War Service Stories
One hundred and fifty ex-students and staff members served in WWII and five tragically lost their lives.
In 2017, our Duke of Edinburgh Award students in Year 10 researched and wrote biographies of our ex-students in service and transcribed and recorded audio of their letters home to Pymble’s former principal, Miss Dorothy Knox, who went to great lengths to keep in touch with Pymble girls serving in World War II.
You are warmly invited to learn more about these courageous women on this website or by visiting our Heritage Centre to see our new War Stories display.
Aitken, Stella Elizabeth
Armstrong, Kathleen Elizabeth
Baird, Elizabeth Edith
Black, Jean Hamilton
Bowman, Berice C
Bruce, Joyce (Janna)
Carter, Addie Claire
Cleaver, Beatrice Grace
Colley, Lorraine Vere
Colvin, Anne Love
Cox, Violet Ruth
Frater, A H (Lexie)
Gay, Jean Margaret
Gelling, Barbara Daylesford
Gibson, Alice Margaret
Goodwin, Elizabeth Ross
Gordon, Frances Valerie
Gordon, Heather Jane (Jenny)
Gordon, Phyllis June
Hammond, Joan H. OBE
Hassall, Joan Isabel
Hazard, Freda Ellen
Johnston, Patricia Lilian
Larke, Elizabeth Robson
Logan, Helen K
Lyon-Mackenzie, Frances Olive
Macdougall, Jean Margaret
Mackenzie, Helen Margaret
Mackenzie, Margaret Jean Howieson MBE
McLaren, Margaret A
Menzies, Kathleen A L
Miller, Jean H
Morgan, Sybil Winifred
Murton, Viva Lynette
Newling, Jean Kathleen
Oakeshott, Joyce Margorie
Oakeshott, Kathleen Mary
Oldham, R Betty
Osborne, Millicent Daisy Wingrove
Park, Nancy Jean
Pennefather, Joan Victorine
Roberston, J Marion
Ross, Gerogie Helen
Ross, Gloria Del
Rossell, Emily Sinclair
Scott, Eileen Elsie
Sillar, Jean Hazel
Skinner, Muriel Mary
Smyth, Esme Francess
Thomas, Barbara Mortimer
Towse, Nancy Sewell
Trebeck, Joan ( Peggy)
Vautin, Mary Florence
Wait, Jon P H C
Walters, Adrienne Nance
Watt, Gwen B
Williams, Shirley Maybury
Witt, Helen C
Bigg, Kathleen Ruth
Croxon , Marjorie
Hannay, Isobel F
Moore, Clara B
Rae, Suzanne Moore
Raz, Enid M
Scholefield, Catherine Maud
Warburton, Elsa H
Lieutenant Sheila Armstrong NFX16459 Australian Army Medical Women’s Services (AAMWS)
Sheila attended Presbyterian Ladies’ College at Pymble as a day girl and was a Prefect and Hockey Captain in her final year, 1930. She was also a participant in the Service Corps and regularly reported on their activities in the School Magazine.
Sheila’s cards and letters to Miss Knox during the war tell of her service in New Guinea. She also advised Miss Knox that another PLC student, Blanche Downs, was based with her at the 2/7 Australian General Hospital.
Sheila never married and passed away on 20 August 1990, aged 79.
Lieut Sheila Armstrong
2/7 Aust. Gen.Hospital
Dear Miss Knox
Once again I was extremely glad to receive Christmas Greetings from you and the girls of P.L.C.
It certainly gives one a grand feeling to be remembered.
You may be interested to know that I am in New Guinea and have been here for about four and a half months.
There are many spots of interest which we have visited. I really think that Salamaua and the Markham Valley have the most appeal for me. The Markham Valley is really very beautiful in a rugged kind of way and it is very easy to visualise the parachute landing which took place there.
Salamaua of course is full of interest, and when one is lucky enough to visit these places with the lads, who were here in the early days and the scenes are painted vividly, the place holds a great deal of appeal.
Blanche Downes is also at this unit with me. We have been lucky since we both joined the Army, as we have been together in two units now. Quite often we talk of the days when we were at school.
I would be very pleased if you would convey my thanks to the girls and I would like to wish you all greetings for 1945
Barbara Thomas was a local girl who attended Presbyterian Ladies’ College at Pymble from 1919 to 1924. During her time at the College, Barbara was a member of the Athletics, Netball and Hockey teams and received her Leaving Certificate in 1923. College records note her as Dux of the College in both 1923 and 1924.
Barbara had already graduated in Arts from Sydney University and was in her second year of medical studies when a sporting career beckoned. She represented Australia internationally as a member of the first Australian women’s hockey team in 1930, staying on in London at the conclusion of the tour to continue her studies at St Thomas’ Hospital. She graduated as a massage student (a physiotherapist in today’s language) in 1933, and joined the staff at St Thomas’, specialising in pre- and post-natal care. She became the demonstrator for the Head of Physiotherapy at St Thomas’, Sister Randell, with whom she developed special pre-natal exercises, established clinics throughout England and collaborated on a book called Training for Motherhood.
