Mary Eleanor MCGLADE


MCGLADE, Mary Eleanor

Service Numbers: NFX76275, NX76275 (N101867), NX76275
Enlisted: 19 August 1941, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Last Rank: Sister
Last Unit: 2nd/13th Australian General Hospital
Born: Armidale, New South Wales, Australia, 2 July 1902
Home Town: Armidale, Armidale Dumaresq, New South Wales
Schooling: St. Ursula's Convent , New South Wales, Australia
Occupation: Nurse
Died: Murdered (POW of Japan) Bangka Island Massacre, Banka Island, Netherlands East Indies, 16 February 1942, aged 39 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorial Location: Column 142, Singapore Memorial (within Kranji War Cemetery). Roll of Honour: Wallalong, Hunter Region of New South Wales.
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, Wallalong War Memorial
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Non Warlike Service

3 Sep 1939: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Sister, SN NFX76275, NX76275 (N101867), Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1)

World War 2 Service

19 Aug 1941: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Sister, SN NFX76275, NX76275 (N101867), 2nd/13th Australian General Hospital, Malaya/Singapore
19 Aug 1941: Enlisted Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Sister, SN NFX76275, NX76275 (N101867), 2nd/13th Australian General Hospital, Sydney, NSW, Australia
19 Aug 1941: Enlisted SN NX76275, General Hospitals - WW2
12 Feb 1942: Embarked Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Sister, SN NFX76275, NX76275 (N101867), 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); 16 February 1942, Imperial Soldiers of the Japanese Forces massacred 22 Australian Nurses, and -60 in total- Australian, English Soldiers, and crew members who had survived the sinking of the SS Vyner Brooke (AWM) The Sinking of the SS Vyner Brooke.
14 Feb 1942: Imprisoned Malaya/Singapore
Date unknown: Discharged SN NX76275, General Hospitals - WW2

Help us honour Mary Eleanor McGlade's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

Sister Mary Eleanor ‘Ellie’ McGlade, NX 76275 2/13th Australian General Hospital overcame a very difficult childhood to lead a fullfulling and meaningful life in caring for others.

Ellie was born on 2 July 1902 in Armidale in the New England area of country NSW, to Francis Aloysius and Agnes Beatrice McGlade. Soon after her birth her mother passed away. It seems that she died for post natal reasons as in later life Ellie “… specialised in an area that would perhaps allow her to help young mothers in a way that her mother had not been helped …” (On Radji Beach, p.45).

Ellie was orphaned when only 3 after her father passed away in 1905. She went to live with her aunt Mrs Walter Scott of Wallalong near Maitland in the Hunter Valley area of NSW and Mrs Scott became her guardian. From her pre-school years Ellie “… attended St Ursula’s Convent in Armidale NSW as a boarder, at first sleeping in a cot beside Mother Berchman’s bed”.

St Ursula’s was founded in 1882 by a group of exiled Usuline nuns from Daderstadt in Germany. Operating as a boarding and day school for girls, St Ursula’s was owned and operated by the Usuline nuns until the mid 1970s. The magnificent Convent Chapel, for which Ellie donated the Crucifix was opened in 1930 (see later).

As she grew older St Ursula’s became a beloved childhood home for Ellie with which she stayed strongly connected for the rest of her life. When completing her Intermediate Certificate in 1920 she won prizes for singing, violin, piano, and Christian doctrine and had already begun to care for girls who fell ill.

The School report of 1921 noted that ‘owing to the kind solicitude of their College Infirmarian no one has a chance to get seriously ill before she is reported and nursed back to normal by the indefatigable Ellie’. On leaving school Ellie visited relatives in Scotland and Ireland, returning to begin training as a nurse at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.

Ellie graduated in 1927 with Certificates in General Nursing, Cooking and Dispensing and became a Mothercraft nurse in the Hunter Valley. McGlade often visited St Ursula’s Convent in Armidale and was well remembered there even after she left shcool. The 1927 School magazine remembered Ellie as a’ winsome toddler… playing about with Rex, the collie, or her family of dolls’ and later ‘as a girl of amiable disposition, still loved by those who surround her … untiring and unselfish in her care of the sick…”.

Ellie appears in the 1927 and 1929 NSW Register of Nurses as Mary Eleanor McGlade of Wallalong, Hinton, so it seems that after her graduation she returned to base herself in the small town of Wallalong in the Hunter Region of NSW.

In 1930 as a young nurse Miss Ellie McGlade donated the Crucifix for the new Ursuline Convent Chapel when it was being built at Armidale (The Catholic Press, NSW, 13.2.1930). A decade later as a mature woman, good fortune at last came Ellie’s way. The Newcastle Sun on 22 February 1940 reported that a nursing sister Mrs [sic] E. McGlade “… who gave her address as Wallalong a small township north of Morpeth, where she was at the time attending one of her many cases…” won fourth prize of 300 pounds in the State Lottery.

In January 1941 McGlade enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service. Called up on the 8 August Ellie was posted to the 2/13th Australian General Hospital and she embarked for Singapore and Malaya on the Hospital Ship Wanganella, arriving in September 1941. Ellie’s her Paybook photo shows a lovely woman with an intelligent, attractive face and it also says that she had brown hair and grey eyes.

In Malaya she worked with the 2/13th AGH in Tampoi, near Johore. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the fall of Singapore became inevitable, most Australian personnel were evacuated from the island, but the 2/13th AGH remained until 12 February when they too were evacuated.

Ellie McGlade was one of 65 Australian nurses who left Singapore aboard the Vyner Brooke, but two days later the ship was bombed by the Japanese and many lives were lost. Those who could swim, or on rafts or in lifeboats made for the nearby Banka Island. It is not known how Ellie made it to Radji Beach, but there she was with her 21 other nursing friends on that fateful day on 16 February 1942.

The fact that she was brutally murdered by the Japanese troops who captured Ellie and the other AANS nurses on Radji Beach is incomprehensible to the civilised mind. With her other Nursing friends and Mrs Betteridge, a civilian women, Ellie was ordered to walk into the water where all the ladies were so cruelly executed, except for Vivian Bullwinkel, the one survivor.

Sister Ellie McGlade is commemorated on the War Memorial on the high Street, Wallalong and also on the Roll of honour at the Australian War Memorial. At the Last Post Ceremony on 12 February 2016 her photograph was displayed at the Pool of Reflection at the AWM.

The Australian War Memorial in Canberra has a collection of biographical notes relating to Ellie. The notes cover her early years at Armidale, her training at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital at Camperdown Sydney, her service with the 2/13th AGH and the events surrounding the “SS Vyner Brooke” sinking and the Radji Beach killings. There is also a newspaper cutting of a Memorial Service for Ellie whose memory continues to live on; a truly remarkable woman whose loss was widely felt.

Principal sources

- Last Post Ceremony on 12 February 2016 at the Australian War Memorial Canberra
- On Radji Beach by Ian Shaw
- Michael Pether Auckland New Zealand
- Public Records