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The lives of all Australians changed with the announcement of War on 3rd September 1939. In Murwillumbah young men and women were called to action, to help any way they could. Those that could not serve overseas were called to volunteer and defend the home front.

Although Australia was never invaded, the threat seemed all too real to the local community at the time. Murwillumbah had a “scorched earth” policy in place that involved the evacuation of the town and livestock, leaving nothing behind that could be of use.

While men left the area to fight in the war, many woman joined various organisations such as the Voluntary Aid Detachment, Australian Army Medical Women’s Service, Women’s Volunteer Service, and the Women’s Land Army.

The Museum endevours to tell the stories of local people during the War. These are just some of them.

Jessie Poole, Jessie Buchanan and the VAD

The Murwillumbah Voluntary Aid Detachment marching, C.1941. MUS2001.23.10

The Murwillumbah Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) was formed at the start of WWII in 1940. It provided a way for women at home to contribute to the war effort.
Dr Cletus Smith’s wife called a meeting in the CWA rooms in Murwillumbah to recruit members for the local branch. During the next three years nearly forty members were trained. The volunteers learnt how to drive trucks and took mechanical classes at Hewitson’s Garage. The women learnt first aid, attended lectures in home nursing, and also worked at the local hospital.

Jessie Poole's uniform
Jessie Poole's VAD uniform. Donated by Jessie Poole. MUS2001.23.7.h

Jessie Poole, whose uniform you see above, enlisted in the VAD at the start of the war, and later enlisted in the local Australian Army Medical Women’s Service, which was established in 1942. At the end of the war she became the VAD Commandant. Jessie recalls:

We were always neatly dressed in our blue uniforms with Red Cross Badge, hats, strong shoes, and grey stockings.

She remembered that the uniform was later changed to Khaki which was not received with much enthusiasm.

Jessie Buchanan
Jessie Buchanan, the first VAD Commandant. M7-11

Jack Boyd

Jack Boyd
Jack Boyd. Photographer: Leslie McNeil. TH141-08.

On display at the Museum is the uniform of the 41st Battalion, Byron Scottish Regiment, which belonged to local identity John Charles (Jack) Boyd. Jack lied about his age and joined the military in 1938, at just 16. He served in Tobruk, but was injured and returned home in 1941. Post-war he stayed with the army, becoming a Lieutenant Colonel and a member of the Reserve of Officers. He re-enlisted after the war with Citizen Military Forces, 41st Battalion, Byron Scottish Regiment, and commanded the unit from 1956 until 1959.

Jack Boyd
Pat Dowling, Jack Boyd (middle), ? Hanna in army uniform in Middle East. Circa 1940s. M7-20

Jack represents a generation that fought for their lives and country, wanting to return home and be involved in the progression of Australia after the war. Jack went on to serve on the Land Board, was Director of the Banana Growers Federation, served on the New South Wales Council ofCanegrowers Association, the North Coast Research Council, the North Coast Regional Agricultural Advisory Council, and was President of the Murwillumbah Rotary Club. He entered State Parliament as Member for Byron, a position he held for 11 years. His uniform is a reminder of the commitment of local men and woman to both their country and local community during and after WWII.

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