Archive number: 1738
Date interviewed: 29 March, 2004
You are listening to the interview audio
Anne, whereabouts in Perth did you grow up?
Until I was about twelve it was in the Hills in Darlington.
And what was it like in Darlington?
It was pretty rustic but it was nice for kids. I enjoyed the life, the only
worry about a place like that, was fighting bushfires and things occasionally. There weren’t so many houses then, so there were a couple of bushfires. They didn’t haunt me as a child but we went back to live there in the ‘80s and it worried me a bit. It was a nice place. You knew everybody of course, or everybody knew you.
It sounds like it would have been quite a small community?
What sort of things would happen as part of that community on a social basis?
There’d be concerts and yearly things. I always remember as a kid, we always had a fancy dress ball every year. It was a big to do. And the Hills Eisteddfod, a musical and reciting poetry and everything that was quite an event up there and everybody caught the
train. Of course when we came back to Western Australia in the ‘50s and found there were no trains any more – everybody used the train. We used it to school and because it was becoming a bit of a chore, we moved down to Perth during our secondary education. It was pretty active and like a country town in a way. We’ve lived in a country town so I
know. There were the usual occupations like ‘Guides’ and ‘Scouts’ and the Red Cross and all that sort of thing. Our parents were active in that sort of thing and played bridge.
Sorry what sort of things were your parents active in?
They belonged to different things. My mother was Commissioner for Guides for the Hills and my father went to Perth, to work every day, he was in the government.
My brother went to Guildford Grammar and my sister and I went to Perth College, so we used to catch the train. It was quite active. There are more ‘arty’ people up there now and people who draw and paint and produce wine and all sorts of things now, that they didn’t then. There were artists and a lot of
professional people lived up there.
How many people in your family?
My personal family or my family when I was small?
Your immediate family when you were small?
A brother and a sister and my parents. My sister died during the war unfortunately. She was in the AAMWS [Australian Army Medical Women’s Service]. I don’t know if you want me to talk about that at the moment.
We’ll definitely touch on that a little bit
later on. What sort of sport did you play?
I played tennis and basketball and a bit of hockey and swimming. Nobody had swimming pools though. You had one at school later on but you went down to the baths to learn how to swim in Perth.
So it was the Perth Baths?
We had a pool at Darlington in the river, which has gone now apparently. We had a wonderful pool called the Big Pool and we just had to learn to swim because it was deep. You’d walk through the bush to that, no trouble. It was two miles through the bush. And we’d walk to school, primary school. It was a good little primary school up there.
I’ll ask you a little bit about your primary school but can we just pause for a second.
I just wanted to talk a little bit about the primary school that you were in at Darlington. What was it like?
It was a very nice little school. There weren’t many pupils though. I suppose there would be maybe 70 or 80 and no more at any one time. The building is still
there, the original building. We had good teachers. They had a jubilee in the early ‘80s, when we were living up there again and they had it at the old school. After that they had reunions every year at our house. The people that came it was amazing all the old people we’d
been to school with.
What was discipline like?
It was pretty good.
So quite strict?
Yes. I can’t remember anyone getting the cane or anything like that though. I think you had to write out lines and things like that.
I don’t know academically what it was like, except to say, I was ‘Dux’ and then I went down to a college and I found I was a ‘small cog in a big wheel’ then not a ‘big cog in a small wheel’. It was different altogether. So I don’t really know how good the standard was but I think we had a pretty
good grounding in the basic subjects and we did extra things like ‘eurhythmics’.
What is that?
That is like gymnastics, mild gymnastics. We had a wonderful teacher called Stella O’Keefe and she used to take us for things like that. We had music and singing and lot of music. As I
say, it was only a very small school. We walked every day to school and walked home for lunch or took our lunch sometimes.
What sort of subjects did you enjoy?
I liked the humanities and English and languages more than maths and physics and chemistry and so on. I continued with languages at
secondary school as well.
What sort of things did you get up to on the weekends?
Walking and riding bikes and visiting friends’ houses, or them coming to us. There was never a difficulty about that. My brother had
a pony but I think it was borrowed. I don’t think it was ours. He used to ride that. We had no trouble finding things to do. We would just play. And it was the ‘Depression’ remember and you didn’t have a lot of material things at all, but we had fun and were always happy.
How did the ‘Depression’ affect your family?
We wouldn’t have known there was a depression really. In those early days you didn’t have washing machines and refrigerators. There were just ice chests. We wouldn’t have known there was a depression. We were happy with what we got for Christmas and our birthdays and so on. It was a lot of
fun but it was a different world.
Did you have any chores?
Yes. I helped with washing up and clearing the table. I was fairly young, so I don’t think I cleaned the house and that sort of thing. I can’t remember us having a vacuum cleaner, it was this straw broom
and wet newspaper and a carpet sweeper later.
A straw broom and wet newspaper?
I heard somebody over the air ring in about that and nobody knew what they were talking about, but they didn’t say wet newspaper they said you tore it into strips and you put it onto the floor but you wet it and the idea was that the dust would collect on the newspaper and not hang in the air and it was very effective with the
So you put newspaper on the floor?
And then you swept the newspaper and that would pick the dust up and it was very effective.
I haven’t heard that?
Haven’t you? Later on there were carpet sweepers. There was not a lot of thick carpet or anything, it was usually polished floors and mats and carpet strips and so on as far as I can remember
but not wall to wall carpets. They were to come later.
So where did you actually go to high school after finishing primary school?
I went on to Perth College for two years and then on to Perth Tech [Technical College] to do my Junior and my commercial course in shorthand and typing and bookkeeping which equipped me for the air force.
Just rewinding back to when you went to Perth College, is it after you’d come out of primary school?
Yes, at Mount Lawley.
What changed as part of your curriculum from primary school to high school?
Not a lot, they were just called different things but I still went on with geography and history
and didn’t do physics and chemistry but all those subjects were available. And German and French and Latin, I think were the three languages that were available and English of course. Then I kept studying those at Perth Tech and did that in combination with the shorthand and typing and elementary
bookkeeping and commercial methods which was the business college course.
Was that something that you were attracted to, the business side?
It was an option and most girls in those days, most either went into nursing or did a commercial course and went into an office. Not many went to
university. We didn’t stay at school. I was working at 16 ½ and bringing money into the house and so were most of my friends and my sister too. The opportunities weren’t there to do other things. My sister had done a commercial course before me and she was in a bank, so I just
followed what she did. I had an aptitude for it, apparently. You had to be pretty fast. I don’t know if you know anything about shorthand, Pitmans?
Not really. Tell me about it?
And touch typing of course. You had to be a certain speed before you passed your – we had what was called a ‘Junior’ at 15 years and a ‘Leaving’ at 17 which became
matriculation later and then TEE [Tertiary Entrance Examination] and then the Junior was done away with. But at 15 you went for that medium sort of exam and I got the languages and English and drawing and things like that and also another year of doing the commercial side of it, the typing and shorthand. In shorthand it w`as about 100 or 110 words per minute and in typing it was about 100 – no, 80 I think was the
pass rate for typing and that’s quite a lot.
Yes I’m thinking that’s a lot?
And shorthand, I got a fair speed at that. I still use my shorthand. It’s a wonderful thing to have. If you want to take the words of a song down or anything from the radio.
I wish I knew how to do it, but they don’t teach it any more?
Aren’t they still teaching it in business college?
Probably in business college, but it’s not something that you learn as part of normal skills in high schools?
I recommend it to anybody because I was doing journalism after the war, working on a newspaper and so on and it’s absolutely invaluable. I’ve used it forever and I still use it. You never forget. It’s a year, it is not like sort of picking it up in a couple of months like my daughter did, to try and help her
because she’s a lawyer. You stuck at it for a year and that stayed with you all your life.
Did you enjoy your time at the technical college?
Yes, I was a prefect and there were boys because it was mixed. It was my first mixed school. Perth College wasn’t, it was just a girls school, a church school.
It was quite good and I enjoyed it there. And then I finished and as I say, I was working at 16 ½.
So how did you go about finding a job?
Well I think it was that the family knew somebody. I was in a newspaper office and then I supposed that wetted my appetite initially for journalism and then I finished in a bank and I
joined up from the National [Australia] Bank. We were taking the place of men in the National bank and then we were asked to take the place of men in the services as well. So I joined up when I was with the National Bank but I was already 19 by then.
Just going back to when you started out working was that in the newspaper?
Yes but it was secretarial work it wasn’t
actually doing reporting, I did that after the war.
Is this the ‘West Australian’ that you were a part of?
The Sunday Times. I was a little office girl and that’s all.
What would be an average day for you?
Hours-wise you mean?
Just in what you did?
I did mainly secretarial work and accounts and things like that.
I was secretary to a couple of the bosses. I did letters and correspondence where I’d take dictation in shorthand and type it as you probably know. With computers now and so on, people don’t know what I’m talking about, or they won’t know what I’m talking about it. I don’t know if you’ve interviewed any of the other
girls who were different things and different trades but I don’t know how many were commercial, but there would have been quite a lot I think, that would have done a commercial course before the war.
What did you like about being in the newspaper at that time?
I didn’t have much to do with the writing side of it, that came later, after the war but I was interested. I was in the office all
day. People needed things typed and most of the journalists did most of their own typing, you know, with two fingers. I did quite a lot for them but it was mostly just in the office, office work.
Were you still living at home at that stage and were your parents still –
I lived at home right up until the time I joined up.
Were your parents still living in Darlington?
No we had moved back to Perth by then. I went in a tram I think because there were trams in Perth then. It’s sad they’re no longer. I ‘trammed’ out to school at Perth college for a while, after we moved down and
walked to the Technical College because we were up in Adelaide Terrace/Victoria Avenue and it wasn’t a problem getting anywhere by train or tram or walking.
What sort of social things did you do as you were getting a little bit older?
One house we lived in, we had a tennis court, so we played quite a lot of tennis and I belonged to
King’s Park Tennis club for a while, before I joined up. I went to people’s houses. I didn’t have a lot of parties because I wasn’t very old. We enjoyed ourselves and went to films and on walks.
How about boys, would you go out with boys at all?
Later on. We had balls in Perth the year before the war. We used to have the Bankers’ Ball and the Red Cross Ball and the Insurance Company Ball and quite big affairs, they were with our glad rags [best clothes]. That would be when I was older, about 17 or 18 but there wasn’t much of that before I joined up of course.
We had fun and it was good.
How important was that dancing and the fund raising sort of thing?
It was really very important. They were dependent on those sorts of functions to raise money.
How would you go about getting a frock together?
Good question. My mother sewed and she would usually
make one, or perhaps the last couple I had, would have been bought. You could get a really nice frock for not a big price. I suppose what I was earning helped to pay for it too and no doubt the parents helped as well. I can’t remember. But you know there was a lot of taffeta and lace and they were nice.
You’ve gone from the newspaper – what was the next job?
The National Bank, and a secretary.
Had the war broken out by that time?
Is that why you moved to the bank?
No. I think it was just promotion and nearer to home probably too. The
men had gone from the bank to join up and they took on what they called ‘temporary women’, as temporary staff until the men came back and I was one of those, but I wasn’t there long enough of course to worry about being permanent. I was secretary to the branch manager and did the same sort of work as I’d been doing. And then I joined up from there. I got the urge to
join up and the WAAAF [Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force] was the first service to call up women, except for nurses. It was the first out of the army, navy and air force. So I joined up in 1941, in about September and then I was called up in October and went to Melbourne to train.
I went on the train.
I’ll just rewind you back a little bit. First of all, I’d like to find out how women were treated in the bank because up until this point, it was a very male-oriented industry. Was there any sort of funniness going on with how men treated you?
No, not really.
no. I think we, at that age would have taken it for granted a bit I suppose, but I can’t remember it being an issue. As I say, a lot of the men, the young ones, had gone from the bank at that stage and there were only the older ones left, who couldn’t go.
It was good. I enjoyed it in the bank.
What did you enjoy most about it?
The girls were nice, very nice. Some of them had been there for a while, a couple of the senior girls. It was just a nice atmosphere.
How much did people talk about the development of the war in Europe?
Quite a lot. We were vitally interested because my brother had gone to England in 1936 and he was working for De Havilland Aircraft Company, designing planes. We were involved to that extent and we had all been going before the war and the war stopped us and we were going to wait until it blew over, which it didn’t of course.
designing De Havilland planes?
Yes he was designing in De Havilland, yes. And he’d gone early, before the war broke out, so when war broke out of course there was all the worry about him. But everybody was interested. They all had somebody who was in the war by then. Then my sister had been in the VADs [Voluntary Aid Detachment] which became the AAMWS, Australian army Medical Women’s Service.
And she was called up and she was at Northam, at the hospital there and they were all under canvas for two years. The Japanese then came into the war and bombed Pearl Harbour [December 7th, 1941], so the girls that were going to the Middle East, stayed at Northam. A lot of the New Zealand girls were on their way and they were there too.
They finally ended up in New Guinea later. The first contingent went to the Middle East, the first contingent of AAMWS, nurses, but she was the second one and they wouldn’t ever go. They just stayed there and then went to New Guinea.
What did your mother think about your sister being called up?
Well I joined up
voluntarily. We all did. She wouldn’t have liked it, I don’t suppose but it didn’t show. Having a son away and then a first daughter and then a second one, must have been quite an upheaval, but then everybody was going to the war.
How much was that a social pressure at the time to sign up and go to the war?
Not much really at all. There was only one other girl at the
bank, who joined up at the same time as I did. No, I can’t remember there being any pressure but we were very patriotic and I think that was where the pressure would have come from, the fact that we were patriotic, and to do something for the country, instead of knitting socks and things like that. My mother was knitting balaclavas. And the amount of things they
produced was marvellous and they were working in canteens and things like that, a lot of them did at home. And then a lot went into nursing.
Did you ever consider going into the nursing field?
I would have liked to have been a nurse originally, but my family thought that I would have been too soft or something. I don’t know but I remember my brother saying
“No, no, it’s not for you.” I was happy going into the commercial side.
What was it like to say goodbye to people that you were really close to?
Very hard. It was hard.
How would you say goodbye to them, would it be a celebration?
No. The war was on, so there were no parties or things like
that. It was just quiet family gatherings and so on. I had a lot of aunties and uncles and I expect they all came and said goodbye to me from the country. But no, it was different and the boys had gone. Lots of our friends had already gone overseas and been killed, a lot of them already.
That must have been hard to deal with particularly in the early stages?
Yes, it was. They were so young. And a lot of the ones my sister and I knew, had joined up as air crew, so they didn’t last very long, a lot of them. Later on in headquarters in Melbourne, I used to check the casualty lists and
mark them off on the records. That was sad too. I saw a lot of people that I knew.
How would people be informed that somebody was missing or deceased?
They’d get a telegram usually. The telegram office would come to the door with a telegram. That was the way. You didn’t get a
phone call or anything for the people that had phones. That is how it was usually conveyed to them. I can remember my husband telling me, he was a New Zealander, and I can remember him telling me about a family that lived near them in Timaru and they had three
sons who had gone, and they got a telegram for the first one, and the second one, and the third one. It was the only time he heard the screams from down the street.
That’s just tragic?
