The Girl with Laughing Brown Eyes
"Joyce faced every crisis with cheerfulness and fortitude". So said a colleague of the young Australian nurse whose name is listed on the Scone War Memorial. She met her tragic death on Radji Beach, Banka Island in what is now Indonesia, on 16 February 1942.
Born in July 1907 in Scone, NSW Ada Joyce Bridge was commonly known as Joyce. Her family home was ‘Stoney Creek’, Belltrees, near Scone. As a young girl, Joyce loved the country life. She was a happy girl with a ready smile who enjoyed life to the full.
Joyce Bridge was accepted as a trainee nurse at St Luke's Hospital, Darlinghurst NSW, and commenced in February 1930. She sat for her Nurses Registration Exam in May 1934, passing all subjects.
A friend who graduated with Joyce remembered her as a very pleasant companion with a great sense of humour. She was highly regarded by doctors, patients and nursing staff. Some time after graduation Joyce left St Luke's and undertook private nursing.
Sister Bridge enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service in April 1941. She was posted to the 2/13th Australian General Hospital (AGH) and travelled to Singapore aboard the Australian Hospital Ship Wanganella, arriving in September 1941. Initially, she and nine other sisters were attached to 2/10th AGH at Malacca in Malaya. Although the clouds of war were building, the nurses still enjoyed off-duty activities as well as the social activities in their Mess. Joyce was highly respected for her commitment, skill and dedication. She enjoyed her work in the wards, gaining experience of nursing in the tropics and becoming acclimatised to the environment.
After landing at Kota Bahru on 8 December 1941 the Imperial Japanese rapidly advanced down the Malay Peninsula. In late January 1942, the nurses returned to Singapore however by the end of January Singapore was besieged by the Japanese. Sister Bridge was among those who stayed in the doomed city until the last moments. Finally, she and sixty-four of her colleagues were evacuated on 12 February aboard the SS Vyner Brooke. The ship was attacked from the air two days later and sank with the loss of many aboard. Joyce survived the sinking and eventually struggled ashore on Banka Island. She was one of the nurses on Radji Beach when Japanese troops arrived. After killing the men survivors, the Japanese ordered twenty-two of the nurses to wade into the sea, where they were gunned down. The remaining injured and wounded were killed where they lay.
It was to be over two years before her family learnt of her fate. In 1954, the Scone and District Branch of the Country Women’s Association dedicated its new Baby Health centre to the memory of Ada Joyce Bridge, the girl with laughing brown eyes, who was unafraid to face the horrors of war in her eagerness to help nurse the wounded and suffering.
One Life is Ours: the story of Ada Joyce Bridge. 1989 – Joan Crouch
On Radji Beach – 2012 – Ian Shaw