Great War heroine remembered

A LOCAL heroine’s involvement in World War I was celebrated yesterday, 100 years after the first shots were fired.

Patricia McFadyen with some of the documents signed by Winston Churchill. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCE

Patricia McFadyen with some of the documents signed by Winston Churchill. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCE

Born in Smeaton, Jean McFadyen served as a nurse in Egypt, France and later in England, from 1915-19. 

Her great-niece, Patricia McFadyen, has a document signed by the then secretary of state for war Winston Churchill, commending her bravery and service during the conflict. 

Jean McFadyen’s mention in dispatches, dated March 1, 1919, said it was awarded for “gallant and distinguished services in the field”, however mystery surrounds what she did to deserve the honour.

“She’s a long-lost local heroine really,” Patricia McFadyen said. “You don’t get mentioned in dispatches without doing something special.”

One of eight children, Jean McFadyen worked at the Royal Melbourne Hospital for three years before duty called.

She stayed on working in hospitals in England after the war finished and was officially discharged in 1920, before sailing back to Australia on the SS Orsova. 

Two years later she died after suffering what Patricia McFadyen described as ‘Spanish Flu’ - an influenza epidemic that was estimated to have killed between 50 and 100 million people between 1918-19. 

It is believed Jean McFadyen is buried in Fremantle.

Jean McFadyen’s brother, Ebenezer, had three boys, all of whom were involved in some form of warfare. Sons Frank and George were involved in Word War I while the other son, Doug, was a prisoner of war in Thailand. 

The principles of service and remedy have trickled down the family tree, with Patricia’s late husband serving as a pilot in World War II for three years, while Patricia was a nurse.

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