Betty flies high from Mater to RAAF

10/May/2019     Mission
Mater trained nurse Ailsa ‘Betty’ Edwards spent her career serving in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and was Queen Elizabeth’s Honorary Nursing Sister during her 1979 tour of Australia and awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal by the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1983 – the highest international distinction that can be awarded to a nurse.
Born in September 1926, Betty was a country girl from Bowen who went on to achieve extraordinary things. After a long and distinguished military career of 31 years in the RAAF from 1953-1983, Betty had achieved the rank of Group Captain, Director of Nursing and received numerous accolades.
She joined the RAAF in 1952 and spent years contributing to aeromedical support. Her career highlights included Nursing Officer in charge of Aeromedical Evacuation Training from 1969-1973; service with 902nd USAF Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Philippines 1969, evacuating wounded from Vietnam to Korea, Japan and United States; Matron, 4 RAAF Hospital, Malaysia 1973-1975; Matron, 6 RAAF Hospital , Victoria 1975-1979, became the first female officer to become Temporary Commanding Officer of a RAAF Hospital, also the first female to be appointed president of the Officers’ Mess Committee; Director, RAAF nursing Services 1979-1983.
During her career, Betty was awarded the following Honours and Awards:
• 1981 Royal Red Cross (RRC)–for services as Director RAAF Nursing Services
• 1969 an Associate of the Royal Red Cross (ARRC)–for contribution to aeromedical evacuations, Vietnam
• Queen’s Honorary Nursing Sister (QHNS), 1979
• The last RAAF Nursing Officer to receive the Royal Red Cross and to hold the appointment of QHNS
• Florence Nightingale Medal 1983
• Australian Active Service Medal (1945-1975) with Clasps Vietnam and Malaysia
• Vietnam Medal 1970
• Australian Service Medal (1945-1975) with Clasps Korea and South East Asia
• Queens Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal
• Defence Force Service Medal with 1st, 2nd and 3rd Clasps
• National Medal with 1st Clasp.
• Pingat Jasa Malaysia
• Returned from Active Service Badge.
Nieces Jackie Davidson and Rosslyn Waite said their aunt was so very proud to be a Mater trained nurse.
“Betty spoke highly of her time at Mater and the training she received, which was why we thought her Florence Nightingale Medal should be gifted to the Mater Archives and Heritage Centre,” Rosslyn said.
“She was incredibly humble about her career achievements and it really wasn’t until her later years that Betty spoke about the incredible experiences she’d had,” she said.
Information and images courtesy of Mater Archives and Heritage Centre.

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