I think usually they tried not to send brothers into the same unit, but they couldn’t stop them. Alan was a pilot and his two brothers were pilots and they all
came home. So it was just unfortunate and that happened quite a bit and later I think they tried to avoid sending them to the same area anyway, but a lot of that happened and in the First World War as well.
Could we just pause for a moment there Anne?
That’s all right. With joining up why did you join the service that you decided to join?
That was the only one calling women up then, apart from as I said, nurses who had already joined. I don’t know about air force nurses, but the
air force was the first one that called up women with my qualifications in 1941. There were a few hundred first called up and then a larger number were called up. Probably most of the early ones were from the eastern states I think, the first few hundred, and then they called them up from here because of
course, the logistics of getting them across the ‘Nullarbor’ and so on, must have been enormous. So I was in the first lot I think of air force girls to go. It was a troop train. Do you want me to talk about that?
I’m interested to find out how it was advertised and how you knew about it?
We would have known. It was advertised
that they wanted girls for the air force and why and so on. My father would have been a big influence and he would have followed all that up. I suppose they thought it would be good for me, to get away from home. I’d never been away from home except up to the wheat belt, up to my uncle’s on holidays and things like that. We were all like that. We’d all lived at home and never been away from home and it was an awful shock when we did
finally join up.
Did you join up with any of your friends?
Yes, two or three of my close friends joined up with me. I think there were about 26 in our lot because at that stage, they wanted us to take the place of
men but in my case there weren’t men doing stenography and short hand typing, or not many. There might have been one or two. They wanted us for administrative positions and so there were a few ‘clerk generals’ and there were a couple of ‘stores clerks’ and a driver and a cook and of course wireless operators and telegraphists that would have been in that lot
initially. That was before Pearl Harbour. We were in Melbourne when Pearl Harbour happened and then of course there was a tremendous rush to call everybody up. And I was at the hub of everything too, being in headquarters.
I’ll just rewind you a little bit.
Joining up it just happened. Everybody was doing
something and the boys had all gone and everybody as I say was patriotic. I hadn’t, I suppose thought a lot about leaving home and it must have been hard. I remember it being hard and saying goodbye. It was a long way from Perth to Melbourne
then. You couldn’t hop on a plane or anything.
How did you actually go about joining up? Was there a place that you had to go?
There was a recruiting office that you had to go to and then you had to do tests. You had aptitude tests and written tests and then you had to go through the medical. The medical was fairly extensive. Then you got notification and I got my
letter saying that I’d passed all those things and to report. And it wasn’t long afterwards that I was told to report to Perth Railway Station.
So it was really quite a selective process that you were going through at the time is that right?
Yes, I think so, yes, because they would have had the air force
recruiting office here and been told to get in so many at one mustering and so many at another, I imagine. Although I suppose, that anyone who wanted to join up would be accepted if they passed everything. And then they would be able to select the mustering, or be asked if they’d like to do a certain job because they did all sorts of things. They did all the things the men did except fly.
They wanted to fly. There were a few that learned to fly but they weren’t allowed to.
Really, did you actually hear of women who had learned to fly?
Yes, there were a few women who had flown but mostly from the eastern states, though I don’t know of any in the west. But we were not allowed to go overseas either and that was the other thing that hurt. We all volunteered for overseas service and we all had our shots, tetanus,
typhoid and smallpox without question in the event of us going overseas but then we weren’t allowed to.
It sounds like that came as a bit of a blow?
Well we had volunteered and especially now – we didn’t get a gold card – I shouldn’t mention that I suppose – or those benefits because we didn’t get those benefits because you didn’t go overseas.
It was through no
fault of your own or any lack of determination on your part?
No. We did have English WRAF [Women’s Royal Air Force] out during the war because I had to entertain some of them and we were hoping to have a swap over. But, no, the nurses of course went. I think there were two WAAAFs who were
sent on special duty to Port Moresby I think, to teach a chef, the cooks. I don’t know whether that was official but it was mentioned in a couple of books. Also when General MacArthur came to Australia, the American General, he wanted to ‘take back’ to the Philippines, later on, at about the end of
’44 I suppose it would have been or ’45, take a couple of our fully-trained wireless operators with him to the Philippines and they wouldn’t let them go. So they brought young GI [General Infantry] women out from America and trained them and took them and that rankled a bit. That’s mentioned in the book too.
So Australian women were quite perturbed and
‘miffed’ about those sorts of positions?
Not at the time I suppose but they did wonder. They didn’t make a big thing of it at all. They just did their job.
You were saying that you got called up to the railway station. Was that quite immediate?
It wasn’t long after I’d been told that I’d
passed everything and been accepted into the ‘service’. That was at the beginning of October and then I left by train at the end of October, as far as I remember. It was not just us. There were army, navy and air force boys then on the train including some from the [HMAS] Sydney. And we talked and got to know quite a few of them. We were allowed bunks. The girls had
bunks to sleep on. For meals, they set up trestles next to the train and you got out had had your meals. It was an experience.
What sort of meals were they giving you on the train?
Corned beef and salad and things like that and bread. We had plenty to eat. It was
powdered milk by that time though and that sort of thing but we had plenty to eat. It was ‘stodge’.
Were you getting better food than you think by the men?
Not in Australia, no.
On this train trip?
No. There was no special treatment except that we did have bunks to sleep on and they didn’t, as far as I know.
Interviewee: Anne Macleod Archive ID 1738 Tape 02
So what were the conditions like on the train across the Nullarbor?
They were pretty good, as far as I remember. It wasn’t luxury like it was now of course. It was just carriages like the old passenger carriages.
Can you describe them?
Well there would be a passage down them and you’d go in and there were seats like that, which converted into bunks much like they have now
except I think, they would have been a lot older. I think the train would have been pretty old.
Who was in your compartment do you remember?
Three of the other girls. There were four of us altogether. In the day time when the bunks were put back, we all just sat and the boys came and talked to us or we went into them. We mixed up with them. Not with all of them but I did meet a couple from The Sydney. That was sad because they went
down not long after that. It was fairly comfortable, as far as I remember.
How many days were you on board?
We went to Adelaide and that was a day because I went home to one of the boy’s families. He was a nice boy who went overseas and was killed about a month after he got there. And he took me
home to meet his mother, although it was just a friendship. We would have taken a day and then we had a day in Adelaide and then another day to get to Melbourne. It would have been two to three days. I’m not too certain how many nights we were on the train, two I think.
What was it like sleeping on the train?
Pretty rough but it was all right. It was good actually.
No restless nights?
No we were young you know,
very young. We took it all in our stride and had a lot of fun but no fraternising. There wasn’t anything like that. They would have had guards on the train I’m sure, and we never had any trouble like that.
What kind of fun did you enjoy while you were travelling on the train?
Just talking and reading I think
and singing probably. I still had my ukulele. We didn’t have a piano and I learned singing and piano. I used to go around the corner to Loreto Convent, when we lived in Adelaide Terrace and Victoria Avenue. And then they moved, so my father bought me a ukulele and I used to accompany myself. I still had that when I joined up and I sang, so we used to sing a lot of that and it was good.
What kind of sing-a-longs did you have on board the train?
It was just you know the songs of the times, like musical comedy type of songs.
Are there a few tunes that come to mind?
Things like, ‘Over the rainbow’ and ‘Down by the old mill stream’ and all those sorts of old fashioned things, that people could harmonise.
The time passed very quickly.
Did you have to stop for meals?
We stopped and they set up trestle tables.
Just next to the train. They took them out of the guards van in the middle of the Nullarbor and set up these trestle tables expertly. There would have been messing staff on the train. And we just piled out and then back again. I remember the Aborigines coming over to the train to ask for food and they gave them
food and I remember that. I’ve got a photo of the train there. We’d never been across the Nullarbor, so there were things to see. We enjoyed just looking out of the train window a lot.
What sort of thoughts did you have when you were staring out of the window on that long journey?
Probably being a bit homesick I think. I was homesick for a long time.
I was only young and immature and I didn’t know a lot about life I guess, but I soon learned. No, everybody was very nice though. They were always nice to me and I didn’t have any trouble.
Was it hot?
It was fairly hot in October and it was hot when we got to Melbourne also
because it can be as you know, either hot or very cold in Melbourne and it was hot, I remember.
I’m just imagining a trestle of food in the hot sun in the Nullarbor and how you would have coped with those conditions?
It would have been cold I think. Cold beef and salad and stuff like that and fruit. It would have all been cold.
Was there any shelter from the sun?
I think they put up awnings and things. They had
plenty of equipment to use. I don’t remember it being a problem. They were fairly quick mind you. They had to be quick.
What kind of clothing were you wearing?
We were just wearing civilian clothing at that stage. We weren’t issued with uniforms until we got to Melbourne, so we would have just been in skirts and blouses or dresses.
And hats I hope?
There were very few slacks in those days -
and hats probably, yes. We weren’t in the sun, we were on the train most of the time. We were only in the sun when we got out and had our meals.
And what type of facilities were on the train for bathing?
There were basins and loos and so on but I don’t remember showers. I’m not sure. That’s a good question. I’m not
sure. I don’t think there were showers on the trains.
I guess you would have had to have bathed with a wet flannel or something?
Yes. There were plenty of hand basins and all that sort of thing ,whereas now I think they’ve got the showers on the end of the compartments. I don’t actually remember. Sorry about that.
I’m not sure but probably not.
I’m just curious to know what kind of conveniences you had or didn’t have?
There was plenty of water. There was not a problem with water and I suppose we just used as you say flannels. I can remember we got undressed and put pyjamas and so on to sleep. There wasn’t any trouble on the train at all, where there could have been I suppose, with men on there as well but there wasn’t.
Did you know the girls that you were sharing the compartment with very well?
Two of them I did well, but not the third one so well. I didn’t know all the others who were with us but they were all nice.
I imagine you would have known them a lot better by the time you got to Melbourne?
Yes they were very nice girls and all of similar back grounds to me, although when we did our
training and entered the training school there were people from all walks of life, girls from all walks of life and some walks of life that I hadn’t had any contact with in my protected existence. You know, rough diamonds, there were a lot of them doing the work of cooks and orderlies in those days and stewards and that sort of thing but they were all nice and
you got to know them and you mixed with them all. You had to. We were all thrown together and it was a bit of a shock.
What happened when you arrived in Melbourne?
We were taken to Malvern to the WAAAF Depot.
How were you taken there from the train?
I think big transports we had like sort of, mini buses as far as I remember. They would have been air force ones. It wasn’t very far from the station to Malvern, it was just a suburb of Melbourne.
Were you carrying much luggage?
We were issued with kit bags and I think we had those in Perth. You know, the big blue kit bags and I think we each had our kit bags and one case but we managed. It was not a lot of stuff at all really.
What kind of things did you pack from home to bring with you?
Well, we would have packed not a lot of civilian clothes but some, because we knew we were getting uniforms and getting equipped and so on and all the toilet
articles and pyjamas and dressing gowns and things like that and perhaps things we played sport in, but not much else.
And your ukulele?
And my ukulele. I remember having that right through but something happened to it and I don’t know what. I had it when I was first married and in one of our moves it seems to have got dislodged somewhere.
What were your first impressions of Melbourne?
There were lots of women everywhere and it was a girls’ school, so we were in dormitories. There were open showers and everything and you just couldn’t be modest.
How did you find that?
It was a bit hard. And I always remember the ‘Condys Crystal Bath’ you had to
walk through to go to the shower in case anyone had tinea. I expect they had all those, on all the stations. It was a bit of a shock, a culture shock or whatever you used to call it, but we got used to it. There was so much work. The first course was five weeks but after that they cut it down to four,
after the Japanese came into the war.
Before we move on, how about you describe to me what happened in those five weeks. What was your daily routine and what courses did you have?
First thing in the morning you were up and did your ablutions. You’d take turns in the showers and all the rest of it and it was very fast. At that stage you had to do your bed, your palliasse.
We had palliasses. You’ve probably heard about those. They were mattresses filled with straw. And the blankets had to be folded a certain way and we had to have all those made up and folded and in the right position before we left the hut. Then it was usually drill. I can’t remember if we had breakfast before drill or drill
before. I think we had breakfast first and then went out to drill but we were usually out at 6 o clock on the parade ground and we did lots of drill. We really did drill. It was complicated stuff, like the marching girls – you’ve seen marching girls - all that sort of stuff.
How were you introduced to drill?
We had a RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] sergeant in
the air force with a very big voice. We just had to form up in lines and learn right turn, left turn, about turn and quick march and halt. Most of us caught on fairly quickly. We hadn’t done any of that before. One or two didn’t know their right from their left and had a bit of
Was there much giggling or chuckling in the lines?
Not after a while because the sergeant was fairly loud-voiced and the discipline was there. This was supposed to be a discipline for us of course. We liked it though and most of us enjoyed the drill.
None of the girls were a bit sensitive to his loud voice?
Probably privately they were. On a little point about
drill, after we had our needles – tetanus and typhoid and smallpox – they believed then, in keeping your arm moving. So we went out to the parade ground after we’d had the injections and there were a few ‘going down’. It was very hot, so they decided this wasn’t a good idea but during our course they did that. And later on they stopped doing it
because they were having people passing out all over the place.
What kind of reaction did you have to the injections?
I was lucky. I was all right. Of course with small pox – I don’t know if you know anything about smallpox - but after 10 days it comes up in a big scab and if it doesn’t, it hasn’t taken and if it has, you are OK. It leaves a big scar. I haven’t got mine but people used to have them if they were going
overseas in those days, smallpox, until it was wiped out. I don’t know when it was, not all that long ago was it, in the ‘60s or something, that smallpox was finally eradicated and they didn’t have to give them any more? They gave us in anticipation of, in case we went overseas, which we didn’t of course and nobody objected to having them.
You had to suffer for
Absolutely. The men used to pass out a bit before they had them.
What was the women’s reaction compared to the men’s?
To the injections? I think on the whole it was better. I think they were more able because there was a bit of a standard joke, that the men used to pass out before they got the needles. I think the women probably responded a bit
better than the men. I don’t like to say it but I think they did, from what I’ve heard.
What kind of classes were you commencing during those five weeks?
Everything that they thought we ought to know a bout the air force, about rules and regulations and flags and identification of rank, so you would know if you were talking to a sergeant or a lieutenant or
whatever and who you should salute and who you shouldn’t. We learned discipline and hygiene and everything imaginable. There were lots of rules and regulations in the air force. It was all very interesting. We had medical lectures.
What were they like, first aid courses?
Yes, partly that and fairly frank ones about what could happen and how the human body works. And if you didn’t know before, you knew when you finished. It was fairly revealing to a lot of us I think.
I assume you’re referring to reproduction
Yes. Most of us were fairly innocent I think and not experienced, but they took us through the whole ambit of reproduction.
Did those courses include sexually transmitted diseases?
I don’t know. It’s a good
question. I think they might have touched on a couple of the early ones, but not the later ones which we didn’t have until later, anyway. But syphilis and gonorrheae, I think they probably did mention. I’m sure they did but it was mainly the ‘facts of life’ really. We knew all about it then.
Just returning to the air force, were you looking at plane recognition and those sorts of things?
