The WAAC formed in March 1917 and became QMAAC in April 1918.
In 1953 Ethel St John Clarke wrote to the Editor of The Age:
Sir, – It is of interest at this time to recall the former leadership given by Queen Mary to women’s pioneer work in the Army.
During World War 1, when the national danger became grave, the War Office called for women to enrol for the auxiliary Army Services. The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps was accordingly formed. These “strange new women in khaki” excited comment, and were greeted by malicious rumors and often insulted in the streets of London.
Queen Mary, having confidence in women’s power and willingness to help, no matter what the danger, inquired into the rumors. All were proved groundless.
Queen Mary then became commander in chief of the corps, which became known as Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps. How proudly we put up our new badges surmounted by the Royal Crown.
Respect now took the place of gibes, and help was generously offered to those administering this strange, and oftimes difficult, pioneer army of women.
The corps prospered and grew in strength, with the result that 50,000 men were freed for service in the front line in France.
When the war clouds were again gathering in 1937, Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan, who served with distinction in Q.M.A.A.C., sought and obtained permission to train a band of women as officers.
Consequently, when war was declared in 1939, the Auxiliary Territorial Service (A.T.S.) was formed at once, with a full strength of officers.
Now the A.T.S. has been disbanded and replaced by the permanent Women’s Army, with its officers’ training school at Aldershot and its representative among Queen Elizabeth’s aides de camp.
Queen Mary had the gratification of knowing that her confidence in a woman’s army was justified beyond the dreams of many.
Yours, etc., ETHEL S. ST. JOHN CLARKE (Ex Unit Administrator, Q.M.A.A.C., Hawthorn).
Excerpts from “THE WAACS” – HOW THEY ARE TRAINED (The Age, 3/12/1917):
“ “The Waacs,” stand in a class by themselves. Their organisation is on strictly military lines. They have military uniforms, they live in “barracks,” and they are drilled and disciplined by their own officers. They are liable to be moved from place to place at a moment’s notice to meet the exigencies of the military machine, and are required to obey orders, under the usual pains and penalties attending to military disobedience.”
“A typical “barracks” in England contains 600 to 1000 girls, with a middle-aged woman in charge as “administrator.” There is an orderly room, which is on much the same lines as any other military orderly room. The work of instructing and drilling the girls proceeds from week to week, and as drafts are sent to their stations in England, France or elsewhere, others arrive from head quarters. The sleeping quarters are ordinary barrack like rooms, each equipped with four iron army bedsteads. The frills and decorations associated with femininity are almost entirely absent, and everything has an austere, business-like, and almost war-like, appearance. A visitor to one of these “Waac” barracks quotes a “private” as saying, “We have to get used to doing without the beautiful things of this world, the same as the soldiers. We never know where we will be sent next, and as we are allowed to carry only a suit case it would not do to have any appurtenances.”
“No barracks would be complete without a “mess.” Here the girls take their meals at long trestle tables, and are waited on by “orderlies.”
“Then there is a barrack “square,” where the raw recruit is turned out a trained “Waac” soldier. The women and girls are not trained in these barracks for their different army vocations. They have all had special experience previously, and the training is therefore merely of a general physical and disciplinary character. After the preliminary training at the barracks they are sent to a military base, camp, hospital or elsewhere to do such work as they are fitted to do, subject to a not very rigorous military discipline. This work covers the whole range of occupations with which women have associated themselves in civil life, such as all classes of clerical work, the operating of sewing and other machines, tailoring, domestic work, checkers, packers, and storewomen, mechanics, motor drivers, etc.”
Excerpts from letters and later writings of Nora Dickson, giving more idea of some of the workings of the W.A.A.C.:
“The London depot, where approved recruits reported, was near Marble Arch, Hyde Park. Connaught Club, previous to being commandeered by the War Office, was a big residential for men. There one received one’s uniform and was taught drill, to form fours, form two deep, very necessary to know when being moved in groups from one centre to another.”
