Archive number: 1608
Date interviewed: 11 March, 2004
Australian Special Wireless Group
You are listening to the interview audio
Good morning, Dorothy.
Thank you for talking with us and giving us your time today. The archive wouldn’t exist without you giving us your time. So I’d like to start off today by asking if you could give us a brief introduction starting with where you were born?
I was born in Berri, South
Australia on the 9th of March 1922. If I could remember it, it was a harrowing birth for my mother, but we came through fine.
And where did you go to school?
The Berri High Primary School. I had eight years’ schooling. I left, my father was very sick so
I left school and took on my first job. My sister went on, she was a bit younger than I was, and yes, I wasn’t a bad student. Could’ve done better, I think, if I’d stayed at school, if I’d had a better opportunity. We didn’t have a lot of money and to continue was going to cost a lot of money so I left.
And how old were you when you left school?
14, nearly 15.
And the declaration of war, how old were you then?
1939, I was born in 1922,
I think I was about 18, something like that. It’s a long time ago, you know.
I understand you moved down to Adelaide?
Yes, at the age of 19, and I went to a job that was pre-arranged. A girlfriend of mine had left Berri previously and she was working
and she got me a job down there. I was ready to leave home. My parents weren’t very happy about that, but I just felt there was more to life and I needed to get out. So I followed my instincts, whether they were right or wrong I’ll never know, but I was happy. That was 12 months, 13 months, then of course I
joined up the AWAS [Australian Women’s Army Service].
And where did you enlist in the AWAS?
I was interviewed in Adelaide and that was in May 1942, and after that I was waiting for my call up and I got it, but unfortunately I contracted chickenpox
at that age and ended up back home. So actually it was from home in Berri that I finally in August was in the army.
And where did you do your training?
At Bonegilla in the ASWG, that was the Australian Special Wireless Group,
Morse code and all that stuff, and finally becoming a driver. They didn’t have them, they had Don-Rs, the dispatch riders on motorbikes, the young men. Well, they decided that the women would have to take over from them. So we drove cars, trucks, all that sort of thing, and still had to know quite a
bit of the Morse code, but I don’t think it would’ve helped us much because we didn’t have to go the full stretch with Morse code as the operators did. They thought if we had a bit and we heard this call sign or something like that, that we might be able to pick up something if it was necessary. Of course it never happened.
did you stay the whole time at Bonegilla?
No, no. We were there for 12 or 13 months and then they divided us into sections and so many of us went down to a place called Mornington on the Mornington Peninsula. So they had a huge
receival for the operators in the middle of Mornington Racecourse and we were in the usual army huts around the place.
And was that with 52 Section?
And how long did you stay at Mornington?
Well, I came out earlier
than the other girls because at that stage, towards the end of 1944, about midway I married and he was a sick man, so on compassionate grounds I demobbed [demobilised] and came home to do the right thing by my husband
and take care of him. Something I didn’t regret doing that particular function in my life, but I did regret leaving the army before the war finished. I’ve always regretted that. I’d loved to have been there at the end with the rest of the girls just to have that exhilaration of getting out of the army with the rest of them. But it didn’t happen, so that was that.
And after the war was over what happened?
We lived in a house that was opposite his parents on his parents’ fruit block and raised two children there and another child at our own home when we bought our own house.
Our eldest girl, Rosemary, was born, we were married in ’44 and she was born in ’46. The next one in ’47, and my husband went out tractor driving for people and working, helping his father on the block, the fruit block, and it was quite a life really because we didn’t have electricity
and you know, it was the usual scrubbing board and the copper. That sort of thing. It was hard. We didn’t have water laid on for a long time. We had an underground tank, and waiting for my husband to pipe it to the house I used to have to lie on my stomach with a bucket and a rope to pull the water out of the tank and
I was pregnant at the time with my first child which didn’t reach. I had a miscarriage, and I think it was the chores perhaps that caused some of that. It may not have, but I was only married five months when I became pregnant the first time and it was quite funny really. We didn’t intend
pregnancy at that stage. We had talked about it and decided we’d wait five years, and five months, bang, it was on. So, and having had this disappointment of course, that mother instinct, I badly wanted a baby and my doctor said, “You have to wait a while so that the system cleans up and start again,” which is what we did.
So my eldest girl then was born 19 months later. So she was a joy, but then I didn’t expect to fall pregnant again so soon with the second one, but it happened. I wouldn’t change things now for anything. They’re two delightful girls, and then the third one came along in 1951, another girl.
And that was a little disappointment, I guess, for my husband. He always wanted a boy, but he couldn’t care less now, they’re such good children to us, young adults, or middle-aged now. So –
We have eight, four boys and four girls. So he has his boys there, and they are now, the
eldest is 30 and the youngest is 19, going on 19. So it’s quite a range through. That’s that side of it.
Good, well, we’ll come back and talk more about that. Now, what I’d like to do is go right back to the beginning. What was
Berri like when you were growing up there?
I can remember way back to my childhood when we lived on a fruit block which wasn’t very far from a river. We used to, as kids, run down and stand on the fence post and watch the river boats come through, the barges. You’d hear them coming around the bend in the river with their sirens going, so we used to rush off
down there and watch them and wave madly as they went by. That was beautiful, and then we had a very low river. It got so low one year, I don’t remember because I was very young at the time, and we used to go for walks with my mother and we walked across the riverbed. There were just little puddles and that was, today that would be unbelievable, but when that river
was running full stream it was so clean and so crystal clear and you could see right through. We used to go yabbying with a string and a net with a piece of meat on it and then we’d catch the yabbies and bring them up. We could see them right through, but now it’s so muddy you can’t see your hand more than a few inches underneath, which is a pity. We’re killing our river,
and the government, they’ve been talking about it for about 30 odd years what they should be doing, but they’ve never done it. So that’s our life stream and if they don’t do something quickly we’ll probably be migrating to the eastern states. They’re getting their share.
And this is the River Murray?
Mmm, the River Murray, and my father
at the time, being a returned man from the First World War, he suffered greatly from war injuries and he was sick, very sick, in and out of hospital all his after-war life, post-war life, and we children were brought up to be quiet in the home and in those days it did exist. Children were meant to be seen
and not heard, which is a pity because you don’t learn that, it’s a gift I suppose for some, but you don’t learn how to talk in front of people and all of that sort of thing. You don’t learn a lot, but today children, I think they rule the household. I know we gave ours a little bit more freedom than that, but
that was parents in the old days. They never, they weren’t cruel, there was no molestation or anything like that in the old days. We’d never heard of it, and we had such a peaceful quiet clean upbringing, I suppose you’d describe it as, and they were loving parents, disciplined. We had plenty of discipline if we
stepped out of line. Our mother was the disciplinarian. My father wouldn’t touch us, and I know my sister and I at times would feel we had to get out, so we’d go down to the bottom of the garden at the back. It was the front in those days, and lie in the lucerne patch and scream our heads off just to get rid of that
exuberance, you know, and yes, that was it. And our father, he built his own home with the help of a brother after the First World War. In the country they didn’t have the homes supplied to the degree that they did in the city. Colonel Light Gardens I believe is a First World War returned soldiers development, but my
Dad, he had to, he’d go down to the river with a wheelbarrow and bring back sand from the sandbar not very far down the river, bring it back, make his own stone blocks, built his own two roomed house, put a lean-to on the back. Later on, on the front two bedrooms of iron and hessian lining.
They had it tough. We didn’t have anything like that to put up with. But they were happy doing what they were doing, and this is what he did, and he dug his own underground water tank, which was a round one. His brother helped him, because as he dug he had to fill a bucket and the brother would, my uncle
would pull it up from the bottom, empty it and put it back for another bucket full of sand, and that’s how it went on. Then they built a windmill to pump the water to the house. Of course the toilet in those days was a backyard job, and that had to be buried, and don’t walk too close after it’s dug or you might go down.
Perhaps you could just, I’m very interested to hear about this home-built house, or self-built house. Can you describe what it looked like and where everything was?
Yes, I can, very clearly actually. The back was a lean-to, was the kitchen, had a tiny little window and a wood stove and on the hob of the stove was,
I forget what they call them. It was a huge cast iron container with a tap that was the water. You’d put the water there, and my mother had an iron for ironing clothes, was a coal iron, the coal from the stove, and that was our
warm, warming also was the kitchen stove, and from there was what we called a lobby between there and the bathroom, which was quite large, and that became my uncle’s bedroom as well when he came to live with us because of the sickness of my Dad, and later on there we had a huge gas bottle. We went, my father
set up a gas system for the lighting and in the, we went, then in towards the front of the house were two rooms. One was the bedroom, their bedroom, and one was the dining sitting and that had a pot belly stove in it, and our cat got under there one day and singed all the fur off its back. And then as we two girls grew there had
to be more bedrooms, so he built two more on the front of the house with corrugated iron and the lining was hessian. So one of those bedrooms became my uncle’s and the other was my sister’s and mine. No, that’s not right. My mother and father slept in the other one and we had the stone
bedroom. And then the wireless came into being and he had one of those in the sitting room, in the dining area with the big speaker funnel and we two would desperately want to listen to it and we weren’t allowed to. We had to go to bed. So we’d put our ears up against the
bedroom door and all you could hear was static from this original valve set, but Dad loved that so that was OK.
And why were you not allowed to listen?
It was bedtime, dear. Bedtime, and we had to do our homework and when that was done, while the homework was going on there was no noise, no wireless or anything like that.
I was a very sick girl in my childhood. I caught everything that was going but I got through it. I nearly died with diphtheria but the doctor got me through that, and my sister, she was healthier than what I was and she looked as if she might be starting to get diphtheria, so the doctor came out.
He was very good. They used to visit in those days, but when I was very sick he’d be out there three times a day and he had to come three miles to see me, and so that my sister wouldn’t get it he said to her, it was too late for me to have an injection but he said to her, “Roll over.” Do you know where he put it? I’ll never forget the look on her face.
Her eyes popped wide open. She got such a shock of her life, and I’m thinking to myself, “Gee, I’m getting better”. I didn’t miss that prod one little bit, but anyway I got over that. But in those days the girls at school used to write to me and I used to answer their letters, but my mother would have to put them in the oven first
to kill all the germs before they were allowed out of the house. That was one form, the other thing was that she’d go around daily with a dustpan and light a rag in the dustpan and go around with this to kill off the germs in the air. Old fashioned ideas, but they worked. I think they did, I’m still here.
Just going back to the description of your house, what was on the floor?
Cement. We had cement floors, and the only two rooms that had linoleum were the one bedroom and the other, kitchen, not the kitchen, the dining setting area. And we had
a cow. My mother milked the cow and she used to go like this towards the cats. They were two cats sitting there paws up waiting for it and they’d be smothered in milk by the time she’d finished, two fat cats, and we grew lucerne for the cow. We had two horses. For my father we had a fruit block and they had to get
that going. He was working with the horse and all the implements for the fruit block and he quite often was ill, so my mother’s sister and her husband came to live on the same block and they built their own home alongside of ours and
if you’re interested I can tell you what it was built of, because they weren’t the only ones that did this. There were many doing it. They sewed together wheat bags, and he was very good at building, my aunty’s husband, and he constructed, the outside of it was wheat bags and they calcimined it [whitewash]. It’s like a paint, and
they put many many coats on that until that skin developed and it made a hard surface and it was waterproof and they lined it all with hessian. They had dirt floors but they had covering on them, and my aunty was a wonderful cook. We kids used to go up there and she’d give us raspberry drink
and sponge cake. She was a good cook. So was my mother, but it’s not so much fun unless you can go somewhere and have it. So that’s what we did. And my uncle helped my father and eventually he ran the block for him, but unfortunately it had to be sold in the finish and it was a sad thing really, because my uncle had hoped to take it on, but of course
he, that wasn’t so, and my father and his two brothers set up a business in Berri. Before that, as well as working the block, my father used to work in a butcher shop run by the army and navy. That was after the war they were running these places, and from there he decided, well, he might as well have his own business, so he and his two brothers set up business across the road
from the army and navy and ran their own business there. It was quite funny really, because one day at school the school teacher said to us, he wanted to know the whole of our, what did our fathers do, what were the fathers, you know, etcetera, etcetera, and it came to my turn and I hadn’t really been listening very much to what the other children were saying and I said,
“My father is a returned soldier and a gentleman.” The teacher’s face, I can still see it. He never asked anymore questions. And my Dad was, he was a quiet unassuming man but he used to get things done in his own quiet way.
Well what did you know about his World War I experience?
He was in the French trenches, the mud, all that thing. Lately we’ve been watching it on television, they’ve coloured the First World War footage, and that’s what he was in. He was gassed twice, I think. It could’ve been three times. He was blinded but he got his sight back. He was wounded.
I don’t know what the wound was but I do know that he used to have to go to Adelaide after the war and have a leg treated and ended up with a slight limp. So exactly what the war wound was I don’t know, and they used to get very debilitated in the trenches and they’d have to bring them out for a break,
and I think that happened to him three times. I’ve got his whole history if you’re interested in looking at it, and he joined in 1916 and then he had, he was in and out of hospital that many times and finally they sent him to England in hospital. He had an appendicitis in the trenches
and it wasn’t seen to immediately, and when it was it was a dirty operation and he was just neglected. They found him later amongst the dead men but he was alive. So they brought him out, sent him to England to hospital, wired home or sent a letter to my grandmother to say that he was seriously ill, not expected to make it
but he did. Then they sent him home in 1919. So he had quite a traumatic experience. He was a lance corporal. He was given two more stripes, didn’t even get them stitched on. They took them off him, a bit like my husband. He
was in France somewhere in a private home, they were invited in, and he and his mate went in and he said to the lady there, “Would you do me a favour and stitch these stripes on for me?” She said, “Oh yes, I’ll do that,” and as he pulled them out of his pocket out fell his identification book that he had and she picked it up and
she read it and she saw Church of England and she was Roman Catholic. She threw it on the floor and stamped on it. So he pulled out his gun and he said, “You will stitch them on.” So she reported him. They never did get stitched on. That was his favourite story. I can remember it and I think he was very
brave myself, but the army has funny ways, haven’t they? So that’s Dad’s story.
And for you what was it like growing up knowing that your father was so ill?
Well, we loved him very much and he would only have to
tell us not to do something or if we wanted to know something he would do his best to answer it, but we just never defied or cheeked him in any way whatsoever, and quite frankly even if he hadn’t been sick I think that’s the way, that was his personality, that
you just didn’t do it, whereas with our Mum, being used to her all the time and telling us don’t do that or don’t do this, or you can do that or you can’t, and if there was any punishment she was the one that delivered it. I copped it a few times. I didn’t feel I deserved some of it, but
still I used to scream a lot, I know that. My sister told me later in life that she used to bait me like mad because she loved to hear me scream. I could’ve killed her when she told me that. That was about four years ago and I thought, “Well, wasn’t I stupid not to see through it,” ’cause I was the elder of the two. There was only 15 months’ difference between us, so we’re very close sisters and
we still are.
And what’s your sister’s name?
Evelyn. We only have one name each. My mother had two names and my father had two names. My grandmother had three, so she decided they were such a nuisance when you had to sign papers that we’d only have one each, sensible I think.
Well tell me a bit more about your mother, how did she administer that punishment?
get into trouble today. She had a strap. I can’t remember what it looked like but it was a strap nevertheless. I know I copped a hiding on the back of my legs with a machine strap on one occasions, you know that thin cord? Boy, that hurt, it brought up
welts. I suppose I deserved it. I can’t remember what I did, but I’ll say this, she loved us even if she was like that and I think she was under stress a lot having to take care of Dad and make us behave so that it wouldn’t upset him.
My sister didn’t get it as much as I did. I think I was not so much a rebel as I just wanted to be me and I think later as I grew up and went to work I wanted more. I thought there was more to life than the humdrum existence I thought I was
leading, but whether I was or not I don’t know. I think I was probably somebody before my time as far as my mind was concerned. So when the opportunity came I grabbed it with both hands.
And what food was on your table?
We had plenty of meat, my father being a butcher we always had
meat, and my mother made her own bread. We grew our own vegetables. We had our own cow, she made all the butter and cream. We didn’t go without anything, and during the Depression there’d be people, men on the road with their blueys, we used to call them, over their
backs. They’d roll up a blanket and put their few belongings in their and a lot of them were married men out looking for work to send money home to their families, and they’d come knocking on the door for food and in repayment they would chop wood or dig the garden, offer to do anything
just to exist. So she never knocked anybody back, and we had quite a few Aboriginals at the time living along the river and they would come, and the same thing there, she never knocked them back. She always made sandwiches, even if it was only bread and butter or bread and dripping. We used to have bread and dripping a lot, because we loved it, when we came home from school. Not
so much the dripping, but the gravy that existed underneath it. And the Aboriginals in those days, they were very docile people and beautiful people. They really were, they had, they were shy and certainly not confronting in any way, and she was brought up at Mannum
and had quite a bit to do with them there. So we weren’t afraid of them, and today it seems such a shame when you see the full bloods, they’re not troublesome at all, and it’s a pity, I think, what we whites over the years have done to cause what goes on today.
But Mum never knocked anyone back. She was very good, and we had people, we moved from there into the town when I was nine years old, that would’ve been 1932, 1931 probably and the Depression of course was still on, and going to school there were quite large families
and they didn’t have shoes to wear in the cold weather. There’d be chilblains and all that sort of thing and short of clothing and they’d come knocking on the door and Mum never knocked them back. She made all of our clothes and as we grew out of them she’d hand them down.
And would they come into your house?
Yes, yes. It was a different
era in those days. You trusted everybody and they trusted you. So although we were very poor we weren’t desperately poor, because Dad saw to that. So we really didn’t suffer to the degree that a lot of them did. We always had food on the table. I mean, we couldn’t have luxuries but we did have,
we never missed out on very much really, and we weren’t materialistic either in those days so we didn’t expect a lot.
OK, we have to pause there because our tape is just –
Interviewee: Dorothy Scott Archive ID 1608 Tape 02
Dorothy, just staying with Berri for the moment, tell me about the summer and the heat and how you dealt with the heat?
Yes, we had, my parents had what we called a cool safe. That’s made of, today it would be called aluminium, I suppose. It
was tin, tin exactly, and the cool safe, do you know what they were?
Can you describe it?
Made of fly wire all around with a trough at the top you poured water into and from there bags, material would hang down into another tray underneath and the
water would drift down and it was always situated in a draft so that the cool would go and stay and inside the safe, the cool safe, and that kept all the perishables cool.
How effective was it?
Very effective, and we had, for cold water we had water bags.
They were the shape of, some were rectangle, about 15 inches by 12 inches with a pouring spout on them and that was hung up in the draft.
And what was the water bag made out of?
Canvas bag looking stuff, and some of them
were cylindrical, quite large, rounded, about three feet some of them, full of water, and that was always hung somewhere, under a tree or somewhere with a long delivery system like a spout.
And where would you get the bag?
Buy them from the stores in the town, hardware as they’d call them today,
I suppose, but in those days the grocery shops held all of that and they sold everything. Yes, so it was quite good really, and you had in the kitchen a safe built similarly but without water, that you’d have the fly wire all around and you’d keep perishables
in there, the weather, like jams and stuff like that, and storage underneath.
And what about the problem of meat going off?
Well, you just wouldn’t eat it I suppose. I don’t remember very much about that, but you wouldn’t store it like you store it today. Today, see you’ve got the refrigerator, and you wouldn’t buy ahead.
You’d only buy perhaps for two days, similarly.
And what about showering?
We had a bathtub which was a tin bath and a bath heater alongside which was a chip heater
where you put in little chips and paper to start it and fire it up, and hot water would come from pipes that were wound around and around on the inside of the chip heater and get hot, and the same thing with the shower overhead, was tin also with quite large heads and you’d stand under that and you’d have the hot and cold tap. Yes, that was how we started,
my childhood. Later on we had similar when we started on the fruit blocks after the Second World War.
And how big was the tin bath?
Same as they are today. Some people painted them but the paint wouldn’t last very long. The bathroom also
was our storeroom. It was everything besides having a bed in there for anyone coming. So we managed.
And what was on the floor in the bathroom?
Just a cement floor with mats, that’s all, and mats were bags.
And what role did the river play during the
I’m glad you asked. It was our playground, and we had an uncle and aunt, a great uncle and aunt to me, they were, living next door to us on another fruit block, and he was a swimming teacher so he taught my sister and I to swim and that was in the Murray River. He
used to put a tyre tube around us and a rein, a horse’s rein attached to us and throw us over the side and into the water and that’s how we learnt to swim. He showed us the strokes and everything first and that’s the way we learned to swim, and later when we lived in the town we had a swimming pool and that was also in the river then, and we used to
go there in the mornings before going to school, have a swim and then in the afternoon swim again, a couple of water rats. All the kids did it in those days. We swam the river and it was very wide, my sister and I, and we took a girlfriend with us one day who is alive today. She’s my husband’s cousin, Margaret, and
we took her one day across the river and she couldn’t get back so we had to walk about a quarter of a mile to the punt and talk to the punt driver and ask him if we could go over. We didn’t have any money to pay him, so he took us back over the river and he went and saw our father and our father gave us a lecture
not to swim the river, who was going to rescue us if we got in trouble? But she never did it again, but we did, not that often but it was a challenge and you’d walk upriver a certain distance before going into it because the current was fairly strong, it would carry you away. And the same thing coming back, we’d walk up river to get back to the actual pool itself.