Yes, identification of aircraft was one of the subjects.
You mentioned that there were girls from all different walks of life being thrown into the courses, how did you all react to the different subjects?
All right really. Pretty well really.
It was really only basic air force procedure that they learned. They didn’t learn their particular trade until they went out and did a course somewhere, or they were doing the job they’d been doing in civilian life. A lot of them did courses after that but the initial training course was just the basic rules of the air force and
regulations and all the legal ramifications and identifying flags and aircraft and all that sort of thing.
Were the girls well disciplined?
Yes they were. A few of them probably went AWL [Absent Without Leave]. Some of them would have come back late from leave, or late from outings. We didn’t have leave, it was five weeks straight. We had
days off, weekends, but we had to be back and that was it.
What kind of outings did you go on?
We used to go to films and I remember, we went to the Melbourne Cup. We hadn’t been there very long and that was on and it poured with rain and the girls were coming back bedraggled. But, yes, we were there in October and that would have been in November. We were just seeing the sights really, like Luna
Park. None of us had seen Melbourne before, so there was a lot to see.
It must have been quite exciting?
Yes, it was the first big city I’d been to and most of us wouldn’t have been out of Western Australia I think, or as far as I know.
Were you having an adventure?
I suppose in a way it was an adventure, with a lot of work.
You mentioned earlier I think, Anne, that the five weeks initial training was reduced to four weeks?
It was later on reduced to 4 weeks because they needed them quicker. They had to turn them over quicker.
I imagine that was when Japan entered the war?
Yes, it was after Pearl Harbour was bombed.
What was your mustering at the end of those 5 weeks?
A ‘clerk general’, I was called, which was somebody who had been a stenographer or shorthand
typist and had done bookkeeping and general office work, whereas a ‘clerk’ wouldn’t have been a shorthand typist, it was just straight office work. They had funny names for some of the musterings but that’s what we were called, ‘clerk general’. As I mentioned before, we weren’t taking the place of men, so much as going into situations where they needed administration and correspondence done and that sort of work. I was in
‘postings’, which was records postings. We kept records of everybody, men and women, ground staff, not air crew. And when they wanted staff, you had to select them from a system of cards and that was quite hard because you always made sure you selected the single ones first and not
married with children. And you tried to send them to their home states. If they wanted them on different stations you tried to send them back to their home states, if that’s what they wanted. Some of them had compassionate reasons for going to certain places too. But we looked after all that and recording where they were, men and women, and when the casualty lists came through, we had to record all
those too and you saw people you knew. It was busy. I did correspondence and shorthand and typed letters and documents and things like that for several of the officers.
It sounds like a very responsible role?
I had people under me after I got the rank of corporal and sergeant and so on. I had men and women under me who I was in charge of in the office but there wasn’t any problem
ever about that.
I was just going to suggest that clerk general must have been a very competitive mustering?
Yes, there would have been a lot at headquarters and there would have been a lot of girls who had done that in civilian life. I don’t know whether it would have been as competitive as some of them. Whereas cipher assistants and
teleprinter operators and wireless telegraphists and people like that, had to be trained, we went in from civilian life already with training, like a few others would have too. Cooks no doubt, they wouldn’t have been chefs as such but if they joined up as cooks, I imagine they would have
trained as cooks, or perhaps they were just good cooks and wanted to be cooks and so on. And drivers would have been able to drive, but more complicated things, like fitters and turners and instrument makers and all that sort of thing and photographers, might have been qualified but a lot of them would have done their training in the air force.
So the girls or women that went into the streams of
musterings like ciphers or telegraphists would they have had to have done training after the initial training that you did?
Yes, but some of them had already done some training in anticipation of joining up.
I’m just wondering what the selection process would have been when they gave you your mustering at the initial training. Did they enquire about your skills?
They would have known that I’d passed the necessary tests this end to
get in as that mustering because I was accepted as a clerk general, so I went through all the testing here first and they would have all had to do that I would imagine.
So to some degree you nominated what you chose to specialise in?
Yes, well when you went to join up and you were asked what you did, the obvious thing would be to put you into the category if it was
wanted and they happened to want my particular mustering at that time. Maybe not later, but then, they certainly did.
And where were you posted?
After my training, I was posted to Air Force Headquarters which was first in St. Kilda Road, Melbourne. And then we moved to Prahran, and we were in what is called Kellow House in Prahran. I don’t know if it is still there but it was a big about
six-storey building. I was there for about 3 ½ years. I rose up to ‘under officer’ and went from there to do my officer course. But a lot happened in that 3 ½ years.
I think we need to explore those things before we advance. Air Force Headquarters sounds a fairly sort of prominent role to be posted for?
A lot of girls ended up at Headquarters. There was some talk, originally I was seconded to Intelligence, and I was going to work with some Dutch. And I went and took myself off to Berlitz School and did Dutch because I’d done languages at school and picked them up fairly quickly but that was before Japan came into the war. And after that there
wasn’t any thought. I was sent to records postings because it was so busy. There were so many people working there and people had to be sent to all the stations. We had to get people up north and they had to build air strips. And the logistics of getting them into trains and planes and things, to get them up north because we thought we were going to be invaded of
course and they needed everybody there and so that’s where we were left. It was interesting though and I enjoyed the work.
Can you describe the place where you were doing the postings and the daily work routine there?
It was just a lot of floors of offices and no computers of course. It was just desks and typewriters
and huge filing systems. They already had a system. They already had all these workings. They worked on cards. So all the people that were already in the air force had their records, with everything from A to Z, so we knew all about them from their description on their card.
As they were selected to go anywhere else, you had to make sure that everything was recorded. So it was really responsible.
What sort of information was recorded on their cards?
It had their complete name and address and the number that they had in the air force. It had where they came from and where they’d been and all their medical history. Quite a
lot was on the card, their medical and dental history. It wouldn’t be everything. They’d have things in the files but the card system was used in postings. A lot of them stayed where they were but many of them moved about, depending on what mustering they were. If they were short of any particular mustering it made it difficult and the
demands would come in from other departments to say, they needed two cooks and two cipher assistants and a driver at say, 3AD Queensland or Geraldton or somewhere. I knew the names of all the stations and all the numbers and everything originally. The idea was that you didn’t make the
final selection, that was always done by the officers, but it was your job to select people who would be suitable to go to those postings and also it was suitable for the individual. You tried not to pick married men who were away from their home state, especially with children. Most of them were single anyway, but a lot married during their service life. You tried to send them back to
their home state. And if for any reason they didn’t want to go back to their home state, they’d soon let you know when they got their posting. They would question it and they could get it changed on compassionate grounds, if it was strong enough. We used to agonise over these selections and it was sometimes very difficult when you were short of people in those musterings. That is when it made it very difficult and these people would wonder
why they’d just settled on this station and they would suddenly have to go to another one. It was sometimes just something that had to be done because there weren’t enough in that mustering being trained on to take their places. And then you would have all these cards and the numbers required and all the correspondence concerning them and you would take them into the senior officer and that would finally be his selection or hers. There were two WAAAF officers at
headquarters where I was and all the rest were men. You didn’t have the responsibility of having the final say but of course they went by the records, which were very important because you had to know about these people. It was no good sending somebody with a medical problem who had to be attended to in the city, sending them way up to Darwin or somewhere. You
had to sort of go into all these things.
So you’d create the short list?
And of course the casualty lists were coming through and there were more people needed in different occupations all the time. 1941 was very, very hectic.
What was the trend in postings in 1941? What were some of them?
As I said, they had to build airstrips up north and they were all
over the North West. They are covered up now, I suppose or pulled up. So it would have been the people who did that sort of work.
Were you allocated a particular region in Australia?
No, we did everywhere. There would have been all the back-up staff for all the people who went to work on those airstrips.
There would have been a lot of army probably, involved in that too, army people doing the manual work and so on. So you would have to set it up. You’d know there’d be the catering to be done, so you’d have to set up the store and the cooks and the stewards and all the people who would look after the base because they had to build temporary constructions for the bases. It was a bit hectic for a while.
It must have been incredibly hectic?
And a bit worrying because we didn’t know what was happening. We heard about Broome and Darwin being bombed and everything of course. And being right at the hub, you’d think we’d know about everything, but it wasn’t until after the war that we learned. Even we didn’t know how many people had been killed in Darwin and that Broome had been bombed even and we thought we knew a lot.
We had Japanese reconnaissance planes as we know now. We were told that they had come over Melbourne and of course in Sydney, the midget submarines came into Sydney harbour and we knew there were submarines up there. And there were rumours that there were planes coming over and we had air raid drill and everything. And of course we’ve heard since, from the Japanese, that there were.
They had a sub out there and the planes flew daily over Sydney and Melbourne, without being questioned. I suppose they didn’t have the means of doing it then, I don’t know. Anyway, that’s in books, so I haven’t mentioned anything that isn’t known. It was quite frightening for a while. The rumours would be rife.
What kind of rumours were you
That they’d already landed and all that sort of thing. The rumours were filtering through all the time. It was quite nasty, especially when the ships started to be sunk. Of course the Sydney sank and the ones from Singapore. Singapore fell and all the business going up there. And then the [HMS] Prince of Wales, and the Repulse being sunk and it just seemed to be one tragedy after another. And we could see by the casualty
lists how many of our boys were being killed too. It was fairly tense. Anyway, you just did your job and we did a lot of overtime. We were billeted in private houses and the couple I was in with were in Toorak. We used to get the tram up
Toorak Road and walk to the house. The first one was in Orrong Road in Toorak. It was a huge place which had been commandeered and converted. Then the last one I was in, was at Lansell Road which was quite a way down the street and it had trees each side of the street. It would have been after MacArthur and after the American troops came to
Australia, it would have been about ’43, there were some girls murdered in Melbourne. I think there had been 3 already and they hadn’t caught this person. As we were working overtime and we used to arrive home at about 9 o clock, we used to have to be met at the tram stop by a guard and taken to our billets.
One night I got to the tram stop and for some reason I was by myself. I don’t know how it happened but I got out and there wasn’t anybody there. It was so quiet and it was the blackout and everything, so rather than stand there by myself, I thought I might as well start off. So I walked down Lansell Road to my billet and there were these trees down each side and I thought I
heard someone following me. And I’d run or walk and feel this somebody else, or what I thought were footsteps or rustles, or something. Anyway, about half way down the street I ran and I’ve never run so fast in my life. And I got in and I was reprimanded for coming but myself and I said, “Well, I wasn’t going to stand at the tram stop by myself.” It turned out there was a private zoo in the
area and a monkey had got out and I think he’d been hopping from tree to tree. They think that’s what happened. Anyway, I wasn’t imagining it. Something was following me but it wasn’t this man. He was later caught not very long afterwards. It turned out to be an American soldier. It is in one of the books too. It was all made public.
You must have been terrified?
It was very frightening. We were pretty
young but I was scared that night I must say but I got into trouble.
Being followed by an escaped monkey is pretty frightening?
It was probably only a little one anyway, but it was in the trees. It sounded like somebody following me and my imagination probably got the better of me too. That’s just a little anecdote in between.
I’d like to ask you a little bit more about the
pressure that you were under and the rumours that you were hearing and how you perhaps managed your own stress?
We were all in the same predicament and also – although of course it wasn’t then I think just
having the company of other girls, I think we just all talked about it all the time and got over it that way.
How often would you confide in one another?
Probably fairly regularly. I don’t know if I did a lot, but I used to be the recipient of a lot of confidences. I was luckier than some because my parents had come to Melbourne because my brother was
overseas and my sister had gone. And because we were in a flat waiting to go overseas ourselves and they were in limbo sort of thing, they managed to get over before the trains were all commandeered. So they were living in Melbourne and I stayed with them for some of the time but most of the time I was in billets.
When did they reach Melbourne?
At the end of ’41 or the beginning of ’42 I think it
was, so I didn’t have a lot of time away from them I suppose you could say. I was a bit luckier, until I went on my officers’ course and then I went away again.
Interviewee: Anne Macleod Archive ID 1738 Tape 03
When Pearl Harbour happened, did that throw a real spanner into the works as far as causing confusion?
Yes it did. It was a shock to everybody. Yes, that’s when things really buzzed and we did our small piece.
It was just that we didn’t know what was going to happen and I think that was the uncertainty. Then of course America came into the war and they just put everything into it. And they arrived in Australia some time later and ‘MacArthur’ with all the troops and so on. And they had the base in Townsville and worked from there, the forward
bases, you felt a bit more secure with the troops along the north but until then, we weren’t really ready for anything like that.
How difficult was it to then get to action with new systems?
You just worked very hard to find the people to send to all the
places where we needed them. That was the difficulty. As I say, I wasn’t doing air crew, it was the ground staff who were the back up but there were so many important jobs because they all worked on the planes. We had the girls too, later, who were fitters and instrument repairers and they did all the things the men did, except fly. And all the musterings the men did, they were mechanics and flight riggers and
a lot of them worked on the planes and all the other jobs connected like reconnaissance and photography. They had to train but they’d already been trained quite a bit beforehand but they learned on the job, most of them. Eventually, when they took over, the men were able to go to the forward bases and they took over in the stations that were
not in the forward line and took the men’s places. The men weren’t coming back so we had to employ more women. I think the highest amount of women at any one time was 18,000 in the air force, the WAAAF, at any one time. The main peak of the service was 18,000. I think there were more than that all told and 72 musterings. There were
approximately 72 musterings. Some would have only had a few doing the work but most of them had a fair number in each mustering.
Around about what time did it peak for women being involved in the musterings?
It would have been around ’43 I would think, ’43 or ‘44 and the latter part of
’42 probably too, because they were pretty quick in training them. It was ‘all hands to the pump’ in getting them trained and out into the field. We had a lot of stations. In each state there was an Initial Training School, a Service Flying Training School, and then an Advanced Flying Training School and very often an Operational Training Unit and then stores depots
and radar stations and all sorts of different stations that were set up in a hurry or they already had. So the girls were likely to go anywhere at any time. I think on the whole, the ones I’ve spoken to over here anyway, were happy with their war-time postings. Most of the girls that I come in contact with at the WAAAF Branch were only stationed in
Western Australia. Some went east and came back here but they all ended up back home in Western Australia whereas because my family were over there, I stayed over there after the war. After I became an officer I was in New South Wales and Queensland. That was interesting.
We’ll definitely get there. I wanted to find out – when the
Americans came on board and started coming to Australia, how did that affect your job?
It didn’t really.
I’m just wondering if you had to interact with their process –you know, meld the Australian process with the American process?
Probably in the top echelons they would have but we certainly didn’t have to. There was no
amalgamation of records for instance. But they were there and they were doing all their planning and their headquarters were moved up to Townsville, in Brisbane and Townsville. And then they all took off from there of course and they fought in all the different battles in the Pacific. So it was just initially that they were in places like Melbourne and created a bit of a stir.
I met some that were very nice and one particular marine that was really nice. He used to take my mother flowers.
What about you?
