Dr Helen Rossiter (Randell)

1933 Collegian | Deceased 1987

A painting of Dr Helen Rossiter by her daughter, Margaret.

Helen Margaret Randell studied medicine at the universities of Western Australia and Melbourne before heading to Edinburgh in 1937 to complete her studies. It would be nearly 10 years, a marriage and a war before she would briefly set foot back in her home country.

She married fellow Australian student and Rhodes Scholar, Dr Roger Rossiter, in Edinburgh in March 1940. Upon qualifying in July of the same year, Helen and her husband worked at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, where Helen specialised in children's health before taking her diploma in anaesthetics.

War beckoned and Helen enlisted in the British Army. Six months later she found herself in the field at a hospital near the south coast of England. There she dealt with the early casualties from the Normandy battles, but soon after D-Day she crossed the Channel.

From July until the end of November 1944 Helen worked in a 1,200-bed tent hospital.

In an interview with The West Australian, published in November 1946, she recalled that many of her patients were "German prisoners who were in a shocking state. Most of them had been left for days. Their bandages were of paper; they had not had the benefit of penicillin; many of them looked no more than 16 or 17 years of age; and they did not expect to receive any kindness."

"In fact," she added, "I think most of them expected to be 'bumped off!'"

Dr Helen Rossiter moved with the advancing forces across Europe until VE-Day. She described the crossing of the Rhine in a letter she wrote to her parents-in-law, which was published in The Collegian in 1945.

She wrote: "We are now about 100 miles across the Rhine after a tiring journey in the back of a six-ton lorry… we unloaded the truck and were operating by lunch-time. Since then we have only stopped to eat and sleep."

Later, two neurosurgical units were formed to go to Burma and Helen was posted to one which was ready to leave when the Japanese surrendered. Instead, she was sent to India.

When Roger received his discharge, Helen, now a major, applied for demobilisation and was sent home to England, where they joined the ship to return to Australia in November 1946.

The following February, the Drs Rossiter moved to Canada where Roger became chair of biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario. During this time, Helen worked as the University's physician, until 1955. She continued to work as an anaesthetist until she retired in 1972.

It was also during this time that Drs Roger and Helen Rossiter had four children, James, Margaret, John and George.

Dr Helen Rossiter died in August 1987.