2016 Reviews · Australian · non-fiction · war

Book Review: Our Vietnam Nurses by Annabelle Brayley


Book blurb:

From the bestselling author of Bush Nurses and Nurses of the Outback comes this collection of compelling and moving stories of our heroic nurses in the Vietnam War

Being a nurse always requires a cool head, a steady hand and an open heart. But if you’re working in a war zone, the challenges are much harder. When Australia joined the Vietnam War, civilian and military nurses were there to save lives and comfort the wounded. With spirit and good humour, they worked hard and held strong, even though most of them were completely unprepared for the war before they landed in the middle of it.

Working incredibly long hours and surrounded by chaos and turmoil, these brave nurses and medics were integral to our war effort. These fifteen stories show a side to the Vietnam War that has received little recognition but played an important part in shaping Australia’s presence in the war. From flying with critically wounded Australian soldiers out of turbulent war zones, to being held at gunpoint, the compassion, courage and grace under fire in Our Vietnam Nurses will inspire and astound.

My review:

Fifteen independent stories, from nurses and medics who served on the front line in the Vietnam War, are the focus of Annabelle Brayley’s latest non fiction offering, Our Vietnam Nurses.

Annabelle Brayley travelled across Australia far and wide, conducting interviews and gathering the very personal anecdotes that helped form her compelling story collection. This book is narrated by Brayley but her approach to conveying these stories allows all fifteen chapters a chance to shine. Reading through the stories, each of the featured nurses/medics experiences appear very different however, they also exude a strong sense of commonality. What I derived from Our Vietnam Nurses were a number of important aspects. Firstly, the nurses and medics sent to Vietnam’s front line were unprepared for what lay ahead of them. Their training and lack of experience, made their experiences all the more harrowing. Conditions were clearly tough and emotionally draining. These brave personnel, who put their lives on the line in order to save the casualties of war, also suffered when they returned home. The female nurses in particular, did not have their service in Vietnam recognised for many years to come. I found this utterly appalling. It also opened my eyes to PTSD, which was felt by many of the serving nurses and medics of Vietnam. For so many, this condition was untreated. I do hope that the release of this book will make a contribution to raising our awareness to the injustices experienced by the brave nurses/medics of the Vietnam War. I also hope that it will keep their contribution to the war effort alive, for years to come.

Our Vietnam Nurses is an accessible account, of a handful of diverse and important personal stories to come out of these selfless serving nurses/medics in Vietnam. It is well worth your time to read it.


Our Vietnam Nurses by Annabelle Brayley was published in May 2016, by Penguin Books Australia.

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