Paging Peg Utting!

Back in March of 1941, the Powers That Be [ in Aus at least ] decided that the time had come to allow women to enter the armed forces. My mother [ Noreen Williams as she was then ] and Auntie Billee [ otherwise known as Mildred Williams ] were among the girls who signed up for the Women’s Auxilliary Australian Air Force, or WAAAFs, on that very first day, March 15. Mum was number [900]24, and Billee, number [900]13.

Mum had just turned 21, Billee would have been one of the youngest at 18, and she passed away last year at almost ninety, so I’m not sure how many of the so-called ‘Old Originals’ are still with us.

One who is, is the lovely Peggy Utting, follower and frequent commenter on this ‘ere blog, and last year when I finally got to meet her at Billee’s funeral, I asked her if she might be able to identify the following photos … which I was subsequently unable to locate again until a week ago. So much for my vaunted organisational skills,eh!

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The first two appear to have been taken on the same occasion as the women filing up the steps of [ if I remember correctly ] Saint Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne, are in the same order as those nearest the camera in the other shot. Billee is 7th from the front, with mum behind her. I’m hoping Ms Peg is in there too.

… and I think that’s Blackie [ Dame Margaret Blackwood ] at the front, Peg?

And then there’s this newspaper clipping, found amongst Mum’s stuff after her death, which shows Billee 2nd from right in the front row.

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It has had all identifying markers cut off, and I never got around to asking Billee what it was about. It may have absolutely no connection to the WAAAFS, but I’m thinking the lady in the striped dress second from left just MIGHT be the same one that’s in the middle of the front row in the second picture. Maybe Peg will know.

Edited to add : see Peg’s comments regarding the identity of these young ladies. Peg herself is in the striped dress, third from right and next to my aunt.

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13 thoughts on “Paging Peg Utting!

  1. Peg Utting says:

    Hi Susan, This is a lovely surprise and I can help with some identification. In the last photo when we are all in civvies you are right, that is Billee and I am next to her in the striped dress. That photo is of a group of the originals when we signed up in March 1941. I will name them for you and send later. My number was 90007. Will be in touch. Sending a big hug. Peg xx

  2. Margaret Uttting says:

    Hi again Susan,You are correct that Billee is seventh from the front and that is Noreen behind her I can’t identify Blackie there and I don’t recollect being there myself so think I must have been on duty. In the picture of marching three abreast, seventh from left in nearest column looks like Billee with Noreen behind her so it could be on the same occasion.Now, the one in civvies, looking at the front row from left to right we have:Bonnay Raymont, Beryl Foster, Betty O’Loughlin, Beth Edmonston, Peg Cockburn, Billee Williams, Bev Burgess and Coral Clabburn.There are only two in the background that I can identify and they are, from left to right:Margaret Milligan and Molly Shadbolt. Of all in that group, the only ones still alive are Bonnay, Peg and Molly (behind Peg). There are two others still alive – Lorna Baillie and Margaret Selway, so that means there are 5 left of the original 26.Lorrie Nichol was the youngest then I was the next but we were all VERY young.Third in line in the marching photos could be Margaret Milligan.I hope this makes sense and I have lots of photos if you would like me to send some featuring Billee and Noreen.Love, Peg x Date: Tue, 26 Mar 2013 10:02:43 +0000 To: pegutting@live.com.au

  3. Lynne says:

    What wonderful memories — and to have assistance from one of the “originals” — how wonderful. I can see the family resemblance in Billee and you!

  4. O Cuz, go to http://www.trove.nla.gov.au: through this National Lib of Aust site you can search archives, books, newspapers, photographic collections etc etc. If you put in WAAAF and any other search terms you might be able to find the paper the image with Billee & Peg appeared in along with any text. Unless I beat you to it, of course! Sorry I didn’t meet you in person when we were farewelling Billee, Peg.

  5. Marti says:

    What a wonderful glimpse into the past. All very lovely ladies, and pretty brave too, going into the unknown. You are so lucky to have these photos and someone to I.D. them. Thanks for posting them.

  6. donna lee says:

    Look how proudly they walk along. What terrific photos.

  7. Helen H says:

    Great Pix! Thanks heaps for sharing 🙂

  8. mel says:

    My grandmother and her sister (my great aunt) served in the WAAAFS. It took them to areas like Melbourne and far north Queensland. They go by the name of Valmaine ‘Val’ Clarke and Elaine ‘Joy’ Clarke. I wonder if they are marching in these photographs.

  9. Nikki Blackwood says:

    Hello, I was just googling my Great Aunt – “Blackie” and came across your fantastic photos.

  10. peg utting says:

    Hi Nikki, I remember “Blackie” so well. We all loved her, she was one of the girls always.

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