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223772   Sister Ruth Hannah Dickson
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Dated added: 30/12/2015   Last updated: 02/02/2020
Personal Details
Regiment/Service: Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (British Army)
Date Of Birth: 15/05/1890
Died: 24/12/1944 (Prisoner of War)
Age: 54
Summary      
Ruth Hannah Dickson was the daughter of Joseph Alexander and Lydia Ann Dickson. She was born on 15th May 1890. Ruth was the third of eight children, all born in the Benburb area. She served as a nurse in WW1. In 1923, she became a Presbyterian Missionary nurse in Manchuria, China. In September, 1941, she got caught up in the war and enlisted as a nurse. In 1943 Ruth was captured and became a Japanese prisoner of war. Late in 1944, she contracted malaria and died on Christmas Eve, 24th December 1944.
Sister Ruth Hannah Dickson
Further Information
Ruth Hannah Dickson was the daughter of Joseph Alexander and Lydia Ann Dickson. Joseph Dickson and Lydia Ann Dickson were married on 7th July 1885 in the district of Dungannon.
Ruth Hannah Dickson was born on 15th May 1890. She was the third of eight children, all born in the Benburb area.
Family: Joseph Alexander Dickson, Lydia Ann Dickson, Alice M Dickson (born 4th June 1886), George Dickson (born 21st May 1888), Ruth Hannah Dickson (born 15th May 1890), Ernest T Dickson (born 2nd May 1892), William Samuel Dickson (born 3rd July 1894), David Edwin Dickson (born 4th July 1896), Joseph Alexander Dickson (born 6th August 1898), Norman Dickson (born 24th September 1901)
The 1901 census does not list Ruth as living with the family at house 11 in Carrowcolman, Benburb, County Tyrone. Joseph Dickson was a farmer.
The 1911 census lists Ruth H as age 20, living with the family at house 10 in Carrowcolman, Benburb. Ruth is described as a farmer’s daughter.
It seems she served on some capacity in World War on as she has a medal card stating she was with the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve. Towards the end of World War I she had nursed German prisoners of War.
The medal card states that she left her position on 26th June 1922.
In 1923, Ruth H Dickson, aged 33 years and with the occupation of ‘Nurse’ appears in the passenger records of the ‘City of Karachi’ leaving Southampton for Shanghai, China.
She became a Presbyterian Missionary nurse in Manchuria, China.
In 1930 Ruth Dickson, of Carrowcolman, Eglish, Co. Tyrone aged 39 years, Missionary, left from London on 20th December 1930 on the ‘Rajaputna’ for Shanghai.
During her twenty-one years as a missionary in China, she played a considerable part in the establishment of an educated and well-trained nursing profession whose fully-qualified graduate nurses, having gone through a course comparable to that of nurses in Ireland, could take their place without much difficulty in a modern hospital in any country.
Some years later in 1936, she appears in the “Belfast News-Letter” (1.4.36) as a missionary, undertaking medical work, assisting a native doctor, with an evangelistic mission in Newchang, China. In that year she gave a talk on her experiences to the “Girls Auxiliary” of the Presbyterian Church in Guyamere, Castlerock in Belfast.
Later in 1936 there is also a record of Ruth H Dickson, born 1890, aged 46 years, occupation ‘Nurse’, leaving Belfast for Montreal, Canada on the ‘Duke of Atholl’ on 6th November 1936.
During the first year of the war with Japan there was initially a report in the Belfast Newsletter (dated 2nd January 1942) that Miss Ruth Dickson, writing from Singapore, states that she intends remaining there and had volunteered for national service as a nurse.
In September, 1941, she with a number of others, set off most reluctantly for home. They had a very uncomfortable trip with an exceedingly severe typhoon added to the man-made trials, so that Ruth arrived in Singapore with her trunks smashed and everything in her cabin ruined. There she found that the chances of getting home were very slender, and seeing the need for army nurses, she at once offered for National Service, tired and ready for furlough though she was. She worked in a military hospital in Singapore for four months, and was in the last batch of military sisters to leave.
Ruth Hannah Dickson enlisted with the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service in 1941.
Another report from the Belfast Newsletter, dated 28th August 1942) records that sister Ruth Dickson had escaped from Manchuria to Singapore.
The bombing of Singapore was going on almost continuously, and Japanese planes soon set their ship on fire. Ruth got into a raft with some nurses and members of the R.A.F., and they were eventually washed upon an island as yet unoccupied by the Japanese. With very little water and no feedstuffs. Ruth as usual lived up to her motto of ‘others first’ and with a few other devoted nurses remained at work till all the patients were safe, and so forfeited her chance of escape. They were taken prisoner by the Japanese in April and moved from island to island till they reached Sumatra.
The Belfast Newsletter reported on 2nd December 1943 that Sister Ruth Dickson of Newchang Hospital, China was a Japanese prisoner of war in Sumatra.
Towards the end of the war she nursed Japanese prisoners of war.
In November 1944, her camp was moved to Banka Island, which was so heavily infested with malaria that about ninety per cent of the prisoners became infected, Ruth among them. Repeated attacks of the fever, coupled with malnutrition, so weakened her that she died on Christmas Eve.
A Scottish nurse was on duty that night and looked after her. Next morning this same nurse took charge of a little burial service, when a few friends laid Ruth’s body to rest, in a quiet open space outside the camp.
Sister Ruth Hannah Dickson was serving with the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service when she died of malaria as a prisoner of war on Christmas Eve, 24th December 1944.
The Larne Times reported on 17th July 1947 that a memorial window had been dedicated in Eglish Presbyterian Church, County Tyrone, to Ruth Hannah Dickson.
Sister Ruth Hannah Dickson is buried in Jakarta War Cemetery in Indonesia.
Ruth Hannah Dickson is also commemorated on the family headstone in Benburb Church of Ireland
Dorothy Crawford writes in ‘FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH’ about Ruth Hannah Dickson, Missionary to Manchuria between 1923 and 1944. See references below for her essay on Ruth Dickson.
The CWGC record Ruth Hannah Dickson as the daughter of Joseph Alexander and Lydia Ann Dickson of Eglish, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.
Read more
Relevant Dungannon Area Locations
No Location Region Location Notes Longtitude Latitude
1 Eglish Benburb CWGC list parents as living in Eglish 54.452427 -6.794629
2 Carrowcolman, Benburb Benburb Census listing in Carrowcolman 54.435307 -6.794501
References and Links
No Link Reference Map Doc
1 1901 Census lists Dickson family Does not list Ruth as living with the family at house 11 in Carrowcolman, Benburb, Tyrone
2 1911 Census lists Dickson family Lists Ruth H as age 20 living with the family at house 10 in Carrowcolman, Benburb, Tyrone
3 Britain at War - ROH Detailed biography and photo of the missionary nurse in Manchuria
4 FindAGrave.com Photo of Sister Ruth Hannah Dickson's gravestone
5 National Archives UK Medal Card can be purchased here (WW1)
6 SS Kuala Biography of Sister Ruth Hannah Dickson'
7 War Graves Photographic Project (1) Photo of Sister Ruth Hannah Dickson's gravestone can be purchased here
8 War Graves Photographic Project (2) Photo of Sister Ruth Hannah Dickson's family memorial
Dungannon District's War Dead Acknowledgements 2015-2020