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 24, and Billee, number 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!
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.
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.