I’m finding it difficult to imagine swimming in the Murray given the state of the river today.
Yes. If I was young I’d probably still do it, but I don’t like the sea. Being brought up on the Murray I don’t like swimming in the sea at all. A lot of people can’t understand that, but it’s so light and you’ve got the waves
pelting at you and the salt taste. I don’t like it at all.
What did you really like about the river?
That’s a hard question. It was in my blood I suppose, being born there, raised on the river, and the boats, the activity always on the river. Listen to that noise in the background there,
and we spent a lot of time on the river and then later when we ourselves, my husband and I and the girls, we used to spend our spare time down on the river and boat and skiing and all of that sort of thing. The three girls, the youngest one, she wasn’t very keen on it, but the other two girls and myself, we used to
do a lot of skiing with friends and barbecues and picnics. That was where our pleasure was and we did a lot of that.
And when you were a child learning how to swim, were there any times when you were frightened of the river?
No, no. We never experienced
the fear of drowning or anything like that. Perhaps if we were older learning it may have been different, but then again, my mother couldn’t swim and she nearly drowned as a child, and when we moved into the town to live she learned to swim. The swimming pool in the river, that’s where she learned to swim. She only ever did the dog paddle but
at least she could save herself, but when she was very young and nearly drowned we asked her one day what it was like and she said, “It’s a beautiful feeling,” and I’ve heard others say the same. She was rescued by one of her brothers.
Did she explain what she meant?
She said it was like drifting and dreaming. She just said it was a
light feeling and I suppose we, knowing that helped us a little bit not to fear the river. I don’t know, but we just had all of our fun on the river and when we walked home from school sometimes we did the wrong thing by walking along the riverbank to come home instead of going on the roads. We’d take a different walk around
the other side of where the blocks were and walk home along the riverbank, walk out on dead logs and all that sort of thing. I don’t know what the pull was, but it definitely was there and I think you’ll find if you asked anybody who was brought up along the river they’d say the same thing. So it’s just heaven and I’d love to,
often feel I’d love to go back there and live, but I think I’m too much of a city girl now and I love being here in particular.
Well, before you moved into town what were the winters like?
Very cold. Very cold, frost on the ground, icy cold and
we’d get chilblains, all of that. We’d have to walk to school, three miles to school and three miles home again, and it seemed a long way then, but now when we go back there and just make that short trip, it doesn’t seem so far anymore. Things when you’re children are different. So,
and it’s so different now when we go back. It’s mostly built up with homes. The fruit blocks have gone from that particular area. Our home has gone that was there and just doesn’t seem fair. It’s not the same anymore.
Well, tell me what trees were on that fruit block.
We had vines. We didn’t have trees, they were all vines and it was for,
we had sultanas and currants. I think that was all. I can remember it all had to be dried. We had drying racks and to dry them the currants would go on fresh from the vines but the sultanas had to be dipped in a brine type of thing which contained caustic soda and the dips
were huge square tanks and they were fired up underneath and had to be boiling, all this, and my father had to, the buckets, they were called dip buckets, they were oblong things with holes all around them and the sultanas in there would be dipped in and out the other side and then spread out on the drying racks.
They don’t do it any –
And would you do that?
No, we were only children. We didn’t help with that at all. Only later in married life I helped a lot on our fruit block, but we didn’t have grapes to do that with and they don’t do it anymore. You’ll find a lot of our stuff, I think, comes from Turkey or overseas somewhere else.
But later in life we had apricots, which we dried, and peaches, nectarines.
We might just pause there for a minute. Now I’m going to ask you about, I understand there were Italians working in gangs on the river?
During the war?
Was that during the war?
I thought it might’ve been during the Depression.
I can’t remember. I can’t remember. We did have immigrants come to the country.
That might’ve been later, so maybe we’ll come back and talk about that later.
During the war they were there?
Yeah, OK. Well just tell me, one thing we haven’t talked about is your grandfather,
your German grandfather.
I had two German grandfathers. My mother’s father was born in Germany. His wife wasn’t, she was born in Australia of German extraction. My father’s father was born in Germany but came to Australia at the age of 16 and my grandmother there was English. So three parts German and one part English
is my ancestry, but both my parents were born in Australia and both my grandmothers were born in Australia and so we’re what, my sister and I are third-generation Australians and that’s how I look at ourselves. When I was young, because of the
First World War and because my father fought in the First World War, against his father’s countrymen I suppose, my grandmother must’ve had quite an influence, I think, being of English extraction and he was very bitter against the Germans as was my mother and when he came back he said that
German was no longer to be recognised in our family, and we were brought up not knowing any of this, which was a pity because my mother, apparently her first years of schooling was in a German school and she could speak German but it was forbidden. So she
didn’t force any of it on us and we never knew. These days it’s a pity to think along those lines because we only have the one language, and see, our immigrants coming to the country, they’ve got their own language. Many of them have three or four languages. Even our Aboriginals are cleverer than we are, they’ve got English and their own. But Dad was
so bitter about the whole war and my mother, I think, suffered too during the First World War because of the name she carried, but none of them were ever interned so they must’ve been accepted as true Australian and I know that’s the way I feel. I would defend this country to the
very last, even today at my age, and love it and the people in it. Immigrants, I don’t care what colour or creed, I like them, I love them all. Some of their religions I could send out the window, but I guess Christians also have done some pretty bad things in their time years ago. But religion’s a curse really.
I suppose you could say deep down I’m religion, on religion that I am religious, but if there’s a God he doesn’t dwell out there, he dwells within me and as long as I live my life not hurting anybody else or whatever, that’s my religion, and there’s the humanists. My daughter’s a humanist, her husband is a humanist.
There’s very little difference between a humanist and a Christian in my book, but if I had to give it away I think I’d go humanist. But I won’t give it away. For my 80th birthday a couple of years, I was 82 the other day by the way, anyway, my family gave me a little cross which I haven’t got on. I should put it on today. I’d always wanted one,
and I don’t know whether it comes from the desire of recognising my religion or what, I don’t know, but that’s another story because Dad, when he came back he said, “If there is a God, why did he allow all this war and atrocities to happen?” So he said, “There will be no religion in this house.” So my sister and
I didn’t have it, but my mother, she was Lutheran and she decided we would have it, so she bought little books called Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories and they were religion and beautiful pictures of the Christ and angels and all that sort of thing. We kids loved it, so she’d read a story each night before we went to sleep. That was our introduction to religion,
and one day a neighbour’s daughter came over. She was older than we were and she was Methodist and she asked Mum if she could take us to Sunday School. Mum said, “That’s not my department, you go and talk to their father.” So she did and he said, “Yes, they can go,” and that was our introduction, we went to Sunday School. We were quite happy
to go to Sunday School, but it meant walking another three miles on that sixth day, seventh day rather, and that was six days a week walking this three miles there and back. So we all became Methodists, from Church of England, Lutheran to Methodist and my mother and father also, and Dad later in life before he died he was even going to church, to the Methodist Church, so
the full circle turned, and that’s the story of that side of my religious upbringing. I saw to it that the three girls got it, but the eldest one went her husband’s way. Now none of them go anywhere, neither do I. Not because I don’t want to, it’s just that I can never make the effort. Funerals and weddings, that’s it today.
I’ve still got it in me though.
It’s very interesting hearing you talking about religion. I’m wondering, well, you did swap around, but I’m wondering about whether religion caused any tensions or rumblings between kids at school?
No, not that I can remember. I think a lot of the Protestants were a bit cruel towards the
Catholics. I know my husband was, and I know my grandmother was very bigoted, but I think kiddies, children, it just wafts over them and we’re all sensible enough once we become a little bit educated to work things out for ourselves,
and today I don’t give a darn what religion people are. If I like them I like them, and I like most people. That’s life, I suppose.
Tell me about moving into town and how life changed for you?
Oh, it changed a lot, because from acres of land we lived behind
the shop and we had no yard. The house was almost joining the shop. It was only about three metres from the back of the shop. We had no land at all. We were just children and we just had nowhere to play or anything like that, so it was mostly down to the river and swimming, but
that wasn’t forever because when my father came to his feet with finance he built, had a house built in Berri and we had more land there and a garden and everything you could want, and that was in 1938 we had that, just before the outbreak of war. So
yes, we had a nice home but then we were only there for a short period of time when I got itchy feet and had left school, and I’d been working four years and I was too young to advance to the position that I would like to have so that’s when I got itchy feet and decided I’d leave.
school at a very young age, but how did you find school?
Didn’t like it very much, but we had strict discipline at school. We had a couple of headmasters that were very strict but they were always good out in the playground for us children as joking about some of their funny ways.
But we had some very good teachers. School wasn’t hard for me. I was quite a good student, I suppose. I was always up amongst the first three, except the last year when I knew I was going to finish school, then I didn’t put so much effort in. There were about 39 in the class and I think that year I came 13th,
something like that. I wasn’t very proud of that, but in hindsight I wish I’d gone on, but I left. I wanted to have a bit of money, I think, to spend on clothing.
Was there a school uniform?
No, no school uniform. So it was just ordinary clothing.
A lot of the children went on further than that. They used to catch a train from Berri to Renmark to go to high school. We didn’t have a high school in Berri and later on there was a high school at Glossop and the children coming up after me, they were able to go there, but when I came to Adelaide I saw the
light, I suppose, and I wanted to further my education, so I went to night time school learning shorthand and a little bit of typing, but I didn’t have a typewriter so that made it very hard for me. So then I decided I’d like to be an accountant, so I made an appointment to see the, I can’t think of the name of it.
It was a well known one in those days on North Terrace and I had an interview. The cost of it never ever entered my head, and then they came up with how much it was going to cost me and it was over £300, I think it was. Well I didn’t have that kind of money so that had to be forfeited. I didn’t do anything about it, and
then of course there was the war and I was the last one to be put on where I was working and I realised I’d be the first to be put off. So that’s when I decided to join up.
Well, we will come to that, but before we do tell me about your first
job that you got?
My very first job lasted three months. My parents took me away from it because I was growing up too quickly. I used to come home with stories that I didn’t understand that were being told at work, risqué, and at the tea table I’d tell some of them. Mum and Dad put their heads together and said, “She’s out of there.”
What was your job?
It was in the, what they call the packing shed where they were packing all this dried fruit and we had, there was a belt, a moving belt and we’d have to pick out the rotten sultanas from the belt and only pack the good ones. Well, I couldn’t take that either. I was violently ill. I’d be
running outside and heaving my heart up and then the head lady that was there, she saw that I wasn’t going to get used to it, so then I was put on to marking boxes and there were boys on the other side doing it and girls on this side doing it, and there was one lad there in particular, he used to have a lot of funny stories and my ears would be flapping. That’s when Mum
and Dad decided, “She’s not going to do that, she’s going to be a lady.” And then I worked in a grocery shop and then another grocery shop and there I graduated to the drapery and the footwear and menswear and what have you.
And how much money did you make in the packing shed?
Twelve [shillings] and sixpence a week I think it was, something like that. My first job in the grocery
shop was twelve and sixpence and I used to give my mother 10 shillings and keep two and sixpence, and when I went to Adelaide to work I worked in Miller Anderson’s and I was getting £2 a week, 25 shillings out of that was my board. So it didn’t
leave me a lot and that was at the YWCA [Young Women’s Christian Association], where I was boarding with a lot of other girls. It was just an all girls’ place and we slept on a balcony and had a room for four girls. There was a dressing room and keeping our clothes in there, and if we wanted to go anywhere we’d either go independently if
we had enough money. If we didn’t we pooled it and we’d go to the pictures all of us if there was enough. If there wasn’t enough we didn’t go. My Dad used to come down occasionally and those days fathers didn’t kiss their offspring, they’d shake their hands. He shook my hand, he’d leave me a 10 shilling note and I thought I was made, and if I wanted a new dress or anything, I was making my own clothes
in those days, I’d put the material on lay-by or buy a couple of remnants and run them up by hand mostly. The friend who got me the job, her sister had a sewing machine and I was able to use that, and if I didn’t have enough money to catch the tram to work I’d leave a bit earlier and walk and it was there, then,
before I joined the army that they were calling for volunteers to walk the streets at night and tell people if their, it was blackout time, and if their lights were showing we had to go and knock on, we never ever went alone. We always had another girl or two with us.
Well, we will come back and talk about that, because it’s a very interesting part of the war, people being at home, but just one thing I want to ask you about before you left Berri, I understand you may have met your future husband?
He was at school and I didn’t like him. I didn’t like him at all, because
he used to fight with his cousin who was my best girlfriend and we used to go to her place. They lived in a different direction to us and we used to spend weekends at her place and she’d come to our place for the weekend, and I can’t remember him very much at school, not really, except on one occasion when, I don’t know whether he told you but I’ll tell you, he was walking home from school on the other
side of the fence to us and he picked up cowpats [caked cow dung] and threw them at us and I got one. That’s how I remember him, and I thought he was a horrible little boy, but I didn’t see a lot of him at school. He often says to me, “Don’t you remember me at school?” And I say, “No, well, I don’t,” and I don’t. I had my eye on somebody else.
He was a poor boy, he was killed in the war, but no, it was when I was 16 and learning to dance, my sister and I, or was I 17? 17, I think, and my sister was 16, and my parents used to take us out to the Glossop Hall and that’s where Jim and I met, and he used to dance with me quite
a lot, but he was a bit of a beggar. He’d cut other boys out and all that sort of thing. Yeah, that’s how I met him, and then he’d wait outside where I worked of a Friday night, boy or two there
waiting too. I couldn’t hack that, I could not cope. I wasn’t ready. I was not, I wasn’t boy mad and in my personality I wasn’t ready for any relationship at all. I didn’t want to go out with boys and that sort of thing and I didn’t know how to talk to them,
and I suppose I was a little bit scared of them because my mother for some reason, I don’t know, men were not the nicest of people. That was how I felt and I didn’t know how close you had to get to them or anything else. So what I used to do from work, I’d go out the back door and go into
the boss’ house. His wife and I were good friends and I’d stay there until the street was clear and then I’d walk home. Silly, wasn’t it? I wish now that I’d been very different. I do honestly, because I would’ve learnt a lot more. I would’ve learnt how to trust them. I didn’t trust them and I don’t know why I didn’t trust them. I often wonder
if somewhere back in my psyche there was something that might’ve happened that made me like that, that I don’t know anything about, and if there is, well, I don’t want to know anything about it. So you know, it’s very strange really, and then when he joined up, that was, only then did I start going out with him and
he used to come home on leave and I’d go out with him, but I was so shy. I was just painfully shy, and he couldn’t get too close to me at all, and most of our courting, if you could call it that, because they weren’t really love letters between us but they were close letters between us, and –
Alright, well our tape is coming to an end, and I think
that we’ll continue with that story throughout your war experience. We’ve just got to change the tape.
Interviewee: Dorothy Scott Archive ID 1608 Tape 03
I just want to pick up about, with your experiences having just moved to the city, being a country girl how did you find settling into the big city?
It was a small city in those days. I didn’t have any problems, no. I just was agog with everything I was seeing and taking it all in,
the trams. I wish we still had them. It was very new to me. We hadn’t been to town a lot as children. We very rarely went to the city. My father used to go and spend hospital time down at Daws Road and only once we did we go down, and he was there for a great length of time and we went to school at
Glenelg, I think it was, my sister and I for a time, but that was all we had of the city, loved it.
You mentioned that you were a bit of a shy child. I’m just wondering how you got along with the other girls when you got to the YWCA?
Great, great. It was lovely to have company, because when we were children the only company we had
was an occasional cousin that used to come to our great uncle’s place and we’d play with us as children. We only had each other. So it was not a problem to me. I think the biggest problem for me, as far as shyness was concerned was having to face customers. I got used to that but it was very
confronting for me, and I’d go to work some mornings and I didn’t want to have to walk through the shop and say, “Good morning, good morning, good morning.” That was the worst part of my day, but once I got there and was behind the counter and serving people, got to know them, I can even remember their book numbers and there were over
1,000 of them, and I was able to remember their book numbers, as they came in if they didn’t pick their book up I’d go and get it for them. I always knew their numbers. I did a little bit of book work there as well.
How did you find the customers in the city?
Not so crash hot. They, I was a bit unlucky really because I was in the children’s department, clothing. The girls there were great
that I worked with, they were lovely girls, but the customers were, I didn’t know a lot about children for starters, and they weren’t the easiest to fit for clothing and the mothers would pick out the children’s clothes and then I’d have to go with them into the fitting rooms, and if I didn’t think it looked nice
on the child I’d say so. That didn’t go down well with the head lady. She stood outside the door and listened to me one day and the mother was very uncertain and I said, well, I didn’t think it suited the child. I’m sure there was something else that would suit her a lot better. I got into trouble over that. But after that I never said very much. I just hoped the parents would buy and go.
But no, I’m not like that. Even today if something doesn’t look nice on somebody and they ask me I’ll tell them the truth. Not that I’m always right, but if they ask me they must have some trust in my observations, yes.
It sounds like you had a very independent spirit which –
– wanted to bust out. Yes.
And did you do that when
you got to the city?
Yes, I think so. Yes, I think I did, as much as money would allow.
What changes could you see in yourself, in your own character?
Well, I became more independent and I could pick and choose for myself. My mother used to do a lot of picking and choosing for me,
and on occasions I would get angry with her. I never won, I never ever won with my mother. She was a strong woman. A kind woman and a good person and, you know, I’ll never run her down but we were totally different, whereas my sister and she got on famously and I always
felt as if I was being watched, everything that I did, and they had no reason whatsoever to worry about my behaviour out at dances or parties or anything like that because I just wasn’t like that, and that I think hurt me, because later in life, after I left home my sister has told me
that later in life she was able to do and go anywhere she liked and how happy she was, but Mum allowed her to do all the things that she used to restrain me with, and I could never understand that because they had no need to be like that with me, you know, and I think Mum had Jim in her mind right from the word go of meeting him, that
she liked him very much and she wanted him for me. I’m not saying that I didn’t want him either, but she did have a big influence on my life there and if anyone else looked at me the time that I was home before I left home, she’d put her finger on me, “You’ve got to be faithful
and true to this boy who’s overseas fighting,” and I used to say, “But Mum, he’s awfully young in his ways,” and she said, “He won’t be when he comes home. He’ll be a very mature boy.” She said, “He won’t be a boy any longer, he’ll be a man,” and yes, we won’t go any further with that one.
Well, by this stage Jim had actually enlisted and you
were in Adelaide. Where was he when you first moved to Adelaide?
1941, he was probably still in England I think. Yes, he would’ve been.
And were you writing to him?
Yes, actually I wrote to quite a few but some of them I didn’t know. We were encouraged to that, because a lot of the boys
probably wouldn’t get letters and knit for them, you know, socks.
So what organisation were you doing this with?
In what way?
The letters and the socks.
The letters and that, oh nothing. It was all, it was just something, the word got around and we got addresses from different ones. I’ve just forgotten now. Could’ve been sisters or brothers,
but there were boys that I went to school with and I used to write to a couple of those. It was just something we did. My sister did the same and she wrote to English families over there and was responsible then for bringing a family out from England as immigrants. She did that.
But no, we just in the city, the girls and I, we stuck together a lot because as the Americans came through, they, you know, they were more forward than what our boys were. See, with
Jim he never expected anything from me and because of that I trusted him. The Americans, while boarding at the YWCA we, on occasions, would have an evening and the powers that be at the YWCA would invite X number of Americans and we’d just sit and talk
and there was no fraternising. We weren’t allowed to. That was strict, very strict, and then I volunteered for, what did they used to call that place for ex-servicemen? Not ex-servicemen, servicemen of the time regardless of what country they were coming form. Oh, what was it called? Anyway we served them cups
of tea and biscuits and things like that and coffee, and we were allowed to go and sit with them and talk to them. There was quite a lot of that and there were two American boys there that I became friendly with and I went out with both of them, never one, never one. Just the two of them, and of course I told
Jim all about it. He was not happy, but he had no need to worry whatsoever. They both had girlfriends and they wanted to talk about them, so I used to just sit and listen and when we went out it was just for a walk through the Botanic Gardens. There was just the three of us so there was no harm in that. I mean, not all girls went silly, and
there’s a poem I’ve got out there about the Aussie girls and the Yanks, but that was just a very short phase.
And what was the difference between the American soldiers and the Australian soldiers?
