Colonel Susan Neuhaus has become the first woman to deliver the Australian War Memorial’s dawn service address in Canberra, where she shared the often overlooked role of women in recent history, going all the way back to the Boer War.
Neuhaus, a surgeon, retired as a colonel in 2010 and has since been writing extensively about the role of women in the Australian Defence Force.
She shared a number of stories from history, including the one regarding 22 women who were killed after being evacuated from Singapore in WW2. They were members of the Australian Army Nursing Service.
“When their ship, the Vyner Brooke, was torpedoed in the Banka Strait, they swam through the night to the shore,” she said.
“Shortly after 10:00am, they were lined up along the beach, still in their uniforms, a red cross emblazoned into their left sleeve and at bayonet point they were ordered into the sea. They were under no illusion as to their fate.
“In those last moments before the machine guns opened fire, Matron Irene Drummond turned to her nurses with words of comfort and of courage and her words speak for a nation: ‘Chins up, girls. I’m proud of you and I love you all’.”
She spoke of seeing her own daughters leaving for Afghanistan, and that her “heart aches” for anyone who has seen loved ones go to war, some to never return home.
— NZ in Australia (@NZAustralia) April 24, 2018
“As a mother, I recall with great clarity kissing my own two daughters good-night before I left for Afghanistan, and my heart aches for all those who have farewelled loved ones to war,” said Australian Army veteran Colonel Susan Neuhaus in her Dawn Service address #AnzacDay2018 pic.twitter.com/TI3ExjXf1c
— Aust War Memorial (@AWMemorial) April 24, 2018
Adelaide General Surgeon and Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, University of Adelaide Susan Neuhaus, FRACS will provide the Dawn Service address at the Australian war Memorial in Canberra on #ANZAC Day. https://t.co/JGNyMhJz3h #RACSRemembers #LestWeForget pic.twitter.com/CNb6WOmgA2
— RACSurgeons (@RACSurgeons) April 24, 2018
Neuhaus told Fairfax Media prior to this morning’s service that she wanted to use the speech to explore our “often completely overlooked” servicewomen.
“You don’t often hear [women’s] stories because it’s often the very stereotyped narrative of the male soldier in the slouch hat and the horse that we hear about,” she said.