so from Bronte I went to Waverley Public School and then to Sydney Girls High School for 3 years then I went to Stotts Business College for almost a year and learnt shorthand and typing and bookkeeping and jobs were very hard to get then because even though the Depression was over there was still too many people for the workforce so I sat for an exam for the public service and out of 150 who sat only 50 were appointed and I was lucky enough to among those first
50, so then I worked in the Public Trust Office from 16 to 21 and that was when I joined up at the age of 21 so I spent 4 years and 8 months in the women’s services and about 3 months after I came out, Barry and I were married. We moved to Greenacre we had 2 children, Jan whose 54 now and Colin who's 50 and we lived at Greenacre for 53 years
before moving to the retirement village. Post war I didn't go to work it was normal for public servants to have to resign once they got married and so I reared the children but when they were at high school I decided to go back firstly doing temporary work or part-time work and I enjoyed that so then I was asked to stay on at a solicitors’ office I enjoyed doing legal work so I was a
Legal Secretary for quite a few years working in the city but when a opportunity came to work for a firm of solicitors in Bankstown I took that because travelling to and from town was very tiring and I worked for this firm for 14 years but instead of being a Legal Secretary I found they expected me to handle my own matters so I became a Managing Law Clerk dealing mainly with probate matters and conveyancing matters
and when I was 60 Barry and I decided it was time we both retired not knowing how many years might lie ahead of us and so for 20 nearly 23 years we've been retired and enjoyed every minute of it so we took on voluntary work after we retired and worked for the Royal Blind Society for quite a number of years and became interested in a Geranium Society and got involved as president or editor of the journal and we
have enjoyed been together and doing things together and luckily our children are very supportive of us so we've been very fortunate and we've got 4 grandchildren now, one boy and 3 girls.
though we were part of the army there were only 800 women recruited at that stage and we had to be 21 years old we had to hold Home Nursing and First Aid certificates and have done practical work in a hospital we had to have 2 character references from our commandant at the unit and our priest or minister and we had to pass a medical examination so I was posted to the 113th Australian General Hospital at Concord
where I worked in the orderly room later on we our unit names were changed to Australian Army Medical Women’s Service mainly because to be called Voluntary Aids was a misnomer we were being paid by the army we had army pay books and army numbers and Voluntary Aids were still working in a voluntary capacity so to bring us in line with the Australian Women’s Army Service the AWAS our uniform was changed from
blue to khaki which we hated and we were given rank prior to that we'd all been we'd always been called Miss or Mrs but now we became “Private so and so” or depending on the job that we were doing we might be a sergeant or a lieutenant and
playing cricket and football and so on but there'd been nothing organised for the Women’s Services so this was a new appointment there were several of us appointed and I was sent to Perth for the first 9 months and you more or less felt your way through as to what you were going to do but it was a matter of supply women in the services with more things to make their barracks seem more home like more irons for them to keep their uniforms pressed
more electric jugs cabinets beside their bed just beside tables really but instead of keeping their possessions in a cardboard box they could put them in this cabinet and instead of a grey blanket on their bed they could have a cotton bedspread and also it was a matter of organising tennis matches and swimming carnivals but I can go into more details about that later
and we had a park nearby we used to go the swings and buy a penny ice-cream to eat in the park of course there was no television in those days and it was in the very early days of radio and my father had a set that had to be tuned with a whisker and he'd you'd put headphones on to listen to it he was always saying “shh shh” while he listened and my grandmother most irate one day said
“shh be damned!” so she wasn't in too enamoured of this wireless that had just been introduced so for entertainment we played gramophone records and I was a great reader I loved reading and I was never very interested in playing with dolls but I had a scooter which was good I enjoyed that and I had quite a few friends from there and we always walked to school it was a long way but our parents after taking us the first few days allowed us to
walk together to school and home again today children seem to be picked up by their mothers in cars from school maybe there's more danger today but we were never worried about that when I was young.
I couldn't have one because he was frightened the dog was going to dig up the garden and instead he bought me a tortoise which I hated so I didn't mind a bit when the tortoise finally escaped and we had a fern house there with lots of lovely ferns and he was sentimental he planted a white azalea and a pink azalea because my mother had carried white azaleas in her wedding bouquet and her bridesmaid had had pink azaleas so he was very keen about gardening and
my mother was a real homebody she sewed and cooked and she was the one who disciplined me my father never laid a hand on me and nor did my mother really but she used to say “I'll punish you if you do that” and I'd say “well don't hit me” I'd rather do anything rather than be hit and so she'd say “all right no comics” you know comics were great for kids those days and you looked forward to getting your weekly comic so that was the greatest punishment
that could have been meted out to me not to get my comic that week.
When you moved to Bronte was it a big change in your lifestyle?
Yes it was my mother hadn't been well after this stillborn baby was born and she and I went out for a holiday there during the Christmas school holidays so she could recover and when the house next door to where we were staying became empty she said to my father “I'd love to move to Bronte” so we'd owned the house at Marrickville and so they rented that and moved into this house at Bronte which they rented and it was quite a large house
and my mother decided she'd like to have people come and stay either for Bed & Breakfast or for holidays so a lot of country people came and stayed with us and that was quite fun meeting fresh people and we were very close to the beach, Bronte was the sophisticated spot it is now with restaurants and so on and we could just run down a sand hill and we were right in Bronte Park so we went swimming a lot I belonged to the local swimming club
and my father used to go swimming right through summer and winter every morning and no matter how cold it was so it was a big change in lifestyle.
sometimes even go for a dip in what they called the “Bogie Hole” there which was sort of a rock pool and on Sunday afternoons my mum and dad always went and sat on a hill overlooking the park and some of my friends and I would walk around from Bronte to Bondi, there's a cliff walk right around there and in winter we'd do that because in summer we'd be on the beach and there was a rotunda along the promenade and a
band would come and play every Sunday afternoon there and then there were missionaries who would come into the park for the children and they had a piano accordion and an artist who would draw pictures illustrating Bible stories and we'd sing when I was younger we would sing all these songs that they had with all the illustrations or with gestures to illustrate the songs.
That must have, we'll definitely talk about that sort of awakening later on, sticking with your childhood a little bit now, when you first moved to Bronte you said your mother was unwell after the birth of the stillborn child, did you take on more responsibilities around the house at that stage?