I don’t know. The Australian soldier, he was outgoing, friendly,
very respectful. I never met one that would’ve taken advantage of me, and the Americans, well, I really don’t know because I didn’t get to that point, but hearing from others, they were a lot more forward and they had money and that sort of thing, but I
preferred the Australian boy every time.
And did any of the other girls at the YWCA date or go out with the Americans?
I think they did. I’m sure they did. But no, I didn’t. I still had that boy to think about.
Did you hear any stories about them dating the Americans?
No, I did have a friend who decided, she wanted to know what they were like so she
put herself out to be friendly with one and go out with one. She told me about it and she wasn’t over enthralled with him. She said, “That’s the end of them.” She said, “I’ve had the experience, that’s enough.”
What didn’t she like about them?
I don’t know, I don’t know. Probably too forward.
So what other organisations did you get involved
I was a warden in the blackout in Adelaide with another two girls. We used to go out, either two or three of us, at night and walk the streets and knock on doors if their lights were showing. They weren’t allowed to have any lights showing. Knocked on this door one night of a shop. He
didn’t have his blinds drawn and he had no intention of doing it and he gave me a mouthful of abuse. I reported it, but what happened after that I don’t know. I never went there again. We were allotted areas and that wasn’t on the next lot that I had to do. There was that and –
Can I ask what year was that that you did the air warden?
’41, and who were you protecting the public from?
The air raids, I suppose, that they thought would come.
From who, though, because the Japanese had really entered the war at this stage?
No, I know, I know. Look, I honestly don’t know. I think we were just being prepared for what might be, and
that’s how that worked out, but also I was learning, I went to, before I left Berri I did a first aid course too, but I did it again in Adelaide and also in Adelaide they showed us how to use a gas mask where I was learning.
Can I just, going back to the air warden, how did you find out about
the volunteers for air wardens?
That was done, if I remember correctly it was, I can’t remember whether it was the YWCA that did it or whether it was St John’s Ambulance where I was learning the first aid stuff.
What kind of, I don’t want
to say propaganda, but what kind of information was out there about the war at this time?
We were getting quite a lot from the British side, particularly with the bombardment of London. We had a lot of that, and I used to go to a little cinema in Rundle Street and I forget the name of it, but it was a
newsreel and you’d just go in there and sit and watch the newsreels at the time. I can remember that quite clearly, of air raids and bombing and things like that, and later the camps in Germany. So I’ve often, though I didn’t
look at very much, but when I stop to think about it now with you questioning me it’s coming back. I was interested a lot, in a lot of things that were going on in those times but when the Japs [Japanese], when they were starting up there, up north and I decided I would join, I don’t know what my feelings were, whether it was
for the country, the King of England or just for broadening my own life. I really don’t know what motivated me, except I think I had my Dad in mind a lot, what he’d done during the war, and just wanted to be part of what was going on.
Just going back on the
newsreels, you were saying that you were watching the air raids in Britain and knowing that Jim was over there at the time must’ve been quite a stressful time?
Yes, it was. You did think about it, but as with any experience in life unless you’re actually on the edge of it or experiencing some of it yourself it
doesn’t really hit home as it does when you get older and you’ve had a few experiences in life. Then you think about these things. Even though I knew what my father had gone through, you just carried on. I shed a few tears on occasions but that would pass.
No, unless my memory’s bad I really haven’t got a lot.
And at the YWCA were there other women who had boyfriends or fiancés overseas?
Yes, yes. One of the women that I shared a dressing room with, her husband, she was married and her husband was overseas in the air force. He came back, fortunately, and she’s still
alive today. She must be close on 88, 89 today, but he died. He died too, because of injury later in life. It’s a tragedy, really, when you think about it. The men’s lives are cut short, a lot of them, not all of them, but it takes something from them and it also takes it from you,
because you ask any wife of a returned soldier, they haven’t had it easy, they haven’t had it easy. To coin a phrase, you go to hell and back with the trauma of the aftermath and how it affects them and how they take it out on you and all of that sort of thing. We won’t go there, it’s too traumatic.
And did any of the girls at the YWCA lose loved ones
while they were there?
Not while I was there, no, but in the army, yes, there were girls who lost husbands.
You were doing your work as an air warden, and from there you did first aid, and when did you enlist for the AWAS?
I had, I enlisted in May. I had the
interview in May and signed up papers and we had an examination in May, an IQ [Intelligence Quotient] test, I suppose you’d call it, and I got through that fine. Then they wanted the girls for the ASWG to go into training at that stage at Keswick and
some, I think, went to the university learning Morse code and what have you, but because I contracted chickenpox I went home to Berri and I missed out on all of that. So I really didn’t have any of that before I was at Bonegilla. It was at Bonegilla that I started that, and a lot of the country girls didn’t have
that opportunity earlier and had to start from scratch, and that’s where I was, starting from scratch.
And how did your father feel about your enlistment?
He didn’t stop me. I think he was quite proud, really, that I decided I would go. He wouldn’t allow me to join the navy, as the one that I would loved to have joined, only
because, probably, the memory of a holiday at the age of 13 when we went to Tasmania, my sister and I and parents on the boat which I thoroughly enjoyed and I think that probably was in my head that I’d like to join the navy, but he said no and I wasn’t keen on joining the WAAAFs [Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force]. I don’t know why, so I thought,
“Oh well, Dad was in the army, I’ll join the army,” and he was quite happy about that. So yes, he signed the papers then, but he wouldn’t sign me up for the navy ’cause I was under 21.
What was his objection to the navy?
I think the danger of submarines and overhead bombing. I think that was the main thing that he was afraid of,
and he was a warden in Berri during the war. They used to have sky searches and that sort of thing. It’s amazing, isn’t it?
So your father was also an air warden in Berri?
And do you know much about what his duties entailed for being an air warden in the country as to your experience in the city?
It was probably something similar. I don’t know about the blackout curtains, but
there was a group of them and they were soldiers again in their own minds, I guess, and they had to watch out for anything in the skies. So to what extent, I wasn’t really privy to all of it. My sister, she would probably remember, ’cause she did quite a bit for the war effort too.
What did your sister do?
Took the place of, she was working at the time and they used to give them time off to go and pick grapes and things like that in the country. They had the Land Army up there as well and those girls, I think they’re not praised enough, not remembered enough today because having been on the land myself I know how darn hard they worked and
a lot of them married local boys too, so it sort of spreads the genes, doesn’t it?
Just going back to the air warden, did you have like a check list that you had to go through when you were walking through the streets?
No, not really. It was just lights out, just darken the
places so that no lights could be seen. It was a bit scary ’cause I had to go to a class that I was going to, a shorthand class one night, and the trams and things weren’t running and I had to walk from East Terrace to Grenfell Street, where I was learning, in the dark
and I tell you what, it was pitch black. There were no lights, no street lights, there was nothing and that was scary, ’cause you’d hear footprints, footsteps rather coming towards you and one particular night one slowed down as he heard me coming, it was a male, because we both stopped. He stopped and asked me where Hutt Street was and I’d just turned the corner out of Hutt Street
into Wakefield Street and he was lost, completely lost, so I had to direct him. Today you wouldn’t dare do that. I tell you what, my heart was pounding. I was scared stiff, but he sounded quite decent and he must’ve been, he just kept on walking. But those sort of things, you know, you don’t forget them, they stay with you, as trivial as they might sound.
Back to AWAS, so did you do a physical?
Yes, a physical, yes, you had to have a medical. I had to have a lot of teeth filled in my medical.
Did any other girls join up with you?
not from the, well, if they did I didn’t know of them. Not from where I was, and from the country there was one girl. I didn’t know she’d joined and she didn’t know that I’d joined, and we met up on a railway station to go to Bonegilla and we remained friends. We went to school together and so on. We remained friends after that.
So did you remain strong friends
with the girls from the YWCA?
No, but in later life Jim’s cousins were there and one of them has since died but the other one, yes, I am friendly with her. She’s a lovely girl.
What kind of social activities did you get up to?
Where, in the city?
pictures and the occasional dance. Not too many of those, because if you didn’t know somebody or didn’t have anyone to go with you just didn’t go. I didn’t, anyway. I did a lot of reading and I used to walk occasionally on my own through the Botanic Gardens just for something to do, go and watch the rowers on the Torrens.
That was about it. See, I was only there for about 12 or 13 months, and being involved in other things that I used to, my girlfriend’s sister lived out at Unley and I used to go there a lot. She was very good to me, and one of the girls at the YWCA, the married one, I used to go with her to
her in-laws’ place. So I wasn’t very, not very involved just with anybody or anything.
You made a comment before that Adelaide wasn’t really a big city, that it was quite small. What were the main areas of the city?
Rundle Street, it wasn’t Rundle Mall then. There was Rundle Street, King William
Street and Hindley Street, they were the busiest. North Terrace, I knew all the streets, but Hindley Street I knew simply because I worked in it at Miller Anderson’s. I don’t think I ever ventured to the west side of the city.
No, I didn’t.
Hindley Street to day is quite –
It is. In that time, in 1941, what was the notorious part of the city?
You’ve got me there. I don’t know, I don’t know what the, honestly I don’t know.
So on Hindley Street, whereabouts was Miller Anderson?
Crossing King William Street from Rundle Street it was on the right hand side, about second shop down, third shop down, perhaps on the edge of Bank Street back towards Rundle Street, King William Street rather. I got caught in King William Street one day between two trams and I just stood there and waited for them to pass. They were going this way
and I missed the, I went on the green light but it turned before I could right over. So I stood between them and when the trams had passed there was a policeman on the corner of Hindley and King William Street and he followed me all the way across, pulled me up and told me how dangerous it was and not to do it again. I apologised. I said, “I’m sorry but I just left it too late.” I said,
“I didn’t get into trouble, though.” He said, “No, but don’t you do it again.”
Can you describe what Miller Anderson was like?
It was a big store with people serving, you know, the shop assistants were all very friendly. I think they, at the time, catered for the more moneyed people
of the city. That’s about it. It was two or three storeys, can’t remember, two or three storeys high and they sold just about everything, but as I said I was in the children’s department and didn’t like it all that much.
I’m just trying to get a picture of what the store would’ve looked like inside. Can you describe any of the fitting or any of the décor?
Very plain, good quality, but very plain. They didn’t, I don’t remember them going for anything like David Jones for instance, today, when around Christmas time. I don’t remember
that it was all that lavish when it came to celebration periods. I think they were pretty straightforward.
Can you remember the day you got the job there?
Yes. Dressed up to the nines, I was, and looking back the clothes I wore would’ve been better off at a wedding, and a hat.
Royal blue outfit and a royal blue big brimmed felt hat, oh. Meeting the head of Miller Anderson’s, and he was a bit intimidating, an older man, and yes, I can remember sitting on the edge of the chair and being interviewed, but the exact
words I couldn’t tell you now.
You couldn’t remember what he asked you?
No. That’s me, when I’m in a position that I’m not comfortable in I find it hard to remember.
And how did you get the news that you got the job?
Golly. I think my girlfriend got me the interview
and yes, it was written that I go and have the interview. Yes, that’s how I got the job.
And what other jobs did you apply for?
You just went for that one job?
One. Later on when my husband and I went to Adelaide to live to finish the education of our children, our girls,
I wanted work, because he was a while before he could get work. So I just went into every big department store and presented myself at the office of the manager and got my name down and was interviewed at the same time, and then David Jones wrote and said that I had the job. It was part time, but before
that I had answered a job application in Rundle Street at a little boutique, went for it and there were about eight of us lined up outside the city shop and I got the job there. I had good recommendations because I’d been working in Loxton as well, and I got the job and I loved it,
but after, they had a sale going and after the sale I was put off. They didn’t tell us at the time of applying that they only needed an extra one for the sale. That was a bit mean. So that’s when I walked the street looking for work and ended up with David Jones, and then while I was at David Jones, unknown to me, I’d been
interviewed by, they called themselves JP Young & Company. I think I saw that in the paper and I thought, “I’ll ring them up and get an interview with these people,” which I did, and they took all my particulars down. They didn’t have, they had a job for me, that’s right, out at Reynella and of course I didn’t have a car and I couldn’t get there. So I didn’t get that job. That would’ve been nice.
I was quite looking forward to that one. It was at Woolcock’s, you know, it’s a beautiful shop out there, and so when I was at David Jones it was only part time. Had a phone call one day from the weight research and they were looking for a clerk, so I answered it, went for the interview and I got the job.
That’s interesting you should say that, because you had, when you got to Adelaide you were doing shorthand and typing and ended up in a store. Did you – ?
I wasn’t good enough. I could’ve got a job. They said there was one for me, but I didn’t have the confidence to do it, whereas I’d been working in a shop and
by then I had the confidence and knew I could do it, because in Berri it was nothing on a Friday night for me to be serving three and four people at the same time. You know, dashing from one to the other and getting the stuff that they wanted. It wasn’t help yourself in those days, you had to bring things to the counter and that was very different from down here. So yes,
yeah, I suppose by that time I’d learnt how to deal with people and the customer was always right. Not today.
Can I just ask did they have the same system here in Miller Anderson?
They had a cash register where I worked in Miller Anderson’s. In Berri we had
a little setup on the floor where a girl with the cash sat a couple of stairs up higher than where we were, and the system was a cup that you used and you put the money and the docket in the cup, pulled a cord and it would shoot up to the cash girl, cash registering girl up in the
little box area. She’d put the change in and pull it again and down it would come to us. That was in the country, but in Miller Anderson’s, was it Miller Anderson’s or David Jones? They had a similar system but it was in the wall or a pillar and you put it in there
and it would shoot off and come back with the change.
OK. We’re just going to do a tape change now.
Interviewee: Dorothy Scott Archive ID 1608 Tape 04
You mentioned earlier that at Miller Anderson there were rumours of, or there was war talk when things got, what other signs around Adelaide were there of the impending war, the furthering of the war?
I think everybody was talking about it. That’s about it, really.
What were they saying?
Quite laughable, really, “It’s not going to last very long, you know.” That was on everybody’s lips, and then when I decided to join up, “Oh, you’ll be right, it will be over in 12 months.” You know, “Aren’t you scared, aren’t you frightened?” “No.” You don’t think
about those things. I don’t know.
When did the blackouts start happening?
That would’ve been, that was 1941, yes. Probably from the middle of the year on, I would think, 1941. I think because other countries were doing it we had to get on the bandwagon, to be honest.
Who was, I’m still curious as to who the real threat
was. Was it the Germans?
Probably, because they were the ones in the war at the time. Wasn’t there, I had a cousin whose husband was on the Perth. Was it the Perth or the Hood? It was sunk off Western Australia, anyway [HMAS Sydney],
and that was a topic for a long time. Of course he went down with it. Aren’t they just finding where that boat is now? I’ve got an idea they are. I think they’re trying, I think they know where it is but I think they’ve decided not to salvage it, but he went down with that and there were quite a few of them.
And how was the blackout
at the YWCA?
Something similar, curtains drawn, blinds pulled and everything secured that it couldn’t be seen outside. We were pretty thorough, I think, in that.
And what did you all do during blackouts?
What did we do?
Not a lot. I can’t just remember. I think we spent, see, four of us sharing a dressing room, we’d have a lot of fun together and there’d be a lot of chatter and the girl whose husband was away, she’d get a lot of letters and we’d discuss
all sorts of things, just girls together, and sew, knit. Pretty mundane, when you think about it, compared to today’s activities.
And did you share each other’s letters that you were receiving?
We never read each other’s letters but we would share whatever was in them.
What news were you
getting from overseas?
Well, Jim at the time was in England and of course his was mainly what he was doing there, which didn’t have a lot to do at the time with the actual, he wasn’t participating, put it that way, in the bombing of England, bombing of London, et cetera. They
were just outside of that. They knew what was going on and they could hear it all and they heard all about it, which was pretty traumatic at the time. But he’d write home and talk about the girls that were marching and being trained, the English girls, and the leave and going for supplies and things
like that and carrying troops around here, there and everywhere, but that was about it from England, and then when it came to, like, Egypt and places like that they were heavily censored. Didn’t get a lot of news of actual bombings and things like that. They weren’t allowed to speak of it. They were just
short letters, but letters nevertheless, and sometimes you’d have to wait weeks and weeks and you’d wonder why, and the same with them. They’d get a bundle of letters after months and that sort of thing.
How were they heavily censored?
They’d cross stuff out, black it out. I didn’t get too many of those because he never spoke very much about it. I think he was relying on his camera
So how did you find out that the Japanese had entered the war?
Rumours, mostly, that were coming down, and it was on the news, but
golly, Darwin. No, Darwin was later, wasn’t it? And then Singapore retreating. Look, I’ve just forgotten. Just forgotten, because I think it was, there was so much activity with the troops coming and going that I’ve just forgotten how we found out. But it had to be
via the radio at the time, because that’s all we had.
Do you remember your reaction?
Yes, apprehensive when it came to the Japanese. They were an unknown quantity and quality and whatever. They were just so very different in culture and appearance.
We just, I think a little bit of fear gripped our hearts at the time because our boys were all overseas. We didn’t have our soldiers here and that was a bit of a worry, and Churchill didn’t want them to come anyway, back home. He wanted them to stay there and if it hadn’t been for our government laying down the law
and bringing them back God knows where we’d be. We wouldn’t be here today, I’m sure.
And how did things change in Adelaide?
I wasn’t there very long for me to notice.
How real do you think the threat was of Japanese invasion of Adelaide?
I don’t know whether it was
such a threat as maybe we thought it was going to be, but we did learn that a line was drawn through Australia. I think they called it the Goyder Line [Brisbane Line] and the government of the day thought, they must’ve thought that the Japanese would come down and actually
land and they drew that line as a demarcation, I suppose, if anything, if we lost that would be probably the land that they would get and we were south of it. That was scary, but being in the AWAS, we weren’t told
a lot. We were told very little of what was going on. See, Darwin for instance, that was shocking what happened up there. We were only told a couple of raids, you know. We didn’t know what went on up there and my sister married a man who was in the post office up there. She didn’t know
him at the time. She only met him later and married him, and he went for his life when the Japs raided. He and another fellow got away from the post office and they ran and jumped over the cliff and they were hurt quite badly on the way down and all their mates there, fellow workers, they’d dug a trench in anticipation.
They went for the trenches, they were bombed to hell and the post office and the residents next door, and Griff was very lucky that he did what he did, and he was invalided out back to Adelaide and those people up there, like the civilians, they were traumatised and a lot of them injured. A lot of them
were killed and to me today it just seems so wrong that they, you don’t hear anything about them. OK, soldiers went through a lot worse, I know, but at least they got recognition and the civilian doesn’t even though he was traumatised and suffered
and he didn’t get any treatment. Neither did our soldiers. They didn’t get any debriefing or any counselling whatsoever. We didn’t, as wives, get any counselling as to how to handle the trauma that was in front of us to help our boys through it. I often wonder, though, to be honest, having gone through it all
and managing it, coping with it ourselves, how good is counselling. I’ve never spoken to anybody who’s been though any counselling in the sense that they have it today. Whether it helps or not I don’t know. Maybe it helps them to, perhaps, get over it a lot sooner, whereas it took years for us. I remember the doctor at the time
when I was pregnant with Rosemary, my first, Jim was so badly suffering from what they called war neurosis that he one night, we were at the pictures in Berri and he threw a fit. We were watching a stupid film called King Kong,
the big ape on the top of the buildings. You know, it was a lot of noise and what have you going on and he threw a fit in the theatre and I had to get him down the stairs and to the doctor that night and he was put in hospital and they put him to sleep in the local hospital but he was so badly traumatised that the theatre, the picture theatre wasn’t
very far away from the hospital and they’d have film there, loud noises and that sort of thing, and even though he was put to sleep he was reacting to all that noise and the fellow in the bed next to him was marvellous. He used to bring the nurses in to help my husband, and from there he went to Daws Road to get over it.
We can talk more about that later
in the day. If I can just come back to Adelaide in that short time that you were there. What was the first, rations had come into play by now and things were starting to, what was the first thing you noticed was –
Well, I think the motorists noticed it. I know my father did. He
took the wheels off his car and put it up on bricks for the duration. There was petrol rationing. I can’t remember much about it in the city because when I went back home when I was sick I did notice it then with butter rationing, tickets for sugar and all that sort of thing, and when we were first married
it was still going, butter rationing. I know I used to help my in-laws out with some tickets because they needed more than what we did, there was only the two of us, and the people who couldn’t afford anything used to get food and stuff from
the depot. I think it was the police station or the council chambers? I’m not sure. Yeah, a bit of rationing going on there.
What luxury items did you realise were becoming scarce?
I wasn’t housekeeping, I don’t know. My mother would’ve known.
What about at the YWCA, when you just really had yourself to look after?
What luxury items were becoming hard to come across?
Golly, you’ve got me. Perhaps I didn’t have luxury items. I can’t remember, no, I can’t remember. The food didn’t change very much. The food was OK, nothing lavish, but it was good food. I can’t help you
You were mingling a lot with soldiers and they had access to some luxury items, like the American soldiers would usually bring silk stockings for the ladies and things like that?
