Sub-branch’s oldest

By Rhys Williams

Corowa RSL Sub-branch’s oldest living member, Margaret Hanrahan OAM, is set to see the sub-branch into its centennial anniversary later this month.

The 96-year-old, who has been a member for 50 years, is proud to be commemorating the sub-branch’s milestone occasion at its centennial dinner at Corowa RSL Club on June 22.

“It’s a marvelous achievement to see the Sub-branch reach 100 years in Corowa,” she told the Free Press.

 Ms Hanrahan left Corowa in 1944 to travel to Melbourne with the aspiration of joining the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs), but due to a plethora of nursing aids already assisting during WW2, there were no vacancies.

She then decided to admit as a dental assistant and was drafted to Heidelberg Military Hospital for general duties before being posted to Morotai six months later.

“Because they weren’t taking on anymore nursing aids I had the option to either be a cook or dental nurse, but I left Corowa to get away from cooking so I took up dental nursing instead.

“I never thought I would have been a dental nurse in a million years but I actually really enjoyed it,” she said.

Morotai was developed into an Allied base in 1944 in order to mount their liberation of the Philippines which eventuated later that year. 

From April 1945 the Indonesian island was used by the Australian I Corps to mount the Borneo Campaign with Australian Army engineers expanding the base facilities at Morotai to support the operation. 

Although not officially working in the wards on Morotai, Ms Hanrahan said she would often be sent there on general duties which was at times a poignant experience.

“One of the worst parts I can remember was when the prisoners of war that were too weak to travel home would arrive - you had to see those men to believe what it was like.

“It was very distressing to see a human being in that state – It was remarkable that they were still alive.”

After serving for 12 months in Morotai which saw out the end of WW2, Margaret returned home to Australia and worked continued her work as dental nurse for the army for another year before eventually resettling in Corowa.

She’s been a part of the Corowa RSL Sub-branch ever since and while not being involved in any executive roles; she has always contributed by selling badges and raffles.

As 100 years approaches for the sub-branch, Margaret hopes that the torch is passed for younger generations to continue the lifeblood tradition

“I think the people that lost their lives and the people that gave up so much of their life should be remembered, always.

“We are getting numbers here in the Corowa Sub-branch but I know that somehow or rather, the sub branch will survive - there will be others that will carry on.”

Ms Hanrahan received the Order of Australia Medal in 2014 for her services.

Along her journey she has received Corowa Citizen of the Year in 1993, made a life member of the Corowa-Rutherglen Football Netball Club, a life member of the Women’s Auxiliary Returned and Services League of Australia and was a recipient of the Leonine Cross Papal Award for her work in the Catholic Women’s League.

The Corowa RSL Sub-Branch centennial celebration will be held on June 22 from 6pm in the Federation Room at the Corowa RSL Club.