Alison Worrall's story

Alison Worrall enlisted in the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) on 23 August 1941. Before enlisting, she had worked in an ammunition factory, filling bullets. She remembered this being dangerous work because there were often explosions in the workplace.

After enlistment, she was transferred to Queensland. Here she was struck by the physical differences of Queenslanders to Victorians, thinking them a 'great, big ranging people … from the country, a different breed they looked'.

Alison was in Sydney when she heard news of the war's end. She recalled the joy of dancing all night because it had seemed that the war would never end.

She attained the rank of Flight Sergeant when discharged from No. 7 Operational Training Unit RAAF.

Alison's father had been wounded in World War I. After the war, he devoted a lot of time to serving Legacy, a charitable organisation that cares for the dependents of deceased Australian service men and women.

Growing up, Anzac Day was important to Alison's family. She believed that commemorating the Allied victory of World War II was more important than the Allies' defeat on Gallipoli.

Second World War veteran (WAAAF)

Transcript

Father in WW1

My father was hit by shell in the forehead and left for dead, and found to be still alive, and woke up a fortnight later. It was a terrible head injury. He was traumatized by the war, but what he remembered was the happy things about it.

He was a farmer, he got on well with the French farmers. Those sorts of things he spoke about, we found what happened to him because he'd just been newly promoted and went to Cambridge to get his commission, and ran cross country with them, and sang in Kings College Choir, and loved that.

He went back as a young lieutenant, and it was 40 miles of heavy artillery firing, and one of his men got hit and he was bent down to put a dressing on him, and he got hit too. So, it was this chap who was able to see what happened to him later on. He'd been carted off with the bodies, found to be still alive. Yeah.

Ammunition factory

It was Victoria, in Melbourne, so you had to be very careful, you had to change your clothes all the time, walk on duck boards all the time. If anything went wrong there was a great explosion, so everything had to be cleared out again, yeah. So, we were yeah, filling bullets. That was before, it was as soon as the war broke out I did that, and joined as Air Corps as soon as it was available.

Joining the forces

You expect to be bombed at any minute, of course, one does realize they're still quite a distance away, but because of my father being in the army, I had to try and enlist straight away.

So, it was just this Women's Air Corps forms, and they gave us these grey dust coats, and we marched around there and practiced getting into, what's it called? Ferret holes.

The interesting people that we met, the Victorian ones, were so different from when we moved up to Queensland, quite different people indeed. Great, big ranging people there from the country, a different breed they looked too. So that was interesting seeing all these people that one hadn't met before. Quite different from the Victorian ones.

Impression of the war

We got the feeling that we were never going to get home again, it seemed to be going endlessly. Yeah, we were all so fed up with it.

People like my Bill, you know, being in the Navy for 30 years, he'd been getting bombed and shot at right from day one. So, he was very lucky to get through.

Husband In the Navy

It seemed like the war was never going to end, we were never going to get home again. So, once it was over my husband, Bill, was permanent Navy so it was always difficult trying to see him too.

My husband was at sea most of the time, yeah, we got married by special license because our leave just happened to come at the same time. So, then we had two days together, then I didn't see him for nearly a year afterwards, he went back up North, and I went back to wherever I was, Evans Head.

Stories of Bill (Husband)

One time I was at Evans Head, and he was going on draft from Brisbane to Sydney, he decided to jump ship. He got a cab, came all the way out to Evans Head and I'm behind bars there, we're talking through the bars and he's got a cab there. Weren't allowed to get out to meet him. Then he had to get the cab right back there, and he was AWL for a day, it took a bit of explaining when he got back to Sydney. But that's the best we could do."

Speaker 2: Well it sounds like a reasonable excuse to go AWL.

"Heck of a long way to jump out from the train to Brisbane to Sydney, and get a cab right out to Evans Head and then..."

Speaker 2: I think that's true love.

"... talk to his mate behind bars. Bill was at sea right through on HMAS Stuart, and then Vendetta was supposed to be having a refit in Melbourne. When he got to Bombay a fortune teller said, "You think you're going home", he said, "but you're not. But you'll get there eventually, and you'll marry the girl that you want to". He thought, "Oh yeah".

When they got to sea, they got a message to say that the refit was going to be done in Singapore, and 25 of them were going there, the others went on another ship and went off. 25 of them went with Vendetta to Singapore, and they were there with no engines, when the Japs came in the other side of the island. So, they had to be towed out, just got out of the dock in time, when the Japs bombed it. So, then they had to be hidden and towed up various rivers, and finally he rang from Perth and said, "Hey we're nearly home".

Then the tow rope broke 27 times in the bite, so by the time I saw him he weighed about as much as that. Though wasn't that strange though that, that chap, fortune teller, knew and the skipper didn't know. He hadn't got instructions until he got to sea again. Wasn't that odd? We got married by special license because we had a relation, he was a minister, and we just happened to have our leave at the same time.

End of the War

We danced all night in Martin Place, I remember that. I remember hearing about the bomb dropping, and what could it possibly be? Yeah, it's big enough to stop the war, it must be extraordinary thing. Well we thought it might just actually go off and keep on going all around the world, pleased it hadn't.

We didn't know anything about it. Well it was announced, the war's over, the Japanese have got it, oh, hallelujah. It was just wonderful, we thought we're never going to get home. Yeah, it seemed to be just such an endless period, we're never going to live a normal life again. Just how are we ever going to finish this off?

Marching on Anzac Day

My father was very keen on those because he took his legacy duties very seriously then. He was in the country town, so he'd go in every Thursday make sure that the widows had sufficient to eat. He'd chop the wood for them, he'd do their gardening for them. He took their situations very carefully indeed. So yes, every Anzac Day we were there.

Opinion of Anzac Day and the war

Well, I don't think you'll like what I'm going to say about this. I feel that we shouldn't be celebrating a defeat, we're the only country that does that. We shouldn't have been there in the first place, the Turks were defending their own land, we were in an impossible position down below.

A great number of French and English died there too, yeah, so we're the only ones I know who are celebrating a defeat. Everyone else celebrates a victory, we should be celebrating in the Second World War, we were greatly in danger, and we were saved. That's much more important, so no, this Anzac Day goes on and on.

To me, I know it's a holy thing, but not to me yeah. But I'm there all the time. What I think about it, and every day here we come, those people aren't forgotten. To see those wasted lives, it's a scandalous thing. All this money we spend on killing each other is just we've failed as a species. It causes me great distress. Is that the best we can do? Is think of bigger ways of killing each other. Waste of lovely young lives. Never forget them.


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Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), Alison Worrall's story, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 23 June 2024, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories/oral-histories/alison-worralls-story
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