Oh no, I didn’t get anything like that. I wasn’t that friendly with them, no way. No, I didn’t get anything.
Do you recall any of the other girls getting gifts from soldiers?
No, I can’t, I can’t. I heard about it, certainly I heard about it, but no, I can’t remember.
Can you remember what kind of things that you heard were being given as gifts?
Chocolates, I suppose, would be one. Cigarettes would be another.
That’s about it, yeah. Our boys, they didn’t. It wasn’t expected anyway, we didn’t expect it. I guess there were certain girls who were a bit on the
flirty side might’ve got gifts from the Americans but look, I wouldn’t know, honestly.
The time you did spend with soldiers, just serving them tea and coffee, what kind of things did you talk about?
Mostly their lives, brothers and sisters and what their parents did.
Where they were going, you know, just ordinary everyday, just an ordinary conversation. Their girlfriends or their parents, what they did before they joined the forces. That’s about it, because you didn’t spend a lot of time with them. It was only
as long as it took for them to drink a cup of tea or something like that.
Did any of them speak of their experiences?
No, because they hadn’t had any up until then. They were, the only time at the YWCA did we meet our own boys
coming back, they were pretty traumatised from what I can remember. We gave them an evening. The head girl at the YWCA invited, I don’t know how many, seven or eight. She must’ve known them from somewhere. I don’t know where she would’ve found them, but they were brought in and they were
entertained in the sitting room. They were quiet, very quiet. They didn’t discuss things. All they wanted to do was get home and marry their girlfriends. That’s about it.
Do you know where they had been?
Now they would’ve been, where would they have come back from? Had to be
the Middle East or Greece or Crete or somewhere like that. So yes, because it wouldn’t have been up north so it had to be from overseas, and that’s all they wanted to do.
And was this the first time that you’d met any returned soldiers?
Yes, yes, it was.
What do you recall, what really stuck out in your mind?
Just how quiet they were, how homesick they were. That’s about it, just very homesick. Just wanted to get home to Mum and Dad and their girlfriends.
And after meeting them did your perception of the war change?
Yes, I think it became more real. I think it became more real that these had been away and come back,
and you just hoped that the others away would come back too. But they couldn’t have been in it very long because that was in 19-, late 19-, no, early 1941. Perhaps they were invalided out. I don’t know. That’s more possible, that they were probably
invalided out because that was early for them to be coming back. So I would say that was probably what it was and that’s why they were so quiet.
So how old were you when you enlisted with AWAS?
I just turned 20.
So I had my 21st in Bonegilla.
And that time in which you were sick and you were back in Berri, that was quite a considerable amount of months to recover from chickenpox?
Of course it was. But, you see, I’d missed out on that intake so I had to wait for the next intake.
And what did you do in the meantime?
I just stayed home with my parents.
It would’ve been very different from your experiences in the city?
Yes, it was very quiet. Dances were still going on but there weren’t a lot of boys around anymore. I think I just stayed quietly at home.
And did the experience, did the perception of the war between the people in the city and the country
I think country people were more aware. I really do, because they were out and about more. They mixed a lot more with each other and I think they were more aware. I really do because, see, I lived in a soldier settlement
area, and from the First World War, and of course in those days there were still a lot of returned men on the land and of course they were much more aware of what was going on and what to expect, what they thought might happen.
Having grown up around soldiers and the World War I experience,
how did you feel about the attitude in the city with World War II?
I wasn’t in the city long enough to find out really, and because I was working I didn’t hear much about it all, truly. So I really don’t know. The only bit I ever heard probably was with my girlfriend whose
husband was at war. That sort of kept it alive. Yes, because her husband and one of his brothers also was in it, and I used to spend a lot of time with her at her in-laws’ place. Yes, they did speak about it. You had to know people individually to know how they felt. Of course they were worried. They were
And where was he?
Now you’ve got me. He was overseas. I think he was probably overseas, Egypt and those places. He did come back, of course, which was good. One of his brothers, I think, was in
the air force, but I think he was army.
You said earlier about when you enlisted with AWAS you had to do an IQ test, can you recall what the questions were and what they were asking you in the test?
I wish I could. All I can remember is they were, the question had a double side, if you know what I mean. They were testing your alertness, I
think too, in giving the answers to look at the question, not just once, and write something down. I felt you had to read them twice to find out what the nitty gritty of it was because, I can’t think of a question now that would relate to it, but quite often the answer wasn’t what you’d expect it to be
and if you gave it some thought you got the right answer. I can remember someone saying before I went for it, “Take care with the questions, you’ll find they’re not what they appear to be,” and I kept that in my mind so I got them right.
Do you know how well you did on that test?
No, not really. We
were told, but I can’t remember, must’ve been OK because they chose 23 of us from South Australia to go into the ASWG and there were a lot that were enlisting and we were, I was one of the 23, so I must’ve done alright.
Now, I expect your physical would’ve been very different from the men’s. What things did you undertake in your medical?
Just an overhaul and a lot of questions and they took your weight. They noted the colour of your hair, the colour of your eyes, the state of your teeth. Just your overall appearance I suppose. They missed out on my feet though, I had terrible feet.
Still have. So I was a Pisces and they say Pisces have got bad feet and they are so right, but no, I got through that alright.
And what do you recall of the day you enlisted?
I was on my own completely. I walked off down to the barracks where they were doing the interviews
and May Douglas, have you heard of May Douglas? I’ve got a picture of her out there when she was much older. She was the woman that I was answerable to, we all were. She was a dear, she came from Victor Harbour, and she’d just ask us heaps of questions and why did you want to join and, “Do you know what you’re getting yourself into?”
Those kinds of questions, and you answered them I think, answering them what they expected you to answer and I think that’s the way I handled it.
And what did you know of AWAS at this stage?
Not a lot, just women in uniform that were taking the place of, allowing another man to go overseas,
another soldier to be released. Like the Land Army, they released men from the fruit blocks, etcetera, and there were girls that joined the munitions making bullets and things like that. Another lot, another friend of mine was making uniforms for soldiers and the AWAS. It was a hive of industry
really when you think about it, but yes, when I had the interview I just then had to come back and wait to see how I got on, and the, when I was called up of course I couldn’t go. So I had to wait for the second draft, which was August the 11th, I think, 1942.
So when May Douglas
asked you, “Do you know what you’re getting yourself in for?,” what was your answer?
I don’t know. I probably said, “Well, from whatever they expect of me I’ll be willing to do it.” We’d take an oath too. I think that was done later when we were in Bonegilla, I think we took the oath. Don’t ask me what that was because I can’t remember it, ‘Allegiance to
your King and Country’, I guess.
So who was it, what was the motivation to join AWAS, was it King and Country?
No. I don’t think so. Country, yes. Like a lot of others I didn’t know why, the First World War too our boys and the same feeling,
I thought the same thing. After having my father in it, it was a bit hard to understand why young men would volunteer for something that wasn’t on our shores and I think, too, when I joined there was a loyalty there in my mind
because of my upbringing and the attitude of my parents towards the German people. Well, let’s leave the people out, they were pretty innocent, Hitler and his ilk. I just felt that I wanted to be in it and hopefully I thought I might
be sent somewhere. I was quite willing to go overseas if I’d been sent. Never thought of the danger, and I don’t think the boys did either.
I was going to ask, did you ever ask Jim why he was going off to fight or why he joined the army?
I think because his mates did. I think they all put their heads together and said, “We might as well be in it.” I think so, because he had an uncle
on his father’s side who was in the First World War. On his mother’s side he had an uncle who was killed over there in Egypt in the First World War and I guess it was love of our own country. A pride in, probably more of a pride in putting yourself forward as an Australian.
I think that had a lot to do with it, but I don’t think for one minute they knew any more than we did what they were getting themselves into.
And did you think at that stage that you would have to defend Australia at some point?
I did, I did. We learnt in the AWAS to shoot. We had guns, .303s [rifles], and we learnt on
the rifle range how to take them to bits, put them together and fire bullets at targets.
Once you did go back, or you did get called up in the second lot, what happened from there? How was the journey to –
We went by train to Melbourne
and then caught another train up to Albury. From there we were trucked, no seat belts of course, trucked out to Bonegilla Camp and we were in a section, a portion of the land there, I think we were Number 3 block and we were the only girls in a men’s camp. I forget how many of us there
were, something like 300 I think, could be more.
And who was there to see you off at the train station?
My parents saw me off at the station and that’s when I saw Nancy, my schoolmate, there, and she was all on her own, nobody there to see her off, so I pulled her over with us. I got such a shock to see her there, and she said she always remembers I had my parents
and she didn’t have anybody. So we were keen to go.
What advice did your father give you at the train station?
“Just look after yourself,” that’s all. We were brought up strictly, and I think that the upbringing
and so on, it would be like my youngest daughter, she said to me whenever she was tempted perhaps to do something Mum wouldn’t like she’d hear my voice over her shoulder. I said, “Yes, I was your conscience.” But I was lucky we had three good kids.
And what personal items did you take with you?
Personal items? What exactly do you mean?
What did you pack?
Just our, mostly underclothing because we had uniforms. We had summer uniforms as well as winter uniforms and an overcoat. We had trousers, long trousers, but personal things of course would be a bit of makeup.
We weren’t allowed to wear earrings or anything like that and you had to have short hair. You couldn’t have long hair. Those that had long hair had to have it up all the time. Soaps, perfume was out. You couldn’t have perfume, and that was about it. You could wear makeup.
And what was the mood like on the train on the way over to Melbourne?
Sombre. Nobody spoke to us. So, and of course we were getting to know each other because there were other girls on the train as well. Some of them we didn’t know were going there because they were in civilian clothes. I had
my uniform on and a lot of the other girls were in uniform too because they’d been in it for a length of time, but they wore, while they were doing the studies in Keswick in the university they wore civilian clothes. It wasn’t until they joined the army that they, not till they were sent away that they had their uniforms.
Did you take any civilian clothing with you?
Did I take any? I took a short sleeved blouse and a little pair of shorts I’d made myself and when we went down to Mornington near the beach I didn’t have a swimsuit, so
out of curtain material I made myself a swimsuit and that was all done by hand too, but it was respectable. It had a skirt on it, it was a one piece, yeah.
We’ll change tapes now.
Interviewee: Dorothy Scott Archive ID 1608 Tape 05
Well, Dorothy, you were talking about getting called up, but before we move on can you tell us about being issued with your uniform?
Yes. I can’t remember a great deal about it but you had to have something that fitted. I think that was the main trouble, and I could remember my father saying
the First World War uniforms were something shocking. They didn’t fit properly and all that sort of thing, and Jim was the same with his uniform. There was nothing stylish or anything like that about the men’s uniforms. Today they’re different, they’re lovely, and I think we were lucky inasmuch as our uniforms were made of very nice material
and were a little more, for those times, more stylish than what the men had, and the main thing was, I think I was still a growing girl because I used to have difficulty with my buttons closing over the chest, C-H-E-S-T, and that was my biggest problem when I started to put on weight and everything got tight.
You had to wear your belt, you couldn’t go without them, and I had two uniforms while I was in, for the period of time I was in, because I just grew out of it.
Can you describe that uniform, what did it look like?
I’ve still got the jacket actually. I cut the skirt up for my firstborn’s first pair of overalls. I made her a pair of overalls. I wish I’d kept it.
The same with Jim’s army clothing. I cut them up for the girls’ clothing, and the uniform had epaulettes with Australia across each shoulder. The rising sun on each epaulette, no, each,
these things, and buttons with coat of arms on, four pockets, two breast pockets like you’re wearing and then two others. The skirt was plain and just below the knee, or a bit further below the knee, khaki, and it was too bad if khaki didn’t
suit you, and a shirt. We had to starch the collars every time we washed them and iron them. Hair just above the collar, and the summer uniform was not very stylish at all. It was just a plain khaki-coloured poplin, I suppose you’d call
it, thin material, cotton, and that was all in one, belted, short sleeves, very ordinary. And hats, we had a felt hat. Later on I had a driver’s cap. I liked that, and we had long
trousers and I liked that, and I think I’ve been a trouser woman ever since. They’re so comfortable. So, and for training purposes, once we left the Morse code room for training as drivers we had navy blue overalls and we used to get them pretty greasy at
times because we did a lot of, we had to be able to take an engine apart and put it together again and the electrical and the wiring and all of that sort of thing.
Well, we’ll come to talk about that, but I am interested to hear, I guess when you signed up what did you think was the image of the AWAS? Was it different to then how you found it?
Was the image and the reality slightly different?
No, not really. If there was any difference I think it was the routine of being as different from working and civilian life. The routine was there and it had to be adhered to. The daily thing, the reveille, you
get up at a certain time. You go to the mess hut for your breakfast at a certain time. You attend lectures and Morse code lessons at a certain time. Everything was done by the clock and you had to do it. The first lesson I learnt was, there were two other girls and myself, four of
us, we decided we didn’t want to get up this early because you’d rush to the showers, you’d have your shower and then you’d get dressed and come back and make your bed and do all of that sort of thing. The beds by the way were called, palliasses was the mattress made of straw, they were good, and we decided, the four of us, that we could do without
breakfast. Well, that didn’t work out so well. We were called up to the CO [commanding officer] and given a great long lecture on what we were doing to our bodies without breakfast and I’ve carried that through life and I gave it to my children when they didn’t want to have breakfast. I’ve given it to my grandchildren when they think they can skip this, that and the other. It was a good lesson learnt, and we only
ever did the course was when we were found it was finished. Then there was marching, roll-call. We’d all be lined up. I don’t know how many of us. There were quite a number. I did read it the other day and I’ve forgotten, and your name would be called and you’d have to say, “Here, here, here,” and then we’d set off on a march, early morning
march every day, not just ordinary days but every day, and we had a little Scotsman for an instructor. He was a delight. He was very short, very stout, very pink-faced, red hair and a very marked Scottish accent and he’d be marching alongside of us, “Lift them up,
left, right, left, right,” and then he’d stop us and then he’d put us through the paces of left turn, right turn, at ease and all of that sort of thing. He was good. He was very, very strict, and one day there was a bit of laughter going on and it rippled all the way up the girls, the taller ones were always in front, came up and it was being
whispered. He was walking backwards, poor fellow, and fell into a ditch and they had to fish him out, and that sort of just broke us up. We just couldn’t help ourselves. It was so funny and we never ever forgot it, but after the war there was a reunion in Melbourne many years later.
I was able to go to it. It’s the only one I’ve been to in Melbourne and he was there and we just loved him. After the war he took on a different persona. He was one of us and he was gorgeous. He only died a couple of years ago, if that. I think his widow is still alive.
It would’ve been highly embarrassing, particularly for a male officer, to fall into a ditch backwards.
What did he do?
Clambered out, I suppose. He must’ve had some help somewhere, because he was only little. He just went on as if nothing had happened after that, very red-faced. Yes, he was a, what do they call them? Staff sergeant. Yeah, he was good and he’d returned from overseas. You see, he’d been over there. I think he’d been to Greece
as well, and I’ve got a huge book there on the whole bit. I haven’t read a lot of it, it’s hard going, but they went through some terrible times, particularly in getting out of Greece and he was one of those and quite a few of those that were training us were returned fellows from the Middle East and Greece and they, I think
they felt it a little bit demeaning at times that they had to tutor women. I think we won them over a bit eventually.
Why do you say that?
Well, they’d been through hell and they came back and they would’ve had to watch their Ps and Qs, their swearing, their risque jokes and they were thorough
gentlemen. They were, and nowadays when I see what goes on nowadays, quite a lot of troops nowadays are in trouble, aren’t they, for misdemeanours, and they just didn’t. They respected us and I think once they got over the fact that they were teaching women, they were more relaxed.
But they were seasoned, hardened soldiers and I guess they felt very different.
And how did you and the rest of the girls become aware that maybe they were a bit, well, not used to training women?
I think they let it be known to some of the girls.
How, I’m not too sure, but I think that they gave some of the girls a bit of a hard time to start with discipline-wise, because I guess we had to be disciplined as they were when they first went into the army, but they were respectful about it. I overheard sometimes a bit
of swearing and that sort of thing, but they didn’t sling off at us at all.
Well, I’m wondering now with some hindsight looking back, do you think they took the girls seriously?
Yes, they did. Not at first but I think once the girls showed their mettle, the operators in particular
were very, very good at their job. It may not be widely known but it was the Morse codians, the operators, who shortened the war by two years with Japan and that I believe, it is written up now, and I get a bulletin from my group every, I think it’s three times a year and
they’re beginning to let out secrets and it’s quite amazing. I had no idea that anything we did was that important. But I find out now that it is, and since then, we never had any recognition. I think, you know, that we were no medals in this unit business, and we were so secret that we
weren’t allowed to discuss it at all, which we didn’t. We were threatened with all sorts of things if we did. So they, I think just respected them when they saw how good they were at their jobs, and we young girls, as drivers of these big huge five-ton trucks moving troops around, and the blitz buggies
and the blitz wagons that were set up for the operators, we used to take them out into the bush, the higher ground the better, and they’d do their operating work there and we drivers would be going through our paces with more lectures and waiting for them to finish their work. We didn’t know what was going on.
Well, that’s getting a bit ahead of ourselves, so
just to begin, can you describe the camp at Bonegilla?
Yes, it was a huge camp. I don’t know how many men were there or how many went through, but our section was as I said before, was down in the corner and it was guarded. For the first three months we had no leave at all and it was
every day except on Sundays, and Sundays we used to go to church. That was held multi-denominational all in together with the exception of Catholics. They had their separate one, but all the rest of us were lumped in together, and we were marched to that and marched back again.
And what was your sleeping quarters like?
It was a tin hut,
cold in the winter, hot in the summer. I can’t remember quite how many girls to a hut, but I think it was something like 16 or 18, all the beds down the sides, and they were beds, just iron pieces thrown together with a wire
mattress, wire base and the palliasse on top, and it was so cold that we used to put one of our blankets on top of the palliasse and then the sheet and ask for more blankets, it was so cold. And then we had what we called the ablution block which was showers and toilet and we used to have to take our turn at cleaning these things.
We had a wood heap, we used to take our turn at chopping wood, a mess hut where the kitchen was and huge long trestles for eating, and the cooks were absolutely marvellous, the girls. They threw together something out of something that didn’t look very appetising, great
boilers of hot water for cups of tea and things like that, and the blowflies hanging around. They had scoops to get them out of the water.
And what was the food like?
Plain, but it was good. Once a week we had what the boys had, probably, overseas all the time, we had bully beef. That was dry stuff. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for the men overseas
eating that stuff, and it was, but we used to love, once we were allowed out and to have leave, the first thing we’d make for was a delicatessen and eat. And then when we were fully fledged, the drivers I’m talking about now, when we were fully fledged drivers,
I was working in the office, transport office, for a while with another girl and the rest were all men and we had to be there at a certain time every day and then, depending on what work was at night, it would be late at night before we’d leave and that was good. I liked it in the transport office. I still had my turn at
driving, which I didn’t really want to give that up. That was my love, I just loved driving.
Well, how long did your training last for, roughly?
Roughly about 12 months, I suppose, but Bonegilla was the training camp and once they became fully fledged operators we were divided into
I’ll just stick with the training for a moment because that’s a whole 12 months.
I would say it would’ve been, although they were working, but it probably took them all of that time to become self sufficient, I would think.
Well, I’m interested to hear, you have talked about being quite a shy girl early on in childhood. How did you respond or react to the loss of privacy when you joined the AWAS?
Yes, that was a bit difficult but you got used to it. You’re all girls together, after all, and you did get used to it. I can adapt
myself to pretty well anything. Even as a teenager, when it came to work, or it wouldn’t matter what it was, or changing places, and since I’ve been married I’ve had to adapt to a lot of things and I’m pretty good at it.
What was the most shocking thing, I guess?
What was the most shocking thing?
Oh yes. Finding out that some of the girls you thought were fantastic, and then when you go on leave you find that you don’t want them as your friend. That, I think, was probably the biggest
eye-opener I ever had. I could tell you some things.
Like what? There was a girl from Queensland, she and I were buddies, and on our first leave we were allowed down to Melbourne and she had a girlfriend living in Melbourne so we stayed with her and her husband, a nice couple, and Rita and I had arranged
to meet, oh gee, she’s still alive, she might hear this, but I won’t mention names, to meet her because she said that she knew the place well, it was her home ground and we’d go to a dance. So we met her. She had two blind dates for us as well as one herself, and there was no dance in it.
I had never experienced anything like this before or since and it was in a Melbourne street somewhere and you know, when you go through into a shop, a big shop, and you’ve got your glass doors and your glass display window is here and out the front on its own is another display case, there she was, grog.
