Archive number: 1713
Preferred name: Joy
Date interviewed: 18 March, 2004
5 Camp Hosp
You are listening to the interview audio
We’ll start with this overview we talked about, to begin with sum up where you were born, where you grew up and take me through from there?
Well I was born in Toowoomba on 29th August 1923. My parents were William Russell
Hunter and Alice May Hunter. We lived in Toowoomba until I was either 6 or 7 I am not too sure – the exact age and my father was transferred to Brisbane. He was employed by the AMP [Australian Mutual Provident]. All his working life except for time he served in the First Word War. He bought a house at Ashgrove, in Brisbane and the first school I went to
was the Ashgrove State School. Then also the Kelvin Grove State School and the north Brisbane Intermediate School. That was the end of my primary school and I went for a year to Brisbane Girls’ Grammar School. He was then transferred as the manager of the AMP in Cairns, North Queensland and of course I went too.
There I did 2 years at the Cairns High School, and I finished school, I was offered a job at the radio station at 4CA in Cairns, as an assistant to the presenter of the women’s club. I stayed there until 1942, now at that time there was a threat of an invasion in the north by the Japanese.
And the women and children were asked to evacuate south. My father insisted that my mother and I go to Brisbane, which we did to other family members. It was whilst there that I wanted to – I should have said earlier, that when I was working at 4CA at the outbreak of war, a
voluntary aid attachment was formed and I was a member. Now when I went to Brisbane I wanted to enlist in the army, but because I was only 18 years old, my parents thought I was too young. Eventually, after a couple of months my mother wanted to return to Cairns and I wasn’t happy about that
so they agreed to let me join the army. So in 1942 I enlisted in the Australian – no I enlisted as a VA [VAD – Voluntary Aid Detachment] which was – and we were attached to Australian army hospitals. It wasn’t until 1943 that the name was changed to the Australian [Army] Medical Women’s Service. Now my first posting was
to Hughenden in north Queensland, which was west of Townsville and from Hughenden the hospital was located 20 miles out of Hughenden. At a site which you wouldn’t’ believe an army hospital would be set up. However, it was.
We were only there until December and the cyclone came and demolished the hospital and of course we then had to move to the Atherton Tablelands to the 2/2nd AGH [Australian General Hospital] which had – well I was with the 2/2nd AGH at Hughenden, that was the first hospital I was wish. We were at Rocky Creek at the Atherton Tablelands.
I became friendly with a member of the hospital staff, the radiographer. We became engaged eventually and married. And a married couple is not allowed to stay in the same hospital, and I asked for a transfer to Cairns to the camp hospital at Cairns, because my parents were still living in Cairns. So there I stayed until I was discharged in 1944,
because I was going to have a baby and my husband stayed at the 2/2nd on the Tablelands. He was eventually transferred to Brisbane and I followed with David. Then when war was – peace was declared in 1945, he had to go to Sydney to be discharged and so I went down there and joined him. We lived in Sydney – accommodation was very hard to get. We lived in Sydney
at Bondi. That’s where our second son was born, Paul. After a time George was sent to the hospital at Forbes, he was a radiographer, and we lived there for a time, there were a few problems, which I won’t elaborate on at the
moment. I went and stayed with my parents at Dubbo, and then my father had transferred back to Brisbane. The boys and I came back to Brisbane and I lived – we lived at Bardon and I got a job at a clinic of doctors on Wickham Terrace, a clinic of specialists at Wickham Terrace, and there I
worked for 31 years. We eventually moved to the Redcliffe peninsula and we lived there – my husband died there, he came back and worked at the Redcliffe Hospital, and he died there in 1981. I resigned from work in 1983 when I turned 60
and then in 1986 I decided to sell the house and move to Nundah, where I have been living for the last 18 years. And that’s where I am now.
Excellent, well done.
I am afraid I didn’t – I had written this out on a piece of paper but I didn’t glance at it.
Now I am going to go right back to the beginning now,
what are your memories of your time in Toowoomba as a child?
Very few really. Um, I don’t have – I don’t have a very good memory of my early life. I mean different incidents remain with me, but on the whole my memory is not
as good as I wish it was. But I was happy. I was an only child and I was happy, I had very good parents, I was well cared for, but I can’t remember in detail. Fortunately my father was always employed so we had no, we weren’t wealthy by any means, they were just a young couple married after he came back from the First
World War, so obviously they weren’t well off, but we didn’t have any financial worries, so I didn’t suffer in any way in that period of time until – as I say 1930 when the Depression had started. I cannot recall the Depression having any affect on us whatsoever, which is
strange because a lot of my friends of my age can recall their life at that time and it affected their lives in many ways. But really to be honest it didn’t affect mine.
What was your father like?
He was wonderful.
What did his involvement in World War I mean?
He was a very quiet man. Very gentle. Very kind well mannered,
a real gentleman, and at the same time a sense of humour, he was a lot of fun. He enlisted when he turned 18 which was in 1916, he had – he went to the Brisbane Boys’ Grammar School. After he left school he was employed by the AMP and then he enlisted when he turned
18 and went to – he served in Palestine and served with the 2nd Light Horse. I have photos of him. But I regret that I didn’t ever talk to him about his life during his service there. I mean there was talk, a little talk, but not in great detail, and I wish that something like this had been
available so he could’ve recorded, he could have recorded his life. But I think a lot of those old soldiers didn’t ever talk in any great detail about their life – some did I guess, but my father was fairly quiet. But , I have very happy memories of him. But unfortunately he had to retire when he was
59 from ill health and he died at the age of 61. So that was sad.
And you were an only child?
And what sort of a relationship does an only child form with her father?
Well I suppose a very special relationship because there were no other children, and I guess I was the centre of his attention, and
my mother’s too, so I was very lucky, very privileged.
What sort of memories do you have of being with your mother?
Happy memories and I guess I was close to her, but I think there’s often mother-daughter relationships sometimes – I mean she was a good mother, she cared for me well. She
was a wonderful wife and mother and housewife, she could do everything. Unfortunately she didn’t teach me to do the things she could do like sewing and cooking and all that sort of thing. I learned the hard way. Yes I had a good relationship – probably the best relationship I had with my mother was when she got older. And she because she lived until she was 83
and she was dependent on me because my father was dead and she was dependent on me. I had a very good relationship with her then. She was very good to me at times in my life when I needed help, and I was able to do for her what she had done for me. So it was good, I have no regrets with my parents –
with my relationship with my parents. Or their relationship with me.
Whereabouts did you first start primary school?
I believe I first started in Toowoomba. But I don’t recall very much of that. But I think I must have only been about 6 or 7 when I came to Brisbane. I have more of a recollection of going to school in Brisbane
than in Toowoomba.
What are your memories of the move from Toowoomba to Brisbane?
Nothing, I don’t have any memories, I was in Toowoomba one time and then I was in Brisbane. I can’t recall how we came down.
Whereabouts did you live in Brisbane?
My father bought a house at Ashgrove, on Ashgrove Avenue, it was a very nice house, a new house that had just been built.
What sort of a suburb was Ashgrove like at the time in terms of how developed was it?
Well it was developed, and it was developing. It was a very nice suburb and yes it was very – it has progressed a lot now, although it was well developed then, yes, it was well developed. I had to walk a fair way to school.
The Ashgrove school was a fair distance and I think now of the distance it’s just amazing that a child of that age would walk to school. Not on my own I went with other children who lived nearby, but I don’t recall my mother ever taking me to school. I went there for a few years and then for some reason they decided that I should go to Kelvin Grove school, which seemed to me to be more distance,
but there I went with an older girl. So why that happened I don’t know. However.
What are your memories of early primary school like the way the schooling was structured?
Very different from today. Yes I mean we were very disciplined but they were happy days and I still
actually meet with four other girls who were at Kelvin Grove school at the same time I was in those early days. They all live in the northern suburbs, in the vicinity of the northern suburbs not in Nundah, but round about. And we meet about 4 times a year to have lunch, and it’s wonderful to think that 70-odd years ago and we have retained
this friendship. Not continually over that time because as we married and had families our lives took different directions, but we still have a lot in common and we still enjoy that friendship.
And , would you wear a school uniform to school?
I think we did, yes we did it was a tunic, a navy blue tunic and a white blouse, box
pleats in the tunic. That was – I mean when I went to grammar, I mean it was the uniform was virtually the same as they are wearing now, except we wore black stockings instead of white sox. Yes we did. But the other school I am sure it was a navy box pleated tunic and a white blouse.
You mentioned there was more discipline in the classroom, how was this
structured or exhibited?
Well I think it was taken for granted I mean there was more discipline in the home, and I think there was – you just expected, you listened to the teacher and you did as you were told, it was an all girl school at Kelvin Grove, and then in the new idea the
two oldest years of that school, the boys from Kelvin Grove and the boys and girls from Newmarket combined in a new concept which they called an intermediate school, which was 2 years of schooling before you went to high school. So – yes well I don’t know
we just took it for granted that you did as you were told there was no misbehaviour, I mean minor misbehaviour, but nothing like I believe is the case these days.
And what sort of career ambitions and thoughts of the future did you have during your final years of primary school before high school?
Before high school I think in those days, very few girls in
particular went on to tertiary education so I think the ultimate was that you did a few years at high school then you went either to become a teacher or you worked in an office or you became a nurse. I think that was basically what most people did. Some of course who had the ability, and were able to afford to go further
their parents were able to send them further on , well they did and pursued a professional career. But it wasn’t the norm for girls in those days.
What was behind your parents’ decision to send you to girls’ grammar?
Well because it was a well-respected school.
Various members of our family had gone there. My mother’s sister, or two of her sisters had attended girls’ grammar. My father as I said had attended boys grammar. And it was a well regarded school. The locality was convenient and I guess that was – and also a couple of friends were going there. That seemed
to be a good enough reason.
And what was the sort of reputation of girls’ grammar at the time around Brisbane?
It was a very good reputation. Yes. It was very well regarded. There were a few other schools which were probably slightly more expensive. And they were well regarded too, but I think that was in the range of where my parents could afford to send me.
And it was as I said a well regarded school.
And how would you travel from Ashgrove to girls grammar?
I used to travel by tram to the Normanby, and then walk from the Normanby around Gregory Terrace to the school.
What sort of – how much of a city was Brisbane at the time, even though you were up above it, but how much was
built up about Brisbane?
Well oh Brisbane itself, the city itself was well established. And the tram, you weren’t allowed unless we had to go into the city, we weren’t allowed from school to go into the city, but of course people – girls who lived in other suburbs that needed to go through the city to catch other transport home.
There was one of those old trams that travelled from Gregory Terrace down to the city. It was, I mean there were big stores and restaurants and places like that, so it was a well developed city, it was the capitol of Queensland. It wasn’t a country town.
that you weren’t allowed to go down to the city after school were there other rules or guidelines placed on you being a girls’ grammar student?
Oh yes. You had to always wear your hat and wear your gloves. There was a prefect on the gate as you left school to make sure you had your hat on, and your hat was on straight, and gloves on. Oh yes your appearance and your behaviour was very much under
inspection and subjected to discipline if you misbehaved.
What were the other girls like who you were studying with?
I think you would seek out your friends that you had a lot in common with, and you mainly associated with them, and I still have
friends that I was at grammar with. And I still meet them, because we are all of the same age and we meet. They were similar – how do I put this, a similar background and I don’t know, they were people that I liked and
got on well with.
Did much of a division exist within the school with people from different financial sort of backgrounds?
Well you were aware that there were a few that came with a scholarship because they had a scholarship there because their parents cold not afford the fees. I think you were aware of it, but I don’t think that there was
a great discrimination. The majority of the parents had to be able to afford to send their child there, so that was it, so you were virtually on the same financial basis, more or less. Some parents were more affluent than others. There wasn’t a – no I think the only, not a
discrimination, I think those who just came to high school to learn and type and do commercial subjects, they were in one class and those that did more academic subjects were in other classes, and there might have been a slight distinction there, but really anything that mattered. And then there were art classes, people who were arty, they took those classes.
Was there a particular emphasis
that the school put on certain subjects rather than others or…?
Well they preferred people to do an academic course rather than commercial, but they did provide a course after junior – that was after the first 2 years, that you could do, form V, form V commercial, which was – comprised girls that who
had done an academic junior and then went on and did commercial subjects.
What was the relationship like between boys’ grammar and girls’ grammar?
If you were caught at lunchtime sitting on the bank, there was a gully between the two schools. If you sat there and waved to anybody over – the boys over on the hill,
and you were – and someone saw you, a teacher or a prefect or something, I remember one girl was caught doing that and she was made to sit the whole lunch-hour there waving. She was very severely disciplined. That was a no, no.
How about when you were travelling to and from the school?
Well, yes I mean if you were travelling to and from school,
no doubt you would see them, but I think your behaviour was very closely observed and restricted in a way. They were very conscious of good behaviour in those days, don’t forget how long ago that was. That’s 60 odd years ago.
And how about the official relationship between the schools, were there any sort of joint events or
sporting events that you…?
No I can’t recall that there were, now let’s remember that I was only there for one year. And we were the junior year and I can’t remember any – I think possibly in the later years there might have been social, very closely watched
social events, but I really can’t say again with any authority on that because I really don’t know.
So tell me about how you took the news that you would be moving to Cairns?
I wasn’t happy, but I mean that was it. I had to go where I was told. It’s very difficult to form new friendships. I knew no one in the north.
And to start a new school wasn’t easy. But before long I made friends. I was quite happy there.
And how did your family move from Brisbane to Cairns?
You mean by what transport? By train, yeah, that was the only way we travelled. My parents – flying wasn’t an option, and my parents didn’t
like travelling by ship, so we travelled by train and in those days that was a long, long trip.
So tell me what those Queensland trains were like?
Ah, well they weren’t electric, they were dirty steam trains and we always had a sleeper, so we didn’t have to sit up all the time. But it was a long tiring trip.
What was Cairns like at the time compared to Brisbane?
Cairns was a very – it was a small town but a very relaxed small town, I say a small town, I guess it wasn’t a little country town, it was a large town in the north, the largest town in the
north or possibly Townsville was larger, but Cairns was quite a large town. It was very hot, tropical – the summers were very trying because that was when the wet weather came, and it was hot and wet and humid. It rained and it rained and everything became mouldy. It was a friendly sort of a town, a very
good social life. My mother loved it. She made friends and she liked the social life. And yes I think probably I mixed with children of friends that my parents were friendly with. And yes I had a happy life – I did eventually have a happy life there.
And what was the school like
Different, it was different, co educational. Which I was not accustomed to, but I soon made friends. One of the boys in the same class as I was, I still remain friendly with him and his wife, yes we are very good friends. He used to carry my – I am not used to
telling other people this, he used to ride a bike to school and I walked, and after I had been at school for a short time, he walked with me, and carry my suitcase and we often laugh about that, and yes he would walk me home. So we remained very good friends, his parents were very good friends of mine. And that whole
family – there three boys in that family and I became and a friendship with all of them. So yes, I didn’t know many of the boys in the class, but this one I did know. And how many years did you spend at this school? I did my junior, you are probably – are you a
Queenslander? No, well in Queensland you only did four years at a high school, at a secondary school. So I did my first year at grammar, the second year to do my junior, and then I went back and did a commercial course for a full year.
So what was your question again?
So tell me about what the commercial course entails?
That was shorthand, bookkeeping and typing, none of which – the bookkeeping appealed to me because I was quite good at maths, and that was the only thing that appealed to me, I didn’t like the shorthand and typing. The other subjects
that I did, my first year at grammar were the normal academic the three languages, English, Latin and French. The maths was broken up into three which was arithmetic, algebra and geometry. And then two separate subjects of history and geography, but I quite liked – I was quite lucky I did quite well at school. I have a certificate from grammar and a first prize from Cairns High [School].
I was lucky I did quite well.
And what were your prospects of what you might do during that commercial year?
Well you see in Cairns you couldn’t even go as far as senior because their high school did as far as junior, the two years, or the two years and then commercial. So you really had no other prospects unless you went south, I had gone south and boarded at one of the boarding schools in the south.
But that didn’t appear to be an option because I was an only child my parents weren’t very keen on the idea. So I did this commercial course and then I was offered this job at the radio station. Because actually our home backed on to the home of the manager of 4CA and his wife, and we became friendly with
them and when I had finished schooling, I was offered a job there at 4CA. As an assistant to the presenter of a women’s program. This – the war had started by then, this was 1939 and war was declared in September, and I probably started there
in the November I would say it was.
What do you remember about hearing the news that war was declared?
Devastating, it was devastating really. We knew what was going on, on the other side of the world, we knew to a degree what was going on. Australia was very far removed from Europe, and it was devastating. I guess I
didn’t realise the full impact of it, but – because my father had served in the First World War, I suppose it made more of an impact on my mother and father. So it was devastating.
