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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Roche, Marjorie Clare (1896–1982)

by Gail Clements

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Marjorie Clare Roche (1896-1982), army officer and Red Cross administrator, was born on 21 January 1896 at Gympie, Queensland, sixth of seven surviving children of Victorian-born George Leonard Board, land commissioner, and his Sydney-born wife Sophia, née Deighton.  In 1900 her father was appointed Queensland’s first inspector of forests and the family moved to South Brisbane.  Educated at Miss Green’s private school, Woolloongabba, Marjorie joined the local Voluntary Aid Detachment, organised in 1914 by the new Queensland division of the British (later Australian) Red Cross Society.  She served (1916-21) as recording secretary of the Queensland division executive and worked at convalescent hospitals, including Rakeevan at Graceville.  On 27 October 1922 at St Andrew’s Church of England, South Brisbane, she married Clive Frederic Alan Roche, a returned soldier from World War I who had been a patient at Rakeevan.  Until 1938 the couple worked a small farm at Bald Knob, near Maleny, where Marjorie was a member of the local Red Cross branch.

Clive’s ill health and economic factors caused the Roches to abandon the farm and they bought a house at Annerley, Brisbane.  In 1939 Marjorie rejoined the VAD as assistant-secretary and in 1940 became honorary secretary to VAD medical services.  Clive died in May that year.  On 17 September 1941 she enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service and was classified as a junior clerk.  Promoted to acting-sergeant in September 1942, she was appointed assistant-controller (quartermaster) of VADs, Northern Command, on 21 October.  The VADs were absorbed into the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service in December; on 28 April 1943 Roche was made temporary captain (substantive on 28 August 1944) and on 12 July 1943, temporary major.  In January 1944 she was appointed assistant-controller for Queensland of the AAMWS.  Demobilised on 18 March 1947, she was placed on the Retired List.  She was awarded the commandant-in-chief’s card for outstanding service and was made a life member of the AAMWS Association.

A founding member of Queensland Red Cross Link, in 1951 Roche was appointed divisional commandant, Queensland division of Red Cross.  Next year she resigned, but soon rejoined the Red Cross as superintendent of women personnel section (1953-74) and hospitality group (1964-70).  On the divisional executive from 1964, in 1970-74 she was chairman of the women personnel section.  In 1971-72 she was a member of the Disaster Relief Committee.  She represented the State division on the Florence Nightingale Committee of Australia and the Queensland Bush Nursing Association.  Awarded the Australian Red Cross distinguished service medal (1963), long service medal (1966) and bar (1968), she retired in 1974, but was a vice-president until 1977.

Marjorie Roche was 5 ft 7 ins (170 cm) tall, with 'medium' complexion and dark brown hair.  Apart from Red Cross activities, her main interests were dressmaking, tapestry and attending plays put on by the Brisbane Repertory Theatre Society.  She enjoyed holidays at her beach house at Tugun.  Survived by her three daughters, she died on 8 June 1982 at the Karinya Baptist Aged Care Home, Laidley, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • A. S. Walker, Medical Services of the R.A.N. and R.A.A.F., 1961
  • R. Goodman, VADs in Peace and War, 1991
  • Australian Red Cross Society (Queensland), Annual Report, 1958-77
  • B884, item Q119238 (National Archives of Australia)
  • Australian Red Cross archives, North Melbourne
  • private information

Citation details

Gail Clements, 'Roche, Marjorie Clare (1896–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 26 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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