We didn’t drink, Rita and I, and these fellows were out for a good time. So we said, “Well, where’s the dance?” And she said, “We’re not going to a dance.” So Rita and I followed them and ended up, would you believe, in an empty railway carriage,
she in the back doing whatever, making a big noise and Rita and I huddled up together so close and she was crying because she was six years older than I was and she said, “I should be looking after you,” and I’m trying to pacify her and the fellows each side of us had suddenly decided we’ve got a couple of brummies here
and they wanted to do more and we knew it and we said, “It’s not on.” So they just sat there like a couple of dummies, waited for this other girl and the one she was with and from there, that was on our second leave, from there we went back to the
guesthouse where we were staying over night. Darn me if she didn’t come up and bring the three boys up and the beer as well. Rita and I, we didn’t know what to do and it was late and we just felt that we couldn’t go downstairs and we just didn’t know what to do and Rita was still crying.
Anyway, to cut a long story short they took over our bedroom. We stood outside the door and I said, to Rita, “It’s got to stop. I’m going to put a finish to this.” I did the bravest thing I’ve ever done. I went in and I hauled them apart, ordered them out of the room and locked the door and she and I next morning got up at
daybreak. We were so ashamed to think that we were here and we went down to the kitchen and we apologised for what had happened the night before and you know what they said? “Don’t worry about it, we know her. We knew her before.” And of course Rita and I said, “Look, this is between us. We don’t want to put her in the bad books when we go back to camp.” We kept it between ourselves. We never told anybody
and we tried to stay clear of her but we also didn’t want it to be obvious. So we just tried to go on as usual but I’ll never forget it and I’ll never forget what I saw. I wasn’t used to that, but Rita was a mess. She was a dear girl. She died just recently, I’m the only one left out of nine.
And you would’ve been in uniform?
Oh yes. That was disgusting.
I imagine that would’ve been a very uncomfortable situation for you?
It was when we went back to camp, yes, it was, because in uniform you all look the same and you take people at face value because you’re all doing the same things. It’s all routine,
and then when you have a disappointment like that in somebody it hits you. So yeah, it wasn’t very nice. Perhaps I shouldn’t have told you that one.
Well, I am absolutely fascinated because I was going to ask you, I guess this is more of a social question about your own sex education and how you, or what little you did or you didn’t know by the time you got
to the army?
Didn’t have any, didn’t have any. Parents didn’t help you much in growing up. I can remember quite clearly how I found about where babies came from. I was 11 years old, believe it or not, yeah. And do you know, when I was 18 I didn’t know
how they were born and the lass you saw in my picture out there, she said, “Do you mean to tell me you don’t know?” And I told her how I thought they might’ve been born and she said, “No.” She said, “Not like that at all. The way it goes in it comes out,” and that just, 18 years old, unbelievable, isn’t it? So I think
biology in school today is a good thing, yeah. Didn’t know anything. That’s probably why I held boys and men away from me, because I didn’t know how far.
What did you find out when you were 11 years old?
How they were made by a girl at school.
It’s like my youngest daughter when I tried to teach her, tried to tell her. I told the three of them at different stages when I thought they were old enough and they were very young at the time, because they said later that they’d forgotten what I’d told them. But the youngest one, when I tackled her, “Don’t want to hear about it, Mum, it’s more interesting from the kids at school,” and I suppose it was because my sister and I found
it very interesting because it was something we didn’t discuss at home, yeah. That’s the story.
Well, I guess in that respect how naïve do you think you were when you joined the army?
I knew all about everything then, because by then I was 20 and I was mixing a lot more with the girls that I was boarding with
and of course you’d get onto all sorts of subjects and I learned a lot, and then I think as crazy as it may seem, you can be in company and if you see somebody that looks interesting there’s a certain chemistry and that was enough to wake me up.
But because of the fear of sex there was no way.
And was there any punishment for that girl?
We never told anybody, so nobody knew. There was no punishment, no, no. I mean, you wouldn’t tell, would you? That was life and that was a lesson,
and today they call them all sorts of names, but we didn’t.
I don’t want to get too far ahead but I am going to ask you this question now because it seems appropriate. I have heard from army boys, and I’m assuming they were army boys that you were with?
I have heard from army boys about the reputation of the AWAS and they
had a bit of a nickname.
AWAS, ‘always willing after sunset’. Didn’t apply to everybody, you know. Yes, we had a joke about that. It’s funny, isn’t it? I know Jim, my husband, he loves to tell people that. Always willing after sunset. I wish I could think up one for the AIF [Australian Imperial Force].
Where did you hear that from?
A couple of army boys.
A couple of army boys, that’s right, yes. I don’t know whether the WAAAFs had any. I mean, AWAS is so easy to put something to. I guess there were quite a lot of them too that would’ve been. I mean, it’s nature, isn’t it? Just because one out of the blue as silly as me didn’t
take advantage of those sorts of things. I wish I had’ve experimented. I’d have known a bit more about it. Funny when you look back, because I reckon I missed out on a hell of a lot through fear. That’s all it was, blatant fear. The feeling, you know, the natural feeling was there, but
it was always stifled.
And you did the right thing in that situation that you’ve just told us about for yourself at the time?
You mean when I was on leave with Rita? Yes, it wasn’t easy, but I was so upset for Rita’s sake because she, being the elder of
the two of us, she was so upset and she was a good girl, you know, lovely person, and she was mothering me.
What was the punishment, I guess, for any pregnancy amongst the girls in the AWAS?
I don’t know about punishment, but I’ve only learned since meeting up with
other girls that it did happen and they had, they got special leave, or the only case I know of, and I didn’t know her personally, had special leave to go home and she came back without it. So you don’t have to much of an imagination why she got it, and they
may not have known, the authorities may not have known. So it did go on, obviously. I mean, I’d be pretty naïve to think that it didn’t, because there were some very young, I wasn’t the youngest there. See, there were 18-year-olds, they took them at 18 and there were, I knew some that were 30-year-olds. So it would have to go on.
Even if I didn’t think it would. I know my husband laughs at me because he thinks I’m such a drip as far as that’s concerned, and silly, he thinks I put too much trust and too much, I can’t think of the word, in my friends
that they wouldn’t do those sort of things. Not that they wouldn’t do it, it was just, I don’t know. I was a bit behind the eight ball when it came to putting myself forward for that sort of thing. I think it was, again, fear.
Well, staying with things gynaecological, how – ?
Yes, carry on.
How did you girls in the army in the AWAS deal with your periods and menstruation? How was it?
We had to use those horrible pads which were better, anyway, than when we first started as girls. It was towels and washing and all that sort of thing. But that was OK, that wasn’t a problem.
Did the army issue you with supplies or did you have – ?
Gosh, you’ve got me there. No, I think they sold them at the canteen, if I remember rightly. I know they sold cigarettes. I used to buy the cigarettes and send them to Jim ’cause I didn’t smoke.
And what about if you suffered any illness on the first day of your period and
stuff, how was that handled?
I think most of the girls covered it pretty well, unless they were really ill then there was the, we had a nursing sister with us and they’d probably go to her and be given something to cope with it. I wasn’t very curious about those things.
And you never had any problems?
I didn’t have any problems, no. No,
I was pretty lucky in that respect.
Quite lucky. So just going back to Bonegilla, what was your daily routine there?
I think I told you.
A little bit, but –
when we, well, when we were out learning to drive I was pretty lucky really because I held a civilian licence. I had my licence from the age of 18. My father taught me how to drive and that helped me a lot because I knew the general routine of changing gears and clutch and brake and accelerator stuff, and
for lessons we used to go out into a big paddock to start with and they’d put us through our paces in the different-sized trucks and what have you, and how to stall and change gears and go up hills with these big trucks because you didn’t drive them, they weren’t synchromeshed or anything like that. They were straight out hard things to drive
and when you changed gears you’d have to, when you came back up from top back up to second and third, second, and even down to one again, you had to do what was called double declutching. Do you know what that is? You do.
Tell me anyway.
Well, you put your clutch in, slap the
accelerator between putting your clutch in again and the gear as it goes through and it can screech, it can crash gears, it can do all sorts of things and we went through all of that. We used to have a bit of fun with that when we picked up the troops too.
OK. We might get you to talk a bit about that fun after we’ve changed the tape because our tape has just run out.
Interviewee: Dorothy Scott Archive ID 1608 Tape 06
I just would like to talk to you a bit more about the camp and the living conditions. When you walked into the galvanised tent and saw those beds, what was your first impression?
Well, when I was boarding at the YWCA we girls all slept out on the balcony and there would’ve been the same atmosphere,
because there would’ve been perhaps 12 of us on the balcony side by side, and that was what I’d just walked into. So I’d just come from that into the army into the same situation and mixing with all women, girls.
There would’ve been some girls who had not had your previous experience and this was their first time away from home, what signs did you see of them settling in?
I think they just too it in their stride. You’d hear a little bit of sobbing sometimes at night. I think there was a lot of homesickness there until they really, that was the very young ones. So I think they just took it in your stride. When you’re ordered around and your days are mapped out for you and you had to
do it, it was just something you did and it was very busy so you wouldn’t have had a lot of time, well, we didn’t have a lot of time to think about much else but what we were doing.
Was there much cattiness amongst the girls?
Cattiness? I didn’t see any. Actually, for
a bunch of girls we were pretty good. We didn’t, I didn’t see any cattiness. Because we were situated where we were amongst a lot of men in the same camp, later on across the road they brought in a lot more AWAS for training, but they weren’t with us. They belonged to
something else. I don’t know what they were. They weren’t Morse codians or anything like that and I believe there was cattiness there from we could hear and they, I believe, threw it at us because we’d all be at the same dance hall in the camp and they would be there too and I can remember one
of our girls saying, “Gosh, see that one over there. She just said to me, ‘Oh, you belong to the wedding cakes across the road, don’t you?’” So there was cattiness in that respect, but I never experienced myself.
Being the only girls on a male camp, was there a lot of competition to get boys’ attention?
In the dance hall?
That would be the only place. No, I think we all looked so much alike I don’t think the boys would have, perhaps, I’m not a boy, I wouldn’t know, whether they noticed, attention or not I don’t know. I think they were all just keen to pick up a girl and have a dance, to hold a girl.
Just talking about the socials that you had, the dances,
how were they organised? How did that happen?
The people that ran the camps, like the COs of our girls, I guess, got their heads together with the major and so on of the boys and put it all together. So it was a regular thing, the same as the church parade was a regular occurrence.
And what did you wear?
Uniform, shoes, and the boys in their boots. You had to watch where you put your feet.
Did it feel very glamorous?
I mean it was very different from the dances that you’d have previously?
Yes, no glamour, no. It was an outlet, it was recreation and there was no glamour.
And did you meet any men there?
actual dance, no, I didn’t. Later in the work that I was doing and had to have protection, yes, I did then.
If you don’t mind we can talk about that when we start talking about that work. I just want to talk about the cafes that you went to. How did you go, how did you get there?
They had a bus and we used to go into Albury and go the cafés and eat up big.
What time of the day did you get this free time?
I think we’d probably leave about nine or ten o’clock to go into Albury, because it gave us
time to get there and walk around and go to a café and have a meal, and then we’d go to the pictures afterwards and then we’d catch the bus home. Home, back to camp.
Did you know of any girls who snuck out after lights out?
Yes, yes. I did it once myself. Yes, they got caught unfortunately and lots of tears and crying. That was
early in the piece, and of course that was a lesson for everybody else, you don’t do that sort of thing.
So how did you sneak out?
You’d go through to the last hut on the perimeter, that was a big paddock around. On two sides there was a huge paddock and that’s where they got through the fence and ticked off. They only went down to the café that
was just outside the grounds, and I think it was made taboo. There was some rumour went around that there could be spies there because of all the troops that used to hang around there, go in and out. But they were mostly the younger ones that did that. They probably had met different
ones at the dances to have done it. So I don’t know what happened to them after that, probably just lectured anyway.
And was the last hut a men’s hut?
No, it was only, we were in the corner, right in the corner of a block and there were guards, but I missed them.
And when you snuck out did you go in uniform?
Yes. We didn’t have any other clothing that we could’ve worn, so we did go in uniform. I only ever did it once and it wasn’t worth it. The tension just was not worth it. Didn’t stay very long, just had a meal and came back. I was with a friend at the time, a male friend,
and he was my guard because when I was working in the transport office, that was after I’d finished my training. It was probably three months’ training I had, and then I was in the transport office and had a good job there. It was really good, and had to sometimes
go back to my area through the men’s camp to get to it because the transport office was some distance away and they wouldn’t allow me to go on my own and they brought in this tall nice looking young man, introduced me to him and he said, “Here’s your guard.” I said, “What for?” And they said, “To see you safely back to your block,”
and he wasn’t allowed to cross the road. He had to drop me. He’d walk me across and drop me at the roadside and then I’d just cross the road into the women’s section. We became a bit more than friends. There’s that chemistry that as soon as he walked in the door I thought, “Oh heck, he’s alright.” I was only 20,
and we used to see each other when we were on leave and he used to walk me back to the hut every night. Everybody knew that’s what he was there for, but I guess they didn’t think for one minute there’d be any chemistry at all between us and there was. But unfortunately, well, not unfortunately, he had just broken up
with his girlfriend and I think it was on the rebound. It didn’t last, but he was an exceptionally nice young man.
And did you tell him about Jim?
Oh yes, yes. I was never one to have more than one friendship. The nerves would set in if I did. I don’t think I could’ve
handled any more than that, and that’s the same time, you see, I told Jim and it didn’t go down so well, of course, but then nothing every runs smoothly. But I was very fond of him, very fond.
Do you remember his name?
Oh yes. I won’t say it though.
OK. We’ll call him the guard.
Call him the guard.
Where did you spend your leave together?
With the guard.
I thought you said that you sometimes spent leave together if you had leave.
Only in Albury, and that was again at the delicatessen and I don’t think we ever went to the pictures, even, because you couldn’t always get it together.
So golly, now you’ve asked me a question. We hardly ever had any time together on leave. I’ll tell you what, it was a funny romance, wasn’t it?
But did you see each other every day?
Yes, because he had to take me back each night after I’d finished work.
Would he take you to work?
No, that wasn’t necessary, it was daylight, but when it was dark that’s what we had to do.
Can you describe him for me?
He was tall, blond, green-eyed, strangely enough he was a bike rider the same as Jim was, and protective,
very much the gentleman. So that never went anywhere, there was nothing. I kept myself for the, I always maintained from a teenager that the man I married would be the first one and I’d wait for marriage, and I did.
Can you describe his personality?
quiet, just quiet, nice person. I felt safe with him. I just felt that he wouldn’t take advantage of me and he never did, and when we sometimes went down, there’d be a crowd of us would go down to the Hume Weir for a picnic and the kitchen would give us some food and we’d go down, a crowd of us down there.
Met him a couple of times like that.
And were any of the girls suspicious or did you tell any of the girls?
They all knew. Oh yes, they all knew and the, I guess we were spied on. I guess that the guard was being spied on too to see what behaviour was, but he always just left me at the, what’s a name. We never dallied, dilly dallied or anything like that.
No. It was just a nice feeling to be with him, and my husband would be furious.
Well, I just want to ask just a bit more. So you told Jim in a letter, I take it?
And did he write back to you?
It was 1941.
Where was Jim? He was still in England. I kept writing to Jim and he’d have to be pretty naïve himself to think that I wouldn’t meet somebody at some stage in the army, and I don’t know if he did recognise it. I don’t remember getting a letter to that
degree, and I suppose he would’ve just shrugged it off. I wouldn’t have gone into detail of course, and he probably just shrugged it off. I mean, I kept writing, I never stopped writing.
What did you write to Jim? How did you break the news?
Golly, how did I break the news? That I had a friend, I think, that was
taking care of me in the army, more for work purposes than anything else. I didn’t go into any detail. Wouldn’t that be silly?
But you ended up marrying Jim?
So how did you break the news to the guard?
He moved out and, see, he called me by his girlfriend’s name
several times and that woke me up and that kept me to be the person I was, very, what would I say? Very, not suspicious, but cautious that he really still thought of this other girl and the fact that he never made any moves
on me. He would’ve been still, I think his heart was somewhere else and it wasn’t hard for me to say, “Well, this has finished,” and then of course Jim came back. When he came back and came through Albury he met me. I met him, I got leave to go in and meet him. I told him what was happening and they gave me leave to go in
and I went in and met him at the railway station and the old spark started again and he wanted me to drop everything, come home and get married. Well, it was a bit too soon. I had to be very sure and I never regretted, OK, it was a lousy thing for me to dump Jim when I did, when he was overseas. He got the letter, apparently,
just as he was coming home. Dear John [letter informing that a relationship is over], not proud of that, but it happened, but I think it happened for the better because when Jim came home I suppose in some ways I had a bit of an old head on my shoulders, but he was free then. He could play the field in the short
time that he had before he had to go back off to war, whereas he would’ve had to be loyal to me. That would’ve been very hard for Jim, because he was attractive and he did attract the girls and he was susceptible and I think that that period of time that we were apart
was meant to be and he got it all behind him, and that I think was probably good for both of us, gave us breathing space because it wasn’t then until the following year, a couple of years later, 1944 we were married and he came back in ’43, I think it was, the beginning of ’43, I’m not sure, before he went up
to the islands and yeah. That’s what happened there, and we got married.
So you went back after seeing Jim at the station, you went back to camp. What were you thinking at this stage?
My mind was a real mess. It was a real mess, ’cause I’d confessed
to the other mate and I think it just started to call from there. It was just a gradual thing, yep. So that was it, it was only a few months. See, I’d known Jim for so many years and his people and his sisters, his brother. We
always danced together and all of that sort of thing, but he was already implanted in my psyche, so that’s what happened.
Well, let’s go back to talking about the work that you did with AWAS. You noted earlier about going in and learning a secret pledge.
Can you recall any of that pledge?
No, I can’t.
Can you recall the sentiment that was behind it?
Yes, I think it was loyalty. Golly, I did know it once. No, I can’t remember it. It was loyalty and it was King, I think.
Something to do, words along those lines of patriotism, et cetera. There was a few words in a different language, probably Latin, that meant, what would it have meant? I guess loyalty and silence, perhaps.
Look, I can’t remember. It’s not even in the book that some of the girls have written, which I have.
So when you found out, when you got into AWAS and you’re at the camp and you found out what exactly your job was going to entail, what were your feelings at this time?
I just wanted to get on and do it. That’s all, let’s just do it
and make the most of it and enjoy it if you can, yes.
You commented earlier about them putting fear into you about if you divulge any secrets and the threats. What were the threats that they told you?
I guess we’d have been shipped out. I really can’t remember the words or anything, but
I do remember, I suppose you could call it a threat. No, it was the fear that if you were standing on the railway station at any time and a spy was standing by you and recognised perhaps your colour patch or whatever, you’d be pushed under the train that’s coming along. Even in civilian life they said to watch it because it could happen to you.
And I believed it. I did. Strange now in today’s world.
And when you were out on leave, did you feel relaxed at all? Did you still feel paranoid?
No, no. No, we were never alone. There was always the girls with us.
We were always together and there was a place in Albury we weren’t allowed to go. They thought it could be a spy channel.
What was that place?
It was, the girls used to go there anyway. I never went ’cause I’d done that sort of thing before I joined the army.
Clairvoyant and, you know, it’s a powerful thing to want to do to find out what your future is going to be and there was one of those there and we were forbidden to go, but some of them did go.
So did you see a clairvoyant before you joined the army?
And what did the clairvoyant tell you?
The girl who took me there she was a bit psychic herself and she said to me once, “I’m going to see this lady,” she said and explained it all to me. She said, “Would you like to come with me?” Oh, I said, “Would I? I’d like to know what’s in front of me,” and the strange part about it was when we walked in we had to take our wristwatches off or rings, whatever we had and leave it in a
basin, and the clairvoyant would take the basin and sit in front of us all and she picked up my watch. She didn’t know who it belonged to but she didn’t tell me anything about my future. She told me all about my father in the First World War, his pain, his agony,
and she felt it. Now, that nearly blew me away. I was absolutely amazed. She didn’t tell me anything about myself, except when I was walking out her hands came up and she felt my head and she said, “I would like to see more of you.” She said, “You are psychic,” and she said, “I would like to know more about you.” I didn’t go back. I didn’t want to be psychic.
I didn’t go back.
We keep going off the track. Back with your training at AWAS, you noted learning Morse code, were there any other codes that you learnt?
Japanese came in, but I didn’t learn that. That came to the girls a bit later.
All we learnt from that was their call sign. A fat lot of good that was, and that was it. We didn’t learn that. Our Morse code only reached the stage of about eight to twelve words a minute and to this day I’ll never know why we had to learn it, because we never used it and they knew we would never use it. Perhaps it was just
to exercise our minds. I don’t know.
Well, what did you use?
I wasn’t an operator, I became the driver.
And the operators’ materials that they had that had to be decoded was the stuff that I and the others had to take to headquarters in Melbourne.
And did you learn semaphore?
When I was a kid, yeah, at Brownies, yes. I’d forgotten it by then though. We had a flag, A, B, C, so on.
And did you use that at all when you were working with AWAS?
