Beth Fulton Berg as a section officer, Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF), 1941-1945, interviewed by Joyce Thomson

Accession Number S00161
Collection type Sound
Measurement 1 hr 23 min
Object type Oral history
Physical description 1/4 inch sound tape reel; BASF LP 35; 3 3/4 ips/9.5 cm.s; stereo; 5 inch
Maker Berg, Beth Fulton
Place made Australia: Victoria, Melbourne, Canterbury
Date made 14 June 1984
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Item copyright: Unlicensed copyright

Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

TAPE 1: Early life; joining WATC; training and duties; joining Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF); conditions and duties at Mayfield Avenue Barracks; discussion of officers; transfer to Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) station at Bankstown NSW; duties and conditions at Bankstown; WAAAF Training Section re-located to Robertson NSW; posted to Posting Section RAAF Headquarters in Melbourne; description of job collating RAAF personnel details. TAPE 2: Training as a WAAAF officer; first women to attend an equipment course at Laverton; posted to 1 Stores Depot, Port Melbourne; posted to 1 Aircraft Depot, Laverton as Adjutant of a stores squadron: discusses duties, entertainment, discipline, pregnancies; posted to New Lampton in NSW; posted to Directorate of Supply and Equipment at Air Force Headquarters in Melbourne; married in 1944; became pregnant and discharged in June 1945; discusses the effect of WAAAF service on her life. END OF INTERVIEW.

Long caption: Early life in the country as youngest of 4 children and after age 10, with her family in Melbourne. Training as a typist clerk and early employment. Joins Women’s Air Training Corps (WATC) in 1940; reasons why and early training. Examinations and uniforms. Transferring to the newly-forming Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) in early 1941 and early training and equipment. Categories of early recruits and employment on completion of recruit training. Conditions at Bankstown. Experience when the Japanese attacked Sydney Harbour. Transfer to Postings Section, RAAF Headquarters Melbourne. Working on Hollerith Punched Card machine, collating data on RAAF/WAAAF personnel. Holes were punched in card not only to give physical descriptions but to designate all other aspects of a person’s abilities and experience, service record etc. There were thousands of personnel already serving for whom cards needed to be punched so there was a great need for capable clerks to carry out this work. There were about 20 WAAAFs in the section at Merton Hall working at Air Force Headquarters under the RAAF but no WAAAF officers were involved equal pay for men and women was not the norm in those days. The women were being housed, clothed and fed and had some money to spend as they liked, so equal pay was not discussed. Women being paid about two-thirds as much as men was generally accepted. Nevertheless, there were some women who thought about the future and social issues.

In October 1942 Beth successfully completed an officers’ training course held at Trinity College, Melbourne. Course subjects mainly concerned being a WAAAF and some physical training. SqnLdr Hutchins gave a comprehensive sex lecture. Three of the girls were posted to RAAF Laverton after four weeks, the remainder did an extra four weeks.
At No,1 Aircraft Depot, RAAF Laverton the three girls and 25 men carried out a course concerning administrative aspects of thousands of pieces of Air Force equipment – from clothing to bulldozers. The three girls filled three of the top four places in the final examination. This was followed by a month’s experience at No, 1 Stores Depot, Port Melbourne, where she was familiarised with equipment by the SNCOs of the various sections.
She had no trouble in being saluted by airmen, despite some reports from others to the contrary.
She then returned to 1 Aircraft Depot (1AD) Laverton as adjutant for Stores Squadron. WgCdr Griffith was CO of the Squadron; SqnLdr Hall was OC and the Administrative Officer was FltLt Clifton. Her duties were to read and sign all files that came from various departments; deal with all of the Squadron’s leae passes; act as the Squadron’s censoring officer and look after clothing coupons for all of 1AD.
Men from the islands often needed clothing to supplement what they brought with them. She met her husband when refusing to issue all the coupons that he asked for. They became engaged a year later. The Squadron CO instituted early morning PT for the WAAAFs during winter months, which Berg ran.

She was made assistant recreation officer, which entailed her learning how to thank visiting artists on stage and gave her the confidence to speak publicly. Crowds would reach 300 to 400 and she would have a recreation committee to help keep things in hand.
She lived in WAAAF Officers’ Quarters; breakfasted with the nursing sisters and had other meals in the Officers’ Mess. With difficulty, she learned to ride a bicycle.
Most of the couple of hundred WAAAFs at Laverton worked at 1AD; others worked at Station Headquarters which included the mess staff. 1AD had a big parachute section, where girls mended and folded parachutes and a lot of girls worked in the clothing store as well as other stores departments.
OC WAAAF Flight Officer Tipping ¬ ¬ was responsible for WAAAF discipline. As the WAAAF officer posted to 1AD she would deal with minor matters but pass more difficult matters over to the OC WAAAF. Girls known to be pregnant were discharged, if they wanted to be so. One girl almost died after an abortion but eventually recovered and married the potential father.
As adjutant she had to march men into the CO for disciplinary action, which was the only time that she exercised authority over men. She was posted to a Fighter Sector at New Lambton NSW. This was a training unit for fighter sectors up north. There were 8-9 such units.
WAAAFs. RAAF numbers varied with those training; mainly pilots treating the course as a rest. She had forgotten much about the equipment but there was little work to be done. The WAAAFs had a room each in an old school. Berg was posted back to Air Force Headquarters to the Directorate of Supply and Equipment. She felt out of place as she was handling equipment that she knew little about such as bulldozers. It was really a post that needed a technical man filling it. Harold returned from New Guinea and they were married in November 1944. He was posted to No. 37SQN Essendon and she transferred to a C class – nuts and bolts – section and was much happier. After becoming pregnant, she took a compassionate discharge in June 1945. Her four years as a WAAAF made her a confident and reliable person and turned her into a good mother, capable of rearing her children to be responsible young men, despite her husband being away a lot during the first nine years of their marriage. Her service life has led her into taking a major part in any organisation that she has joined since.

Places mentioned : Recruitment Centre, Queens Street, Melbourne VIC, WAAAF Training Centre, Mayfield Avenue, Malvern VIC, RAAF Station Bankstown, NSW, RAAF Essendon VIC, RAAF Laverton VIC, RAAF Point Cook VIC, New Guinea.
People mentioned: Mrs Bell (WATC), Mrs Risson (WAAAF), Miss Rawlins (WAAAF), Miss Hawthorn (WAAAF), Miss Letts (WAAAF), Sgt Shepherd (drill sergeant), Sgt Willcock (orderly room sergeant) , Claire Stevenson (WAAAF) appointed Director of Training Centre), Joy Weekly, Carter (WAAAF officer training school), Lawson(WAAAF officer training school), SqnLdr Hutchins(female doctor), Ethyl Ramsay, Morrie (Chip) Mervyn, WgCdr Griffith (1AD), SqnLdr Hall (1AD), FltLt Clifton (1AD), FltOff Tipping.