Nowra part one
Nowra part two
Nowra part three
Nowra part four
Brisbane & North
Macrossan & Wedding
WAAAF Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force World War Two recollections of Margaret Clarke describing her experiences from 1941 to 1945
Random recollections from my service years, not necessarily in chronological order.
I had to report for Rookies Training at Bradfield Park on the 10th August 1942, as a Clerk Stores and I was very excited. It was a train trip from the Sydney Central to Lindfield train station and then a very, very crowded bus trip. There were men at Bradfield Park too and there were many Airmen alighting from the trains and on to the bus. This crowding would not be allowed today.
My service number was 105705 and ACW in front of our names that stood for Aircraftswoman. I found it difficult in lots of ways, as the huts were unlined and very cold. Learning drill with someone screaming their heads off at you was very intimidating and humiliating. The other thing was that I could not answer back or question any orders but at least I knew I was being treated fairly and the same as the other girls.
Our Drill Instructor (D.I.), from Orange in N.S.W. had a very penetrating voice, as most of them did. She was very patient with a few clumsy footed girls but we 'did her proud' at our Passing Out Parade. The left, right, left yelled out still echoes in my mind. A lot of airmen stood around gawking at the time but we did nothing to give them any reason to laugh.
I can't remember what the food was like but it was not good and different to what I had at home. The tea there and at other stations/units was simply awful. I was told that there was something put in it to lessen mens' sexual desires. I never knew if this was true or not.
We were issued with shirts that had studs at the front and back of the neck and I just hated them. They were really uncomfortable and I felt sorry for men who may have had to use them. I can't remember if studs were in the cuffs too. As soon as I was issued with Clothing Coupons some time later, I bought three blue men's shirts and got rid of the others. The shoes were very comfortable and just as well, as we did a lot of marching in them and do not remember any blisters. The stockings were very thick and I was able to buy some later that felt better.
Getting up very early every day was no trouble to me, as I usually arose about 5.30 am to have breakfast with my father, before he set off for his work at Garden Island. After that, I did my homework.
Lots of the girls and I got very annoyed because the airmen used to joke and yell out that they were issued with a blanket and a WAAAF. We did not think that it was funny.
Half way through the course, we were given leave and of course I went home. Dad, who had refused to sign my papers, was so proud of me and called some of the neighbours in to see me. Mum took my photo but I did not particularly like it. At that stage, we were only issued with berets, as there were not any proper caps available and I would have liked to wait, until I had my cap.
One evening, when given leave, I went to the pictures with at couple of girls to the Mayfair Theatre in Sydney before returning to camp. We rose to our feet before the credits, as we had to hurry back to Wynard Station for the train to arrive in camp before ‘lights out’. Being late on returning from leave was a real ‘no-no’, especially on Rookies. In my rush in the dark cinema to get down the stairs, I tripped and almost fell (saved myself by grabbing the back of seats), not once but three times and some Jaffa lollies that I had left in a packet in my bag rattled and made an awful noise. I was very upset and embarrassed, as people were laughing at me.
In the first couple of days, a girl I will call Kay was rather 'iffy ' with me because I did not smoke. She offered me a cigarette and of course I refused. She said I had to learn how to smoke, as nearly everyone did. Again I refused and she got quite nasty calling me old-fashioned and a couple of other things I cannot recall. All through Rookies, she pestered me and this made me even more determined not to take up smoking. I knew dad and mum would not approve and I had no desire to do so. I am glad this happened because she was posted to Nowra with me and it helped to save me from any temptation. Of course, there was my stubborn nature that when someone tried to force me to do something, I resisted.
Someone started to call me Margo and that name stuck with me, for the whole of my service. My ex-service friends still used it years later. We had to do one ‘gas’ drill and that meant we put on a mask, went into a hut and then it was filled with tear gas. We had to stay there for a short time, take the mask off and then we came running out, spluttering and coughing with tears running out of our eyes. That was an experience I am glad I did not have to repeat. I was at the back of the room and therefore got a good dose of it and was very sorry for myself. I felt really panicky with that thing over my face and felt as if I was going to suffocate.
One girl I was friendly with (I cannot recall her name) was posted to Deniliquin. She fell in love with a married officer and when he dumped her, she tried to commit suicide by drinking fluid from a fire extinguisher. I do not know if this was true but that is what I was told.
When the month was over, I was posted to Nowra with two otheers. One was Kay and the other I will call Joan. Nowra was only a 3 hour train trip from Central to Bomaderry train station. I was thrilled that I would be able to get off at Hurstville (20 minutes before Central) and a short trip from there to home to visit the family, when on leave. From Bombaderry , it was a ride in a canvas covered truck to the Unit. It only had seats at the side and if unlucky enough to miss out, it was a mostly standing and holding on to straps for about 8 miles. The airmen usually stood up for the girls and later buses were provided.