Kathleen Margaret NEUSS


NEUSS, Kathleen Margaret

Service Numbers: NX70527, NFX70527
Enlisted: 17 December 1940, Victoria Barracks - Sydney, NSW, Australia
Last Rank: Sister
Last Unit: 2nd/10th Australian General Hospital
Born: Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, 16 October 1911
Home Town: Cremorne, North Sydney, New South Wales
Schooling: Bannockburn Public School, Inverell High School, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation: Nurse
Died: Murdered whist a POW of the Janese, Banka Island, Netherlands East Indies, 16 February 1942, aged 30 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorial Location: Column 142, Singapore Memorial (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., Inverell Oakwood & Cherry Tree Hill WW2 Honour Roll, Kapunda Dutton Park Memorial Gardens Nurses Plaques, Launceston Banka Island Massacre, Singapore Memorial Kranji War Cemetery
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World War 2 Service

17 Dec 1940: Enlisted SN NX70527, General Hospitals - WW2
17 Dec 1940: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Staff Nurse, SN NX70527, Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1)
17 Dec 1940: Enlisted Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Staff Nurse, SN NX70527, Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Victoria Barracks - Sydney, NSW, Australia
2 Feb 1941: Embarked Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Staff Nurse, SN NX70527, 2nd/10th Australian General Hospital, Embarked Ship: 02/02/1941, "Queen Mary"; (NAA, Pg-4).
17 Dec 1941: Promoted Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Sister, 2nd/10th Australian General Hospital, Promoted: 17/12/1941, Sister; (NAA, Pg-3).
12 Feb 1942: Embarked Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Sister, SN NFX70527, 2nd/10th 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, Banka Strait (by Banka 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.

TROVE: http://nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/55465571

Showing 1 of 1 story

Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

"Guess you will be thinking I’ve gone up in smoke. There is plenty of it about”. (1)

Only 10 days later Kath Neuss was dead; killed on Radji Beach.

Sister Kathleen ‘Kath’ Margaret Neuss NFX 70527, was born on 16 October 1911 at Mollongghig near Ballarat in Victoria. Kath was the second daughter of John Henry Neuss and Mary Catherine Neuss (nee Perry). Kath’s paternal grandfather was George Neuss, a German immigrant and her maternal grandfather was Samuel Perry, a veteran of the Eureka Stockade in 1854.

In 1913, when Kath was 18 months old her parents packed all their possessions, travelled to Sydney by boat, then train to Glen Innes in northern NSW and finally by Cobb & Co coach to uncleared land her father had selected for farming about 32kms northwest of Inverell.

Life was very hard for the young family. Her father had to clear the land and build their first ‘house’ of 3 rooms with an iron roof and walls lined with hession and papered with wallpaper. The ceilings were also of hession. Their only water tank was a 500 hundred gallon tank at the side of the house. Kath’s parents called their new home “Kalimna” after the Victorian coastal town where they spent their honeymoon. All water for washing and cooking had to be carried by bucket. Kath’s elder sister Jessie (“Jess”) had also been born in Mollongghip and over the next decade another 4 siblings were born at Inverell.

Kath Neuss was initially educated at Bannockburn Public School. Her father would take Jess and Kath on a horse to school and each afternoon the girls would walk the 4 miles home. During a severe drought in 1915/16 Jess and Kath returned to Victoria for about 18 months and went schools at Mollongghig and Rocky Lead where their respective grandparents lived.

Back at “Kalimna” as the family increased a sulky was acquired which, driven by the eldest child, then took the kids to school. Often the children travelled to school by horse; two to each horse with the youngest in front.

In 1926 Kath sat and passed an examination that enabled her to go to Inverell High School in 1927 and 1928. She would board with an Inverell family during the week and then return home each weekend, travelling by horse and sulky; very tiring for a young teenager. Kath initially wanted to be a school teacher but did not pass the teachers entrance examination; a big disappointment to her. After leaving school she trained as a private nurse in Inverell and then at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, graduating as a Registered Nurse in 1939.

Kath Neuss enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service on the 6th January 1941 and was posted to the 2/10th Australian General Hospital. On 4 February the “SS Queen Mary” sailed from Sydney; destination Singapore. On board were elements of the 8th Division AIF and 51 Australian nurses, including Kath who served in Malaya and Singapore. For part of her time Kath was seconded to the 2/13th Australian General Hospital.

