Each afternoon at 4.55pm, the Australian War Memorial holds a Last Post Ceremony to commemorate the story of an individual on their Honour Roll.
The 2021 Ceremonies — which have been altered to ensure attendees COVID-19 safety — will honour two nurses who served in the Second World War. Captain Pauline Blanche Hempsted ceremony will be held on 26 January and Sister Rosetta Joan Wight’s on February 16, the 79th anniversary of the Banka Island Massacre. Those who are unable to attend the Ceremonies can watch the live stream on the Australian War Memorial’s Facebook page.
Captain Pauline Hempsted
Captain Pauline Hempsted served at the 2/13th Australian General Hospital in Singapore. As Japanese forces approached, she and her nursing colleagues were evacuated on the SS Vyner Brooke. The ship was sunk bombed by the Japanese and Captain Hempsted was one of 32 nurses who were captured and place in a Prisoner of War Camp. Sadly, she passed away of illness aged 36 at Muntok prison camp on 19 March 1945, shortly before the war ended (Virtual Australian War Memoria, 2021).
Captain Hempsted will be honoured at the Last Post Ceremony on 26 January 2021.
Lest we forget.
Sister Rosetta Wight
Sister Rosetta Wight was born in Regional Victoria and completed her nursing training in Bendigo. She enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service in 1941 and served at the 2/13th Australian General Hospital in Singapore (Virtual Australian War Memorial, 2021).
Like Captain Hempsted, Sister Wight left Singapore on the SS Vyner Brooke. However, she was one of 22 nurses who washed upon Radji Beach on Banka Island off Sumatra. The group were brutally machine-gunned to death as they were forced to walk into the sea by the Japanese in what is now known as the Banka Island Massacre; with Vivian Bullwinkel the sole survivor.
According to reports, Sister Wight was badly injured in the bombing on the SS Vyner Brooke and was carried by her colleagues in her final moments (Manners, 2000).
Sister Rosetta Wight will be honoured at the Last Post Ceremony on February 16 2021; the 79th anniversary of the massacre.
Lest we forget.
Manners, N., 2000. Bullwinkel. Western Australia: Hesperian Press.
Shaw, I. (2010). On Radji Beach. 1st ed. Sydney: Pan Macmillan.
Virtual War Memorial Australia, ‘HEMPSTED, Pauline Blanche, https://vwma.org.au/explore/people/631826, accessed online 21 January 2021.
Virtual War Memorial Australia, ‘WIGHT, Rosetta Joan, https://vwma.org.au/explore/people/652259, accessed online 21 January 2021.