No no I didn't I don't think I really understood that she needed help in that way but I feel that she started life a fresh there
the Star and the Regal and Saturday night was always the night to go to the movies particularly when you had a boyfriend and you had the choice of programmes of course with the 2 and you had a long programme and there was always a B class movie oh the news movie tone news would come on first and often a Mickey Mouse type thing cartoons or a travelogue and then there'd be the B film
then interval then there'd be the main film so that it went from oh half past seven I think 'till about 11 o'clock at night and there'd be such a crowd to come home on Saturday night the trams would be waiting outside the theatre and everyone would pile out of the theatre and onto the trams to go home.
physical culture and we would have exercises and then sometimes we would have parties the boys would bring soft drinks and the girls would take the supper in one of the homes of the members and always on holidays we had picnics or hikes hiking was very popular we'd take the train to Audley at National Royal National Park and hike through the National Park
and we were not supposed to dance, Presbyterians and Methodists didn't approve of ballroom dancing I don't know why it was considered sinful but I was still allowed to learn ballroom dancing and got a lot of fun out of that.
discriminated against because I know the government thought it was being protective of us but all we were allowed to do for the first few years was voluntary work which was important but when you saw the boys that you worked with in the office joining up and going overseas going to Canada to the air training corps or going to England or going off to the Middle East in the army you could feel a bit envious you didn't think about the danger, you just thought about the excitement
and of course young people didn't travel overseas in those days so that was a tremendous thing to happen in their lives that they were going overseas and women just felt we were supposed to be at home and there's nothing exciting happening in our lives.
If you cast your mind back to that time when you’ve become an adolescent it was a time full of concerns what was your main concern for your own life then?
I don't really remember the concerns about life I think we had quite a happy life I had 2 girlfriends who went to Sydney Girls High with me and we were more concerned with learning ballroom dancing and reading we discussed books endlessly and always had Georgette Heyer and the books we were talking about we all read the same books and then discussed them we went swimming we played tennis,
life was pretty carefree really so I don't think I had any fears of the future.
guest houses there and the Blue Mountains was as far as you went for a holiday in those days or Woy Woy but we didn't go to Woy Woy and so the guest houses were good particularly in the school holidays they'd have all sort of entertainment for adolescents always had a fancy dress party and there was always tennis and walks to the local Echo Point or Leura Cascades or things like that and
comparatively cheap accommodation and you'd go up in the train to Katoomba and then the bus would meet you and take you to the particular guest house where you were staying and of course my mother and my friends mother would do the things that they wanted to do leaving us teenagers to do our own thing
and this girl was her Polish name was Ginya but she changed it to Gertie Ingdyk and we always said “oh why did you change Ginya to a horrible name like Gertie?” but that was interesting because she was Jewish and in a group at high school we had a Roman Catholic, a Church of England a Jewish girl I was Presbyterian and there was a Methodist and we all in our lunch hour discussed our religions which was very good we became
very tolerant of one another’s religions and that was what I think is in favour of public schools, that you’re not just all one religion segregated from the rest of the community and you'd become much more tolerant of other peoples religions.
blackout curtains on them and my father as an air raid warden had to go around in the evenings checking to see that no chink of light was showing and if it was you had to knock at that person’s door and say “you’re showing lights there” particularly along the beach fronts because at Bronte they thought “oh there could be submarines” and it did turn out that submarines did come into Sydney Harbour and so that was important and what was the silliest thing they took the names off all the railway stations
so the enemy if they landed wouldn't know where they were but it was very confusing for everybody else if you were trying to find your way in the brownout and the buses’ headlights were all were partly covered so that was very dim and the cars a lot of them changed over to using gas and they would have big sort of balloon-like affairs on the roof of the car and that was because
petrol was very scarce and they were running on this hot gas I don't quite know how it worked but that was a wartime measure and of course rationing was introduced and tea, sugar, butter, meat, and clothing were all rationed and everybody got a ration book and when you went to the grocers you took your ration book with you and when you bought your tea and sugar, he cut out those coupons and went
to the butcher he cut out those coupon for your meat and once you'd used those coupons up for the week or the month well you just had to make do with fish or rabbit or we didn't eat pasta in those days and clothing was difficult I didn't notice it so much because the army was providing my uniform but for people who were in civilian clothing they had to watch those clothing coupons and so there were a lot of recycled clothes in those days.
we were allowed to go to real dances and so yes we still went ballroom dancing and there were fewer boys around of course to dance with because so many of them had joined up my 21st birthday party was held at a place called the Trocadero in George Street in Sydney which was a very popular dance place it was Jim Davidson and his orchestra that played there and it wasn't a big we had a table at this
Trocadero and because we didn't have enough young men to invite to the party we got in touch with air force headquarters and said if there were 2 young air force boys in on leave in Sydney with nowhere to go would they like to come to the party which they did and so they came along and danced with us and joined in the party.
me at Bronte and we used to go to the pictures every Saturday night together and he was very keen about music he played the guitar and the ukulele which was quite popular then taught me to play the ukulele he had a nice singing voice and so we spent a lot of time together but the criteria oh someone who was gentle and loving
and caring they didn't have to be particularly handsome or no worries about how highly they were educated as long as they were people that you could get along easily with, he was a very good tennis player and was a bit disappointed that I wasn't so good but we'd been swimming together of course at the beach and like everyone else we didn't have very much money so a lot of our entertainment was free to go to the beach or just go for
and to my great distress the doctor said I was B class because I'd had severe acne as a teenager on my face and on my shoulders and although it had cleared up by the time I was 21 she said I if I went to the Middle East where skin diseases were rife I would have a very great chance of getting some sort of skin disease so I went home and cried and said to my mother “I'm only B class” it seemed a great
indignity but it meant that I was still in the army anyway and it wouldn't have made very much difference because only 200 girls got away to the Middle East and after that they weren't sending anymore the war had shifted to the Pacific and by the time the war was in New Guinea I went for another medical examination and amazingly I was A class by this time even though I think in New Guinea you would have picked up all sorts of
diseases and although I never got to New Guinea at least I was A class.
