An Aussie angel

In 1947 a forty-eight-year-old Ipswich mother and wife of a mechanic, Mrs Rose Manson, stepped ashore at San Francisco, California, in the United States. When she disembarked from a U.S. Navy troopship, she was lost amongst the Australian war brides who were excited to be reunited with their American servicemen husbands. But all the fuss was focussed on Mrs Manson. I told a version of this story live on West Bremer Radio.

Months earlier on the other side of the world, more than two thousand people attended the American Memorial Day service at the U.S. war cemetery (pictured above) in Ipswich, Queensland, Australia. The U.S. Vice-Consul was deeply touched that such a large number of Australians were there to pay tribute to the American dead from the Second World War. Mrs Manson was there placing sweet peas and jonquils on the graves.

Mrs Rose Manson is thanked by an American serviceman on Memorial Day

Mrs Manson was born Rose Abbott just before the turn of the century at Kentish Town in north-west London, England. During the latter stages of the First World War in 1918, Rose was just nineteen-years-old when she fell in love and married a thirty-four year old Australian soldier. He brought her home to Ipswich where she ultimately gave birth to twelve offspring.

However, it was during the Second World War that the then Mrs Manson become mother to another 1,450 children.

That’s because Rose had appointed herself as the voluntary guardian of the American war cemetery in Ipswich. She placed flowers, which she grew herself at her home on nearby Salisbury Road, on every grave in the cemetery. She took a job as cleaner at the post office so that she could pay for the postage stamps to write to the mother of every one of the 1,450 American soldiers buried there.

Mrs Rose Manson in her flower garden

After the war, the American mothers were so grateful for Rose’s unsolicited kindness, that they banded together and raised the money to take her to America. They wanted to meet her and thank her in person.

When Rose stepped ashore in San Francisco, that was the beginning of a nine-month tour across the United States. She visited thousands of families from California to Kansas and all over the mid-west.

She slept in train depots, humble miners’ cabins, and palatial American homes. She was welcomed by doctors, professors, and stevedores. She stayed with the richest and the poorest, and travelled by every means possible, including even hitchhiking.

News outlets in America called Rose the “Aussie Angel.”

The remains of the American servicemen in Ipswich were repatriated to the U.S. where they were re-interred with full military honours. And the Ipswich war cemetery – it was renamed Manson Park in Rose’s honour, and it remains named that today.

I was planning on sharing this beautiful story with you for next mothers’ day.

But, a couple of days ago, my own dear mother Shirley passed away.

Mrs Shirley Peacock

My mum was also an angel to many as she became synonymous with junior basketball on the Gold Coast. Over a period of forty years, she was a guiding voice and positively impacted the lives of over 10,000 children.

I wanted to honour my mother – and all mothers – by sharing the story of the “Aussie Angel” Rose Manson.

My mum’s funeral is in ten days’ time, which is a reminder for all of us to hug our mothers every day because they are all angels.


Photo credits:
USAF Military Cemetery, 19 Cemetery Road, Raceview, Ipswich, 1942-1947 – Picture Ipswich
Mrs Rose Manson thanked by U.S. ex-serviceman F.D. McBride – Courier-Mail, Brisbane, 2nd June 1947, page 3.
Mrs Rose Manson in her garden at Salisbury Road, Ipswich – Telegraph, Brisbane, 15th October 1946, page 8.
Shirley Peacock a night at the Opera, Parliament House, 2019 – Harold Peacock.

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