Army forms required the names of at least two local residents who would answer confidentially questions about the applicant’s personal character and qualifications.
“You could choose to join as a mobile or immobile (living at home) member, to serve in Britain only, or to serve anywhere either on home service or overseas. But all service was required for the duration of the war and six months after armistice.
One could enrol in any definite category – clerical, transport, mechanical, household, telegraph, postal, or miscellaneous. The miscellaneous section included workers of every trade – tinsmiths, chainmakers, welders, tailors, carpenters, shoemakers. All were required to sign willingness to obey orders from superior officers.”
“Each day drafts, now looking smart in their neat, well-pocketed khaki one-piece uniform, escorted by an officer, moved off to various camps throughout Great Britain. Later, similar depots were established at Edinburgh, Dublin, and Bristol.
For those offering for service overseas, a depot, to which all recruits were sent direct, was placed at Hastings, but this was later replaced to Folkestone, opposite Boulogne.”
“I have been sent down to Folkestone to take over the drilling for a few weeks. We have taken over the most gorgeous hotel here [Hotel Metropole]. It has 600 bedrooms, a huge ballroom, billiard-rooms and dining halls (seating 1000). Eventually we will have 1000 girls here; it is to be our overseas hostel. We expect 600 girls in on Tuesday, so am pretty busy arranging the drill halls.”
“At the overseas depot at Folkstone there were four company commanders working under a head unit administrator. Each commander had to see that her recruits were trained in squad drill, were inoculated and vaccinated by the resident women doctors, and were supplied with necessary uniform and equipment.
The catering was in the hands of a household administrator, generally a certificated domestic science graduate. A quarter-mistress attended to clothing, equipment, and transport. In this depot the daily average accommodation was nearly 1000 women.”
“…….. drafts of about 80 moving off to France daily to units to where their services were requisitioned.”
“Besides cooks and clerks we sent France bakers, motor drivers, cyclists (motor), storehouse-women, packers, telephonists, telegraphists, postwomen sorters, printers, tailors, shoemakers, acetylene welders, electricians, fitters, instrument repairers, tinsmiths, painters, carpenters, and later gardeners for the graves.”
“At the bases in France all the baking was done by our Corps, and even the loading of the bread into the railway trucks backed into the bakehouses was done by the women – their uniform for working being khaki drill, short jackets, and trousers.”
“At the establishment of a training centre for cooks and officers at Plumstead Heath, near London, I was posted there as Administrator.
We trained nearly 20,000 cooks, waitresses, and officers. Cooks recruited from all types of homes were taught how to cook in holes in the ground, in the open air, in Aldershot ovens, and on girdles, for travelling troops; in big camp kitchens, with stoves of all kinds, in small and large messes.
The training was done by Domestic Science teachers enrolled as officers.
About 100 trained cooks and waitresses were dispersed each week to camps, the training covering about four weeks.”
Officer training: “Our daily training followed these lines. Early morning squad drill was taught to enable officers to move squads in orderly and quick manner from one centre to another.
Each officer had to pass a test in giving necessary orders.
Morning and afternoon was taken up with lectures given by Guardsmen officers on W.A.A.C. regulations, the use of regular army forms used for requisitioning cash, stores, transport, on the method of making returns of pay sheets, on 28-day diet sheets, on answering correspondence, and ensuring full equipment and food to all members under the care of an administrator.
At night we had lectures from the W.A.A.C. officers in the hostel on household matters.
Those passing tests, after 14 days, were sent in pairs to depot camps for practical training. There we actually worked as officers in orderly rooms, learning army routine, the use of daily orders, which detailed the movement of troops and officers, thus altering the daily requisitioning of food and cash requirements.”
