The One Day of the Year: Speech by The Hon. Lynda Voltz MLC

Extracted from “ANZAC Day” Debate, NSW, Parliamentary Debates Legislative Council, 4 April 2012, commencing p. 10593 and annotated as applicable

The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ [11.23 a.m.]: I thank the Hon. Charlie Lynn for moving this motion and for giving us the opportunity to acknowledge Anzac Day. I acknowledge the service of those men and women who are currently involved in Australia’s longest war, Afghanistan, fighting on behalf of the Australian people now, as they have over the past decade. This is the seventieth anniversary of the war in the Pacific. I want to first acknowledge the passing of one of the legends of the Royal Australian Nursing Corps and its highest ever female ranking officer.

Born in 1916, Perditla Marjorie McCarthy’s life spanned almost a century. “Ditta” McCarthy, of Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, died peacefully in her sleep on 10 March after a long battle with failing health. She was 96 years old. Ditta trained at the Sydney Hospital, graduating in 1939. She served with the Second Australian Imperial Force [AIF] as a member of the Australian Army Nursing Service which later became the Royal Australian Army Nursing Service, and then the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps. She saw considerable overseas service spanning several conflicts, initially in Papua New Guinea during the Second World War, then with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, on to Korea, then Malaya, and finally Vietnam. She later wrote of her time spent nursing the wounded at the British Commonwealth Occupation Force General Hospital at Kure in Japan during the Korean War in 1950:


The real horrors of the Korean War were “brought home” to me when I was allocated for duty in the Burns Ward of the BRITCOM Hospital. Many were bandaged from head to foot, with only slits for their eyes and mouths, and obviously in great pain, which we attempted to alleviate with what “pain killers” were available at the time. Rarely—if ever—did they complain. Their youthful eyes would “light up” as we bent over them to dress their wounds or to apply medication. Their eyes also revealed their suffering and pain, their stoicism under such traumas had to be witnessed to be believed. As we approached the Burns Ward, to report for duty, the stench from putrefying flesh was overpowering, the memory of which remains with me to this day.

In 1953 Ditta was posted to the British Commonwealth Communications Zone Medical Unit which was located in a suburb on the outskirts of Seoul in Korea. The hospital was in a bombed out, two-storey school building, and the nurses lived and worked under spartan conditions, with no fresh running water and few personal comforts. Ditta recalled the initial opposition and resentment the women experienced in what had formerly been perceived as a male domain so close to “the front”. She wrote:


There were some very heated verbal confrontations and even the ”pulling of rank”, which is virtually unknown in Nursing Corps. Drastic situations demand drastic action. All we wanted to do was to nurse and care for our wounded. All problems were eventually resolved and we slowly became accepted as an integral part of the “team”.

Despite the lack of facilities and equipment, Matron McCarthy and her nurses determined that their hospital would be the cleanest, most hygienic, germ-free and bacteria-free establishment in Korea. This entailed the continual scrubbing and washing down of floors, walls, beds, et cetera, with what soap, detergents and antiseptics they could beg, borrow or steal. Ditta believed that humour was the element that allowed them to retain their sanity. It came from the staff and from the patients, who despite serious wounds, would continually tell jokes and take the micky out of their fellow diggers and officers. Truly that is an Australian example of our soldiers.

With a long and distinguished career as a military nurse, McCarthy held many appointments, her last being as Matron-in-Chief of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps. Before her retirement she was promoted to brigadier, the only nursing officer to reach such a rank. She was awarded the Associate Royal Red Cross in 1954 and the Royal Red Cross in 1972 for her dedication and service to nursing. Never one to remain idle for long, McCarthy kept busy for many years in her retirement working as a volunteer at the Army Museum in Victoria Barracks, Sydney. She was also responsible for the research and writing of several biographies of colleagues and predecessors from the Army nursing fraternity. Brigadier Perditta McCarthy served the Army with distinction.

“Perditta McCarthy: A remarkable lady, with an indomitable spirit and a wonderful sense of humour”, Blog post on Australian War Memorial site, by Robyn Siers, dated 12 March 2012:

Born in 1916, Perditta Marjorie McCarthy’s life spanned almost a century. “Ditta” McCarthy, of Wagga Wagga, NSW, died peacefully in her sleep last weekend on 10 March after a long battle with failing health. She was 96. The Royal Australian Army Nursing Service has lost its highest ranking officer.

