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A WWII love story

I was nineteen when World War Two broke out and that completely changed everyones life — the year before I had made my Debut at the main ball of the year and all our age group was just beginning to have a lot of fun and go to parties; but this gradually changed as young men enlisted and were in training camps.

Some of the Toowoomba ladies restarted the Voluntary Aid Detachment and started first aid classes which I joined. We met once a week at the CWA hall.

By 1941-1942 casualties were arriving back in Australia from the Middle East and there was a need for more nursing staff so VADs were absorbed into local hospitals having first done so many hours of training.

By this time the first lot of VADs were in the Middle East — when we were 21 we were allowed to enlist for service away from our local area and that was when I joined for overseas service.

A group of us were called up early in 1942 and reported to Brisbane and after being given uniforms and injections we were sent out to Goodiwindi which was a huge training area. The hospital was at Kildonan (the Gunns home), and were put into tents along the river bank.

I started in the wards with the others, when a request was sent round for any girls with office training as several of the orderly room staff were being transferred so that was when I became involved in the administration which I much preferred to nursing. As we were some miles from the town there wasn't any entertainment so Margaret Doyle (Merawah) insisted any off-duty girls to visit her.

To do this we had to row across the river. As none of us had ever rowed before this was quite hilarious We never ended up at the right place so had to scramble up the bank and walk to her home.

She was very kind to everyone and we would have singsongs around the piano and play tennis.

It was here that I met Jim Haydon who had been posted from his Unit in Adelaide (where they were staying on their return from the Middle East He was training recruited for their regiment. As VADs we weren't allowed to visit the officers mess (only the nurses) a few of the young officers drifted up to Merawah when off-duty.

He was there for about three months when he was recalled to Adelaide as the Regiment was moving to Queensland for further training on route to New Guinea where they took part in the Samanda campaign where their regiment was almost destroyed so on their return to Australia they were posted to other units.

He was posted to the 2/25 Btn which was a Queensland unit.

About this time our 47 camp Hospital was divided and half of us were sent to Glen Innes.

I was the only one in the Orderly room, the rest stayed in Goondiwindi. Glen Innes was also a huge training centre so the hospital (in the showgrounds) was kept busy. Eventually I was transferred to DADMS in Brisbane and it was here that I heard the 47th was being sent to New Guinea

As our HQ was in the same building I went down to our C.O. and asked when I was leaving and was told I wasn't included. I was staggered and said but that is my unit.

There was one girl who had been in the army longer than I and she was given preference. However if she didn't wish to go I could go, so that was how I got back to my unit.

I think we sailed from Townsville some time in July 1942 and arrived in Port Moresby where we stayed in the grounds of the 2/5 A.G.H. until our quarters were ready at Keitaki which was further into the hills on the way to Kokoda.

Our new home in the mountains behind Port Moresby

We took over from 2 C.C.S. (casualty clearing station) The hospital was all tents as were the sleeping areas. The main home was the administration centre. I thought we were lucky to be to there in the mountains away from the heat of Moresby. We were only a small hospital. It was a beautiful area – actually a rubber plantation – natives would take the sap from the rubber trees which was most interesting for us to watch.

As I mentioned we were a small hospital and mainly had patients with malaria, scrub typhus and dysentery; no badly wounded soldiers — they were all cared for in A.G.H's in Port Moresby which had the necessary equipment and nursing staff.

However we were always busy with ambulances arriving with new patients who had to be admitted, their papers sorted; then the ambulances waiting to take the discharged patients back to their units-more paperwork.

Attached to the orderly room was the R.A.P. where we dealt with local injuries.

One day I was fixing a natives leg , having cleaned it up I put some black ointment on it with a bandaid and told him to come back in day or so.

He sat there looking very sad and I wondered what was wrong. He kept on looking at his leg which now was all black. I finally realised he had nothing to show and hastily put on a white bandage and then there were all smiles and he went away.

Not far from the hospital there was another rubber plantation which was run by a Mr Godsen whom we got to know and a group of us would visit him, have lunch and eat his beautiful fruit from his trees.

It was so nice to just sit down in a living room with comfortable chairs though it was really the feeling of being in a normal house peopled by civilians which kept us going back there.

Other times army friends from Port Moresby came up and we would have picnics down by the creeks other times we went over to Rowena Falls which was lovely and just talked and heard what was happening in other places; of course we were very isolated bit it never occurred to us to worry about it.

One day I asked the C O if we could go up to Kokoda which was only a few miles away. We had heard so much about it we wanted to see where the last fighting had taken place.

