World War II declared

Great Britain declared war on Germany on 3rd September 1939. The Prime Minister Mr Robert Menzies simply announced that as Britain was at war, Australia was at war.

1939 Victory Jobs recruitment poster (AWM)
1939 Victory Jobs recruitment poster (AWM)

At once the nurses at Little Bay found themselves nursing servicemen not from the battlefield but from the overcrowded induction camps which provided ideal conditions for instant epidemics of scarlet fever, mumps, measles, chicken pox, encephalitis, meningitis and a variety of other diseases.

Military health services were minimal. 

Prince Henry Hospital was called upon to fulfil the statutory obligation in its incorporating Act, which was to provide 300 beds for infectious patients in the event of an emergency. At times the influx from the camps exceeded this number and in order to keep at least 200 beds for civilian patients every available space was used; eg the old military wards-now called the “Bush”-and all verandahs in the general and infectious divisions.

There is no doubt that the requisition of the whole hospital for military purposes was considered. The Board and the medical administration countered the threat by cooperating fully with the military health services. Thus Prince Henry remained a civilian hospital nursing patients from the services, which put severe strains on the human resources as enlistments continued to deplete the staff.

The hospital at Little Bay was in a vulnerable position on the coast line directly in front of the smoking stacks of Bunnerong Power House, the largest power station in N.S.W. All windows were covered with “blackout paper, street lights “browned out,” air-raid shelters dug in the sand at strategic points, stirrup pumps, buckets of water and sand in every ward and throughout all the buildings.