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be kitted out with the uniforms we needed now 20 pounds $40 doesn't sound very much today but when you put it in perspective I was earning 4 pounds a week so 20 pounds was the equivalent of 5 weeks wages which in today’s terms would be perhaps $2,500 and of course stenographers were earning $500 a week so that provided us with blue uniforms and veils grey lisle stockings, black lace up low heeled
shoes, a navy blue coat and skirt with a white shirt and a navy blue tie and a felt hat and an overcoat, a cardigan and a cape and we had to pack all those in a suitcase and take ourselves off to, well in my case to Concord, on public transport and there I was what they called “taken on the staff” and interviewed by the Colonel, the Commanding Officer
of the unit and he said “what were you best at in civilian life?” and I said “shorthand and typing Sir” and he said “I'll make you a filing clerk” so I thought that was a bit ridiculous but anyway then they put me to this office job in the orderly room in which all the files were kept so my first encounter with real discipline was one of my jobs was to go back about 7 o'clock in the evenings to
give the mail to the Dona* he was the dispatched rider who came to collect the mail at that time and we were never supposed to walk outside our quarters without our veil on and this night or evening I had been doing my washing or ironing and suddenly I realised it was 7 o'clock and the Dona was coming and I dashed up to the orderly room to give him the mail and just then the Matron and one of her other nurses came along and spotted me without
the veil, “Miss Bakey come into my office”, Miss Bakey went in trembling stood to attention “no sister would go outside her quarters without wearing her veil don't let it happen again”, “no Matron” so I was severely disciplined there.
rooms but out at Ingleburn we were in a army hut with about 20 of us in a hut and grey blankets on our beds and it was a run across the open grass to the latrines and the showers and these had been quarters that had been used by men and of course men weren't too fussed whether they had a door on the latrines or showers and some of these didn't and we felt weren't very private so
they eventually put doors on those and we had to do a lot of drill there we were supposed to learn out to take orders and give orders so that you went on route marches and you did drill, open ranks march and all this sort of thing so that was quite an experience and then we had lectures on army organisation, army routine, the different ranks
because up until this time while we were VAs we didn't have to salute anybody but once we became AAMWS and privates of course we had to know who to salute and when to salute and how to salute so that was a learning curve we had meals there that were very different from the meals we'd had at the hospital cooked in big soyers they were called and dished out to
us at long tables so that was quite different to what we'd been used to and then when we went home on leave for the weekend the last train that we could catch back to Ingleburn to be in by midnight there was always a great rush to get on the buses to go out to the camp and we'd race up the steps for Ingleburn station to get onto the bus because if you missed that bus you were going to be AWL [Absent Without Leave].
great for other people other ranks to do there were x-ray technicians, dental nurses, switchboard operators, clerks, typists, workers in the laundry and general duties which meant to you were acting as a waitress to wait on the officers’ mess and the sisters’ mess and to clean their quarters so those general duties jobs were not terribly
popular and you were changed around you did so many months on those duties and then you were allowed to change over to office work or hospital work and of course it was all shift work in the wards the girls were working 8 hour shifts I didn't do any work in the wards at all but those who were on night duty they had to sleep in separate quarters so they weren't disturbed by those who were on day duty so their lives were changed a lot and
a lot of them were very keen about nursing and eventually after the war was over they went into nursing full time although sadly all the work that they'd done during those years that they were working in hospitals didn't count towards their nursing training which I thought was quite unfair and they had to start off from year 1 as though they were rookies, but it depended on the sister who was in charge of the ward how much you were allowed to do as a VA.
You might just be given the very menial jobs of making the beds or handing out the orange juice or something like that or if a sister saw you were particularly keen she would be encouraging you to take patients’ temperatures or give them bed baths or all sorts of taking their pulse for instance those things you really needed to know if you were going to be of assistance to the nurses.
but I do remember the first time I had to deal with someone who died in the hospital one of the jobs for the orderly room sergeant who was on duty there was to notify the Districts Records Office of the death of any soldier in the hospital and I was taken down to the mortuary and they pulled opened the doors and pulled out a body on the slab and that wasn't a very nice experience and so then I had to ring up
the District Records Office and notify them of this soldier’s death, of his name and his rank and his army number and I was in tears and I can remember I think he was an older man on the other end of the line and he said “don't get upset girly you've just got to take this all time” so you just had to cope with that
bikes and breaking their legs, there was a malaria ward of course once the war had shifted to New Guinea a lot of soldiers came back from malaria and a lot had tinea or dermatitis the khaki uniforms that the men had worn in the Middle East were dyed green so that they wouldn't be conspicuous in the jungle but unfortunately the dye that they used came out into their sweat and they sweated in the
jungle as you can imagine and this caused this terrible dermatitis and so they were confined to hospital for that and oh there were all the usual sorts of illnesses those who had to have their appendix out or their tonsils out there were various wards in the hospital for various complaints and one of the big wards that we had there was for men who had been badly burned and injured
in aircraft accidents and they were in a ward called a the facio-auxillary ward where their faces were to be built up again by special surgical procedures and they were in there for the long term and sometimes they had to have their faces and a lot of their heads covered in a plaster cast so that was quite sad to see them walking around but the surgeons were doing very good jobs in rehabilitating these men.
and I'd been home to Bronte on leave and hadn't been in bed very long when the air raid sirens went and we all had to get out of bed and go into slit trenches and it had been raining and the slit trenches were deep in water so we crouched in those in the mud until the all clear went off again but it seemed like ages before it happened and then we didn't really know why the air raid sirens had sounded whether it was an air raid or what
was happening and it wasn't until the next morning that we heard on the radio that the submarines had shelled Sydney and so I was very anxious for my parents being in Bronte so I got onto the phone as soon as I could to see if they were ok and they were luckily it was a time when the war really came very close to home.