McCarthy trained at the Sydney Hospital, graduating in 1939. She served with the Second AIF as a member of the Australian Army Nursing Service which later became the Royal Australian Army Nursing Service, and then the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps (RAANC). She saw considerable overseas service spanning several conflicts, initially in Papua New Guinea during the Second World War, then with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, on to Korea, then Malaya, and finally Vietnam.

McCarthy later wrote of her time spent nursing the wounded at the BCOF General Hospital at Kure in Japan during the Korean War in 1950:

The real horrors of the Korean War were “brought home” to me when I was allocated for duty in the Burns Ward of the BRITCOM Hospital … Many were bandaged from head to foot, with only slits for their eyes and mouths, and obviously in great pain, which we attempted to alleviate with what “pain killers” were available at the time. Rarely – if ever – did they complain. Their youthful eyes would “light up” as we bent over them to dress their wounds or to apply medication. Their eyes also revealed their suffering and pain, their stoicism under such traumas had to be witnessed to be believed. As we approached the Burns Ward, to report for duty, the stench from putrefying flesh was overpowering, the memory of which remains with me to this day.

In 1953, McCarthy was posted to the British Commonwealth Communications Zone Medical Unit (BCCZMU) which was located in a suburb on the outskirts of Seoul in Korea. The hospital was in a bombed out, two storey school building, and the nurses lived and worked under Spartan conditions, with no fresh running water and few personal comforts. McCarthy recalled the initial opposition and resentment the women experienced in what had formerly been perceived as a male domain so close to “the front”.

There were some very heated verbal confrontations and even the “pulling of rank”, which is virtually unknown in Nursing Corps. Drastic situations demand drastic action. All we wanted to do was to nurse and care for our wounded. All problems were eventually resolved and we slowly became accepted as an integral part of the “team”.

Despite the lack of facilities and equipment, Matron McCarthy and her nurses determined that their “hospital” would be “the cleanest, most hygienic, germ and bacteria free establishment in Korea. This entailed the continual scrubbing and washing down of floors, walls, beds etc with what soap, detergents and antiseptics we could beg, borrow or steal.”

McCarthy believed that “humour was the element that allowed us to retain our sanity. It came from the staff and from our patients, who despite serious wounds, would continually tell jokes and take “the mickey” out of their fellow diggers and officers.”

With a long and distinguished career as a military nurse, McCarthy held many appointments, her last being as Matron-in-Chief of the RAANC. Before her retirement she was promoted to brigadier, the only nursing officer to reach such a rank. She was awarded the Associate Royal Red Cross in 1954 and the Royal Red Cross in 1972 for her dedication and service to nursing.

Never one to remain idle for long, McCarthy kept busy for many years in her retirement working as a volunteer at the Army Museum in Victoria Barracks, Sydney. She was also responsible for the research and writing of several biographies of colleagues and predecessors from the Army nursing fraternity.

Of the late Brigadier Perditta McCarthy it can genuinely be said that “she served the Army with distinction.”

Voltz:

I refer to the Korean prisoner of war camps and the Japanese moving of Australia and British soldiers throughout those war camps. I acknowledge the work of Professor Fran De Groen for his research in regards to this event that I have used in my contribution.

On 4 March 1942, only three weeks after the fall of Singapore, the Commander of the Korean Army, General Seishiro Itagaki, sent a telegram to the Japanese War Ministry requesting 2,000 white prisoners of war—half British, half American—to be sent to Korea.


The purpose of this draft of prisoners was to “stamp out respect and admiration of the Korean people for Britain and America”, while at the same time “establishing in them a strong faith” in a Japanese victory in the war. The ministry’s speedy reply agreed to the request but reduced the number of white prisoners to 1,000, ordering them to be sent to Fusan. Later in March, Itagaki further discussed with Tojo the psychological purposes to be served by the prisoners, expressing the view that, despite more than 35 years of Japanese hegemony, deep down the bulk of the Korean population retained a strong attachment to Europe and America.

