Australian dress register ID:488
Owner:Port Macquarie Historical Society
Owner registration number:PMHM 5746
Place of origin:Australia
This women’s army jacket was worn by Port Macquarie woman Jean Kennedy who enlisted in the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service in 1943. Jean worked in the local chemist shop before enlisting and was one of thirty women residing locally to enlist in the women’s services. A number of local women living outside the Hastings area also enlisted. Like many young women Jean wanted to contribute to the war effort and joined the Port Macquarie Voluntary Aid Detachment to gain first aid and nursing experience before enlisting once the women’s military services were formed.
Following considerable lobbying by women who were keen to serve their country, Australian women were first able to join Australia’s military forces in March 1941 with the formation of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF). The Australian Army Medical Women’s Service (AAMWS), was established in December 1942, the majority of AAMWS were drawn from Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) who already had significant hospital experience.
This jacket is all that remains of Jean’s winter uniform which also included a skirt, shirt, tie and hat. The AAMWS uniform played an important role in recruitment and was described in recruitment advertisements as being ‘smart’ in addition to its functional use to create likeness and support military discipline and order. Jean served much of her time in the AAMWS in New Guinea so did not wear this jacket very often.
World War 2 and the formation of women’s military forces created new opportunities for Australian women. For Jean her time in the AAMWS was a fond one with this jacket serving as a reminder of her leaving home, forming new friendships and gaining her independence. Author: Debbie Sommers, 18 November 2013.
Fully lined Australian Army Medical Women's Service winter uniform jacket made of a khaki coloured fine wool garbadine. There are four patch pockets, two at front set below the waist with flaps over the opening and two pleated breast pockets with buttoned flaps. A self fabric belt passes through loops at each side of the waist and fastens with a buckle at the front.
Oxidised brass ‘AUSTRALIA’ shoulder titles, collar badges and buttons at the front opening and patch breast pockets.
Colour patches of 115 Australian General Hospital and miniature colour patches of 2/1 Australian GeneralHospital are sewn to the top of both sleeves. There is a Red Cross embroidered badge on the upper right sleeve.
The jacket belonged to Jean Kennedy [1920 - 2012] who served in the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service (AAMWS) from 1943 to 1946.
History and Provenance
Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information
Jean was born at Wauchope in 1920 and her family moved to Port Macquarie in 1922. Jean Kennedy died at Port Macquarie on 1 July 2012, at the age of 91.
Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?
In May 1940, at the age of 20, Jean joined the newly formed Port Macquarie Voluntary Aid Detachment. She was amongst the 37 Port Macquarie women named in the Port Macquarie News of Saturday August 3 1940 who were successful in passing their home nursing examination and then commenced training at the local hospital.
Jean worked at the local chemist shop during the day and worked shifts at the local hospital during the evenings. She can remember marching on the headland with the VA detachment and going to do her hospital hours at night. She said there was not a great deal to do at the hospital at night and the shifts seemed quite long.
in 1943 Jean and her friend and fellow VAD member Muriel Pryor successfully applied to join the AAMWS.
Jean’s service record, according to the Australian War Memorial’s WW2 Nominal Roll indicates she enlisted on 19 April, 1943. Jean was a private in the AAMWS, serving in New Guinea and then at Concord Repatriation Hospital. Her role was performing general duties in the kitchen and mess, such as serving food and waiting. Jean was discharged from the AAMWS on 11 April 1946 and eventually returned to life at Port Macquarie, where she lived until her death in 2012.
Jean was one of 30 women who resided locally at the time of their enlistment in the women’s services during World War 2. A number of other local women who were living outside the Hastings area also enlisted.
How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?
Australian women were first able to join Australia’s military forces in March 1941 with the formation of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF). This followed considerable lobbying by women who were keen to serve and the government responded with the formation of a number of women’s military organisations to “release men from certain military duties for employment in fighting units”. Australian War Memorial, www.awm.gov.au
The Australian Army Medical Women’s Service (AAMWS) was established in December 1942. the majority of AAMWS recruits were drawn from Voluntary Aid Detachments who already had significant hospital experience. The AAMWS and Australian Women’s Army Service advertised in women’s magazines such as the Australian Women’s Weekly and used the smart uniform as a recruiting incentive.
Where did this information come from?
Australian War Memorial website www.awm.gov.au
Australian Women’s Archives Project www.womenaustralia.info
Australian Women at War
Thomas Nelson Australia, 1984
Interviews with Jean Kennedy, November 2005
Port Macquarie News, various dates
Ryerson Index http://ryersonindex.net/search.php
This garment has been exhibited
The jacket has been displayed in various exhibitions at the Port Macquarie Historical Museum including Leading Women in 2005 and World War 2 at Home in 2012. The jacket also features in a publication Her Story - A collection of women's stories, objects and places
Place of origin:
The jacket belonged to Port Macquarie woman Jean Kennedy [1920 - 2012 ] who served in the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service (AAMWS) from 1943 to 1946. The jacket was donated to the Port Macquarie Historical Museum (PMHM) in 1981 by Jean Kennedy.
Written in ink on the manufacturer's label is Kennedy NFX20066
Worn by Jean Kennedy whilst serving in the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service (AAMWS) 1943 to 1946.
Concord Repatriation Hospital
Australian Army Medical Women's Service
Trimmings / Decoration
Unit patches are sewn to each sleeve and a red cross patch is sewn to the right hand sleeve
The red cross badge on the right hand sleeve is embroidered.
Fibre / Weave
Khaki fine wool garbadine used for jacket and sleeves
Sleeves are lined with cream striped polished cotton
Jacket front and back are lined with grey polished cotton
Felt is used for the unit badges sewn on each sleeve
- Natural dye
- Synthetic dye
Mostly machine sewn
Label reads: MADE IN AUSTRALIA NO.381 1942 Size with an arrow symbol and the letters EC overstamped
- Hand sewn
- Machine sewn
3 metal buttons at front opening, 1 is missing, there are 4 button holes
2 closure buttons for epaulettes near neck
2 closure buttons on chest pockets
- Hook and eye
|Front neck to hem||700 mm|
|Back neck to hem||695 mm|
|Sleeve length||580 mm|
|Neck to sleeve head||140 mm|
|Cross back||370 mm|
|Underarm to underarm||485 mm|
|Convert to inches|
Slight discolouration of lining and round back of collar
Pulled threads on bottom of jacket flap at back