I always enjoyed shorthand and typing very much and so I went into that job knowing that that was really what I wanted to do then and we had a good group at the public trust office with a social group and we used to go over to Luna Park once every now and again and go on the roads and have a dance over there and we had a musical group that put on some entertainment and some plays and by coincidence I worked
for a young clerk who was in the office there and he was a member of the Sydney University Regiment and he joined up quite early in the piece and came in to kiss all the girls goodbye and looking splendid in his uniform and we knew him as Arthur Cutler but we didn't know that he was to become famous as Sir Roden Cutler VC [Victoria Cross] in time to come, they were good crowd in the office and we
worked hard because the first year you were employed you only got one weeks holiday the second year two weeks and after that 3 weeks holiday and if you were .... You could sit for exams I sat for what was called a permanency exam in which I had to do higher rates of shorthand and typing and English and maths and so I became permanent which was good when I joined up because I was paying superannuation and so the public service paid
my share as well as their share of the superannuation while I was in the army and then I sat for another exam which was called the grade 116 exam which was again higher speeds of shorthand and typing and things liked confused manuscript and pacey writing so in those 5 years I worked there I advanced in seniority.
military police when you were on leave you had to show that leave pass and if you didn't have one you were considered AWL, Absent Without Leave, I hate the American style of saying “AWOL” which means “with out” is 2 words which it isn't so if you were AWL you could be put on a charge so I was mainly on leave from midday on Saturday which was 1200 hours to 2359 which was a minute to midnight
on Sunday evening but I was always back in barracks before then and the 2 leave passes that you had to 10 o'clock at night during the week Most of us didn't use that because you were busy doing washing and ironing or writing letters or catching up with friends and it was hardly worthwhile going outside the hospital for just a couple of hours.
ablutions, the showers and the toilets and the laundry block and they were provided with no washing machines, you had to do all your washing by hand but laundry tubs and an ironing board and an iron and that took up a a lot of time washing your uniforms doing them by hand and I'd never washing anything in my life my mother had always done all my washing and being a spoilt only child, my father had always polished all my shoes so I had to learn to do these things
for myself and by and the time you rinsed your uniforms washed them and rinsed them and squeezed them dry and then you had to starch them now there was a Reckett’s starch which was lumps of starch like this and had to put in a basin and mix it to a paste with cold water and then add boiling water and pour that on and stir it quickly so you finished up with this gooey mass and depending on how stiffly you wanted it how stiff your uniform and your veil would be because they
had to be starched too so by the time you'd done all that your hands were almost in blisters so your uniform was hung out the next day you brought those in and ironed them so that took up quite a bit of time and your shoes had to be polished everyday.
thought it was an absolute disgrace so that had a big influence on us plus the fact we knew very little about contraception, I can remember in the army having a lecture by a doctor on health and she was asked about contraception and she said “my advice is to have a long glass of cold water and when I'm asked ‘before or after?’ I say ‘instead of’” and so that was the
sum total of my sex education in the army so with lack of opportunity in many cases or lack of contraceptive knowledge, I think the majority of the girls would have been too scared of becoming pregnant to have had sexual relationships.
weekend if you say left camp, take us back if you can remember basically what you did if you left camp at midday on a Saturday what did you do? Take us through a weekend?
All right sometimes we were lucky enough to get a ride in an ambulance from the hospital that was going into the city so when the ambulance stopped in the city and the driver got out to open the doors people gathered around to see who the patients were and very healthy looking VAs stepped out of the ambulance, otherwise we had to take a bus
from the hospital to Strathfield station and then a train from Strathfield to Central and then a tram from Central to Bronte so that took quite a time to get home and then it was spending time with your mum and dad or catching up with some of your friends who weren't in the army or Sunday morning we'd probably go to church to see some of my old friends from there Sunday afternoon if it was summer we'd be down the beach or
walks around the place and then after an early tea on Sunday evening I'd leave home perhaps 7 o'clock to get back the hospital by about half past 9 and when you got to Strathfield going home you'd probably find other people going back to hospital on the same train and you'd all be waiting for a taxi so the driver would put 5 of us in a taxi at a shilling each, 10 cents and take us back to the hospital
trial run but we'd better do it” and so it was quite cool I remember putting on my overcoat and going outside where they had these slit trenches and hopping into those I'm not sure if there were duckboards along the bottom of the trenches but I know they were very wet and muddy and we crouched in there expecting to see planes going overhead but there were a lot of search lights going overhead you could see the beams of those up in the sky
but I didn't hear the sounds of planes, so we stayed there for what seemed like quite a long time before the all clear went and then we clambered out which wasn't as easy as getting in and went back to our quarters and washed the mud off and went back to bed.
and the dental section made her a wedding ring out of dental gold and she wore a frock that her parents sent her from Adelaide and I was her bridesmaid, I think I borrowed a frock to wear and one of the AWAS there had been a florist and she made Mary a lovely bouquet of pink frangipani which grew very freely in Darwin and carried a sheaf of purple bougainvillea
and we were married well, she was married in a little Church of England that still stands there now although I believe they built a bigger church around it and it was a very happy occasion but then she had to come south I think they had a few days together on the general launch ... together and then she and I came south.
Did you want to stay as a sergeant were you happy to stay as a sergeant?
I was happy to stay as a sergeant yes I don't know why I was chosen for promotion maybe there were spaces available I know I'd done well with NCO school I got a distinguished pass there and so maybe that had something to do with being chosen to go to Officers’ training school so I went to Officers’ training school with one of the other sergeants a girl called Gwen Lewis and we went to RAK
where the training school was in a lovely old home down there although we were sleeping in tents out in the grounds and we had 5 weeks intensive training there but the silly point about that was physiotherapists were also in the course and they were like army nursing sisters they would have automatically become lieutenants anyway and there was no idea it of them ever training soldiers or giving orders for drill or that sort of thing they were purely to be
physiotherapists in hospitals and I think the army did some silly things sometimes to make them spend 5 weeks going through a course that didn't really matter, they were going to do a job in hospitals anyway but this was quite an experience and we had a very strict sergeant who'd been at Duntroon Military College and I don't think he was too keen about women in the army and he drilled us quite mercilessly
and it was supposed to be lights out at 10 o'clock and if we went on talking after that he would really raise his voice and say “quiet!” so we obeyed.
that was learning a lot more about army organisation about how to recognise all the army ranks which got quite complicated when you get up to brigadier and brigadier general that type of thing we went out on a bivouac in very cold weather out of Melbourne and we were sleeping in tents and one of the majors of AWAS came to see us and she had been a girl guide and so a lot of
girl guides did very well former girl guides did very well in the army because they had been trained to live in tents and go on bivouacs and her instructions were for us to dig a hip hole and by no means underestimate the size of your hip so we accordingly dug ourselves a hip hole to lie in and it teemed raining in the night and we had to get up and dig a trench around the outside of our tent and tighten up the ropes so that we
weren't flooded out and our meals were being cooked in a big open sort of pot about this high and we had metal containers for our food and you lined up with your metal containers and had stew or whatever put in but it was hailing, so hail was coming into our food at the same time we had these army overcoats on with the collars turned up trying to keep warm, I remember coming back
with a very sore neck chafed from the collar of the greatcoat and we had to learn map reading so we did this map reading to take us out on a certain course and then we'd have to find our way back by doing back calculations or something like that to get ourselves back to camp so that was a bit hectic doing that.
