Image Source: Evgeny Freyer on Shutterstock
On Wednesday, 15 March 2023 at 4:45pm, the Australian War Memorial will hold a Last Post Ceremony to commemorate the life of Australian Army Nursing Service nurse Sister Nancy Harris.
Sister Harris died on 16 February 1942 as part of the Bangka Island Massacre alongside 21 of her Australian Army Nursing Service colleagues.
As part of the ongoing commitments to recognise nurses for their contributions to our history, the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) will be attending the Last Post Ceremony.
ACN CEO Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN will attend and lay a wreath to pay tribute to Sister Harris on behalf of the nursing profession.
The Last Post Ceremony is the day before the ACN Policy Summit and ACN welcomes all ACN Fellows, Members, and nurses who can attend. Registration is required through the Australian War Memorial. For those who wish to attend but are unable to visit Canberra, virtual access will be available through the War Memorial livestream.
More information about Sister Harris’ life is below.
Sister Nancy Harris
Sister Harris was born in Armidale, NSW on 15 January 1913.
After moving to North Sydney with family, she was trained as a nurse at the Royal North Shore Hospital. She later worked at The Coast Hospital before enlisting in the Army.
She was well known to be a traveller, with recorded travelling between Fiji, China and Japan.
Sister Harris enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service on 21 August 1941, and was deployed with the 2/13th Australian General Hospital.
She was one of the remaining 65 Australian Army Nursing Service nurses who were evacuated from Singapore on the SS Vyner Brooke after advancements from enemy forces. Sister Harris was one of only two nurses to have attended the ship before the evacuation.
On 16 February 1942, Sister Harris lost her life in what is now known as the Bangka Island massacre. 21 Australian Army Service Nurses and one civilian were ordered to walk into the water and machine-gunned by enemy soldiers. Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel AO, MBE, ARRC, ED, FNM, FRCNA was the only survivor.
Sister Harris was 29 when she died on Bangka Island.
There is a bust and plaque at the Royal North Shore Hospital to commemorate the life of Sister Harris. Her name is also listed on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial.
The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) Foundation, through the Bullwinkel Project, is raising funds to create new scholarships in the names of the 21 nurses who died in the Bangka Island Massacre. The scholarships will help all nurses remember their courage and stories as we support today’s nurses with access to education.