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Category Archives: War

A cycle in time

I have mentioned in another post that my grandfather was in the Dutch Army Bicycle Corp during WWII. Today I finally dug out the photos that my grandmother left me some years ago and found the photos he had kept of those days.

Weren’t they so handsome?! My grandfather is the one standing with his arms stretched out and no hat!

You may also like a post on my other blog about Victorian Military Bicycle Uniforms



Holland’s Menaced Frontier, February 1940

My grandfather was Dutch. He emigrated to Australia in 1956 and when I was a teenager he told me stories of his time in the war. He was in the bicycle Corp of the Dutch Army, and told many tales (some exaggerated I’m sure) of being in work gangs for the Germans. My grandmother gave birth to two children during his ‘internment’. 

 This page made my think of today’s media, where sometimes we ignore or pass over what’s happening, thinking, “it won’t happen” or “it doesn’t affect me.” This is from 3 February 1940. Germany invaded Holland on 10 May 1940.


Australian Women in Nazi Prisons and Hester Burden

I recently watched the movie “The Pianist,” a movie set in Warsaw during WWII (a must see if you haven’t),  so I was interested to read about Australian women interned in Poland during the war. This article is from Janaury 1940-hester burden 1940 

 According to Robert Loeffel in “The Fifth Column in World War II: Suspected Subversives in the Pacific War” Hester Burden fell in love with an Austrian, Wilhelm Sommer, after being released from Gestapo prison –


The Adelaide Mail reported in October 1940 – 

Why Did Hester Burden Go Back to Germany?


In her last letter home, Miss Hester Burden, of Norwood, said it was unlikely that the British Consul at Salonika would let her cross the Mediterranean, and that it would not be safe to make the journey. If she were stranded in Greece it would have been impossible for her to earn money there.

Her mother, Mrs. F. R. Burden said that today that this probably explained Miss Burden’s reported return to voluntary internment in Germany. Hester has no political leanings whatever’ Mrs. Burden added. “We are hoping that Hester is among the Australian women who are to be released. We have heard nothing, and don’t even know what part of Germany she is in.”

The last Adelaidean to make personal contact with Miss Burden was her travelling companions Miss Glen Burton and Mrs. Hector Macdonald. “Hester is not interested in politics” said Mrs. Macdonald today, and she has no political leanings. Of course, from the very moment she refused to take her car to Holland and made for the Yugoslavian frontier, she was under suspicion. I, myself, was under suspicion because I got away and Hester remained. When I returned to Australia I was stripped by the women police and even the hems of my skirts were searched. All my papers were taken, even German text books, and all German print was retained. Hester is an individualist. She likes liberty ‚ÄĒ and she is very attractive, a brunette, sleek and slim.  We were In Berlin together eight days before war broke out”

‘The tourists’ party that Hester was conducting had proceeded to Russia. She wired to them and they said they would meet her in Belgrade instead of her waiting in Berlin. She had been given petrol to proceed to Holland, but she just went her own way, and with her large Packard made for the Yugoslavian frontier. There were no spare parts for the Packard available, and it would be asimple matter to interfere with her car‚ÄĒ and, as you know, it broke down andshe was interned.”

“I was with a party of Americans, whose one desire was to get out of Germany. We left Berlin on the Saturday, motored all night, and reached Paris ‚ÄĒ a distance of about 200 miles ‚ÄĒon the Sunday. I have had no direct word from Hester since, although she has. written to my ‘sister in London.’

On 26 March 1946 ‘The Adelaide Advertiser” ran this piece about Miss Burdens returning home to Australia. This is the last piece of information I have been able to find. I’d love to know the full story, wouldn’t you?


Miss Hester Burden On Way Home

Miss Hester Burden, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. F. R. Burden, of Beulah road, Norwood, is expected back in Adelaide shortly, after four and a half years’ internment in Austria.

She left Adelaide In 1938 to tour England and the Continent. After studying languages at a Paris university, she set off in August to travel by car across Europe on the first stage of her journey home.