And what did you think of Melbourne?
We didn't see too much of it actually I loved all the old homes around Toorak but I found it quite cold at that time of the year, I was just trying to think what time of the year it was that I was down there but I know it was quite cold and I had friends of friends who were in Melbourne and they invited me to go to their home so I saw a little bit that way but I didn't see too much
of it though to form an impression.
we never went out together and when he and his girlfriend broke up our mothers were quite friendly and apparently his mother said to him “why don't you take that nice Elva Bakey out?” and he said “I wouldn't take her out if she was the last woman on earth” so he's come to eat his words since then but what happened I think he saw my photo in the Woman's Weekly and I was at a
convalescent home recovering from an appendix operation and he was sitting in an army hut a salvation army hut in Puckapunyal and picked up the Woman’s Weekly and saw my photo and thought “oh I'll write to Elva” so from then on we wrote to one another and when I was in Melbourne to do this school he came down to Melbourne one night and we went out together and that was the only time I saw him during the war years and so he was posted eventually to Bougainville after a long time because they
weren't sending tanks outside Australia at that stage and in the meantime his parents had moved to Melbourne and so when he got his discharged he was discharged in Melbourne and by that time I had been posted to Melbourne and so I was the only girl that he knew there and we started going out together and I always say that I was the first white woman he saw when he came back from Bougainville so one thing led to another and we've spent 57 years together.
I transferred over to the Australian Army Amenities Unit this was just a bit of a co-incidence really I had .. routine orders that they were forming this new unit for women officers to work exclusively with the army women’s services in the same way as they had had men working in amenities for sporting things for soldiers.
Bert Oldfield the cricketer was a Major in army amenities being a great cricketer of course he could organise all the sporting equipment and the matches because in the war you’re not fighting all the time there's a great deal of time spent in hanging around the camp or with leisure and men become very bored and women and they need some entertainment of some kind so they would have football matches and cricket matches and so on and
all this equipment was bought with the proceeds the profits from the army canteens fund you know you could buy all the things you needed, sweets or cigarettes or whatever at army canteen so they used that profit to buy this these necessities necessities I suppose but the army wouldn't have provided otherwise so they decided to do the same thing for the woman’s services, the motto was “make your barracks
smell home” which was a bit of a exaggeration I think a lot of girls were living under pretty tough conditions particularly those on anti-aircraft ack-ack and search lodge stations where they were living in tents and didn't have very much comfort at all so this was the idea that we would spend some of this money that amenities had on improving the conditions under which they were living and the money could
buy extra irons for them to press their uniforms or electric jugs for them to make a cup of tea or a bedside chest instead of just a box to put the belongings in and a cotton bedspread to go over the grey blanket that was on their bed and even in big barracks you ate at mess tables which was long tables but wooden tops so we provided what was called table bays it was like a
plastic material but came in very bright colours blue red green yellow and so this was layed on tops of the tables and it was very easy to wipe down and it looked very much nicer than a plain board to eat off.
we had a wonderful swimming carnival in Perth on the Swan River and the YWCA [Young Womens’ Christian Association] helped me with this and we publicised it through all the different camps around the Perth area some were as far away as 500 miles and these girls practiced swimming in a dam it was the best they could do to get any water and they finished up winning the carnival actually
so this was in old fashion type baths on the Swan River but we had races for breaststroke and freestyle and backstroke and diving and relay races and all that sort of thing with some prizes that amenities awarded I think a cup you swam for your unit not your individual fame so I think they got a cup to take back to the unit for winning the swimming carnival.
via Melbourne I had to go amenities headquarters in Melbourne for a bit of instruction as to what I was to do and then I flew from Melbourne to Perth and of course it was a new posting nobody really knew what was expected of you you had to just make it up as you went along and there were 2 army amenities officers there in charge of men’s affairs well I was caught up in the same
it was at the WACA, the Western Australian Cricket Ground we were in a pavilion there and the trotting ground was opposite so there was a notice of a lack of staff when the trots were on going across to that so I just had to organise from there whether I would be able to visit different units there were a lot of girls working on ack-ack and search light stations around the outskirts of Perth and then
some in the country areas so I would have to organise transport and go and visit their camps and see what they needed.
and sandwiches and there be luggage everywhere because you always had your army kit bag in fact only recently when before we moved here we came across Barry’s army kit bag and mine and your name and your number was stencilled on the outside of this brown bag had a rope around the top of the handle and all your stuff was stowed in there so you didn't have an ordinary suitcase and you lumped that over your shoulder as you went along and then great confusion
there was a with troop trains there was an officer in charge of troop trains and he had to check that your name was on that list of people who were travelling on the train so he would walk up and down the train and check everything out so you were a lotted a seat in some cases but in other cases I don't particularly the WAK* they would put down their overcoats and sleep on the floor of the train or up in the luggage racks.
the other side of Australia to go to Perth and I didn't know anyone there and as an idea of my innocence some of my luggage and travelled along behind me and I had to go to a certain street in Perth I've forgotten the name of it but it was where the railway office terminal was to pick up the luggage and I was enquiring from passers by how I found my way to this particular street and I wondered why they were
giving me strange looks and it was only afterwards that I found out that was the street where all the brothels were so that was a wake up to me because I don't think I'd known brothels existed up to that time it was a different life altogether and we were fortunate with office status I lived in what had been a private hotel the Rex Hotel in Hay Street the main street of Perth the Rex Hotel so that was very comfortable I just shared
a room with another woman officer there and all our meals were provided there and I rattled off on a Perth tram if you've ever known anything about Perth trams rattletraps out to the WACA everyday to do my job and then back to the rex hotel at night
What were you doing out at the WACA?