How do you remember hearing the news?
I remember that strange my memories of a lot of things are not very clear, but I do remember that distinctly. My mother’s sister, her youngest sister had come up from Brisbane for a
holiday, she had come up on a ship, and she was sitting with us and we were obviously no TV [television] it was the radio. We were sitting listening to the radio this night when war was declared and we were all shocked and this younger sister of my mother’s she wasn’t a very – she was sort of thought to be frail, and she fainted. I can remember her fainting. Which was a surprise. But there you are
that shows the impact that it had.
And what sort of – how was it announced on the radio, who announced it and what did they say?
Well I think that’s still common knowledge that the statement was, wasn’t it Menzies that made the statement, “My sad duty to inform the Australian people that we are…” or something to that, in those words, something like that.
What do you remember your father’s reaction being?
Well I can’t remember – the fact that my aunt fainted was my main recollection. I can’t remember Dad’s, I suppose he just picked her up. So, that’s it. That’s all I can remember.
How did you bring her round from fainting?
Oh, well I think she came round quite easily.
She was a fainting sort of person. Always regarded to be rather frail, but she lived to the age of 83. So she must have been all right.
And how did you feel at the time about the concept that because Britain was at war, Australia was at war?
Well I mean, I guess we knew of the involvement that Australia had in the First World War, and when it was declared that we were at war too, well I guess wee
it suddenly dawned on us the implication of that announcement.
I guess did you feel a part of the British Empire?
Well yes in those days you did. There wasn’t – I mean no one thought of Australia aiming to be a republic or anything. I mean that was our attitude, we thought nothing of the fact that
Australia with Britain at war that Australia shouldn’t be at war, we didn’t think that was an alternative, it was just the way it would happen. And after a short time a lady who was a Mrs Ian Brown, I remember her name, she was a sister in the First World War, she formed a Voluntary Aid Detachment, because she had been serving in the First World War and she knew
of the involvement of Voluntary Aid Detachment in the First World War. So she formed a Voluntary Aid Detachment and I joined, I and a lot of my friends joined, and we had to obtain a first aid certificate, and a home nursing certificate both of which I have still got at home in my desk. And we had to attend
lectures and go on camps and also we had to perform 40 hours voluntary duty at the base hospital to give us experience in nursing.
End of tape
Interviewee: Joyce Fuller Archive ID 1713 Tape 02
Tell us Joyce what job you were doing at the radio station?
Well, it was I think the best description of it is, as assistant to the presenter of the women’s program. Now,
the presenter of the club was called Betty Berrington, she came from Victoria, I am sure whether it was Bendigo or Ballarat, or somewhere, she came up – she was employed by AWA [Amalgamated Wireless Australasia] which owned 4CA, and she had a similar club wherever she was I can’t exactly remember where it was in Victoria, and she came up to establish another club in
Cairns. Now this club was directed obviously to women, and a lot of them were from farms from the district, quite a lot from the city, and quite a lot had husbands away at the war, and this was sort of keeping people in touch, particularly the country people, by radio. It was
the radio station and these people listened to this program on the radio. And they used to send in letters, and Betty who was the presenter used to read them out and comment and musical programs, and a club was formed. Different clubs in the other small country towns were formed, and Betty and I used to visit the people in these country town an
have lunch with the people. It was just like a social club, but to help women in war time particularly those who were isolated and even in those small town, probably wasn’t a great deal of social life, and a lot as I said had husbands away at the war. That was the aim of the club. So I was – went
on this – I looked after – her secretary sort of thing, and I did a bit of relieving work on radio, not a great deal but a little bit.
What would you do on these occasions?
What would I do?
Yeah, when you relieved?
Oh just carry on the normal procedure, you know read letters and play music and discuss things. But instead of people ringing in as they do on talk back radio these days,
they would write in, that was the difference in the club.
Could you see your future in radio at this stage?
Not particularly, because the war had started and I more or less saw myself as a Florence Nightingale. No I was anxious to join and that was as far ahead as I thought.
So tell us, what was the name of this radio
It was called the 4CA Women’s Club. And all the people wrote in, their names, their own names weren’t used, they had nom de plumes, they had a name, someone was Gerbera, and someone was Sweet Lavender and something like that so that their actual identity was not – so they felt secure in
what they said.
How were these names reached how did you make up these names for people?
People selected their own names. They wrote in and said I want to be called so and so.
And what names did they use?
Well as I just said, Gerbera and Sweet Lavender and I was because, I don’t know why, I wasn’t called Joyce, but I was called Diane, somebody decided that I would be Diane. So
there you are.
Just tell us how a show would be structured again, you told us a little bit about it, but, people would write letters in how would each radio program be structured?
Well things were much simpler in those days. They would write in, and I think Betty would discuss different topics, of interest
to people. Basically a lot of it would be similar in a way to a program that’s, that is structured today. Different in lots of ways, but the entertainment value would be similar. That’s as far as I can remember. That’s a long time ago too.
Was Betty almost like a figure in the community?
Oh yes, she was
well known. She was a tall girl and she was – she had a good personality, she was very well known, very well known in the district.
What kind of a personality did she have?
A very good personality, a very outgoing personality and was at ease with people. She was the right
person in the right place at the right time. She eventually left and joined the women’s air force, so she that’s how she became involved in the war too.
So it as a club for women who might be suffering the effects of the war what kind of services and what kind of things would you do to help them?
it was the social side of it, you couldn’t do anything more physical than that, it was just the contact, keeping in touch with people and I mean, so that they didn’t feel so alone, and it gave themselves something else to think about except the war, and the different little clubs would meet and have
morning teas together, just the social gathering which meant a lot – to people in those days their needs were much simpler than they are today. Much more unsophisticated. What was – and particularly a small town, there wasn’t much else to do, you had to make your own enjoyment.
What would happen at these morning teas?
Musical items, musical entertainment.
Describe what kind of musical entertainment?
Don’t go into so much detail. I mean I can’t recall anything more specific than that. I can’t Kieran, that’s as far as I can…
I was just curious to know if people would get up and sing or…?
Well, not actually get up and sing. it would be – the program would be
more organised than that. I mean there would be musical entertainment, and organised entertainment, you know Mary Jones wouldn’t get up a warble a tune, it wasn’t as funny as that. No, no. It sounds a very simple sort of thing to people today, but it filled the requirements in those days, and it was most successful, it really was successful. The women used to knit
and they would send parcels to people serving in the services. They did a lot of work, wartime, the people at home did a lot for those who were serving in the forces. You know, food parcels, letters. They wrote letters to people because some fellows who had no family, or very few family, they
would hear about somebody and send a parcel and they would put their name in it, and this person would respond, and the correspondence would eventuate. I think that meant a lot to a lot of people, both at home and abroad, particularly abroad.
Was the group conducting charity or raising money, or…?
Comforts fund [Australian Comforts Fund], and this was basically a comforts fund,
and you worked to get comforts for the troops, I say the troops, the services.
How would you raise money?
I can’t remember. It wasn’t any big time things. There were different business who donated, because small times people are more – very community minded, and if there is a worthy cause they will
raise money somehow or another, or they would approach business, big businesses, and they would contribute, because big businesses were mainly owned by people from within the city, the town. They were very helpful.
Would there be any selling of things?
Well, probably yes, I would think probably they would like bring advice or…
Any stalls, like cake stalls or…?
Oh yes, from years gone by there were – that was a very well known way of raising money a few women would make things, cooking and handcraft and things like that and sell them. That was a very well known source of raising money.
And would you see yourself –
the effects of this work on women who needed it?
Well, I would see the effects on a lot of people – I don’t know what directly affected them, I keep getting back to the fact that it was the contact with others and feeling they weren’t alone, more so than any practical
any practical things. That was important in those days.
And would they say this is great or…?
Well, their letters were always, their letters into the club were always happy. They’d express their pleasure at hearing about other people and what they
did. I mean it’s more than, I mean you seem to be dwelling more on something of substance, well I don’t think in those days that was the important thing.
Well what was the important thing?
The contact, I keep getting back to it, the social contact, the feeling. People were different in those days, they were more caring, believe me.
And particularly in small towns.
Who owned the radio station?
Well AWA [Amalgamated Wireless Australasia]. You know them?
Haven’t you heard of AWA, they were a big well – Australian Wireless something or other, it owned a lot of radio stations. It owned the radio station at Cairns, at Townsville I don’t know where else, but wherever Betty came
from, in Victoria. It was a big concern in radio stations.
And you job as an assistant to Betty and also the radio – can you outline what a typical day for you involved?
Well, I did some clerical work as well involved with the station, with the actual radio station. I mean in those days, the announcers had to
the record was just – actually the radio station itself was a little old house on stilts, I have photos of it. That was what the station operated from, and the back room there had shelves and shelves and stacks and stacks of records. They were played on turntable, and the announcers on the different sessions would choose their own programs
appropriate music for their own program. And these had to be – and the names of all these had to be typed, every record that was played I guess it was because of some copyright or something, but it had to be recorded. I don’t know what happened to these lists, but it all had to be done. I didn’t do a great deal of that we had other typists that did that, and the manager had a secretary, and there was a lot of other clerical work, because there were a lot of other announcers employed, and
technicians. So there was a lot of ordinary clerical work to be done. But my work was mainly with the club. I don’t really that there’s much more that I can talk about.
Just one more question. Were there any announcers that went on to some notoriety?
Not that you would
recognise, no. It was a long time ago. Several of the announcers moved south and worked on other radio stations, but they would be older than I am, so I mean they – their days of actual fame, of being well known, would be before your time, you wouldn’t recognise the name. I don’t think any of them
did great – became great well known people. But they were well trained voices and personalities, they were suitable, and they moved to different stations, particularly stations owned by AWA, and of course at that time too, a lot of them went into the forces. That was the time, and the age group of men that enlisted, so they moved on.
So tell us
about being a radio station and how the idea of joining up and the war effort was promoted?
Yes, yes, it was promoted, actually there was one funny episode with Betty who had – there was a visiting navy ship came into Cairns and Betty had been to a party there, and the next day she said a cheerio
call to the men of whatever it was, and of course there was a great kerfuffle, because that was supposed to be a security risk, that people that would know that the enemy would know that that ship was in port. She was suspected of being a spy there for a short period. Well she had to be interviewed and everything, so that was a very big black mark against her. Yes, well the station was, we had – now for men who were
too old to enlist, there was what was called a voluntary – VDC I think it was, Voluntary Defence Corps, and these older men were on duty to guard the station, because if the station were to fall into enemy hands, well – see this was a period when there was a lot of concern because it was in the north, it was the fartherest station in the
north, and the Japs [Japanese] were in New Guinea, that – I mean there was a feeling that the Japanese were going to invoice the north of Australia you know. People to find it hard to believe that these days, but there was a definite perception in fact there was what was regarded as the Brisbane line where and I don’t know it has never been proved that the
government had decided that anything north of Brisbane would not be defended, so that if the Japs came defend anything south of Brisbane, so the Brisbane line was a well known theory. So the further north you were, the greater the risk of there was an invasion that that was where it would land. So a radio station was a very , sensitive spot. So we had
these old fellows underneath, as I said it was a little old house on high stumps, and they were installed underneath. There was never any attack by anyone trying to seize the station, but that was all part of the defence. And there were coast watchers, there was a very real danger in those days that there could be well even
unfriendly people passing on information to the enemy, so. It was a very, very difficult time. And the station, it was – mainly in the first place it was an entertainment, I mean any radio station provides entertainment. There were sponsors for some of the programs, so some of the announcers they had to
go out and sell programs to the different advertisers, people, firms that wanted that advertisements. So that was basically what went on at the radio station.
Tell us about some of these ads?
Oh I can’t remember what the ads were, oh goodness you are too, you are testing my memory, I can’t what the ads were
no I haven’t a clue, I can’t remember that.
The announcer would be the one doing the ad or would it be a recording?
Yes, yes, the announcer would be organising it.
And tell us about this army of older men guarding, what were they like?
Well they were – well I guess most of them were veterans from the First World War and , they did what they could, they were too old to enlist
in that current war, so in those days people were very patriotic and they wanted to do what they could to help. That was their war effort. I don’t know if they would have shot anybody, but they were there with guns and everything else, rifles or whatever it was, but it was just a an evidence of
people being aware that the station was not just there for somebody to come over and do something.
And was this idea of men enlisting regularly promoted on radio?
Oh yes. Well it was promoted everywhere on billboards. There was an air force recruiting train that came to Cairns and I remember one of the girls
that worked at the station became friendly with one of the fellows that was on the train, and they eventually married. Oh yes, there was a lot of you know, your country needs you sort of thing. A lot of promotion. For both women and men, and the different services, not just the army, the other services were, yes.
And people felt that way, I mean you instantly and people felt patriotic, that you must do your duty. And that’s the way it was regarded I guess that’s the example from the First World War, and a lot of the people of enlistment age were the children of men who had served in the First World War, and I guess that feeling of patriotism carried on. And
you felt it your duty, and people who didn’t enlist you sort of thought that some of them had restricted jobs, they weren’t allowed to leave, their employers needed them, they were in a restricted industry, and that was OK, but otherwise I think the girls thought more of the fellows who would enlist than those who didn’t. You didn’t otherwise, well the majority of people didn’t think otherwise.
what would happen to the men that didn’t enlist?
Well nothing happened to them, but they weren’t – a lot of – they weren’t ostracised or anything, it wasn’t as bad as that, I mean people who did enlist were smiled upon, yes.
Were some of the radio programs about joining up or about the war
Well there was always an emphasis on the war, I mean not exclusively, there was that was the main – I mean our lives were sort of – not actually revolved around the war, but it was actually a very large part in those days. As I said particularly being in the north where we close to
the action, or a lot of the action.
Tell us about the news that was coming in from the war
Well particularly when I was eventually in the army, we had very censored information given to us and also – and prior to going into the army,
as I related that incident with Betty, sending a cheerio to the naval boys on whatever ship it was, , that was an indication that you were very conscious of – and there were posters that used to say, that the enemy listens, sort of thing. So yes you were very much
Were there records or songs that were played with, I don’t know, wartime anthems?
I don’t know whether they were wartime anthems, but there songs that even to this day, people who served in the Second World War, are familiar with that music. I mean it lasts. First of all you could understand what was being sung the words were intelligible, not some of this
modern music is. If I sound very old, that’s the way it was. And people – the singing, the songs was a big part of peoples entertainment in those days. People would gather around a piano and sing, and the songs that were popular at that time were often about the war,
and about the soldiers and the ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ and all that sort of thing. It related in a way, a lot of the music that was written and sung at that time, not exclusively, but a lot of it was. Sol it was very much a large of people’s lives.
Were there any songs which come to mind?
Well we had in our unit, we had one of our staff sergeant’s in my who had a beautiful voice, and she used to entertain at a lot of the concerts that we had. Lily Marlene was one that she used to sing, and I can’t recall off hand the names of these songs, but the Vera Lynn type of thing, you probably don’t know who Vera Lynn is, but she was a well known British
singer, and her music and songs everybody recognised and now if you go to an army, anything to do with old, with wartime relating to our generation, everybody knows the music, if they play that music, everybody knows the music. You feel comfortable with it. It brings back memories.
Were there any songs I don’t know, would promote enlistment or promote…?
No not really, or not that I can recall. I don’t think the emphasis was on that, but it sort of – the feeling was there that you know, this is all part of it. And I think, yeah, no, I can’t think that it encouraged
people, the songs didn’t encourage people, it was just that we were comfortable with that sort of music. It was just part of it.
So tell us when you first joined the VADs, when was that?
Well, that was war was declared in September 1939, and as I said, this lady called Mrs V M Brown who was a returned sister from
the First World War, and she had experience with the VADs in the First World War, and she decided that she would form a detachment in Cairns when war broke out. This is what she did, and she was a friend of my mother’s, so I joined, as a lot of other girls did in my age group, or a bit older, and
it was that age group, it wasn’t for young ones, and slightly older ones. And we had to gain our first aid, we went to lectures for first aid, we got a certificate for first aid, which I still have in my desk. A first aid certificate dated December 1939. And then we went to lectures on home nursing, and I have got the certificate dated, I think it’s April
1940, for home nursing, and then as I said before, we had to do 40 hours training, voluntary training in our own time and the Cairns base hospital, to get some practical experience at nursing, which is mainly what voluntary aids did, it was mainly nursing, helping the sister’s under the direction of the sisters, you did all the
chores virtually. And we used to go on camps you learned to make stretchers, carry patients and all this sort of thing, and other lectures we had to go to.