War overtook Miss Burden while in Austria, and after several weeks’ imprisonment she was interned In the city of Graz. Here she was allowed to teach at the Institute of Education, and later set up her own college of languages.At the capitulation she enlisted her services with the Allied Military Government, and worked during the occupation in many different capacities with both the British and Russian forces. She dealtwith many displaced persons, and through her knowledge of languages was able to do -valuablework in Interpreting and translation.

Miss Burden left Austria in February, and after visiting Rome and Naples joined the troopship on which, with two other Australian women, she Is travelling back to Australia.

Australia’s First Wartime Christmas¬†

 December 1939 saw the first Christmas of WWII, and in Australia the day also marked the fiftieth wedding anniversary of Prime Minister Menzies and his wife. The Menzies always tried “to have a completely English Christmas Dinner,” a mentally shared by many Autralians at the time – which explains why Australia entered WWII so quickly.


This little snippet from the same issue of the magazine shows how some women were feeling at the time.

Identifying Japanese Planes During WWII

I am so grumpy with Blogger at present, and am again in WWII mode,¬†that I have decided to resurrect this blog – I hope you’ll stay with me!

Being an avid watcher of shows about WWII, I am always interested to see that many people could identify an enemy plane by its silhouette, paint color and markings, and even sound.  I suppose that after seeing enough of them, you would, but what about the first time Рhow did they recognise them?

They had help of course – propaganda posters and ads, and even articles in magazines, like this one from February 1942 in the Australian Women’s Weekly.



Of course the red dots, or rising suns, help a lot. I can just imagine little boys all over Australia and the US making models and painting them – and then probably pretending to shoot them down.

I have a kit for the boy somewhere, might have to dig it out!

Hollywood’s War Work, 1942

Hollywood did it’s bit during WWII in raising much needed War Bond money. ¬†Hoyts Theatres and Fox films had ‘buy a bond to get in’ film premi√®res, which in November 1942 alone raised three and a half million pounds. Stars such as Gene Tierney, pictured below, sold ‘a billion dollars’ worth of bonds in September 1942, in 300 US Cities.


Other actors helped out in different ways.  In 1942 Hollywood workers themselves contributed 160,000 pounds to the Red Cross, and invested around 80,000 pounds a week in war savings Рnot bad for a little town of 33,000 people.

Actress Linda Darnell qualified as a nurses aid, and with her friend Ann Miller ran a day-nursery for mothers enaged in war work.  Here is Linda Darnell rolling bandages for the Red Cross.


More than 2000 of Hollywood’s workers were in the Armed services by the end of 1942, and Hollywood also make training films for Allies, Government propaganda movies and sent copies of movies to troops in remote locations.

Some stars gave their metal jewellery to scrap drives, and others, such as Cobina Wright, pictured below, did their bit for the ‘Dig for Victory ‘ campaign.


As many movie making technicians joined the service, some actors spent their free time learning a trade, in case manpower shortages meant that movies could not be made.  Here is Ann Corcoran using an Acetylene Torch.


Some glamour girls, such as Ginny Simms and Ann Jeffreys shown below,  simply helped out as hostesses in US Service Canteens.


Photos from PIX Magazine, December 5, 1942

1940s Factory Fashions

We know that during WWII women had to do their bit.  Not only at home, but by joining up or working in factories, such as those that produced uniforms, bombs, ammunition and even aircraft.  There were many propaganda posters urging women to get involved in factory work.


WWII propaganda poster for women to work        WWII propaganda poster for women to work

And for those already working, there were posters to encourage the right type of clothing.

WWII propaganda poster to encourage the right type of clothing       WWII propaganda poster to encourage the right type of clothing

Of course hair had to be tied back, or even better hidden under a scarf, Rosie riveter style.  Actress Veronica Lake even made a propaganda movie about tying back her hair for the war effort.  And overalls or siren suits were also worn.

   fashion for female workers during WWII

Simple, sturdy, and affordable shoes were needed.