They were so polite. Oh me too. He was just a friend but he was killed at Guadalcanal. They used to go off and that was it. There was The Coral Sea and Guadalcanal and all the other battles that they fought. But it was our boys, you know,
I had a few friends in our lot that went, one after the other. The same thing happened in the First World War with the maiden aunties that I had and all their men. It was hard. No, the Americans created a bit of a stir and of course there was jealousy between the men because the Americans had the money and all the
extra bits and pieces that they could afford and our boys didn’t. The taxi drivers liked the Americans because they tipped them so well and so on. And they, of course, took the girls. So there was a few fights and things, I suppose. I didn’t see any but there was a lot of feeling. I think the same thing would have happened in England and everywhere, because the Americans,
they had very nice manners and a lot of confidence and more money than our boys had.
Did you find that the Americans were easier to get along with as far as their politeness was concerned?
They were easy to get along with and they were more mature than a lot of our boys. It was fairly noticeable. They were encouraged at a very early age I think in that
era anyway, to have more confidence from a very early age than our boys had. It was just the way they were brought up, I suppose.
Would there have been a larger number of friends and ladies in the same position as you seen more Americans than Australians?
There would have been a few and of course some of them married Americans and went
home to America to live, after the war, in the same way as the English ‘war brides’ married Australian boys and came home with them. Quite a lot of GIs would have married girls, but I didn’t know any myself who married an American. They went out with them a bit. I didn’t, I just met this one at a
party and met a few others at parties but I didn’t go out with them really. You didn’t see all that much of them before they all went off. When the choir was formed, we used to see them in the audience all the time, when we were singing in concerts and so on.
Did you ever see any open aggression towards the Americans from the Australians when the
Americans were out with ladies such as yourself?
There would have been I suppose but I didn’t see any. I didn’t see anything but there would have been a few fights probably.
I’m just thinking did they hurl any abuse at you for going out with them?
No, but I didn’t go out with any. I just met this one at a party and he came to visit a couple of times but he actually went off fairly soon, so there wasn’t much time
anyway. I never really saw any of that, no. Perhaps if they’d have been in Melbourne longer, then there might have been a bit of trouble. There might have been trouble but I didn’t know about it. I was a fairly quiet sort of person and I didn’t go to parties and things very much. We used to enjoy ourselves. When the choir was formed we did a lot of
rehearsing and that took up a lot of our recreation time.
How did that actually happen the forming of the WAAAF Choir?
Well the ‘top brass’ [High Command] thought it might be a good idea for something like this to happen, to fill in the girls’ recreation time because there wasn’t a lot that we were doing, or able to do in our recreation time.
This is in Melbourne?
They got these two people from the ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation], Haydin James, who was our conductor and Verdon Williams, who was our accompanist. They both worked for the ABC. They took it on and we used to practise in the ABC studio. We became quite well known. I’ve got a lot of programs there. We used to sing to raise money for the
troops. We sang at recruiting rallies and ‘loan rallies’ to raise funds for different things.
A loan rally?
They called them ‘loan rallies’ when they were raising money for different things. We sang at commemoration services. When the Centaur was sunk, they had a special concert and that sort of thing and at ‘carols by candlelight’ and programs like that.
We often had soloists. In the program we were often only part of the program and we’d have people like Harold Williams and Gladys Moncrieff once and various singers and violinists and soloists from Melbourne used to be in the program sometimes. Then we’d often do concerts on our
own and we had a very good soloist. We did lovely songs. When Haydin James joined up, Verdon then took over the conducting. I don’t know whether you’ve heard of Verdon Williams, but he was the conductor of quite a few orchestras in Australia. He was in Brisbane and then Perth at one stage and then lived in South Australia so when he retired he took over the South Australian Orchestra and then retired there.
I was in contact with him when I was writing a bit of a history about the choir, and trying to find out information about it, which I had great difficulty doing. I wrote to him and fortunately I heard from him before he died, a couple of years ago. He told me about Tommy Handley and Gladys Moncrieff and the people that we sang with. I remember Harold Williams and Tommy Handley and a couple of others. I didn’t remember Gladys Moncrieff but I think it might have
been the period when my sister was dying and I didn’t go to choir. The girls really enjoyed that. There would have been about 80 or 90 in the choir.
That’s a big choir?
It was a big choir. And we fortunately had a girl with a wonderful voice and we used to do things like, ‘The Nun’s Chorus’. Do you know that? There’s the most beautiful solo part, which lofts above all the others. We did a particular
concert at the Melbourne Town Hall for the troops and forces and the Prime Minister was there, Curtin, and a few others. They had loudspeakers because they just had ordinary megaphones and things. They had them onto the street and it stopped the traffic, when we sang this song. We all remember that. It was wonderful. It was a wonderful occupation and it became a very polished choir. When
Coventry was bombed in England; that created quite a stir. You wouldn’t have be born would you? But the town, the city of Coventry, the Germans bombed it and wiped it out and we did a recording through the ABC of a lot of carols including, ‘The Coventry Carol’. And it would have been recorded on a big disc at that time, a
‘78’ or something, and a wood carver made a Jarrah box and it was put into the Jarrah box and sent to Coventry to the Mayor, saying how sorry we were. It was all written up in the newspapers and I’ve got cuttings and things there. I’ve been trying to trace this and I haven’t been able to. There is no trace of it anywhere, so whoever was the Mayor at that time must have thought, “Throw it out or keep,” it or
something. So unfortunately I’ve met a dead end in that. Also the ABC didn’t start keeping archives until 1970 and we did several recordings and I cannot find anything, not a thing. It’s very sad. We did masses of recordings and nobody seems to know where they are. I can only assume that they were thrown out.
That’s a shame.
Yes, because I’ve been doing a lot of research and written to all sorts of people.
So they were definitely recorded on a master?
They would have been, not all the concerts but some of them were, but nobody has got any record of them.
You’d think that they would have printed records?
You’d think so.
And you never got a copy of any of the records?
No, Verdon Williams thought I wouldn’t get anywhere with it.
I thought at least the one from Coventry might be hanging about, so we’ve got no record at all. I suspect that happened to most musical groups like that. Anyway, it was a great thing to have. That was the beginning of 1943 and the head of WAAAF thought it might be a good idea to do it in every state but they were not able
to, in the end because it really was just an occupation for the girls and they got so involved. And we used to give about one concert, just about every week and then we’d have rehearsals. And the time was all in our recreation time, so most of the girls spent most of the time singing, which was quite nice, it took your minds off everything else. We did give a lot of concerts over that period of
time. And before the choir was formed, when I was just finishing my training, they came and did some auditions for a big revue, before the Japanese came into the war. It was the 1941 RAAF Review. I’ve got the program there that I showed you. And they chose three of us. I did the ballad and there was a girl who sang the sort of
‘pop’ song, although it wasn’t called ‘pop’ in those days, and the other girl did the classical. And they had this huge Revue in the Princess Theatre. It was a beautiful little theatre in Melbourne. Chips Rafferty was in the finale and I was on the stage with him and that’s why I got his autograph. You looked out into the audience and it was for the forces and all the gold braid [senior officers] of all the different countries, because this was 1941
and we had French and Dutch in Melbourne then, and British of course, and New Zealand and Australian. This was a sight to see, and there were no photographs, nothing. We did another one at the Prahran Town Hall and I sang solo in both of those but then, after I joined the choir, I didn’t sing solo in the choir. The singing was good and it was good to have that as recreation.
What sort of
ballad did you sing as part of that?
At one concert I sang, ‘If I Should Fall in Love Again’. You won’t know that will you? It was a lovely song. And at the other concert I sang, ‘My Hero’ from ‘The Chocolate Soldier’. It’s a musical comedy and I had a ballet sort of, behind me. That was before the choir was formed. We did a lot of beautiful songs for the choir. There were a lot of
religious ones and a lot of ballads. Things like, ‘Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring’ and ‘Plaisir d’Amour’ and all those. Do you know those? ‘How Lovely are the Messengers’ and ‘Nymphs and Shepherds’ and all sorts of things like that and, ‘The Nun’s Chorus’ of course was one of our main things. I’ve got a music folder and it’s quite
thick. I’ve still got the music. I’m not a ‘thrower-outer’. I wish I was.
So you would have had quite a good voice to be picked?
Well I’d learned singing before I joined up, from Gertrude Hutton in Perth. And we used to have just student concerts and things. I was not very old then. I used to enjoy singing. I wouldn’t say I was very good. I was a
mezzo-soprano which is just lower than soprano. But having the opportunity to carry on with it was so good. I didn’t think I would have. But there were a lot of musicians in the air force and they gave some very good concerts. As you can imagine in civilian life and joining up, they hoped to carry on with what they were doing and in their recreation time there was a bit of time after hours and at
How was being involved in the choir affecting your morale?
It helped it a lot, it really did. There was no shortage of girls to join the choir. I can’t remember if we had an audition, but I think we did. They knew I’d sung in these others things. But, yes, it did help a lot. But it wasn’t
known about in the other states. I came over here and I went to join this branch here, when I finally did and they’d never heard of it. The communication wouldn’t have been good. It was only a minor part of war and it was just something for the girls to do. We played a bit of tennis but they had to think of their recreation. Whereas you see in the stations, you’d have concert parties like they did overseas. They’d have concert
parties going around and giving concerts. They didn’t at headquarters you see, so we had that instead.
They didn’t have concert parties at headquarters?
No, they were mainly on stations. And a lot of them formed their own groups, because we had a lot of musicians. Think about the number in civilian life who would be in the services. They had proper concert parties as such, who were part of the
whole thing, who would go to all the stations and overseas and everywhere, entertaining the troops as you’ve seen on film, Bob Hope and all that lot. It was very good. I enjoyed the time there, but just wish that I had more records of it.
That’s bizarre that that’s happened to it?
We haven’t got anything of the singing, yes. It was just
too soon, although some of the things I see on TV, going right back, I wonder why there is not anything. Of course, they’ve still got footage of the First World War haven’t they? And you see old footage of different music groups and so on.
How would the enlisted men respond to these concerts that you did?
How would the men respond? They enjoyed them. They were often in the audience, yes.
Were they ‘raucous’ or were they well behaved?
No, they were fairly well behaved. Some of it might have been a bit too, ‘you know’ and they mightn’t have liked that sort of music but they used to come, just the same. We always had a very good pianist. It was just a pianist and that was all.
I think we sang with an orchestra a couple of times, but mostly it was just with a pianist. And Verdon was the pianist for a couple of years until Haydin left and then he was the conductor, as I said. Verdon was an excellent pianist. He arranged a lot of the songs. He rearranged them to suit the voices into parts and all sorts of things. Most of my music is
stencilled, you know, copied and it’s been written out by hand. A lot of work went into that.
How often would you rehearse?
I suppose there wouldn’t have been enough time to do it more than a couple of times a week, but we put on a fair number of concerts. And because we were raising funds a lot of the time, they
encouraged us, of course. It was good and it probably saved our bacon [saved us] a lot of the times, having something like that. That was the whole idea, to give us something to do, not that many went off the rails [became despondent], I don’t think.
That’s a good question I suppose, how many WAAAFs were sent off the rails?
I don’t know. I don’t know whether I should mention it, but one of them jumped off the roof. I don’t think it was anything to do with the service, I think it was personal. It was a row with her boyfriend or something or other. But I was talking to somebody standing up on one of the floors and I
think out of the corner of my eye, something went passed the window. That wasn’t very nice. We were all terribly upset about that. She was only a young, fairly recent recruit. She just went up on the roof and jumped. I don’t think there is anything very confidential about that. I think it was fairly well know. I won’t mention her name. I wasn’t even sure of it, until somebody wrote and told
me, when I was researching for the choir. She thought it was this person but I wouldn’t have known. As I say, she was a fairly young recruit and hadn’t been there very long. And nobody would have known that there was anything wrong. It wasn’t anything very serious either. She’d just had a row or something with her boyfriend. But that’s the only case, or the only thing that I know of like
that. A few of the girls went a bit mad and overdid it a bit and had to be reprimanded and that sort of thing, but not very much of it went on. It was the first time away from home and, you know, they were smoking and took up smoking and drinking, a few of them. There wasn’t much opportunity.
There wasn’t much of that. They used to not come back from leave sometimes and go AWL as they called it, from some of the stations. I had a couple of those to deal with, when I was an officer but nothing very serious came into my orbit anyway. They might have ‘hushed’ things up.
How did you actually progress to being an officer?
Well you had to be at least a sergeant and 23 years old.
And the first time they encouraged me, they thought I was too young and I thought I was too, but I went through to ‘under officer’ which is equal to ‘warrant officer’. I don’t know why we were called ‘under officer’, it was ridiculous, and not just ‘warrant officer’.
Was that the female equivalent of the warrant officer?
Yes. There was corporal, sergeant and flight sergeant which was the same as the men and then Under Officer instead of warrant officer
and none of us know why. Under officer is a German name ‘unter offizier’ Anyway, that is what I was and they said, “Apply for it again.” It was still late in the war but they still wanted them. So I had to have tests for that too and I got accepted. It wasn’t a very big course [in numbers].
What were they testing you on?
Ability to be able to take command and all that sort of thing. But the big tests were on the course and if you didn’t get through of course, you didn’t get to be an officer. And you had to learn everything that an officer might be needed to do, or called upon to do.
Like everything. How to organise other
people, and it was all about regulations, all the regulations that they had. It was administration and firing a pistol and everything that might happen, or might need to happen. And we did all the basic training over again that we’d had in our ‘rookie’ course as well and how to learn to pass it on to other people because my first job after the course was as
training officer. So I had to lecture recruits on what I’d been lectured on and the basics that were needed in the air force and so on. That was my first job. And the last thing that we had to do on the officers’ course, was to give a five minute talk, on a subject we were given the night before, which was a bit hard. No, I think it was a ten minute talk. I can remember the
‘rush and scurry’ to get that. I think I did mine eventually on farming, for some reason. I knew all about my family’s farm, my uncle’s farm, and I knew more about that than the other. I think we had a couple of options and one was agriculture. It was strange. I’ve forgotten what the other one was. We had to stand up in front of everybody with a few notes and give a talk and it was quite hard.
How would they teach you how to take leadership? How do you teach that?
You don’t really. You just have certain rules to follow and you learn what those rules are, by what you have to do. You have to do it really and they know
by what they do on the course, whether you would be suitable to do that too. You had to answer lots of questions and respond a lot, to lots of things and you had lots of tests. You’d sit for tests all the time on what you’d been learning, so it was quite thorough. And all the things you were likely to do because you
had to be able to take over different jobs at any time. I ended up doing an adjutant’s job and a messing officer who ordered food and drew up menus and things like that. So you had to be able to do anything that you were called upon to do, which involved WAAAF. It was quite extensive. It as the hardest thing that I’ve ever done, that course, the hardest course that I’ve ever done.
They were in a hurry too. That was two months, so it was pretty thorough.
Whereabouts did you do this course?
Until our course, they had had them at the University and they’d had the men, as well as the women, together. But after the first one, it was on its own and we did it at a place called Arundel which was a new building
for the lunatic asylum. And it was next door to the old asylum and this new building we moved into, had no handles on the doors and no doors on a lot of rooms. There was no privacy at all. And we were right next door to the old asylum as I say, and we were doing drill in the early morning. And in the Melbourne fog you’d see these people looking through.
It was very funny really. It was very strange.
