With Anzac Day approaching, we talk to four women who volunteered for Australia’s armed forces during World War II, proud to serve their country on the home front while building life-long friendships along the way.

Writer: Paula Hubert – Photographer: David Field

Dulcie Jury
Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force (WAAAF) – March 1945 to March 1946

Dulcie Jury wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and join the army when she turned 18, but her plan was hastily revised. It was the tail end of the war and only the Air Force was accepting new female recruits.
“I was a machinist so they tested me on mending parachutes, but I didn’t pass. To tell you the truth I didn’t want it.”
Instead, she was stationed in Melbourne at Frognall, a grand mansion in leafy Camberwell.
“I was a clerk in Signals. We were looking after a division. There was a big belt in the room that would go round with all the messages. We were keeping track of people being transferred.
“I liked it. I was a quiet sort,” recalled Dulcie, who was the eldest of eight siblings.
“It helps you to mix and I met some nice people.
“You were living as a family in the Air Force.
“Sometimes you live with them better than your brothers and sisters. You’re pleased to see them; you’re not always pleased to see your sisters and brothers,” she said laughing.
She and her mates had mischievous moments too. After the weekly Monday night hut tidy-up, a couple of them would creep out of a back fence at the base to buy hamburgers on the High Street.
“Some girls pulled the nails out of the fence so it made a concertina,” she said. “The authorities found out and fixed it up. We pulled the nails out again. They put a guard there so that was the end of that.”
After the war, Dulcie preferred to stay in Melbourne. She married and had one son and another one on the way when her husband died in a road accident.
“I was 27. If I had not had my boys, I would have joined up again. I liked the life.”
Dulcie only returned to Bendigo 20 years ago and found friendships, old and new, at the Ex-Service Women’s Club.
Anzac Day remains a time to remember her family’s loss. “My uncle died as a Prisoner of War in Ambon (an Indonesian island occupied by the Japanese) four days before the war ended. He was in the camp for three and half years. The cemetery was built there too.
“My mum was his next of kin and she got the information the day we’d got notice that the war had ended. She was in tears while everyone else was rejoicing.
“Fifteen years ago, we (Dulcie and her brother) went to Ambon for Anzac Day. There were just a handful of families. It was good to go. Now we know where he’s buried.”
These days, the 87-year-old understandably prefers to stay closer to home, attending the Pall Mall procession on Anzac Day. “We’ve lost a lot of ladies over the years. I didn’t think I’d live this long. I’m one of the youngest,” she smiled.