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I dedicate this article to the women who fought, died and tragically were lost. Alongside the brave men who did the same. I dedicate it to the women who kept the wheels turning on the farms and in the mines and in the factories and in the family homes.

There is great equality in life and in death. But nowhere as great as in the love we feel in our hearts.

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Women sent their men to war knowing that this was the only way their lives and the lives of their children could be kept safe. More importantly, men went to keep their women safe.

The role of women in times of war are well known. Whether it be in the hospitals at the frontline, treating our injured and traumatised, or by staying home and keeping the farm going or working in a munitions factory. 

Yet so many died in the service of our Nation. And we must never forget. 

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 Australian nurses in Egypt during the First World War, and, inset, nurses treating wounded soldiers and Dame Maud McCarthy. Pictures: Australian War Memorial

The role of women was important - they provided much needed support to those who were at the battlefront who needed to know that they were fighting FOR someone. Our men NEEDED to know that they were achieving something honourable and worthwhile. 

Our women needed to know that they were giving their menfolk the support that they needed in order to get on with the job.

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Our Nurses volunteered to tend the wounded and hold a hand or hear a young soldier talk about his "girlfriend " back home. If he had been blinded or unable to write, she could not only salve his physical wounds but also the wounds in his soul. She could read a letter, write a letter or simply hold his hand and listen and offer a soft and feminine touch that was so foreign in the battlefield that was his body and his mind.

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I think this was a D Day photo but it evoked the emotion

 

Did that young soldier want that Nurse to be wielding a rifle beside him in the trenches or be taken prisoner and subjected to heaven knows what? No! 

He was there to keep her safe. That was his driving force. His reason for being there. For his Mum, his sisters, his daughters and his belief in everything he held dear.

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And MEN, REAL MEN, have not changed. 

Many years ago, I knew a man who was a Police Officer. He was on duty at a New Years Eve event and he was rostered to work in tandem with a young female officer who was about 5 foot tall. She was 7 months pregnant. He said to me that he was more worried about her getting hurt than doing his job.

Our women did fight in our wars. They fought in the farm fields of Australia and the daily heartache of waiting for a telegram that they prayed that they would never get.

They fought in the heartfelt belief that they could contribute to our fight against foreign oppression. 

Lest We Forget the role that so many played and the work of the women from the Boer War right through to the modern day. 

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Raped and murdered, all bar one — and the survivor wasn’t permitted to tell the full horrific tale (Image via awm.gov.au)

In the fall of Singapore, the sole survivor, Australian nurse Vivia Bullwinkell’s was a tale of horror. 

It was a story of the cowardly and notorious massacre by Japanese soldiers of a group of 21 nurses from the Australian Army Nursing Service, and a civilian woman, in the waters just off Radji Beach on Bangka Island, near Indonesia’s Sumatra, Despite being in their nurses’ uniforms, all with the Red Cross emblem on their sleeves, no mercy was shown to the women.

They were directed to walk forward into the sea only to be mercilessly gunned down from behind by their captors, who paddled into the Bangka Strait to bayonet to death any women still alive.

Yes, women fought in the Defence of our Nation.

Just look at Nancy Wake, a spy, who Kiwis and Australian's share with equal pride. Known as “The White Mouse” Nancy led the French Resistance in its final days.

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She was born in New Zealand but grew up in Australia and travelled to Europe as a Journalist. In 1939 she married a French man who was killed during the war. Nancy then joined the French Resistance with the name " The White Mouse ". She went on to become a Special Agent working for the British and in 1944, was parachuted in to France to help the Resistance gear up for the Allied D-Day landings. After the war, she worked for British Intelligence at the British Air Ministry before returning to Australia in the 1960's. 

" I have only one thing to say: I killed a lot of Germans, and I am only sorry I didn't kill more."
[on her wartime exploits] " Freedom is the only thing worth living for. While I was doing that work, I used to think it didn't matter if I died, because without freedom there was no point in living."
[on being a courier for the Allied Soldiers]"  It was much easier for us, you know, to travel all over France. A woman could get out of a lot of trouble that a man could not."
[on the Nazis] " If ever the opportunity arose, I would do everything I could to stop the Nazi movement. My hatred of the Nazis was very very deep."
[on women's role during wartime] " I don't see why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas."
[describing herself] " someone who loved nothing more than 'a good drink' and handsome men 'especially French men.'"
[on killing during World War II] " I was not a very nice person. And it didn't put me off my breakfast."
[on not having affairs during World War II] " And in my old age, I regret it. But you see, if I had accommodated one man, the word would spread around, and I would have had to accommodate the whole damn lot."
Life after war: " It's dreadful because you've been so busy and then it all just fizzles out."
" I was never afraid. I was too busy to be afraid."

When Britain entered the Second World War in September 1939, Elizabeth was only fourteen years old.

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The long-serving British Conservative politician, Douglass Hogg, the Viscount Hailsham, had recently retired from government, but still had the ear of those at the top of British society. He suggested to the Royal Family that the young Elizabeth and her sister Margaret should be evacuated to Canada, but the princess’ mother replied in no uncertain terms.

“The children won’t go without me,” she said, “I won’t leave without the King, and the King will never leave.”

It was as she approached her eighteenth birthday that she enrolled in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service. The ATS, as it was known, was the women’s branch of the British army, and ATS women saw service in France and at home, working in many supporting roles, though never in front-line combat. Some worked as radio operators, and teams of ATS women crewed anti-aircraft guns and spotlights, among many other roles.

Princess Elizabeth trained as a mechanic and a truck driver, learning to work on the engines of many different kinds of motor vehicles.

 

King George famously said, when asked about his daughter's new role in the war effort that the subject of conversation at dinner was now " about engines and oil. "

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God Bless her and " Happy Birthday Your Majesty."

Meanwhile back home, women tended the farms and the children and waited - not idly by but with guts and determination - women fought alongside their menfolk and provided the support both emotional and material for our armed forces to keep fighting. 

 

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But they all fought for the same thing: the future of our families. Our ways of life. Our futures.

Men and women fought together, died and sacrificed so that we could live this life, our life.

If we don't fight for our women and kids, there is no one left to fight for. 

Men and women have done it before. And we can do it again.

Together.

Lest We Forget

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