“Prisoners on parade : Japan Party “B”” Presentation to Australian War Memorial 2002 Conference – “Remembering 1942”, by Fran de Groen and Helen Masterman-Smith (hereafter “de Groen and Masterman-Smith”):

On 4 March 1942, only three weeks after the Fall of Singapore, the Commander of the Korean Army, General Seishiro Itagaki9 sent a telegram to the Japanese War Ministry requesting 2,000 white prisoners of war (half British, half American) to be sent to Korea. The purpose of this draft of prisoners was to “stamp out respect and admiration of the Korean people for Britain and America”, while at the same time “establishing in them a strong faith” in a Japanese victory in the war. The War Ministry’s speedy reply agreed to the request but reduced the number of white prisoners to 1,000, ordering them to be sent to Fusan.10 Later in March, Itagaki further discussed with Tojo the psychological purposes to be served by the prisoners, expressing the view that, despite more than thirty five years of Japanese hegemony, “deep down” the bulk of the Korean population retained a strong attachment to Europe and America.

Voltz:

Even had they been told where they were headed, very few members of Japanese B party would have known anything about the Hermit Kingdom because not much was known about it. For 30 years, the Japanese had governed Korea for the benefit of Japan, settling Japanese immigrants there to industrialise the frontier province and to export the profits back to the home islands. The mobilisation of Korea in the interests of Japanese war aims affected the entire society. Under Governor General Minami, the Japanese policy of assimilating other races into Nippon entailed the complete eradication of Korean culture and language and their replacement by Japanese language, education and religion. Korean labour was imported to man coalmines and factories in Japan and increasingly recruited for strongarm work in the lower ranks of the Kempeitai, which was the Japanese secret military police. Korean women were abducted and forced into sexual slavery to comfort Japanese front-line soldiers.

de Groen and Masterman-Smith

Even had they been told where they were headed, very few members of the Japan “B” party would have known anything about Korea, (or Chosen, as it was called by the Japanese). British and Australian ignorance about the “hermit kingdom” was profound.11 This was not surprising. Under Japanese colonial rule Korea was virtually a police state. For thirty years, the Japanese had governed Korea for the benefit of Japan, settling Japanese immigrants there to industrialize the “frontier” province and to export the profits back to the home islands. From 1937, the Japanese had squeezed out foreign companies including American and Dutch petroleum interests and were intensifying development of heavy war-related industries. The mobilization of Korea in the interests of Japanese war aims affected the entire society. Under Governor General Minami, the Japanese policy of assimilating other races “into Nippon” entailed the complete eradication of Korean culture and language and their replacement by Japanese language, education and religion. A secret report promulgated during 1942–43 on Japan’s relations with her colonial peoples described Koreans and Formosans in racist terms as being especially suited to carrying out the heavy physical work of a protracted war.12 Korean labour was imported to man coal-mines and factories in Japan and increasingly recruited for “strong-arm” work in the lower ranks of the Kempeitai (Japanese “secret” military police). Korean women were abducted and forced into sexual slavery to “comfort” Japanese front-line soldiers.

Voltz:

In the context of the Pacific theatre, Korea was the engine room of the Japanese war effort and, even more crucially than Manchuria, the gateway to China where the bulk of her armies were engaged. As early as February 1942, Japanese military strategists were confronting the build-up of United States retaliation.

de Groen and Masterman-Smith:

In the context of the Pacific theatre, Korea was the engine room of the Japanese war effort and, even more crucially than Manchuria, the gateway to China where the bulk of her armies were engaged.16 As early as February 1942, Japanese military strategists were confronting the build-up of US retaliation.

Voltz:

It took another four months before Itagaki’s plan to use white captives as psychological weapons in Korea was implemented. During this time the Japanese military advance overran South-East Asia, acquiring unexpectedly vast numbers of prisoners of war while at the same time facing the realisation that the tide of war was turning in favour of the Allies. These circumstances, which involved the considerable cost of feeding and accommodating prisoners and defending occupied territories while advancing into China and India, led to oppressive developments in Japanese prisoner of war policy. For example, in April, partly in response to the Doolittle Raid, Tojo announced his “no work, no food” principle for prisoners.


