Female Relative Badge belonging to Mrs Mary Hutchins. Mrs Hutchins had nine sons and two daughters with her husband Henry in Woorinen, near Swan Hill in rural Victoria. All her sons worked in the local agricultural community before war broke out and seven, William, Malcolm, Ivan, Alan, David, Fred and Eric, enlisted with the Second Australian Imperial Force. Four of Mrs Hutchins' sons, Alan, David, Fred and Eric died during the war. The badge has seven stars, each representing a son serving.
Alan, William and Ivan enlisted together on 28 June 1940. VX41293 Private Alan Leslie Hutchins served with 2/22 Battalion. He was 22 and had a young family with his wife Edna May. He was sent to Rabaul in April 1941, serving with Lark Force. When the Japanese invaded in January 1942, Lark Force was easily outnumbered. The commander ordered a withdrawal within hours of the invasion. Unprepared for retreat, chaos ensued and Lark Force disintegrated. Alan Hutchins died in late March 1942, reportedly from illness, however his body was never recovered so this remains unconfirmed. He was 24 years old.
VX41288 Private (Pte) Ivan Robert Hutchins served with the 2/4th Field Ambulance in the Middle East and New Guinea. He was discharged on 2 May 1943 to return to a reserved occupation, presumably farming.
VX41229 Pte William Ernest 'Bill' Hutchins served with Ordnance Field Parks in the Middle East, Australia, Morotai and Tarakan. He was discharged 8 October 1945.
VX37192 Bombardier Malcolm George 'Mike' Hutchins enlisted on 15 July 1940. He served with 156th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery in the Middle East until early 1942 and then in Australia and New Guinea until his discharge on 7 July 1944.
VX61202 Private David, VX61203 Private Fred and VX61201 Private Eric Hutchins enlisted together in August 1941 and served with 2/21 Battalion. Fred and Eric falsified their ages from 18 and 17 to 20 and 19. David was older and married with two children with another on the way. The brothers were sent to Ambon in December 1941.
David, Fred and Eric were in Ambon as part of Gull Force. They too were overwhelmed by the invading Japanese in January 1942. In February, almost 300 servicemen were massacred around Laha Airfield. Eric Hutchins was among them, killed on 20 February at only 18 years old. The remainder of the battalion surrendered and was imprisoned at their former barracks on Tan Tui. Conditions for the prisoners on Ambon were harsh and they suffered the highest death rate of any Australian prisoners of war with three-quarters dying during their captivity due to mistreatment, malnutrition and disease.
After surviving over 3 years in captivity, Fred was severely bashed by a guard into a state of unconsciousness and died on 6 July 1945. He was 22 years old. His older brother David died later that month, reportedly from beriberi, aged 32. While his records state he died of beriberi, this disease was often recorded to conceal death caused by mistreatment. Within weeks Japan surrendered.
According to the Hutchins family and their descendants, Mary never wore her Mothers and Widows badge (REL46813.002), nor did she ever speak about her grief of losing four of her sons. Yet she wore her Female Relative Badge every day for the remainder of her life.