Interview with Gillie Street

Title

Interview with Gillie Street

Description

Gillie Street was born in Aglionby, Carlisle, and spent her early childhood in Tyneside before moving back to Cumberland aged eleven. Street recalls attending grammar school in Brampton and her first flying experience on a Barnstormer. Upon leaving school she undertook secretarial training, completed civil service exams, and found employment in London. Met her future-husband there, Morris Gilbert, a navigator of the Royal New Zealand Airforce. Her department was evacuated to Birmingham where she volunteered for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force following the bleak first winter. After training in London, Street was stationed at RAF Middle Wallop during the Battle of Britain. She describes the shock of the first attack, organising an early lunch for the reoccurring raids, sheltering in the basement, and a close call with a live bomb while surveying damage with the engineering officer. Street recalls being promoted, working with Donald Bennett, and the secretive atmosphere surrounding his involvement with Barnes Wallis. Street also talks about life at RAF High Wycombe and describes observing disagreements regarding the American bombing tactics; having a half-day off on Sundays; and the monthly sherry party where she met her second-husband Freddie, a doctor in the Australian Army. After the war, Street recollects flying on a C-47 over Holland, the Ruhr, Dresden, and Berlin, her reaction upon viewing the devastation, and explains her belief that the Bomber Command operations were justified. Finally, Street talks about her post-war life including marrying Freddie, moving to Australia by boat and living in Sydney, before buying and working on a farm in Orange in the 1960s.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2020-07-27

Contributor

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This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

00:37:44 Audio Recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AStreetM200727, PStreetM2001