It’s quite a haunting image?
It was a very open building. There was nothing on which anybody could hurt themselves. They don’t call them lunatic asylums any more but that’s what they called it. And then we went out on a bivouac and we camped out and we took it in turns to get the
meals and that sort of thing. There weren’t a lot on my course there would only be about 30 or 40 girls and the officers in charge.
What happened on the bivouac?
You camped and you put up tents. You had to know how to do that and how to prepare food and light fires. It was from ‘A to Z’. You’d prepare the meal and do everything. It was good though because a lot of us had been in ‘girl
guides’ and camped out a lot, so we enjoyed that. Also it was how to prepare us for looking after a lot of people, in case we ever had to in an emergency, or an evacuation, or in peace time floods, fires and earthquakes and things like that.
How about first aid?
Yes. We did a bit of that. Most of us had done something of that before we joined up because they had courses at the beginning of the war for people to do it, through St. John’s [St John’s Ambulance Association], home nursing and first aid. Most of us had that grounding already but we had some on the course as well. We knew how to stop bleeding and something about cardiac arrest and bandages
and that sort of thing, most of us.
You also mentioned that you learned how to fire a gun?
It was just basic pistol practice and that was all. That would never have been needed, at our period of the war but still, they covered all contingencies.
It was very interesting though. The course was interesting with all the things that you might have to do, but didn’t of course. I was in the training depot and I also was messing officer there, so I did use that. I used to be taken by a sergeant and driven to the markets and buy the
food and draw up the menus and supervise the kitchens with the serving of it and everything. And the adjutant’s job was similar to what I’d been doing. It was administration and booking people, in and out. What I did before that was in charge of women, an ‘OIC WAAAF’ they call them, ‘Officer in Charge’,
and anything to do with WAAAF, you had to handle everything. I did that on two stations and then I did adjutant work towards the end of the war. Then after the war finished, because everybody was being discharged and they wanted to keep the stations going, I had a few extra jobs to do. In my particular posting at the Stores Depot they folded parachutes. So it was considered to be a high security risk.
And they were still using the parachutes for fliers and the girls had to fold them and everything and we had guard dogs and a password and everything ,even though the war was finished.
When you said you were in charge of the WAAAFs, the OIC, what sort of job description did that have, if you could extrapolate that job description?
You were overall like
a manager of a company, I suppose it would be that sort of thing. You had a CO on the station, which was a man of course and you were under him and you had officers. There’d be an equipment officer and a cipher officer and there were various others, doing different jobs, a messing officer. But you’d have responsibility for the girls that were on the station.
You had NCOs [Non Commissioned Officers] to do the main work and check on things and so on, but you had the overall responsibility for receiving new postings, or seeing to the ones that were going off on other postings and the ones going on leave and going sick. We had sick bays and all that sort of thing. You were in overall charge of
all those sorts of things and it was quite a big responsibility.
It sounds like it’s the sort of job that you have to constantly communicate with?
Yes. You had to be a good communicator and a lot of the women were older than me, so it made it difficult at times.
Why was it made difficult?
Well they didn’t always like - I can’t say that I found it difficult and I didn’t, and I always had
back-up too, because a couple of the other officers were very senior girls and they’d been there a long time and they were very helpful. There were a couple senior to me, before the CO. I enjoyed doing it. There were lots of different girls from all different walks of life as I said before, so it was a big
responsibility. You were working up to that, in your course and so on, but still, if you hadn’t had any experience in a private company or anything, it wasn’t all that easy. You usually had wonderful commanding officers. They were very good the ones, that I had anyway. They would always help out when needed and any queries you had, you always went to them. I ended up not having to put anybody on a ‘charge’
because the ones that went AWL always had good excuses. You had to interview them and have the sergeant bring them in, but you usually overcame all that sort of thing. I did anyway. I didn’t have any real trouble at all. They were nice girls on the whole, really nice.
What’s a good excuse for an AWL?
The old story of ‘granny’s funeral’ but that got a bit
worn out after a while. They’d miss a bus, or miss a train and they’d always have a good excuse but it would have to be a pretty good one really. A bit of ‘hanky panky’ and tricks went on, but I didn’t have to deal with it fortunately because I had a senior officer when I was at the big station at Amberley.
Interviewee: Anne Macleod Archive ID 1738 Tape 04
I just wanted to ask you firstly for a little bit more detail about the homes that you were billeted in when you were in Melbourne?
Well the first one was the home of H.B. Mackay. Who is H.B. Mackay? Massey Harris the great big agricultural
equipment firm. It was a huge place with a big sort of turret at the top. And it had been converted of course by the time I got there, into big long dormitories. It was this huge hall, miles wide. It was a huge house but it was all converted and the original furniture wasn’t in it, or anything. I don’t know what happened to that. I presume it was taken over, commandeered,
by the air force, or he might have offered it. I don’t know. I don’t really know what happened to the family.
How many girls were staying there?
It was mostly girls working at headquarters that stayed at these places. There were 50 or 60 probably. And there was a matron in
charge, who would have been a civilian. She wasn’t a member of the air force as far as I know. She was a civilian in charge. And the staff, I’m not sure if the cooking staff would have been civilian or not. I think they probably would have been. A firm would be employed to do that, I should imagine. They wouldn’t be able to afford the air force ones, for that sort of thing, I shouldn’t think. I wasn’t there very long before I moved to Lansell Road
which was another big home that belonged to a man called Fink, who was an architect. And whether he’d offered that or whether it had been taken over, I don’t know. That was another very big house but not as big as the first one though. There were army girls there too, it wasn’t just air force. They had a lot of homes like that all over Melbourne and I suppose in other cities too. I don’t really know about the other places.
How many girls lived in the
second home that you were billeted in?
There would be about the same number.
What was it like sharing with the army girls?
It was good. I made one permanent friend that I’ve still got in Adelaide. There weren’t many army girls and people were coming and going and being posted to different places. I remember she went off to Townsville in the middle of everything. Yes, I made some good friends.
Did you make friends
easily being in postings?
Yes, fairly easily. Yes, I think I made friends fairly easily but there were several special ones, rather than being involved with everybody.
Would you like to tell me about some of those closer friends?
They were mostly from other
states because being a mixture of everybody, most of the other girls came back to Western Australia that I came with, so I didn’t keep those friends and I had to make new friends. One of them lived in Adelaide and she was there and she was a close friend. And there was another girl who I just managed to track down, a couple of years ago and found she had died. She
was a nun. I always remember her because while my sister was dying, she used to kneel by the bed every night in front of everybody. She didn’t mind. She was a good friend and she came from Wagga Wagga in New South Wales and she was a lovely person. And another great
friend came from Brisbane and she has since died but I kept in touch with them over the years. There would be only 3 or 4 very close friends. I knew a lot of others and going to the reunions, I’ve been to a couple of and seen a few of them. And through my contact with the choir, I’ve renewed contact with 2 or 3 of them too, which has been good.
What brought you closer to some of those girls?
Doing things together I
think. There was a closeness with them, with everyone doing the same thing and living the same way and eating the same food and so on, and I think that brought everybody together. None of us had had this community living or very few of us anyway, so it was a new experience for everybody. And getting on with people and rubbing shoulders with people and the sort of people that you’d never have met in your
civilian life. I don’t mean as a ‘class system’ but there were some that you just wouldn’t have had contact with. They were all really decent. You met some really great people and they weren’t all necessarily from that strata. They were terrifically genuine and motivated and joined up because they wanted to help. Everybody wanted to do something for their
What were some of the difficulties that you did experience in those communal living standards?
One of mine might have been because I didn’t take up smoking and I didn’t drink much and I never had. It wasn’t any particular fetish, it was just that I didn’t want to. I
found sometimes - I wasn’t actually called a ‘wowser’ but I used to get myself out of some situations, before they developed. A few of the girls, certain ones, let a few things go to their heads for a while. It is only natural. I didn’t want to do some of the things they wanted to
So how did you avoid the peer group pressure?
I’d just make an excuse and they probably thought, “Oh, her,” but I had a few like-minded friends, so I didn’t really have any trouble.
What were some of the lighter moments that you shared while you were boarding together?
There was a bit of fun and singing and story-telling of
experiences that girls had had. You would hear about things that had happened during the day. They were very good about confidential things because that was drummed into us. You didn’t talk about your work and they didn’t either. But they were funny things, like going out with men and he’d be a bit forward and they’d think, “There’s something funny about him.” And you could just go and look it up in the
records. And they had a few experiences like that. One girl had a very funny story about this fellow and she found out – he said he was, what he wasn’t. He gave the wrong rank. He was in civilian clothes, he wasn’t in his uniform. And he said he was a lieutenant, or something or other, or a flying officer and he came on strong and we were just able to
check up you see and that was the advantage of being in headquarters. Not everybody could check up but we could. I only had one experience like that, fortunately.
You did yourself?
Yes. It was all right. He just quite liked me and I didn’t really but he was all right. And he said he was this and that and the other and not married, no nothing like
that, but of course he was. I found that out very early, fortunately. You see, most of them wouldn’t have been able to find out and I suppose they got themselves into a bit of a predicament sometimes.
How did you meet him?
I met him through a party, I think it was in the canteen. I hadn’t been ‘in’ very long.
It was after we were in billets. Yes, he managed a whole lot of seminars in Sydney and he was ‘so’ important. And the flowers started coming and everything and I thought, “No, I don’t think I like this. There’s something fishy about this.” Anyway, we decided we’d find out and he was married. He went overseas anyway.
What were the rules for boys visiting while you were billeted?
You had to get permission to go out with them and you usually had another girl with you anyway. You didn’t go out by yourself usually, especially while these murders were on. We were not allowed to go by ourselves, anywhere. You very seldom did, because community living like that, it usually ended up, that if you went anywhere it was always with two or three other girls.
Was there heavy security on those
Not that I can remember, no. I think there was after this problem. And later as I said, we were met at the bus stop and they made sure that everything was secure but there wasn’t permanent security, no, not that I can remember. I don’t think there was any need for that at the time.
So there was no guard installed?
No. I think there were enough
women there to be their own guards and I think they thought it wasn’t necessary. I don’t remember there being a guard at the billets.
Was there a lot of fear among the women with regard to that problem?
I don’t think so. I think there were just the numbers, the numbers of them probably supported each other. We did support each other. You can tell by just the attitude of
them now, the women who have been in the services, they seem to look at life differently and they’re all very supportive of each other and all the ex service associations are too. Loyalty and friendship and all that sort of thing is stressed all the time of course, but you can see
it in practice.
I might have to ask you about that camaraderie a bit later on. You mentioned earlier that your parents soon moved to Melbourne?
Yes, they did come over there and they stayed on there, after I was posted away too.
Did you return to live with them?
No, because my brother was being married and they moved up to Sydney and I went back when I was discharged to Sydney and I lived
there with them until I got married.
How long were they living in Melbourne?
They would have been there about 4 or 5 years.
So you didn’t leave the homes that you were billeted in to live with them?
I did later on for a while. It would have been -
they didn’t have a home. They were only in a boarding house, so I just stayed with them on and off. I didn’t stay there permanently. When my sister was dying I was there all the time and that would have been from September ’43 until January ’44 that I would have been with them.
Before I ask you about your sister’s health how often were you visiting your parents?
It would have been about
every week, every weekend.
What kind of things did you do together in your times there?
We used to go for a walk and go to the theatre and go to concerts, or just enjoy being together really because I didn’t have my brother or my sister. It was just the three of us at that stage talking about letters that we’d received from
them, the few that came through from England. My brother wrote all the time but we only got a quarter of them.
What kind of things did he write about?
He wrote about things that were happening there, not about the war but of course, he was right in the thick of things. But they were all censored letters. And our letters were all censored and all the boys’ letters from
overseas were censored. You get those little aerograms with great black streaks through them and you’d try to read them. They didn’t say much that needed to be censored anyway but they knew they weren’t supposed to say where they were, or what they were doing, or anything. Most of the letters were censored and there were sometimes bits cut out of them.
I presume ours were too when they went over there but I don’t know.
Did it appear that he missed home?
My brother? Well he’d been there since 1936 and, yes, he was expecting all of us you see. We were all going over before the war. And that was disappointing because he said, “We’ll wait for six months because it might blow over.” Everyone thought it would blow over and not last for six years or five years or whatever it
was. Yes, I think he did miss home and especially not getting letters because so often the post boxes would be bombed overnight. You’d come to get the mail and there would be nothing there. And letters that were posted it would be the same thing. So it was difficult but some letters got through. My brother is a ‘hoarder’ too and he’s given me back a few that I wrote during the war and I’ve got some that he wrote.
They had those aerograms, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen them, but they came down to miniature little tiny things and you had to write very small and then they were shrunk. Yes, they were little tiny weeny things that you’d receive. I don’t know whether I can lay my hands on one to show you but I would if I could.
Did you say they were shrunk?
Yes. You had to write in this
very small space, it was tiny. And the ones I have got that he sent are so small. He couldn’t have written that small so they were shrunk at some stage or another. And they were all open, they weren’t closed up but that was just one form of communication.
Was there a copying process to shrink them?
There must have been. They must have had something. I must ask my brother about that. I never thought of that before. I’ll find
out about that.
What was the first news that you received regarding your sister’s health?
My parents received word that she had fainted one day and fallen flat on her face in the dust and that they thought she had anaemia and she was being sent back in a hospital ship. And that was the first word. So we just had to wait for the
hospital ship to come back and she came to Heidelberg Military Hospital in Heidelberg in Victoria. Do you want me to go on about that?
My parents were told, they weren’t sure of the diagnoses in New Guinea because she’d been bombed and all sorts of things had happened up there and the doctor up there had actually
pinpointed it and my parents were told when she got back that she had Hodgkin’s Disease. And it was acute which meant she only had about 3 months. They have a cure for it now. She was absolutely fit when she went up there because she had tests and so on. And she’d always been healthy. So it’s a disease of the blood and they think it could be a virus but they’re still not sure but they have got a
cure for it. Anyway, she was out there for 3 months and just slowly faded away. It’s just as well my parents were there really, but they suffered terribly, especially my mother. I went out to the hospital as much as I could and they went every day. And my sister having been a nurse, doing nursing,
she never let on that she knew what was wrong. She must have known. She was so brave and so wonderful. The letters that my family got afterwards from people who had known her, was just amazing. We got several hundred letters from people who had known her at Northam and New Guinea and everywhere, and at Heidelberg. Somebody there who was actually an ex Western
Australian was a chemist over there and he tried to get something for her from America but there was no drug then for it. So we just had to face it. They didn’t tell me for a week and when they did I couldn’t believe it. We’d never even heard of Hodgkin’s Disease and at that time the only other person we’d heard of, who’d had it was the Governor of Victoria’s son.
We’d never heard of it. It was very hard. They gave her a full military funeral with troops at Spring Vale. She was buried at Spring Vale in Victoria. And they played the last post and there were pall bearers and everything.
Before I ask you to explain her full military funeral in a bit more detail, what were her symptoms?
She was just losing weight completely. It attacks the lymph nodes. It is a disease of the blood as I say, Hodgkin’s, and it just destroys the red blood cells and it was just rampant. And hers being acute, it was
fairly quick. Really, it is just loss of appetite and losing weight and being anaemic. There could have been other symptoms but I wasn’t told of them.
