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Thelma's well-deserved WW2 recognition

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Almost one million Australians served during the Second World War. Remarkably, some 12,000 WW2 veterans are still with us today and one of them is Villa Maria Fortitude Valley resident, Thelma.

In recognition of the 75th Anniversary of the ending of the Second World War, Thelma recently received a Commemorative Medallion and Certificate of Commemoration. The medallion and certificate were presented by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to every living Australian veteran of WW2 - as thanks for their service and contribution.

Thelma’s medallion and certificate are now proudly displayed in her room at Villa Maria along with treasured photos of her family.

Thelma (now 96) joined the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) in March 1943, at the age of 19, doing her training at Sandgate – the WW2 Royal Australian Air Force station at Brighton, Queensland.

A young Thelma in her WAAAF uniform

Thelma recently shared her story in the Australian War Widows Bulletin magazine – some quotes are reproduced below.

“I arrived at Sandgate with about 19 other girls,” says Thelma. “We had already passed our Medical and Aptitude Tests and were now all ready and willing to do our bit for our country. As we straggled around the Station in our ‘civvies; we were greeted with cries of “you’ll be sorry”. But I never was, and that day began the best two years of my life.

“Our uniform issue was quite adequate – everything labelled ‘WAAAF’ for the use of’. There were black lace up shoes, cotton stockings, khaki skirts and shirts. There was a beret and navy overalls, and one fur felt hat with a RAAF badge that we wore with pride. For winter there was a navy serge skirt and jacket, worn with a blue shirt and black tie and a jaunty peaked cap – very smart.

“My first posting was to Staff at Sandgate, so I only had to change huts,” continues Thelma. “For the next year or so I worked at WAAAF HQ – working with the WAAAF Officers. I completed Personnel Forms, Identity Cards etc. for incoming WAAAF, and watched many Rookies come and go. These were happy days and I made many lifetime friends.

“Somewhere along the way I obtained my Corporal’s Stripes and later did an NCO’s course. I was transferred over to 6 RD (recruit Depot). Because I had previously worked for a solicitor, I was to make many wills for incoming RAAF. By now I was married to an Army Sergeant and later I obtained a posting to Williamtown, NSW, when my husband was sent to Singleton.

“I worked in an Operational Training Unit, where many British airmen were learning to fly. Sadly, there were a lot of crashes. I worked down near the runway tarmac with an adjutant.

“Soon it was 1945 and I decided, as I had been in the WAAAF for two years, it was time to move on. I applied for a discharge and returned to Queensland. By then I was pregnant and decided to return to Rockhampton where my family were.”

Thanks Thelma for your service to Australia and for sharing your story. For more information about Villa Maria Fortitude Valley click here - https://www.catholichealthcare.com.au/residence/villa-maria-centre-fortitude-valley