Jean Parry served as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse in the Middle East and Egypt between 1941 and 1943.
During the Battle of El Alamein in October 1942 she worked at the 2/7th Australian General Hospital (AGH) in Buseilli. The hospital acted as a casualty clearing station for the battle. While working up to 17 hours each day, Jean and her fellow nurses witnessed firsthand the adversity faced by those who fought.
Jean still vividly recalls the condition of the patients who were brought in from the battlefield:
… of course they were straight from the battlefield with their dirty blood stained and mud stained uniforms and they were put on the beds and we then had to get them out of their dirty blood stained uniforms and sponge them, put them into clean pyjamas and get them into their beds ready for the medical officer, who was also moving around, to examine them and decide what was going to happen with them.
It was in Buseilli that Jean fell in love with Lloyd Fiske, a fellow member of the 2/7th AGH. They returned to Australia, and were married in April 1943.
Tragically, in August that year Lloyd was killed when the Royal Australian Air Force Catalina in which he and other Army medical officers were travelling crashed into the sea off Bowen, Queensland. Jean was then pregnant with their son, who was born in January 1944.
Seventy years after Lloyd’s death, in August 2013, Jean and her son attended a memorial service in Bowen to commemorate those who lost their lives in the accident. Following the service, family members were invited to lay a wreath at the crash site. The service was organised by Bowen RSL and Tourism Bowen, with support from the local community. Their efforts remind us of the connections and support the local community often provides for those who have faced adversity in war.
Jean also has a strong connection to DVA, having returned to El Alamein on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs 70th anniversary commemorative mission in October 2012. In early 2014, her story was recorded as part of a project of oral history recordings being undertaken by the Department. An interview with Jean is also available on the Australians at War Film Archive website at www.australiansatwarfilmarchive.gov.au/aawfa/interviews/1289.aspx.