Sister Margaret Augusta De Mestre

Sister Margaret Augusta De Mestre

Bellingen, Bellingen Shire, New South Wales, Australia
Death 19 Feb 1942 (aged 26)
At Sea
Burial Adelaide River, Coomalie Shire, Northern Territory, Australia
Plot Panel 5.
Memorial ID 18409544 · View Source
Suggest Edits

Casualty of WWII, Margaret served in the Australian Army Nursing Service~Service No:NX70211. She was one of four people * killed on the A.I.F. Hospital Ship Manunda (Melbourne). Margaret died of shrapnel wounds received to her back and abdomen. She was twenty-six and the first Australian Imperial Force nurse to be killed in action on Australian soil.

Margaret was born in Kalang via Bellingen, New South Wales, to James Augustus and Alice Isobel De Mestre (nee Morey). Her parents owned and operated a dairy farm and she was the first of six children, four girls and two boys.

Margaret trained at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney in 1935. Her Aunt Sarah Melanie De Mestre had also trained at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and served in World War I. In 1940 Margaret enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Corps with other nurses from the hospital and sailed twice to the Middle East on the 2/1 Hospital Ship, HMAHS Manunda. While the ship was being reconditioned in 1941, she served at the 113 Australian General Hospital at Concord. She rejoined HMAHS Manunda in January 1942.

HMAHS Manunda was anchored in Darwin Harbour near the merchant ship Zealandia and the oil tanker British Motorist when it was first hit by shrapnel and then a bomb. * Some reports say that twelve members of the crew and hospital staff were killed, including Margaret, and forty-seven others were wounded. The medical and nursing staff quarters were destroyed, B and C decks were severely damaged and fires started on board. Despite the chaos, Manunda continued to treat incoming wounded, and the staff manned the life-boats rescuing injured men from the sea.

During the Second World War, the Japanese flew 64 raids on Darwin and 33 raids on other targets in Northern Australia.
On 19 February 1942, 188 Japanese planes were launched against Darwin, whose harbour was full of Allied ships. It was the largest Japanese attack since Pearl Harbour, 7 December 1941, and followed a reconnaissance flight on 10 February 1942. On that day there were 27 Allied ships in the harbour and approximately 30 aircraft at the Darwin Civil and RAAF airfields.
The first enemy attack on Australian soil in the history of the Commonwealth of Australia occurred at 9.58am on Thursday 19 February 1942. The small Northern Territory town of Darwin suffered an air-raid attack by 188 Japanese aircraft.The main target for the first attack was Darwin's harbour. There were upwards of 45 ships in the port, including the US destroyer Peary. Within minutes Peary had been sunk with a loss of 80 lives. Sunk also was the large US transport Meigs, though with a loss of only two lives. The Australian ship Neptuna, formerly a passenger vessel, was hit. Loaded with heavy explosives, it blew up with a terrifying explosion. The ship's captain, William Michie, and 45 crew members were killed. Five merchant ships were sunk. The hospital ship Manunda was hit but survived to play an important role in caring for the injured.

Nine of the ten US Kittyhawks were approaching the airfield as the Japanese Zeros flew in and the Kittyhawks were shot down immediately. Four US pilots were killed in the attack. The airbase was therefore unable to mount any counterattack. It was left to the anti-aircraft batteries to try to defend the town. Although they kept up a continuous barrage from their gun emplacements, only one Japanese aeroplane was shot down by their fire.

The West Australian, Perth, W.A - Friday, 13 March 1942
Death of an A.I.F. Sister
Sister Margaret de Mestre of Victoria has been killed as the result of enemy action. Her death occurred when the Japanese bombers attacked the hospital ship Manunda which, with its big red cross clearly showing, was lying in Darwin harbour when that town was raided. Her name will appear on the Honour Roll of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital as the first A.I.F. nurse to be killed ion action in this war.
Ever since her school days Margaret de Mestre had wanted to be a nurse and had worked to accomplish that aim. Her aunt, Sister Sarah de Mestre, then a senior sister at the Royal Prince Alfred, had been awarded the Royal Red Cross for her nursing services during the Great War. When she was 19 Margaret entered the hospital as a probationer, graduating four years later as a sister.
When the war came she was one of the first nurses to enlist and made many trips on the hospital ship Manunda. On the outbreak of hostilities in the Pacific she was sent to Darwin. Although Tokyo radio has claimed that their airmen spared the hospital ship in the harbour at the time of the raid, photographs already published show that the bombs which caused the death of this 26 year old sister did extensive damage to the ship."

Family Members



  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: International Wargraves Photography Project
  • Added: 14 Mar 2007
  • Find a Grave Memorial 18409544
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Sister Margaret Augusta De Mestre (16 Nov 1915–19 Feb 1942), Find a Grave Memorial no. 18409544, citing Northern Territory Memorial, Adelaide River, Coomalie Shire, Northern Territory, Australia ; Maintained by Find a Grave (contributor 8) .