During the Second World War the Camden Country Women’s Association were not the only community organisation to make camouflage nets in Camden.
In May 1941 the Camden Women’s Voluntary Services established a separate netting centre on the suggestion of Sibella Macarthur Onslow, to supply nets to the National Defence League. On one of the few occasions she attended a WVS meeting, Macarthur Onslow outlined a variety of war work that could be undertaken by the women and suggested forming a netting class. She had an immediate response from ten volunteers who were members of the Camden WVS, Camden CWA, the Camden Red Cross and the Camden District Hospital Women’s Auxiliary. The WVS volunteers were Kathleen Clifton, Annie Dickenson, Elsie Gibson, Eleanor Macdonald, Mrs Mackie, Leah McLeod, Harriet Outterside, Martha Poole, Alice Pope and Amy Porter. Typical of wartime volunteering and women of her social rank Macarthur Onslow left it to lower class women to undertake the tedious manual work involved in the dreary task of camouflage making nets.
The WVS camouflage netting class was also joined by two men, Fred Franklin (ironmonger, Camden) and Ted Smith (gardener, Narellan). In July they made two nets, 30ft x 14ft, which were delivered to the National Defence League in Sydney by Albine Terry, the WVS secretary. Each net for the NDL was destined for England, unlike nets made by the Camden CWA which for the Australian Army. Each net contained over 20,000 knots and was considered ‘excellent work’ by the League. By September 1941 ‘good progress’ by the netting volunteers instructed by Franklin meant that another fourteen nets had been sent, while another five were ready for despatch. Franklin was the principal instructor and was assisted by two other men, Ted Smith and Robert McIntosh, a dairyfarmer of Glenmore, as well as Llewella Davies. The nets had included 2 large and 2 small nets, as well 10 khaki nets. Franklin professed his willingness to continue giving instruction in ‘this important work’ and thanked all those who helped him. The contribution of the men to netting was short lived, and there is no other mention made of any Camden men assisting the netting effort at any other time during the war.
The first attempt at creating a joint CWA-WVS netting effort occurred in June 1941, when Rita Tucker addressed the WVS. Despite a directive reported in The Countrywoman in May 1941 from the state CWA discouraging joint netting activities by its branches, Tucker explained that the CWA had the necessary string supplied by the Army, and instructors who were prepared to conduct lessons ‘in this national work’ at the CWA rooms. While Tucker was a member of the WVS, the other women were not impressed enough to take up her offer. Not to be put off Tucker extended an invitation, on behalf of the CWA, to ‘all citizens’ of Camden who wished ‘to assist the War Effort’ by attending netting classes on Thursday nights and Friday afternoons in the CWA rooms in Broughton Street Camden.
Some Camden women including Mary Poole and Llewella Davies, volunteered for both the CWA and NDL netting efforts. Davies was a member of Camden’s elite and proved the exception that was the rule: that while most of the Camden elite did not volunteer for net making, she did. Davies (1901-2000), who never married and was tutored at home then went to Sydney Church of England Grammar School at Darlinghurst. She mixed freely with the Macarthur Onslows, Inglises, Downes, McIntoshes and other members of the Camden gentry. Davies was a ‘tireless’ volunteer who thought it was ‘good to work for the community’. She was a member of a number of women’s voluntary organisations in Camden, including the Red Cross, Camden Hospital Auxiliary, Camden Voluntary Aid Detachment, but not the CWA. In the post-war years she was a member of Meals on Wheels, assistant secretary of Camden AH&I Society, treasurer of Camden Garden Club, research officer of Camden Historical Society and secretary of Camden branch of United Australia Party. Davies took paid work as a clerk in the office of the Camden News which was located next door to the post office. Lewella played golf, and was a representative tennis player and member of the Camden Tennis Club. Davies was awarded an OAM in 1981 for community service, and was made Freeman of the Municipality of Camden in 1992, a life member of the Camden Historical Society in 1994 and given the key to Camden in 1999.
Llewella Davies was one of many local women who volunteered for wartime community service and her conservatism was driven by her family, her faith and her community.
Read more about the CWA and other conservative women’s organisations in wartime Camden @ UOW research
Image: Llewella Davies in Voluntary Aid Detachment uniform 1942 (Camden Images)