I had a army girl and I were working with me and we would draw up a routine of what army camps I was going to visit and when and let them know that I would be coming and then when I visited them we'd have to organise a car to take me there and I would see what requirements they needed in conjunction with the officer who was in charge of that camp
so when I went back to the WACA I would have to put in a requisition from the triplicate for the things that they needed so when those came to hand I would have to see that they would be delivered to the unit they would be putting in requests for different things or with the organisation of the swimming carnival I had to send out notices to all the different units around the places to where the carnival would be held and when
and what events would take place so they could all arrange to be there some of them must have stayed overnight in Perth because they'd travelled quite a distance to come there and I would have had to arrange some catering for the meal that they would have while they were at the carnival we also had some little groups that went out to entertain in the different camps so that took a bit of organising when they were to go to the camps but these
were just amateurs not the professional groups and then they had an army professional group called the Waratahs and they put on a big concert in Perth and so I had to arrange for people to go and attend that concert and with tennis matches and basketball matches you were busy organising those things.
Perth was the first time you'd been outside your home city, did you find was that a big change in your life at the time?
Yes and the strange thing was having lived in Bronte I was used to seeing the sun coming up from the ocean and to sit on Cottesloe Beach and watch the sun set into the ocean seemed very strange, the people of Perth were very friendly and of course it was a much smaller city than it is now I think the tallest building was about 3 storeys
so they had set up these barracks and they were fairly comfortable but the trouble was it was the dry season it hadn't rained for about 6 months and the dust was terrible, they called it bull dust and the minute you stepped out of your quarters even if you polished your shoes they were covered with a film of dust and the engineers had laid pipes from the Adelaide River to bring water to the barracks but the pipes were on top of the
ground so during the day the water heated up it was so heated that if you came home from work you couldn't have a shower right away you had to wait to perhaps 8 or 9 o'clock at night for the water to cool down and it had been treated with some sort of chemicals for drinking purposes and when they poured a cup of tea it was purpose in colour and the taste was terrible so I didn't drink any tea or very little water for that matter we could buy lolly what they called lolly water which was.
soft drink and there were soft drink factories throughout the Territory to supply the troops with lolly water.
call them “boongs” or you know you had to be respectful of them they were very shy but very nice girls bit giggly you know and so when I went on to meet the officer who was in charge of amenities there I think I mentioned previously that often the men were former sporting identities like Bert Oldfield well this man was Gerald Patterson who had been a very good tennis player and had played Davis
Cup for Australia pre-war so he was in his element with all the sporting activities for the men there but I don't think he quite knew what to do with me in this role, so after a week or so he arranged that I should be provided with a panel van which was a mobile cinema van the army amenities had these mobile vans that went around and took films to the troops and they could get into small units and show
films in the open air and so he arranged for me to have on of those and a male driver and a lady from the YWCA who wanted to go back to Alice Springs she came along with me and so off we went to stay at inspect all the different places between Adelaide River and Alice Springs where women were stationed so there were several general hospitals big hospitals down the track.
One was at Katherine one was at Tennant Creek and then there were what they called camp hospitals which were small sort of emergency type hospitals at Laramar [?] and Mataranka and I'm not sure where any of the others were and so we called at these places to see what they needed and finished up in Alice Springs, oh before we got to Alice Springs that’s right we branched off because Mt Isa
even though that was in Queensland that came into my territory and that was a small hospital and in need of a lot of things there were no AAMWS working there but there were army sisters and they needed a sewing machine more than anything else so we were able to arrange to get that for them but it was a long way I didn't drive in those days I couldn't drive but there were long stretches of road where it wouldn't have mattered so to relieve the driver Geoff I stayed behind the wheel and put my foot on the
accelerator and just steered and that was all you needed to do on these long stretches.
at Adelaide River all the barracks and the girls who were stationed there were moved up to Darwin it was considered safe and there were big barracks there called Larrakia and my office place where army amenities was a few miles south of Darwin so you went by car or utility every day to work but the water was so lovely the drinking water there was a dam,
Manton, with a dam which had fresh water because in the wet of course it would accumulate a lot of water and it was so nice to be able to have fresh water to drink and when ships came into the Harbour to take on water you would be told that between certain hours of the day water would be cut off while they filled their tanks but no that was a big advantage and Darwin was a much more pleasant place than Adelaide River.
there were a lot of air force although they were down the track a bit mainly at Batchelor they used to joke they were safe because they were 17 miles behind the AWAS and there were men from other countries there were Canadians there and British who were with the Z special unit and they had very special privileges because whatever they were doing was very hush hush and they came to Captain Love who was then my officer after Gerald Patterson went
south, and they showed him a letter which said he was to supply them with anything they asked for from our amenities store and no questions were asked and they didn't have to account for anything and when a concert party came up because there could be perhaps 40 men in a concert party but in a Z special camp I think the limit was about 10 outsiders who were allowed into the camp so that
we had to make up a small concert party to go into their camp to entertain them but that’s how secret it all was and they had a flash on their arms like a Z that was their colour patch Z special unit.
breeze through that came off the Harbour so that was pleasant but of course you always had to remember in the wet the rain came down in torrents about 5 o'clock every afternoon so if you left the louvers open, your house would be flooded. The humidity was shocking nearly all of us suffered from prickly heat and you had about 4 showers a day showers of course had no hot water in them they were warm enough without
having heating and so you would have a shower in the morning one at lunchtime one when you came home from work and one when you went to bed to try and wash all the sweat off you just sweated so much but that was hard to take.