Why had you joined up at this stage?
Because I was patriotic. Well that was what you did. A lot of girls did. There were
other organisations that did other things, and – particularly in the capitol city of Brisbane, and I can’t remember the names of the other organisations, but they learned driving and all sorts of other work to replace men. The idea was that you could do jobs, not terribly physical jobs but jobs
that men – to replace men in other words, and that was what their aim was. So that was what the main of the detachment, that was what the detachment was formed for. And of course the aim was to join the services. A lot went into army voluntary aids, some went into the women’s
air force and they did all sorts of jobs there. The navy, and also another branch of the army where the girls were in sigs [signals], they used to call it sigs, they were signalling and they learnt Morse [Morse code] and that sort of thing, and a lot of clerical work, they replaced the men, and telephonists and all sorts of things like that, and cooks, some of them became cooks and
all sorts of jobs so they could replace the men.
Why did you want to join the VADs in particular?
Because I liked that sort of work. I didn’t want to be a cook, and I didn’t want to learn Morse code, so that was what I wanted to be.
Tell us about these courses, what kind of things were you learning in the first aid for example?
Well, how to, if someone broke and arm or broke a leg,
you learned how to put a splint on, put slings on, and dressings, if someone cut themselves, how you would dress a wound, all that sort of thing, general basic nursing.
Were there things then about first aid that have changed dramatically?
Oh no doubt. No doubt, I mean they are much more scientific these days,
like everything else, things improve, don’t they, and you become more skilful, you learn more things.
Was there any learning about resuscitation?
Yes, there would have been, to try and get someone breathing. Not the skills of the people who learn resuscitation these days.
Do you remember what the CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation] the resuscitation was?
Well sort of I vaguely remember, but whether it would be very effective, I don’t know. Mainly treating wounds. I have still got my first aid books and my home nursing books, there.
I am just curious to know did they have mouth-to-mouth then or…?
I can’t ever remember learning mouth-to-mouth, I really can’t.
I will flip through my first aid books at lunch time and see if that was in the syllabus, but I don’t know that was, I think it was more turning people on their side so they didn’t swallow their tongue and that sort of thing.
And what were they teaching about how to nurse people?
Well the basic skills of nursing is caring for patients. Sponging them taking temperatures, making them comfortable.
feeding them, all that sort of thing, and we learnt cooking, nursing cooking sort of light foods that a patient needs. That was basically like a student nurse.
And you mentioned lectures, what kind of things did…?
Just refreshing you and testing you on different things that you had learned.
Symptoms, if you could diagnose, if people came in with sort of symptom if you cold have a fair idea of what was wrong with them, and treat them accordingly. So that was mainly, very basic, but still, the first step in treating people.
With these camps you went on, were they fun?
Oh yes, well life was fun those days. It wasn’t serious, even though we were patriotic, but we had a wonderful time. And most of the girls who were in the services will tell you that’s a time in their life that they have never regretted, it’s a time when you made friendships that have lasted all these years. And it’s people who weren’t in the services can’t relate
to. And it was a very wonderful period of our lives. So it was very rewarding actually, and we had fun. You know, we made fun of the conditions we lived under, particularly in my early days at Wootton, I mean
I had led a very sheltered life and suddenly to be thrown into conditions of a tent with two stretchers in it and a dirt floor, and nothing to put your clothes on or in, it was just horrendous. The oblations block, we used to call it Mecca, was right down the paddock. I mean to go to the toilets and showers, that was a trek. It was very,
very primitive conditions we lived under. But I mean you made fun of it.
On these camps with the VADs in the early stage, who was taking you on them, who were your instructors?
Well we had a commandant, someone who was in charge, who had an assistant, and they would be people that had some skills in what we were being taught. And the
first aid we were tested on was mainly improvising stretchers to carry patients and go out in the bush and chop down branches or something or other, immobilise to make a splint for someone with a broken leg. Things like that. I can’t go into great detail about it, as I said my memory is not
as good as I wish it was.
How many girls would go on these camps?
Probably about 30, I would say.
Would you get up to some shenanigans [mischief]?
There wasn’t much opportunity. We had very, very innocent sort of fun, there wasn’t much opportunity frankly. All women. Wasn’t’ much you could
do. We made fun of it all, we were simple souls.
Were you making friends with the girls at this stage?
Oh yes, well a lot of them were friends, we joined the VADs together, we were friends already, but we also got to know others.
And where would you be staying in these camps?
Oh out in the bush somewhere.
I think we must have been in tents. But they would have been erected we wouldn’t have had to erect them. It would only have been an overnight thing so it would just be pretty basic. We didn’t have a great deal of those, it was mainly lectures and the nursing at the hospital, that was what we concentrated on mostly.
End of tape
Interviewee: Joyce Fuller Archive ID 1713 Tape 03
Tell me a bit about the history of the VADs?
Well, the VADs were first formed during the First World War in Britain, and I believe that, from
what I have learned over the years, and from what I have read in books more recently, that it was mainly young wealthy women who had time on their hands and could afford to do this voluntary work, and a lot of them I think were quite socialites. But they did some wonderful work, this was during the First World War, I think I said. And they did
all these menial tasks and drove ambulances and things like that. As a – to assist in the hospitals, and then eventually apparently – and I think Australia followed – I am not sure whether the were Voluntary Aid Detachment in the First World War in Australia, I am not sure about that,
but a lot of people knew of it, because some of the soldiers who were in England during the First World War, married some of these girls, and they came out to Australia, and they knew about it, and then word got around and then of course some of Australian nurses were over there, as Mrs Brown was who formed our detachment. They realised the worth of the voluntary aid
detachment, and so they were formed in many different localities all over Australia. I think the Red Cross was mainly behind them in the first place. The Red Cross and – yeah I think it was the Red Cross actually, and then other people off their own bat would form them.
They realised they could be of assistance. And I think it was in 1941 that the army gave permission for VA’s to work full time in military hospitals, they were virtually accepted into the army, and they were given numbers, and they eventually went overseas to Egypt some went to Ceylon
and some worked on hospital ships. They were the first girls, and I think they had to be 25 to be accepted. They didn’t send any 18-year-olds at that stage. The men could be 18 but not the women. The women were as I said that age, and they were sent to the different hospitals, and they worked with the sisters doing the same sorts of things as we
did. And then when Japan entered the war, these hospitals were recalled and came back to Australia as the 2/2nd AGH did and it was stationed at El Kantara in the Middle East, and they came back to Australia and after leave they, as I said they were sent to
Wootton. Then when they settled there that was when they decided to sent VA’s and we were still VA’s in those days, it wasn’t until later that the army decided that we should become officially become part of the Australian Army Medical Corps.
What was your uniform like?
Well in the early days it was a blue uniform,
buttons down the front, military buttons, a white detachable collar, this was before I went into the army, this was the VA’s, yeah. And a white detachable collar and a blue hat. I think we had grey stockings or black stockings and shoes. When the army took us over, we retained still that
same – and then we also had a winter uniform of navy blue and before the army – before we became the AAMWAs [Australian Army Medical Women’s Service], we had a navy winter uniform which we given £20 allotment to have – buy our uniforms from what was then Allan and Startz, what became
Myer. We were very lucky that we had this navy uniform and then when the army took over in the end of December beginning of January, it was decided that all the new enlistments would have khaki, so we were very proud of our exclusive blue and navy, and we were allowed to keep wearing those
until they wore out we didn’t get a replacement for them, but we wore them until they wore out. Then we had veils, – I can’t remember if we had veils when we were VA’s, I don’t think we did, when we were doing our 40 hours training. I am not sure whether we had veils or not.
What was the purpose of veils?
To keep your hair out of the way, like sisters’ veils
you know, it was to keep your hair out of when you were doing dressings and things like that. It was for cleanliness. Some people had long hair, and you didn’t want it trailing in people’s wounds and that sort of thing. So that’s why we had veils. Our veils were different from the sisters. But they were still veils.
Was there any regulation about the length of your hair?
Well I think it wasn’t supposed to touch your collar. And I think that people that had long hair had to roll it up, but I think you weren’t allowed to have long hair as such.
Tell me about this 40 hours you had to do at the Cairns Base Hospital?
It was so that you had practical experience in nursing instead of just theory of
bathing patients and feeding patients and caring for them. So that was the idea of it, you needed some practical experience, and that’s why we did it. And it was helpful too, instead of just going into the army and being thrown into a ward full of men that you didn’t know what to do with. So
it was good. It was very hard in the first place because particularly for people who had no previous experience in that sort of work, it was an eye opener but it was good. It served the purpose for which it was intended.
And what sort of – how big was the hospital at this time?
This was a base hospital, so it was the hospital where everybody went to, I don’t know what the bed capacity
was, I really don’t know, but it was the Cairns base hospital. Which had obviously grown in size over the years, but it was a base hospital so it catered for everything. From all conditions, medical surgical, infectious diseases, children, everything. You had a varying experience.
I must say it was mainly, you did the slushy work, the dirty work, but that didn’t do you any harm?
What sort of dirty work?
Well, bed pans to patients, emptying them, and cleaning patients if they were dirty, and all those sorts of things that you previously had no had anything to do with, but it was all a learning experience, and if you wanted to
go into this sort of work, well you had to start somewhere.
Did you have any elements of shock about what you had to do?
I guess it was all a bit shocking at first, but then you had to accept it. It was hard, yes, and it was physically hard for anyone who wasn’t used to hard work in that way. It was different from sitting at a desk, working at a
desk, it was real physical work. And it was all learning, we had to do it and we did it.
And when you said you had to clean a patient or sponge a patient, was there a particular way that you would talk to them to relax them?
No, I think you just tried to make them – well they were usually very sick. If you had to sponge them, it meant that they weren’t well enough to sponge themselves. So you were just
kind to them, and I don’t think they cared who was sponging them if they were really sick. They were just being made comfortable and that was all there was to it.
And how did the other hospital staff treat the VAs?
Some with disdain, and some were very helpful and caring, so it was a period of,
yes different treatment.
During the time when you did you 40 hours there was there sign of any war related injury or?
No, not really it was mainly – no the Cairns hospital, because there weren’t troops in that area at that time.
See we are talking about – well I guess it was 1940/41, there wouldn’t have been a lot of troops there, and there was probably an army camp hospital somewhere around. No I don’t think we had any of the forces for patients, it was mainly the population of Cairns and surrounding district.
Were there any particular things that you really didn’t – any types of illnesses or wounds that you didn’t like looking after?
Yeah, the VD [venereal disease] cases or women – is what that ward you didn’t like going into.
VD for women?
Yes, the street girls, there was an isolation ward for them there. I can’t remember that I had to do much there, but I know that was
well they weren’t actually sick, but they had to be isolated and treated properly.
What sort of particular diseases did they have?
Well syphilis I suppose, I don’t – sexually transmitted diseases. I know that was the ward where we steered clear of unless we had to.
What were the women like that were in there?
Oh typical street girls
I suppose, no one that I associated with not an area that I knew anything about.
Was there any talk of them being in the hospital?
Oh well it was an accepted fact that they had to be somewhere, when they had to be treated. And the hospital was the obvious place where they would be treated. I mean it was an isolation ward, I mean it wasn’t close to the others. No, No.
How many women would be in there?
I can’t remember the numbers Naomi [interviewer], I can’t remember those details. It was a ward that was there that we didn’t like to go to and didn’t have to very often, just on occasions.
Were there men’s wards with similar problems?
If there were I didn’t see them. There may have been, but I didn’t ever come across them.
And how about wards for psyche problems?
Well there would have been too, but I never had to go there, it was mostly medical and surgical wards that I ever had an experience in, and I think that was considered the first things that we should learn. Rather than become involved in the more traumatic parts of nursing.
So it was mainly the basic medical and surgical cases that we were involved with.
And what were some of the things about caring for patients and first aid that you learnt at the hospital that you hadn’t learnt at your lectures and other training?
I don’t suppose there was anything further, but it was just putting into practice what you learnt out of books and going to lectures.
You really had to do it. When you go to lectures it’s not actual theory, it’s theory it’s not practical work. You are shown how to find your patient, decide what to do where to put the towels and this sort of jazz, but when you did the practical work you really had to remember what you were taught and use your common sense, and that was the way you did it.
The 40 hours did how did you break up …?
Well it would just – because we were working – 90% of us were working girls, do it either at weekends or perhaps a few hours at night. I mean you didn’t have to do any long stretches, you did it as you could. And you fitted it in as best you could, and that was it.
And , can you tell me your memories of being told about the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbour?
Um, well that was December 1941 wasn’t it? I would have been in Cairns, well yes we knew about it obviously, but I can’t remember any specific reaction, I mean it was the war,
I guess it made a bigger impact because you realised that they – well that was the beginning of the Japanese involvement in the close virtually close to Australia, getting close to Australia, and that was the beginning, when it really brought it home to you that it was getting real and Australia
the war wasn’t on the other side of the world, it was getting closer to Australia. And it was, I can’t remember the exact time that I heard about it as I did when war was declared, but I can’t remember actually this particular incident.
And what was – we spoke a bit in the beginning about this, but what was the reaction of your family in Cairns in the months as the Japanese moved through the
Well it was concern because my mother’s sister and her husband lived in New Guinea. They had a gold mining lease up there in New Guinea, and we realised they were in danger, and eventually, first of all my aunt was evacuated and had to leave everything, her home and all her belongings, the
women were just collected and brought down, and then eventually the men were too, and my uncle he was older than she was, so it was just a matter of getting out. So it was of concern to our family because of them being so close to danger and the fact that they were going to lose everything and they did, just the things they stood up in.
What they were wearing, and they lost so much, it was sad, their home and everything. So yes it was – that was a big impact on my mother’s family, and on us obviously. I remember them arriving in Cairns and then they were sent on to Brisbane, we saw them when they arrived in Cairns. I remember my mother collecting clothes and things
to give them to help get established. It was very traumatic that.
When exactly did you leave Cairns for Brisbane?
Early in 1942. We came down to Brisbane, my mother and I came down to Brisbane, and we stayed with my mother’s family in the family home.
But my mother was unhappy about leaving Dad and…
Why had your dad made you leave?
Well because the authorities requested the women and children to leave, because they thought that if there was an invasion that they would be more of a hindrance than a help. Not all the women and all the children left, some of my mother’s friends left, but Dad was insistent, so she and I
left. She was unhappy in Brisbane to think of him on his own up there, and that was when she decided she had to return, and I said well I am not going back so they agreed then that they would let me enlist, and that was how they gave – their reason for giving me permission for me to enlist. And that’s what I did. And when she left I stayed on with actually with the sister that had left New Guinea, I lived with her.
Until I got my call up, well I had to apply, interviewed and had medicals, and was given the authority to get my uniforms and then I had word that I had to report to Roma Street Station sometime in early – or in August 1942, so proceed, we didn’t know where, but we knew it was going
north, and it was a terrible train trip, it took days and days and days, eventually it arrived in Townsville and then we were put on the train out to Hughenden, and I can’t remember whether we got off the train at Hughenden or there was a siding at Wootton or whether we got off at the railway siding, and then the trucks took us to the hospital. But it was a real
eye opener it really was.
I’ll ask you about that in a minute, but can you just take me over the process of how you had to sign up for the army, what sort of paperwork and medicals?
Well the Voluntary Aid Headquarters was in Eagle Street, Creek Street it was,
Empire Chambers there. Somehow or other we knew that was where it was, and went in there and applied, filled out the forms and spoke to Mrs Roach, was the Major Roach was in charge of VA’s for Queensland, she interviewed us. She decided on our suitability, and we filled in the forms and received advice
to go to the exhibition grounds to have the medical, we did that, and when that was accepted we finally got permission, or the authority to go and get our uniforms, actually in one of those books there is a list of how the £20 was supposed to stretch to buy winter uniforms and summer uniforms and veils and
your undies weren’t supplied or your night attire, it was just the basic things and the stockings and the shoes. It cost well beyond the £20, so of course we had to – those who couldn’t afford to buy the other things, just had to go without them, you bought the basic things and you didn’t buy the more expensive – you know the things that could be done without.
This store that you had to buy them from,
were they already made up or did they supply uniforms?
Well I think – I am not sure whether they were made up, you weren’t just issued, you found the suitable size I don’t think they were actually tailor made, I am really not sure on that. But I know that we were issued with things that fitted us, we bought things that fitted us, not
like when the army Q-Stores [Quartermaster stores] issued the khakis, you would – Okay, you are size this and a size that, and sometimes you had very ill fitting clothes. So we were very lucky, we were privileged, we felt very privileged to be able to choose our clothes like that and get things that
How long was the gap between all of this happening and the call up?