Australian Women who served in the WAAC / QMAAC:
*BAGE, Ethel Mary – Worker 34635 [Born 20/8/1884 St Kilda, Vic]
*BIRT, "Jean" Jane Sarah McDonald – Unit Administrator [Born 9/2/1872 Wentworth, NSW]
BOURNE, Eleanor Elizabeth – Doctor [Born 4/12/1878 Sth Brisbane, Qld]
CHAPPLE, Phoebe (MM) – Doctor [Born 31/3/1879 Adelaide, SA]
*CLARKE, Ethel Stowe St John – Administrator [Born 7/10/1880 Richmond, Vic]
DAVID, Mary Edgeworth – Motor Driver [Born 4/5/1888 Ashfield, NSW]
*DICKSON, Honorah Laing (Nora) – Assistant Administrator [Born 26/9/1886 Balmain, NSW]
FLETCHER, Edith Grace – Unit Administrator [Born 20/7/1878 Sydney, NSW. Sister of N.K. Fletcher, BRC]
GRYLLS, Florence May – Assistant Administrator [Born 20/6/1885 Durham Lead, Vic]
HAMILTON, Margaret Daisy Inglis – Worker 782 [Born 1893 Mildura, Vic]
JAMES, Elizabeth Britomarte (OBE) – Administrator [Born 1/6/1867 Durham Lead, Vic]
LLOYD-KIRK, Winifred May – Worker 3909 [Born 29/11/1894 Brunswick, Vic]
LOWRY, Lillian Clara Emily Childs (Mrs) – Assistant Administrator [Born 27/7/1884 Qld]
MacGREGOR, Mary – Forewoman Cook [Born 25/11/1879 Vic]
*BALCOMBE, Netta (Mrs) – Assistant Administrator [Married 19/7/1910 Qld] DOBSON, Clara (Mrs Hurren) – Forewoman 23719 [Came to Australia in 1912]
McDONALD, Jean Kerr – enrolled 19/7/1918 as a Forewoman Postal Sorter, but was discharged by request of AIF HQ to perform similar service with them [Born 4/10/1886 Parkville, Vic. Sister of I K McDonald, AANS]
NEALE, Clara (MBE) – Unit Administrator
RILEY, Margaret – N.C.O. [Born 1890 England – came to Australia 1895]
Born in Australia – but emigrated to UK as children:
CAMPBELL, Morag MacNaish – Forewoman Clerk 46175 [Born 26/2/1888 Sydney, NSW]
DAKIN, Marie Evelyn – Worker 4455 [Born 14/11/1892 Balmain, NSW]
HARRISS, Annie – Worker 2019 [Born 14/3/1896] KING, Gwladys – Clerk 464 [Born 17/11/1897 Townsville, Qld] – living UK by 1911
ROSS, Clementine – Cook 32696 [Born 14/9/1989 Brisbane, Qld]
ROWE, Matilda Annie – Clerk 39324 [Born 15/5/1891 Leith, Tas]
SEWELL, Barbara – Hostel Forewoman 49120 [Born 18/12/1897 Armidale, NSW]
Raised in South Africa:
HARRIS, Annie Lavina (Mrs) – Cook 39164 [Born 1/9/1895 Launceston, Tas]
British WAACs who came to Australia after the war (Immigration Scheme):
#BOGLE, Mary Alice – Worker 36354 (Waitress)
[AWM have her British War Medal (also received Victory Medal)]
Born 8/10/1882 Brunswick, London. Served in a Theatre of War 7/5/1918 to 20/10/1919 (France)
Came to Australia on the Themistocles, embarking 2/7/1920 (no relatives in Australia)
#DAVISON, Beatrice – Worker 860 (Clerk)
[AWM hold her paybook - attached Clerical Dept, 3rd Echelon GHQ, Rouen, France]
The Mail (Adelaide, SA), Sat 20 Feb 1937 (p.18):
A Woman Behind the Lines
#GAUNT, Emmy – Worker 776
AWM hold her medals – with short Bio:
Born c1889. Served in a Theatre of War 1/6/1917 to 19/12/1919 (France). Came to Aus (Sydney) on the Berrima departing UK 28/12/1922, (33yr old Typist) [7 Christ Church Rd, Upper Armley, Leeds] Hon Sec of the Overseas Women's Ex-Service Legion (Qld) 1939. Stenographer Townsville 1943
#HURMAN, Mina (Nina) May – Worker 14079
AWM have her Medals
Born Jun Qtr 1891 Totnes, Devon, England - daughter of Thomas Smerdon and Charity Florence. Served in a Theatre of War 17/12/1917 to 5/12/1919. Came to Aus on the Bendigo, departing UK 14/5/1925 (34yr old Companion). [Whittington Crt, Andoversford, Glos] Governess, Moonee Ponds 1931. Married Alfred E PARKER 1936 Perth. Died 15/10/1951, age 60 Peppermint Grove, WA - crem Karrakatta Cem.
