Nan, a resident at Charles Fleming village, was born in Taihape, where her father worked on the railway.
“When we got called up at 18, we had to go into either the armed forces, or essential work.
“I had been in St John’s Ambulance since I was nine, and I thought I would try to get into medical. I was accepted for the air force before the war finished, but they would not enlist any more women at that time.”
In 1947 they decided to keep the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) going. Nan got the ticket and away she went. Her initial training was at Wigram.
“I went to Hobsonville, which was the flying boat station, as a junior medical orderly. Then to the medical school at Ohakea.”
After three years at the medical school Nan graduated and returned to Shelly Bay, Wellington.
Following this, she was selected to go on a special course at Wellington Hospital for another year, and on completion she received state registration.
During this year of study in 1951, there was a watersiders’ strike and the clinic at Wellington wharf was run by the services. It was an intensive time for Nan.
“They slotted us in to help at 5pm after our classes finished. We had to get on the tram and get to the wharf, and work until 10pm. After that came study.”
In 1953 she was sent to Fiji, the start of an exciting time working overseas.
“It was the right time to be there during the royal visit. The air force had a lot
to do with the organising of it.
“We formed the guard of honour on the jetty when Queen Elizabeth II left for Samoa, in a specially fitted out Sunderland aircraft. We then had to quickly get changed, jump into work-suits and get on the high-speed rescue launch in case an emergency rescue was needed.”
They also did a lot of work for the Fijian Government.
“We managed the arrival medical documents for Teal flying boats when they berthed at Laucala Bay. We had to spray the aircraft on arrival, and even provide blood at a moment’s notice!
“We visited ‘Leper Island’ (the leper colony on Makogai Island) every few months to check on the people there and give inoculations. We used to take treats for them. It was terrible.”
In 1954 Nan went to Changi, Singapore, where they did medical evacuations back to Australia.
“I went there twice. The patients had to be stabilised before going to Darwin.
“I visited nearly every Pacific island with medivacs. No day was the same. There was a lot of responsibility.”
On her 27th birthday she visited the Malcolm Club in Singapore and it was a thrill to hear Vera Lynn and Tony Bennett sing.
Nan recalls Anzac Day – everyone was involved, cleaning and polishing the night before, and up at 5am for the dawn service.
Of her time in the services she says, “After ten years of very satisfying service,
I would definitely repeat my time again.
The Ryman Stories of Service tribute book is now published in time to commemorate Anzac Day.
The special commemorative books recall the wartime memories of 62 of our Ryman residents. We thank them for their contribution to the freedom we enjoy today.
The collection of residents' stories are remarkable and diverse and can be read online here.