Flashback to Christmas 1942

The Australian Women's Weekly combined Santa Claus with an absent military father figure in 1942. Image via <a href="https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/4720423">Trove</a>.

The Australian Women’s Weekly combined Santa Claus with an absent military father figure in 1942. Image via Trove.

This Christmas Richard Wood, USA Programs Manager, turns back time to 1942 when the festive season in Australia and the USA faced austerity measures and missing family members during World War II but the spirit of the season persevered. 

By Christmas 1942, the war had infiltrated every aspect of Australian life. The Christmas cover of the Australian Women’s Weekly featured combined Santa Claus with an absent military father figure.

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A Special Kind of Bluebird

For many years to come Australian women will be judged by you… Just as each soldier should fight as if the results of the battle depended upon his individual effort, so each one of you will do her work for something else besides the love of it, for the reputation of our great country. (24.08.1916)

With these words Lieutenant Colonel A. B. Brockway of the Army Medical Corps heralded the start of WW1 service for a group of exceptional Australian nurses.

They were known as the ‘Bluebirds’, so called because of their distinctive dark blue uniforms with pale blue piping and hat band. The Bluebirds were not members of the Australian Army Nursing Service, rather they were a small group of selected professionals funded by the Australian Red Cross Society as a ‘gift’ to the French Government for whom nurses were in short supply.

Australian Red Cross nurses and their French tutor Josephine Niau beside KANOWNA, Melbourne 1916. 00027608 ANMM Collection

Australian Red Cross nurses and their French tutor Josephine Niau beside KANOWNA, Melbourne 1916. 00027608 ANMM Collection

The Bluebirds left Melbourne on the troopship KANOWNA on 4 July 1916, keen to fulfil Brockway’s expectations of them as representatives of Australian women in a role that allowed a level of female participation in war that others could not come close to. This vital service saw women serve close to the front lines, share in the harsh conditions and deal directly with the effects of war as they fulfilled their nursing duties. Continue reading