Eighty Years Ago: Australia’s Women’s National Emergency Legion is Formed

Horsewoman in the Australian Women’s Emergency Legion. September 1939. X

The Women’s National Emergency Legion, an auxiliary organisation in Australia during the Second World War, was formed in September of 1938.

Based in Brisbane, Queensland, only women of British origin were allowed to join.

Article from The Morning Bulletin. Rockhampton. 18 November 1938.

Women considered eligible were provided with training in areas considered necessary to the war effort, such as first aid and truck driving.

Miss Tony Mitchell at Somerville House in Brisbane, 1942. Mitchell drove cars and trucks for the US Army. X

When war broke out in the Pacific at the end of 1941 women were attached to US military units to work as drivers and clerks. They also worked for British and Dutch units based in Australia.

The organisation ceased operations a couple of years after the end of the war.

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On this day: Australia at the outbreak of war.

Parade of Queensland Expeditionary Force through the streets of Brisbane, 14 September 1914. Australia. First World War.

Seven weeks after the outbreak of the First World War, and six weeks after Britain – and therefore Australia – declared war on Germany, a military parade took place in the streets of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. It was the 14th of September, 1914.

Featured prominently in this postcard image are the Light Horsemen, who played a significant role in Australia’s participation in the war.

Vietnam Veterans Day

Today is Vietnam Veterans Day in Australia. Over sixty-thousand Australians served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1972. Here is the Federation Guard marching in Canberra during the Battle of Binh Ba anniversary service in 2009 (you can find it on other sites these days, but it’s actually my mother’s photo).

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Binh Ba was one of Australia’s major victories in the war, and it was one of the last operations my father was part of before returning home.

Christopher Heaney Australian Army Vietnam War 1968 1969 IMG_0078

50 Years of the National Library

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The National Library of Australia, located in Canberra, was opened by Prime Minister John Gorton on the 15th of August, 1968.

Sir Robert Menzies speaking at the laying of the National Library of Australia_s foundation stone on 31 March 1966. National Library of Australia, nla.obj-136760449 Canberr

Sir Robert Menzies speaks at the laying of the foundation stone on the 31st of March, 1966.

On this day: an actor in the Air Force

Chips_RaffertyPilot Officer Goffage RAAF (better known as the Australian actor Chips Rafferty) reading the programme for a revue to be held at the RAAF Base at Gili Gili in the Milne Bay

Film star Chips Rafferty is seen here on the 14th of August, 1943, while he was a member of the Royal Australian Air Force.

Rafferty, born in New South Wales to an English father and Australian mother, rose to prominence in the 1940 war movie Forty Thousand Horsemen. Australia entered World War Two on the 3rd of September, 1939, and Rafferty joined the Air Force on the 29th of May, 1941 – the day after he married Ellen Jameson.

He was discharged  from service on the 13th of February, 1945. In the years after the war he was contracted to England’s Ealing Studios, where he found international fame.

On this day: the Australian Women’s Army Service was formed

AWASwithOwengunsAWAS with Owen guns. Members of the Australian Women’s Army Service being instructed in the use of the Owen gun at Belmont in Queensland.

Instructions in the use of the Owen gun. Belmont, Queensland. X

The Australian Women’s Army Service, created to release more men into forward positions in the military during the Second World War, was formed on the 13th of August, 1941.

AWAS_-_poster Australian Women's Army Service Recruitment poster

Recruitment Poster

Lae, New Guinea, 25 December 1945. The Right Honourable J.B. Chifley talking to Sergeant Pritchard, AWAS, the only woman interpreter of Japanese in the Australian Army.

Sergeant Pritchard (right), the only Japanese translator in the Australian Army. X

The AWAS was preceded by the Women’s Australian National Service in 1940, where women proved they were capable of performing traditionally male roles.

Awas_in_wa_1943Northam, West Australia. 1943-04-20. The Minister for the Australian Army, the Honourable F.M. Forde, inspecting personnel of the Australian Women's Army Service at the We

The Minister for the Australian Army, the Honourable F.M. Forde, with AWAS members in Western Australia in 1943.

24 026 women were enlisted over the course of the war, and several hundred served in New Guinea.

The AWAS was disbanded in 1947.