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By April 1942, the Fifth Air Force, USAAC was rapidly establishing itself in Townsville which was becoming a major repair, maintenance and supply base for the Americans. A number of Senior American officers were posted to Townsville. As there were not enough American service personnel in the area to act as drivers, Section Officer Rentoul received an instruction from the Air Officer Commanding North-Eastern Area to conduct a WAAAF recruit course using local enlistments. This had the prime purpose of providing 12 drivers for the US Forces in the Townsville area.

Janet Gwendolyn Audrey Arthur from Nelia, about 50 kms east of Julia Creek, in Queensland enlisted at Townsville in the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) on 19 May 1942. Jan Arthur was one of about 15 women in the Townsville WAAAF recruit course.

Jan Arthur had previously been a member of the Women's National Emergency Legion (WNEL) driving vehicles for the Americans in Townsville.


Photo:- via Douglas Walker

Janet Arthur in her WNEL uniform


Photo:- Juliet Reynolds

Janet Arthur's great Grand-daughter wearing her WWII WNEL uniform


Photo:- Juliet Reynolds

Janet Arthur's WNEL uniform was handed over to Flight
Sergeant Tony Fifield and volunteers at the RAAF Townsville
Aviation Heritage Centre (RTAHC) at Garbutt on Sunday
16 June 2019 by her daughter Juliet Reynolds


Lorna Mittelheuser was one of Jan's fellow recruits for this WAAAF Recruit course. Here's part of her story:-

"Early 1942 I submitted an application to join the Air Force and within a very short space of time I had been to Townsville for interviews, medical check etc and called up to join a small group (about 15, I think) of north Queensland women who had also volunteered. St. Anne's Church of England School was to be our home and we were trained there for a week in Air Force procedure and drill on the tennis court. One photo shows some of us being inspected one morning but others were on duty and not present. Our officer in charge was F/O Rintoul who was followed later by S/O Stark."


Inspection of some of the Townsville recruits on the tennis court at St. Anne's Barracks, in 1942.

Left to Right in the lineup of recruits:-  Lorna Mittelheuser, Betty Donaghue, Isobel Short, ?, Marjorie Cale, and Jan Arthur.


ACW Jan Arthur became a personal driver for a number of US Generals including General Scanlon, General Royce and General Walker. While he was based in Townsville, Jan Arthur was General Kenneth Walker's regular driver. ACW Arthur also drove General Douglas MacArthur around when he visited Townsville. This was something that she has been very proud of to this day.  Jan Arthur turned 90 on 13 July 2004.


Photo:- via Juliet Reynolds

Jan Arthur standing beside
General Royce's car in Townsville


Jan Arthur remembers driving General Douglas MacArthur, along with General Kenney, and General Walker to "Duncragan", the 'Cream House', on top of Melton Hill in Townsville. The "Cream House" (not the White House) was General Walker's residence in Townsville. It is believed that this was a different house to the one that General Royce had lived in before he left Townsville. The American Generals would often dine at the "Cream House". ACW Jan Arthur would often dine with the Generals at the "Cream House". 


If taken in Townsville it was possibly on 2 October 1942.
General Walker at the left and General Kenney at far
right with General MacArthur leaving the aircraft.


Photo:- via Juliet Reynolds

Jan Arthur with General Kenney, General MacArthur
 and General Walker when General MacArthur arrived in
Townsville for a short visit possibly on 2 October 1942


"Duncragen" is a lowset house at 8 Cleveland Terrace, Melton Hill, Townsville. It was commandeered by the US Army during WWII and was used as a private residence for  General Kenneth Walker and other senior US officers.

ACW Jan Arthur would drive General Kenneth Walker to the US 12th Station Hospital at in Chapman Street, Mysterton Estate every Sunday to visit the wounded soldiers. Jan Arthur remembers the hospital as follows:- "The American Hospital was spread over blocks of streets and was composed of houses - mostly on stilts because of the hot climate - which had been taken over for the purpose and connected to each other by ramps, thus enabling trolleys to be wheeled easily between them". 

ACW Jan Arthur would also often drive American Officers to the Queen's Hotel on The Strand which was the American Billet located a short walk from the Cream House".

Aircraftwoman Janet Arthur (100044) was discharged from military service while at 3 Embarkation Depot, Sandgate on 31 March 1943.

On 10 November 1984, Mrs Janet Swain (nee Arthur) was interviewed by Joyce Thomson for her book "The WAAAF in Wartime Australia".

Jan Arthur was interviewed by Channel 10 in Sydney on the 50th anniversary of the Victory in the Pacific day. Jan mentioned the disappearance of General Kenneth Walker in the interview. Jan's granddaughter was then a reporter with Channel 10 and she wrote the story for the interview. 



I'd like to thank Juliet Reynolds, daughter of Janet Swain (nee Arthur), for her assistance with this web page.



"The WAAAF in Wartime Australia"
by Joyce Thomson


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This page first produced 25 July 2004

This page last updated 21 June 2019