In 1937 Barbara returned to Sydney for six months, providing her services to the Department of Public Health to make a film about pre- and post-natal exercises for mothers. During her visit she played in ex-students’ hockey teams competing against current students.
On 10 September 1940, London was bombed during a series of air raids and Barbara was trapped in the wreckage of the nurse’s wing for 12 hours. She died before she was rescued, aged 32 years.
Barbara is buried in Lambeth Cemetery in London.
She is recognised in a Nurses Memorial at St Thomas’ Hospital along with three other nurses. At Pymble, a plaque was placed along the Colonnade in her honour.
It was with a great sense of shock that we read of the death of Barbara Thomas during an early air-raid in London. She was on duty in St Thomas’ Hospital when that building was bombed.
Barbara was a student of the College from 1919 to 1924. In 1924, she was a school Prefect and DUX of the school in schooldays. She graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1929 and was a member of the first AUSTRALIAN Women’s Hockey team to go to England in 1930. After that tour, she remained in England to do a course in massage and, after a brilliant pass, devoted her talents to the exercise of her profession, gaining considerable commendation for her work for the health and welfare of women.
In 1937 she revisited Australia and renewed friendships with her old school former school-fellows. Her generous, sunny nature gained friends during her lifetime and the tale of her cheerful heroism in danger and agony will surely inspire others in dark days.
Barbara Thomas died at her post – the first of our number to give her life in time of war. May her example shine before us as we do the task that lies at hand.
Private Bertie Cecil Lloyd NFX 131142, Australian Army Medical Women’s Service (AAMWS)
Bertie Lloyd was a local girl who attended Presbyterian Ladies’ College at Pymble during its first decade, leaving in 1928. Bertie was a close friend of former student Dame Joan Hammond, with whom she corresponded over Joan’s lifetime.
Bertie joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) and worked at Lady Gowrie Red Cross Convalescent home. In 1939, she enlisted and served at the 12th Australian Camp Hospital located at the old Sydney Showground at Moore Park in Sydney.
After Bertie was discharged, she continued her work with the VAD for a decade nursing servicemen. Her narrative of her life and war service prove enthralling listening were recorded in 2004 for the Australians at War Film Archive, University of New South Wales.
Bertie was guest of honour for the opening of the Centenary Sports Precinct in 2016. She celebrated her 100th birthday in 2012, which made her older than the College she attended, which was established in 1916.
Bertie is quoted in the Centenary book, Pymble Ladies’ College 100 Years – 1916 to 2016.
“We were proud of everything we did at PLC. We were taught to respect our parents, our teachers and to love our school. I am proud to be a Pymble girl.”
Bertie was just shy of her 105th birthday when she passed away and she will always be remembered as a treasured member of the Pymble community.
Corporal Colley 109869 Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF)
Lorraine Colley hailed from Jamberoo and was a boarder and an active member of the College community from 1941 to 1942. Lorraine was in the ‘A’ Hockey team in both years; 1942 was a particularly successful Hockey season with most matches played against a variety of schools on the Presbyterian Ladies’ College oval at Pymble.
During her time at the College, Lorraine was also secretary of the French Dramatic Club, which she started with seven other girls. The French Dramatic Club offered the students a glimpse into French poetry and drama and followed what were considered the current events of the time, involving the Free French Movement.
In 1943, Lorraine decided to help the war effort, hoping to “become a wireless telegraphy operator in just a matter of another five months”. She wrote to Miss Knox stating that she started out doing the “rookie’s course” and then moved on to “doing the Morse for four weeks”. Morse code was vital in World War II to communicate between warships and a wide range of bases so that the opposing side could not access and discover plans.
A.C.W. Colley L.N.
No 4 Wing
24/ 9/ 43
Dear Miss Knox,
I have been intending to write to you for some time, to let you known of my movements during the last few months, but am afraid that this is the first opportunity I have had to really settle down to letter writing.
I dare say you have heard that I have been a member of the W.A.A.A.F for approximately seven weeks now and find the work intensely interesting. I hope to become a wireless telegraphy operator in just a matter of another five months or so, or perhaps if I am lucky, before that period. I have only been doing the morse for four weeks, the first three were taken up with our Rookies course which was marvellous fun. We have about five hours work time a day and this is broken up at intervals by physical training and drill, of which, incidentally, the Air Force is very proud and not without cause for believe me those periods certainly are composed of concentrated drilling.
Reveille is at six and stand to at eight in the morning. We then work through with the necessary break for lunch until five when we stand down for the day. From then we are free to do as we wish on the station until tattoo.