No, no. We had gas training, gas drill. We had rifle drill. Gas
drill, I didn’t go much on that. The room that they used was a concrete building with no windows and they pumped the gas in through a, reminiscent of Belsen, you know, the war in Europe where the gas chambers were? Well, we had one of those and they put us in there. First with masks,
and we had mustard gas and tear gas. Not both together, but separately, and walked out and we were fine and they said, “Take your masks off and back on again.” This time they pumped it in and we came out crying from the tear gas. We were laughing but it was tears, you know, and
then the mustard gas, well, you could feel it burning but it wasn’t severe enough to cause any damage. The girls with very fine skin, they had a bit of a problem but they were treated. But when you think about that you can understand how in the war that people were herded into gas chambers and believed that they were having a shower or something.
We did it, you know, and if it was overdone, well. I often think about that. I think how trusting we had to be of those that were doing the training. That was our initiation. I thought of my Dad then.
And could actually get a sense of what your father went through?
he was gassed three times I think, blinded. Yeah, I did have a full sense then of what Dad had been through.
And how often did you have to do gas training?
Only once. Once was enough. I think they just wanted us to experience what it was all about.
And how did you come away from that experience?
It was just another experience. Didn’t worry us, no.
Was the threat of war becoming more imminent at this stage?
Yes, yes. Oh yes. It was, although we didn’t get a lot of news, as strange as it might seem. I don’t think the civilians got a lot either at the time with what was going on, the submarines in Sydney Harbour, etcetera,
and Darwin and the bombing raids on Townsville and places like that. We never heard of it.
Well what did you hear in the camp?
Not very much at all about the war. They, for some reason, perhaps they didn’t want to scare us. Perhaps they thought we might, I don’t know what they thought, but even today when I’ve met the other girls we often say, “We didn’t know anything.”
You mentioned earlier today about women in the camp whose husbands had died out in the battlefield. What was the process for them in how they found out?
I guess it would’ve been the same as the civilians, telegram or called up to the office to be told and
actually, I never personally knew any of it until much later that that did happen and I had a friend whose husband was killed, I think, before she joined up, but after she joined her brother also was killed. That was pretty hard for her.
So how did you become a driver?
Well practising the Morse code I may have had trouble with my left ear long before I knew I did, because when I had my medical they found that the left ear
wasn’t all that good and they gave me, they syringed it out and passed me, but when it came to Morse code and we had to wear the earmuffs, I don’t know what would happen to me but there was another girl there, she was the same and she ended up a driver, we’d start to nod off. It was hypnotising us or
something. I’ve never been able to work it out but just wanted to go to sleep, so I explained it to the one that was on the key doing the tapping and she said, “We’ll change places.” So I got quite good at sending it but when it came to the earmuffs I just wanted to nod off to sleep. So when the opportunity came,
when they said, “We need drivers,” I was about the first one I think to put my hand up, “Can I be a driver?” So that’s how that came about.
And it wasn’t very common for girls of that era to have truck licenses?
What was the reaction from the men, the other male drivers?
The ones that were teaching us? I think they thought we were pretty hopeless to start with and I know later on they said they were a bit concerned whether some of them would be able to handle it, but the funny part about it was my girlfriend, the one that I met on the railway station, she was the smallest of the lot of us and she was the best driver
of the lot of us and she was fantastic. But with these big trucks, when we’d pick the troops up we had two ways we could come home. We could either come via Wodonga, which is now sort of part of Albury, but that was separate and very small in those days, or go via the Hume Weir. To go via the Hume Weir was very picturesque, it was pretty,
and we girls would decide sometimes to come home that way and you had to climb a big hill and double declutch and change down, and we’d pick the troops up and when they would go to get in and they saw this woman driver, a girl, not a woman, a girl, they’d sort of look you up and down and I mean they had just come home from overseas, a lot of them and I suppose they thought, “God, I hope she can drive this thing”.
And we used to play tricks on them by taking them home that way so that we could double declutch and not make any mistakes and go home, and yeah, that was a bit on the side.
What did your training involve in this new job?
Driving? We had a trainer to train us, each one of us, and we just learnt how to
use the gears and how to pull up and when they yelled, “Stop,” how long it took us to stop and when it rained they’d take us out. It was a lot of clay and they’d get us to go at a certain speed so that we’d slip and slide and then they’d teach us how to get out of it. That was a bit scary but we did it, and once we got out on the road they’d take us through the
mountains at night with the headlights blacked out, all except a little strip, and we’d have to drive, and look, it was dangerous because when you did it in daylight and looked over the edge anything could have happened to any of us, but nothing did. We managed it.
So were there any training accidents?
No, no. We’re women, you know.
How many volunteered with you?
You mean for driving?
I’ve got a picture out there. I think it would have to be about 30, I think. Of course when we moved out of Bonegilla there were so many different sections and each section had to have X number of drivers,
so we were spread out pretty well.
And where did you go from Bonegilla?
From Bonegilla? Down to Mornington I went. I was a bit disappointed. I would’ve like to have gone up to Queensland or Western Australia just to get that much further away but we went, 52 Section went to Mornington and
we just carried on. The big operation was building, was in the middle of the racecourse and our huts were on the edge of it and those girls, they had it hard. They were four hours on and four hours off 24 hours a day and they’d come back and sleep and we’d have to wake them up to
go on their next shift. That sort of thing, and we weren’t allowed in the operational area at all and the girls, some of them were just exhausted by the time it finished. I always felt so sorry for them, and yet when you asked them about their work they’d just simply say, “It has to be done,
and we don’t even know ourselves what we’re taking down with the Japanese.”
Our tape’s about to run out, so we’ll just swap again.
Interviewee: Dorothy Scott Archive ID 1608 Tape 07
Dorothy, I’d like to talk more about the trucks and learning all about the trucks. You mentioned earlier that you learnt how to strip down engines. How do you take apart a truck engine, tell me about that?
Actually we didn’t take the truck engines apart, we took a utility engine apart, a Ford I think it was, and yes,
my introduction to that was quite funny really because the trainer fellow training us took a spark plug cap off and said, “Hold this,” and I like a muggins put my hand out to hold it. Nobody else was doing and I thought, “Well crumbs, we’ve got to learn something here. Somebody’s got to start somewhere,” so I held it. I got the shock of my life because
it was switched on. So that was hands-on learning.
Was he winding you up?
Yes. He enjoyed it thoroughly, and so did the other girls. They didn’t know, but they were more cautious than I was. That was my problem, I think, I just wanted to know. Then of course we had lots of notes
that we had to take, we had lots of lectures on all these different parts and we had to take it to pieces and put it together again. Not once, several times. How to change a tyre, how to change a wheel and do it. Just, well, everything in those days. I couldn’t do one today, they’re all too highly technological. There’s no
way I’d handle anything like that. Not even Jim can handle them anymore because of what’s today involved, but I quite liked it even though with all the grease and dirt. See, my Dad wanted to be an engineer and I think some it must’ve rubbed off on me. He couldn’t have what he wanted, well, I suppose I was living it, and later in life
when I was married with children and we had a fruit block in Loxton, I drove, used to very few occasions go through to see my mother and he had a Holden car and I didn’t get very far one day and something happened and I thought, “Oh heck, what’s wrong with this?” Tried to start it, it just conked
out on me and I tried hard to start it and it wouldn’t start. So a car came by and it was a young lad that I knew and I said, “Would you go and tell Jim when you get there that I’m stranded here, to come and see what’s wrong and get me going again?” Jim didn’t come, he was too busy he said. So I put a blanket on the ground
off the road and took the carburettor off and took it all to bits and laid it out as I took it very methodically and blew through it and put it all together again and I arrived in Adelaide safe and sound and the kids were with me. I had three, and I dared them to touch anything. “Don’t you dare touch anything!” They just sat around and watch me do it. I was
proud of myself then. One of the few times I could congratulate myself on something worthwhile, and of course when I came back I said, “Why didn’t you come?” He said, “I was far too busy.” He said, “You would’ve rung from somewhere if you hadn’t got it going,” so he didn’t worry about me. Typically male.
Well, it’s a very very good skill to have. Can you tell me about the day at Bonegilla when you first had to take the engine apart by yourself without the instructor there and how did that go?
I don’t think I had to do it by myself. You never did, there were three or four of you working on one engine. You never did it on your own. I don’t think they’d trust us.
I’m sure they wouldn’t. The trainer, I mean, it was his job anyway.
And how did the other girls take to it?
They were the same as I was. They were quite happy. Some of them couldn’t drive when they started and there they were in the end driving these huge trucks and doing very well at it. A couple I wouldn’t have like to have driven with, but
on the whole they were extremely good.
And when you first started taking engines apart, what was the most difficult thing did you find about it?
The clutch had me intrigued. It was just so different. It wasn’t visible, and the other,
the gearbox was another part of it. That was quite interesting, how the gears meshed in and all of that sort of thing, and from there it went back through to the differential. It was good, good training. I mean I can see it all, but whether I would
be able to do any of it today on that same engine, I doubt it. I think I’m past it.
And where were you doing this at Bonegilla?
Just out in the open. Just out in the open. It wasn’t inside anywhere.
You didn’t have, like, a shed?
There should’ve been a shed. Gee, my mind’s a complete blank, but we had to have a shed to be able to lay it all out, of course we had. It would’ve been a cement floor. Isn’t that awful, I can’t remember. I can remember seeing it all in my mind’s eye but I can’t remember exactly where it was
done, but it would’ve been in a mechanic’s area, it had to be, and it was possibly, it had to be in the men’s area. I don’t think it was in the women’s area so it would have to be across the road. That’s it, I have no idea, except I did it.
Yeah, I’m just wondering because I’m thinking of a mechanic’s workshop with a pit or a hoist.
I don’t remember seeing anything like that, but it would have to have been because they were always maintaining their trucks and things. It would have to have been there, but that’s a complete blank.
I’ve got my girlfriend I could ask. She’s up in Queensland. She was with me when we did it. I will, I’ll ask her one day. I owe her a phone call so I’ll give her a ring one night and find out if she can remember, ’cause she would remember because before she came to the army she worked in a garage in the office. So she would remember.
Garages have particular smells.
Grease. Grease and oil and petrol, yes. Same as when you pull up at a petrol station today, you can smell them. If the car door’s left open and I’m sitting in their and Jim’s getting the petrol it nearly suffocates me. I hate the smell of it.
back then in those days of first learning about the engines, what made you so comfortable, do you think?
I don’t know. I was very comfortable learning all about it and the notes that we had to make. I don’t know, it was just part of my make-up I think. It was something I’ve never regretted doing.
I did, I liked it, even though I hated during my life and still do hate having really dirty hands, it didn’t bother me and I can’t remember how we cleaned our hands either. There was a lot there that I’ve lost in my mind, which is a pity for memory’s sake. They tell me if you get really old you can remember all these things. Well, I’m
approaching that but I can’t remember that.
And engine parts are quite heavy too.
They are heavy, yes. So there had to be an engine block somewhere to pull it out of course. There had to be, but I can’t remember it.
And what about making mistakes and putting things back in the wrong order?
No, it didn’t happen because he was always there, this one man and it wouldn’t have been worth him allowing a mistake to pass him by or he’d be answerable, wouldn’t he? He’d have to answer to why it happened. So I think with
anything that you take apart it’s just a natural thing. Whether it’s because it’s like making a dress, cutting a pattern out. If you don’t lay things out properly you don’t know where they’re going to go and I think the same applies to whatever you do in life and particularly when it comes to machinery. I mean, imagine the mess if you didn’t methodically
place everything in its order. I know that when Jim sometimes, down the shed, if he pulls something apart and if he doesn’t go back to it fairly soon and it gets misplaced the air gets quite blue trying to find where it is and that sort of thing where it should go.
So then, I suppose, that’s me. All my life I’ve been fairly, anything I do I like to do properly, so, but I did really and truly, I loved what I did there. I was very happy in the army. A lot of girls weren’t, but I was. I had my moments the same as everybody else but on the whole I’d do it again.
Well, tell us how you got your truck licence. Did you have to pass a test?
I suppose we did. It depended on our trainer whether we got it or not, so I guess we did. Whether it was a culmination of the whole course or whether it was a special test at the end,
and it possibly was. Whether we were aware of it or not, my memory doesn’t serve me well there, but we got it. We all got them. They didn’t have to fail anybody. So I think it was a culmination more than anything of the course itself.
And how did it feel when you were out on the highway driving the truck?
I just, there was freedom because you were the person in control of this vehicle and there was nobody sitting alongside of you telling you what to do. It was a little bit scary at first, the first few times you went out on your own but after a while I suppose you became bit cocky and
thought, “Well this’ll do me and I can drive it and I’ve got control over it.”
And how difficult were the trucks to handle? You’ve talked about the double declutching, but generally how did they handle?
They handled very well. You got used to their length and how you could park or couldn’t park or what space you needed wherever you went. I think
the most difficult part for me was the tailgate, dropping that down. It was so heavy, and then putting it up again, but more often than not you’d have, the officer in charge of the men, he always rode in the front seat with you and he would help you quite often. He would help you lift the tailgate up, and there’s all these blokes there inside
looking at you. That was a little bit, you know, made you just feel, “Gee, I better do a good job of this or I’ve got to face all of them when I drop them off.”
Well, I imagine there might’ve been quite a pressure on you to prove yourself?
Yes, I suppose there was. That was a personal pressure.
Oh heavens, yes, it was there because your pride was at stake and I think personal pride comes into a lot of things that you do. You don’t want to let yourself down and that I think probably would’ve upset me more than anything was to do something that let myself down.
Well, can you just tell us
or describe the different trucks that you were driving? What were they?
There was a five-tonner, I think that was a Ford. These trucks came back, by the way, from the Middle East. They were well-used trucks, camouflaged. The five-tonners had canopies over the back, canvas canopies and
the blitz buggies, of course they were all steel all over.
Well, for somebody who’s never heard of a blitz buggy, what is a blitz buggy?
It’s an iron or steel rather, how can I explain it? Take a flat nosed vehicle that’s all flat and the engine,
sort of, is mostly inside than outside and you’ve got this frame, steel frame that goes up square right over it and enclosed all the way. They were fitted out as operational for Morse Code taking. It was fitted out
as a Morse Code receiving truck and –
How did that work?
Antennas. Once you got to a place where they were able to plug everything in. It was self-sufficient.
So you mean that was like a mobile Morse code station?
It was a mobile,
yes, exactly, and that’s how they used to operate. Some were small and some were big. There were quite big ones, three tonners and the smaller ones. They were the same sort of thing, we trained with them as well. They were a little bit, very boxy. I wasn’t as comfortable in them
as I was in the bigger truck. But we didn’t just drive those, we had the utility. That was mostly used for taking dispatches when we were down at Mornington up to headquarters in Melbourne out at St Kilda, and we used to go alone in them so they certainly weren’t frightened of spies grabbing us or anything like that.
And then there was the staff cars. Occasionally we had have to drive an officer into, when we were in Bonegilla, into Albury for some reason or other and hang around and wait for him to come back or leave him there and he’d ring up and somebody else would go and get him, bring him home back to camp. And in Melbourne the same thing, when we were down in Mornington, the officers wanted
to go into the city for some reason, we’d have to take them in and wait for them.
And the big five-tonners, you mentioned they had a canvas canopy, and what colour was that canvas?
It was all camouflaged. I’ve got pictures of it out there if you’re interested in it. Camouflaged in khaki and green and cream
and dirty colours, you know, painted over. They were all like that.
And the five-tonners, what would they mainly be carrying? What was the load?
Mostly troops for us girls. Yeah, mostly the troops backwards and forwards to Albury and from, and not just to Mornington. Sometimes we had to take them down to another camp down at Balcombe.
Another camp at, just out of Wodonga, south. It started with a B, I can’t remember the name of it, but it was a small, like a siding off the railway there.
I’m just trying to get a picture,
Bandiana was the name, Bandiana.
How was the big five-tonner fitted out
in the back?
It wasn’t. They stood up. There was a couple of ledges and they sat on the floor, they stood up and held on to the supports that were holding the canvas canopy. I’ll tell you, it was pretty rough for them and I mean if,
I’d hate to think what could’ve happened if we’d had an accident of some kind, because they’d have been horribly injured or killed. There was no protection for them, no belts, nothing.
Was the back open?
It was open at the back where the tailgate was, it was open. It didn’t have to be, but for the sake of claustrophobia
we never closed it, because I just think it would’ve been too cruel to have it closed.
And how many troops would you fit on a truck like that?
Now you’ve got me. A lot. There was no law as to how many you could take. It was like a cattle truck, poor fellows, but they didn’t know
any different. That was what was happening in those days and we just accepted it. They would’ve accepted anything, I’m sure, to be home.
Well, you’re driving quite a range of vehicles there from staff cars up to big five-tonners, what was your favourite vehicle to drive?
enough I loved the five-tonner, five-tonner. I don’t know why. I think you had something big that was, I felt safe in it although with the knowledge I have today I wouldn’t now feel safe in it, no way. But I felt it was mine and it was part of me and we had to do maintenance, of course.
Wash them down and make sure they had water, oil and petrol – WOP – water, oil and petrol. I still go through that when I take the car.
And was it easy to put the water, oil and petrol in a big five-tonner?
Oh yes. You had to stand on your toes. I don’t know how the little ones went. It was a lot easier in the utility, of course
and when we were on duty and having to take dispatches up to the city we wore a band the same as the Don Rs did, a white, blue and white band around our arms so if anybody was interested they’d soon catch on as to what it was like. I was stranded one night. It was pitch black and going back down to Mornington
and ran out of petrol. That was a no-no, and I knew it was full of petrol before I left because I’d done my maintenance on it, and coming down under a bridge, I can’t remember whether it was Moorabbin or Mordialloc down the peninsula there. In those days these towns were little towns far apart. I’ve only been back once since and they’ve all joined up. It’s just one big
area of buildings. Well, when I ran out of petrol I was just coming under the bridge. Fortunately I had enough room to pull over and it stopped so then I pushed it into the bushes, tried to start it and I couldn’t. So I stayed with it and cars went by and wouldn’t go out
and then I heard trucks coming by. Your ears become attuned to an army truck and I heard an army truck coming, so I rushed out and hailed it down and they were from, not my camp, but from Balcombe down further. They said, “What’s wrong?” And I said, “Well, I’ve pushed my ute into the bushes there. I’m out of petrol,” and they said, “Well, how come you’re out of petrol?” I said, “I don’t know.
All I know is it was full when I left.” So they dropped me off back at camp and I had the keys, I locked it up, and next morning they sent some blokes out, soldiers out to bring it back with petrol, and it had been spiked. It was either a civilian wanting petrol, ’cause petrol
was rationed and I think that’s probably what it was, but if you want to be romantic you could say a spy did it. So that was hairy, but you become accustomed when you’re in it to that feeling of trust, of anybody in uniform, rather
than a civilian, and that was the feeling I got that night. I felt secure, once those fellows stopped and picked me up I felt secure. So you do put a lot of trust in your fellow man when it comes to something like that.
And I guess it was lucky you didn’t have any troops in the back?
Yes, yes. Well, yes, it would’ve been, even at one stage up at
Bonegilla I had to pick up three prisoners of war on my own and take them out to Bandiana. They could’ve run away, couldn’t they, but they didn’t. I wasn’t real happy, that feeling having them on board.
Where did you pick them up from?
From the station.
And they were Italian or Japanese?
Italian, yeah, but they were friendly. They, I think they were glad probably to be in Australia. They might’ve been Australians in the beginning, I don’t know, but I don’t think so, otherwise they wouldn’t have been POWs [prisoners of war], but they could’ve been brought out here with a crowd of them and just be separated when they got here and just been sent to different
places. So you sort of touched on a lot of things during the war that you wouldn’t expect to do, but that’s one of them. It’s the only time it happened.
It is unusual, though, to be sent on your own?
Oh yes, but that’s what we were, we never had company.
And what vehicle did you have that day?
A utility, yeah, and I didn’t lock them in.
There was no way of locking them in, but they didn’t sit in front. One of them didn’t come and sit in front. I didn’t like to take that chance. Not that I thought anything bad of them, because they were so quiet and docile. They wouldn’t have hurt a fly. They were very small for Italians too, because Italians
are, they’re quite robust. These weren’t.
And did they have bags with them?
No, they didn’t, they didn’t. I’ve got no idea whether they were from Bandiana. I wasn’t told anything. I was just told I had to go into Albury for some reason which I can’t remember, probably taking somebody in there and dropping them off
and told to call and pick up these from the station, which is what I did. So I didn’t have to do it, that was the only time, and I’m glad it was because to me it was a big responsibility. So that was that.
And did you ever get any flat tyres?
No, thank goodness. Have had in civvy [civilian] life, yes, I’ve had them.
I’ve changed wheels, but didn’t have to there. Only learned how. So that side of it, that was good. I’d hate to have been caught on the side of the road with a flat tyre.
