On August 13, 1941, the Australian Women’s Army Service was founded by the Minister for the Army Sir Percy Spender and put under the control of Lieutenant Colonel Sybil Irving. The purpose of the service was to release more men into forward combat area.
“The first women to sign up in WA trained at the WACA, sleeping on the grandstands and paying for their own uniforms,” Mr Edman said.
“Those who held jobs were often forced to resign as only men were granted leave to join the services.”
Veronica Roach is one of the brave women who lied about her age to enlist at 17, providing support to the Coastal Defence units.
She manned a predictor at the Leighton Battery, a key component of the 12 batteries that protected the Port of Fremantle from attack.
Mrs Roach recalls the women she served with were “just like family” and though her unit worked gruelling hours, her time in the army were some of the best years of her life.
This is an experience echoed across the 20,000 women, aged between 18 and 40, who served in the AWAS during the final years of the war.
A film capturing the story of AWAS veteran Mrs Roach will be shown at the Restoring our History exhibition, along with a full AWAS uniform and the equipment the women used at the coastal batteries. The exhibition will be at the Gary Holland Community Centre in Rockingham on March 18.