He said 'no' but a few days later he called me into his office and said he had been thinking about my request and thought he would like to go and see the area himself.

Signal station in the rubber plantation at the start og thr Kokoda Trail.

So he organised jeeps fow whoever was off duty and away we went. Eventually the jeep could go no further so we climbed up the hill till we reached the top and there was a signal station manned by a young signal private who couldn't believe his eyes — so many women and a Major arriving on his doorstep when he hadn't seen anyone for ages.

It was an amazing feeling to stand there and think this was as far as the Japs got. Really not so very far from Moresby but their lines of communication ran out and there were more Australian troops arriving to stop their advance.

It was a great achievement to be able to finally turn the Japs back and to know they would have stopped them getting to Moresby that great seaport close to Australia.

A very different but equally exciting time was one of the AAWWS decided to get married, her friends organised the wedding, gathered frangipani and decorated the mess which looked most attractive and those off-duty attended the wedding.

While we were waiting in Moresby we weren't on duty and were allowed to go out - but only in 6's at a time and we always had to have a driver - never alone.

A friend of my sisters came over to the camp and asked to see me one night so I invited her into the mess and introduced her to everyone. A few nights later he brought others over for a chat and one of them was Jim Haydon, so wet met up again.

After that we went on picnics and went sailing until they were flown over to the other side of the island. One day we watched 96 planes take off and later come in to land one after another - an amazing sight.

There was a lot of fighting in terrible conditions which eventually led to the capture of Lae after which Jim's battalion came back to Moresby where they stayed waiting transfer back to Australia. Being a Captain he had a jeep so he and others were able to drive up to Koitaki when they had the time so whoever was off duty would entertain them, mainly going down to the river and swimming .

The day they were to depart he got his driver to drive him up to Koitaki to say goodbye — a very hurried trip because no one was supposed to be out of the camp. I wondered if I would ever see him again

They were camped at Petrie outside Brisbane. I returned to HQ Brisbane in April and was granted leave and went home to Toowoomba and out to Beth's at Allora where I learnt to milk and help in the dairy.

When I returned to Brisbane Jim and I met again and he and he suggested that we should get engaged,. About this time he was sent to Canberra to do a Air Liason School — six weeks camped on the airfield after six years in the tropics. He said he had never been so cold in his life.

Shortly after this there were rumours flying around that they would be moving north. Jim rang me one night at home saying he would like to be married the next weekend.

I was amazed 5th August 1944 what a week! Planning a wedding in a week. Letting everyone know ,arranging a place for the reception (Aunt Geddes Cox (Cay)) came to my rescue and said we could have it at the Country Club", seeing the clergyman, getting a licence, arranging cars and flowers.

However everything went off well Margaret Doyle (Merawah) represented the Haydon family as civilians were allowed into Queensland at that time — Brisbane was the first line of defence against Japanese invasion.

Jim arrived on Friday night with his M.O. (medical officer) Monty Multon as best man and turned up at St Lukes church next morning looking very smart in uniform. Dorothy Dayas (my best school friend) was bridesmaid We were able to get a flat at Redcliffe for a fortnight though Jim had to report back to his unit each day . They were then posted to Kingaroy to the Air Force where has training was furthered. I had a month there with him staying in the hotel.

My brother Hoddy Cay was wounded at the landing and Jim's plane was shot down — breaking in two into the sea.

He had wedged himself into the tail of the plane as the plane went down and fortunately was picked up by one of the American boats.

Both he and Hoddy ended up in the same hospital, Hoddy with shrapnel wounds and Jim with neck problems.

This was the last battle of the war and after a few months the troops were being gradually sent back to Australia.

Jim got his discharge fairly quickly as he had been in the army for a long time.

I can remember he was home for the Scout Rodeo which I suppose was our first outing. Petrol of course was scarce – we lived with his parents at the Humoy for about four years and in this time Barbara and Lyndall were born in Scone

Two beautiful babies and adored by their grandparents. During this time Jim was negotiating the purchase by the Soldiers Settlement Scheme of the property Barsham which was finally passed in 1949.

The house (the outstation of Barsham) had by this time been renovated so Jim, I, Barbara and Lyndall moved to Barsham in June. What a wonderful feeling it must have been for Jim after six years of war to be able to settle down on his own place, to be his own master, plan his own life.

He certainly never wanted to go away from home over the coming years, was quite content to stay put.


 Name: New Guinea

 Writer: Ethol Haydon

 Date: 2018

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