We probably – I think we left Cairns, Mum and I in about March 1942. Then when we came to Brisbane I applied for a job in the AMP in Brisbane, because my father was – he had been with AMP all his
life, and I applied and I got a clerical job in the AMP. They knew that I – well no I don’t think at that stage that they did know that I – I think I just got a job there in the first place, and then when I had applied for enlistment, applied to join up, they knew that and they just kept me on until I got my call up. But my official enlistment dates on my
charge certificate is 20 something of 1942, so it would have been March is 3, August 8, so that would be 5 months. 5 months. My mother probably stayed for about 2, so then it was 3 months from the time that she left, so it was probably about 3 months from the time that I applied, that I really got
away to Brisbane.
What changes had come about in Brisbane since you’d lived there previously?
Well by that time there were troops around, they weren’t obviously in 1938, 1942 there were a lot of troops around. And the Americans had arrived too. So it was a very different city than
what it was earlier, the last time I saw it. But that was the only time during the war that I was in Brisbane, waiting for my call up. Because once I had enlisted, I spent all of my army life in the north, so I didn’t see Brisbane again until
1945, just before war ended actually, before peace was declared. So yes it was a very different city, no doubt it had grown a lot, and a lot of the buildings had been taken over by the Army. See in the AMP building where I worked, General MacArthur had moved into some of the floors up top. So
it was a very different atmosphere, a very different city altogether. Because a lot of places had been taken over by the army, or by the different services actually, so it was entirely different – it was a war time city. Just a peaceful city.
How did all the troops around the place affect the city?
Well you saw them so much and there were
they were around so much, that’s basically I didn’t have anything to do with the troops, before I went into the army, I didn’t have any association with them. My mother’s brothers, her younger brother, the eldest of her 3 brothers, had been in the Middle East, and he
came home. And her other 2 brothers I think they enlisted around about that time, so that was 1942, I think – I don’t know – I know Eric was in the Middle East, and he would have come back by 1942 or soon after he would have come back,
because a lot of the troops came back then. And , so I really didn’t have much contact with them. You saw them around and you saw the Americans around, but and some of the girls made friends with them, but I didn’t have any association with them really. This friend I knew at school,
this friend who used to carry my case home from school, he came down to Brisbane to enlist in the air force, I saw him a few times, and I am not sure whether he got his call up before I got mine, but he went in about the same time. He went into the air force. He flew and eventually flew in Beauforts in New Guinea, so yes. But I didn’t really
didn’t have any friends or associations in the services. Not until I got out to Hughenden and got to know the troops.
After you got your call up you went back up to Cairns?
No. When I got my call up I had to go to – report to Roma Street at a certain time, a troop train I think it was, and with
about, I think there were about 12 other girls who had joined up, we were all there in our uniforms, and eventually after a rather long train trip, arrived in Townsville and then was out to Hughenden and eventually to Wootton. There were some of our girls already out there, we’d arrived at the 2/2nd in batches
probably about 12 at a time, and I think there must have been about 40 altogether, there might have been more, that came to Wootton, maybe there were more, but we came in different batches up there.
Were there other troops on the troop train?
I think there would have been, I can’t remember exactly, I can just remember us on this train,
and then I remember my aunt saying to me, “You want to try and get to know that girl, she looks nice.” She was a very attractive girl, she was very bright, she was near me on the train, and she married a fellow from the unit too, and she lives out at The Gap, and we are still friends, and that’s how life goes on.
What sort of things did you do to
entertain yourselves on this train journey?
I can’t remember, I don’t know that there would be much entertaining going on, it was just a long boring train trip, and you were trying to sleep, and I don’t think there was anything very entertaining. We would go through the different stations and there would be people out waving and we would get meals. I think we must have had meal voucher. I think it was a troop train, because we would have – they would have
organised – I think they called them RTOs [Railway Transit Officers], returning transit officer or something or other that used to organise it, but I can’t remember who else was on that train trip, but I just remember there was us girls, I remember who was in our group. But…
What was the feeling like of being in uniform and people waving?
Oh, excitement. Excitement, great
excitement, the adventure of our lifetime. So – yes it was.
And you started to tell me before the sight you saw when the train pulled in at the sort of siding, describe it for me in a bit more detail?
Well. It was a very desolate area, I mean there was nothing,
part of the hospital was in a dry creek bed, and there was just nothing there, and Jean Dixon, that bit I read you that I transcribed there, she had put it very clearly, that it was just such a desolate area, you wonder why on earth a hospital would be established there to look after
sick people because the climate was so appalling. It was hot in summer, it was hot as hot and in the cold weather it was cold because that’s what temperatures are like in the west. So it was – we wondered where on earth we had landed, and then we were interviewed as to where we would be sent,
what ward we would go to or what job we would do. Some of the girls went in as clerks and typists, but some went – one of our girls was a telephonist, and then also we were allocated these different jobs. My first job was to be relieving nursing orderly so I relieved, I
went to all the different wards, which was hard because you would get to know one in particular. But then we were changed on different duties and everyone had to do mess duties, which was horrors, and was not a well liked part of the work. You had to either work in the AAMWS’ mess or the sister’s mess, or the officers’ mess, and you
generally had to be – not the slave, but you had to do the menial tasks, none of liked that we joined up to be Florence Nightingale’s we didn’t want to be slushies in the kitchen, but we all took our turn and did a 3 month stint in one or the other, and I remember doing a stint in the sister’s mess so that was a bit daunting – although most of the sister’s treated us very nicely. They
were – and I made good friends with a lot of them, but some of them were a bit you know, and treated us rather shabbily, not shabbily, but in a condescending way is the best way to describe it.
And being part of the army now, was there more of an emphasis on discipline and things like that?
Oh very much an emphasis on discipline, you had,
you were in the army, you did as you were told, and there were rules regulations, that you had to follow otherwise you were disciplined and you were confined to barracks, not that there was much chance of going anywhere else out there, but you didn’t get leave. You have days off, there would always be a truck going into Hughenden. You could go in there and go to the movies or go to a shop or do something, but it wasn’t
an exciting life, if you were in a base hospital, in the city, there were plenty of places you could go to on your days off, but – well we only had 1 day off a week, and we did 12 hour shifts sometimes. And just had one day off a week. And in my first job relieving, my day off was a Sunday, so of course there was nothing in Hughenden to go to on a Sunday, so
it was pretty dreary. But just the same there lots of picnics organised, and concerts organised, life was – we made the best of it and we had great fun.
And did you have to do things like army drills and marches?
Well, a little bit of marching, but later on the girls that – I don’t think we marched at Hughenden, I am pretty sure we didn’t. Those that had
enlisted, , after they became the [Australian] Army Women’s Medical Service and went into khaki, they had to do a rookie school, they had to go to rookie school and learn all this marching and saluting and everything. But they never ever caught up with me, because when I joined up there was no such thing as a rookie school. I didn’t ever get to rookie school, I didn’t ever have to march. We didn’t march on the [Atherton] Tablelands either, it was only when they went to rookie school
they learned how to but , that wasn’t our job. It would have been silly, what would have been the point to that. We marched enough around the wards, from our tents to the wards and everything. Well I mean we had to be on our feet to be doing exercise, we had plenty of exercise doing that.
And the sister’s that you worked for, were they from an army background?
Well, initially they weren’t
but they were, they enlisted the way we did, and , see most of the sisters of the 2/2nd had been in the Middle East, well originally they were all from the Middle East, they all had been overseas, so they were very seasoned, they had been used to a lot of hardship and a lot of hard work. They were – most of them were really very lovely women, and I had a great respect for them too.
End of tape
Interviewee: Joyce Fuller Archive ID 1713 Tape 04
Okay, tell us Joyce about arriving in Hughenden and Wootton and what your first impressions were?
Horror. It was just so primitive, it was something I had never experienced before, the sight of this – all these tents, this great tented hospital,
it was a 1200 bed hospital. And everything was tents, that was all the living, how you lived, how the wards were. And there was just nothing it was just so barren, and as I said, part of the hospital was in a dry creek bed, and there were just a few lifeless trees around the place.
And you would wonder why a hospital would be located in an area like that, but as I previously said they thought that was – if the Japs did arrive, it was an evacuation point, or troops coming from New Guinea anyway, an evacuation point away from the coastline. But the patients were dismayed they were landing in a place as miserable looking as that after leaving
New Guinea, they had hoped to go to a base hospital and be nursed there, so yes it was very, very primitive. The tents, well as our lines were, the AAMWS’ tents, they were called the lines, and the lines were these tents with 2 beds – 2 stretchers, a dirt floor, we had
we were issued with cabin trunks, our cabin trunks had our uniforms and clothes in, and there was nowhere to put anything, so eventually when we settled in, as well as we could settle in, and we got to know some of the fellows, we – a favourite word in those days was scrounging, and we would get the boys to
scrounge boxes and cupboards and things like that that you could make into cupboards, and we would string up lines in the tent to hang our uniforms on. So we had nowhere apart from the cabin trunk, to put our uniforms, to put our clothes, so we had the beds for which we were thankful, we had somewhere to sleep,
but it was very primitive, and the ablutions block was way down the paddock and it was all open air, no hot water, everything was cold and the toilets were freezing, and no privacy, little privacy in them, and it was like another world really. Then we had the mess where we had our meals,
and there was a recreation big tent, which was a recreation hut. You eventually became accustomed to it and you made the best of it, as best you could.
You mentioned the toilets, the ablutions, did they have doors on the toilets?
No, well some of them – well there was a partition, a sort of partition there, but it was very, very primitive, believe
me. It was very primitive. The ground, it was an earth closet.
Was it a bad thing to have to go to the toilet?
Well it wasn’t a pleasant exercise believe me, no it wasn’t. But after you live with people for that long, you just don’t worry about it, everyone’s in the same boat, so you don’t worry about it.
But there was privacy from the men?
Oh yes, this was, our lines were separate, oh yes,
yes. They wouldn’t have put up with that, no, no, no, our ablutions were separate from the sister’s too, theirs were different. No we weren’t that primitive.
How did you keep your clothes tidy with the dirt floor?
Well it was very difficult. After a while, as I said this scrounging bit, if you could come across some
hessian and things like that just to put on it to make a sort of mat or something, but it was awful. When we eventually went to the Tablelands, things weren’t so bad, and we became reasonably comfortable on the Tablelands, but at Wootton it was unreal, we think back on it and it really was.
What were the ward tents like?
Well they were big tents, the patients were all in a line like that and there was a structure in the centre where the sister and the treatment room were, so I think that must have been built, a prefabricated sort of structure, but I mean the patients – I think we used to water, or the
boys used to water the floors to make it hard. And of course when we went up to the Tablelands there were cement bases, they had cement bases for the ward, and for our tents, we had cement.
But at Wootton it was dirt?
Yes, dirt umm.
So how did they , manage the hygiene in this atmosphere?
Well in great – it would have been
very difficult, , the wards were, I am trying to think how difficult it was with the wards, but , but it , I am sure that even the wards had no flooring, and you see they wouldn’t have when they were away in the Middle East either, they would have
had dirt floors, they wouldn’t have had proper floors, so I mean you just put up with it. I know it sounds in the lines, you could understand what it would be like, they didn’t worry about our comfort, but they had to be – had to ensure that as you say the comfort and cleanliness
of the patients. But I can’t recall that – what the floors of the wards were, and when you look at those photos of the tents blown down, I mean there’s no evidence of a base floor, is there? So it must have been.
Tell us about the staff that had returned from the Middle East,
what were they like?
The men or the sisters? Both, I mean the sister’s – the nurses, – I had a great respect for the nurses because they learnt the hard way, they had done their training before the war, and then they enlisted and they went to the Middle East and they had to cope with very difficult situations
in the Middle East, and so the had become accustomed to it and they came back and it was okay. it was just a continuation of what they put up with in the Middle East. The men, I mean they were used to – they had been in the Middle East too, I mean it was an overseas hospital that came and we were the first non overseas staff
to join the hospital, so they were accustomed to hardship and they just took it in their stride, well they couldn’t do anything else about it.
Did they talk about their experiences in the Middle East at all?
Oh jokingly mainly. But you see they weren’t in the front line, a hospital, particularly a base hospital, wasn’t in the frontline. Being fired at, see some of the patients had come from
fighting, so the hospital staff hadn’t they had worked under difficult conditions, but they hadn’t really been exposed to the dangers – like most of the patients, most of the patients, anyway were so.
Did they have any good stories from the Middle East?
Mainly drinking and going for trips to the pyramids
and I think they had a pretty good time a lot of the time anyway. I mean they worked hard, they worked long hours and they worked hard. It was all a new experience for them, because they had never been overseas before, and they just made the best of it. Typical Australians of that era, they made the best of it and that was it.
Tell us about some of the work in particular at Wootton?
Well we were all allotted different jobs, some of the girls were allotted, for instance, the ENT [ear, nose and throat] ward or the surgical ward or something or other there, and they worked under the sister. We were given one day off a week, there
had to be a reliever to relieve the girls as they – when they had their day off, and I was given that job of – that was my first job. Later on I was allocated a different ward, but my first job was being a reliever, and that was difficult because you didn’t get to know – it was only once a week you came, and by which time – the sister’s were
mainly still there because a lot of them stayed in the same ward for a period of time, and then they would move on to something else, but when it was once a week it was difficult it wasn’t easy, it wasn’t the ideal situation to come into straight away, but however, we just did the best we could and did the normal nursing chores of temperatures, taking temperatures and sponging, patients
making beds, the dirty work of taking – getting bed pans, bottles for them when they needed them. All what the junior nurses were expected to do. Meals, helping feed patients who weren’t able to feed themselves. But see some of the patients who were walking patients and some of the wards
you would have walking patients who weren’t desperately ill and could walk, they couldn’t go back to their units, they weren’t well enough to go back to their units, but they could walk. So they were often a help, they would help at meal times, do little jobs. So we worked hard, long hours, but still it was OK and then later we’d
move around and I remember going to the ENT ward for a while, and different wards and I remember I relieved, oh not.. that was in Wootton, I relieved in the dental rooms we had a dentist there. I don’t think we had a dentist, although probably did at Wootton I don’t know whether we did, I don’t remember a dentist at Wootton. We were only there from August to December, so it wasn’t very long. The cyclone blew us away.
What was the ENT ward?
Ear nose and throat.
What kind of problems were coming through here?
Oh well, ear infections, , tonsillitis, nasal things, normal things that affect people in every day life. With ear nose and throat things, I mean even in our every day life, we get ear aches, and tonsillitis,
the same thing happens with troops. So, these would have been local patients, or patients from, well I suppose we had some ENTs from New Guinea, because we had ENT specialists, there were ENT specialists who would be in charge of the ear nose and throat ward and the skin specialist would be specialists in skin car. So we did have
and they were the senior officers, because they specialised in – and then there would be junior medical officers who would have enlisted early in their career probably and not had the experience that the senior officers would have. There was a CO [Commanding Officer] of surgery and the CO of
medical, and they stayed in that position for a long, long time. And then we had a CO of the hospital, who was in charge of the whole hospital and a matron in charge of the nursing staff. And we had an AAMWS [Australian Army Medical Women’s Service] who was given rank and put in charge of the girls.
Who was that?
Put in charge of the girls, well first of all this girl called Cathy Rosen, and there was no other reason to put her in charge other than she was married, and she was a bit older than the lot of us, but then after a while we had Audrey Philp who came to us as a lieutenant and I don’t know what extra skills she had, but found within the
AAMWS that people who were in the girl guides, and had senior positions there, who were in charge of virtually not so much the skilled work of nursing, but more in charge of administration of looking after the younger girls and allocating them what jobs, what wards they would go to.
And I mean eventually they gave rank to different ones, some of the girls as they got older, they were given rank and some of the jobs they did, they became entitled to rank. So , that was mainly the ones that were given rank and we had a staff sergeant, she was an older
person, Tina McElvey, and she was older as I said, and she had a responsible position in every day life, they weren’t all young – a lot of them were young like I was who really had no responsible position in every day life before we enlisted, we didn’t get rank.
Went in as a private and came out as a private, but never mind that didn’t matter.
You were talking about , different wards, how much would your tasks vary depending on what ward you were in, would your job dramatically change or?
Not dramatically, still the basic junior nursing job, as I said before, temperatures, taking temps, ,
making beds, feeding sick patients, that sort of work. Getting morning and afternoon tea for the sister and the doctor, that sort of thing.
Was there a particular ward, which was harder than other ones?