LAMMING, Alice M (Mrs Harold)
Alice Jeffcott, 34 yr old Domestic, came to Australia (Adelaide) on the Hobsons Bay, departing UK 28/2/1922
Alice Maude Jeffcott married Harold Frederick Lamming 3/11/1931 SA
WHITEHEAD, Annie – Cook
A 31 yr old Domestic, Annie Whitehead, came to Australia (Sydney) on the Themistocles, departing UK 2/7/1920 [same ship as WAAC Immigrant Mary Bogle]
War Brides of Australian Soldiers:
ANDREWS, Letitia (Mrs J.F., nee ALLISON) – Worker 23390
Came to Australia 5/1/1920 with her husband James Frederick ANDREWS (AIF)
ARCHER, Morice (Mrs W, nee OGDEN) – Worker 36968
Came to Australia 6/9/1919 with her husband William ARCHER (AIF)
ARMSTRONG, Esther Sarah Mary (Mrs J.W., nee WARREN)
Came to Australia post war, wife of James William ARMSTRONG (AIF)
BASTIN, Kate (Mrs J.H.N., nee ROSS)
Came to Australia 22/9/1919 with her husband John Harold Noden BASTIN (AIF)
ELMS, Isabella (Mrs E.R.V., nee HARDING) – Worker 1822
Came to Australia 6/9/1919 with her husband Eric Raymor Vivian ELMS (AIF)
FROST, Mary Young (Mrs W.A.H., nee SMITH)
Came to Australia 23/12/1919 with her husband Walter Arthur Henry FROST (AIF)
*HOLLIS, Annie Elizabeth (Mrs H.W., nee MULLIGAN)
Came to Australia 9/12/1919 with her husband Herbert William HOLLIS (AIF)
HODGSON, Isabella (Mrs B.L.R., nee LUCAS) – Waitress (3AAH, Dartford)
Came to Australia post war, wife of Baden Leslie Richard HODGSON (AIF)
KEMP, Agnes Josephine (Mrs C.M., nee FLEMING) – Clerk 42695
Came to Australia 16/6/1919 with her husband Clement Morton KEMP (AIF)
McKENZIE, Beatrice Mary (Mrs H., nee TREMBETH) – Clerk 6064
Came to Australia 8/8/1919 with her husband Hugh McKENZIE (AIF)
McLOUGHLIN, Lilian (Mrs T.J., nee THOMAS) – (3AAH, Dartford)
Came to Australia 18/12/1919 with her husband Thomas John
ROGERSON, Ethel (Mrs S.J., nee BOYINGTON) – 19142
Came to Australia 23/12/1919 with her husband Sterling John
WHALE, Ruth Ella (Mrs L.G., nee THRASTHER)
Came to Australia post war, wife of Leslie George (AIF)
Note: The above was originally posted some years ago on the "Discovering Anzacs" website: https://www.naa.gov.au/help-your-research/discovering-anzacs - but owing to it being decommissioned I have copied it here for those who are interested in these ladies. It also contained links to the "Discovering Anzacs" profiles of the five Australian ladies with an asterisk next to their name, which I can provide on request.
Heather (Frev) Ford