Did you visit her regularly at Heidelberg?
As often as I could get leave to and of course they were very understanding because they knew. And that’s why I went to my family because they
let me. They let me have that time off, not off work, I still went to work. But I used to go out in my lunch hour and go into all the churches and say, “You can’t do this.” I’d better not go on talking about it or I might be hurt even now.
Did you say earlier that you spent some time living in a boarding house with your parents?
Yes, I did at that time. And they also allowed us to take
Cynthia out of hospital for Christmas. She died at the end of January but we brought her home for Christmas to the house which was nice. She was 3 years older than me and always spoiled me. And she was just a marvellous person and it was awful. I couldn’t understand it but it was just one of those things.
Did you say the disease was suspected to be viral?
They think it is a virus so they are not sure where she could have picked it up.
Is it likely that she contracted the disease because she was in New Guinea?
Well, we sometimes think that, but in those days you never thought about compensation or appealing or anything like that. It wouldn’t have even occurred to my parents to do anything like that, or to question it. They still don’t quite know how it
happens but as I say they have got a cure. I don’t know whether they have got a cure for the “acute” but they have got a cure for the “chronic” Hodgkin’s. There are different types, but hers was the type that wasn’t curable. It was such a shock because she had been fit to New Guinea. They had been under canvas as I say, at Northam for two years. They didn’t have accommodation for
them so they had to put them in tents. They used to work in the hospital and then go home to their tent. They made light of it of course with photographs and things. And they nearly got blown away one day in a storm. But she had a tent with one other girl who is still alive. She was always cheerful, my sister, and always made the best of everything and every situation. She was a wonderful person and a wonderful example to others.
What did she share about her services in New Guinea with you?
Things happened that weren’t very funny, like the bombing and so on. I don’t know but I always thought she didn’t like the sight of blood very much and having all the wounded there and everything I don’t really know how – she coped with it all right, but whether that had something to do with the psychological angle with these diseases.
Whether it affected her so much more than one would imagine, I don’t know.
Which hospital was she working in?
She was in 5th AGH in Port Moresby. It was an Army General Hospital because she was army. They had a lot of wounded coming in of course all the time. That was at the end of ’43 and the beginning of ’44 before they had repelled the
Japanese and pushed them back. They had got fairly close. She didn’t talk a lot about it. They were told not to I suppose. She didn’t have any leave of course. You know, the first we saw of her was when she came back ill. She hadn’t been there all that long.
You mentioned that she had a full military funeral?
Yes, she had pall bearers, the army men, and they played the last post of course and there was a flag on the coffin and the medals and everything. It was all done very formally. My parents were marvellous. I was in uniform of course so I
had to try to hold my head up but I wasn’t very good at it. It was a terrible blow for them and the last thing anybody expected. And John, my brother, never saw her again of course because it was 10 years before he came back. So that was sad for him. She was at school when he went away. You don’t expect these things to happen.
Who attended the funeral, was there a large group of people gathered?
Yes, there was a tremendous amount of people. There were all the people who had nursed her at Heidelberg and the head of nursing and the head of AAMW because mother had letters from all these people afterwards and anyone who had had contact with her who could get leave. Not the New Guinea ones of course, the ones who had gone to New Guinea but anybody and there were masses of people and we didn’t know who
most of them were. She was very popular and she had a lot of friends. There weren’t many of those of course because they wouldn’t have been able to get leave because it was still wartime. It was a very impressive place, Spring Vale. I’ve been out there a few times since. It’s a huge cemetery.
It sounds as though she must have touched a lot of people’s lives?
Yes, she did, Cynthia, and she had been five years in the Bank of New South Wales before she joined up and had a lot of friends. So anybody that was in Melbourne that had known her would have come. The letters that my parents got were amazing but they weren’t kept, so I can’t do anything with those either. Their generation were like that they felt everything was a bit too personal and too
close, so a lot of the correspondence like that would have been destroyed. I know lots of cases where people had tried to look things up and hadn’t had the records to do it.
That’s a pity.
But it is still a lovely memory isn’t it?
I miss her. We were very close and if I had any troubles I often went to her instead of my
parents. It was hard but it was harder for them than me. I still miss her.
How did that bring your parents together?
They were very close anyway, but my mother lost about 3 stone. She was a fairly biggish woman and it just fell off her, the weight. But my
father had terrific faith. He was very upright and a very passionate man. He was a wonderful person. I got a bit upset about the whole thing and said, “Why does God have to do this?” And he just said, “God’s need was greater than ours.” He always had terrific faith and he had to, for
mother’s sake I guess, because it affected her terribly. Anyway, it’s history. It’s a long time ago isn’t it.
You mentioned that you had a girlfriend who was a nun, who was very supportive?
I didn’t see much of her after the war, as I say and when I caught up with her, it was only through coincidence. For our 70th Birthday our
children gave us a bus trip in Queensland and we went to some of the resorts and islands. And there were some people from Wagga on the bus and we were talking one day and I said, “I used to have an old friend in the services who came from Wagga.” And I mentioned her name and they said, “Oh yes, I knew her but she’s not in wagga anymore and I think she became a nun.” I said, “Oh, really.” It didn’t surprise me really. She was that sort of person. Anyway I
finally got the address and wrote and she had died the week before of cancer. So I missed seeing her again. Yes, I’m not surprised she was a nun. She was a lovely girl. There are a few others that I’ve kept in touch with but I’ve only got one left in South Australia. There are a few that I’ve tried to find out where they are, but I haven’t been successful. One popped up out of the blue a few
weeks ago, a male friend, who we’d known for many years and we’d lost touch. And he decided he was going to get in touch and I said, “We’ve been trying to get in touch with you for years.” I said, “But you’ve missed Alan because he died last week,” or whatever it was. And he was so upset. He lives in Brisbane. But some things happen like that but most people of our generation have
It’s curious that some of those attempts have been missed so narrowly?
Yes. It is a pity. We moved about quite a lot in our marriage and you tend to lose touch with people over the years although I think our communication was pretty
good with letters and phone calls. Not so much phone, because there weren’t so many in those days. But all my family communicate now by email. I’m trying to find out about it. I’ve got an electric typewriter which I’ve always had and I type letters. And they say, “Oh Mum, you don’t need that, you can get onto email.” But I’m hoping that the art of letter-writing doesn’t go.
I still think that
letters are a lovely way to communicate but I’m sure that once you’ve discovered email you’ll find it very convenient?
They all tell me that, yes. I use my fax quite a lot, if I want to know something suddenly but certainly email seems the way to go. I’ll get there.
You can write email and it’s not unlike a letter and you can send it off and it will be there in moments, it’s an immediate thing.
Yes, I know.
I suppose it’s a good way but then everyone doesn’t read them straight away do they?
I can’t speak for others. I think earlier on we were discussing the time that you spent at Penrith as an officer. There’s probably some more that we can discuss about the time that you spent there?
That was my first posting as an officer, a Junior officer.
I was lecturing recruits. That was the NSW [New South Wales] Recruit Depot. They were still getting intake even after the war finished because I think it was while I was there that the war actually ended. We marched in Sydney. I’ve still got photos of us all marching on VJ [Victory over Japan] Day.
Prior to that there would have been VE [Victory in Europe] Day as well?
Yes, there was VE Day.
I was on my course I think.
Your officers’ course?
Yes, and then VJ Day wasn’t that long afterwards. One was May ’45 and the other one was August or something like that when they dropped the atom bomb. I took part in both lots of celebrations but it was mainly the VJ one that we all went into
Sydney for. Penrith was a nice little station. I don’t know what it had been before. I’m not sure. But it was all female there were no men. And the boss was Pat Bromley who lives now in Busselton, I’ve seen her. She is
‘group officer’ and a very nice person. All the girls were nice and all the officers, the recruitment officer, adjutant, messing officer and quite a few. All I did was lecture these young girls, on all the things that they might need to know about the air force. Also, I had my stint at messing officer, as I mentioned before. I had to be, go out
taken to the markets and order the food and make up the menus and make sure that it was cooked properly and delivered to the tables. That was quite an experience being messing officer. We all had to take a turn at doing it.
What was your relationship like with the young recruits?
Good. In fact when I joined the association here, one of the girls came
rushing up to me and said she remembered me. She said, “You were at Recruit Depot when I did my course.” And she said she just came in, as I was leaving. She is still over there [at the AFME - Air Force Memorial Estate]. And they were still joining up, even then. They were still taking them in. I quite enjoyed that time there.
What did you enjoy about it?
I got on very well with the other officers and it was my first experience as an officer and in charge of people. I was in charge of people as a sergeant and flight sergeant and so on, but not in the same way. I enjoyed the other girls, the other women, they were very nice the ones on the staff. They were really nice. And we had a few visits to stations from
there. And there was a Mosquito Squadron nearby and they used to shoot over. They weren’t supposed to, but they did. And they came over to us and we went to them for parties. And we went to Richmond which was the big RAAF Base, the home of the merino sheep. What do you call them?
The man who brought ‘merinos’? I can’t remember his name.
You know who I mean [means John Macarthur] and they still own the place at Richmond. We went over there a couple of times and there were wonderful parties over there. Yes, I enjoyed my time there.
What did you enjoy about being in charge there?
No, I shouldn’t have said that. I was only lecturing recruits there. I wasn’t in charge of the WAAAF there.
There was a CO and the actual staff would have come under her, but there weren’t a lot of WAAAF working there they were only training but they had to be looked after in the same way. We all had our different jobs but I wasn’t actually overall in charge of the girls, I was just lecturing them. But they came to you all the time for all sorts of things.
What kind of things were they coming to you for?
They asked questions about things and for you to enlarge on things and just generally asking your advice about things.
In an informal way?
Yes, it was nice.
Did you have a lot of time for their questions?
Yes. It was good and they enjoyed their lectures, or seemed to and
they wanted to know more about what you were talking about of course, and you’d enlarge on different things that you’d been talking about. Generally it was nice, yes.
Where did you meet them informally?
Well you didn’t. It would just be in the lecture room that you’d talk to them. They would have their canteen and so on, and you’d sometimes go in there as well as the officers’ mess. It was quite good. It was only a small
station, so you saw quite a lot of everybody else.
And they were disciplined?
Yes. They were very good. And we had a very good CO. She was marvellous and had a lot of experience.
What made her a good CO?
She had had a lot of training. She had a presence. She was older, quite a bit older than all of us.
She was just very, very good and very fair and got the message across. It was just her and she was very good.
She was able to command respect?
Did you encounter officers that weren’t very good in charge?
Well, she was the only WAAAF Officer that I’ve had, the others had been men. The ones on the other stations, the one at Amberley, the Group captain was a
man, and also at Seven Stores Depot. So it was only at the WAAAF Recruiting School was there a WAAAF officer.
How did you find the male authority?
OK. You used to get on with them. You were in charge of the WAAAF, at that time I was OIC WAAAF and you’d do your job and they knew that you’d go to them if you needed to and I did
have to a few times. They were very nice. You met them socially as well in the mess. They were all pretty nice people.
So there weren’t any gender politics?
Not so much in those days, no. If I found I was getting into any difficulty, or I didn’t like it, I’d just leave and go back to my quarters.
Interviewee: Anne Macleod Archive ID 1738 Tape 05
Anne before we went to lunch we touched a bit on where you had this job where you were going through the lists of fellows who were listing missing or deceased?
The casualty lists?
Yes. How did that affect you on a personal level?
I suppose you got a bit used to it. You had to build a bit of a thing around yourself because
otherwise there were lots of things like that, not a lot, but a few things like that that would have affected you. I used to just look and blink and hope that I wouldn’t see anyone that I knew, but I often did. We used to get a bit upset about it. There weren’t many West Australians in my particular section, so I couldn’t go and say, “Look, here’s so and so.” You’re supposed to keep it to yourself
anyway probably, so we just decided to be practical about it and do what we had to do with the records. I wasn’t in the section where you had to do anything about letting anyone know, or anything like that. That had already gone on. We just had to record the fact that they were missing, or killed, or ill, or whatever. It probably did affect me at the time.
How much did you lean on other ladies for that emotional support?
I must admit my poor sister, in letters got a lot of it. That’s why I missed her so much, because she used to be my support. There were one or two that I could lean on, but believe it or not, leant on me more than I leaned on them.
I’ve been told I should have been a counsellor long ago. You just sort of came together and talked about it, if you needed to. We didn’t have things like counselling and psychologists at every turn. There was nothing like that. If things just happened you just dealt with it.
That’s what I find a bit interesting. In those days when you probably did need a bit of
counselling, you had to lean on each other instead?
Or bottle it up, but eventually it affects you in some way I guess. I mean in our position when you think of the people who were seeing gruesome, awful, things every day of their lives and going through all that.
It’s different though because you are ladies and as you’ve
pointed out before, you were quite innocent, so this is still a pretty big step?
I perhaps shouldn’t have talked generally about being innocent, but I know a lot of them were young and sort of untouched by everything. We didn’t have ghastly things happening every day like they are now. Kids see all these things on television and everything and there was nothing like that, so the enormity of things that could
happen didn’t come through to us. Even then we were only at a distance from it, although we were hearing things every day of course. News gets around, so they all talk about it and they talk about it after they go off duty and so on. We tried to keep it, to work and enjoy our leisure time or get over it that way. I know what you
mean and it did probably affect us in different ways and there was no way of getting it out.
I can imagine this was why the choir was such a great thing for all of you?
Yes, the singing was wonderful. It is a wonderful escape. And we had to learn the songs of course. We used music at most of the concerts but a lot he liked us to do from
memory and that was a discipline too.
You mentioned that you did remember the Christmas Eve Concert?
The ‘Carols By Candlelight’ thing, yes, that was quite impressive with a few soloists. That was in the Melbourne Botanic Gardens, the same as they were held in most cities, and that was something to remember. They were lots of other people performing, we weren’t the only
Was it a wonderful thing to be a part of because it was almost Christmas Eve. Did you feel like you were actually giving to the community?
Yes, I’ve always enjoyed things at Christmas like that. They were so enthusiastic, the girls, it was
wonderful to see really. They were very enthusiastic. When I was doing the research for the book, I started doing it a couple of years ago, and I was given the name of this Nancy Ray, whose photo is in there. I wrote to her and she wrote this marvellous thing back from her computer. She’s older than me. She said it was in one of the books but it wasn’t in an official book. It was called ‘The Book of the WAAAF’. I haven’t been able to get it.
But there is this wonderful account in a joking way and anecdotes all the way through and I’ve got it there. And there’s poetry that she wrote, about Verdon and Haydin and the others. It’s so good and there’re all the little quirky bits that she remembered about how we all knew the back way into the Melbourne Town Hall, through all the underground tunnels, which I’d forgotten about. And all the little things that
happened with getting on stage and people doing things and having accidents and little tiny things and going home after the concert singing away. It was quite good, if I can get that into my story one day and find out more. I’m still beating brick walls.
You said there were tunnels?