On 25 June, a few weeks after the crucial battle of Midway established the United States’ naval supremacy, Tojo urged a conference of north-east Asian prisoner of war camp superintendents to treat prisoners of war in their charge “so as to make the local populace appreciative of Japanese superior qualities and cognizant of the unique privilege and honour which they enjoy as subjects of His Gracious Majesty”. It was primarily for this latter purpose that the order to raise A Party and B Party was communicated to the commander of the 25th Army in Malaya, who in turn passed it to the captured Malaya Command in Changi in mid-July.

de Groen and Masterman-Smith:

It took another four months before Itagaki’s plan to use white captives as psychological weapons in Korea was implemented, though the reasons for the delay are unclear. During this time, the Japanese military advance overran South-east Asia, acquiring unexpectedly vast numbers of prisoners-of-war while at the same time facing the unpalatable realisation that the tide of warfare was turning in favour of the Allies. These circumstances, which involved the considerable cost of feeding and accommodating prisoners and defending occupied territories while advancing into China and India, led to oppressive developments in Japanese prisoner of war policy. In April, for example, partly in response to the Doolittle Raid, Tojo announced his “no work, no food” principle for prisoners. On 25 June, a few weeks after the crucial battle of Midway established US naval supremacy, he urged a conference of north-east Asian prisoner-of-war camp superintendents to treat prisoners of war in their charge “so as to make the local populace … appreciative of Japanese superior qualities and cognizant of the unique privilege and honour which they enjoy as subjects of His Gracious Majesty.”18

It was primarily for this latter purpose that the order to raise Japan Parties “A” and “B” was communicated to the Commander of the 25th Army in Malaya, Lt General Tatsumi Kusaba, who in turn passed it to the captured Malaya Command in Changi in mid-July.

Voltz:

Under a misapprehension that there were swarms of high-ranking allied military personnel in captivity, the Japanese demand for white prisoners increased to 3,300—a total impossible to meet, given the reduced numbers of fit prisoners left at Changi. After much negotiation and revision of the required total, nominal rolls were posted on 16 July. The A Party, later known as the Special Party or Senior Officers Party, numbered only 400. The 1,000-strong B Party, sometimes called the working party, was largely made up of the surviving members of the 2nd Battalion Loyal Lancashire Regiment and the Yorkshire-based 122nd Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, with the remaining places filled by odds and sods from various British and Australian Imperial Force units.

After consultation with their junior staff, the commanding officers of the 2nd Loyals and the 122nd Field Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Elrington and Colonel John Dyson, volunteered for the Japan Party to keep their units intact. In contrast, the Australian Imperial Force contingent had only six junior officers and 34 non-commissioned officers, 52 privates and a Red Cross representative assigned the rank of captain by the Japanese. It was a very diverse and scattered group, consisting of 93 men from every State of the Commonwealth and representing personnel from more than 20 separate predominantly attached military units, the most numerous group coming from the Pay Corps.

de Groen and Masterman-Smith:

Under a misapprehension that there were swarms of high-ranking Allied military personnel in captivity, the Japanese demand for white prisoners now increased to 3,300, a total impossible to meet, given the reduced numbers of fit prisoners left at Changi.19 After much negotiation and revision of the required total, nominal rolls were posted on 16 July. The “A” Party, later known as the “Special Party” or Senior Officers Party, comprising senior Malayan and NEI government officials, plus British, Dutch and Australian officers with the rank of full colonel and above, and engineers and technicians, numbered only 400. The 1,000-strong “B” Party (sometimes called the working party), was largely made up of the surviving members of the 2th Battalion Loyal Lancashire Regiment and the Yorkshire-based 122 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, with the remaining places filled by “odds and sods” from various British and AIF units. After consultation with their junior staff, the commanding officers of the 2nd Loyals and the 122nd Field Regiment, Lt Col. Michael Elrington and Col. John Dyson respectively, had volunteered for the Japan Party for several reasons, most importantly to keep their units intact and to escape the tropics. Both were decorated career officers, Elrington having won a Distinguished Service Order and Military Cross in the Malayan Campaign and Dyson a Military Cross and they had the confidence and cooperation of their men. In contrast, the AIF contingent had only six junior officers and 34 NCOs, 52 privates and a Red Cross Representative assigned the rank of captain by the Japanese. It was a very diverse and scattered group, consisting of 93 men from every state of the Commonwealth and representing personnel from more than 20 separate predominantly “attached” military units, the most numerous group coming from the Pay Corps.20 