Um, or the dysentery ward wasn’t very nice, you had to be very careful of infection there. That was probably
I don’t know if it was the hardest, but it was the most unpleasant. I didn’t ever get into a psyche ward, but some of the girls – I think that was mainly when we got on to the Tablelands, some of the girls that were more experienced, they got into those more difficult jobs. Difficult wards. So…
With the dysentery ward what kind of precautions would you have to take for hygiene?
gloves, and gowns you always had to put an extra hospital gown on over your uniform and all that sort of thing. You had to be very careful, washing your hands and that sort of thing.
What about removing the bed pans?
Well, yes, well I guess that was still the same, as I say you had to be careful.
What would you do with the waste?
Well I think
there was a special facility there for – and sterilising, they had to be sterilised, , I didn’t have a long time in the dysentery ward, I just remember that I had a short period of time there.
Not a pleasant question, but what did you do with the , waste generally?
Well I guess it was flushed into a whatever it was, there must have been a special container, and there would have been a steriliser there
to sluice it, well you would sluice it out somewhere. I mean you – it was hygienic, everything you did had to be hygienically maintained and provided. Hygiene had to be provided otherwise you were in trouble, otherwise there would be infection right throughout the hospital. So it was well contained in other words, it wasn’t pleasant, but it was well contained and well looked
What about the other wards?
Well I suppose – there was a special division – the men they had to look after the sanitary arrangements, and I can’t remember exactly what they did, and that was well looked after, it wasn’t something that we had to be involved in.
Well maybe we’ll take that it was interesting, we were just
talking about the name of the hospital?
Well it was just named the 2/2nd AGH, Australian General Hospital.
And the 2/2nd what did that represent?
Well , that from the 1st World War, and there would have been a 2nd AGH and just 2nd AGH, so that during the 2nd World Ward, this identified that this was the second time there had been
a 2nd AGH, the same as there was a 2nd 6th AGH and a 2nd 9th AGH, which identified that there was already one by that name in the First World War. So that’s how it became 2/2nd AGH, Australian General Hospital.
Talking about some of the wards that were in the place, did you ever go to the surgical ward?
Well we all did time – I
didn’t ever do theatre work, some of the girls trained to be the unsterile theatre staff, but I – well my friend who was my bridesmaid when I married, she did that a time in the theatre, but I didn’t ever have the opportunity to, but I didn’t particularly want to. But they did work there.
What kind of surgery was going on here that you saw?
In Wootton? Well in Rocky Creek there was probably a greater surgical – more surgical procedures because there were troops, more patients came through, as I said I didn’t see any surgical cases, but I worked in a surgical ward.
I mean there were, they were mainly caused from accidents in the early part of the war. But later on it was injuries from fighting. But any sort of – I mean there were a lot of transport trucks, and things, and fellows had smashes, and they fell over and they – and all sorts of things happened so there were, surgical cases and
there was a need for surgical cases and , that’s it.
Tell us about some of the lads which were coming through Wootton at this stage?
Um, I – they must have been – there wasn’t a large troop establishment in that area, at that time, it was built with the intention of receiving patients
from New Guinea, and that was what happened, so there were a variety of injuries, and as I think I said previously, that some of the patients that arrived were dismayed to find that this was the location that they came to be nursed back to health. Instead of at a base hospital where there would be a more established
hospital and more going on. More activities and everything. So it just would have been normal cases, as you said surgical there would have been accidents, people need surgery, everyday people in everyday life need surgery, they are not necessarily involved in action. I mean
I am thinking of every day life civilians, they need surgery for different things, for different conditions, people have got to have surgery and things like that.
Did you get the indication that some of the lads were kind of enjoying seeing women for the..?
The patients who had been
in New Guinea, and just with male – with men, before there were hospitals established in New Guinea, I mean there were eventually hospitals at Port Moresby and Lae and different places up there, and they would have been nursed in hospitals there with women, but coming straight from the lines, in battle lines in New Guinea, they wouldn’t have
seen women, and they enjoyed having women, and the men in the unit were pleased to have young women, because they had been in the Middle East with the sisters, a lot of them were youngish and lovely people, but there were also a lot of older ones. So for the young men to have young girls, young women come in,
so there were lots of romances with these fellows that came back from the Middle East, I am talking about the unit. Because quite a lot of my friends became attached to men from the unit, different parts of the unit, and romances followed and marriages, quite a few of my close friends who married fellows from the unit who really had enlisted
in different states, but married Queensland girls and after the war they eventually came and lived back in Queensland and they still live in Queensland. Yes they were pleased to see women, and the patients were too.
How would you be able to tell they were pleased to see you like patients what would they do?
Well their reaction, you know how men carry on, I mean they would try to
flirt with you, previously when they had male orderlies, nursing orderlies, it was a different matter wasn’t it.
How would they flirt what would they, say what would they do?
Oh, flatter you, pass comments, yes, that sort of thing, you don’t need me to tell you how men flirt.
I do, I do.
Well you have got a lot to learn Kieran, you are very slow I think.
Don’t tell me.
I guess I am trying to get a kind of idea of flirting in those days, compared to today like?
Well it was a different scene from what it is today, it was a very mild, very, very mild and how do I put it, proper, very proper.
Yes, none of this – yes, it was just different.
Would any of the men get inappropriate?
Well after a while they might, but I mean most of the girls, if the fellows said or did anything inappropriate they wouldn’t have anything more to do with him, and he would get into trouble. If it were reported.
Would any ask for a kiss?
Oh yes, probably if you went out with them, and not on duty obviously, if you went out with them, we weren’t all that pure.
Talking about these romances, would there be gossip about romances going on?
see some of the fellows were married, and if one of the girls started to get involved with – and somebody else knew that he was married, probably would be then, but most of the – well those who were married, I think, well few might have stepped out of line, but it was mostly the young unattached men who formed
friendships with the girls.
What kind of dates would go on?
Well you see that was , particularly at Wootton where there was no – well we used to get on the – there would be a truck to take us into Hughenden to take us into the movies, or into the shops or something, well you could go, I can’t remember whether I went in the truck with the fellows or whether we met them in there. And there was an open air theatre in those
days, and I remember my first date with George, we went to the movies, campers chairs, and it rained so it was sort of thing. And picnics, they used to have, – they called them state picnics, you used to go and have a fire and get some meet from the kitchen and someone would have some music and very, very
not exciting, but it was all you could do.
Tell us about the first time you saw George?
Well I think there was a – I think how it happened was there was a picnic on and the girl I was sharing a tent with at the time, she was friendly with one of the fellows and George didn’t know anyone, he wasn’t
friendly with anyone and he asked George to come along, and Jean asked me to come along. And that’s how it happened.
What did you like about George?
Well he was well spoken, well mannered, things I had been brought up with and regarded as important, and
he didn’t speak out of turn, yeah, he was the sort of person I thought was nice to go out with.
How did you – when you got to know him what were the similarities and what were the differences at this stage?
Well he was 7 years older than I was and he lived in
Sydney, and the fact that he was so much older, he was so much more sophisticated than I was. So he had really a different background to what I had grown up with, but in those days I didn’t think that that mattered.
I hadn’t had any previous serious friendships. Didn’t talk about relationships in those days. Yes, so I thought he was quite nice. He was nice compared to some of the other fellows who were a bit rough and uncouth. Because I had been brought up in a very protected lifestyle, he seemed to
fit in with my idea of how you should behave.
Did you think you would end up marrying him at this stage?
No, not in the early stage. I didn’t think I was – I had turned 19 by that time, but I wasn’t thinking of getting married.
So it wasn’t serious at this stage?
Not very early, but then I continued to go out with him.
That’s the way it happened.
Did you see any other boys or men there?
Oh yes, yes. Well after the cyclone, some of us were sent to Charters Towers to stage until the hospital was established on the Tablelands, and I was one of the a group that went on to Charters Towers and we were there for a few months, which gave the hospital
time to pack up at Wootton, and move up to the Tablelands and become established there, so when we were at Charters Towers, my – a different friend, a girl who was actually my bridesmaid, when I was married, she and I somehow had met a group of young officers who were at – staged at Charters Towers, so we had
a good time with them, they were nice blokes. Then when we eventually moved on up to the Tablelands – and there was one patient it must have been when we got to the Tablelands, there was one patient that I became fond of, he was very funny, he was a nice young man, and but he went back to his unit
anyway he came to see me again later on at the hospital, but by that time George and I were engaged, so I didn’t carry on with the other bloke.
Were you sad to say goodbye to these men as they left?
Well it was in a way, but if they had come in to the hospital and they were unwell and if they were well when they left, that’s what you expect at that period of time.
I guess the ones you had a close friendship with like the patient which…?
In a way, no, not really. He was a nice fellow and I liked him, but I hadn’t entertained any thought of carrying on a friendship or anything further.
Were there issues of morality of going out with men going who would come out with you?
It could, it would all depend on who you went out with.
Were some of the men pushing that kind of…?
Well yes, you would strike them.
What did you think of them?
Well you didn’t have any more to do with them.
What did you think of women who would go out with these more…?
Well they were looking for trouble.
Would the women discuss about the women which…?
No women didn’t talk about things like that in those days, they really didn’t. No you didn’t talk about things like that – well I didn’t, my friends didn’t talk to me about those things, people were different. Much more
reserved and not as open as people are these days. I mean there’s a lot going for both styles of lifestyles, you know those types of lifestyles, in some ways the older years were better, and in some they weren’t. But anyway, that’s the way it goes.
In what ways weren’t they do you think?
Well, , well your lifestyle was harder, but it was simpler and there weren’t the stresses and strains there are in present day life. The young
people today lead a very stressful life I think. In those days it wasn’t stressful at all, I mean it was in some ways, but it wasn’t in others. You managed, there wasn’t the competition that there is these days.
Speaking about some of these moral issues, was there any kind of stigma that was attached to say a woman who got
pregnant without being married?
Well, sort of, , well not an actual stigma, but you felt sorry for them, but I mean some of the things that happened like that worked out all right in the end, because they did married, but there wasn’t an actual stigma
but you felt sorry for them for than anything else.
Did you think they kind of got themselves into trouble or…?
Well some did. And others were just foolish.
End of tape
Interviewee: Joyce Fuller Archive ID 1713 Tape 05
I wanted to just back a little bit and talk about the cyclone, can you tell me about the build up to it?
Well one of those photos I showed, or two of those photos I showed you previously, showed the darkening of the skies and
what trees there were bending and that was the only indication we had that it was coming, it was fairly sudden so there was not much we could do about it anyway, we just had to cope when it came. And it was very fierce, it didn’t come gradually, it just came, bang.
And where were you when it came?
Well, I had been in my tent, because that’s
what I remember, the tent going and the weather had been cold so I had got my mother to send me an eiderdown. In those days you had eiderdowns. We just had army blankets and it was cold at night. And she had sent this eiderdown to me, and I remember the tent went and the eiderdown went blowing off down the paddock, and I didn’t ever see the eiderdown again, if I had it wouldn’t have been much good
And tell me about that moment when it hit, what everyone’s reaction was?
Well I think you tried to grab hold of things, I mean there was no actual panic, you couldn’t do anything, what could you do? I can’t remember how long it lasted. But then the rains came
and I can’t remember how soon after that the rains came, and that was just the final terrible part of it. Because everything was all boggy. I can’t remember how we slept that night, because most of the tents, I think there were still some tents that were standing. But so many of them weren’t. But I am sure ours went, because I vividly remember the
eiderdown blowing down the paddock, that was really something.
What about your belongings?
I didn’t have that many personal belongings, we each had our cabin trunks. At that stage we didn’t have much in the way of personal things with us. After we went to the Tablelands we acquired more things because we were more established. We were never really properly
established at Wootton, so never really had as many things as we did eventually. And I think that probably most of our clothes were in our cabin trunks because they didn’t move an inch, they were heavy. I guess that our clothes were safe enough there, and we just had to wash them, and – I mean some of those photos show some of the girls
obviously wet from the downpour. From the rain and the wind, so we got battered around. I can’t remember – I can’t remember details of it, the vague recollection is there, but not the details. Just the aftermath that – trying to – and also trying to get patients away, patients
had to be dispatched to – some of them went to Charters Towers because it was the closest big hospital to us, it was further along the line, on the way to Townsville, and quite a lot of them were sent there, and a lot of us were sent with the patients to Charters Towers, and we staged there, some of us staged there while the rest of the hospital packed up at Wootton and then re-established on the
Tablelands, and then we rejoined them, so that’s the main recollection I have of all the aftermath more so than the actual what happened, immediately after the impact. It was just mind boggling. There were various accounts from lots of people. Some people kept diaries. That’s how they have been
able to recall. Unfortunately I didn’t ever bother to write a diary. If I had it would have been easier for me, but some of the girls did religiously made entries in a diary. They have been able to be printed in various books that have been printed, so it gives you a better insight into what happened.
And what percentage of the actual hospital wards or tents used were destroyed?
I can’t tell you that exactly Naomi, I really wouldn’t know. See they were bigger tents, they were bigger and stronger and more securely fixed and they wouldn’t have gone down
as easily as our little tents that we girls occupied, because they were only little tents that took two stretchers. Not much else other room in the tent, which the bigger tents were stronger – whereas the bigger wards, the tents themselves were stronger. Even though some of them went, but not all of them,
so I guess they put the patients from the tents that were affected, the wards that were affected, they put them altogether in the other one, in the ones that were still standing, on a temporary basis until they were able to offload them to Charters Towers. And elsewhere.
And do you remember any of the reactions of the patients, were they frightened or…?
Well I think the patients had been through more in New Guinea than a bit of wind and rain, so I think those that were incapacitated would have felt fairly threatened, so if they had broken limbs and couldn’t hop out of bed and look after themselves, it must have been devastating for them. But, on the whole I think the Australian soldiers coped with a lot
so they took it in their stride.
And when the rain began, just describe to me in a bit more detail, just describe to me what happened to the general area?
Mud and slush and I think we got gumboots from somewhere or other, we just had to plough around in the mud. It was terrible, dreadful
whereas it was dry and dusty and then it was just water and mud everywhere. And that was really worse than the wind, when the rain came and I think that followed pretty quickly after the wind. I think we had about 4 days of it. So it was pretty horrific.
You don’t remember where you slept for those 4 days?
No, I don’t, but I think
a lot of us went in the mess, slept in the mess. Because the mess is a bigger stronger tent, and we would somehow or other have camped in there, yeah.
And even though obviously lots of things were destroyed, what was the experience like for you?
Well it was – this is army life, it was a rude awakening from
the lifestyle that most of us had been accustomed to. And it was a really savage introduction to army life for a lot of the girls, because some of the other girls that enlisted went straight into base hospitals where it was an established building, and you had proper beds and proper facilities,
they didn’t ever have to contend with situations like this. And some of them of course stayed – some of them lived in Brisbane and they lived out in hostels and things and just went to work in offices and records, army records offices and things like that. There were quite a few clerical staff just at Brisbane, and they didn’t ever see
any of these, what we were experiencing. In some ways they were lucky, but in some they weren’t because what was different from being in the army with an ordinary job. Yes, as I said it was a rude awakening for us, but all part of army life. That’s life.
And just while it comes to mind
living in those tents with one other person, what was it like being in such close quarters with someone else?
Well it was difficult particularly for people who, like me, who had no brothers and sisters, and had never been in close contact with someone like that before. But I was lucky, the first girl I tented with was a nice girl, but we didn’t
have all that much in common, but then after I went – after the cyclone and we went – she and I were both sent to Charters Towers, and I shared with her there, although we were in a dormitory, we were at, I think it was at Mt Carmel Boarding School, the army took over. And we were in a dormitory, but we were sort of close, we were friends, and then we rejoined Wootton
we shared a tent when we went back there, when we went to Rocky Creek, and we remained close friends, she was older than I was, not a great deal but she was older. When I married she was my bridesmaid and I kept in constant touch with her over the years. She died a number of years ago, she was a very good friend.
So I had no problem there, we were good friends. But it could be difficult, and I guess if you struck that problem you could ask for a transfer to another tent with somebody else. But I didn’t ever experience that.
How about simple things like making yourself look presentable and respectable while living in a tent with a dirt floor?
It was difficult.
When we were at Wootton, my first job was relieving in the wards, and we had one day off a week and the reliever had Sundays off. Well I couldn’t go into Hughenden to have my hair cut because nothing was open on a Sunday. So I do recall writing to my mother and telling her that I had to sit on a kerosene box, that kerosene tins
came in, and a hurricane lamp at one stage because somebody had a pair of nail scissors and they cut my hair, so my hair was nothing wonderful to behold. But I had no option at that stage. When we went up on to the Tablelands, we had a hairdresser in the unit. So things were not as uncivilised. So it was difficult.
How about things like, would you wear make up
I think we wore make up, yeah. I can’t remember not wearing makeup so I think we did, but obviously it wouldn’t matter if you didn’t have make up on, because it was only the patients who saw us, but you obviously like to keep yourself looking nice as you could. Nobody got slack or yeah.
