Sunday History Photo / Au

Submitted: Sunday, Nov 23, 2014 at 07:52
ThreadID: 110227 Views:2099 Replies:3 FollowUps:1
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The Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) was formed in March 1941 after considerable lobbying by women keen to serve and by the Chief of the Air Staff who wanted to release male personnel serving in Australia for service overseas. The WAAAF was the first and largest of the World War II Australian Women's Services. It was disbanded in December 1947.
Not long after World War II was declared in 1939, the Royal Australian Air Force had an urgent need for more skilled and semi-skilled signals and maintenance personnel to fulfil its wartime commitments to the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) for local defence in Australia.




On 4 February 1941, the formation of an air force women's auxiliary was approved by the War Cabinet. It had taken 14 months of difficult discussion and opposition to achieve this final outcome.
The formation of the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) set a precedent for the formation of other women's service organisations such as The Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS) and the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS).
Approximately 27,000 women enlisted in the WAAAF between 15 March 1941 and 24 August 1945. In June 1941, Squadron Officer Clare Stevenson was appointed Director of the WAAAF.
The first 20 WAAAFs were posted to Townsville between 28 October 1941 and 7 February 1942 to work at the North-Eastern Area Headquarters in Sturt Street. They were urgently required to fill the roles of teleprinter operators and general clerks. This initial intake of WAAAFs in the area were living in various homes or flats in Townsville. The Officer-in-Charge of WAAAFs in the Townsville area, Assistant Section Officer Yvonne Rentoul established the new WAAAF Barracks in St Anne's Church of England School in Townsville. It was a difficult task as Townsville was rapidly filling with American and Australian military units. This influx lead to a shortage of equipment and a demanding role in protecting the well-being of the fresh new female recruits.



Eila Pickup ACW 93117 who later became the shorthand writer for John Kingsford Smith in Fighter Sector at Bankstown worked in the nerve centre of the controls for the Army, Air Force and Navy to defend Sydney. This Fighter Sector was in a tunnel below the city streets, between Circular Quay and the Public Library in Macquarie Street, which now forms part of the Eastern Suburbs Railway or City Circle Railway.
The centre was connected to radar stations, weather signals, movements from airports, army and Volunteer Air Observer Corps reporting posts, air raid sirens, blackout control, the lot. A huge table carried a map of the New South Wales coast and adjoining areas, on which WAAAF plotted movements of aircraft and shipping.
Here they worked with the Americans, and fought conditions vastly different from those in other earlier posting with the RAAF. We were billeted in the Metropole Hotel, occupying three of its floors. A huge kitchen area on one floor was set up, from which they were served five course meals, even for breakfast, which offered grapefruit, doughnuts, various types of cereal, toast, eggs, bacon tomatoes, coffee etc. The girls all put on weight! At their previous posting at a school near Newcastle the food had had to be cooked in dixies and coppers out in the quadrangle.




During their months in the tunnel the submarine scare in Sydney Harbour took place. They knew the subs were in because all the warnings, blackouts, sirens, etc. were set off. However, the people of Sydney thought is was just another practice raid, and did not take too much notice. The Americans tended to panic as they thought the Japanese were possibly coming to throw a bomb into Fighter Sector Control, which they well might have been. The guard rushed up the steps and as some cars in Macquarie Street were still happily pursuing their way with lights on, he machine-gunned them, he actually shot an Army official through the leg as he was coming to Fighter Sector to check up. The orders to depth charge the subs would have been given from Fighter Sector.
No.3 WAAAF Training Depot was formed at Karrinyup, Western Australia on 24 April 1942 with an establishment of 4 officers, 40 airwomen and 100 trainees who would pass through the training programme each month. No. 3 WAAAF Training Depot was disbanded on 24 March 1945.




WAAAF Margaret Jones Carey amongst those killed in crash of an Avro Anson between Coffs Harbour and Crescent Head, NSW on 7 April 1945




Dorothea Watson (Andrews) in her original uniform at the 60-year Commemoration of VP Day celebrations at the Australian War Memorial in August 2005.



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Reply By: Member - Peter H1 (NSW) - Sunday, Nov 23, 2014 at 08:18

Sunday, Nov 23, 2014 at 08:18
Thank you Doug, my wife was a WAAAF posted sat #7FTS Deniliquin NSW during 1944/45. Trained as Elsie Dobinson married while in service became Elsie Hope.
In later years was divorced and married me. She became Elsie Holmes, unfortuneatly passed away with Dementia in 2012.

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Reply By: Members - Bow & Nan - Sunday, Nov 23, 2014 at 09:14

Sunday, Nov 23, 2014 at 09:14
Isabel Meredith and her brother Ray Meredith. On the right is Pat Meredith who after the war married Ray Meredith

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Follow Up By: Life Member-Doug T NSW - Sunday, Nov 23, 2014 at 09:28

Sunday, Nov 23, 2014 at 09:28
Thanks Bow & Nan , Its really great when others can add some photo's to the SHP from the era or item covered.

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Reply By: Ron N - Sunday, Nov 23, 2014 at 14:34

Sunday, Nov 23, 2014 at 14:34
Women did an amazing amount of largely-unrecognised work during WW2. They were called in to do so many of the basic jobs that men normally did where physical strength wasn't a major requirement.

They did assembly and machining and precision work in thousands of factories, they provided labour to farmers for food production when labour became unavailable, and they did many meticulous, demanding, important war tasks where skill and precision were required. This is in addition to the nursing work done by tens of thousands of women.

Teams of women pilots (the ATA), comprised of volunteers sourced from many countries, ferried new aircraft from the U.S. to the U.K.
These women not only had to endure long flights in untested new aircraft, they did it without fighter protection and mostly, no armaments at all.
In America, the WASPS towed tugs for gunnery practice, and test-flew repaired aircraft, as well as carrying out ferry flights.

Every woman that served in support of the War freed up a man for front line service.
The sad part is, that a lot of these women received little recognition, even less support from the Govt and military, and were often overlooked for meritorious awards and repatriation benefits.
America in particular was particularly mean-spirited towards these women and often gave them no military benefits whatsoever.

Thanks for the article Doug, it's a worthy mention.

Regards, Ron.
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