There were apparently tunnels. I had forgotten, I don’t actually remember actually going through any
tunnels but all under the Melbourne Town Hall there are all these rooms and tunnels. I suppose there are under most big city buildings. Apparently we used to sometimes, come in that way, which I had forgotten. I remember going through the front door and right up the aisles and up all these steps onto the platform. The troops were always very enthusiastic when we sang. There were
not really catcalls and whistles so to speak, but they were always very enthusiastic and all the people that came enjoyed it. Mr Curtin – one of the girls that did answer my ad that I put in, ‘Wings’ was this girl that did the solo for ‘The Nun’s Chorus’. She had this big soaring voice going right up. She said, Mr Curtin wrote her a personal letter and thanked her for her singing.
When we were making my husband’s tombstone, his grandson has a company that does it. I didn’t know and this John Curtin turned up at the grave to meet us and decided what we were going to do. I said, “Are you by any chance related to the ex Prime Minister.” He said, “Yes, he was my grandfather.” So I told him about this letter that this girl got, when I got to
know him a bit. I saw him a few times. He was in the television the other night and it was on one of the news stories. He doesn’t look like his grandfather though.
We had a chat in the break about hair styles which I found quite fascinating. Tell me how you get your hair up off you collar?
Well the only way you could, if it wasn’t cut off, was to roll it under and then you’d have to
have something to secure it. Many of them did that. They rolled it up in a sort of inverted ‘pageboy’ because you know the other one is called a ‘pageboy bob’ or whatever, which I had when I joined up. So they just used to get this – we didn’t have pantyhose then, I don’t think so, it must have been ordinary stockings coming to here, which had garters. And we wore ‘lisle’ stockings, not black ones fortunately, or
navy blue and we used to invert them by taking them off and putting them around the other way. I saw that in one of the notes. Anyway, we would stuff that with something, probably cotton wool, and then you could have it as thick or thin as you like. If you had long hair you only needed to have a thin one. Then you attached it around here and wound your hair around it. It worked very well. In fact you could have it right up here and join it like an ‘Alice Band’ at the top and roll it all the way.
A lot of the girls had lovely long hair but they still were not allowed to wear it down with their uniform. They could with civilian clothes. We used to go out in our ordinary clothes and then they’d have it down. Most of them got used to having it short and ended up just getting it short. They didn’t have shingles then either, they only had bobs. You know the shingles, like the men? They called it shingles.
They have it now.
It’s your hair shaved right up like a man’s and it looks like a man at the back. I don’t like that style myself at all. We didn’t have that at all. We only had the bob, what we called the bob. They were very strict about that.
Can you tell me just a little bit about your uniform and what it looked like?
It was navy blue, the same as the men. And when we were
issued first with our initial overalls, which are in one of those photos, and a fur, felt hat which was for the sun and just the peaked cap for other occasions. The overalls were too big. They were men’s and they didn’t have any women’s sizes, so we all had these overalls turned up at the cuffs, until we got proper ones. They were navy blue with buttons down like ordinary
workmen’s overalls with a belt. We had a navy blue beret which we wore when it wasn’t sunny,, or the Fur felt which is like an Akubra with a strap. My husband wore that out. I think Robin my daughter, has got it now. It’s just about falling to bits but she wears it. You know the old one they used to turn up for the Light Horse [Australian Light Horse Brigade] on one side. And then there was the peaked cap for wearing out on
formal occasions. Then we had the jacket which is in the photo and a navy skirt and lisle stockings and black shoes. Then there was the tropical. When I went to Queensland, I had a khaki skirt and a khaki jacket. We were issued with everything including underclothes and pyjamas. It was the whole works, such as they were. So you were
fully kitted out, or you were supposed to be anyway. Most things fitted where they touched. When I was an officer I had one tailored anyway. You were allowed to do that. So the khaki one was because they didn’t have any issue, you had to get it made yourself but they paid for it. Then if you didn’t wear the jacket you just wore a blue shirt with a navy uniform and a khaki shirt with the
khaki uniform or tropical ‘garb’ or whatever they called it. It wasn’t like khaki, it was lighter than khaki, a light colour. It was quite nice though.
When would you wear your overalls?
We wore those right through our training and then if you were doing anything like that. I must admit I didn’t wear mine a lot. But if you were a
fitter and working on the planes, a lot of those girls did and probably in the kitchens as well. Most of my wear was during my training. A lot of the girls would have worn them and they probably would have had 2 or 3 issued to them. They did all sorts of things. They were very good and they learned very quickly too.
How were they treated? You mentioned the girls who were wearing overalls who were
dealing mostly with aircraft, how were they treated by some of the male members?
Very well, I understand. Also when they worked on the plane and they felt it was their ‘baby’ – the fitters anyway, Fitter Class 1 and 2 they had and fitter 2A and fitter 2E, they used to ask if they could go up when they were testing it. They let them but it was unofficial and they weren’t really supposed to.
I think some of them said they managed to go up and they were very proud of themselves because girls hadn’t done things like that. There were mechanics that did the cars, as well. I think the drivers were supposed to do mechanics as well and all sorts of things. I wouldn’t have done anything like that but they were that way inclined
Did that change the way you thought about women and what women could achieve?
I suppose so, yes. I didn’t know any female mechanics in civilian life. I don’t know which girl, or what girls that picked that sort of mustering, were doing in civilian life.
a lot of them would have come in, they would have waited until they were 18, and come straight in at 18, so they wouldn’t have had much time to be trained for anything. So I don’t know what made them pick doing that. They had to be trained on it of course, before they were allowed to work on the planes. I take my hat off to some of those girls who did those sorts of jobs. They were very exacting. There weren’t many of them, mind you
doing that. It would be interesting to know how many in each mustering. I suppose they’ve got a record of it somewhere.
It just would have been very unusual, given their previous history and having women in those jobs? It would have been quite exciting being a woman in those times saying, “Let’s ‘rock’, women can do everything.”
That’s right. I know of one instrument
repairer and a photographer. She must have gone up a few times too, to take photographs. You didn’t hear about those sort of things because the women weren’t supposed to fly. I don’t know how they expected them to be photographers if they didn’t. That’s something I haven’t sort of found out yet.
It’s interesting that there was a bending of the rules?
We went on leave in aircraft.
And you weren’t supposed to?
Well we weren’t told we couldn’t. I even had a ride in the bomb bay of a Liberator, when the bombs weren’t in it of course. We were in a hurry to get somewhere and the American pilot said he’d
take us in a ‘Liberator’ but we had to sit in the bomb bay. I think we only went down to Brisbane or somewhere from Amberley. It wouldn’t have been very far. Things like that happened. I went in a Mitchell from Melbourne to Sydney. And I also went on an official trip which was supposed to be ‘Hush, hush’. Because I’d been told it was ‘Hush, hush’, I don’t remember what it was about. It has gone. I’ve blocked it off. I went with the
WAAAF Officer from Headquarters up to Lake Boga. Do you know Victoria at all?
That was a Catalina station?
I went in a Catalina and we landed on Lake Boga and took off and then landed back on the land. We were only away for the day. I suppose I took notes for whatever she was doing but because it was so confidential, I’ve decided not to remember it. That’s actually in my
official record that I’ve got, that I had this little official posting. But that was the only official one.
So what was the first aircraft that you went up in? Was that the Liberator?
No it was probably the Mitchell, I went from Melbourne to Sydney on, but we got permission for that. The Liberator was some time later in 1945 and probably the rules were getting bent a bit by then.
The war was over.
I imagine that going up in an aeroplane in those days, for the first time, was quite exciting?
I wasn’t a bit afraid. I don’t remember being afraid. It’s not like now, “Aaagh.” I don’t like flying, not any more, especially when you are by yourself. It’s awful. I flew to New Zealand when my daughter was over there and she said, “Come over.” And I flew last
January, to take a plaque over for my husband and I didn’t like it by myself. She arranged for me to be met and somebody to go with me to Melbourne and the rest of it but I didn’t like it.
It’s more fun with friends. How did you get posted from the depot at Penrith to Amberley in Queensland?
How did I get there? By train.
What was also going on, in the fact that you were transferred from Penrith to Amberley?
I think that they were probably going to close down Penrith because I don’t know how many more they took in after I left but that was well into 1945. So possibly they were going to close it down. They still had all these
women at Amberley for somebody to look after. And there was an OIC WAAAF, Willa O’Neill and I went over and took over from her while she went on leave and then she came back. I was there for a few months and then I went up to the Stores Depot where I finished and where I would still be.
What was the purpose of the base at Amberley?
It was an aircraft
depot and it was a stopping off place for points north. The Liberators brought back a lot of prisoners of war, so I was there when quite a few came back. They had already had their recuperation, you might say, and they were still like skin and bone. They did a lot of ferry work with supplies and things like that from Amberley. There were only certain
places where certain aircraft could be and they were big enough to take certain aircraft because so many were so much bigger than others.
What was your initial reaction when you saw some of these POWS [Prisoners of War]?
You couldn’t believe it and you had to imagine what they were like when they came out of the camps. There weren’t many. It was just the last lot that I saw.
It was hard. We only had a glimpse of them. They were taken into sick bay and then shipped to where they were going, to their home state and so on, so they were only really passing through.
On the Amberley base were there a lot of Americans there?
There were quite a few but there were also a lot of Australians flying Liberators.
I met mostly Australians there but it was all winding down by that time really.
What did the base at Amberley look like?
It was quite extensive and quite big. We had tennis courts and a sports oval and so on and quarters for the different troops and messes. They were big buildings. I don’t know what it
was but it is still there. I gather it was built during the war or before the war because it is still an aircraft depot and it is still one of the permanent ones, whereas a lot of the others would have gone by now.
What sort of other facilities were there at Amberley?
There was a swimming pool and tennis courts.
We used to ride around on bikes like we’d do at Stores Depot because Headquarters was usually a fair bit away from the other bits and pieces, so we used to get around that way or walk. It was quite good there. We had a good CO.
Were you in large or small rooms for sleeping?
We had little sort of cottages and there might be
two to a cottage. The facilities were good. At most of the stations I think, they were good. But I was in the better part of it. The women’s accommodation was OK too, it was pretty good.
When you became an officer did you have a higher level of privacy because of that?
Yes. They treated us well.
What was the difference in the way they treated you after you became an officer?
Just the same difference as when we had to respect officers. I had to remember who to salute and who not to salute.
Yes, and you had to remember they were saluting you and not the other way about. And you were called, “Ma’am” by the girls which you had to get used to. And we called the higher ones, “Ma’am.” We had a higher one in charge, so we were used to it.
You get used to things because it was five years, it was a fair while.
With your Officers Mess there, was it the Americans, the Australians, and the ladies all in the same mess?
Yes. You could come and go as you wanted to. If you didn’t want to stay in there you didn’t.
Yes, it was. It was quite interesting because a lot of them were coming home, coming
back from the war and they came through Amberley.
What did you think of the Americans?
I saw actually, more Americans in Melbourne than I did on Amberley. They were always pretty decent. As I said before, they were well mannered. Yes, I found them all pretty good. I didn’t meet one that was
too loud. The girls got on pretty well with them and as I say, a lot of them married them in the end.
I’m sure some of that didn’t go down too well?
I don’t know, perhaps not. A few of them might have thrown over one country for another.
Were there any sort of social regulations with you being involved in the mess
all together, was it that you didn’t drink – did you have to be a little more polite being a female officer?
You had to be a bit more careful. I drank a little bit but not much. As I said, I used to get something the same colour, so they wouldn’t pester me. But, no, it wasn’t a problem. I never had any problems.
You mentioned that you had some leave in Brisbane when you got on the Liberator. Did you go on leave with other girls?
Yes. There were two or three of us at a time and w used to just go down and see a film or something like that, or spend a bit of time – I had some friends of the family at Barwon Heads and they had a house there and they invited me to stay there a
couple of times so that was good.
Was there any chance of you going back to West Australia for leave even though your family was in Melbourne?
No. I didn’t come back until after the war and after I’d been to New Zealand.
When you said that there was a bit of a winding down that started happening when you were at Amberley, in what way did it start winding down as
far as your job was concerned?
Well people started getting discharged and I suppose, there were less to look after. That’s all it amounted to. The work was still the same but to a lesser extent. There would have still been quite a few. Because it was a permanent station, they kept on a certain number. I can’t remember how many were there. Some of them were posted
off. They would have asked to be, some of them, or they were just discharged automatically depending on the mustering that they were in and how many they needed.
So they were discharging people on the level of what they still needed?
Yes, I think so. I can’t remember whether there was any restriction or rule, or anything to say that they had to be, or any dates or anything like that.
I don’t know what it involved at all. I wasn’t in that side of it, I wasn’t involved in it.
There wasn’t any sort of point system?
No. Some of them of course stayed in. They were given the chance to or to come back in. It was the WRAAF [Women’s Royal Australian Air Force] which is still going. I think they had to come back in
though and some of the girls were in both and they’re in that now as well. I think they had to get out officially, and then re-enrol for the other, because I don’t think that was formed until about 1946 or 1947.
So from Amberley you went?
Up to Toowoomba. It was a complete change in climate. The ‘Seven Stores Depot’ it was called.
There’s been someone researching stores depots and he wrote for information last year and I sent a lot of stuff. I wouldn’t have been there very long. I was OIC WAAAF but there weren’t very many. There would have been about 70 or 80 left. I was also Adjutant for the last few months that I was there.
Why did you get this
transfer in the first place?
I think it was just all coming to an end. I didn’t ask for it, it just happened. And the other lass had come back so there wouldn’t have been enough for both of us to do, for two OIC WAAAFs. So whether someone was leaving from Stores Depot I’m not sure. There must have been because otherwise I wouldn’t have been sent there but it was
quite nice. We had our own houses and things there that had been built for the Stores Depot. That was quite interesting too there but that’s where I was discharged from eventually at my request.
What were the interesting things about this job?
Well the business of security and having to make sure the
guard dogs were looked after. They had special guards to do that and passwords and all that sort of thing. Even after the war ended, it still went on. And the girls, of course they were still [working with] parachutes and you had to be absolutely dedicated, to fold them. They were absolutely wretched things to fold. They were made there too. That was a responsible job.
Those girls did a very responsible job. They had other stores there but I can’t remember what they were. I was only concerned with the parachutes because they were a mustering. I can’t remember what they were called – it was probably stores because they didn’t have a name for a mustering with parachutes in it. That’s another thing I must find out.
There were a few of them who did that all the time and some who did all the sewing. It was beautiful material. They made them out of parachute silk. It was gorgeous stuff. We were given a chance to buy some material before we left which I used for curtains and they lasted for years and years and years. It wasn’t much, it was just one set because they were getting rid of all the
stores and they were having auctions and things. I don’t think that exists any more that place.
What sort of things would they have as part of this stores depot apart from parachutes?
They would have other air force equipment and probably security stuff and so on because it was so well guarded. They didn’t say much about what was
there, so I’m not too sure.
What would an average day there be like for you?
You mean time-wise?
Yes, just what would you do in a day?