Where did you get mirrors and things like that from?
I think we had to
bring them with us or our families sent them to us. See my home was in Cairns, and particularly when I went to the Tablelands, on my days off I would go home, I would hitch a ride with a truck or a car, and I would go home for the day or if ever we had 2 days, so I could always get things
easily that was, because it was easy having my home in Cairns. At Wootton it was much more difficult.
And tell me about when you had to transfer them to the staging camp at Charters Towers, how exactly – how many did you have to look after and what did you do with them?
Well I can’t remember the details of that, I honestly can’t.
We went by train obviously, there is a station at Charters Towers, and I don’t know, there were sisters that went with us, and men, male orderlies. So we didn’t have any of the lifting or anything like that. So if they were stretcher cases or anything like that, well that was looked after by the men. Walking patients wasn’t so difficult, you just had to keep an eye on them.
It wasn’t a marathon effort as far as I can remember, because we had somewhere to go to where they could be settled comfortably. I can’t remember how long the train trip took. But it was a direct route from Wootton to Charters Towers.
And what was it like trying to fit in to the routine of a new hospital?
It was difficult,
it was difficult because you didn’t know the different wards, you didn’t know the staff. And I think as a group, we sort of stayed together as best we could because we knew each other, but fitting in to wards where you had not worked before and where the other staff didn’t know you, the patients didn’t know you. It was difficult, but still lots of people in the army moved around a lot. I mean
they went around from one place to another, so you just had to settle in, you knew what the jobs were and you did them. It was really pretty basic.
And how many people had come from Wootton to Charters Towers?
I don’t remember the number. I just remember there was a group of us girls. I would say
probably about, no more than 10, and probably the same number of sisters, probably and some of the male orderlies who did the heavy work. I am not sure whether any of the doctors came, they may have.
How hard was it to be separated from some of the people?
it was difficult, because by that time I had become friendly with George, so , it was difficult, anyway you moved on. Made other friends, and you picked up the threads when you rejoined the unit.
Was it hard to keep track of – who was in charge of where the unit had gone and how you were going to rejoin it?
Well that would have been
army command and I guess the CO of the hospital, of the 2/2nd would have decided how many stayed with the hospital – the CO and the matron between them would have decided how many of the staff and see that was beyond our
control – you know, the lower ranks, beyond our control, we went where we were told and did what we were told to do. But, army headquarters would have had a say in where the units were based, what their strength would be, and who was
sent – staff were transferred and who went where. That sort of information was well beyond our control or comprehension or interest, in other words I guess.
During the time in Charters Towers, how much time did you get to spend around the town?
Yes, well, I don’t recall much about the town, it was more when we were
off duty, we were in with this group of young men, and they were nice young men too, and we had a good time with them too.
Where would they take you?
Well, we went to parties and things like that, and yeah it was a much more lively time, than probably had been out at Wootton, because there were more people.
Where would the parties be, how would they be organised?
Well, I think some of them would have been in their mess, in the officer’s mess where we went. Um, and I remember going somewhere with this fellow that I was friendly with, and he had a jeep and a driver, and we went to different places, and I don’t know
I can’t remember the exact details, but just that we had a enjoyable time.
Were there many Americans in Charters Towers?
Well I believe there were but I – in all my time in the army, or in all my time, I didn’t really have anything to do with the Americans, it wasn’t by design, it wasn’t that I said I am not going to talk to an
American or anything, it was just that it didn’t happen. When we were at Wootton of course there were no Americans out there, there were on the Tablelands, there were a lot of Americans, but it was just that the opportunity never presented itself to me, I am not sure whether any of the others. I don’t recall any of the girls I knew ever having a friendship with an American whilst they were in the army.
But there were a lot around.
And when you would go into the town on leave, what would you wear?
We had to wear our uniforms, yeah. Wore them all the time.
Was there any sort of , the way people reacted to seeing women in these uniforms?
Well, it was mainly a positive reaction, you
know, we were well regarded because I mean we were doing a job.
Would any men or anyone respond with a fondness to the uniform or to the…?
See most of the men we had contact with were service personnel, so obviously they reacted well to
us, we didn’t have all that much to do with people in civilian life, because we were – particularly in Wootton we were isolated. There were a few properties around about that area, and , cattle properties, and some of the girls were invited out to the properties, and the people who owned these properties
were very kind to these girls. I don’t know how it happened, but I didn’t ever become involved with that situation, but I know some of my friends did and these people on the land were very good to them. Made them very welcome and they were very welcoming, and the girls were very pleased to get away from the army
from the camp. Get into a normal home.
Did you ever run into any women from other services?
Well not at Wootton, because there were no other services out there, just the sisters of course that we worked with. At Wootton we certainly didn’t. On the Tablelands there were AWAS, Australian Women’s Army Service, that was another branch of the army,
and we would see them. But we didn’t, they were at dances when there were dances in the town, there would be some of them there. I don’t recall any air force or navy girls around. Not – I am sure there were no
navy on the Tablelands, and I don’t recall seeing any air force girls. They were mainly, the air force and navy were mainly in Townsville, because that was big base there for the navy and I think there was some air force there too, I am sure there was air force there, but I didn’t come into contact with any on the
And the hospital in Charters Towers, , as it was more established infrastructure-wise, were there sorts of patients there that you hadn’t found at Wootton, types of wards that didn’t exist specifically at Wootton.?
No I don’t think so. I think –
well if there were I didn’t ever work in them. It was mainly the medical and surgical and the ENT and the skin ward and that type of thing. I don’t recall any others. There might have been a psyche ward there, but I didn’t ever
I was never involved in – there probably was one there.
What would you say the main hospitalisation of men was when they came back from the islands?
Medical, a lot of skin typhus cases, which was a deadly condition that –
scrub typhus it was, that was caused by a mite that , that was found in – well on the Tablelands there were various areas that were eventually found to be where this mite could be located, and these areas were put out of bounds to Army personnel. Because the – and of course the
New Guinea fellows came down with the scrub typhus and that was really – I mean it affected the heart, and so there were quite a lot of people died from it. And a lot of those patients were really sick.
Was it contagious?
No, it wasn’t contagious. It was just that you had to be bitten by this mite. But…
How would you care for
Well , in the early days, I don’t think, I don’t know that the treatment was penicillin, see penicillin was discovered early in the war. But it was mainly rest, and I don’t know what drugs – but it was mainly rest and care and rest. As you would
care for heart patients. And malaria, malaria was another medical condition we had a lot of, a lot of malaria cases came from New Guinea, they would have the high temperature, shivering and shaking and put them in bed and
pack blankets all over them and they would sweat profusely, and shivering and yes. They were really very sick. There were different treatments for the malaria patients, mainly they recovered, they could die from it, but mainly – it was very prevalent, malaria.
What sort of treatment would they have?
Drugs, different kinds of drugs.
There was Atebrin and – I can’t remember what the other ones were. When troops were preparing to go to New Guinea they were put on a course of Atebrin tablets. Made them look yellowy, but it gave some sort of immunity to their bodies in case they…
What kind of yellow did they go?
Well, like a jaundice yellow.
Did they look odd?
Yeah, well like you do if you are jaundiced. Or if you have got a liver condition, you know. Yes, the whites of your eyes look funny. Yes, yes.
And in your position how hard was it when a patient would die?
Yes, it was hard. It was very hard.
But mainly they were very sick, and you had to be prepared that they could die. And it was difficult, particularly if you had nursed them quite a lot.
If someone was close to death, what would the procedure be to sit with them or take of them, what would you do?
Well you would monitor them very carefully, you would watch them. If they were conscious well
you would be near them as much as possible, comfort them as much as possible, and the doctors and sister’s kept a very close eye on them.
Would you talk to them?
Oh you could talk to them if they could comprehend, I mean you wouldn’t say to them, “You are dying,” you know. Or try and give them words of comfort, just let them know you were there.
Would they ever want to talk about specific things?
Not that I can think of no, no.
What was the procedure on a ward when a patient did die?
Well, there is a whole chapter and verse in my book about Mortuary Mitch, this was a funny little fellow, who was – used to take the bodies away, and it was this fellow who was an
orderly, and he used to come with this contraption and he used to take, he and a helper would take the body away to the morgue. I don’t know what happened to it after that, it was obviously sent away for burial, but he was a not ghoulish, but a funny little man, and it seemed appropriate that he would be the one who looked after the bodies. And his name was Mortuary Mitch. I don’t know what his real name was.
What did Mortuary Mitch look like?
Well he was little and think and he had glasses, and he sort of wasn’t the dashing hero type, but he did a good job. But I don’t know how he came to get that job, but he did, and yes
we all remember Mortuary Mitch.
Did you ever talk to him or…?
I had to talk to him if he came to the ward when you were there. But I mean he was matter of fact, dying is part of living you know, so you take it in your stride. When you are dealing with sick people, you have to accept that they can die, and it’s part of living,
How would a death affect the mood on a ward?
Well, it depended on – if the patient was really very, very sick, and you felt it was better for him to die rather than struggle on, you were sort of glad that his suffering was over. But
if it was someone who died and it was something that could have been prevented, it was say, it was also sad for the people around who were perhaps friendly with that patient, then it was sad.
Would you ever have to comfort mates of someone who died?
No just to be around them actually. Carry on normally was the best thing to do,
try and get back to normal life, which was better than dwelling on what has happened. Better to carry on, not unkindly, not be unkind or uncaring, but just to carry on, after all there was a war on, so it wasn’t very unusual for people to die. So particularly these fellows that had
been in the frontline, they were used to seeing people die, and even when they came back to Australia, they accepted the fact that if you were very ill you could die. So that’s it.
Are there any particularly deaths on wards that stand out in your memory?
No, I don’t think so. Not that
I can recall. Don’t’ think so.
How did they move you from Charters to Atherton?
Well we would have gone by troop train, once again by train to Townsville, and I remember the train up to Cairns, and some how or other I was able to let my parents know, and they were able to come down to the station
when we passed through Cairns. And went on up to Rocky Creek. So I saw them – and that was the first time I had seen them since, particularly my father, it would have been nearly 12 months since I had seen my father and probably only a few months short of that since I had seen my mother. So, yes it was great to see them.
And what were they feeling about the kind of work you were doing?
Well, as I said before, I mean they were – they accepted the fact that there was a war on, and what I was doing wasn’t dangerous, I wasn’t in the firing line or anything. And I was doing a job. And people were patriotic, if you were doing a job that helped the war effort, well people respected you for doing it.
So, I think they were proud. Yeah.
What sort of things did you talk to them about when you saw them?
Well everyday things, it was good to get away from camp and talk about everyday, things and talk about what was happening in Cairns. It was better to get back to a normal life than talking what was going on at the hospital and that sort of
thing. I was glad to get back to normality for a little while.
The troop train up to Atherton was it a fast train or…?
No, no troop train was fast. They were all slow, yes. Chugged along.
Was it hard work for it to get up on to the Tablelands?
Well it would have been yes. Because it was – I can’t remember actually the trip itself,
because I mainly came at other times by car, by truck or something or other like that.
And on the troop train were there patients travelling with you?
Um, I am not sure. We didn’t have to look after patients I remember that, we didn’t have to look after patients, because I remember coming up in the train.
No we weren’t looking after patients, we were just passengers on the train.
What was it like to be reunited with the 2/2nd again?
It was great, we felt like we were back home. It was really – we were really very happy. And to be relocated in – well when we first went up there, we were in what was called the old site, and that was a fairly basic establishment,
a permanent site was being – was in the process of being established on the other side of the railway line, but it was complete in time for us to move over. The site we moved to had previously been occupied by the 5th Camp Hospital, which was a smaller concern. And they were moved down to Cairns,
and we moved into their location, which was pretty primitive – well it wasn’t as bad as Wootton, because it had more pleasant surroundings, but the conditions were pretty primitive. But after a few months the new site was completed and that was very different, it was much more comfortable. The wards were properly established, even though we just had two bed tents
to sleep in. But it was more pleasant – our ablution block was better and our mess was better, everything was better about it. The only good thing about the old site was a new pool which was called the devil’s pool, and it was a good swimming pool for the staff when they were off duty, they used to go down there and swim. The new site was a bit further away, but much better conditions than we had at
Wootton, so we were much happier about that.
End of tape
Interviewee: Joyce Fuller Archive ID 1713 Tape 06
This old site, the camp hospital site, what did it look like?
Well it was still a tented hospital, and it was the same as the others looked like. Except that the
facilities were pretty rugged, and it was really only a temporary site and it made it more difficult to work, and it wasn’t as comfortable, but it was still a hospital site. It
wasn’t as well structured. The new site was built as a more permanent site. Of course there were cement floors and the wards were all set out, actually in some of those books there is a description of the wards, 30 beds on either side of the central – where the sister’s office and the
sterilising room and the toilets and the kitchen, they were all in that part and with 30 beds on either side, that was the new site. But the old site, I think it was well basically the same but not as well set up.
Were there any permanent structures on the new site that had been built?
Well yes, I mean it was still tented,
but the centre block was prefabricated and well constructed and the floor was of a cement base, and incidentally, still in that area up there on the Tablelands, there were these cement blocks had been discovered that are still there from the period when the hospital was there. And some of the locals have done a lot of
clearing, and that area up there is a more permanent memorial, as long as you don’t – it’s a park, and it records the fact that so many different hospitals and troops, were stationed in that area during the war. And it’s well preserved and well kept. I am getting on to the new site here, that around
the tents the girls made gardens, and around the edges of the tents, and planted gladioli’s, and bulbs and things like that and over the years, these have still flowered, they see these dif… And over the years, these have still flowered, they see these different flowers come up. Bulbs last for years, they die down and then the bulb is still there and it will flower again.
So that’s been an item of interest that that site has lived on, and I am talking about the new site.
At the old site was there any differences in your role?
No, no just the same, we still did the same work except under more difficult circumstances.
What was more difficult?
Well you didn’t have the amenities
and the – well, you know what it’s like if you are working somewhere and there’s not proper amenities and it’s not properly structured, it’s more difficult to work than if it’s all set up so it’s easier to work and cope with.
How busy was the hospital at this stage of the war?
Yes, it was very busy. We were busy, there was a lot of – this was 1942, and
that was when there was a lot of fighting going on in New Guinea. And there were a lot of casualties coming through, some went down to the base hospital but a lot came to us on the Tablelands. There were 2 big hospitals – general hospitals up there, the 2/2nd and the 2nd 6th. Both close together up there, and they were both very busy hospitals, and a lot of troops came down
from New Guinea. And also there were a lot of troops stationed on the Tablelands, a lot of troops training to go to New Guinea. Of course there would be accidents, fellows would get sick, so it was much better to send them to a hospital that was close than send them down to a base hospital in Brisbane, so we were very busy.
I know it was obviously not where
they were fighting, they were fighting in New Guinea, but did it feel like a war zone to some degree?
Well, to a degree because you were just so aware of what was going on not so very far away. And the result of what was going on in New Guinea, was there in front of us. So, I wouldn’t say it was like a war zone, because I haven’t been in a war zone, so I couldn’t say that it was, but it was
very much that you were aware and it wasn’t that far away. And we were seeing the evidence of what was happening.’
How horrific was some of the evidence of what was happening?
We didn’t get the really horrific, I guess where people were smashed up badly, and they needed extensive surgery and
treatment, they would have been sent on to the big base hospitals, in Brisbane as well as other places. But, , the medical cases were very, very sick, because there were just so many malaria cases, and also established there was a malaria research unit, where
doctors worked on treatment for malaria cases, and they did a lot of very good research and had very good results with their results there, and had some very rewarding outcome from their work. And that was established up there on the Tablelands.
hearing some horrific stories from some of the men coming through?
Yes they told about the bad fighting, I mean on the Kokoda Trail it must have been terrible. Some of them didn’t talk about it they were badly shocked some of them, and they were just pleased, to be away from it all and be looked
after, and I guess they were thankful for that. So, yes.
What kind of behaviours or symptoms of this shock of what they had seen and what they had done?
Well some of them were very withdrawn, you used to call them the troppo cases,
they wouldn’t talk. Others were extreme, they were difficult to manage, but I think they eventually settled down. But I think some of them suffered more than others mentally, emotionally than others did.
Would you see any examples of men
having nightmares in the middle of the night?
Oh yes they often dreamed about it mmm.
What would you see, what would you hear?
Well they would yell out. It would be in their dreams and they would be yelling out. And if you were on night duty you would just have to cope with that and just go and be with them and pacify them. They might have to have tablets medication or something. Just to settle them down again.
What kind of
medication did you give for that?
