The inaugural Ex-POW&RA Memorial Service was held on Wednesday 2nd September at the Nurses Memorial Centre, located at 431 St Kilda Road, Melbourne.
The service was conducted by the Associations Chaplain, Reverend Bryan Nicholls, and attended by around fifty people.
The choice of venue was most appropriate as it has a close connection with the Ex-Prisoners of War. The history of the World War 2 evacuation of the nurses from Singapore, sinking of the Vyner Brook, Bangka Island and the death toll of the nurses involved in these and other arenas of war are well known within the Australian war history. The nurses suffered horrendous conditions of captivity. Following their return to Australia and after regaining their health, Betty Jeffrey, Vivian Bullwinkle and Wilma Oram Young, all of whom were members of the Victorian branch of the Ex-Prisoners of War, with others, travelled around Australia raising funds for a memorial to the nurses who had died in all wars. This building is that memorial.
Most of those attending the service had brought a photograph of their loved one and placed it on a tale at the front of the room. During the service, each person was given an opportunity to place a piece of rosemary tied to a small card featuring the Ex-POW badge and the words 'Lest We Forget' in front of their photograph. The Honour Roll was also placed on the table.
Following the lighting of four candles representing grief, courage, memory and love, Rev Nicholls spoke about each of these in turn. He went on to liken life to a train journey with passengers getting on the train and entering a carriage where there was someone they knew and they were able to sit together and enjoy some time together. Further along, someone else they knew might come and join them. Some people stayed together for a long time and some for only a small time. The quality of time that you spend together is the important part of the relationship rather than the length.
Following the poem 'We Will Remember You' and a Blessing, we listened to a stirring piece of music that combined Psalm 23 and the Last Post. The afternoon concluded with a cup of tea and a lot of shared memories.