When the Cobram-Barooga RSL sub-branch announced a writing contest for an essay based on the theme ‘‘the contribution of women who provided service at home in Australia or overseas during World War II’’, Ruby Sproules did not have to look far for inspiration.
On April 9, Ruby, 15 presented her winning essay to members of the Cobram-Barooga RSL sub-branch at their meeting.
Ruby’s essay, titled The Story of Lorna Whyte’, told the incredible story of a young nurse from Hay in country NSW, who found herself in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, during World War II.
Nursing in far from ideal conditions, taken prisoner of war and ultimately being relocated to Japan until the declaration of peace in the Pacific in 1945, Lorna lived through incredible hardship.
Ruby articulated Lorna’s story in a way that informed the reader of her strength and resilience, while revealing the lasting bonds of friendship and surviving times of adversity.
Ruby told the audience Lorna Whyte was her grandfather’s cousin.
The Cobram Secondary College Year 10 student said she had always been aware of her connection to Lorna, and had been told many stories about her from family members.
‘‘They (family members) said she was a very happy person and forgiving about the whole war experience, which is pretty amazing considering how much she had to endure,’’ Ruby said.
She said her essay took quite a few weeks to piece together, collating the majority of information from online, an ABC feature about Lorna, and stories from her aunties.
With Anzac Day fast approaching, Ruby said April 25 had always held a special place in her family’s heart.
‘‘I think it is a really important day. We always go to the dawn service and have had a lot of family members involved in both world wars and I think it is really important to acknowledge their sacrifice for our country,’’ she said.
The contest was open to all year 9 and 10 students who lived or attended school in the 3644 postcode.
The Cobram-Barooga RSL sub-branch congratulated Ruby on her winning entry and presented her with $200, a certificate and an inscribed copy of the book Pa Joe’s Place, by sub-branch member Clancy Tucker.