WOMEN'S NATIONAL EMERGENCY LEGION (WNEL)
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

 

A branch of the Women's National Emergency Legion was formed in The Redlands area during World War 2. Mrs. Em Fountain was the Commanding Officer. They met in the local RSL Hall. They would hold route marches, make bandages and sell bandages, etc.

Members of the WNEL performed the role of Mine-watchers in small posts along the banks of the Brisbane River near the mouth of the river. They worked under the control of the Royal Australian Navy. Many of their posts were in the back yards of houses along the river bank. Some were fairly substantial with concrete walls and sandbagging.

The posts were located on each side of the river so that each position could be seen by the next in line and they would signal with lights using Morse code. Daphne Smoothy Breckenridge was one of the WNELs who operated one of these Minewatching posts in about 1941-1942.

The Mine-watchers wore a Mine-watchers emblem on their arm. They wore an arm band which was a dark navy blue with an anchor and the word "Minewatcher" printed in red.

When the Americans arrived in Brisbane in large numbers, WNELs were attached to the US armed forces as drivers of staff and courier cars to drive US officers to and from the various campsites and warehouse installations and headquarters in the city.

The Brisbane headquarters for the Women's National Emergency League was located in the YMCA Building in Adelaide Street.

Shane Moss told me that his aunty Elsie May Irene Moss served as a WNEL in Brisbane during WWII. She was born in 1896 and lived in Brisbane from approx 1936. All her service was in the Brisbane area. From Shane's recollection she was involved in the transfer of US equipment after the war when large quantities of their stores was dumped into Moreton Bay. Elsie was involved in driving a large variety of vehicles which must have been quite an effort for Elsie as she was only about 5 foot tall.

 


Photo:- Elsie Moss via Shane Moss

Elsie E.M. Moss

 


Photo:- Elsie Moss via Shane Moss

Elsie E.M. Moss (2nd from right) at Camp Meeandah, Brisbane

 


Photo:- Elsie Moss via Shane Moss

Elsie E.M. Moss, note the hat and shoulder patch

 


Photo:- Elsie Moss via Shane Moss

Elsie E.M. Moss and Ronnie (surname unknown) at front with unknown WNEL
at rear standing beside the bus from Camp Victoria Park to Camp Meeandah

 


Photo:- Elsie Moss via Shane Moss

Elsie E.M. Moss at right with vehicles driven by the WNELs

 


Photo:- Elsie Moss via Shane Moss

Unknown WNEL with vehicles driven by the WNELs

 


Photo:- Elsie Moss via Shane Moss

Jack and Ronnie, a WNEL, who married an American on 11 October 1944.
It is believed that Elsie gave Ronnie away at the wedding

 

WNEL provided drivers and mechanical workers for the United States armed forces in the Cairns area during WW2. They were attached to Motor Pool Section 1, Base Section 2.  WNEL Sgt Clare Higgins was the Quartermaster for the Motor Pool.  There were 2 corporals, 10 Pfc's and 29 Privates working at the Cairns Motor Pool. The Motor Pool carried out 1st echelon work.

 


NARA Signal Corps Photo GHQ-SWPA-SC-43-9389

Cairns Motor Pool run by WNEL's - Pfc Dorothy Sinclair checks her reports with
Pvt. Alwyn Davis, while Pvt. Theresa Edwards fills the ambulance with fuel.

 

Corporal J. Hood was a WNEL who worked in the office in Cairns. Some of the WNEL drivers in the Cairns area were D. Horne, Cpl N. Phelan, E. Newman, M. Higgins, N. Erskine, D. Dupain, T. Lawson, S. Midgley and H. Armstrong. Among the WNEL mechanics were E. Bolam, Mabel Carrick, V. Aldridge and Joyce Nixon. Dorothy Sinclair was the only WNEL Ambulance Driver in the Cairns area for the US Army. Dott Lee, Alwyn Davis and Mrs Theresa Edwards were petrol bowser attendants for the US Army.

Lieutenant A.H. Lane was the US Army Transportation Officer and Captain Johnston was the Base Adjutant where the WNEL's worked in Cairns.

 


Queensland State Library Image Number: 195118

Woman in the uniform of the Australian Womens
National Emergency Legion September 1939

 

Mary Spence, a WNEL based in Townsville

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

I'd like to thank Shane Moss for his assistance with this web page.

 

 

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 Peter Dunn 2006

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This page first produced 16 June 2002

This page last updated 17 December 2013