The mother of the A.I.F. will surprise you

Early in the twentieth century, Henry de Burgh Anderson was the manager of the Australian Joint Stock Bank, otherwise known as the A.J.S. Bank, in Ipswich, Queensland. He was an extremely well-read man who loved to sit on the veranda of his home, while Tennyson, Kipling, Gilbert, Lewis Carroll, and other favourite authors were discussed and quoted. From that very same manager’s residence just a few years earlier, had grown the author of one of the world’s most beloved books. I told a version of this story on West Bremer Radio.

While Anderson was the bank manager in places like Ipswich, Allora on the Darling Downs, and up in north Queensland, so too was Mr Travers Robert Goff.

Travers Robert Goff

For three years 1900-1902, Goff was manager of the A.J.S. Bank in Ipswich, as well as being on committees like the Ipswich School of Arts.

On the 13th of April 1902, a second daughter was born to Goff and his wife Margaret, who was the niece of Boyd Morehead who was had been the premier of Queensland. 

The child was born in the bank manager’s residence on the corner of Bell and Brisbane Streets. Her name was Barbara Irene Goff, or “Biddy” as she became known. Biddy grew to be one of the most celebrated nurses of the Second World War. She devoted her life to the Red Cross.

In 1940, Biddy’s husband Captain Boyd Moriarty went to serve in the Middle East with the Australia Army as part of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force, the A.I.F.

Biddy Moriarty

Biddy followed him as a nurse with the Red Cross. The next year in 1941, Moriarty was killed by a German sniper, but Biddy remained to build an impressive nursing reputation of international standing.

Biddy Moriarty eventually claimed one of longest active-service records in the Red Cross. She was the first Red Cross worker to go to France to treat Prisoners of War from Germany. She was commandant of the first Red Cross unit into Singapore to save the Australian POWs of the Japanese. Her work was responsible for saving hundreds or even thousands of lives.

Biddy became known as the “Mother of the A.I.F.” and in 1947 was awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal (top picture) which is the highest international distinction that a nurse can get.

Mrs Moriarty receiving the Florence Nightingale Medal

Biddy was born in Ipswich and lived in the centre of town, and yet her name is unknown there today. If anyone is deserving of a plaque on a street corner, it is her.

Biddy had an older sister who also lived in Ipswich. This sister had been born in Maryborough and was six months old when the family moved into the Ipswich bank managers residence. Her named was Helen Lyndon Goff, and she is commemorated by plaques and things in places around Australia and even the world. For example, in her birthplace of Maryborough, the family home and former A.J.S. Bank in Allora, and even at her adult home in London, England.

English heritage plaque

Helen Goff was better known as P.L. Travers and was the author of the much-loved books of Mary Poppins. The 2013 movie “Saving Mr Banks” referred to the early life of P.L. Travers at Allora and chronicled the making of the 1961 Disney movie “Mary Poppins”. The original film starred Julie Andrews.

Helen Goff aka P.L. Travers (right) at the premiere of Mary Poppins

There was no mention of Ipswich in the movie, and nothing about her sister Biddy Moriarty.

However, perhaps Biddy is more deserving of a plaque in the street because of the lives that she saved as the “Mother of the A.I.F.”


Photo credits:
Florence Nightingale Medal – One Bid.
Travers Robert Goff – uploaded to Find a Grave by J Smith 2013.
Barbara Irene ‘Biddy’ Moriarty nee Goff – uploaded to Find a Grave by Katherine Youngberry 2014.
Mrs Boyd Moriarty receiving the Florence Nightingale Medal from Mr A.L. Blythe – Daily Telegraph, Sydney, 16th July 1947, page 15.
P.L. Travers 50 Smith Street, Chelsea, London, English Heritage blue plaque – Wikipedia Creative Commons.
Julie Andrews, Walt Disney and P.L. Travers at the Mary Poppins Premiere, 1961 – Disney Enterprises.


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