ROTTO’S volunteer guides recognised the contribution of another cohort of special islanders recently with a commemoration for the Australian Women’s Army Service.
The AWAS were first deployed at Rottnest 80 years ago, 12 months after the organisation was officially approved by Australia’s army minister Percy Spender, who considered women an underutilised resource.
The members of AWAS took on roles as drivers, provosts, canteen workers, cooks, typists, signallers and cipher clerks, training in air raid drills, first aid, basical military drills, shooting, signalling and mechanics – the aim being to free more men up so they could be sent to the front lines.
Federal Fremantle MP Josh Wilson’s grandmother Freda (Hancock) Wilson was in the Rottnest AWAS unit from 1943-45 and her photo is on one of the display boards put up for the commemoration.
“It was a real honour to visit Rottnest to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Australian Women’s Army Service unit posting there,” Mr Wilson said.
“Rottnest and the AWAS formed an important part of the coastal defences of WA in World War II, and I am very proud of my grandmother’s service as part of the unit.
“Reading her account of life and work on the island shows that even with Defence restrictions and a focus on their mission to support the war effort, time on the island bore a close resemblance to what we know today – swimming, seafood, and the occasional hair-raising bicycle mishap.”