They would give mainly the sedatives, I don’t know what the sedatives were called in those days – I mean the sisters did all the medication, to administer the medication. But it would be some sort of sedative to control their – settle them down, quiet them down.
What was the nightshift like?
Well mainly it was quiet, mainly it was quiet although you had to, it was very lonely, we used to have a meal about midnight. They would bring a meal around to us, a cooked meal, so that was because we were supposed to be sleeping during the day, if we did
sleep, so we would miss out on a main meal, so the meal we had at night time was really our main meal 24 hours. But then towards morning, some of the patients that needed to be sponged and bathed. Instead of leaving it towards early morning, we had to do them, they’d be bed patient’s we would have to get them
settled, bathed, and so it wasn’t so much for the day staff to do when they came on duty. But you had to do rounds and make sure that everyone was sleeping. They were all all right and go around with the torch, and yes, it was lonely though.
Was it ever eerie?
Well it could be. But mainly there would be a sister on with you, and there
be a wards man to come round and check on you and see that you were all right. Sometimes there would be one sister between 2 wards if they were close together. But mainly there was a sister on with you. You could write letters and do things like that if it was quiet. If there wasn’t anything – if you didn’t have any really sick patients. If you had any really sick patients, after surgery, patients that had had surgery, you might have to
keep a close eye on them, and it could be busy, could be. Depended on what sort of a ward it was, and how sick the people were. You could have some nights where it was quiet and quite boring, and others when you were kept on your toes all night.
Did you have any really difficult conversations with any of the men which were
going through the trauma and stress of what they had seen and done?
No, I don’t think so, nothing untoward that sort of upset you that would upset me. No, no I didn’t. No I don’t think so. I think for them to have us around and know that
things of normal where we were, and that they had people to care for them, that was reassuring for them.
Did it change of any of your perceptions of what war was like?
Well it made us very aware of what war was like. I don’t know that I had any preconceived ideas of what war like except you heard about
fighting in the frontline and that sort of thing. Well, obviously we were far removed from that, but it made you aware of the consequences of war, and it actually set the pattern for realisation in later years of how futile it all is. So.
I guess, I mean this might be an obvious question, but was it difficult seeing
men so young facing such?
Yes, yes it is. People you went to school, one of the boys I knew at school, he went into the air force and then to get word that he had been shot down and he was killed. Things like that really made you realise what was going on.
Did any of the men look surprisingly old for their age?
Well it took its toll. If they were in – if they had been in various, in very precarious situations, I think you could tell that it – I mean, I wouldn’t say it aged them, probably in later life it
probably took its toll, probably more so than in the early part of it, but , not in the early part I wouldn’t say that it aged them, it made a lot of the young ones grow up very quickly. A lot of them were just 18-year-olds, some of them had enlisted at 17, they were very young.
And very unaware of war was all about, it was just a big adventure and then they came face to face with it all, it was very difficult for them.
Were you given any briefings on how to talk to the men?
No, none at all actually. No we weren’t.
Did they tell you in any way how to deal with it or?
No I think you just had to use your common sense and be guided by the sister in charge of the ward if you came up against anything that you were concerned about, if you went to her, because she was more experienced, I mean , most of the sisters at 2/2nd were returned from overseas, and they had been through it all. And I think that
if anything – if you found anything stressful or worrying they would talk to you, help you – I can’t recall anything that really did worry me a lot.
Were there any sisters in particular that stood out in your memory that you worked with?
Yes there were several, one of them,
when we were setting up the new site at Rocky Creek, this was a sister, this was the ENT ward, there was Sister Baker, she was the sister in charge of the ward, and I was designated to go and do what she told me to do, and we had this 60 bed ward to set up, 30 beds on either
side and this structure in the centre, the sister’s room and the sterilising and the dressing room and everything, and I remember, this is something that really stuck in my mind, and we went there and there were these beds that had to be made, and this floor that had to be scrubbed with these big brooms, and you had to scrub this floor clean, and I thought this is what I’ll be, I’ll be donning the
gumboots and sloshing around in the mud, and the next minute she said to me “Nurse, go and make the beds,” and the nurse went and made the beds and she donned the gum boots and got behind the big broom. And I thought – that taught me, it gave me a lot of respect for some of those sisters. They had been through, , a rough time, and yet it wasn’t beneath them to do slushy work as well.
That’s why I say that I had a very high regard for the majority of them. Some of them just delighted in ordering the young ones around, but the ones that were really good, were really good. And another one, that we were – another senior sister who had been early in the war and went to England before she
went back to the Middle East, we were all very afraid of her, because she seemed so very strict and very proper. And then when – after the war, and when I came back to Brisbane and I got this job at the clinic on Wickham Terrace, I found that she was working for one of the
ENT doctors on the Terrace and she was the sister looking after the rooms. I became very friendly with her, and she was really very good to me. She was a very good friend to me, so from being, not very frightened of her, but holding her in much – well I don’t know the girls, we were all a bit frightened of Anne, Anne Marks,
but she was really a wonderful person and she was very kind to me, and very nice to me. When she – she was older than I was of course, and after she retired, she and another work from work, we used to go out and see her, and I have a very high regard for her. And another one, Sister Clinch, she was very nice to me. So I do remember. And it was all
those sisters that had been through the really hard times overseas that were the ones that really, they earned the respect that they deserved. They did earn it and they did deserve it. And we gave them the respect they deserved.
Were there any that were particularly nasty?
ever strike some that were nasty. Some of them were very stand-offish and you know, they just liked to order you to do – and they weren’t friendly in other words. But that was the minority, most of them were nice women.
Would you joke about the sisters?
Oh yes, yes, some of the wards we were – it was a very happy family sort of atmosphere.
Tell us about the new hospital, did it open up with any fanfare?
Oh no we didn’t have that during the war, no you just opened and you just transferred patients over from the old site and accepted new ones that came in and got back into it. No, no big deal.
Was the transfer a difficult operation?
No. I can’t remember the detail of it, but no things moved smoothly.
Staff were accustomed to – particularly those who had been in for a long time, they were accustomed to doing things like this and it did move smoothly, and with walking patients, it was no big deal. Those on stretchers, I can’t remember I guess they went in ambulances from the old site to the new site. No it was no difficulty
once we settled in it was fine, it was good.
Were there new aspects to the work?
No I don’t think so because it was basically still the same sort of patients, still the same sort of wards, you still did the same sort of work. It was easier to work in – under better conditions, and our living conditions were better.
Our accommodation was better, our mess was better, everything was better, it made life easier in other words.
Still a tented hospital but the ground was not?
Yes, it wasn’t as rough, it was more planning had gone into it, it just
didn’t happen, it was planned. And in some of those books over there, there are diagrams of layouts, they knew how the hospital was being laid out. It was all to a plan, which made it much easier for everyone, yeah, it was good.
How were the messes better?
Well, they were bigger, and better and things were more comfortable and the
Mess was bigger, and better organised and the kitchen’s were better. And the recreation hall was better, and it was easier, there was a big igloo there that they had built, that we had as our rec [recreation] hut. So, yes it was better all round.
What kind of things would go on at the recreation hut?
They had dances and parties and
they had picture shows sometimes. Often the picture shows were out in the open, and we used to take the patients along. So , yes it was much easier. I mean for a tented hospital, it was very good. No doubt the base hospitals that were all buildings, properly constructed
buildings were – it was easier for the staff. But there was something about working in a tented hospital that made it more exciting.
And , was George back on the scene at this point?
Oh yes, he was – well he was the radiographer in the Middle East, and he stayed with the unit, and he came back, and he was still there.
So what happened , between you two at this stage?
Well we were still going out together and then we decided to become engaged, and we were and then we sort of thought, and what really made us decide to marry it was about
six months after we got engaged, because there was talk of the unit was going to move overseas. See by this time – no I hadn’t moved at this time, I didn’t move until after we were married. But there was always talk that the hospital was going to move overseas to New Guinea. And there was a strong rumour at that stage that they were going to move, so we decided to get married. Anyway they didn’t move,
they didn’t move ever. Until the end of the war. I remember – but I moved, they wouldn’t let married couples stay in the same unit, so I applied for a transfer to the camp hospital at Cairns which was not far from my home, and after I was married that’s where I moved to. He was still able to come down on leave. I was able to go home on days off, so it was good
Tell us about your feelings about the idea that the hospital might be moved to New Guinea?
Well, I guess that that was something that was always – there were always rumours going round that that would happen, that that would be on. So you weren’t surprised if there were rumours were very strong that that was going to happen, you weren’t surprised.
So at this stage we just decided we’d get married. We’d been engaged for 6 months.
Did you want to go to New Guinea, did you have any trepidation about it?
I didn’t want to go, and he didn’t care because he had been overseas anyway, but he did never get there, but some of the girls who hadn’t been overseas were keen to go and they were bitterly disappointed when
the end of the war came and they had been taking this anti malarial medication in case they were sent and they never ever did get there and they were bitterly disappointed some of the girls. They wouldn’t have taken me anyway because I was married. They didn’t take married girls.
Tell us about
reigniting this romance with George because last time you told me that you weren’t that serious and he went away, and then
No he didn’t go away, he stayed with the unit.
He stayed with the unit but you went away, that’s what I meant to say. How did you start from a closer relationship at this stage?
Well I guess that when we came back from Charters Towers and rejoined the unit, he must
have come and looked me up. So we started off again.
And would you visit him when he was working in his role?
No. No. No I don’t really recall going to the X-ray department. No we – I don’t know how we communicated, we did.
Then if I was on day duty, see mostly the department the X-ray department wouldn’t be working at night-time unless there was something urgent and then you would have to be on call. He would have to stay around, but I don’t know how we – things just happened.
We went out, we would go into Atherton and we would go to picnics, they were still keen on these picnics. Any social affairs, parties that were in the mess. He belonged to the sergeant’s mess and I was in the AAMWS’ mess. I can recall more parties in the AAMWS’
mess than in the sergeant’s mess, but maybe I have just forgotten.
Would the party have a bit of alcohol at them?
Not officially, but I think there was a bit sneaked in.
Would that make for any rowdy scenes?
They wouldn’t have enough to make them – no that would have been frowned on. Just concoctions
made into a punch, a drink they would add some stuff to that and give it a bit of a kick along.
Do you remember when you first introduced George to your parents?
Not the exact time I can’t. But they did meet obviously before we were married.
He must have come down – we must have gone down to Cairns on leave – no I can’t remember the exact time actually. But they knew about him of course. They had seen photos of him before they met him.
How did they feel about your getting married?
They didn’t object, they thought it was okay they had met him
and thought he was okay. He had a profession behind him, they thought he could look after me well. They thought.
Tell us about the wedding and the lead up to the wedding?
We were married in Cairns. My parents were able to – no I think George and I had to organise
the padre from the unit, he married us, in the Catholic Church, he was a Catholic and I wasn’t. But the padre came down and married us in the Catholic Church. Some of the crowd from the hospital came down for the wedding and there were a few friends from Cairns that came, and of course it was wartime and my parents organised the reception at our home in Cairns
because Dad knew the photographer in Cairns we were able to get a studio photo which wasn’t easy in those days. So that’s the photo up there. We were married in uniform because it was too hard to get civvy clothes. The men could get civvies clothes, it would have been hard to get – some of the girls who were in the army, did dress as a bride, people
lent them or they scrounged material from here there and decked themselves up. And they were married in units or in Atherton, I know a couple of the girls who were married in Atherton. When they were still in the unit. But I was happy to be married in uniform. My friend, she had the navy uniform same as I did. Some
were in their khakis. So that was what the wedding was and we had about a week’s leave and we just stayed in Cairns, we just stayed at the Hyatt Hotel, which was the nicest hotel in those days. Then he went back to the 2/2nd and I joined 5th Camp Hospital in Cairns, and so there I stayed.
How did you feel about having to wear your
uniform, did you want to wear a dress or?
No I didn’t want to wear a dress, I thought it was rather more glamorous to be in uniform. I have never been sorry that I didn’t – I have never been sorry, I rather like that uniform wedding. I rather like the appearance, it was wartime, I think it was appropriate that that’s the way we should dress.
Who was your bridesmaid?
The girl that I was tenting with at that I had been with in Charters Towers, Eileen Davies, she was my friend and then we tented when we went up to Atherton, to Rocky Creek. And she was my bridesmaid and she was a special friend of mine. I was very fond of her. I kept the friendship – carried on over the years. She died about 10 years ago I suppose.
Was it a fun wedding?
I don’t know that it was a fun wedding, it wasn’t a sad wedding. It was happy. Yeah.
Were there any jokes, you know did you drive away in a car?
No we didn’t drive away. I don’t know, I think Dad – yes he did, Dad drove us to the hotel. No we didn’t have
that riotous send off of – well it was hard to get vehicles to do that sort of thing in those days, it was wartime and no it wasn’t.
And , what was the reception party like?
It was – it worked, it was nice, my parents had it catered for at home. Yes, and
some of the 2/2nd staff came down for it. And a few friends from Cairns attended, no it was a very happy occasion.
And tell us about having to change to 5 Camp Hospital in Cairns, did you feel sad about having to leave the 2/2nd?
Well I would have to, I knew I had to go somewhere, and I was lucky to be able to go somewhere close to home and close to the Tablelands.
So I was the best place for me to go. And it was a nice – it was located in a school at north Cairns, what we called in those days The Edgehill State School, and it was later called the North Cairns School. And the army took that over as a camp hospital. And we – the AAMWAs were accommodated in two
houses that they took over in Sheridan Street, it was over the road a bit from the hospital. So we lived in a house which was a change, which was fine. So, yes so – yes that was good. I couldn’t have gone anywhere else where I wouldn’t have been happier at
because of its location. And it was a nice hospital. I have got friends that I made there too. I have still got friends that I made there.
You were living there, could have you lived with your parents in camp?
No I don’t think so. No I don’t think that was an option. No if we had to go on duty, no, no I don’t think that was ever entertained. We lived in accommodation that
was, where we were directed to live. We lived in a house.
Why was there a rule about not being in the same unit as your husband?
You tell me. No it’s one of those funny army rules. Actually when we became engaged, we weren’t supposed to wear a ring, so I had it on a thing around my neck.
It wasn’t official, I don’t know why. It was a rule. None of my friends who married fellows from the hospital ever stayed in the same unit. Another friend who married before we did, she and her husband was also a member of the same unit, she came down, she was transferred down to Brisbane, to Greenslopes.
That’s where here home was, her parents lived in Greenslopes. He stayed with 2/2nd. I am not sure where Babs went, but she married before we did too. But you just didn’t stay in the same – it was just a rule you didn’t question the rules of the army.
End of tape
Interviewee: Joyce Fuller Archive ID 1713 Tape 07
How were you and George able to see each other when you were in Cairns and he was at…?
Well when we got leave we spent time at my home
that was the only time we were able to get together. Apart from just day leave when he would come down for that, and we just had to try and co-ordinate our leave time to match. But I mean this was not unusual in those days because a
lot of the people in the service were married and months would go by and they wouldn’t see the other person, it was very much accepted that you couldn’t expect to lead a normal married life. However, that was it.
How did your parents get along with George?
How did my parents? They got along well, yes they did. He fitted in
At the Cairns Camp Hospital were there any huge differences in the work you had been doing at Atherton?
No. Basically you still had patients to look after, and you do the same things. No really, there wouldn’t be many hospitals where your work would be different. Some of the girls
were employed – well that little that one that rang me, Rosa that rang me, she spent a little while in an RAP [Regimental Aid Post], I have forgotten what the RAP stands for, you know where the soldiers line up for injections and just different things. I have not spoken to her what she did, but I just know that she
spent a lot of time. So unless you were in a different – if you were a nursing orderly, you basically did the same things no matter where you were. Basically it wasn’t any different, just the conditions under which you worked could be different, but , the work itself was not.
Was there a difference in patients though between Cairns and Atherton?
Probably we didn’t have as much surgery at Cairns, it was a smaller establishment, there were more medical cases, I would think there weren’t as many surgical cases. It was very much on a smaller basis, the whole thing.
But , no it wasn’t really very different, you just had to get used to working with different people. The work was basically the same, we still had the same sort of duties.
And how had Cairns changed since you lived there previously?
Well it was only
a few years that – see I left in March 1942 and it was the end of 1943, towards the end of – so it wasn’t much more than a year
since I had seen the place, so – it really wasn’t because we went through Cairns – yes about 12 months from the time that I left Cairns that I went through on my way to the Tablelands. But it was just longer from when I transferred to the camp hospital at Cairns.
That was a longer period. But oh well it was – more troops around, so the umm, the life style was different, there was more activity, it was busier. More troops around, Americans around, and it was very much a city very much in – aware of the war.
