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ANZAC Day with Hazel Jean Ellis

This ANZAC Day, we honour the sacrifice made by our residents who have been involved in active service. Our lovely resident, Hazel, along with her daughter Cheryl, recalls her time she participated in active service in the Australian Women’s Army Service.

1. Did you or someone close to you participate in active service? Where abouts and when? How old were you when you joined the active service? What branch of the armed forces were you a part of? What was your rank?

Mum joined the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) in Melbourne on 29 December 1942 at the age of 19 years old. She was a Private in the catering corporation. Hazel served four years in the army, of which she served one year in Lae, Papua New Guinea towards the end of World War II.

2. Tell us about your active service experience. Were there any special friendships made during your time there?

After completing her commercial cooking in the heart of Melbourne, Hazel was posted to Seymour in country Victoria. She served her time there until the call goes out for female cooks to volunteer for the Papua New Guinea service to relieve male cooks to fight.

One month before her 22nd birthday, she sails from Melbourne on the M.V. Duntroon for Lae, Papua New Guinea with a two-day layover at Brisbane Enoggera Barracks. The voyage took seven days in total and it was the first time Hazel had every been outside of Victoria.

3. What was the most difficult time during your active service? Was there a special memory you have from your active service experience?

Hazel was given the officers mess to cook for in Lae which was roughly six to ten men. Because her day was her own except for mealtimes, she enjoyed cooking them treats like fairy cakes, delicious desserts, and varied meals. These were all made from rations which were dried or tinned.

When the next shipment of male cooks arrived, they refused to cook with the women, so Hazel was sent to the Sargent’s mess with all the other female cooks. She was a bit put out by this but soon formed friendships with the other ladies. Six weeks later, one of the officers asked mum if she’d come back and cook for them, as they hated the way the male cooks fed them – gone were their nice little cakes and delicious desserts.


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