What was it like driving the staff car that you mentioned? What sort of car was it?
A sedan. What were
they like in those days? A bit the shape of a Hillman or a Vauxhall, you know, the early models, a bit like that. Didn’t like it much, I didn’t know how to talk to the officers. So, tongue-tied.
And how did
they treat you?
Good, very good. Yes, they were nice men. We were lucky, I think.
I’m also a bit curious about what outfit you wore to drive each of these different vehicles. Which uniform were you wearing?
Sometimes the skirts and sometimes the trousers.
We pleased ourselves, pretty much. There was no set rule, but we preferred the trousers because with the trousers came a peaked cap which we loved to wear, yes.
Did you ever wear your skirt driving the big five-tonner?
I don’t think so. I think I wore my trousers. I wore the skirts for the utility
and the staff car. So that was easier.
It sounds appropriate. Well, I think I could happily talk to you about cars all day long, but we should probably move along with your story. You were talking earlier about being posted to Mornington
with 52 Section. So what were your duties, mainly, at Mornington?
Actually, that’s where most of the work was done operational-wise and that was mostly, what I was telling you, to Melbourne, to St Kilda, dropping off dispatches.
What about your other duties? Well, sorry, I’ll rephrase that. You said dispatches, was it about taking secret intelligence?
Can you tell us a bit about that?
They used to just put them in big bags or big envelopes. We never knew what was in them, we just knew it had to go away for decoding and
that was to St Kilda. I think it still exists today. We had to run up a heap of stairs and down again with all of this, just drop it off and hardly see anybody, just the person that you handed it to, and not very interesting.
Well, how frustrating was it for you to be in the dark, I guess, about what you were
What we were doing? I think we had in our own minds, well, we knew what it was all about. We knew it was Japanese and whatever else they were taking but we, even those that took it down didn’t understand it, couldn’t, you know, they just didn’t, and they’re only just letting it out. The bulletin that I get
has got the symbols and everything in it and they’re only just learning now. The decoders knew, of course they did, they had to get the message out. But for the girls that were doing it, to this day they say that they never knew, so that’s how secret it all was and even if we’d been challenged, what could we tell people?
We couldn’t have told them anything because we didn’t know. It was all part of the secrecy of it and if we did tell anybody that it was secret even, where would we be? We weren’t allowed to, and to allow us to take it alone without escort or anything was
pretty trusting, shall I say? Thinking about it today you can let your mind wander a bit but at the time you just didn’t think anything of it. It had to be done and you did it. Didn’t think we were doing anything special, but I suppose we did if helped to shorten the war at all, and we weren’t allowed
to speak of it and we weren’t allowed to speak of it after, so I was silent for about 50-odd years before I spoke about anything, except that I was a driver, but I didn’t say what I was doing as a driver apart from troops, etcetera, and the good times, the fun times that we had. But when I read about it now, once the secrecy was lifted
it’s quite mind blowing to know what those girls actually did, and we didn’t get any recognition for it. Not that we were looking for it, but here about 2001, I think it was, or 2002, something came in the post for me, a big envelope, and in it was a recognition from the Queensland Government, would you
believe? I’ve got it up there, it’s still in its envelope, but it came, you know, as far as the Australian Government goes there’s never been anything, and that’s just a certificate of appreciation from one of the ministers up there.
And how difficult was it to maintain that code of silence amongst the other AWAS girls who were driving trucks
We all knew what each other was doing because each one did the same as what you did, but we just didn’t speak of it outside. It was our job, no different to a job, just a job, and if we spoke about anything at all it would simply be where we’d been.
That was it. So we didn’t know it was important.
But with hindsight, looking back now from today, do you think you were indoctrinated?
That’s a strong word, indoctrinated. Well, I suppose if you
look at it on today’s terms you might say we were indoctrinated, but we just took it as a matter of course and that was it, you know, part of life, part of a job. It was a job, just another job.
Well, I think that’s – sorry?
Sorry, and you know,
well, I can keep a secret today as well as anybody. In fact I carry a few secrets of different people that I wouldn’t even tell my husband and I guess when I was young like that, good training perhaps. I don’t know, but because I was
never one to divulge a lot of private things, private life or private whatever, somebody else’s life or my own, it’s not hard to keep a secret if you make up your mind because the consequences when you see some people that can’t keep secrets, it’s not worth it. So that’s just me.
Good. Well, I think that’s a good place to stop for afternoon tea.
Interviewee: Dorothy Scott Archive ID 1608 Tape 08
– talk a bit more about Mornington. When you got transferred over there did any of the girls that you had been with in Albury come with you?
Yes. Yes, there were, in Bonegilla you mean? Yes, they were all girls from Bonegilla, they didn’t come from anywhere else.
And did any of your mates that you had made in Bonegilla
come with you?
Rita was one, yes, yes, there were quite a few. Shirley, she went to the west in another section and others went to a place up in the Northern Territory. Now that was called, that was the head place, the head of it all. I’ve forgotten what that was
called. It will come to me and when I remember I’ll tell you, and others went to Townsville, and all over the place they went.
So what was Rita’s job in Mornington?
Same as mine, she was a driver. Yes, she was a driver and she fell in love with a man in Mornington and she wanted to meet him one night because she thought,
and she was right, he was going to propose to her and she couldn’t get leave. She didn’t have leave and she had to get there by hook or by crook so I said to her, “Look Rit, you go, I’ll fill in for you.” So I jumped into, I was on duty that night in the office, I jumped into her bed. She had jet black hair and I had fair hair and I grabbed a black hair net and pulled that down
over my head, pulled up the blankets and everything around my ears and the orderly corporal came through with a torch. That’s what they used to do every night, torch on you. Of course I had my back turned and my heart was pounding like you wouldn’t believe. I’d have been in awful trouble if I’d been found out, and Rita went off to meet
her friend. She came back and they got engaged soon after and she got friendly with the man on guard at the gate and told him what she was up to and he said, “Well, that’s OK. When you come back I’ll let you in,” which he did. But as soon as the inspection had gone of everyone being in bed in their right places, I got, shot out of bed and packed her bed with my pillows and stuff.
That was awful. I wouldn’t do it again. It doesn’t pay, because if you got caught could you imagine it, but anyway Rita was happy. Yeah, I never thought I’d anything quite like that.
What else did you and Rita get up to at Mornington?
We went swimming. We went to dances and we used to have,
we were allowed to go down to Hastings. That’s sort of on the other side of the peninsula and they used to have dancing down there and Rita and I, one of us would be the driver of the truck and we’d take a bunch of girls down, but we weren’t allowed to leave our truck when we got there, which meant you couldn’t go in and dance, you just had to sit in the truck all night. Well, Rita and I took it in turns
to sit in the truck, have a couple of dances, come back, swap over, go back again. They were the sort of things we did, make your own fun.
And how different were the girls in Mornington from Bonegilla?
Bonegilla? Well, we were the same girls but probably closer-knit because it was smaller, much smaller, and the
menfolk were there too and it was all just one big family. The menfolk didn’t mix with us much. They were a bit too blokey, I think, for that. Besides which they had their job and we had ours, but there weren’t a lot of men. They were mainly operators themselves and more or less in charge of the girls who were doing
I was going to ask if any romances were struck between –
Yes, there were. One lass, she was very young. I often wondered what happened to her, whether she was still married to the same man. She went off on leave at one stage and he was on leave and nobody knew that they got married while they were away, ’cause that wasn’t allowed. Husband and wife weren’t allowed in the same area,
and she wore her wedding ring around her neck with her meat ticket [identity tag]. So what happened to her I’ve got no idea, whether she was ever found out or not, because I left. I didn’t see it through, and I guess when I left they also changed some of the girls. If I’d stayed on I could’ve gone to the
west or anywhere. And another section came in as well, I think it was 64 or 65 Section, ended up anyway towards the end of the war that there were two sections there and they swapped some of the girls from 52 Section to go somewhere else in the country.
Aside from your
driving duties, what other duties did you get involved in in Mornington?
In Mornington, not a lot really. We were always kept busy maintenancing our vehicles and keeping them clean, keeping our huts clean.
There were certain duties that we had to do, not much different from home duties, but we were kept pretty busy with driving.
I was going to ask, did you get involved in any office or admin or any code taking work, anything like that?
No code taking, but while I was in Bonegilla I was in the office there and the girl that I was with, that
was Shirley, she was, she advanced to lance corporal and then one day one of the NCOs [non commissioned officers] came and said to me, “How do you feel about promotion?” and explained that you’d get one stripe, but there wasn’t a lot of promotion in transport, and
she asked me how I felt about it and I asked what the duties were, etcetera, and it would’ve taken me away from what I was doing and I didn’t want to leave what I was doing. I was quite happy in the office doing office work and I said, “Well look, don’t put me in for it because I really don’t want it.” In later years, in hindsight, I suppose I was a little bit silly not to take it up,
but there was really no real advancement in taking it up and some of the lance corporals that I saw got an awful lot of dirty jobs to do, and I wasn’t, I couldn’t boss anyone around and that was part of it and I wasn’t strong enough to make somebody do something or tell them to do something that I thought they really didn’t want
to do. I was the same as that in later life when I went back to work after the children left home. I couldn’t be boss.
Surely at Mornington there was still that paranoia of spies and secrecy. Did you ever see anything suspicious?
No, no. We were a long way down south. No, I didn’t see anything suspicious.
I mean, people looked at you because you were a rarity on the scene. You were in uniform, a lot of staring went on and heads together chatting but I didn’t have a suspicious nature, I suppose. No, I didn’t see anything.
Being a driver around the Mornington area you would’ve seen a lot. What areas did you cover?
We went down to Rosebud. We went as far as Sorrento right down the bottom. I’m trying to think of the names of the places down there, ’cause we used to drive these operator trucks around a lot and stop off at different places.
There was an orphanage in Mornington and at one stage there we got together and we gave them a lovely Christmas party. The girls got together and we went and presented them with gifts and things like that. That was fun. Other than that it was mostly on the beach on our days off,
any time off that we had or going to dances. I read a lot. I joined the library while I was there and read a lot of books, which I don’t do anymore, which is a pity, and I’m not sure –
Did you drive, you mentioned earlier about driving to St Kilda, did you often drive through Melbourne?
Oh yes. We went right out
to the other side, Broadmeadows occasionally, usually to deliver something. It was always a message or something that, I’ve got no idea what I took, but yes, I went out to Broadmeadows and different other places where you had to deliver packages.
And what can you remember of Melbourne at that time?
I loved Melbourne. It was a bit busier than what Adelaide was, but I got to know the streets and all of that sort of caper and was able to find my way around wherever it was I had to go. I was always able to find my way around, but having been back once since I wouldn’t tackle it again, the traffic over there
and the different rules. I drove back once and gosh, you had to have your wits about you.
What do you recall the most about Melbourne that you loved so much?
Watching, I’m a people watcher. I love watching people. We’d go to the picture shows,
shops, just browsing I suppose.
And how were the women dressed in Melbourne compared to Adelaide?
I didn’t take a great deal of notice, to be honest. I don’t think they were that much different. Perhaps they were a little bit more conservative. I’m not really up with that.
And when you were in Adelaide you mentioned US servicemen that were in
the city in Adelaide.
In Adelaide, in the city.
Did you see any in Melbourne?
Gosh, now you’ve got me. I suppose I did. I’d have to, wouldn’t I? There’d have to be some there coming and going, but I don’t remember ever specifically talking to anybody or having a chat about anything at all. In the camp it was different, and when I had to take
stuff down from headquarters from St Kilda, I used to have to deliver stuff, big envelopes and parcels and things like that to Balcombe and there you’d only pass the time of day with the, gosh, I forget what he was called, the room where they distribute everything,
where you would put an order in for anything as well as being a post office type of thing, and that was about the extent of coming in contact with anybody because Mornington itself was pretty far out down south, when it came to going anywhere that we most of the time just did that, just stayed in Mornington.
I imagine that in Mornington
the girls taking the codes would’ve been dealing with some interesting information. Didn’t they ever feel like talking about it?
There was no gossip about what was coming through?
Maybe amongst themselves it would’ve been, but not with us and even, well, come to think of it the last time I met them, they were all signalwomen and they were saying
to each other, “We didn’t talk about it much, did we?” That’s how they used to, at a reunion, that’s what they used to say.
And what are you talking about now. What secrets are you divulging now?
In the, about the army? I get a bulletin and there’s all sorts of, well they’ve even written the code out, the Kana code, the Japanese
code. So if there was another war they’d have to look at it again and change it all. It’s all there, and it’s interesting because of the different symbols, that’s in the writing part of it. But they used, apparently they used, whereas we were the dah dit stuff, theirs was too but they used more of it,
more dits and dahs and that sort of thing than what our Morse code was. I used to be able to say it all off by heart but I can’t anymore.
So when you were at Mornington what stage was the war at?
1943. Well, the Japs certainly were in it and the submarines that
were Sydney Cove there. We didn’t hear a lot about it and we didn’t hear a lot about the war. We knew it was going on and I suppose I went in one ear and out the other. We did hear about Normandy and Dunkirk, all of that in the army, but
I just can’t remember it.
When you heard about the submarines in Sydney Harbour how did the girls react? How did you all react to that news?
We were concerned, particularly the girls that had come from Sydney, the New South Wales girls. Yes, they were affected by it. I mean, it was a bit close to home for them, but
we just hoped there weren’t any more out there.
Did you ever get a feeling that perhaps you may actually have to pick up a rifle at any stage?
Not particularly where we were situated down at Mornington. When we were at Bonegilla and we had the rifle training, yes, it did go through our minds that I wonder what we would do if we were faced with it, wondered
about our boys overseas, if they were actually killing, and that’s something I’ll never be able to get out of my husband. He won’t tell me whether he did or he didn’t up in New Guinea. But the training, when we had the training at the rifle range, that was a lot of fun and it hurt when you put the butt into your shoulder.
At first they didn’t tell us you’re going to get hurt. So we used to use Modess up there after that, pad our shoulders before we pulled the trigger and we used to enjoy that. It’s awful when you think about it the things that can kill people, while you’re in practise you can enjoy it. I suppose it’s
not right, I suppose, but we did enjoy doing what we were doing.
Did the war seem real to you?
Oh yes. Yes, it was real. Yes, because it was filtering through that boys we went to school with were being killed. A lot of them didn’t come back and my parents used to write and tell me all these things, so and so
was killed, so and so was killed, and I used to feel for their parents, you know, how they would feel because they were so young and to think that you sat in class at school with some of these lads and they just didn’t come back.
Were you writing to some of these boys?
Yes. I wrote to
a couple of English boys. Never ever saw them. Their addresses were given to us by other people, and Australian boys, they used to look forward to a letter. It didn’t matter whether they knew you or not.
And how long were you at Mornington?
Good question. We
went down there, was it October? I can’t remember. It’s in the book. In my photograph book I’ve put it in there.
Do you know how many months it was?
It was probably, it had to be 12 months or a bit more because
I got married in July and I got compassionate grounds, out on compassionate grounds in November I think it was, and the war ended the next, the following year. I wasn’t in it for the end of the war, and when the end of the war came,
I was going through all sorts of experiences with a war neurotic husband, as well as being pregnant, et cetera, and can’t remember a lot about it.
Well, let’s talk about the wedding.
Oh, the wedding.
So from earlier we knew that
Jim had come back and asked for your hand in marriage and you’d gone back. You were in Albury at this stage?
And so at what point did you decide that you were going to marry Jim?
He wrote. Wrote and said, he didn’t propose, he said, “Let’s get hitched,” and you’ve met him, you know what he would mean. So I simply wrote
back and said, “Yes, that’s OK.” So he came over and we became engaged. I didn’t expect to get married so soon. It was only two months later, but his letters were “I wish you were home,” sort of thing and he wasn’t well. He was in and out of hospital. He had malaria and he had lots of problems in that area and his nerves were bad.
So I thought, “Well, I suppose I’ll get out,” so I went out to Broadmeadows and told them all about it.
Well, let’s start with the engagement?
Jim had been serving overseas. Whereabouts was he before he came back?
New Guinea, and he came back. Did he have a ring?
No, he didn’t.
He didn’t. No, that was bought in Mornington in a tiny little shop. That’s it there, except it’s been remodelled since. It was one of those rings that had a lot of lacework, very pretty, but the lacework kept wearing out and I got tired of having it redone all the time so I had it remodelled completely to a more solid design and it’s a pity, but
at least I can, it was always tearing my finger. Was that an omen or something? So yes, we became engaged and he went back to Glossop and helped his father on the block and he was in and out of hospital as I said, so I thought, “Well it’s time I did something about this man.”
Did he get down on bended knee?
It was by a letter.
So even when he put the ring on your finger it wasn’t bended knee official?
He’s not that kind of a fellow, “Here,” whoosh!
So you got engaged and went back to Mornington?
I was in Mornington, yes.
And how did the girls react?
They were thrilled for me, yes. Rita was
in particular and there were lots of girls getting engaged when they went back home on their leave. They’d come back engaged and wait until after the war to get married, which I should’ve done. Who knows what could’ve happened if I’d waited, but I do believe, I sincerely believe that one shouldn’t rush into marriage too
quickly when the courting is mostly by letter and then you have to get to know that person after the war. You knew him before the war but you should get to know him after the war. He’s a very different person after the war, and he had parents who loved him, who would loved
to have, perhaps, had him at home, and I often think we shouldn’t have married. I should’ve let his parents have him for a couple of years before getting married, because our situation was that we lived very close to his parents and it became that way that he’d spend after work more time with his parents than he did with me,
and that was a bit hard to take. He’d come home and he’d already eaten and I’d have a big dinner waiting for him and he wouldn’t want it. He’d just simply say, “I’m not hungry,” or pick it to bits against his Mum’s cooking, and I shouldn’t be saying that but it wasn’t nice. I didn’t enjoy my
first married life.
So the two months engagement, what was the hurry in getting married?
His health, yes, his health, and then we decided after we were married that we wouldn’t, I think I told you we wouldn’t have a family for five years. Yes, no, we won’t go into that. We had it sooner than that and he was gone. He worked very hard
from daylight till dark and hardly saw our children, the two older ones. He’d be gone before they were awake and he’d be home when I already had them in bed. So in that respect, yes, I think in all fairness to both sides he should’ve been with his parents before he was with me and marriage.
So can you describe your wedding, your wedding day?
The wedding day. I borrowed a wedding dress from one of the girls in the army who already married. It was a very pretty dress and she was the same size as I was, so I borrowed her wedding dress. My mother wanted to be me one for myself but I couldn’t see the point. You wear it once and what’s the use of it afterwards, but I did want to be a bride and
I borrowed the veil from a friend, and when she went to the wedding in the church she was scared stiff that this veil would tear to pieces because it was very frail, but it was pretty and nothing happened to it, and we had, during the war years there wasn’t much going on
in a town unless it was a wedding and I think the whole town was there. The church was packed out and they overflowed out onto the street because my parents were well known in the town and I went to school there, everybody knew me. So I suppose they were all interested.
Where did you get married?
Berri Methodist Church, by the Reverend Wellington,
and Jim was, of course, waiting down near the pulpit and I walked up the aisle and I was so nervous. My sister was, too, but my bouquet was shaking, and anyway, after that we had a small reception just with his relatives and mine and a couple of close friends in my mother’s and father’s sitting room which was only half the size of
this, and Jim and I sat up in front of them all like a couple of dummies, which was very unnerving I thought.
And how were your parents about the marriage?
Oh, they wanted it. Oh yes, they were very fond of Jim before he went away. My father talked to him and told him different things to look out for
as far as being a solider in the war and all of that sort of thing. Also Jim’s brother-in-law, he spoke to him too. They just idolised Jim, except after we were married my mother turned against him. She wasn’t happy with certain things, but Jim and I have weathered the storm and I think we’re all the stronger for it. It wasn’t easy,
it was damn hard. The local doctor who was my father’s doctor also, he asked me how the marriage was going and everything, and with your doctor you tell them everything, don’t you? So I told him and he said, “Look,” he said, “my girl, you’re going to have at least two years of this. Can you handle it?” And I
was already pregnant with my second baby by then. So two years, two and a half, three years had already gone and I said, “Yes, I can handle it. I will handle it,” and he said, “Well, you’re going to have a tough time,” and I did, a very tough time. Those boys went through hell, but I think the women who helped them afterwards
took it on and those that stuck with it are still with it. Those that walked away from it, I know my mother wanted me to walk away from it, but I wouldn’t go. I took my marriage vows very seriously and it wasn’t easy, but we got through it, and for all his
whatever, he now is more in love with me than he’s ever been in his whole life and that I guess is worth something. It was my birthday on the 9th just gone and I went to bed that night. We sleep separately because his nerves, I can’t sleep with him.
