AMY MARION BAXTER KER, A.R.R.C. – WW2 Hospital Ship nurse’s RSA badge found in her garden 30 years later.

42287 – AMY MARION BAXTER KER,  A.R.R.C.    

Marie M. was weeding her garden at 42 Haszard Street, Waihi when she discovered a small metal badge.  After cleaning it she recognized it to be an NZRSA badge and on the rear was an impressed a number – “42287”   Marie decided to try and return the badge either to the owner or the family and so set about doing some research.  

Marie’s first port of call was the Auckland War Memorial Museum’s Cenotaph website where she located the entry for 42287 Charge Sister Amy Marion Baxter Ker, ARRC – NZ Army Nursing Service.  The information on the website was very limited and unlike WW1 soldiers and nurses whose files are accessible through this website, WW2 service personnel files are not digitized and must be requested from the NZ Archives.  So, not very helpful, with the exception of two entries – firstly, the information on the page recorded that Amy Ker had died in Waihi in 1991 and secondly, a personal tribute had been posted on the page by “Marie of Whitianga” indicated that she was Amy’s niece.  The tribute read as follows: 

” To Aunty Mamie – I was born exactly 50 years after you – your brother Alexander’s daughter.       Think of you! ”     Public – 18 April 2016

Hoping to locate the author of this message, Marie M. posted the following reply:

” To ‘Marie in Whitianga’.  I have found your Aunt Mamie’s RSA badge in the garden of our      property in Waihi. Please contact for return. “     Public – Marie – 25 April 2016

Alas, ‘Marie of Whitianga’ did not respond and it was at that point Marie M. contacted MRNZ for help and agreed to send us the Badge.  The NZRSA membership badge Marie sent to MRNZ was minus the pin which no doubt was the reason for its original loss.

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Amy Marion Baxter Ker (ka Mamie) was born on 02 November 1906 in Timaru, the eldest of eleven children of insurance agent Alexander John KER and Amy Wadsworth KNOTT.  Daughter Amy was still at school when WW1 started however it had a profound impact upon her in that she resolved to commit herself to a nursing career as soon as she was able.

The Ker family moved to Invercargill and it was while there Amy had the opportunity to complete her nursing training at the Southland Hospital, graduating as a registered nurse in 1928.  Following graduation Amy spent the next thirteen years at the Southland Hospital rising to the position of ‘Sister’.  Sister Ker completed her Maternity training at Whakatane in 1935, and Midwifery training at St Helens Hospital, Wellington in 1936.

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42287 Sister Amy Ker on board the HS ‘Maunganui’  –  c1941.   Source:  S. McNabb, NZANS historian

With the on-set of World War 2 in 1939 there was high demand for nursing staff to be committed for military service on troop transports, Hospital Ships (HS), augmentation of hospital staffs in England, North Africa and various locations proximate to the battle field locations around Western Europe.  Amy Ker was one of 640 NZ civilian nurses and Army medical assistants to render nursing service during WW2.

Sister Ker’s regimental NZANS Badge

On 17 March 1941 42287 Sister Amy Marion Baxter Ker was gazetted with the rank of ‘Sister’ in the NZ Army Nursing Service (NZANS).  She was attested at Napier on April 4th, aged 34 years and received her regimental NZ Army Nursing Service badge.  For the next five years Sister Ker served on troop transport ships from NZ to England – predominantly on the HMNZTS ‘Maunganui’.  

By the time she was discharged from the NZANS in August 1946, Amy Ker had been promoted to the rank of Charge Sister and in that same year was honoured for her service with the award of the Royal Red Cross, 2nd Class (Associate) which  entitled her to the post-nominal letters of A.R.R.C.

Reverse

Ch/Sister Amy Ker’s Royal Red Cross (2nd Class – Associate) – Obverse

The Citation for Charge Sister Ker’s honour reads:  “Charge-sister Ker rendered excellent service, her efficiency, bearing and devotion to duty being of a very high standard.

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Following her discharge from the NZANS, Charge Sister Ker continued to dedicated her working life to nursing pursuits.  She was offered a government position with the Health Department, specialising in Social Hygiene. Amy consequently established her home in Parnell in late 1946 close to one of her relatives, Walter Ker, a glass worker, and his wife Joyce.  Auckland was to be Amy’s home for several years while working for the department (one appointment requiring her to take charge of the Public

Works camps near Gisborne) until she was posted to New Plymouth in 1955; Amy retired from the Health Department in January 1956.  Amy stayed on in New Plymouth for another 10 years until buying a retirement property in the Bay of Plenty at Waihi to be closer to some of her nephews and nieces living in nearby Te Puke and Papamoa.

Home in Waihi for Amy was No 42 Haszard Street for almost 25 years – now the home of Marie M. who found Amy’s RSA Badge in her garden.  Amy remained a spinster and dedicated her life to nursing.  A generous, gentle and kindly lady who was active in her community, the Red Cross and RSA, Amy Ker is remembered as someone who always put the needs of others ahead of her own.  

42287 Charge Sister (Rtd) Amy Marion Baxter Ker, ARRC died on 06 January 1991, aged 84 and is buried in the NZRSA Section of the Waihi Public Cemetery.

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Honour:  Royal Red Cross (2nd Class – Associate)

Awards:  1939-1945 Star, Atlantic Star, Italy Star, Pacific Star, War Medal 1939-1945, New Zealand War Service Medal, 1939-45

Service Overseas:  March 1941 – August 1946 = 4 years 5 months

As I researched Amy Ker’s service record I discovered that her ARRC and war medals had been lodged in the Auckland War Memorial Museum.  With Marie’s approval the AWMM Associate Curator, Social History was advised of Marie’s find and Amy Ker’s  NZRSA membership badge will soon be united with her medals.

War service medals of 42286 Charge Sister (Rtd) Amy Mariona Baxter Ker, ARRC

Awards & regimental NZANS badge of 42287 Charge Sister Amy Marion Baxter KER, ARRC 2001.25.592, Brett Mackrell Collection. All awards are displayed in Pou Maumahara Gallery, Auckland War Memorial Museum. © Tamaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum

Footnote:  Two of Amy’s brothers also served – 19942 T/WO2 Alexander Baxter KER, a grocer, served overseas twice, from July 1942 with the 37th Battalion, 2NZEF and again with the HQ Infantry Reinforcements from January 1945 – he returned home safely on both occasions; his brother 574629 Pte. Gordon Kenneth Sutherland KER, NZ Ordnance Corps, 2NZEF, also a grocer, served from July 1942.  Both brothers owned and worked a grocery shop in Christchurch.

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My thanks to Marie M. for sending Amy’s badge to MRNZ  – a great outcome we think.  Thanks also go to Sherayl McNabb of the NZ Army Nursing Association for assistance in providing a photograph of Sister Ker, and to Gail Romano, Associate Curator, Social History and Zoe Richardson, Images Manager at Auckland’s War Memorial Museum for the photographs of Sister Ker’s medals.    

The reunited medal tally is now 148.

‘Buchanan Castle’ – c1939

‘Buchanan Castle’ – today

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