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Interview with Jean Nysen the ex-WRANS


I flew to Sydney to interview Jean Nysen today. Jean Nysen (McKenzie), the 87th woman inducted into the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS), was born at sea aboard the TSS Jervis Bay in 1922. Both her father and her brother were in the Royal Australian Navy and, hearing of the sinking of the HMS Jervis Bay and then the disappearance of the HMAS Sydney, she decided to join the war effort.

One of the most fascinating stories Jean told was about the time, as a child, she flew aboard the Southern Cross with Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith. Her father was on board testing a method of allowing the pilot and co-pilot to ascertain bearings during their upcoming flight across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand in 1933. During my interview Jean went into another room and came back with a piece of the aeroplane’s wing, removed for repairs, which had been kept by her father as a memento of the occasion.

I’ll post the introduction to the chapter on Jean Nysen here on my blog in the coming weeks.

Jean Nysen in her WRANS uniform during WWII

Jean Nysen in her WRANS uniform during WWII

A piece from the wing of the Southern Cross. Click on the photo to make it larger.


I received a phone call today in response to my advertisement in the ex-WRANS Association of NSW newsletter. The ex-WRANS served in the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service and were initially inducted as telegraphists, learning morse code in order to communicate with navy ships during WWII. Jean Nysen (McKenzie), the 87th woman inducted into WRANS, has agreed to be interviewed. From a navy family, Ms. Nysen’s father was aboard HMAS Australia when the Royal Australian Navy fleet first arrived in 1913. Her brother was a survivor of the HMAS Canberra. The interview is scheduled for April.

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