Voltz:

Of the six Australian officers, only one, Captain Wilf Fawcett, 8th Division Signals, was a field officer and he was under 30 years of age. Captain Desmond Brennan, a doctor, and Lieutenant Gilbert Hamilton, were from the 23rd Mobile Ambulance Corps. The other officers, more senior in years if not rank, were from Army administration. Captain Herb Geldard, a liaison officer attached to British Army Headquarters, was the oldest but had not been under fire. Lieutenant Ronald Mill of the Australian Army Pay Corps had been promoted from the ranks, while Captain Hugh Frazer had served in the 8th Division Depot Pay Office. For this reason, although being technically the senior officer, Captain Geldard conceded leadership of the Australians to Captain Fawcett. Therefore, the Australian leadership in comparison with the British leadership as well as being numerically in the minority, was junior, non-combatant, to a degree ad hoc and, initially at least, unfamiliar to most of the men they led. These facts had a bearing on the subsequent captivity experiences of the group.

de Groen and Masterman-Smith:

Of the six Australian officers, only one, Capt Wilf Fawcett, 8th Div Signals, was a field officer and he was under thirty years of age. Capt Desmond Brennan, a doctor and Lt Gilbert Hamilton, were from the 2/3rd Mobile Ambulance Corps. The other officers, more senior in years if not rank, were from army administration. Capt Herb Geldard, a liaison officer attached to British Army Headquarters was the oldest but had not been under fire. Lt Ronald Mill of the Australian Army Pay Corps had been promoted from the ranks, while Capt Hugh Frazer had served in the 8th Div Depot Pay Office. For this reason, although being technically the senior officer, Capt Geldard conceded leadership of the Australians to Capt Fawcett.21 The Australian leadership in comparison therefore with the British, as well as being numerically in the minority, was “junior”, non-combatant, to a degree “ad hoc” and, initially at least, unfamiliar to most of the men they led. These facts had a bearing on the subsequent captivity experiences of the group and may also have led to the conflicting evaluations of the severity of captivity in Korean camps that are evident when the officers’ war crimes statements are compared with those of the “men”.

Voltz:

On 20 July, the A and B parties assembled on the artillery square for medical inspections, including the memorable but futile glass rod test. The male members in the Chamber may cringe at the description, but it involved the collection of rectal smears by means of a glass slide inserted into the anus to detect intestinal infection. These inspections had been insisted upon by Tokyo to prevent carriers of dysentery and other diseases entering Japan and were administered by Japanese medical orderlies to the prisoners in strict order of rank. The glass rod test had a levelling effect, causing embarrassment to the higher ranks and mirth to those below. It was vividly recalled by all who underwent it. Privates, sergeant majors, brigadiers, generals and even the governor of the Straits Settlements had to drop their shorts in the open square, bow to Japanese medical regulations and receive the sleek glass rod.

de Groen and Masterman-Smith:

On 20 July, the “A” and “B” parties assembled on the Artillery Square for medical inspections, including the memorable but futile “glass rod” test, which involved the collection of rectal smears by means of a glass slide inserted into the anus to detect intestinal infection. These inspections had been insisted upon by Tokyo to prevent carriers of dysentery and other diseases entering Japan and were administered by Japanese medical orderlies to the prisoners in strict order of rank. The “glass rod” test had a levelling effect, causing embarrassment to the higher ranks and mirth to those below22 and was vividly recalled by all who underwent it. “[P]rivates, sergeant majors, brigadiers and generals, even the governor of the Straits Settlements had to drop their shorts in the open square, bow to Japanese medical regulations with the rest of us and receive the sleek glass rod. (What did Gloria d’Earie, the female impersonator (aka Bdr Arthur Butler, 122nd Fld Regt) say when he received the glass rod? Ah! Ecstasy!”23

Voltz:

On 14 August the Japan parties were again mustered for a bungled repeat of the glass rod test and the troops boarded theElistor Maru.

