International Women’s Day

Daphne Caine

I was born in Barraba, Country NSW on 23rd June 1924. My father was Carl and my mother was Viola. My sister Jean arrived on 30th July 1927.

My Dad was a very clever man who could turn his hand to most things, which was very important, especially when times were hard.

In 1930 he took a job building tobacco barns near Texas near the NSW/Queensland border. The school that I attended was a tent in which the teacher slept at night. The parents paid him a small wage and the Mums took it week about to supply his meals and do his washing.

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From Texas we returned to Barraba, sold our house and brought a run down poultry farm at Mt Hutton, Newcastle. I completed primary school at Warner’s Bay and then attended Newcastle Girls’ High School. This required me to ride my bike five (5) miles to Cockle Creek as train travel was free for students. I caught the train at Cockle Creek for the remaining 15 miles to High School. I excelled at sport rather than schoolwork. I passed my Intermediate exam then did a commercial course and this led to my first job in an Accountant’s office.

In January 1942 I was shocked when Darwin was bombed and made up my mind to join one of the Womens’ Defence Services as soon as I turned 18. Just after my birthday an Army Recruiting team came to Newcastle for A.W.A.S. Over 200 applied but only 26 were selected. I was happy that I was included.
We went to Randwick after signing up at Victoria Barracks, and a three weeks rookie course followed. We then went back to Newcastle in very primitive conditions as a trial group to see if women could do everything that the men did on the big 3.7” Anti-Aircraft Batteries. We did! We learnt about the guns, instruments, guard duty (creepy at night), rifle drill, unarmed combat, learnt to shoot with .303 rifles, Owen guns etc. In was tough but we met the challenge, thus releasing the men to go to the Islands.
In November 1942 I became engaged to my AIF soldier boy. Just before Christmas he was posted up North. Writing and receiving a letter was a big thing as most of us had loved ones away. This common concern formed a bond with us girls – some still enduring 50 years later.

Sid returned in February 1944 and we were married. He had more leave saved than I did so I went A.W.L. which led to me losing my stripes. It was worth it as I did not see my husband again until September when he came home on one week’s leave. He was posted to New Guinea until Christmas Eve 1945.

He was introduced to our daughter who was six months old. I missed him when I was pregnant and during his absence my mother was dying from breast cancer – she passed away just aged 43.
Many other women also faced difficult times without their husbands wondering if they would return from the war. I was pleased to see him when he was with us for Christmas but I was shocked by his appearance.

Our second daughter was born in May 1947 and our third born September 1949.

My husband was wanting to leave Newcastle to return to the country – so we sold our house. In 1950 we came to live in Wallabadah NSW when lots of Soldier Settlers were moving into the area. We purchased a little old farm and got a war service home built. The Soldier Settler wives were having babies and also working hard but we also had good times playing tennis, enjoying dances and concerts.

1952 my dad married my husband’s mother. So I became Sid’s wife and also his step-sister! His mum became my stepmother and my mother-in-law and I loved her dearly. She lived to age 94.
A double surprise arrived in 1957 – identical twin boys. Our three daughters loved them and they were a great help to me.

As the years rolled on my three daughters and one son married and each produced three children, so I now have 12 grandchildren. My other son lives nearby.

Sadly in November 1984 my ex-soldier husband passed away at age 66 so I became a widow at age 60. Three of my five children live in Wallabadah but all of my children have remained close to my heart. We are a very close-knit family. I keep busy knitting bed socks and jumpers for my six great-grandchildren and I am never bored.

After selling our farm I built a little retirement home in the village of Wallabadah where I keep busy in the garden, reading and am an active Church member. I also participate in the CWA, Red Cross, Cancer Support Group, Legacy and the Tamworth Ex-Service Women’s Association. I also love to travel.

I still drive my own car but prefer to travel by coach. I have visited every Australian Capital City and most places in-between and I love my country. I consider I have led an interesting and fruitful (sometimes hard and sad) life but am grateful that in my old age I am still active and very happy with my big family and life in general.

Story contributed by Daphne Caine.

A story from the Tapestry collection at the Jessie Street National Women's Library.