The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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MELBOURNE, Australia—Delayed—Our arrival here was prompt as usual and, after greeting Governor Sir Winston Dugan and Lady Dugan, with other officials at the airport, we left immediately to visit some more of the men in our armed forces.

During the day I visited camps, hospitals, YMCA huts and the Salvation Army building which had the only open fireplaces and which will, I'm sure, be very popular for that reason. Far be it from me to suggest, however, that the men seek creature comforts in preference to spiritual leadership, for the current saying, "There are no atheists in fox holes," takes on new meaning here.

Some of the smaller hospitals are caring largely for malaria cases and are staffed by Australian doctors, nurses and volunteers. They are kindness itself to our men, who receive exactly as much attention from Australian Red Cross workers as they give to their own soldiers. Near one of the camps, which is some distance from Melbourne, there is an American Red Cross Club. It was set up at one time as a rest home for recuperation after time spent in a hospital, or for furlough periods. It has been turned into the usual type of club, where meals are served, games are available and places are provided to write or read, or just sit and talk. Some craft work is carried on and a few beds are kept in readiness for boys who want to spend their night off in a real bed with a spring mattress, white sheets and blankets.

Of course, there are areas which I am visiting which are rest areas, where units are in training or being given rest periods after long months spent in the actual battle area.

In the evening we dined at a big Red Cross Club in Melbourne, where 4,000 meals are served daily. In Australia, Sundays are days of rest and no places of amusement are open, so these are the evenings when the men and their friends like to be entertained at a club. We spent a short period at a show where much soldier talent as well as professional talent was in evidence on the stage. It was a crowded place and I am sure there are few idle moments for Miss Florence Hizk or any of the other workers.

At dinner, an officer who had been up to New Guinea last Christmas, gave me a description of their celebration. On Thanksgiving Day, he said, he and his men had tea and spinach as their only food, but by Christmas Day they were able to have a really good dinner. They placed a star on the top of the tallest palm tree, worked all day, but had unloaded and brought in by night the little Red Cross parcels sent up for each man by the Red Cross. They cut up all candles in camp so each man had a little piece of light.

The familiar Christmas songs were sung, a Protestant service was held and just at midnight, a Catholic mass celebrated. Then the lights went out and Jap planes came over, but not until every man had scattered so no casualties occurred.

That is a Christmas few of those men will ever forget. Mr. Gamble, of the Red Cross, told me that as the wounded came back the following days, they might have no clothes, but what was on their backs, but many of them clutched the precious little Christmas package.

During the afternoon we stopped at the Crippled Children's hospital, where cases of infantile paralysis, rheumatic fever and tubercular bone diseases of every kind are being treated and many of them being cured. These cases take great patience and many of them spend from four to six years in the hospital, but it's encouraging to know that they have a high percentage of cures. The hospital looks out over the sea and the children are exposed to all the air and sunshine possible in very beautiful surroundings.

E. R.

(Copyright, 1943, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Melbourne (Vic., Australia) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 8, 1943

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.