In a strange co-incidence, as part of the 2/13th Battalion 9th Division AIF her younger brother Bill had sailed on the “SS Queen Mary” for the Middle East on 20 October 1940. The 9th Division disembarked at Bombay in India and the “SS Queen Mary” returned to Sydney to take the nurses to Singapore. Bill's pre-embarkation leave in Sydney on 18th October was the last time Kath saw her brother, but letters from Kath in Malaya and Singapore to Bill remain. The last letter to Bill was dated 16th January 1942; exactly one month before Kath died.

Kath was a tall, fun loving and gregarious woman with brown eyes and dark hair. She had a wicked sense of humour, was full of life and her letters home from Malaya and Singapore tell of young woman enjoying her experiences overseas. The nurses had a very good social life and in many of her letters Kath talks about a very close friend Lieutenant Jock Pringle of the 2/18th Battalion. In a letter dated 2 January 1941 Kath wrote

“Jock is still at the Convalescent Depot and hating it still. He too had a move on Monday. I spoke to him on Sunday evening and he was very miserable. Said the medical unit were worse than the police to get out of their clutches. Said they were acting as though it was a concentration camp”.

In a very sad and tragic irony both Kath and Jock were executed by the Japanese, exactly one week apart; Jock on Singapore Island after he surrendered to the Japanese when his composite unit was overrun on 9th February and Kath at Radji Beach on the 16th February.

Kath wrote many letters and about 20 remain and these give a terrific insight into Kath. They almost ‘bring her alive’. In a letter dated 5 October 1941 Kath compared the airforce people with the slog of the soldiers

‘The RAAF are entirely different to the AIF. Most of them have been here over 12 months and most of the time in Singapore which is certainly a very artificial city. And naturally they adopt some of its atmosphere and some of its eastern flourish. The right wine with right soup and the right soup with the right fish and at the right time, to say nothing of a spray of flowers to act as a guide to your place. And their ability to guide you onto the rarest dishes is as though they have been used to it for years. Their conversation is rare though as they want to live very much for every moment. One lad I met was being instructed to fly a Hudson and his instructor was in the party. The instructor said that when you flew with ‘Jeep the learner’ he always felt that the “Grim Reaper” was in the cockpit. “No” said Jeep “there's Lady Luck there too, ready to seduce the Grim Reaper”.

‘Rather a naughty story, but subtle I thought. They are bright lads and never let the show have a dull moment. One lad, I’ll never forget him, ordered an Emu for dinner. The poor waiter unabashed said “We haven't one Sir”. “Well” said Jacko “you should have one”. He said “Sorry sir we did have one but it's all used” and went on with his job.”

She was missing out on a lot of weddings of her friends in Australia and on 2 November 1941 she wrote

“Can’t bear to think of many more weddings over there without me being present. You had better wait or there will be a fuss”.

In the same letter Kath wrote

“Had a very gay weekend. The Air Force lads who passed through here the previous weekend on the way to Frasers Hill arrived back on Thursday. Bleating that it was too lonely up there. So Pat and I had the job of comforting them.”

At the time of boarding the “SS Vyner Brooke” Kath was aged 31. Along with Winnie May Davis and her very close friend Pat Gunther, she was ordered amongst the various duties of the Australian Army nurses on board, to be responsible for the forward part of the ship (On Radji Beach P148). When the ship was bombed she “… received a nasty shrapnel wound from the bomb that hit aft. Struck in the left hip, she struggled to walk and had to be helped onto the deck by Wilma and Mona…” (ORB, p.154).

When the time came for evacuating the ship and the second lifeboat was being filled with the elderly, mothers and children and the more seriously wounded nurses, Kath Neuss had to be practically carried all the way into the lifeboat (ORB P159). Pat Gunther gave her tin hat to Kath ‘in case she needed to bail water from the lifeboat, saying, ‘we’ll see you on shore’. (Portrait of a Nurse P21) Kath gave her life jacket to Pat. The rest is history; Pat survived as a POW.

Presumably landing on Radji Beach in the lifeboat, Kath was definitely executed by the Japanese on the beach along with the other Australian Army Nurses. Whether she was amongst those told to walk into the water and killed or whether she was amongst the wounded on stretchers brutally bayoneted to death is unclear. She is remembered on the Inverell Roll of Honour and a tree is planted at the RSL branch in Inverell in her memory.

On 7 April 2018 the story of Kath Neuss will be featured in the Last Post Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial.

Principal sources


(1) Letter dated 6 February 1942 from Kath to her sister Jessie (“Jess”)
Family sources and letters from Kath
Public records
On Radji Beach by Ian Shaw
Portrait of a Nurse by Pat Gunt