basketball matches and hockey matches and amenities even supplied swimsuits and sandshoes as well as the other sporting equipment and they were instrumental in having a booklet printed prior to Christmas so the girls could send home one of these booklets to their families which told about life mainly in Adelaide River and included photos so that was quite a boost for the girls to be
able to get a copy of that and send that home and then of course entertainment was the biggest thing that I was involved in because there was so much boredom among the troops that entertainment was really appreciated and apart from amenities supplying the mobile cinema units these fellows travelled around and put up their screen and their projectors in the open air and you knew when it was film night and you went along with a box
or something to sit on and even though in the wet I always remember watching the film “The Song of Bernadette” in teeming rain you had your felt hat on which had quite a big brim and a rain cape but the only dry spot was the bit I was sitting on because it teemed you could hardly see the screen I don't know why we went on sitting there but the main entertainment were those that people made for themselves and at Adelaide River there'd been a YMCA fellow who
had formed a choir and at Adelaide River they the volunteers had built a chapel which was also used as a recreation hut and it was built mainly of bamboo with not a stained glass window I think there was a painted glass window it was called St George’s Chapel and the choir used to meet there and for church parades you were either roman catholic RC, C of E [Church of England], or OPD
which stood for Other Protestant Denominations, they all lumped together if you were Jewish I don't know what happened about that but sometimes if you were going out on a picnic and the C of E church parade was on earlier than any of the others you went along to that church parade so you could go off on the picnic but it was compulsory to go on church parade unless you were on duty so this choir that Lou formed was instrumental when we went to Darwin and Christmas Eve
going around to a lot of the different units singing Christmas carols and then we got on board a launch and went out onto the Harbour and went around one of the navy ships that was anchored in the Harbour and sailors faces appeared over the deck they couldn't believe they could hear women singing on Darwin Harbour so that was an unusual experience and then another choir master was a
flight lieutenant with the air force Alan Bellhouse and he formed a choir in Darwin which was very good and we put on quite a number of programs and we also had some Canadians on the program they called themselves the Maple Leaf Quartet and there was an Australian air force fellow Russell King who played the flute beautifully so we could work up quite an ambitious program and
they were always very well attended these were mainly undercover in the old Star theatre and Wonelly [?] theatre they were still there despite the bombing so they were taken over for these evenings of entertainment and then there was a fellow called John Fitza who had been with J C Williamson the operating people and he had a lovely tenor voice and he wrote a light
opera in 2 acts called “Song of the Danube” and he took the leading role but some of our girls had very nice voices too and they were able to take the leading and supplementary roles in that plus there was a band made up of men from all the different forces there and we girls formed a ballet and the can-can was the most popular dance that you could possibly imagine and so into this
story of song of the Danube they were able to drag some entertainment that involved us doing the can-can and a navy fellow who was very good at being Carmen Miranda dressed up with all the you know fruit and vegetable on the head and the like you very much and so that was well received they put 5 performances on various on various nights and different places around Darwin and people flocked to see those things and another big production
it was called “Blue Horizon” and it was produced by 2 army amenities fellows Dudley Simpson and Alan Cairns and their particular job had been to go into an army unit and find talent there was always some hidden talent maybe good singers or actors or maybe somebody who could whistle or be a comedian and they would go in with scripts and musical numbers and Dudley could play
the piano and Alan had been a radio announcer and they would organise these fellows to make up their own group and put on a concert for their fellow troops and it was interesting that Dudley Simpson went on to be a composer and I took the children to the performance of The Nutcracker ballet in Sydney years later and Dudley was conducting the orchestra in Her Majesty's Theatre
and he subsequently went to England and wrote a lot of the music for the original series of Dr Who so I was interested to follow his career. Alan I lost track of him I think he went back to Newcastle and went back into radio but they were the main movers and shakers to put on this very ambitious production called “Blue Horizon” and the girls of course were the ballet girls and the singers and the navy fellows were
very inventive as far as making the costumes I had table bays which was coloured brightly like a shiny plastic in blue and green and red and yellow and some of these costumes they made the tops were in this shiny plastic which looked like satin and then they used mosquito nets for these frilly flouncy skirts but the only service that had white mosquito nets were the
navy the air force and the army had green mosquito nets so somehow or rather we acquired white mosquito nets from the navy and these fellows had sewing machines and they made these frocks and some other artistic fellows did all the scenery for the shows and we had dance routines an orchestra that played quite well singers, one of the singers was
an American called Mack Morgan who had been with the metropolitan opera in New York.
air, and then called in at a few places where planes would take me, like Tennant Creek. And then I had another hop from Tennant Creek to Katherine, then another one back to Darwin. It was so vast an area to cover, that mostly all the action centred around Darwin. You could do something to help the people in the other places, but only by sending them things, not actually organising them into things. I couldn't have gone down to Alice Springs and organised a concert party down there.
But we had an exchange. They sent a team up to play basketball when the girls were at Adelaide River, and then the Adelaide River girls later went down to Alice Springs to play basketball. But it involved days and days of travelling.
quarters in Alice Springs, they had baths. So you'd hear someone say "Ah, first bath I've had for twelve months." We were only supposed to stay twelve months in the Territory, so I think my stay was closer to fourteen months, that depended on another woman who was a Western Australian, coming up to take my place. The war was over, but you still had to do the winding down of things, so when Molly King arrived, I was free to go south. I came down in a convoy ...
I could have flown home, and I would have been home in two days. I could have got a plane from Darwin to Brisbane, and another one from Brisbane to Sydney, but I was such a bad air traveller, I said "No, I'll take the long way home." So we went in convoy, a truckload of girls, and among a convoy of men also going south. And we'd stage overnight at different camps along the way, down to Alice Springs. Then when ...
I don't know whether it was the Ghan, or what train we got on at Alice Springs then to go to Adelaide. But I stayed with friends overnight in Adelaide, and then to Melbourne, and then to Sydney. And when I arrived home, my father said "Your hair's got much darker." I said "It hasn't been washed for about ten days" travelling on all these ...
aboriginals working with the transport people on the boats and a couple of us went one day on one of these trips the boat dragged behind it towed behind it a big tank full of fresh water and when we dropped anchor and they started to supply the troops on the land we said to one of the aboriginal crew “are there any sharks here?” and he said “no no sharks” so we hopped overboard and were having a very pleasant swim around and the men on
the land were waving like this to us and we thought “oh you know they’re not used to women” and were waving back and one came paddling out on a makeshift canoe and he said “we caught a 12 foot crocodile here the other day” so I've never swam so fast in my life back to that boat to get on board we were just lucky.
of us full lieutenants there were AAMWS at a hospital but we didn't see a great deal of them they were at Berrima and that was some distance away so I think the officer in charge of them was also a captain, but my most moving experience in Darwin was when they were bringing prisoners of war home who'd been prisoners of the Japanese after Singapore was freed and they
originally decided to bring them in home by air but this was a mistake because when they landed in Darwin they were taken to Berrima hospital and we were standing beside the road to watch them go by in trucks and they were just gaunt skeletons, it was so sad to see these men and then the army decided that it was going to be too much of a shock for the relatives to see the men in this condition and too much of a shock for the men to adjust so quickly coming back to
not to civilian life but life among their families and so it was decided that they would be evacuated by a slow boat and we went to the wharf when one of these ships arrived and some of the men were well enough to come ashore but they were staggered to see women in army uniforms because when they were taken prisoner the only women in uniform had been the army nurses and they didn't know what to make of us or what to call of us
and we decided that for those who were not well enough to come ashore we'd take a small concert party on board the ship so we had a fellow with a piano accordion and a couple of girls with nice singing voices and we went on board the ship where the fellows were lying in bed in wards and started to play and sing and we wondered why they weren't joining in and then one of them called out “play ‘Roll out the barrel’” and then another one said “play ‘Kiss me goodnight sergeant major’”
and we played those and they sang and joined in and what we hadn't realised was that we were singing the latest songs that had been written during the 3 years that they had been prisoner and of course they'd never heard them so they weren't able to sing with us.
