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Home to both an army and RAAF base, the research team made it to Townsville in April 2014 after flight disruptions due to Cyclone Ita, where we heard powerful accounts of service.
Of South Sea Islander, Indigenous and European descent, we interviewed Cecilia Stanley Taylor and Dorothy Murphy who spoke about their family’s history of service - Dorothy’s father and two brothers served in the army, and Cecilia served in the Women’s Royal Australian Air Force (WRAAF) where she had good times and made great friends but also witnessed racism and sexism.
We also spoke with Linda Janetzki about her service in the Women’s Royal Australian Air Force (WRAAF) where she rose to the rank of Sergeant. Linda joined the WRAAF in 1965 and was posted to the RAAF base in Richmond NSW. Linda made great friends and enjoyed good times in the WRAAF, but it was also not long before the reality of the Vietnam War hit home as the first Australian conscripts flew out from the Richmond base: ‘I went down to an area that was parked off, and I saw the Qantas plane there. And I saw our young men go up those stairs.’ Linda is very proud of her service and she also notes her family’s rich history of service – Linda’s father served in World War 2 and was taken prisoner in Italy, and two of her brothers have also served in the Australian Defence forces.
Chris Townson gave a very detailed account of his long history of service in the Australian Defence Force. Chris speaks very positively of his time in the Army, and how he felt like he ‘found himself’ there as a young man at the age of 18. Over the course of his career he has worked in Malaysia and PNG training soldiers there. He was also deployed to Somalia, the largest deployment of Australian soldiers since Vietnam. He recalls particular experiences and encounters on his overseas travels in fine detail, particularly ambushes and patrols in Somalia. Chris then talks about how Somalia changed everything and speaks very candidly about his experience of PTSD upon his return.
We also interviewed Vietnam Veterans and their wives, including Edna Coolburra who spoke about both her husband’s service in Vietnam and their time together when he was later posted with the army in Malaya, and Alec Illin, who enlisted for service in 1965 and served in the Vietnam War where he rose to the rank of Section Commander. While in the Army, Alec said he was not looked upon as a blackfella. Rather, his battalion respected him as a leader.