MABEL "ROBBIE" MEARS (NEE ROBERTSON)
DISPENSARY NURSE IN GHQ SWPA,
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA
DURING WWII

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Mabel "Robbie" Robertson was born on 20 September 1909 in Toronto, Canada. She relocated to Florida, USA with her family when she was three years old.

"Robbie" graduated from the Army School of Nursing at the Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington D.C.. She joined the Army Nurse Corps as a 2nd Lieutenant and served at Strotsenberg and Sternberg Army Hospitals in Luzon, Philippines.

She left the Army Nurse Corps in March 1939 to marry George Edward Charles "Bill" Mears, a British Civil Engineer. When the Japanese invaded the Philippines, they became POWs with four other expatriates. The Japanese then forced "Bill" Mears to reopen a sawmill operation required to provide timber to repair bridges.

"Robbie" and "Bill" both eventually escaped the Japanese and stayed with Cecil Walter the general manager of the Anakan Lumber Company in an evacuation area behind his sawmill operation. Another American couple with that group were Fred W. Varney and his wife Nellie. "Bill" and "Robbie" lived there for about two years. Cecil Walter was involved in delivering supplies and equipment from the US Submarines to various guerilla units.

"Robbie" escaped by British Submarine to Australia sometime in 1943. "Bill" Mears later escaped on the submarine USS Narwhal from Nasipit, Mindanao, Philippines, on 16 November 1943 with 31 other evacuees, including Mrs. Nellie Varney, and disembarked at Darwin in the Northern Territory. "Bill" Mears went on to join the US Corps of Engineers.

Lt. Colonel Roger Olaf Egeberg was appointed as General Douglas MacArthur's doctor and established a Dispensary for GHQ SWPA on the 8th floor of the Commercial Bank Building in Queen Street, Brisbane. In his search for a nurse for his dispensary he received recommendations from various Colonels and General Officers. Egeberg approached the Chief Theater Nurse who was called Ma Clemens. Two days later Ma Clemens recommended Mabel "Robbie" Robertson.

"Robbie" was a modest, attractive, hard working nurse. She became a draw card ensuring many visitors to the new dispensary.

The May 1944 Military Telephone Directory for Brisbane shows the following entry:-

GHQ DISPENSARY

Medical Officer:                        Room No.    Tel. No.
    Lt. Col. Egeberg, R. O.        806 CBB       AMP 582

Nurse:-
    Lt. Robertson, M. E.            806 CBB       AMP 582

NOTE:- "Robbie" was using her maiden name whilst in this role as Dispensary Nurse in Brisbane.

Their Dispensary in the Commercial Bank Building was adjacent to the AMP building where General Douglas MacArthur had his office on the 8th floor. Although in different buildings, the dispensary was but a very short walk from General MacArthur's Office through a doorway which was knocked in the walls between the two buildings at the 8th floor level. See photo below.

 

The northern side of the AMP building showing the bricked
up doorway between the 8th floor of the two buildings.

 

"Robbie" moved forward with General MacArthur's headquarters eventually all the way to Leyte, Philippines and then returned to Manila where she escorted and repatriated Navy nurses on their return to the United States. "Robbie" had been part of a group of nurses in an advance medical group, who provided medical care for approximately 3,700 American and Allied Civilians who were suffering from malnutrition and other sicknesses as a result of a lengthy internment by the Japanese. They sometimes came under threat from Japanese air raids and small arms fire.

"Robbie" went on to receive the bronze star for heroism, Asiatic-Pacific Theatre ribbon with 2 stars, the Philippine Liberation ribbon with one star, and the WWII Victory Medal. "Robbie" and "Bill" reunited at the end of the war. "Robbie" remained in the US Army Nurse Corps until 1946.

The Mears family lived in Malate, Manila, Philippines after the war. "Bill" Mears managed the Nasipit Lumber Corporation NALCO in Manila from its foundation in 1946 by the Fernandez Brothers and later was in charge of Wood Industries Consultants.

"Bill" passed away in the late 1980s and "Robbie" then moved back to Fort Pierce, in Florida with her family. "Robbie" passed away on 17 March 2005.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"Letters from the Islands"
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Note:- this source incorrectly states that "Robbie" was buried at Arlington Cemetery.

 

Find a Grave - Mabel "Robbie Robertson Mears

 

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This page first produced30 October 2016

This page last updated 03 February 2017