they were groups of one particular group of about 40 came through and I had to work out their itinerary how many nights they would play in Alice Springs and then to give them a day or two to move on to Tennant Creek and set up there again and again in Katherine and how many nights they would be in Darwin but they were real professionals and they had a female impersonator that you wouldn’t have told was a man very funny comedians,
they came back to Sydney I used to see one there on the stage and he was just as funny as he'd been in the army but you’d flock for miles around to go and watch these performances and sit on a box often in great discomfort but that didn't matter the entertainment was great.
potatoes it depended on the cook some cooks could rehydrate them beautifully but others were just a yellow mush and they were horrible so occasionally we could arrange for some fresh fruit to be brought up by truck from Alice Springs, you were paying for that yourself so that was a real treat to get that but unfortunately one time we left our fruit out on the table and our windows open and a possum came in and ate the fruit
but the result of all this tinned food was that most of us suffered from boils so it was very painful to have boils on your legs and I even had a boil in my ear and that was very painful so I think it was just lack of fresh fruit and vegetables that caused that.
to the war I'd never smoked or drank alcohol and while I didn't do any to great extent I knew my parents would disapprove terribly so as far as I was concerned no more cigarettes or no more beer and living back with your parents when you'd been used to more or less independent life I know the army told us what to do but you more or less made your own pleasures and so to become a daughter again
at 25, 26, that was a bit difficult and another big adjustment of course was getting to wear civilian clothing for all that time, I'd been wearing low heeled lace up sensible army shoes and to wear high heeled shoes again was just so difficult and I'd worn a felt hat a khaki felt hat and when I was going to be married and buying an outfit
for what was then in those days a going away outfit and buying a hat with veils and flowers on it it was just too silly very feminine but you hadn't been used to looking feminine all the years in your uniform.
and took a page of photographs of us reclining on lounges doing folk dancing playing checkers and so on and Barry happened to be in a Salvation Army hut in Puckapunyal and for want of anything better to read I suppose he picked up a Woman’s Weekly and read it and saw my name there and thought “oh I'll write to Elva” and so we started correspondence and when I went to Melbourne to do officers’ training school he was able to
come down to Melbourne and we had a night out together but that was the only time I saw him for the rest of the war so we just corresponded on and off nothing regular and when we were both in like I was in Darwin and he was in Bougainville we didn't have many letters going between us but he'd given me a photo of himself in which he looked very dashing with a little moustache and his ... beret on and I had that on my desk in my office in Darwin and
if I wanted to dissuade someone I thought was getting a bit serious I'd say “oh that’s the boy back home” so that was sufficient excuse little knowing of what the outcome would be so while Barry was away his parents were moved to Melbourne his father’s job took him to Melbourne and so instead of being discharged in Sydney he took his discharge in Melbourne, he was an only child and by
that time I'd been posted to Melbourne and I'd seen his parents a few times because I'd known them at Bronte and I'd visited them before Barry got his discharge so when he came home we started going out together but he was in civilian clothes and I was still in uniform so it was quite the reverse because in most cases it was men who were in the uniform and the girls who were in civilian clothes and I was stationed at a place called Campbell and after we'd been out together
he would bring me back to the camp and kiss me goodnight in front of the sergeant the guard on duty and I'd go into camp and he'd go home to his mum and dad so we decided to become engaged and this would have been about January and eventually I was sent back to Sydney and discharged in June and we decided we'd get married in October and live in Sydney because neither of us knew anybody in Melbourne and his parents
were living in a very nice apartment but there would have been no room for us and housing was very scarce very hard to get and my parents had quite a big home and they said we could share it with them so we took advantage of that and back at Bronte of course Barry had a lot of his old mates there I had all my friends there so it only made sense to live there so that was what we did so on the 12th October 1946 we were married.
sunk the hospital ship Centaur it was hospital ship in every sense covered by the Geneva Convention it was lit, there were red crosses clearly visible and yet it was shelled and so many people died in that shelling, doctors and nurses and ambulance men that were going to New Guinea and it was so tragic
that their lives were lost so unnecessarily that I thought what a hateful type of people you couldn't lump all the Japanese people together but they should be so cruel as to sink that hospital ship.
having it taken away or allowing it to be taken away, did anyone fight against that?
What could we do? We there was no alternative but to either go back to the jobs we had before the war or find another job, some of the AAMWS took up nursing, a couple of my friends went overseas to take jobs there but there really wasn't very much we could do about
Do you think the role of the all the nurses, all the women in the services have been sufficiently recognised since the war finished?
Yes I think so. I would never march on Anzac Day in the early days after the war because I felt it was the men’s day and women were not to be involved and then quite some 15 years ago I suppose I thought “no, women played just as big a role, I'm going to march on Anzac day” and so I have ever since.
I think that’s the point where I'm going to stop asking questions but I'm going to ask a couple of completely unrelated ones now, have you ever seen Roden Cutler, did you ever see Roden Cutler when he came back from the war?
Yes I was in the city still in the army and he was still in his uniform and he became engaged to an AAMWS officer whom I knew so as they were come towards me I was sort of saying “hello
of what he had done and he has been an excellent ambassador for Australia and to have been the longest serving governor of New South Wales was quite a tribute to his ability to do that, he was very highly thought of and he told a joke about himself the last time I saw him he was at Concord Hospital for the opening of the nurses’ museum there and he said “you know I was recently in hospital
and I was talking to a nurse a young Australian nurse” and she said to him “you’ve got a lot of initials after your name haven't you” and he said “yes do you know what VC stands for?” and she said “yes Viet Cong”, she'd never heard of the Victoria Cross and to me he could joke about it but to me that was very sad that there is now a generation that doesn't know what that’s the highest award for bravery