Clarice Isobel HALLIGAN

HALLIGAN, Clarice Isobel

Service Numbers: VX47776, VFX47776
Enlisted: 11 July 1940, A.A.M.C., Depot - Melbourne, Vic, Australia.
Last Rank: Sister
Last Unit: 2nd/13th Australian General Hospital
Born: Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, 17 September 1904
Home Town: Kew, Boroondara, Victoria
Schooling: Kew High School
Occupation: Nurse
Died: Murdered as a POW of Japan in the Bangka Island massacre, Radji Beach, Bangka Island, Netherlands East Indies, 16 February 1942, aged 37 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorial Location: Column 141, Singapore Memorial (within Kranji War Cemetery
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
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World War 2 Service

11 Jul 1940: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Nursing Sister, VX47776, Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1)
11 Jul 1940: Enlisted Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Nursing Sister, VX47776, Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), A.A.M.C., Depot - Melbourne, Vic, Australia.
11 Jul 1940: Enlisted VFX47776, General Hospitals - WW2
11 Dec 1940: Promoted Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Staff Nurse, Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), (NAA, Pg-6) Service Record of Staff Nurse - A.A.N.S.; Clarice Isobel HALLIGAN, SN VX47776.
26 Jul 1941: Embarked Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Staff Nurse, VFX47776, 10th Australian General Hospital , Embarked: 26/07/1941, Ship - "H.M.T E.E", for Singapore.
20 Dec 1941: Promoted Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Sister, 10th Australian General Hospital , (NAA, Pg-11, 12) Service Record of Sister (A.A.N.S., 10 AGH); SN VFX47776
10 Jan 1942: Transferred Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Sister, 2nd/13th Australian General Hospital, (NAA, Pg-11) Service Record of Sister: Clarice Isobel HALLIGAN, SN VFX47776; Detached from - 10 AGH, Transferred - 2/13th AGH.
12 Feb 1942: Embarked Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Sister, VFX47776, 2nd/13th Australian General Hospital, Embarked Ship - Date and Place of Departure: SS Vyner Brooke, 12/02/1942, Singapore, (with 65 other nurses, and civilians); to Japanese Aircraft Attack - sinking disaster - SS Vyner Brooke - Date and Place: 14/02/1942, Bangka Strait (by Bangka Island); (AWM) The Sinking of the SS Vyner Brooke.
15 Feb 1942: Imprisoned Malaya/Singapore


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 Daniel Bishop

Daughter of Joseph Patrick HALLIGAN & Emilie Watson (nee-CHALMERS) HALLIGAN, of Kew, Victoria, Australia.

Sister Clarice ‘Clare’ Isobel Halligan, VX 47776, 2/13th Australian General Hospital was born in Ballarat, Victoria on 17 September 1904, the third daughter of Joseph Patrick Halligan and Emily Watson Chalmers, who were married in Ballarat in 1898. They had eight children, the first in 1899 and the eighth in 1918. Clarice was the first of the siblings to die on 16th February 1942 at the age of 37 years.

Clarice’s father Joseph Patrick Halligan, started work at Ballarat Brewery and left to join Abbotsford Brewery, in Melbourne. The family at that time lived in a lovely Victorian House in the grounds of the Brewery in Abbotsford. Later on, they all moved to Kew.

Joseph rented stables in a back block, where a horse and jinker (2 wheeled cart) were kept for travel around Melbourne and for Joseph to travel to work. The children had a carefree childhood and played down at the Yarra River in Kew where they swam and bought ice cream from a punt on the River. They all went to school in Kew. They also went for escapades into the expansive grounds of the Kew Mental Asylum.

Clarice was a member of the Church of England. She had very strong faith as shown by a life committed to helping others and her work as missionary in New Guinea. She was Confirmed at the Holy Trinity Church in Kew Melbourne on the 5th August 1917 and her Confirmation Certificate is in the possession of her family.

Her family are very fortunate to have many Certificates of her very extensive training as a Nurse, but the oldest record dates to when Clarice was very young; nearly 12 years old. It is a Victorian Education Department Pupil’s Cookery Certificate dated 30th June, 1916. This is for a Six Month Course of Instruction in the Theory and Practice of Elementary Cookery, Richmond, Vic.

Another Certificate is the Australian Nursing Federation Certificate of Registration dated 3 October 1929 Certifying that Clarice Isobel Halligan, has been admitted to Membership of the Australian Nursing Federation as a General Nurse.

Clarice trained at the The Melbourne Hospital and Women’s Hospital Melbourne (combined training school for Nurses). The family have a Certificate dated 3rd October, 1927 certifying that Clarice Isobel Halligan had been trained at these Hospitals for three and a half years in Medical, Surgical and Nursing and six months in Midwifery.

There is also a Record of Service dated 5th June 1928 from the Lady Superintendent of Royal Melbourne Hospital recording that Clarice worked for three and a half years at this hospital in various men’s and women’s, medical, surgical, isolation, eye, ear, nose and throat wards, on day and night duty, in the casualty and out-patient department and in the operating theatres. She also worked in the gynaecological wards at the Women’s hospital. Clarice clearly had much experience.

Other qualifications included

(1) Training in Mothercraft and Infant Welfare required by the Victorian Baby Health Centres Association, qualifying her to take charge of a Baby Health Centre.

