Hospital, Prisoners of War


Emotional Welcome As Gallant Women Return

Fremantle, Western Australia; The Australian Women's Weekly

Saturday; 3 November 1945, Page 19.


BY: Josephine O'Neill

No legendary figures, but ordinary women, you, who died

Facing the water, last glance each to each

Along the beach, leaving your bodies to the accustomed surf

Your hearts to home

No legendary figures, but ordinary women, you, who lived

Holding the spirit, through the camps slow slime

Unsoiled by time ...

Bringing your laughter out of degraded toil

As a gift to home

As ordinary women, by your dying you fortify the mind

As ordinary women, by your living you honor all mankind.


Showing 1 of 1 story

Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

She and the other nurses are commemorated on the Wartime Nurses Memorial of First and Second World Wars, at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire, England. It was dedicated 4 June 2018 by HRH Countess of Wessex GCVO.

“Bully, there are two things I’ve always hated in my life, the Japanese and the sea, and today I’ve ended up with both” said Sister Alma Beard who was one of the Australian Army Nurses, civilians and military personnel who suffered so appalling at the hands of Japanese soldiers on that fateful day on Radji Beach Bangka Island; 16 February 1942.

Sister Alma May Beard, 2/13th Australian General Hospital, WFX 11175, was born in 13 January 1913 to Edward William and Katherine Mary Beard of Toodyay Western Australia and had two siblings. She trained at Perth Hospital and then moved to one of the larger Sydney hospitals to gain experience.

After returning to Western Australia she enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service on 19 June 1941. In September 1941 she was sent to Malaya as part of the 2/13th Australian General Hospital. This was initially located at St Patrick's School on Singapore Island. Between 21-23 November 1941 the entire hospital was moved across the Strait to Tampoi Hill on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. With the swift progress of the Japanese invasion force most of the hospital staff was evacuated back to Singapore in late January 1942.

The following was publised in the ‘The West Australian’ newspaper on 30 October 1945. The article is accompanied by a photo of a most attractive young woman, which is shown below.

‘It is with sincere regret that we advise that Mr. and Mrs. E. W Beard, of "Pellnell," Culham, have received advise to the effect that their daughter, Alma, sister in the A.A.N.S., is now reported "Missing, believed killed," probably near Sumatra, on or after February 11th 1942, together with other unfortunate sisters of the Service by the Japs. We offer sincere expressions of sympathy to the bereaved parents, a well respected and popular couple, and also brother and sisters, as we feel sure all who knew this fine "Daughter of Australia" will also, trusting that they will find solace in the thought that she is out of the hands of a race that are most bestial than human, and that her sacrifice will not be in vain.’

In the same newspaper under the heading “Tribute Paid by Colleague” the following was written

‘…Recently her mother received a letter from Sister Vivian Bullwinkel one of 24 nurses who returned to Australia recently after spending over 3 years in Japanese POW camps in Sumatra, in which she wrote of Sister Beard and her other colleagues who perished at the same time.

‘Sister Bullwinkel wrote “Her brave conduct in an hour of crisis has added lustre to the service which she so nobly carried on”.

Somehow, Alma made it to Radji Beach, apparently uninjured, and with the other Australian nurses, proceeded to care for the wounded and injured on the beach.

Alma was on the far left of the line of Australian nurses facing the sea, next to Vivian Bullwinkel.

‘At the end of the line, Alma Beard leaned across and said to Vivian

“Bully, there are two things I’ve always hated in my life, the Japanese and the sea, and today I’ve ended up with both”. ( p216, On Radji Beach).

As the women walked into the water, the Japanese soldiers then proceeded to execute all but one of the Australian Army Nurses and one civilian woman. Sister Vivian Bullwinkel was the only survivor.

Sister Alma May Beard is commemorated by the community she served so well by the Alma Beard Community Health Centre at Toodyay, Western Australia and like all the Nurses who died, on various commemorative walls around Australia and overseas.

Principal sources

Michael Pether Auckland New Zealand
On Radji Beach by Ian Shaw
Public records


Biography contributed by John Edwards

"...WFX11175 Sister Alma May Beard, 2/13th Australian General Hospital, Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS). She was one of sixty five 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 sixty five nurses on board, twelve were lost as sea and thirty two 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 twenty two nurses who also survived the sinking and were washed ashore on Radji Beach, Banka Island, where they surrendered to the Japanese, along with twenty five 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." - SOURCE (