Personnel from RAAF Base Wagga helped Beryl Barton (nee Slingo) celebrate her 100th birthday just before Anzac Day.
Mrs Barton served in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) during World War II.
Mrs Barton, who had an extensive knowledge of Sydney roads, was first accepted into the Army as a driver to support the war effort. But she never received her instructions to present for training, so she later enlisted in the WAAAF in April 1942.
“Thankfully for the WAAAF, my unique skillset was soon recognised by Air Force and I went on to complete my training in Robertson, NSW,” Mrs Barton said.
Mrs Barton was posted to the De Havilland Aircraft Company offices, where she would drive resident engineers and visiting guests across Sydney in support of the construction of Mosquito aircraft.
“One particularly memorable task was when I had the honour of driving Sir Geoffrey De Havilland to review the local Mosquito construction effort,” Mrs Barton said.
Originally, the visit was scheduled to include a meal with senior officers and engineers at the Officers’ Mess at RAAF Base Richmond.
However, after Mrs Barton discovered Sir Geoffrey had an interest in colonial history, the tour deviated around the nearby town of Windsor, at his request, so he could explore convict-built structures.
“The tour was a notable success, although the visit resulted in some frustration by Sir Geoffrey’s waiting hosts at the mess,” Mrs Barton said.
To recognise Mrs Barton’s service, Senior Australian Defence Force Officer for RAAF Base Wagga Group Captain Chris Ellison presented her with a commemorative memento at a private ceremony with her family on April 19, the day before her 100th birthday.
Mrs Barton said she was very honoured to be accepting the memento.
“I really feel I’ve accepted it in conjunction with all the WAAAF who gave their time and effort to keep the country safe. We girls fitted in and I am very proud that I belong to the group. We did our little bit.”
Group Captain Ellison said he felt privileged to make the presentation to Mrs Barton in Air Force’s centenary year.
“This certificate recognises Mrs Barton’s dedicated WAAAF service during the war years and that she shares her centenary year with that of Air Force,” Group Captain Ellison said.
Mrs Barton has lived in Wagga Wagga, NSW, with her family for about 28 years.