Deniliquin’s Lorna O’Brien singed up for the Australian Women’s Army Service in 1942.ZOE MCMAUGH April 25, 2014 3:50am
Deniliquin’s Lorna O’Brien says she was just doing her duty when she signed up to serve during World War II.
With her brother Ross Baker joining the army before her, Lorna was 18 when she signed up for the Australian Women’s Army Service in 1942.
After weeks of training at Ingleburn in Sydney, not far from her home town of Penrith, Lorna was assigned to the signals office — the communication centre to the front line.
After three years at Australian bases, her duties would take her to New Guinea where she lived in a barbed wire clad camp protected by guards.
But the 90 year-old still maintains she ‘‘didn’t do much’’ during the war.
‘‘I was still at school when the war broke out,’’ she said.
‘‘I left school when I was 16 and was working as a governess on a property, and I joined the AWAS in July 1942.
‘‘Everyone was joining up and I felt I wanted to do something too.
‘‘I had one brother in the army, Ross, who was a light horseman before the war and was in the armoured troops.
‘‘In the signals office, we took the place of the men so they could go off and fight.
‘‘I eventually put in to go north (from Sydney). I was based in Townsville for a few months before going to Charters Towers.
‘‘I had been there for a while when they asked for volunteers to go to New Guinea.’’
Lorna said she didn’t expect to have been chosen to go to New Guinea, and was surprised when she did.
Those heading overseas had to be 21 and they had to volunteer, and Lorna was only 20 when she applied.
With departure not until May 7, 1945, just under three weeks after her 21st birthday, she was selected to go.
Lorna cannot remember how long she spent on the warship between Brisbane and Lae, in New Guinea, but said being in the new country was ‘‘an experience’’.
With the AWAS taking the place of the army as they moved the fighting front forward, Lorna said she did not see any of the war action.
The toughest part, she said, was the information the AWAS members had to keep from their loved ones.
‘‘We were there when the war ended in the September, but we stayed on until early February,’’ she said.
‘‘We weren’t allowed to tell our parents where we were or anything about the war. If there was anything in our letters, they were censored before they were sent.
‘‘We worked on shifts day and night, eight hours shifts, and got four days off after each block of work.
‘‘We were barb-wired in and there was always a guard on the gate.
‘‘The signals office was a bit down the road and we used to go there by army truck.
‘‘I started on the switch and then became a clerk in the signals office.’’
When not working, Lorna said she and the other AWAS members would go swimming and enjoy other leisure activities.
‘‘We used to have dances and open air pictures, even though it rained every day we were there.
‘‘We would wrap our ground sheets around us – we never went anywhere without them.
‘‘We used to go across in a boat to a nearby island beach to swim for the day on our days off.’’
After arriving home from the war, Lorna put her new found skills to good use.
She went to the post office in Penrith where she worked as a telephonist at the telephone exchange.
Lorna and her husband Harry, a friend of her younger brother Bruce, moved to Deniliquin early in their marriage.
Originally only planning to stay for a short time, they fell in love with Deniliquin and never left.
When Sam Atukorala addresses his children in his mother tongue of Sinhalese, they understand him completely, but they always reply in English.
Mulwala’s own motor racing sensation Steve ‘Harro’ Harrison has won the 2014 Victorian Super Tin Tops Championship.
St Augustines College, Kyabram, has won the inaugural School’s Sustainability Cup for 2014, beating several Melbourne schools.
The Shire of Campaspe is concerned as to the incomplete reporting of Port of Echuca property matters.
Four people, including a father and his two children, were fined more than $18,000 for their role in an alcohol-fuelled brawl at a Lockington party earlier this year which ended in a teenager beaten up and forced into a dog cage.
New faces for Girgarre FNC
A time to include late loved ones in the spirit of the season.
Firefighters were able to save a Finley property's buildings after a large stack of hay bales went up in flames on Monday.
Eppalock Primary School has gone global.
Scout Group hopes to raise funds for World Scout Jamboree through novel 24-hour endurance test.
Forest tour only way to understand impact.
Fodder depots have been set up in Euroa and Thoona for farmers hit by the recent fires.
The rail tracks are in such disrepear V/Line is having to close the buffet car between Euroa and Seymour due to health and safety concerns to hospitality staff.
Discover unbelievable local deals from local businesses every week in the Goulburn and Murray Valley area with Leapon.com.au!
Search properties for sale or rent across North Central Victoria and Southern NSW. Visit your local website for local homes....
Search for published and unpublished photos from McPherson Media Group newspapers and magazines. All our photos are available to purchase.
Place an advertisement in any one of McPherson Media Group's local newspapers.