(2) Special course of training in Infant Welfare Nursing.

(3) Registration as a Midwife by the Nurses’ Board of South Australia

In 1934 Clarice went to Papua New Guinea as a Missionary and kept a diary but unfortunately only one now remains in the possession of the family. Paper was obviously in short supply in New Guinea and this diary was written in pencil on her brother’s school work book. It is assumed by her family that she may have written many diaries that were mistakenly thrown out by relatives who did not know that diaries were hidden in between school work. The diary starts with DOGURA, PAPUA NEW GUINEA - 31.07.1934 (DIARY and says

“As you probably know I am one of the newer missionaries, having landed in Papua on the last day of July, 1934……”

From Clarice’s Niece Lorraine Curtis “There are five pages in total of this diary and I am more than happy to send copies to anyone who had relatives living over there. (Lorraine Curtis – [email protected])

From stories related by relatives, Clarice worked in Melbourne for the Grey Sisters, an Order of Anglican Sisters who looked after poor people in Abbotsford. She then went to Neerim South as the Matron of the local hospital, where her parents went to meet the Doctor who was thinking of marrying Clarice. But for one reason or another Clarice’s parents deemed him unsuitable for marriage to their daughter. Something was wrong with his foot; maybe what used to be called a “club foot”!

According to her Record of Service Clarice joined the Australian General Hospital on 20 December 1940 and was allocated to the 7 AGH. She immediately went on leave without pay and returned to duty on 31 January 1941 and was the attached to the Camp Hospital at Seymour Victoria.

On the 11 July 1940 she enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service at the Australian Army Medical Corp Depot in William St Melbourne. She sailed on the 30 July 1941 and disembarked at Singapore on the 14 August 19/41. Clarice had wanted to go to the Middle East but ended up in Malaya. Initially Clarice was seconded with 10 other Nurse to the 2/10th Australian General Hospital at Malacca in Malaya.

Clarice returned to the 2/13th Australian General Hospital that was initially located at St Patrick's School on Singapore Island. Between 21-23 November 1941 the entire hospital was moved across the Straits to Tampoi Hill on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. Due however, to the swift progress of the Japanese invasion force, most of the hospital staff was evacuated back to Singapore in late January 1942.

With the 65 other Australian Nurses Clarice was on board the SS Vyner Brooke when it was bombed by the Japanese and sunk on 14 February 1942. Clarice was badly injured by a bomb blast at the same time as Rosetta Wight and both

“ … suffered deep shrapnel wounds to the back of their thighs and buttocks, wounds that penetrated to the bone …. Partially in shock and bleeding profusely, both women were unable to move …”(p.153, On Radji Beach).

Fellow nurses helped her up to the deck and into what would be the second lifeboat to be launched. This lifeboat however overturned as it hit the sea and throwing out most of its passengers out ( p.160, On Radji Beach). Nevertheless, Clarice managed to hold onto the upturned craft. She must have been in excruciating pain for many hours before the sea currents eventually washed the upturned lifeboat and its survivors ashore at one end of Radji.

Clarice's wounds, whilst bad, were apparently not quite as severe as those of the other two wounded nurses and she was “… able to walk and simply needed some stitching and some medication to be guaranteed a full recovery …” ( p.199-200, On Radji Beach). But there is no doubt that she would have been in agony as she managed to make the journey along the coast to where the first lifeboat had lit a bonfire.

Clarice would have been in real pain during the next two days until the time the Japanese troops arrived at Radji beach. The soldiers proceeded to execute firstly the officers and serviceman and then the crew and civilian men on the beach before in an unbelievable act of totally senseless brutality they lined up the nurses near the waters edge. Clare and the other wounded nurses were on the left of the line facing out to sea. The soldiers opened fire with their machine gun.

Thus ended the life of a woman in the prime of life who had been dedicated to caring for others in pain and suffering.

One the final entries on Clarice’s Offical Record states

“Deceased whilst POW. Executed by Japanese”

An example of the impact on families of the uncertainty of their loved one’s fate can be seen in letters on Clarice’s file and her Officiers Record of Service at the Australian War Memorial Canberra. Clarice died in February 1942 and it was not until September/October 1945 that her death could be really confirmed, following the release of the surviving 24 Nurses from captivity as POWs. Prior to that the Nurses were ‘presumed killed’ which still gave their families some hope that they were alive.

On 2 September 1944 Clarice’s mother wrote to the Army for “a Certificate, or otherwise a statement of authortity” to enable her to sell Clarice’s car. Further correspondance followed and the Army thought her mother wanted a Death Certificate. But her mother wrote on 28 September that

“We don’t wish to apply for a Certificate of Death …… we still have some hope that our daughter may still be alive.”

How sad are those words and any slender hope would be shattered 12 months later.

Undoubtedly, similar sentiments were being experienced by the families of the other 41 Nurses from the SS Vyner Brooke who died during or after the sinking, were executed on Radji Beach, or died whilst a Prisoner of War of the Japanese. And we should not forget the anguish and uncertainty of the familes of the Nurses who did return home.

Principal Sources

(1) Letter from Clarice to her parents, written shortly after the war started.
- My story of Aunt Clarice Isobel Halligan by her Niece Lorraine Curtis
- On Radji Beach by Ian Shaw
- Michael Pether Researcher and Historian Auckland New Zealand
- Public records