Memorial bench honours nurse

August 5, 2023 BY

Respected: Mary Elizabeth Cuthbertson’s niece Beth Charles, Ms Charles' granddaughter Bess Merkel, and Ms Cuthbertson’s nephew Melville Charles were on hand to help unveil a plaque honouring the fallen nurse. Photo: MICHAEL CHAMBERS

A PLAQUE in memory of a Ballarat nurse who was killed while serving in Indonesia during World War Two was unveiled along Wendouree Parade on Sunday morning.

The park bench memorial for Mary Elizabeth ‘Beth’ Cuthbertson has been funded by the operators and patrons of Eau Verte Cafe, a Burnbank Street business not far from where the late nurse lived.

“Beth Cuthbertson was one of the 21 Australian nurses killed in the Bangka Island massacre in 1942,” Arch of Victory-Avenue of Honour president Garry Snowden said.

“Beth was born in the Adelaide Hills but grew up in Burnbank Street, Ballarat, attending the Macarthur Street State School and Ballarat High School.

“She then trained as a nurse at the Ballarat Base Hospital.”

Many customers of Eau Verte Cafe have contributed to the installation of the plaque, chipping in some extra money to the cause when paying for their orders.

Mr Snowden said the park bench has been chosen due to its peaceful location for a memorial plaque, sitting between the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial and Ballarat Botanical Gardens.

“This is about 100 metres north of the seat with a plaque in memory of Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel, the sole survivor of the Bangka Island massacre,” Mr Snowden said.

Although Lieutenant Colonel Bullwinkel was not a Ballarat resident, she was no stranger to western Victoria, having begun her nursing career in Hamilton.

Like Ms Cuthbertson, she was born in South Australia.

The plaque unveiling was attended by members of the Arch of Victory-Avenue of Honour committee and Ballarat Trained Nurses League, the Cuthbertson family, cafe staff and patrons.