City of Penrith RSL sub-Branch re-dedicates WW2 Nurse’s Grave

Photos courtesy of Mr Peter Thorpe, Secretary Penrith RSL Photographic Club.

By The Hon. Secretary of the City of Penrith RSL sub-Branch Peter Ward

IN September 2022, a member of the public, Mr. Michael Reeves, contacted the City of Penrith RSL sub-Branch with an enquiry regarding a grave in Kingswood cemetery, belonging to a WW2 nursing sister, Sr Dorothy Potter, that was in total disrepair.

Mr. Reeves was concerned with the condition of the grave and enquired if the sub-Branch would be able to assist by locating the family of the deceased Veteran, with the view of restoring the grave. Exhaustive searches of local and military records showed Sr Potter’s family lived at several locations within Penrith, including Evans and High Streets, however no relatives were able to be located.

Sr Potter enlisted in the CMF at Tamworth on the 29th Aug 1941, then transferred to the AIF on 24th October 1942 at Victoria Barracks.

Following on from her nurse’s training, Sr Potter was deployed to Port Moresby, PNG on the 14th October, 1944, where she served in the military hospital caring for patients of the Kokoda campaign.

In total, Sr Potter served 211 days in overseas operational service. On disembarking in PNG on 10th October 1943, Sr Potter was promoted to Lieutenant. On completion of her overseas deployment, Sr Potter returned to Australia on 8th May 1944.

On disembarking in Australia from PNG, Sr Potter transferred to 114 Military Hospital, Goulburn. On the 21st Feb 1946, Sr Potter was seconded from 114 Military Hospital Goulburn to 113 Military Hospital Concord, where she was promoted to Temporary Captain on 31st Dec 1946.

During her service, Sr Potter served at various military medical establishments within NSW.

Whilst serving in PNG and prior to returning from overseas service, Sr Potter volunteered for service in Japan. She was discharged from the AIF on 3rd March 1950 and passed away on the 6th January 1957, after a long history of serving and caring for veterans. A newspaper eulogy from the day shows that Sr Potter’s mother died on the same night.

Following the enquiry from Mr. Reeves, the grave was examined by the Past President of the sub-Branch, Mr. Brian Cartwright, and the decision was made to follow up and try to find the family of the late Sr Potter. Extensive inquiries failed to locate relatives of the late Sr Potter and the sub-Branch decided the Grave needed to be restored to honour the veteran’s service.

The sub-Branch executive contacted the Penrith City Council and asked for permission to refurbish the grave site. Council advised the sub-Branch restoration could go ahead and the sub-Branch arranged for the grave to be fully refurbished to its original condition.

Following the grave restoration, a Re-dedication Service was arranged for Wednesday 7th June. The re-dedication was attended by Her Worship, the Mayor Tricia Hitchen, Member for Penrith Karen McKeown OAM MP and Mr. Michael Reeve. The MC for the service was the Hon Secretary of the City of Penrith RSL sub-Branch, Peter Ward.

During the service, the President of the sub-Branch Mr. Jeff Townsend gave an opening address, detailing the chain of events leading up to the refurbishment of the grave. The past President of the sub-Branch Mr. Brian Cartwright delivered a service eulogy., with Padre Rod Bailey delivering prayers and re-dedicating the grave. Several floral tributes were laid in honour of Sr Potter’s service to our nation; Mr. Jeff Townsend laid a tribute on behalf of the City of Penrith RSL sub-Branch, the Mayor Tricia Hitchen laid a tribute on behalf of the Penrith City Council, ladies from the Women Veterans Network Australia (WVNA), accompanied by Leading Aircraft woman Dayna Martin, laid a tribute on behalf of women veterans. Warrant Officer Class 1 Anthony Eddie laid a tribute on behalf of current serving veterans, with Mr Gary Scott also laying a tribute on behalf of the Penrith RSL Club Ltd. A tribute was also laid on behalf of the Nepean Blue Mountains Vietnam Veterans.

Following the service, a morning tea was held at the city of Penrith RSL Club Ltd.