This, of course is a rather large R.A.A.F unit and has the largest W.A.A.A.F establishment in Australia, so the appointments present are very reasonable. Pictures are available every evening for the huge sum of sixpence and although rather old, always are entertaining. Dances are held twice a week and two canteens are open every night run by voluntary workers.
I think the only things I do not like about the life are the injections and at the moment I am in hospital as the result of same. The trouble is that we seem to get them all at once. Last Monday I received tetanus and typhoid needles which made me feel quite ill and extremely depressed for a day or two and not many days after that was given another tetanus and a vaccination from which I am suffering at the moment, along with a sprained ankle. However all being well I should be out tomorrow or hope so.
I was disappointed not to be present for the school sports this year and also for your very kind invitation to attend the presentation of Leaving Certificates Miss Knox, and trust to be able to renew friendships sometime in the very near future.
I am sincerely yours
Lieutenant Marion Fleming NFX 165666 Australian Army Medical Women’s Service (AAMWS)
Marion Fleming was a boarder at Presbyterian Ladies’ College at Pymble hailing from Aberdeen in country NSW. She was a dedicated student, elected to the role of Head Prefect in her final year and Captain of the ‘A’ Senior Netball team. She also contributed a poem to the School Magazine with a message of farewell and pride in Pymble Ladies’ College and its traditions.
Lieutenant Fleming served in the 109th Australian General Hospital in Alice, NT, towards the end of World War II.
Marion Babbage (Fleming, 1929) passed away on January 1 1992.
29 Jan 1945
Dear Miss Knox
Thank you for your New Year card of good wishes for 1945. I do appreciate being remembered by my old school.
It’s several months now since I arrived in the Territory – years ago I didn’t think I’d ever have an opportunity to visit Central Australia. It is not all a land of spinifex and sand, there are some grass lands when it rains – unfortunately there isn’t enough rain.
Have been for several picnics to such beauty spots as Simpsons Gap which is a narrow gap between the hills several miles out of Alice. The rocks on either side rise to hundreds and hundreds of feet and are of the most vivid autumn shades turning to red. Stanleys Chasm is much further out and has, like Simpsons Gap, a lovely pool of clear cold water between the rocks. The rocks at Stanleys are more beautiful than Simpsons and are flecked with black and white plants growing up the face of the rocks, clinging to almost nothing were flannel flowers and along the approach some burrawong palms – rather amazing. All the hills change colour from pale pinks to deep purple and blue and are never the same.
In March, sometime, at Anthony Horderns Sydney there is to be held an exhibition of water colours painted by the full blooded aboriginal Albert Namatjira – I have seen all the exhibition unframed, and when one realized that Albert has only been painting for 10 years, he will later on be a wonderful painter if he improves as he has done lately.
His early paintings are also shown. His teacher, Mr Rex Battersby is a patient in our hospital.
PS.The colourings in Alberts paintings are NOT exaggerated.
Lieutenant Nancy Harris NX 76285 Australian Army Nursing Service
Nancy Harris, of North Sydney, attended Presbyterian Ladies’ College in 1928.
She was amongst 65 Australian nurses and 250 civilians evacuated from Singapore on the Vyner Brooke three days before the fall of Malaysia. The ship was bombed and sank. Nancy was one of a group of survivors who were washed ashore, only to be massacred. She was just 29 years old.
Of the original 65 nurses who boarded the Vyner Brooke, only 24 returned to Australia following the declaration of peace in the Pacific. The other occupants of the ship drowned, were killed or died as Prisoners of War.
Nancy is remembered on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
Petty Officer Signaller Shirley Drew A/M WR 13, Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS)
A day girl from Chatswood, Shirley left Presbyterian Ladies’ College at Pymble in 1930.
During World War II, she was an early member of the Women’s Emergency Signally Corp (WESC), many of whom went on to become members of the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service.
Shirley died in 1997 aged 77.
Letter written to Miss Knox from Shirley Drew on the 3rd of January 1944
HMA Naval Wireless Station
Dear Miss Knox,
What a lovely surprise I got to receive a Christmas card from you, thank you very much.
I do hope you had a happy Christmas and new year, I was one of the lucky ones and managed to get home for Christmas.
So far as I know Gloria Rose and I are the only girls here, but if I hear of any more
I’ll let you know.
With all best wishes for the new year to you and every success to Pymble.
Lieutenant Mavis Cullen NFX180290 Australian Army Nursing Service
Mavis Cullen was a boarder who attended Presbyterian Ladies’ College at Pymble in the 1920s, leaving in 1928.
Lieutenant Cullen served in the Australian Army Nursing Service in War World II. She was a Prisoner of War interned at Yokohama, having been captured at Rabaul. She was liberated on 4 September 1945.
Mavis was recognised in the Commonwealth Government Gazette on 4 March 1948 for mention in despatches for services rendered at Rabaul in January 1942 and subsequently whilst a Prisoner of War.
Mavis lived to the age of 94 years passing in 2003, at Lismore NSW.