I think we started at about 8.30 probably to 5.30. No one queried the hours or anything, or the pay. There seemed to be plenty to do. You’d have to
supervise all the girls and the postings in and postings out and looking after them and making sure they were all doing what they were supposed to be doing, or you’d hand it on to another authority, to check for you. With the Adjutant, I had to check in everybody who came and check out those who were going and all the paperwork had to be done. There was so much paperwork all the time and that’s what I would have been doing and
requests for this and that ,and the other, and requests for leave and discharge and everything.
It sounds like you were constantly weighed down by paperwork?
Probably, but not too much. Towards the end there wasn’t really a lot. With all the comings and goings you had to be there to make sure everything was official. I think I might be running out of steam.
We’ll just move on then. We’re probably coming nearly to the end of the tape. So you said that you were discharged. How did that process work?
Well I had to apply for it in writing. I gave the reason that my brother was being married and the request went in and I got the permission
to be discharged. Then the paperwork had to start of course and I had to report down to Bradfield Park in New South Wales, which was where I trained and say goodbye to everybody and take myself off. We were already by then – a lot had got out before I did. It was a fair while to be in for me. For the girls that hadn’t been in very
long they wanted to stay in for a while but they didn’t have much option. They just had to eventually all be discharged. That was August in 1946 when I got out and I think they were just about all out by the end of the year. They had had to go through all the procedure at Bradfield Park and collected your deferred pay. It was what they called ‘deferred pay’ and it was like superannuation
but it wasn’t very much. You had to sign everything that you should and hand in your uniforms and things like that. We were able to keep certain things but had to hand in some. I remember, I kept my great coat and I kept my hat and most of the things, but there were things that had to go back. And that was it. ‘Goodbye’.
What happened next for you?
I started working in a Radio Station in Sydney and I was doing script writing and a bit of this and that. Then another friend who had been in the air Force, she was a physical training instructress in ‘PT’ which we did. She’d been in a Girls’ College before that and was a friend of mine at school and we decided to take ourselves off, on a working holiday to New Zealand. I had
relations over there and so did she. So that was what happened to our next year. We went by sea of course. There were no planes. There were planes, the flying boats used to go over and we had a flying boat trip with the two children when we went back there to live. We went by sea and struck a cyclone in the middle of the Tasman [Sea].
They had a ship that used to go across the Tasman called the Wanganella. And she went on the reef in Wellington Harbour, so while she was being prepared they put the little Wahini on, which was only a little coastal boat. It used to go down the east coast of New Zealand and it wasn’t really meant for the Tasman. Anyway, we travelled in that, from Sydney to Wellington and half way across we
struck a cyclone. It was so rough. We were in the bows and our cabin got flooded and my friend was seasick all the way. So we arrived in Wellington two worn and very pale females. And this blessed reporter nabbed us and said, “What are you doing here?” “We’re on a working holiday from Australia.” “Oh, what are you going to do?” “Work in an office.” Anyway, it was quite good.
I worked in radio over there too, in broadcasting.
What sort of things did you do in broadcasting?
Script writing mainly and arranging programs and things like that. I was on air a couple of times myself but they didn’t have the sort of programs they’ve got now. It was fun and I enjoyed doing it. I did that around New Zealand.
My friend had a bit more trouble than me because, being a PT Instructress, there wasn’t much available for her, so she learned to type in a hurry and got office jobs. We had some fun. We saw all over New Zealand, more than my husband had ever seen.
Was that were you actually met your husband?
Yes. It was just before I was due to actually come home to Western Australia. I stayed a bit longer
and then eventually came home here and started working. I was working on ‘Women’s Weekly’ and doing social notes. They used to do all that in those days, social reporting, where they’d report wedding and engagement parties and meet ships with visiting artists and all sorts of things like that. I loved it. And I was going to be a journalist wasn’t I but somebody kept knocking on the door.
We were writing to each other and eventually I went to Sydney and we were married in Sydney. He came over.
How did you actually meet your husband in New Zealand?
Through some friends that I went to stay with. I went to stay with them because Frances had already come back to Australia. I went to stay with them in Nelson and he was there, so I met him through friends. I went down to his home and saw quite a bit of him, before I came back and it developed from there.
Interviewee: Anne Macleod Archive ID 1738 Tape 06
So you began a family?
Not immediately. We were married two years. We decided to wait and I did a bit of work and gathered a few funds. We were in the eastern states then.
What plans did you make for the future?
Well we thought we’d just have one child and see how we got on and of course three weeks before they were born we
found we were having two.
What was it like having twins?
It was wonderful in lots of ways but they’re completely different, so in that way it was harder, I suppose.
Was it a challenge?
Yes. It certainly was, when you hadn’t had much to do with babies in your life. I had no nieces of nephews or anything.
It was certainly a challenge and Alan was at work all day, so you just had to do it and get on with it. There were no disposable nappies or anything like that. You’d just soak them and wash them out.
Did you have any support?
My mother, when she could. She was in Melbourne then, but my father was very ill so, no, not really. There were no relations or anyone near where we were
living, but it was good. They [twins Tony and Andrew] were born in Melbourne and Robin was born in New Zealand and Kim was born here, so I’ve got a cosmopolitan lot. No, they are all good. I’ve got six grandchildren. One twin is in South Australia.
What kind of career was your husband in?
He was in agriculture. He was with Goldsbrough Mort and
ICI [Imperial Chemical Industries] for many years and he was the director of a private company and then he was working for the Uni [University] Agricultural Department before he retired. He liked it over here. We came from New Zealand to here and he was keen to come over here. It was quite different though, to his type of country with the mountains.
Was that under your persuasion to come over here?
Not all together. I thought I’d never come back to Western Australia but he was keen to come over, so it was a combined effort really.
What was the attraction?
Well it was the agriculture and he thought he was going to be managing my uncle’s property. But we were coming on the ship and on the way over the property was burned out. So he never got to do that. He was with
Goldsbrough for many years and then with ICI, the Imperial Chemical Industry. He enjoyed that, but he did a lot of travelling, so we were glad when that part of it was over.
How old were the children then?
When he was travelling they were fairly young and we came back to Perth because the education started to get a bit difficult. The boys had two years at boarding school but we needed to get back to Perth.
Sorry, how old were the
children when your husband stopped travelling for work?
The boys would have been eighteen and Robin sixteen. She was doing her exams and she got through everything. And Kim was 12 and he started Scotch [Scotch College, Melbourne] then and he plays the bagpipes.
So you had had to manage alone a lot of that time?
Yes and we were in the country at Katanning for six years and he went away quite a lot. Yes, it wasn’t very
easy with 3 boys.
How did you find living in rural Western Australia?
It was good. It was good for young children and they say it was too. They remember their time in the country quite happily.
What were some of your fondest memories of it?
Their schooling has been a bit disjointed. It was good because we knew a lot of the farmers down there and they were
nice people in that area at Katanning.
What are some of your fondest memories of living in that area?
It was the nice people and the country atmosphere. The children could take themselves around the place and see their friends without fear of anything happening to them. They had bikes and so on. We used to take them out to the
farms and so on. It was a lot safer than the city I think. I feel sorry for some people who are living in the city with young children. My family manage all right but none of them live in the city, they are all out in the outskirts, or the hills. They don’t like living in the city. I’m in the middle. It is an
hour and a half to get to all of them from here.
Do you spend a lot of time together now?
As much as possible. We have special functions where we all get together in one place. And I drive still, so I can drive to their houses and that takes a bit of the pressure off them getting here all the time.
So you still drive in and out of this driveway?
For how long I know
not or until the neck gives way. Yes, it’s not easy.
You mentioned earlier keeping in contact with old friends or making contacts with old friends after so many years, have you been a member of any related associations to the services?
Only the air force one. The WAAAF Branch. I’ve been in that for quite a few years and the RAAF Association I belong to
but that’s the only service one I belong to.
What has been your involvement?
Well Alan and I both joined the RAAF Association because he was in the New Zealand air force and not Australian. When we came down from the hills and we moved here 11 years ago, soon after we joined that, with a view to maybe thinking about retiring there some time but we didn’t ever do it. He became ill a few
Have you been a member of the RSL [Returned and Services League]?
Yes, we were for a while and Alan was a member of the RSA [Royal New Zealand Returned Services Association] in New Zealand too. I’m not a member of the RSL now but I have been asked to take the salute at their local Anzac parade.
I don’t know who suggested me.
Are you flattered?
Yes, I think it was very nice of them to
Did you go to Anzac Day this year?
It’s the week before Anzac Day, yes. A lot of the councils and associations have their own little services. The WAAAF has one early in April and this is the week before. They all march on Anzac Day so they have their services on other days. Because I’m publicity officer for the WAAAF, I’ve done a couple of
talks on radio and at a school and that sort of thing about the WAAAF. Nobody has ever heard of the WAAAF. When they know they did all those things, they can’t believe it.
What is your reaction to that when you hear that they have no idea?
I’m not surprised because I knew this was happening and most people have never heard of
them, most people have no idea. I don’t know quite why. Unless they have a relation or something I suppose it doesn’t come up.
How important is it for you to be able to share something about the WAAAF with those people?
If they want to know, I like telling them about it, but I don’t inflict myself on
anybody. My grandchildren like to hear about it and I like to hear about the men. I used to try and get Alan to talk about his experiences, which were much more varied than mine, but as I said before, they didn’t talk about their active service much at all. He talked about his training which was very extensive for bomber pilots. The training practice and the radar
training where they couldn’t see the ground, as he said for weeks on end in Britain because of the weather. They couldn’t see the ground, so if they didn’t know how to fly; ‘on their instruments’ that was it. My grandchildren used to love hearing about those sorts of things and I did too and I tried to get as much out of him as I could when he was ill but it was sad. He had a much more interesting service life. I don’t say that mine wasn’t interesting
but I didn’t know him then, so I couldn’t have that sort of rapport with him that I would have had otherwise.
Was he a pilot?
Yes. He flew the big bombers, the Mitchells and Wellingtons with a 6 crew. He had a pretty active time and was overseas for about 4 years.
And he never spoke much about his
He spoke a lot about his training as I say. Yes, he did actually talk to me about his overseas service or things that happened but not a lot.
Whereabouts was he?
He was in the Middle East and England. He had two tours of duty in the Middle East and the rest in England. He saw some pretty horrific things and caught Sand Fly Fever twice and was grounded and he had to
leave his crew and that hurt him terribly. A few things happened that weren’t very good.
I’m sure he had many stories to tell?
Yes, I’m sure.
Earlier on we mentioned VJ Day but we didn’t go into much detail about the celebrations. What do you recall about it?
I remember this tremendous crowd of service people, meeting on the
Domain in Sydney. I’ve got a few photos. There was a great big public domain and it was a nice day. We all went into Sydney, into the city, it was walking distance, and we marched in the street. We were about 12 abreast across the street and all linked up with each other. There were all these service people and there were all the crowds along each side of the
street who were rushing up and shaking hands and hugging you. It was a great atmosphere, a wonderful atmosphere and people just couldn’t believe that it was over.
Did the celebrations go on late into the evening?
We went back because I was’1 WAAAF Depot’ then at Penrith. We went back and finished our celebration at the station. I think it did. I think the public would have kept on celebrating. And
Sydney would have been one of the biggest gatherings I should have imagined in Australia, anyway. It was good. It was such a relief.
What did you think about the bombs being dropped in Japan?
We were just relieved that it had come to an end and it saved all those people going over there and being killed because they would have been. You had mixed feelings about it, especially knowing
afterwards what happened and so on. It is hard to know. You only have to convince yourself that it would have been worse if something like that hadn’t happened but I don’t think people realised that it was going to be so horrendous. I don’t think, even the pilot would have realised, the one who dropped the bomb, that it would have been quite so horrendous.
What did you know about atomic bombs?
Not a lot,
not a lot at all. None of us knew much about them.
Was there a sense of curiosity?
Yes, and then of course the pictures started coming out later.
We’ll close now Anne and probably spend not much more than 5 more minutes talking. We were
talking about Anzac Day previously, what does Anzac Day mean to you?
I wouldn’t like to see it finish, the tradition. After the war, it meant sadness to me, with my sister I suppose and I couldn’t hear the ‘Last Post’ without feeling dreadful for many years actually. We used to take the children.
In Perth you could get a spot and wave flags and watch the march. I’ve marched with the girls a few times. I think it is a tradition that it would be a pity if it didn’t stay but of course the older ones, it will end up just being Korean and Vietnam Veterans and the later wars because there aren’t very
many of World War II left are there?
The numbers are dwindling?
We were rather surprised that at our lunch this year we had 107 women, ex WAAAF. But we have women from other services. We always have a table of women from the army, navy and air force. But that’s not a bad number because the other states have a lot less. The men are
dwindling probably at a greater rate than the women. There are no Anzacs left are there, from the First World War? I think the last one died recently didn’t he?
The one who was at Gallipoli?
Yes. They’re the ones who were at ‘Anzac’ of course, aren’t they, ‘Anzac Cove’.
We have interviewed a World War I Veteran though while working on the project here in Perth?
Yes, he was 105.
I thought they’d all
It’s deceiving. You hear reports in the media that they have all gone but I don’t think it is very distinguish very well between Gallipoli veterans and veterans from France or other areas of the conflict.
That’s the sense that I make of it because I was surprised to hear that we would be interviewing him myself?
My uncle was in the 10th Light Horse in the First World War but he died years ago. I think it would be a pity if it didn’t go on because there is much more interest
now, especially from the younger ones. And a lot of the younger ones are marching with their relations or by themselves. And there is a body, especially in the Air Force Training Corps, they are all very interested still in Anzac Day. I think it would be a pity if it did die out.
It does seem to be growing in popularity though. What do you think about that?
I think it is. I think it is amazing that more young people are interested. It’s being fostered
more perhaps and different events I suppose affect how people feel but I think that is sort of something they can hang on to.
Do you think that the growing interest in Anzac Day means a growing interest or curiosity or recognition for what you’ve done and the men and women of your
generation did during World War II?
Yes, I think so. Our children and immediate friends know but there are so many people who still don’t know why you are there and who are those people marching? They know the nurses. They always recognise the nurses because they wear veils sometimes. It doesn’t matter because we all
know and our immediate families and friends what we did. I think it is good. It doesn’t mean that they are fostering war or anything like that because it’s not meant to be like that. It’s just a day when they can all unite and they love it, the old veterans like us. Even the girls they all go back and have
their lunches and talk and they have drinks and they go to Anzac House. I think it would be rather a pity. How do you feel about Anzac Day?
I think it is a great day and I think it’s a great celebration?
Good, because it is the young people. You are the ones that will keep it on or not. It’s not me.
How do you feel about passing the country on, to the younger generation to uphold?
I feel good about it. I think there are enough of the right sort to do it, than not. We don’t hear about all the good things that happen, do we? I think it is in good hands.
Is there anything that you’d like to pass
on to the future generations of Australia about your experience of war?
Nobody likes war and I wouldn’t like anything like that to happen again and if there is a war, it will be a horrible war and different altogether. Everybody has to work as hard as they can, to make sure there isn’t another one. It is possible. We’ve got enough with all these terrorists
to deal with, without us being dragged into any sort of war. I hope they will remember us too.
I can only hope that if there is another war the young people of Australia will show the integrity that the men and women of your generation showed during World War II. Thanks very much for speaking to us today, Anne, it’s been a pleasure meeting you.