They then boarded the Fukkai Maru, a run-down, 3,821-ton cargo ship converted into a troop carrier. However, it proved impossible to fit the full complement of 1,400 troops into the four available holds. After much argument, the Japanese acknowledged the problem and ordered the A Party to embark on a different vessel. The Australian Imperial Force were assigned No. 4 or D hold with 108 Loyals. They occupied a space measuring 20 yards by 15 yards on two tiers that were covered with thin straw matting. That equated to a space of six feet by two feet for each man. They could not stand up or kneel; they could only sit, lie or crawl. The crowded, vermin-infested conditions endured by the prisoners on the Fukkai Maru were typical of other Japanese prisoner of war transports and made mockery of the elaborate disinfection procedures undertaken prior to boarding. For many in the B Party the 40-day voyage would be their worst memory of captivity.

de Groen and Masterman-Smith:

Suddenly, on 14 August, the Japan parties were again mustered for a bungled repeat of the glass rod test. Two days later, both groups were trucked to Keppel Harbour where they boarded the Elistor Maru, stripped naked, placed their clothing in a bag for steam-fumigation and filed into a hot chemical bath, like sheep going through a sheep-dip. Having retrieved their de-loused clothing, they reassembled on the dirty wharf prior to embarking on the Fukkai Maru (see below, Figure 1), a rundown 3,821-ton cargo boat converted into a troop-carrier, its name the source of much ribald commentary.25 It proved impossible, however, to fit the full complement of 1,400 into the four available “holds” (actually “tween-decks” space divided into two tiers above a cargo of bauxite) as shown in Figure 1. After much argument, the Japanese acknowledged the problem and ordered the “A” Party to embark on a different vessel.26 The AIF were assigned no. 4 or “D”-hold with 108 Loyals. They occupied a space of 20 x 15 yards [60’ x 45’] on two tiers covered with thin straw matting giving a space of 6′ x 2′ per man in which they could not stand or kneel but only sit, lie or crawl. The crowded, vermin-infested conditions endured by the prisoners on the Fukkai Maru were typical of other Japanese prisoner of war transports and made a mockery of the elaborate disinfection procedures prior to boarding. For many in the “B” Party prisoner of wars the 40-day voyage would be their worst memory of captivity.27

Voltz:

The Fukkai Maru sailed from Singapore and reached Cap St Jacques in French Indo-China on 22 August. The A or Special Party disembarked and were paraded as war booty to the local population. The B party spent the next two weeks unloading the Fukkai Maru‘s 4,000-ton cargo of Malayan bauxite and reloading her with rice.

de Groen and Masterman-Smith:

The Fukkai Maru sailed from Singapore on 18 August, reaching Cap St Jacques in French Indo-China, on 22 August (see Figure 2). On 29 August they tied up in Takao Harbour in Formosa where the “A” or “Special” Party who disembarked there the next day were paraded as war booty to the local population.29 The Japan “B” party spent the next two weeks unloading the Fukkai Maru’s 4,000-ton cargo of Malayan bauxite, reloading her with rice and carrying out various war-related tasks on shore including moving stores in the Naval depot, chipping the bottoms of armoured launches and coal-heaving.30 

Voltz:

By 22 September, when the Fukkai Maru anchored in Fusan Bay, most of the prisoners were suffering from diarrhoea and beri-beri, and more than 20 had contracted dysentery. The Japanese guards split the prisoners into two groups and they were force marched through Fusan.

de Groen and Masterman-Smith:

By 22 September, when the Fukkai Maru anchored in Fusan Bay, most of the prisoners were suffering from diarrhoea and beri-beri.33 More than twenty had contracted dysentery. Frantic Japanese medical teams took the serious dysentery cases ashore to the local military hospital. The Japanese guard now split the prisoners into two groups …

Voltz:

Unfortunately I do not have sufficient time to provide members with a complete history. Needless to say, the conditions that the Australians endured in the Keijo and Konan prison camps were horrific. In fact, the prisoners at Konan were never visited by the Red Cross. The war in the Pacific ended in 1945 and there were 551 prisoners of war in Korea, according to the Japanese Imperial Headquarters. They were liberated from the camps by Russian female soldiers.

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