SEPTEMBER 11, 1943
SYDNEY, Australia, Sept. 10—Nine-fifteen yesterday morning saw us depart for the Victoria Barracks, which is a building of much charm. It shows the influence of the French prisoners who built it in its architecture. I reviewed a group composed almost entirely of men returned from the Middle East and congratulated the band on its playing of the "Star Spangled Banner" as well as it could have been played at home. Then I met some groups of women belonging to all the Auxiliary Military Services.
We had tea afterwards, which is one of the pleasant customs here. One may have mid-morning tea as well as mid-afternoon tea. Then we proceeded to a very big American hospital. It was a long drive and I talked to three boys opposite me. They had all been wounded in New Guinea and had been among General Eichelberger's troops there, so the boys asked him for information about their friends and he seemed much pleased to talk with them. I took the names and home addresses of those within reach and hope to write to their families on my return.
It will be nice to be able to say that all are doing well and some are coming home. I talked to some boys in the recreation hall and later in the wards. One man had a collection of souvenirs he was sending home to his mother and I had to hand over a pin. The general was asked for one of his stars which, unfortunately, he could not part with.
From there we drove to an Australian hospital, which had taken in our first wounded when they arrived here from Bataan. The matron in charge and nurses had been very kind to our boys and I was glad of this opportunity to thank them.
They have a very nice library in connection with their military hospitals, which is better arranged for reading than ours usually are. Their Red Cross craftshop and program is much better developed than any which I have yet seen in our hospitals, but I gathered that the doctors were more interested in it than some of our military doctors seem to be. Of course, one has to remember that Australian hospitals are permanent, whereas ours are built for the duration only.
In the course of the afternoon, we visited the zoo, so that I might not leave here without seeing some of their prize animals, such as the kangaroo, who hopped about obligingly for us; the little bear, who is quite a pet they tell me, but whose claws seemed to me a menace to my uniform; and some beautiful birds.
Our last stop was at the Red Cross blood bank center, where they keep a list of donors on whom they call every three months. They told me that the women were among their most reliable donors, coming in whenever sent for. Some people have given as much as twelve times. So much is being sent north now, that even though they have 40,000 people registered, they now are looking for more.
Dinner was had at Government House and it was a pleasant evening for me, since I found both His Excellency and the Premier of New South Wales were interested in soil erosion and conservation, which have been among my husband's chief interests for a long time. It may be that, in Australia, they are aware of the danger of wasting their land before it is too late. Like all pioneer countries, I think they have been inclined to take out more than they put in, which is never a practice you can pursue for long.
Incidentally, one of the amusing sights here is the cars which carry enormous bags of gas that cover the whole top of the auto. It seems to work, however. I had a little sidelight on transportation difficulties when I was told that the flying doctors were now often used as emergency shopping service as well. A woman in a lonely spot may call a flying doctor for a sick child, but she may add, "Would you do me a favor and bring along a pound of sausage."