I am very pleased. I suggested this release to Reg James and Bruce Ferrier a few years ago. I was very fortunate in having a copy of the series thanks to the niece of Betty Jeffery who asked me to convert Betty's cassette copy of the series to CD. They were also missing the last episode. The one that contained the audio where Betty Jeffrey got to meet the cast. A request to the National Film & Sound Archives or Screensound as they were then, resulted in them supplying the final episode to me to give to the family. This was one of the first complete series I got to hear and what a beauty.
For those of you who don't know the story. White Coolies is the true story of Australian Army Nurses caught by the fall of Singapore in WWII and the three & a half years they spent as POW s under Japan. There was a more recent television movie called 'Paradise Road' also based on the story.
Sister Betty Jeffery kept a diary on scraps of paper hidden in a cushion, a bottle and even up her jumper, at great risk to herself and others. After the war she wrote the book and called it 'White Coolies'. At the time the serial was broadcast in 1955, Betty Jeffrey commented that the book had enjoyed 6 reprints. It certainly was popular when it was released in 1954. Today you can find it in charity shops or 2nd hand book shops. It is worth buying.
I enjoyed the book for many reasons. I love Australian history. I grew up with my Fathers 'war stories' and when I went through the school system, very little Australian history, apart from Captain Cook and Convicts, were a part of the curriculum. You had to find it out for yourself from family and books. I grew up with very little information about Women at war. My Aunt was in the Army in Queensland and I knew about Nurses being involved, but very little actual information. White Coolies told some of the story. In recent years Canberra author, Ian W. Shaw wrote 'On Radji Beach' in honour of the Australian Nurses. Another book on the subject I recommend reading.
White Coolies was also a game changer in Australian Radio Production. The Producer, Fifi Banvard, Script Writer Gwen Friend and all the lead actors were women. This was a first. A big deal in Australia in 1955. Yes there were some men involved in the production. The announcer and the actors playing the Japanese guards were the only men involved.
This time of the year, thoughts turn to ANZAC Day on 25thApril. For those of you not Australian, this is our Veterans Day. On ANZAC Day we remember those who lost their lives defending this country. We remember those involved in War and the sacrifices made. Usually the stories evolve around men, so it is good for young girls to learn that it isn't all about men. It is also about young women sacrificing homes, family, jobs and sometimes lives, for their country. These things should not be forgotten.
The story of White Coolies needs to be read or listened to by every Australian. It is a powerful and true story of these remarkable women.
Producer: Fifi Banvard
Scriptwriter: Gwen Friend
Commentary: Gordon Chater
Sister Jeffrey: Ruth Cracknell
Sister Woodbridge: Joan Lander
Matron Paschke: Viv Bullwinkel
Sister (Del) Delforce: Margaret Christensen
Matron Sage: Betty Suttor
Sister Greer: Marie Clark
Sister (Win) Davis: Marcia Hathaway
Sister (Dot) Freeman: Barbara Brunton Gibb
Sister (Mitz) Mittelheuser: Coralie Neville
Sister (Rene) Singleton: Marjorie Halt
Sister (Ray) Raymont: Muriel Steinbeck
Sister (Blanche) Hempsted: Madge Ryan
Maree Austin - Sister Short
"White Coolies, the story of Australian Army Nursing Sisters is dedicated to those nurses who did not return" a quote from the end of episode 52.
I haven't spoken with Bruce Ferrier about this, but I know from experience ordering from the Grace Gibson website, that if you order in the next couple of days you should get the CD BEFORE ANZAC Day.
Thank you Bruce.
1. It is not even close to the quality of recording that Grace Gibson supplies. Their sound is excellent, I know, because I bought a set of theirs myself.
2. This recording is special. This has been taken from Sister Betty Jeffery's personal set of cassettes she was presented with at the end of the series. They were safely kept by her Niece and I transferred them to CD for her and her brother many years ago. But when I created an mp3 file from the wav file (which I have kept as an archive copy) it was just as a listening copy, so the bit rate is low.