Women's Fire Auxiliary 1940 - 1945
The Woman's Fire Auxiliary was inaugurated in June 1940, as a means for women to assist in the War Effort. Lady Wakehurst, the wife of the Governor of NSW, was a driving force in the formation of the WFA, and was subsequently elected president.
The first members were recruited from the WANS (Women's Australian National Service), and among other things, were put through an eight week course in Air Raid Procedures, dealing with incendiary bombs, fires in the home, rescue work, first aid, operating chemical extinquishers, station procedures, and Watchroom Duties. On passing an examination, they were attached to the Fire Station in their locality, and continued to advance in their training from there. They did one night of drill per week for 1.5 hours, and another night watchroom duty. They were initially recruited from 30-45 year old members of the WANS, and were supplied with a uniform consisting of tunic, skirt, hat, gloves, stockings shoes, shirt, tie, lapel badge, Duperite helmet, overalls and two shoulder badges. This age restriction was later relaxed, and the WFA was opened to members of the public. Records show that the WFA had members attached to Headquarters, and District Stations, as early as 1941. At the conclusion of the war, the WFA was disbanded.
Fundraising efforts of the WFA:
On 21st July 1942, Florence E Rogers, on behalf of the Women's Fire Auxiliary, made application to the Deputy Chief Officer W.H. Beare to hold a: - "... Dance at the Paddington Town Hall, on Friday, 18th September, 1942, proceeds to be in aid of a Mobile Canteen for the Fire Brigade."
On 23rd July, Mr Beare wrote to the Chief Officer, informing him of the WFA's desire to raise money for this purpose, and recommended: - "... that monies raised at all future functions be donated to this fund until the objective is reached".
It was decided that, subject to the approval of the Board of Fire Commissioners, the Women's Fire Auxiliary should organise social functions with a view to raising £1000, for the project. It was also proposed that when the Mobile Canteen was purchased, members of the Women's Fire Auxiliary should be included in the personnel to man and service it, according to a suitable roster. The Board of Fire Commisssioners gave their assent to the first proposal and stated that it would "consider sympathetically" the second proposal, "when the occassion arises."
Some 104 functions, including Cocktail Parties, Dances, Housie-Housie, Card Parties, Market Days and Theatre Parties were organised. An Art Union was also organised, with the prizes including a refrigerator, a portable radio set, a vacuum cleaner, a 'Vacola' preserving outfit, an electric iron, and an electric hot water jug. The main fundraising function, however, appears to have been a "Queen Competition", consisting of eight contestants (one from each Fire District in the Metropolitan Area). The winner of the competition, Mrs Beryl Lester Balzer of Fisher Road, Dee Why, (who raised £1968/19/11), was crowned at a "Golden Helmet" Ball on 23rd October 1942, at Sydney Town Hall. On 4th December 1942, a cheque for £3323/7/4 was handed over at a special ceremony at Paddington Town Hall.
The Mobile Canteen:
Upon completion, the Mobile Canteen (Registration: PB-991) was installed at Headquarters station 21st July 1944, at a cost of £1968/19/11. The unit operated for the first time at a fire at No 7A and 7B Wharf, West Circular Quay on Wednesday the 2nd August 1944.
Having spent its entire service at Headquarters station, the canteen was withdrawn in April 1974. The Canteen now forms an important part of the Vehicle collection at the Museum of Fire.
The Canteen still incorporates an original Brass Plaque, which states: - "This Canteen was provided from the funds raised by the Womans Fire Auxiliary with the co-operation of Fire Brigade and friends".