This Remembrance Day is an opportune time to reflect on the role Perth College played during World War II.
In 1942, Perth College was poised to take on the role as a military hospital before Lieutenant General Gordon Bennet decided Perth College was ideal for Perth’s command headquarters.
Occupation of Perth College by the Army caused some strain on the School, resulting in the boarders relocating to Parkerville Children’s Home and Mundaring Day Scholars, and Senior School day students moving into Junior School classrooms.
In an oral history interview for the Perth College archive, Merle (Giese) Best (1944)* recalled digging trenches in the schoolyard before the soldiers took up residence at school. She said the war years united students who became very close and helped one another through times of grief, as well as tried their best to support each other to maintain an ‘ordinary school day’ and daily life during this period.
Perth College was occupied by the Australian Army from April 1942 until December 1943. To express their gratitude with the School’s cooperation during the occupation, the Western Australian Army’s III Corps presented the School with a flagpole, which still stands at the School to this day.
It is always good to remember that, in times of need, Perth College students and staff have always displayed the School’s values of being capable, caring and courageous.
During World War II, this was no different – not only were the fathers and brothers of students off to fight, but over 80 courageous Perth College alumni capably served in the Armed Forces.
Old Girls occupied many positions including as nurses, telephone operators, transport and dispatch drivers, members of the Women’s Land Army (AWLA) and Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) – just to name a few. Perth College students also formed a junior detachment of the VAD under the supervision of staff, Miss Potts, Miss Talbot and Miss Broadfoot.
Even members of the Old Girls' Association, who were not serving within the Army, also acted with the School’s values to support the war effort by knitting children's clothing for victims of air raids in Great Britain, and assisting with the making of equipment such as bandages, swabs and masks to be sent to hospitals.
The end of World War II saw life return to relative normalcy with buildings used by the war effort slowly reoccupied by students. Perth College was able to publish the Myola for the first time since the School had been partially evacuated, and saw the tradition commence of students taking control of the annual publication.
* Have contacted Merle out of courtesy for use of oral history interview; taken from Old Girl Transcript of 1996
Can You Help?
Do you know of any Old Girls who serve or have previously served in the Armed Forces?
We would love to have a complete and up-to-date record of Old Girls who have served. If you have any information, names or even photographs you would like share or donate to the Heritage Centre, please call Georgia Macdonald on 9471 2124 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.