Letter penned in 1943 delivered to writer's daughter
A LETTER written more than 70 years ago has made its way to Bundaberg, providing the writer's daughter with an insight into part of her mother's life that was never spoken about.
In a remarkably roundabout way, a letter written by a farm girl from The Caves, Rockhampton, was unearthed, 76 years later in Canberra.
The 1943 essay, titled My Reasons for Joining the W.A.A.A.F., was signed by Eva Dobie from "Melrose” at The Caves.
In order to help track down Ms Dobie's family, The Morning Bulletin (a sister paper of the NewsMail) used a funeral notice for Mrs Eva Rumpf (nee Dobie) who is buried at Nerimbera to find her daughter, Cheryl Cooper in Bundaberg.
"It was a very strange feeling to be reading for the first time, something Mum wrote so long ago,” Mrs Cooper said.
"I looked up her diary and found that she had written in it that she had visited the recruiting officer on Thursday, August 5, 1943.
"Then on September 13 she wrote they had travelled to town for the family to see her off.
"On the 14th she wrote she was staying at the YWCA; there were no more diary entries then until after the war.
"Mum never spoke to us about her time in the Women's Air Force.”
The letter was discovered by Jessie Bryant of Canberra among possessions belonging to her late great-aunt, Lilias B. Dow.
Mrs Bryant's link to her great-aunt is tenuous because Mrs Bryant's grandmother, Lilias's sister, was adopted.
"My great-grandmother and namesake Jessie died due to complications when she gave birth to my (twin) grandmother and great-aunt,” she said.
"My grandmother was adopted out to the Kilby family here in Canberra and I am unsure how much she knew about her biological family until she started doing her own research.
"I am unsure how my grandmother and then father came to have possession of my great-aunt's scrapbook from the war, but the letter was tucked away in there where I found it after my father passed the scrapbook on to me because I am looking into my family tree.
"I know Lilias was a spinster and died never having married so maybe no one else wanted the scrapbook and my Nan picked it up.”
Mrs Bryant met her husband, Lawton, at the Australian Defence Academy; he and his sister Willow attended Rockhampton Grammar School before the family moved away.
Mrs Bryant said her great-aunt was a recruiting officer for the WAAAF who travelled around Queensland.
"I assume she asked the letter writer to pen her something that she could use in newspapers to draw more women into the service,” she said.
COPY OF ESSAY WRITTEN BY Miss Eva DOBIE, The Caves, Via Rockhampton
MY REASONS FOR JOINING THE W.A.A.A.F.
I was asked the other day what were my reasons for joining the W.A.A.A.F.'s.
I had heard them asking for girls to join up, but I never really thought seriously about it, or that it was meant for me as well as any other girl.
One day I went in to see our W.A.A.A.F. recruiting officer; I had not the least intention of enlisting when I went in, but the recruiting officer told me what a wonderful job the W.A.A.A.F.'s were doing, and how vitally important is was that every girl who was not doing a really essential job where she was, was needed in the Air Force so that more men could be released for front line service.
Well, I left there to think it over. When we hear of all the suffering and misery people are putting up with in other parts of the world, and all the dangers and horrors the soldiers have to face in New Guinea, well, it made me feel, if, by enlisting, in the W.A.A.A.F.'s I could do my part in helping put an end to it, that it was my duty to do so.
As I am under 21 I had to get my parents consent. So the next week I filled in my papers. My mother came with me to see the recruiting officer, and she told her there was no need to worry, that once a girl was in the W.A.A.A.F.'s her moral, mental and physical welfare was well-guarded.
There are over 50 musterings from which to choose, and some need no previous knowledge or experience. I have enlisted as a trainee telegraphist. Before enlisting I lived and worked on a farm.
My friends tell me that I will be homesick and perhaps wished I had not joined, and I quite expect that I shall be for a while, as I never been much away from home, but I won't be the only one homesick, as there are thousands more in the services.
I think it is better to be homesick for a while, than to perhaps be homeless altogether or to be under enemy domination as some nations are. Australia is a grand country, and we have much more freedom than is enjoyed by a lot of other countries, and it is worth and little self-sacrifice on every one's part to keep it so.
Besides enlisting for patriotic reasons, I think it is a wonderful opportunity for girls to learn things which perhaps we might never do otherwise, and also we will travel around and see lots of different places. I have asked several girls who have been in uniform for quite a while, how they liked the life, and they said they can't understand why more girls don't enlist.
The pay is good and with no clothes or food to provide, we should be further able to assist the war effort by investing, in war bonds of certificates, and by the time we return to civilian life we should have quite a bit saved up to make a fresh start.
And so I think that every girl who is able, would not only assist their country by enlisting, but it would be a great asset to themselves also.
(Miss Eva Dobie), "Melrose”, The Caves, Via Rockhampton N.C.L.