Freda’s “marvellous” time serving 

Tuesday, 17 April

Uniting AgeWell Noble Park Community resident Alfreda “Freda” Lawton vividly remembers marching through the streets of Melbourne in her Air Force uniform, recruiting for the World War II effort.

She played the drums in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Force (WAAF) band, while serving from 1942 to 1946.

Australian women were prohibited from combat roles during World War II, but Freda and tens of thousands of women like here had a huge role to play.

They returned to the workforce or changed careers to free-up men who were needed overseas.  The ladies worked as telegraphists, electricians, fitters, flight mechanics, meteorological assistants, clerks, medics, caterers and much more.

“I was a clerk so I did the paperwork, and I rose to the exalted rank of corporal,” she said.

“I worked at Laverton, which was more or less a supplier of engineering parts, and then the Air Force headquarters in Preston.”

Freda, who grew up on a farm in the small country town of Tongala, shared her dormitory with women from across the country.  

he said it “marvellous” to be in the company of so many other people, particularly while sharing meals in the “mess hall”.

But the highlight of her time in the WAAF was when decorated military pilot Peter Stuart Isaacson flew in on the first Arvo Lancaster Bomber.

Wing Commander Peter Stuart Isaacson was well known for his tours in the Lancaster and for famously flying his plane under the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1943.

“We were allowed onto the tarmac to see the first Lancaster Bomber arrive from England,” Freda said. 

“We didn’t get to meet (Isaacson) but we were allowed to watch him land.”

Freda never had a desire to become a pilot herself, but she was always proud of her own contribution to the war effort.  After all, she came from a family that proudly served their country.

Freda’s father was a returned soldier from World War I, who served in the Fifth Pioneer Battalion in Egypt.  She remembers marching with her dad each year and laying a wreath at the Tongala Bush Nursing Hospital.

This Anzac Day, Freda will proudly remember her father and her own experience, while watching the service on television.

Uniting AgeWell will commemorate the service of the many clients who served in the armed forces, at events and services across Victoria and Tasmania on Anzac Day.


Communications and Social Media Advisor Caitlin Pearson on 0417 647 000, or [email protected]

Marketing & Communications Manager Charisse Ede on 0437 822 594, or [email protected]