Australian dress register ID:538
Owner:Port Macquarie Historical Society
Owner registration number:64.85
Place of origin:Australia
This Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force (WAAAF) uniform consisting of a navy blue woollen serge dress jacket and skirt, was worn by Ena Maude Wilson from “Willesbro” Rollands Plains, who served as a Motor Transport Driver at Richmond Air Force base in Sydney from September 1942 to November 1945.
Ena was one of thirty women who resided in the Hastings area at the time of their enlistment in the services during World War II. Ena and eight (8) of these local women joined the WAAAF.
The Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force was formed in February 1941 after 14 months of difficult discussion and opposition from the community and from men serving in the Army, Air Force and Navy. Its formation was significant because it set a precedent for the formation of other women’s service organisations such as the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) and the Women’s Royal Australian Navy Service (WRANS).
The WAAAF uniforms were professionally tailored and played an important role in the recruitment of women, being described in recruitment advertisements as ‘uniformly smart’, and after the War years, because clothing and fabric were in short supply, it is thought that many of the 27,000 women who served in the WAAAF, wore the uniforms particularly the skirts, as part of their ‘going-out’ attire.
Because of the excellent condition of this jacket and skirt, it appears unlikely that Ena used her garments for this purpose. Although, she was a confident, outgoing lady with a sense of adventure, she considered it her duty to return to the family farm at Rolland’s Plains and care for her parents at the end of the War. Perhaps therefore she was unable to attend any social functions where ‘going-out’ attire was required, and the garments remained as highly valued and special mementos of the happy and fulfilling years she spent as a proud member of the WAAAF.
The uniform serve as a reminder, not only of the important contribution made by the thousands of women in areas of vital need throughout Australia during World War II, but also of the sacrifice made by women, such as Ena, who lived and worked in country and regional areas, but were willing to leave their families, homes and farms, in order to contribute to, and support the War effort elsewhere.
Author: Margaret Blight, 30 November 2014.
Tailored winter WAAAF (Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force) dress uniform in two pieces, comprising a belted single breasted jacket with 'V' neckline, and an unlined four gored straight skirt, both made from navy blue woollen serge fabric.
The jacket is fastened at centre front with four pressed metal buttons featuring an eagle and crown. It has two breast pockets with button closures and two lower pockets with large flaps positioned below the waistline. The "v" necline has a collar with pointed reveres and an overlapping vented flap at the back. The jacket has long sleeves which are made in two pieces and lined with a striped cotton fabric. There is a lining of glazed cotton across the upper back of the jacket. The WAAAF insignia of an eagle is hand embroidered on the upper sleeve in blue with a red eye. On the lower right sleeve is a red and black chevron. The jacket is finished with tan cotton top-stitching around the collar, belt and pockets.
The cloth label inside the jacket at the centre back reads: N122 Size 13, Made in Australia 1942. "E.M. Wilson" is handwritten in black ink and the number "106019" is stamped over the top.
The skirt, made in four pieces, has two adjustable buckle fastenings at the back on each side of the waistband. It has a placket opening on the left side fastened with four metal hooks, three metal eyes and one hand stitched eye. There are two angled and bound slit pockets on each side of the skirt front which are top-stitched by machine in tan cotton thread.
The cloth label at the centre back of the skirt reads: "N96 Made in Australia 1942, Size 106019 Wilson E.M." The number "106019" and "Wilson E.M." are handwritten within a box within the label.
History and Provenance
Ena's nephew remembers Ena as a confident, caring, intelligent, outgoing lady with a sense of adventure, but as a person who considered it her duty to return to her family and the family farm, at the end of the War. Having grown up on a farm, Ena learned to drive tractors and trucks at an early age, so had the appropriate skills and experience to work as a Driver with the WAAAF. Her nephew believes that she would have been very proud of her involvement with the Air Force and would have valued her uniform, keeping it as a special momento of the happy and fulfilling years she spent in Sydney.
Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information
Ena Maude Wilson was born at Rollands Plains NSW on 7 September 1909, the daughter of first generation Australians, Roger and Maude Wilson who lived at Rollands Plains NSW. She had two brothers, Roger Williamson and Donald St John and a sister Marjorie. Ena did not marry and passed away on 22 March 1985 in Port Macquarie.
Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?
The uniform was donated to the Port Macquarie Museum by Ena's sister Marjorie. Ena was a Motor Transport Driver at the Richmond RAAF base from 11 September 1942 until discharged on 16 November 1945.
How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?
The WAAAF was the largest of the Australian World War II women's services, with approximately 27,000 personnel deployed in all the Australian States and in many country localities. Women worked in munitions depots and hospitals and filled the roles of teleprinter operators and general clerks, as well as flight mechanics and general transport drivers, thus enabling male personnel serving in Australia to be released for overseas duties. Initially there was a good deal of resistence to women joing the armed forces but after 14 months of difficult discussion and opposition from the community and serving male personnel, the Air Force set a precedent by allowing women to join. Women later served in the the Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS) and the Women's Royal Australian Navy Service (WRANS).
Where did this information come from?
World War II nominal Rolls
NSW Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages
Trove - National Library of Australia
This garment has been exhibited
The Uniform has been on display at the Port Macquarie Museum as part of the "World War 2 At Home" exhibit in 2011. Previous exhibition history has not been recorded but it was also displayed in a military gallery at the Port Macquarie Museum shortly after its donation until 2005.
Place of origin:
Ena Maude Wilson
Ena Maude Wilson
Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force Winter Dress Uniform worn between 1942 and 1945
WAAAF Station Headquarters in Richmond, Sydney, NSW
Commonwealth Government Clothing Factory (C.G.C.F.)
One of 27,000 uniforms made for WAAAF service personnel during World War II.
Trimmings / Decoration
Jacket pockets, collar and belt are finished with tan cotton top-stitching. Two angled and bound slit pockets in the skirt are also finished with tan cotton top-stitching.
Lower right sleeve has red and black chevron
Hand embroidered insignia of eagle in blue silk thread on left upper sleeve. Eagle has red hand embroidered eye.
Fibre / Weave
Jacket is made from navy blue woollen serge fabric, with striped cotton lining in sleeves and glazed cotton lining across shoulders.
Skirt is unlined and also made from navy blue woollen serge fabric.
- Natural dye
- Synthetic dye
Both the jacket and skirt are machine stitched with contrasting tan cotton machine top stiching also machine stitched. The only hand sewing is on the red-eyed blue eagle on the upper left sleeve.
Jacket Label reads "N 122 Size 13 MADE IN AUSTRALIA 1942" Handwritten in black ink on top is "Wilson E.M." and the number "106019"
Skirt Label reads "N96 MADE IN AUSTRALIA 1942" The Number 106019 and Wilson E.M. are handwritten in a box within the Label
- Hand sewn
- Machine sewn
The jacket front, back, sleeves, belt and pocket flaps are made from straight cut fabric.
The skirt and slit pockets are made from straight cut fabric. The skirt is made from four pieces of fabric.
The jacket is single breasted with four pressed metal buttons, featuring an eagle and a crown, at the centre front. It has two breast pockets with button closures.
The skirt has a placket opening on the left side fastened with four metal hooks, three metal eyes and one hand stitched eye. There are also two adjustable buckles at the back on either side of the waistband.
- Hook and eye
Stiffening / Lining / Padding
There is a lining of glazed cotton across the back of the jacket and the sleeves are lined with a striped cotton fabric.
|Waist||750 mm||690 mm|
|Hem circumference||1200 mm||1210 mm|
|Front neck to hem||700 mm|
|Front waist to hem||670 mm|
|Back neck to hem||700 mm|
|Back waist to hem||670 mm|
|Sleeve length||550 mm|
|Neck to sleeve head||130 mm|
|Cross back||355 mm|
|Underarm to underarm||460 mm|
|Convert to inches|
Evidence of repairs
Skirt has one of the four eyes in the hook and eye placket missing. It has been replaced with a hand made eye.
There are two small holes and two small tears on the front of the jacket near the left top pocket and the middle buttons and at the lower right back that may have been made by insects.