Even now his body twitches and you can hear him rubbing the sheets with his feet at night and lying, if he was lying alongside of me he’d rake my legs with his toenails and as I got older I couldn’t take it any longer, so we sleep separately, but on my birthday when I pulled the sheets back there was a
card and it’s not like him. He’s never been one to buy you presents. The girls used to make him do it. There was this card and in his own writing he was saying how much he thought of me. So we’ve come this far, we’ll probably go forever. That was quite touching, I thought.
Can I ask you what you did for a honeymoon?
Don’t talk about it. I didn’t enjoy that very much. It was a bit traumatic in a way because, you know, new bride having to get used to, well, marriage and all it meant and to have a honeymoon visiting his relatives, being introduced to
and sleeping in their homes. That was my honeymoon.
Where did you go?
Clare and then Adelaide, then back to camp. I was glad to get back to camp. Aren’t I awful?
So after your honeymoon you went back to Mornington?
And where did Jim go?
Home to his parents, yes, and when I came home there was
an empty house on their property. So my father and his father got together and made it habitable.
Can I just ask you about going back to Mornington, did you feel like a changed person?
Yes, I did. I felt perhaps I was out on a limb a bit because
it was like I’d had the introduction to marriage and I knew that he was definitely not a well person. Yeah, it was, I was different and of course later when I did get out and we were living in our own home, it wasn’t our own home, and he was working first for
his Dad and then for other people, my introduction to how bad his nerves were, there were nights when he’d sleep on the floor because he’d been so used to sleeping on the bare earth during the war that he couldn’t take it in bed, and his brother, his brother’s wife told me that his brother was the same. He’d hear a
noise and he’d be out of bed and under the bed, through the trauma of war and bombs like that. So their lives were spoilt, let’s face it. Forget about your own personal feelings about it, their lives were absolutely ruined because they had to then settle down to
civilian life. They weren’t used to gentle talk. They were rough talkers, swore like crazy. I always admired our girls, the three of them, they heard lots of language, they never swore when they were children. I can’t say that of them now, but they didn’t. It just, for some reason, and I didn’t have to teach them
not to, and I never swore until I got married. He taught me a lot. There’s a lot of, won’t say though in the way of swearing I don’t use. They did, they had to, you know, knuckle down to civilian life and to take on marriage, that was another learning
experience for them. So it was difficult, difficult all around.
I might stop it there, ’cause I did want to ask about leaving Mornington.
Interviewee: Dorothy Scott Archive ID 1608 Tape 09
Dorothy, can you tell us about the problems that you had getting out of the army?
At first I asked to get out with the group that I was with at Mornington, and they said they didn’t think it would be possible. So I then went to head office
which was out at Broadmeadows and they said it was very unusual, but it wasn’t policy to leave the army. They stressed it, and when I told them why I wanted to leave they still weren’t very keen. It wasn’t easy stating my case but I said, “Well,
what would happen if my husband came over and I became pregnant, would you let me out then?” “Well, that would be different,” they said. But I wasn’t ready to take on that tactic, but I used it and they put their heads together and the next thing I knew I had a letter to say that I could be, I told them it would be compassionate grounds only. Whether they tabled that
or not I don’t know, but they were the grounds that I got out of the army.
So what was the army’s policy towards married women?
They were OK, because their husbands weren’t with them. They were fine, there were no worries there. So I didn’t know of any that left before. None of them in my group left before.
So I sort of broke all codes there to do what I did.
And what about using the grounds of your husband being ill, was that a possibility?
That’s what I used, yes. That’s what I mean by compassionate grounds, that he needed me home. So, and the funny part about it was
that in the November when I went to, I think it was Wayville or Keswick, one of the two, Wayville? Wayville, I think, for discharge I went through the procedure of signing documents and receiving my discharge certificate and by that time I changed my name to
Scott and I got out of the room, started walking down the passage and I could hear on the intercom, the loudspeaker saying, they called me by my maiden name if I remember rightly and this name was coming over the intercom and it was
Jim, same day, pure coincidence, and he was walking up behind me and I couldn’t talk when I turned around. Both of us walked out together. He was on extended sick leave and he didn’t get out until the following January in 1945. So
it was just pure coincidence but it was nice, ’cause we both walked out together and he didn’t go back to the army, only to be discharged. So that was the beginning of the next 60 years down the track.
So when you walked out of that building
where had you taken off your uniform or laid your uniform aside?
I walked out with it on, yes, and the difficult part was to find something that fitted me in my wardrobe after putting all that weight on. I put on a whole stone in the army. It’s a lot of fat, but
I soon ran a few things up and I was right.
And how was it in the beginning? I mean, you talked about the difficulties of married life, but I’m wondering what you missed about the army immediately afterwards?
I missed the girls’ companionship. I missed the fun that we used to have.
I missed just getting in that car or truck and going off on duties, things like that. It was very different knuckling down to married life and just learning to cope, which was hard, ’cause rationing was still on too and poor old Jim.
I mean, he was a mess and that sort of, wasn’t his fault, he couldn’t help it, but it does colour something that could’ve been perfect and wasn’t, and unfortunately it’s something that you carry for the rest of your life.
And you say you missed your mates. I’m wondering if any of those girls you’ve been talking about today remained friends?
Yes, yes. Rita remained a friend and I visited her in Melbourne, and Shirley remained a friend but hers was only through letters because she went to live in the west after the war, and
Phyll, I tried to catch up with her ’cause we were good friends and she was a Sydney girl, but never have been able to find her address and write to her and, well, I’m, and my friend in Queensland, the little one that I was with when we joined up, we’re the only
two out of the transport lot that I knew that I’m in contact with or even know whether they’re still alive.
And what was the Queensland girl’s name?
My best friend? Rita, but Nancy was the friend that’s still alive. Rita was the one who looked after me and the one who was
very tender hearted. Unfortunately she didn’t have such a happy married life, but she died some years ago now, and her son, he rang me one night here to tell me that she’d passed away. It was hard. You know, you go through life with somebody that you liked and Shirley, the same when she died,
I felt the same with her, and years later I met her husband. We went to, Albury had a reunion of us and went there and her husband was there and I went up and introduced myself. He said, “I’ve heard so much about you. I’ve always wanted to meet you.” That was lovely.
What was it, do you think, about the bond?
Just the deep friendship, like sisters. That would be the best way to describe it, just like sisters. You depended on each other and it would’ve been pretty lonely if you couldn’t have a friendship like that. See, Jim had three
great friends and the same thing applied in the women’s army.
And other civilian women that weren’t in the services, do you think they understood your army experience?
No, I don’t think so. I think they understood the soldiers probably more.
But no, I don’t think so. They never asked a lot of questions or anything like that and you know, once you start having a family you don’t mix around very much either. The men did but the women didn’t, and it was good for the men. They had to get out amongst their own, particularly at Loxton in the RSL [Returned Services League]
and places like that. We women came in handy on the auxiliary, but no, they had to have that companionship.
Well, tell us, you’ve mentioned a little bit about the hut that you got from the Loveday Internment Camp?
That was just an iron
rectangular shaped thing that they picked up from the Loveday Prisoner of War Camp, brought it over to Loxton and put it in pieces all on the ground and we had to assemble it ourselves, which we did. It had a flat roof, very hot in the summer and cold in the winter and to try and keep some of the cold out Jim had put a ceiling
of hessian like that, and that used to catch condensation and drip all over us in bed, and it didn’t help my second daughter because she was asthmatic and it didn’t help her at all. We had a kitchen, dining area and a bedroom. They were the two rooms and then on
the end of the kitchen was an area that was dirt floor and we used to sit in their at night. It was just half the size of the kitchen. It would’ve been about six foot by seven, perhaps, and in the corner Jim put a 44-gallon steel drum that he’d
cut a piece out of the bottom and that was our fire place. I could boil a kettle on top, heat the irons and the Mrs Potts, irons and the coal iron. Wasn’t very happy with that because of the ash that would fall out onto the clothes and the soot of the bottoms of the Mrs Potts, they were a bit of a nuisance, and the petrol iron,
that was the best but I was a bit scared of that, but it did a good job. And the bathroom was the other end of that little sitting room and it didn’t have a wall. It had one wall and the kitchen wall and that was it. So when we bathed we put a piece of masonite up against the bathtub and I’d bathe the children in there, hop in
afterwards myself and throw their clothes in and wash their clothes, and we had a copper to boil everything up, get it all nice and clean and a washboard, scrub like mad. Actually, doing that was no different to my parents’ early
days. But as soon as the power came on, or before the power came on my father visited and he said, “You can’t live like this,” so he and my mother bought us a kerosene refrigerator. That was sheer heaven. So what happened then was Jim took a sheet of iron where I washed the dishes
and I’d have cool drinks there and anyone who was working around, I’d give them a cool drink. So we used to have quite a few callers because I was about the only one with a refrigerator for a long time. So we sort of shared around. They were interesting days.
And how big was your settler’s block, the soldier settler’s block?
We had 20 and a half acres, I think it was.
Wasn’t really big enough. To bring it into, to sustain a family and give the family what they needed it really wasn’t big enough and the planting were all wrong. The Department of Lands said they had learned from the First World War settlers to make a better job of the Second World War settlers and their allotments,
but they still made mistakes and they gave us this map with, “You’ll plant apricots here, you’ll plant peaches here, nectarines here, oranges here,” which we did. We planted them all and only to find years later it was all wrong. The soil wasn’t right
for those plantings.
And how much did it cost you to get this block, or was it from the government?
It was from the government, and they put us on a sustenance payment which wasn’t a lot of money but we managed. It was £5 something a week and out of that, well, you just had to do everything
with it, and they said then that when the blocks came into bearing they would be evaluated at a certain stage and then we’d have to start paying back the cost. Ours was over-valuated for what we had. Our neighbours were getting so much more crop than what we were getting because unfortunately,
Jim chose, they had their choice which allotment they would like to have and he chose one to be close to Simmo, the one that he’d gone through the war with, and Jim’s sister, and because of the low level of it, all the other blocks were a little bit higher and the irrigation channel was at the top of our block on the hill and that leaked.
The concrete opened up and leaked. We got all the water from there, we got the seepage from other blocks. We were just about seeped out so we had to remove all of the nectarines and peaches and re-established it with vines. Now, if you grew vines you had to have a lot more acreage than what we had and the
vines didn’t do very well. I don’t know whether he told you, did he, what happened there? It was overhead watering which was no good at night. It causes mildew, and he was the first one to have that, downy mildew, on the fruit blocks, and it spreads. So they learned a lot from that at our cost.
And the original cost of planting the fruit trees and then converting over to vines, who bore that cost of the crops itself, putting in the funds to actually buy the trees?
To buy the trees? That was the Department of Lands, and it all mounted up, but after, see, the way we watered it, I suppose he told you, was the portable pipes,
galvanised iron pipes and they were, I forget how long, about 12 foot long or something, and they would be on stands, cross-legged stands and connected in the middle of the block to the water outlet which we turned on and then the sprinklers would whiz around and we’d have to, I used to help him get up in the middle of the night to shift them over,
in two rows over, whatever it was, and we’d be up to our ankles in mud and that was they way it watered. Well, he soon got tired of that and he bought his own overhead sprinklers and put them in to water with, which was a lot better because it was permanent. The only thing you had to do at night was just to get over and turn a tap off and another one on. So
that was at our cost, and then they decided that they would drain our block. So they dug a hole between Simmo’s block and ours on government land. No, it wasn’t, it was inside our block, because I drove a tractor into it and it went down very very deep and they were bringing up sea shells
from, you know, about 30 feet down, and of course that was the drainage then. All the drains were into that and that took it out, I suppose, to the river eventually and it had a big lid on it of course, but it just didn’t work for us. It wasn’t any good. So our girls then were going, they needed more education and
we sent the eldest one off to the Adelaide Girls’ High and she lived with my mother, which was great. But then the next one, she wanted to be a doctor but she wasn’t strong enough to take that on with her asthma, so we decided we’d go for four years and live in the city and finish the education of the three girls. Well, after four years Jim had a good job, I had
a good job and we had a beaut man on the fruit block and where I worked they allowed me off during the harvest. I’d go home and take the girls with me during school holidays and Jim would stay with his job that he had in the city and I’d help Mike, our first hand man, right hand man, with the harvest. Do all of
that, finish that and go back to the city. It got a bit wearing but they were very good to me at work to let me go.
So when you eventually came to leave the block entirely and hand it back to the government, what was that process?
You just had to write a letter and just simply say that you were no longer, that you were handing it back,
you were relinquishing it because you couldn’t pay for it. You weren’t getting the crops so we just left. Had to start all over again in the city.
And while you had it, the small income that you were getting from the crops, were you able to keep that income?
Gee, did we keep it? Yes, I think we did.
Or didn’t we? At some stage our sustenance had to stop and I suppose that’s when we made do on what we were getting from the crops. I think that’s how it worked. I know Jim might remember. But yes, that’s how it worked, but it wasn’t a problem leaving the blocks as far as
me mentally was concerned, because quite frankly I hated it. It was a good healthy life, but I hated the work on it, because the wives pitched in. They all did their bit and the only decent thing I liked about it was driving the tractor. Again you see, mechanics, and yes,
and the cutting shed we shared with Simmo, and that was cutting apricots. I hated that, and the sulphur box, when that was opened up from drying apricots Joylene and I had to rush off down the block because we’d start, she had asthma and I’d start wheezing. So it went and the kiddies, the children they all, even the little one cut apricots and
I didn’t like that. I thought it was tough on the kids, and if it looked like rain in the middle of the night you’d have to get up and pick up the trays and take them back into the shed and the kids came with us and did it, and they didn’t ever have much of a holiday. So I felt for them, but they were really good. They seemed to handle it better than I did. They grew up with it, you see.
So that was life on the block, but when we had our interview that was quite interesting because the gentleman that interviewed us from the Department of Lands in Berri, I had Rosemary. I think I had Joylene. I had Rosemary anyway, and Mr Fotheringham, his name was who did the interview, well, he was a friend of the family, you see, and he knew me
from pint size and we were sitting there and he questioned Jim as to what his thoughts were on going to Loxton and he started questioning me and I can still see his face, he was bemused, because the questions he asked, “Are you willing to help?” And all this sort of thing, and “Do you know what you’re getting yourself into?” And all that. “Yes, yes, I’m looking forward to it,” I said.
And he knew darned well I was lying. Anyway, I got through it alright, and that’s right, I had Rosemary and I did have the baby with me and she wet her nappy and it went all down me and over the floor and Mr Fothy, he just sat there and he rocked with laughter. That was my initiation. I tell Joylene that
story and I don’t know how she takes it, but it was really very funny.
Well, it was a very very tough life and there was a lot about it that you didn’t like. What made you stick it out?
I was a blocky’s wife and we all did it. There was a lot of us. Most of them loved it, they really did.
No, I didn’t. I didn’t like it. It didn’t worry me one iota when we decided to come to the city and when Jim decided we would stay, well, I was really happy about it, but I think if we’d had a good fruit block we’d have still been there, but we didn’t. It might’ve made a difference if all the effort we were putting
into it looked as if it was come to something. I might’ve felt differently, but I couldn’t see any future in it and as it happened there wasn’t. But it was sold, and it’s been sold several times, more often than any of the other fruit blocks. And I believe the first people who bought it, they did OK, but they grew
that weed where it couldn’t be seen. Yes, so we heard about that. We didn’t think of that, did we? Yes, so that’s the way it went but I’m happy now. I’m very happy with my life now. It’s taken a number of years but I wouldn’t swap him now.
Who did you turn to in those first years when it was really tough with Jim looking after him with his war problems?
The doctor. He was more or less a family, he looked after my father through his sickness until he died and he looked after me and he looked after Jim ’cause Jim spent time in
psychiatric wards in Adelaide down at the repat [repatriation hospital] and there’s a story my eldest girl has written on her father’s life and how they viewed him. It’s a beautiful story, it really is, and she said the things she can remember about Dad was visiting him when he was there and when he came home he’d bring home handmade things like
cane baskets and stuff like that that they made for therapeutic reasons. And he was in a ward where some terrible things happened. They wanted to give him shock treatment. He didn’t want to have it, and a chap lying in bed next to him
slit his own wrists and next to the ward he was in was the ward where the bad cases were and he could hear them thumping all night on the walls and that cured him. He said, “There’s no way I’m going to let these nerves get me to that degree.” He hated that it might happen that he had to end up like that, and
when they decided to give him shock treatment I visited him and he was telling me about it and he said, “Dot, I don’t want it. They’re not going to take any notice of me. Will you speak to them?” So I went to the psychiatrist and I said, “He doesn’t want shock treatment and I don’t want him to have it and I won’t sign it over and he won’t sign for it,” and he came away without shock treatment, and that’s why I
think, perhaps it may have took him longer than most to get over war neurosis, and it still comes back on occasions, but that shock treatment today, as far as I know I don’t think they give it any more. I think it’s got some bad side effects, and he cheated. He’d have chocolate and keep it under his pillow and when
he, see, he was being fed insulin, injected with insulin for nerves. That’s the way that the treatment was in those days and they wanted them to bomb out and he was determined that he wouldn’t lose his senses. So he’d keep a bit of chocolate and that would stop him from being bombed out. So it wasn’t much fun for them.
And how many times was he in the psychiatric ward?
He was only in there
that once, and I can’t remember how long it was, but it was a while, and I stayed with my parents when that was happening.
And, I mean, everyone goes, in any marriage there are times when you feel like walking out, but you are dealing with a particularly difficult marriage and difficult circumstances,
I think a lot of us still –
When did you feel like walking out?
Was there ever a time?
No. No, I didn’t walk out. I didn’t, how can I put it? I wished it wasn’t happening, but no, I wouldn’t walk out. My parents wanted me to. They said I had a home with them if I went, but I had
children. He loved his kids and there’s no way I’d desert somebody that was experiencing so much trauma because we were bound together and I wouldn’t do it. I’ve felt like it since but I wouldn’t do it even now. That’s life, I guess.
It has to be worked on, you have to work it through. One perhaps has to give a little more than the other does, but you have to do it. I mean, how can you, what would’ve happened to him? I mean, there were times he wanted to commit suicide and if I hadn’t been there he could very well have done it. We had a gun in the house and I had to hide that. I buried it.
Oh yes. I’m going all goose pimples now, I can feel it, the thoughts of what might’ve happened if I left. I didn’t want to leave him and I still don’t. I’ll still see him through.
Well, I admire your toughness to get through it all.
I suppose I was tough. I don’t know. I came from pretty strong stock.
I mean, my Dad was tough, what he went through and weathered. My mother was tough, because she saw him so much. So it was born in us. So that’s it.
Well, when you look back now, today, all those years ago on your war experience, what do you think
you learned from being in the army?
Being in the army itself? A different kind of discipline. See, that’s the other side of it, you did as you were told. I did as I was told when I was a kid. Mum was very strict, Dad was very lenient, and I did as I was told in the army,
toed the line, and I did as I was told for years after I was married. I don’t anymore. We’ve had some real ding dong rows but they’re healthy, very healthy ones, and he’s a lot happier for it because he said it used to worry him that I never ever bit
back or never showed my feelings, never did my Charlie [?UNCLEAR] in any way. One was enough in the family.
And what do you think with all these years, many years of reflection when you look back at that war time, what do you think stands out for you as your proudest moment?
My proudest moment, what, during the war years or right through?
I think probably my proudest moment was when I was in uniform, before I went to Bonegilla, going home to present myself to my Dad in uniform. I think that probably was my proudest. I can remember it so well, you know, proudest moment, and my proudest moment
over the years probably is watching my children grow up, develop and be successful in their careers. They’re, two of them are still employed even though they’ve raised families themselves. My eldest grandchild is 30 going on 31. Our youngest will be 19 this year and I’m just proud of all my kids
because they are clean living, no drugs. We know there’s no drugs because they wouldn’t dare face their grandfather if they were. So yeah, I’m very proud of my family.
Well, we are coming to the end of our session today unfortunately.
Oh no. Not unfortunately.
I’m just wondering what you would like to put down on record, perhaps as a message for future generations from your war experience?
From my war experience. I’d have more of a message for governments, I think, for them to
come to heel a bit and follow their own instincts rather than follow somebody else’s, fight their wars amongst themselves and not take it through other countries. That would be my message. I’m just fed up with governments of yesteryear and now. They don’t have
to go to war. They’ll send you to war, but put them in those shoes, I don’t think they’d fill them very well. So that’s my message, but they wouldn’t take any notice of somebody like me, but that’s how I feel. I think anybody who has lived through those years, they never want to see another one, and weren’t we promised the Second World War would,
well, the First World War was the war of all wars [war to end all wars]. The Second World War was going to be the very last and what are they doing today? They’re mad, killing each other left, right and centre, and I don’t know what’s going to happen to Australia with our present affiliations. I can’t see much good from it and I’m afraid for our
grandchildren and their children. But as they say, “Don’t think about it. It will be our responsibility.” But you can’t help thinking about those things.
Well, it has been an absolute pleasure talking with you today.
Thank you very much.
Thank you. I didn’t think I had so much to say, but you did lead me, didn’t you?