Recollections of World War 2
Interviewees: Connie Lowe, John Doering, Warren Bowden, Heather Watson, Ron Smith, Patricia Robinson, Enid Davis, Jack Iori.
Interviewers: Esther Fagan (Connie Lowe), Frank Heimans (the others)
Transcription: Kevin Murray, March 2009
CONNIE LOWE (00:10)
About 1941, we're going to go back then when you received a letter from the Queen...
Yeah. I'd like to pay a tribute to the ladies that contributed to this letter. It was during the War, of course, and we had this active Patriotic Fund at Lower Portland, and the lady friends of mine down there - I'd like to name some of them, but perhaps I'd better not - they were all noted for their beautiful hand knitting, and I heard an appeal on the air from London by Princess Elizabeth who was very active then in War work, appealing for baby clothes for the bombed out babies victims of London. I suggested to my lady friends that they set to work with their needles which they did, willingly. And we packed off to Princess Elizabeth a large carton of exquisitely knitted garments, all trimmed with little French roses and the letter came back at the command of the Queen.
Kenthurst family farm with citrus trees and poultry sheds
JOHN DOERING (01:21)
when war started there was a lot of recruiting and quite a number of people along Annangrove Road younger people joined the forces some in different areas of the armed forces. In Annangrove itself as the war progressed we weren’t allowed in the bush at certain times. We couldn’t go down and do our normal playing and fishing. The army took it over and used it as army manoeuvres, mock battles and that sort of thing in the war. The air force every day you’d see there were mock battles and dog fights in the air with all the different aircraft training before they went to war.
The army often had route marches through Annangrove the soldiers would march through down the road. We had rationing, didn’t have too many clothes and all the blokes who smoked had to put up with about two ounces a week of cigarettes or tobacco. I can remember Dad making up little headlight covers, it was like a candlelight in front of you as you drove along and you had to paint a white line on your mudguards so you could be seen in the dark if a light happened to shine on your car.
Castle Hill Public School c.1920
WARREN BOWDEN (03:14)
We lost our postman who was called up. We lost other individuals, young men that we knew by name and enjoyed their company and meeting them socially. It had an affect upon the families. The news on the radio, such as the radios were, was never very pleasant. They gave reports which we associated with some of our members in that division and that battalion.
We put brown paper over our windows to stop our light from falling to the outside and collectively having the village bombed for some reason or another. We also responded to the siren, of all things, which was on a huge pole at the top of the Rogan’s Hill area. That was never pleasant when it went off we all went white and wondered what was going to happen. So to assist us in our build of confidence the school authorities required open trenches to be dug at the bottom end of the school paddock. That was quite an undertaking. There was no such thing as backhoes it was all shovel and pick.
We could hear the explosions when the Japanese came inside The Heads and took out several of our ships and a number of our personnel. So we also knew that they were standing off the coast.
Second World War soldier in army uniform
HEATHER WATSON (05:06)
There was an Army camp on the Showground, the transport was up and down Showground Road. My mother organised with a couple of friends, cleared it with the commander of the camp, that we should go down there one afternoon a week and in school holidays I was able to go and we sewed stripes or colour patches on the uniforms, we darned socks, we darned knees of uniforms.
We would walk down and sit on the verandah at an Army table and we were always given scones and a cup of tea for afternoon tea and then if there happened to be a vehicle going somewhere in the afternoon, we would get a ride home.
The Church, in order to provide some amenities for the soldiers, had a club in the Church hall three nights a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday and there were such things as bobs which is a sort of form of snooker, quoits, table tennis and sing-songs around the piano. My mother could supply butter to the other ladies to make cakes so we always had supper afterwards. Somebody had to surrender their coupons for the tea and the sugar.
RON SMITH (06:45)
Yes war time was with us all the time. The youth of the area coming home on leave. It was all in uniform. From nine to fifteen you lived with the war every day. The air raid sirens were going off. The ARP wardens were coming round with blackout practice. The women were in Red Cross. The girls were in Red Cross. I got into the school cadets.
The people who stopped behind, the male members of the district, if they were World War One they formed the Volunteer Defence Corps. Mr Cattell who was a World War One digger he used to drill all the old diggers in the school grounds. Then of course the army moved into the showground at Castle Hill in early 1942 to about 1944. Then the army took over the Masonic Schools Hospital with the 103rd Australian General Hospital. That eventually became a twelve hundred bed orthopaedic ward. With RAF Richmond being so close we reckoned we could nearly hit a Wirraway or an Avro Anson coming into land at Richmond with a catapult but we never tried.
Patricia Robinson in VAD uniform c.1944
PATRICIA ROBINSON (08:22)
Can you describe your typical day at the hospital as a VAD?
We were woken up by reveille every morning at six o’clock. You’d fly out of bed. It wasn’t so bad in summer time because you could run out in your jamas. We started at eight o’clock in the morning, you’d come back to your own mess to have your lunch, then you went back to work in the ward and you would probably work there until about six o’clock. The evenings, if you were rostered onto the night shift that was the very, very hard one. You were on duty from seven o’clock at night until seven o’clock in the morning.
How many qualified nursing sisters would there have been?
There was quite a big staff of nursing sisters there. There probably would have been about fifty or sixty. At different times the doctors would come in for relief. I couldn’t tell you exactly how many - there probably would have been about four or five there permanent.
What did the soldiers that came in mainly suffer from?
If they came back from New Guinea and they had malaria sometimes they would be brought out to us because we had the malaria ward there. There were a lot of men there that came with leg problems and arm problems. They did a lot of surgery and physiotherapy on them.
ENID DAVIS (09:54)
I was a member of the CYO in Parramatta and the priest used to take us out to the 103rd AGH military hospital at Masonic Schools. There were soldiers in there from all over Australia. We used to go out once a month and if anyone wanted a letter written home we would do it for them. On this particular evening I was writing a letter for a young soldier who came from South Australia. In the next bed was this other wounded soldier... one thing led to another but he was up there for a couple of years because by the time the legs started to heal he was on crutches, on callipers, on all sorts of things to get walking again. Then when he was discharged from the army he came straight to work for my Dad driving the truck.
The Woollen Mills where you worked during the war? What sort of operation was it?
It was a very big operation. They were making the grey military blankets. I used to do the wages. There was perhaps two or three hundred employees working in the mill. Because Dad had a market garden it was classed as number one priority. I had to get a special dispensation from the Labour Department to go and work for the mill.
Mile End Rd east of Withers Rd looking north west from Iori property 1940s
JACK IORI (11:34)
Now your father being an Italian and when the Second World War came along many Italians were interned because they were deemed to be a security risk. Did your father suffer the same fate?
Almost but he never quite got interned. We had a neighbour who was not kind to us next door and he tried to get him interned. They used to have what they called a Flying Squad in those days and they came up and they went around the district and Dad was, I think he was an extremely good man, and the people seen it that way and they did take his rifle off him, his twenty two rifle, why I remember quite distinctly that part of it was that after the war finished I went up in the horse and sulky with him and I’ve never seen a cell before and I never seen one since I’m happy to say. But I seen this cell and there was the lone rifle in the corner and the Sergeant went and got it and gave it to us and we came home with the horse and sulky. That must have been in 1945.