So it was a lot different, it had grown in population because of the influx of troops. So it was busier, but I mean basically there weren’t new buildings and housing weren’t’ being built. And there wasn’t progress in that area. I mean other – places were taken over by the
army, see the school that where the 5th Camp was, was a school and the army took it over. See some of the students – some of the families left Cairns at that period and some of the children were sent to schools away from the coast. I know some children went to school up on the Tablelands, to Herberton and those areas round there where they had schools.
Some of them were located up there. So , there wasn’t much difference in building activity, the only building activity that went on was what the army was building. That was the only difference. But you were more aware of activities that involved service people. A lot of the people
when the navy – people were very hospitable to the members that were on the ship. There wasn’t much air force activity in Cairns, I am sure of that. The air force activity was more in Townsville and on the Tablelands, because they had a big aerodrome at Mareeba .
Did you find it hard to fit in and make friends at this new hospital?
Well, yes it wasn’t as easy as it had been spending time with those that I had been with right from the very beginning, but there was always a closeness with people in the services, you know you
lived under the same conditions and I mean these days you have got a bond with people in the services that you don’t have with people who weren’t. These girls that I went to school with at Kelvin Grove, we meet, there are five of us that meet, and two of us are ex-service women, well that is something that we sort of have in
common that the others don’t. Even though – it’s not as though we are different, we have just got something extra that they don’t have, and you’ll hear all ex-service women say that.
What do you think it is?
Well it’s the conditions that you lived under and worked under – I mean see we were the same age, the 5 of us all the same age, well the other girls all had
jobs and they worked in civilian jobs, and their lives weren’t different at all, whereas Margaret and I – she was in the navy, she was in Townsville, going from a sheltered home life to very rough conditions sometimes, basic conditions our life was very different from people who hadn’t been in the
service. So there’s just that little something that you have with ex-service people that you don’t have with people who – not that it is a great big thing, but it’s there.
And what led up to you getting discharged from the army?
Well after I got married, before too long I became pregnant I got discharged.
And what was your reaction to discovering you were
Well I was sorry that I had, I would rather have waited, but it wasn’t so easy in those days, it wasn’t as easy as it is these days. So I would have preferred that it hadn’t happened so quickly, but there you are that’s what happens with young people.
And how long did you – how long were you able to work – stay in the army and be pregnant for?
About 4 months I think it was, 4 or 5 months, yes.
And what was your feeling about having to leave the army?
Well, well I wasn’t happy I suppose, but I knew it was inevitable. And that was it.
And what did you do then?
Well I got my discharge, I had to go to Townsville to be discharged for some reason or other. And then I lived at home,
and there I stayed until David was born, and he was born in the Cairns base hospital, in the maternity section.
And was George with you then?
He was on the Tablelands, he wasn’t there when David was born, he was on the Tablelands, and Dad had to let him know.
He wasn’t able to get leave?
He got leave to come down and see me, but he wasn’t there at the birth.
And what sort of things
did you do at home living with your parents in Cairns before David was born?
Before David was born? Just prepared for the birth I suppose, I picked up the threads with some of the friends that I had made, friends I had before I went into the army, a lot of them were still there. That wasn’t difficult.
What was it like trying to settle into the different kind of life after…?
Well yes it was different, put it that way, it wasn’t
easy, but there were lots of other girls in the same situation, so. A lot – lots of them actually.
How were feeling about the prospect of motherhood and..?
Bit daunted, yes bit daunted, you just find your way and I had Mum to help me.
And what were the things about nursing or your work that you missed?
The lifestyle and being with people my own age, and what we had been through together, yes I missed my army friends, yes, I did miss my army friends. That’s true, I did.
Were there skills that you learnt during your time in the army, that
changed you, that were noticeable?
Well they made me grow up. Yes I matured, so it was I guess easier for me to adjust than probably what it was when I went into the army, to adjust from my lifestyle before when you suddenly go into the army and be confronted with a
very hard lifestyle, but when I came out of the army to go home, it was different and it was unsettling, but it wasn’t probably as hard, physically it wasn’t hard, but emotionally it probably was. But anyway, you just go on with life, I mean so many others were in the same situation.
Did any of the things that made you mature, grow up change your relationship
with say your mother at all?
Um, well possibly to a slight degree, because I had matured, and , and I was more independent, so I guess it did change it to a degree.
In preparation for having a baby the things that you needed to make or
sew, how did you obtain them during wartime rations?
Well , to make – see in those days, even when a boy was born he still had dresses, you didn’t put him in the clothes you put baby boys in these days, and I still had my debut frock, remember the one I showed you in the photograph, so I remember my debut frock being cut up and my mother made dresses for the baby. Somehow or other
we seemed to – and we had rations because civilians got ration books and we managed to make – I didn’t sew my mother did all the sewing, because it was in Cairns and you didn’t need warm clothes very much. We got enough, he was well clad, well prepared, we were able to buy – and a lot of people
handed on things, if you had difficulty getting things, so we must have got a cot from somewhere, I don’t remember exactly where, but we must have got a bassinet and then a cot, and a pram, all those things that were difficult to get, I think they were handed on from one to the other. Because wartime you learned to make do with things like that. You didn’t expect to just go
into a shop, although I guess with cots and bassinets, there wouldn’t – coupons were only used for food and clothing and things like that. Essential articles of furniture like a cot and a pram, I can’t exactly where we got those things from, but I can’t recall it was any difficulty to get them from wherever.
And what year was David born?
He was born in 1944.
What sort of prospects did you have for the future about when you were thinking the war might end and what George would do and…?
Well I knew I had to join him, and I knew he came from Sydney.
And I knew I would have to go down there, and he would be discharged in Sydney, so I knew I would have to go down there when he got his discharge, and live down there, and that’s exactly what happened.
Well tell me about sort of the lead up to that, where were you when you heard the war had ended?
I had come down to Brisbane by that time because George had been transferred from
2/2nd to – it wasn’t the Greenslopes, it was to one of the other – Holland Park or some other where they had X-ray units. So he had been transferred down, so I came down from Cairns. In the meantime my parents had – Dad had been transferred from Cairns to Dubbo. And I was able to get a couple of rooms in Cairns where
I lived with David until – and he used to come down on leave and spend time with us. And then when he was transferred down to Brisbane, I came down to Brisbane and lived with my aunt at Bald Hills, Brisbane. And that’s where I was living when peace was declared. David was a baby and peace was declared
in 1945 so. So that’s where I was, and George was discharged in January 1946. And then I went down – I went down and I must have gone down to Dubbo to Mum and Dad because Mum looked after David while George and I went off to Sydney and had a holiday after he got his
discharge and we had a holiday in Sydney.
And what was your reaction when you heard about the war being over?
Oh great joy everywhere, it was a very joyful time.
Describe the celebrations in Brisbane for me?
I wasn’t actually because I had a young baby, I couldn’t go and join in the celebrations, but some of the other girls were in Brisbane described, and there are photos around that showed people gathered in the streets, and
everything was very joyous. And the prospect of the families – the men and women coming home was just great. A big relief to know that six years at last it was ending. Yes it was a long six years.
And what were George’s plans
for work after the war?
Well, we came down, yes I came down and joined him in Sydney, and we had this holiday.
Whereabouts did you holiday?
In Sydney, we stayed at Neutral Bay at a hotel or guesthouse on the water there at Neutral Bay, which was very nice. I think we had a week there. And I am not sure whether I went back to
Dubbo while he found a job, and somewhere for us to live. And in those days, it was difficult to find somewhere to live. You had to pay key money, what was called key money to get a flat. So he got this flat at Bondi, I can’t remember the amount of key money he had to pay, but he had to pay key money to get the
key, for this flat, and that’s where we lived, and that was quite nice, it was quite a nice self contained flat, two bedrooms, it was just a block of four units in Sydney. So then I came down and joined him, he got a job, he didn’t go to a hospital, he got a job with an X-ray firm.
Life was different. Yes, he found it a bit hard to settle down. I wasn’t happy in Sydney, because I knew no one, or I had one friend, a friend who had been in the army with me. She lived at Leichhardt. She had married, but she didn’t have any children at that stage. She used to come and see me at Bondi, and she was a good friend,
but she was the only friend I had in Sydney. My in-laws were well, I don’t think they – they were pleasant enough to me, but they didn’t like me that much I don’t think and I didn’t like them terribly much either. George’s sister was in the army,
she was a sister, a nursing sister, and she had gone to New Guinea, and she was pleasant enough, but it wasn’t a closeness with that family.
Do you wish that you had spent more time finding out about George before?
Yes, it would have been better, I was
I was young and impressionable. I knew that he drank a fair bit, and I knew that he’d been – he’d lost rank, he’d been a staff sergeant because he was in charge of the X-ray department, and I knew because he – he’d go AWOL [absent without leave], but from the time he became friendly with me, he didn’t do any of those things, and I thought that all he needed was me.
So yes, I – if I had been older I would probably – I placed more importance on his kindness, he was a very kind person, as someone said to me years later, he was a gentle man as well as being a gentleman. He had a lot of good points. He had a good sense of
humour. Incidentally, my daughter-in-law and he had a good relationship, she – he liked her and she liked him, they got on very well, and this was years later of course. This was Paul’s wife, but it wasn’t what I would call a good marriage.
And do you think that the fact that you met during the war led you…?
Yes, yes, yes, people
were, lots of people married people they shouldn’t have married. But you sort of got carried away, and you looked for the wrong things. He had good manners, he used to walk on the correct side of me and you know, he was always having a meal he would wait until I started eating, all the things I was used to. Some fellows didn’t
do. Which shows I was young and impressionable and should have had more sense.
These good points of his character, did they change when he started drinking?
No not really, no it was just that he didn’t provide well for us, and I mean we had a meagre existence because money was very tight. Yes
so, no basically he didn’t change in himself. It was just a problem he had.
Did you have anyone aside from your friend in Leichhardt to support you?
No. No. Well his parents thought he couldn’t do anything wrong because he was the only son.
And his sister?
His sister she was
basically a social butterfly, she – I mean they were – I was from a different sort of culture from what they were. They – his mother liked to live beyond their means, you know she – and Dawn liked to live beyond their means, and I wasn’t used to that sort of thing.
I was accustomed to more stability in my life. But , there you are.
And so, did you have to make any tough decisions regarding your relationship with George?
Well no not at that stage. Eventually I had Paul, that was not until 1947, 3 years after David was
born, I had Paul, I made sure I didn’t think that we were financially established to have any more children anyway. We decided to do it, all sorts of promises that everything would be easier and better. So I did. And then George was offered a job at the Forbes Hospital as the radiographer there,
so I thought if we got away from Sydney it might be better. So we did and I mean Forbes was not very far from Dubbo and I was close to my family and away from his, so it seemed to me to be a good idea. But things were – didn’t change basically, he still drank too much, and money was tight. He knew he had a problem. So eventually he – well he lost his job at Forbes because he was
because of his drinking problem. So he took us over to Dubbo and asked my father if we could stay, the boys and I could stay with until he got himself right. It took him 7 years to do that. But it did, we came back to transferred, Dad was transferred back to Brisbane. The boys and I came too, and I was still living with them, and I got this job – and when we came back to Brisbane
I did get a job in Dubbo with a travel agent actually, because I had no money and Dad was able to – he knew someone and so I got this job. And we came back to Brisbane and applied for this job that was advertised at the Brisbane Clinic, just a clerical job, that was a clinic of – at that stage there were about 26 specialist
doctors, this was 1952, and I applied for the job and got it. Stayed there for 31 years.
And during the 7 years you were apart from George how often did you see him?
Not at all, no contact, no.
Where did he go?
He was in Sydney.
What did he do?
I have no idea. No just didn’t have any contact at all.
Did you attempt?
How were you feeling towards him when he left you in Dubbo?
Well unhappy but I waited for him to make the move, I wasn’t going to take him up?
Did you want to continue your relationship with him?
Not unless he changed.
What was it like given the time that you were essentially a single mother?
It was difficult. But I was lucky that I had my parents, they provided
food and shelter for me basically, and I earned money for the boys and myself.
Was there any sort of social stigma that you suffered?
Not actually a stigma, , no it wasn’t a stigma it was just – I mean that wasn’t terribly unusual as a result of wartime marriages.
I wouldn’t call it a stigma, it wasn’t desirable but it wasn’t a stigma.
And how did the boys react to…?
Well they accepted that their father lived in Sydney, and we lived where we did. And I never ever spoke disparagingly of him to them, I just said he lived in Sydney.
Did they, especially David have any memories of their father’s behaviour?
And what kind of a relationship did they develop with your parents?
They always had a very close relationship with my parents. My father was the father figure for them.
And so how did George come back into your life?
Well he got himself right, got a job at the children’s hospital, there was a superintendent there he had known before.
The superintendent gave him a job at the children’s hospital, and came back and presented himself – he wrote first of all and said he would like to see us, would we see him. I agreed to meet him in town that seemed to be fine. After a few meetings he came down and saw Mum and Dad and the boys. With the prospect of coming back that we should start living together again.
The boys were very pleased, very delighted at the prospect.
How was it for you?
Oh yes, it was good because he was okay. He was okay at that stage, but he didn’t stay okay.
Had he changed in terms of the man that you first met?
No, no, except that he wasn’t drinking. No he was still the
same. I wouldn’t have had him back if he hadn’t.
What sort of things triggered his drinking?
What sort of?
Triggered his drinking?
Well he was diagnosed many times as having an anxiety neurosis, which one doctor said he had had right from childhood, he applied to the army to get an entitlement for his health, and the fact that he was smoking
heavily, and drinking. And they said it was an anxiety neurosis. This was a psychiatrist that said this. An anxiety neurosis that he had had since childhood and yet he was accepted into the army as A1 [top condition], so. It wasn’t until after he died that I was persuaded to apply for a war widows entitlement, and they accepted it. But the fact that he didn’t have any entitlement on his own
behalf was ironic really. He didn’t actually – he died of acute – obstructive airways, acute airways obstruction. His lungs were in a shocking state. But I mean, it wasn’t evidence, he didn’t seem to be – have a lung condition, but that was what
his PM [postmortem] discovered, diagnosed as the cause of death. There you are. He was only 65 when he died.
And in the years that you stayed together, was it important for you to keep your job for independence and security?
Yes, yes. Exactly.
Did you suspect that things wouldn’t continue to be…?
Well no, I initially I
didn’t suspect that, but I thought this was an opportunity for us to get some money together, and to be able to buy a home, because he didn’t have any money and nor did I. I mean I had money to provide for the boys and myself, but I didn’t have enough money, I couldn’t save money to buy a house. So I thought when he came back that this was an opportunity to do that. So that’s why I continued working and
just as well I had. Because after a time he started drinking again and being at a hospital he was able to get sedatives, valium had that sort of thing, if he was agitated or something, he would pop one of those. He was in and out of hospital for the rest of the time – I mean he
worked at the kids [children’s hospital] and then he would be in hospital for so many months, and then he got a job at Greenslopes and he was there for a while, and he would crack up again and go into hospital and eventually he got a job at Redcliffe, and we bought a house at Redcliffe and he was there, but then
his period of being okay and not okay, well it went on and on. So it wasn’t a good life. But we stayed together.
Was this the right decision?
In some ways it was but in other was it wasn’t. But I preferred it, where would he have gone otherwise? And I couldn’t bear to think that – of him. Goodness knows what would have happened to him.
He stayed and I continued working.
And during these difficult years, were any of the skills and lessons that you learned from your army time, what skills helped you get along?
Resilience probably, that’s the best one I would say.
Toughened, it toughened me up. We plodded along.
What about your abilities as a carer that your time as a nurse had taught you about keeping your eye on patients?
I feel it didn’t make me as tolerant
as often – since then, since he died in 1981, I have often thought that perhaps I should have been more tolerant, but I tried, dear god I tried. See we had another trauma in that period, , David – this is going to be.
When you look back at your entire time during the war, what would sum up as the best memories or the best things you would take away from that time?
Probably the friendships that I have made, I would say that was the most important thing, and I have been able to keep. And we still keep that friendship
and that’s really what keeps a lot of us going. Is that friendship. That was probably it. You learn to be resilient and roll with the flow, go with the flow. Or roll with the punches. Yes, yes, I mean I am very
glad that I had my army life. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
Finally just as we are at the end of this tape, are there any final words you would like to say to sum up what we have talked about today, or anything you think we might have missed?
No, I think you have
covered a large area of my life. I have a lot to be thankful for and I am thankful for it. I am reasonably well, despite the fact that I will be 81 this year. I still am able to keep in touch with my friends, and I have a great family, so I am lucky. I would say that’s about it, everyone should count their blessings, and I count mine.
End of tape