Peg was in the first group from South Australia to join the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS). On her first deployment to Sandy Creek, near Gawler, Peg recalls her surprise to find large sacks which the group had to fill with straw for their mattresses:
“There were very limited provisions and facilities for women at that time. Our boys were still being sent to Egypt.”
Peg’s job was as an army stenographer, preparing the embarkation rolls for each soldier which recorded every item they took with them. We were saddened to read many of these same names in the Advertiser newspaper’s casualty lists.
During her time here, Peg was promoted to Corporal before the entire training camp was moved to Woodside in the Adelaide Hills:
“My memories of Woodside are of frozen buckets outside our huts, but happy times dancing the jitterbug when off duty! We had an old 78 record player given to us which was fun and provided some entertainment. After a wait we were finally issued with our uniforms – up until that time we wore our own clothes.”
Peg’s next move was to Dubbo in NSW and from there to Greta where we were informed that the camp had two sections Silver City and Chocolate City – aptly named due to one row of huts having galvanised iron roofs and the other being painted brown!
Peg’s next settlement was in Bonegilla, Victoria specifically to work for the Lieutenant Colonel in charge of the camp, sometimes handling sensitive material and intelligence matters.
Peg’s final destination was to Sydney, to Strathfield Women’s Army accommodation, where she met girls from across Australia as well as another particularly special encounter:
“I travelled to work daily by train to the Docks Services Battalion on the Parramatta River. Myself and the only other female there were directed to have meals in the Sergeants’ Mess at Port Maintenance across the river. Here I met my future husband who had returned from active service in Papua New Guinea on the Kokoda Track.”
It was whilst Peg was still in Sydney that peace was declared with Japan. Peg recalls how everyone descended upon the city, caught up in the “euphoric atmosphere” of Martin Place:
“Celebrations were underway with everyone singing and dancing, people from many nationalities joining together to witness this monumental moment in history. When the war was officially over we were sent back to Adelaide and discharged from the Army. Three and a half years had gone by.”