Women at work on bomber, Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif.
Women at work on bomber, Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif.   Source

Low heeled Oxford shoes, sometimes with the two toned black and white or brown and white design or as above in two different materials, were popular, as were loafers (se below).  They were even worn with skirts,  often with low white socks.  They laced up and so supported the foot, making them ideal for everyday wear.  Low heeled Mary Jane style shoes were also a staple.  A single strap across the foot made them more secure than pumps, and chunky lowish heel had been common for several decades.  Leather was rationed during the war so new shoes were made of fabric, mesh and raffia.

fashion for female workers during WWII

Off duty women could wear sandals, pumps. wedges and peep-toe shoes, but these would not have been considered suitable for factory work.

fashion for female workers during WWII

Of course some women would have worn boots, much like those worn by men in uniform.

Oh, how they must have been dreaming of something like these:

 1940's Black and Acrylic Slingbacks, Size 5-5.5

Check out etsy for great vintage 40s  shoes, or go to Remix for an amazing range of vintage reproduction shoes to die for.

(Part of an article previously published at my other blog, Mid-Century Love)

Fashion for the Business Girl, January 1941

You can see by these illustrations that although the wartime silhouette had made it to Australia by 1941, we didn’t yet have fabric rationing – the shoulders are gathered and the pockets are large, and there are also lots of buttons……


Lady Margaret Ampthill and the Red Cross

Born lady Margaret Lyon in  1874, third daughter of the sixth Earl of Beauchamp, Margaret married the second Baron Ampthill in 1894.


Lord Ampthill as Knight of King Arthur’s Round Table and¬†Lady Ampthill as a Lady-in-Waiting at the Court of King Arthur at the Devonshire House Ball, 2 July 1897. Via

In 1900 she was made a Lady of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India, and in 1911 became a lady in waiting to Queen Mary, the lady of the bed-chamber, a position her elder sister had held from 1895. ¬†In 1918 she became a Dame Grand Cross of the British Empire. her husband died in 1935, and during World War Two she became chairman of the War Prisoner’s section of the International Red Cross.


As well as carrying out its traditional activities for prisoners of war ‚Äď such as visiting camps or setting up a central information agency on the prisoners, as in WWI, they organisation also helped civilians cope on a day-to-day basis with the disorganization resulting from the war, such as the famine in Greece and the food shortages on the Channel Islands. Most enemy nations in Western Europe allowed the Red Cross to carry out its work of supporting those who had been taken prisoner, but the same was not as true in the Pacific and Eastern European nations. At the Changi camp run by the Japanese in Singapore, on average, a POW received a fraction of one food parcel sent by the Red Cross in the three-and-a half years that the camp was open. They also received just one letter per year. The Red Cross was linked to the Geneva Conventions on how captured personnel should be treated and Japan had not signed up to this -attempts by the Red Cross to visit allied soldiers captured by the Japanese army were hampered by the Tokyo authorities‚Äô lack of cooperation. ¬†With over 5 million Prisoners of War during WWII, the Red Cross had a huge job.

Lady Ampthill was made a Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order in 1946 for her work during WWII. She died in December 1957, aged 83.

Nancy Bird – Aviator


Nancy Bird, London, 1939 / by unknown photographer via

Nancy-Bird (Walton), (16 October 1915 ‚Äď 13 January 2009) was a pioneering Australian aviator, the founder and patron of the Australian Women Pilots’ Association. She knew from a young age that she wanted to fly – and with a name like bird, why not?!

A pupil of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith at 18, she became a fully qualified pilot at the age of 19 – ¬†the youngest Australian woman to gain a pilot’s licence. ¬†Nancy¬†bought her first aircraft, a de Havilland Gipsy Moth, in around 1923, and with her friend Peggy McKillop visited country fairs, giving joyrides to people who had never seen an aircraft before, let alone a female pilot. ¬†Bird met Reverend Stanley Drummond while on the country circuit, and in 1935 ¬†they set up a flying medical service in outback New South Wales, reaching areas not covered by the Royal Flying Doctors Service.

During WWII she trained women pilots for the Royal Australian Air Force, although they never saw combat and were used mainly for ferrying empty planes, and sometimes cargo and passengers, around. 

In 1997 the National Trust of Australia declared her an Australian Living Treasure.  She died in January 2009, at the grand age of 93, despite being a pioneering aviator and living a decidedly dangerous and adventurous life.  What an inspiration! 

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