11th February 2018

An old photo (see below) has triggered some research into The National Defence League of Australia and its  Women’s Auxiliary.

In 1905 the National Defence League of Australia was formed in New South Wales to press for compulsory military training, and soon spread to other states. They believed that with modern travel and changes in the political climate, Australia’s relative physical isolation was no longer a barrier to the potential for invasion, and that Australia’s defence was woefully inadequate.

They would lobby parliament and other groups.  As WW1 approached, they were teaching drill and firearms handling to the public, and lobbying for conscription.

Between the wars the League continued  but petered out by around 1930.  A new  League was  established in 1933, but was short lived and/or ineffective.  By 1938  a new  “National Defence
League of Australia” was established with 3 main objectives:

The Sun (Sydney), 23rd October 1938.

Several months after the new league’s formation a women’s auxiliary was formed.

Daily Examiner (Grafton) 10th March 1939.

Women signed up for courses in first aid, elementary nursing, physical culture and transport (ambulance and truck driving and maintenance). Later on subjects such as map reading, signalling and drill were added. From 1940 until 1945 they hand-made camouflage netting for the military, each net taking 8-22 hours to make. They also reconditioned clothes and water bottles for the troops, repaired anti-gas eye shields, made comfort packages, and sorted salvaged material. They raised funds for hospital equipment. In 1942 the auxiliary opened a canteen and rest rooms for service women.

From Australian War Memorial collection:  Members of the National Defence League Women’s Auxiliary removing buttons and clips from old Clothes before despatching them to the waste manufacturers.

Post war they supported the establishment of Legacy. By 1947 the auxiliary ceased to exist. Of course, theirs’ were not the only women’s auxiliary or group working for the war effort. The C.W.A. was also netting and sewing:

Nepean Times, 5th April 1942;  C.W.A. report.

In Sydney, the women’s committee of the Lord Mayor’s Patriotic and War Fund depot were knitting socks and “sewing buttons for soldiers whose tunics are in a state of disrepair” as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald. (Men couldn’t possibly sew on their own buttons, now really!)



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