Nurse extraordinaire: the story of Sybil Kathigasu

sybil_k(pic sourced from Malaysiakini)

Sybil Kathigasu nee Daly. You will not read of her in Malaysian history schoolbooks but she will be remembered in history as a remarkable woman, a trained nurse who together with her husband Dr. Abdon Clement Kathigasu, provided medical treatment to the anti-Japanese forces during World War II. Here is an excerpt from Remembering Sybil Kathigasu

Residing at No. 74, Main Street in Papan, Sybil Kathigasu secretly kept shortwave radio sets and listened to BBC broadcasts. The couple quietly provided medical treatment, much-needed medicines and information to the MPAJA (Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army) soldiers operating in the Kledang jungles. Due to treachery they were eventually arrested by the dreaded Kempeitai, the military police arm of the Imperial Japanese Army, in 1943.
Despite being interrogated by her captors, Sybil revealed little or nothing and was incarcerated at the Batu Gajah prison for her defiance. Sybil suffered all kinds of torture while in captivity, including the infamous “water-treatment”. After the end of the Japanese Occupation in August 1945, Kathigasu was flown to Britain to be treated.
Sybil was awarded the George Medal for Gallantry months before she succumbed to her wounds in June, 1948. She was the only known local woman to have won the medal, which was instituted in September 1940 by King George VI.

She is the only Malayan woman ever to be awarded the George Medal for Gallantry and today is remembered by a road named after her in Ipoh – Jalan Sybil Karthigasu. An interesting piece of trivia is that Astro ran a mini-series on her life “Apa Dosaku” starring local actress Elaine Daly who happens to be Sybil’s grand-niece!

Here’s a short clip from Youtube “The Forgotten History of Sybil Kathigasu” which provides you more insight on this brave lady.

It may be over 65 years since Sybil’s death but she will not be forgotten. Our generation of youngsters must never forget the sacrifices our forefathers made, particularly those who fought for our freedom. Her picture will be the next to grace the MMR Facebook page as our pick for an extraordinary Malaysian, not a doctor but a nurse this time.


Malaysian physician, haematologist, blogger, web and tech enthusiast