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professional dedication”, Merz possessed “an appealing
modesty” that was not found in some of his classmates.
His colleague Tom White remembered him as “a brilliant
medico and best of good fellows, [who] had worked hard
the night before his last flight with suffering wounded in a
sweltering, understaffed hospital at Nasiriyeh.”
His impressive personal qualities partly explain why Dora
Irene Rowe was attracted to George Merz. When the pair
first met, possibly during his time as a medical student, the
26-year-old nurse could never have imagined anything as
intense as the grief she would experience after learning of
her fiancé’s death. Now, as she travelled on that slow mail
train to Brisbane, Dora must have felt that her world had
been shattered. For the Rev. George Rowe, a Methodist
minister only recently returned from service aboard the
troopships Kyarra and Ballarat, comforting his daughter on
this sad trip home must have been a monumental test of
his strengths as a counsellor and father.5
Five weeks after returning home, Dora volunteered for the
Australian Army Nursing Service. After working for two
years at the Enoggera Camp Hospital, she sailed on the
troopship Ayrshire “for active service abroad.” In the war’s
final year, Dora Rowe worked in Cairo, at the Citadel
Military Hospital and at the 31st General Hospital at
Abbassia. Her return to Queensland aboard the
Leicestershire was not as joyous as she might have
expected – by then, the “Spanish Flu” pandemic had
reached Australia, and the social pages reported in
February 1919 that Sister Rowe was “detained in
quarantine at Wallangarra.”
By the end of the year, that setback was probably well and
truly forgotten. On December 13, Dora married 38-year-old
Dr Andrew Buchanan Steele, who had been on the staff
during her time at Enoggera. The Steeles had two children,
a daughter, also named Dora, and a son, George, who was
serving aboard HMAS Arunta when she sank the Japanese
submarine RO-33 off Port Moresby in August 1942. Over
the years, the name of Mrs A.B. Steele appeared several
times in reports of the doings of Brisbane high society, but
after her husband passed away in 1942, Dora moved to
Melbourne, where she lived in Park Street, Brighton. She
died in 1972.7
I am indebted to Monica Walsh, Alan Dann and Eric Panther
for their invaluable research assistance.
1. The Sydney Morning Herald, August 12, 1915, p.7; The Argus, August 21, 1915, p.19;
The Hobart Mercury, October 4, 1915, p.6 .
2. The Brisbane Courier, August 27, 1915, p.11; The Queenslander, September 4, 1915,
3. Bate, Weston: Life After Gold, Melbourne, 1993. p.62; The University of Melbourne: Record
of Active Service, Melbourne, 1926, p.32.
4. Stephens, Alan: The Royal Australian Air Force, South Melbourne, 2001, p.6; Molkentin,
Michael: Fire In The Sky, Crows Nest, 2010, pp.8, 11, 17.
5. National Archives of Australia: Personal Service Records of George Edward Rowe.
6. National Archives of Australia: Personal Service Records of Dora Irene Rowe; The Brisbane
Courier, October 4, 1917, p.7; February 25, 1919, p.9; The Queenslander, October 13,
1915, p.40; The Cairns Post, October 13, 1915, p.6 .
7. National Archives of Australia: Personal Service Records of Andrew Buchanan Steele and
George A. B. Steele; The Courier-Mail, December 21, 1942, p.6.
Aerogram December 2014
One of Australia Post’s more recent stamp issues
commemorates the centenary of Australia’s first domestic
air mail flight.
Australia Post philatelic manager, Michael Zsolt, said the
centenary was an aviation milestone that highlighted the
vital role air mail has played to help keep people and
“The development of aviation greatly influenced transport
and communications in the early 20th century and, in a
country such as Australia, it helped to overcome the
tyranny of distance,” he said.
This year marks 100 years since French aviator
Maurice Guillaux (1883-1917) made the first air
mail flight in Australia. He left Melbourne on July
Air Mail Centenary
16 and arrived in Sydney on July 18, 1914. The flying time
was just nine hours and 15 minutes, with seven stops. At
the time it was the longest air mail flight worldwide.
The issue includes a domestic base-rate stamp (70c) and
one international-rate stamp ($2.60). A prestige booklet
accompanying the stamp issue covers the history of
Australia’s air mail service.
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