Jennifer salutes military family

24 Apr, 2015 02:00 AM
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IN THE BLOOD: Former military nurse Jennifer Dowling is the third generation of her family to serve their country. Her husband Gerry is a returned serviceman.
IN THE BLOOD: Former military nurse Jennifer Dowling is the third generation of her family to serve their country. Her husband Gerry is a returned serviceman.

MILITARY service runs through Jennifer Dowling's DNA.

Mrs Dowling, 50 and now retired, achieved her goal of serving Australia abroad when in 2000 she was deployed as a nurse to East Timor through the Royal Australian Air Force to join the United Nations Military Hospital in Dili.

Mrs Dowling, who returned to her Two Wells home six months ago, is the third generation of her family to serve their country. Her husband Gerry is a (retired) returned serviceman.

Her grandfathers served in the British Army at Gallipoli in World War I, alongside Australian Diggers, and her parents served in World War ll - her mother as a bomb-range marker and her father a radio operator.

Her grandmother enlisted into the Queen Alexandra Imperial Nursing Service in 1918, but the war ended before she could be deployed overseas.

"I have no doubt whatsoever that my family military service influenced my desire to do the same," Mrs Dowling said.

But she said it was never something consciously realised.

"It wasn't like my family talked about it all the time - my parents never talked about their time in the services," she said.

She started learning more about Australia's involvement in overseas conflict when she joined the defence force for officer training.

Another key event was when her uncle sent her a copy of her paternal grandfather Charles Henry Cope's diary during his service years.

When she discovered her paternal grandfather had served in Gallipoli, she mentioned it to her mother, only to discover that her grandfather from the other side of the family - James Frederick Johnston - also fought at Gallipoli.

Reading the diary of her grandfather, she discovered he enlisted in the Royal Engineers 11th Division in September, 1914, at 16 years and two months.

Mrs Dowling said her grandfather described stomach pains that - as an airforce nurse - she recognised as symptoms of anxiety and fear.

Mr Johnston enlisted as a medic in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and served in Gallipoli and Lemnos and at the Western Front.

At 16, Mrs Dowling went to an air show at RAAF Richmond in NSW and was inspired to be part of that world.

She asked the RAAF about becoming a pilot.

"That didn't go down with the airforce in 1966," she said.

"I was told to 'go away and do nursing, dearie, then reapply'."

By the time Mrs Dowling completed her nursing study she had met her husband, who was also in the RAAF and a Vietnam veteran.

In 1984 she joined the RAAF Reserves and served for the next 15 years.

In 1999 she finally managed a permanent commission as a Senior Nursing Officer and then in 2000 was posted on a six-month deployment to East Timor.

The family tradition has been handed on to her nephew Charles, an infantry captain in the Australian Army.

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Elizabeth Anderson

Elizabeth Anderson

is Stock Journal's magazine editor

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