Family violence is something that affects so many of us and has been kept behind…
“We were then told…any one of us could endanger the whole of the war if one of us spoke out of turn and gave away any of the information we were about to hear…”
These are the memories of Joyce Linnane, who served in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) in an intelligence role during World War Two.
She worked alongside a team of other WAAAF volunteers codebreaking Japanese Kana Code—some of the first women to ever hold such positions in Australia.
“We were really brainwashed and pounded on this [secrecy] and it stayed with all of us to the extent that when my parents died a quarter of a century later, they had thought I had served as a straight WT operator,” says Joyce.
“Absolutely nobody knew until the security sealing was lifted, and now my family and a few friends do know of the interesting job that we learned.”
Joyce’s fascinating story is just one of many heard in Paths to Victory, a new podcast created by the Department of Veteran Affairs to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, which takes place this Saturday 15 August.
Narrated by Veterans Affairs historian Dr Rebecca Fleming, episode three of Paths to Victory, ‘Women’s Service‘, tells the stories of the Australian women who served in their own words.
At times touching and funny and at others heartbreaking and raw, these memories still live large in the minds of women who set aside their lives to join the national war effort.
With the draft requiring most Australian men to enlist, World War Two presented opportunities for women to step into roles usually reserved for men, however, Dr Fleming takes pains to point out that the Australian Government largely disregarded women’s aspirations to serve until 1941.
Eventually, various opportunities did become available, many of which are recounted in Paths to Victory.
From working on critical machinery such as ambulances and jets to serving as part of the Land Army (the homefront war effort) to driving ambulances, fixing telecommunications on motorbike and intelligence work, each memory is a valuable reminder of the fragility of peace—and the determination and resilience of women.
There are also moving accounts of important moments in the war, such Pat Guest’s memory of the radio announcement that stated: “Australia is at war”.
“I thought, “Wow!” – I got so excited. I thought it was wonderful,” she recalls. “Grabbed the baby and I ran all the way up to our house, burst in through the front door and stopped. There was Dad and Mum. Dad’s standing there and he’s got his arms around Mum. Mum’s crying into his shoulder and he kept saying, “It’s all right, Meg. It’s okay. The war will be over by Christmas. Pat and Jim won’t have to go.” They’re my two brothers and I thought, “Pat, Jim, at the war? No.” All the excitement, there was nothing. It just drained away…”
“And the war didn’t finish. Went on and on. Pat went away and then Jim went away … I became an ambulance driver and that’s how we saw the war out. And it wasn’t pretty. I don’t ever want to see another one.”
Memories of war might seem strange comfort in these difficult times. However, it feels oddly right to turn to those who have survived through adversity as we navigate our own challenges of epic proportions.
That and pay tribute to their bravery and sacrifice—and the determination and resilience of women—75 years on.
Images courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.