A 97-YEAR-OLD Port Douglas great-great-grandmother will today receive long-overdue recognition for her work as a volunteer in the Australian Women’s Land Army (AWLA) during WWII.
As the region’s Australian Government representative, Federal MP Warren Entsch will officially present Mrs Ivy Margaret Booth with a Civilian Service Medal 1939-45.
The Civilian Service Medal recognises the service of eligible civilians in Australia during World War II who ‘served in arduous circumstances in support of the war effort as part of organisations with military-like arrangements and conditions of service’.
And according to Mrs Booth’s daughter Mary Payne, 79, her mum “absolutely loved it’.
Ivy Booth in her Women’s Land Army uniform in 1944.
“When dad went in the army, mum used to make camouflage kits and volunteered to do all sorts of work like that,” Mary recollects. “When they called for people to look after the land – because all the young farmers had signed up mum went in for that.
“She loved it, she was a country girl. She did a good job, helped our country, and our troops.”
Ivy first worked in Stanthorpe, in South East Queensland, picking fruit, and then shifted to Biloela in Central Queensland picking cotton. She was then moved to Mt Kooyong, near Julatten, where the farms produced vegetables for the American forces.
“I was seven years old when I was put into care, and I stayed there for a while until I could go and live with my grandparents,” remembers Mary. “When mum was picking cotton, I was allowed to visit her and go to school there.”
Ivy’s husband was a volunteer in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) but he received an eye injury and was discharged in 1944, at which time Ivy gave up the Land Army. The couple moved to Mossman in 1950, where Ivy worked at the Queens’ Hotel, Joe Johnson’s grocery store, and in the candy bar at the picture theatre, while her husband worked at Mossman Mill. They later lived at both Newell and Cooya Beaches.
“This is one of those situations where I feel very privileged to be involved,” said Mr Entsch.
“Ivy’s friend Helena Kanak-Dickenson was speaking to her recently about her war experiences. When Helena found out that Ivy had never been recognised for her official role, she contacted my office to see if there was anything we could do.
“After some research, it turned out that Ivy was entitled to the Civilian Service Medal 1939-45, and in fact, she should have received notification of it after 1995, when the medal was introduced. For some reason she didn’t receive it, but we were able to request a new one and I’m honoured to be presenting it to Ivy today.”
Mr Entsch said he appreciated that while Ivy might have enjoyed the experience, it couldn’t have been easy. “It was quite a sacrifice – putting her only child in care so that she could serve her country. But the Women’s Land Army made sure that vital agricultural activities continued despite so many young farmers having been sent overseas to fight.
“And Ivy loved Far North Queensland so much that she and her husband came back to live here, and produced a wonderful extended family some of whom are here today.
“I commend Ivy for her efforts and I hope that it means a lot to her, to finally receive this recognition.”
Ivy’s husband passed away 25 years ago and she now lives at the Ozcare Nursing Home in Port Douglas. As well as daughter Mary, Ivy has two grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and six great-great-grandchildren. Several family members will be attending the ceremony today, and Ivy will be surprised to see her granddaughter Margaret and a long-time family friend.
For more information on the Civilian Service Medal 1939-45, click here