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

JH: Morning, this is John Horsburgh. I’m in the lovely town of Orange in central New South Wales, Australia, it’s the 27th of July 2020, and today I have the privilege of interviewing Gillie Street, who was a WAAF in World War Two in the UK, and the interview is part of the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln, the Oral History Project. Good Morning Gillie. Can we start right at the beginning, such as, where and when you were born?
GS: Well, I was born in Aglionby, a small village, near Carlisle in Cumberland.
JH: Is that on the, near the border with Scotland?
GS: Er, roughly yes.
JH: Yes, I know it, and tell me, tell me something about your childhood?
GS: Well, my father died when I was only eighteen-months-old, and eventually my mother married again, a gentleman who was twenty years older than she was, and we went to live on Tyneside.
JH: Ok, that was a big move.
GS: Yes, it was a very big move, er, I remember as a four-year-old, roughly, going on a train and that’s all I remember about it, but I spent my early years on Tyneside, and at eleven we went back to Cumberland because my step-father retired.
JH: Yes, and I think you told me before, at some stage, when you were growing up you actually flew, there were some Barnstormers in the area, and your mother arranged a trip?
GS: Yes, that was after we went back to Cumberland.
JH: Back to Cumberland, yes.
GS: Yes, and I went to a grammar school in Brampton, which was a small town, went by bus every day, and it was at Brampton that the Barnstormers came.
JH: So, what, what were they doing?
GS: Just flying and showing off generally, you know, and you could, they’d take you for a flight.
JH: Yes, so what did you think of that?
GS: And my mother, of course my mother was there, my step-father wasn’t but my mother was there, and she said I could have a flight, so I took one, naturally [laughs].
JH: That’s where you got the bug.
GS: Oh yes, I think so, probably, I don’t know.
JH: So, so you left school, left grammar school.
GS: I left grammar school.
JH: And I think you then headed to London at some stage?
GS: Well, when you, in those days, university was practically impossible if you didn’t have money, because you had to do another year at school, to do your entrance exam, and er you know, I wanted to be a vet but there was no chance of that. So, so anyway, you either went to university, you were a nurse, or you were a teacher, anyway, or you were a secretary, you know, and I took the secretarial training.
JH: So, you did some training, locally or in London?
GS: Oh yes, locally in Carlisle, and then you took your exams, your service exams, you know civil service, and I finished up in London with two other girls from Carlisle, and er, we all were in together, and you know, we were all in a hostel in London.
JH: So, this is just before the war?
GS: Just before the war, ‘38, 1938.
JH: Yes, in the civil service. So, tell me how was it that you volunteered for the WAAF’s? I know that you’d had a flight, in the Barnstormer's?
GS: Well, when the war broke out, they sent all the staff of the health department, of the area that we were in, they sent us to Birmingham.
JH: Ah.
GS: And we had to take our typewriters with us, as part of our luggage, and they were heavy [laughs].
JH: Yes, was this evacuating London?
GS: Evacuating, yes.
JH: Because of the blitz?
GS: Yes.
JH: Oh, I see.
JH: Oh, it was before the Blitz started, right at the very beginning, and that first summer, first winter, was the coldest winter in years, the first winter of the war, it was terrible and Birmingham was awful [emphasis].
JH: A bit bleak?
GS: Oh, bleak town yes, and I thought you know, gotta be something better than this.
JH: Yes, yes, so when you, when you volunteered for the, um -
GS: So, I volunteered for the WAAF.
JH: Were, did some of your friends also volunteer?
GS: No, no, they didn’t. The two girls who I was with, one went back to Carlisle because her mother was ill, and the other went back to her family in Keswick -
JH: Yes
GS: Er, afterwards, you know, after some time.
JH: The Lake District.
GS: But no, I joined the WAAF and we went down to somewhere near London, I can’t remember where, and did six weeks training.
JH: Was that square bashing and marching up and down?
GS: Oh yes, yes, the usual things, yes, the usual things. I mean it was all new to us but, you know.
JH: Yes, so presumably you passed, with honours.
GS: Oh yes, well I passed [laughs].
JH: And how, what was the next thing that happened? How were you assigned to a division in the air force? What happened there?
GS: Well, most of my postings were to the, to the station headquarters, which is where the main clerical staff were. So, my first posting, posting was to somewhere on the, somewhere on the North Sea, on the North Coast of Britain.
JH: Durham, would it be?
GS: Somewhere round Durham, somewhere between Durham and Newcastle, I don’t think the aerodrome is there now, but they were coastal command.
JH: Coastal, yeah, operating in the North Sea, obviously.
GS: But I didn’t stay there very long and then I was sent down to um -
JH: Was it Middle Wallop?
GS: Middle Wallop, yes.
JH: Yes, which was a fighter base?
GS: Yes, it was still being built, it wasn’t finished but the aerodrome and the men’s quarters were finished, and the mess was finished, the rest was being built.
JH: Yes, so were you -
GS: We were in married quarters, the WAAF, we took over the married quarters.
JH: Ok, yeah, and erm, of course it featured in the Battle of Britain.
GS: Yes.
JH: And, I believe it was part of the German offensive, they actually attacked Middle Wallop, and you experienced that?
GS: Yes, well first of all they attacked the coastal, just the coastal and all the radar stations along the coast, and then after, maybe a week, or two weeks, or something, they started moving inland to the aerodromes, just in from the coast.
JH: Yes, this would be 1940, we’re talking?
GS: 1940, yes. So, we were sort of part of the second, the second lot of attacks.
JH: Yes, yes, tell me, tell me what happened, there was one day, a fairly violent attack?
GS: Well, well, well, it was totally unexpected, we weren’t expecting to be attacked, and I was with my -
JH: So, you had no warning?
GS: I was working with the adjutant then, you know, the head of the station and I was his clerk, and we heard the commotion going on, and we, both of us rushed out to the front of the headquarters, to see a Jerry coming straight down to attack the guard room, firing as he went of course. Which meant that we retreated hastily back inside, and took cover [chuckles].
JH: So, from what you’re saying, you didn’t have shelters, or?
GS: No, not at that stage.
JH: At that stage.
GS: No, well, any that were, were just, erm, Anderson shelters, which were just covered with dirt, and we weren’t near any of them, the buildings were better positioned.
JH: Yes, so you’re inside, I guess you’re all trying to get under a desk, or two, was there a bit of a squeeze there?
GS: Yes, and I lost to my adjutant, who was rather a portly gentleman [laughs].
JH: Yes [laughs].
GS: He was a sir, somebody or other, I can’t remember now what.
JH: Yes [laughs]. So, I think, you did tell me that they came back, the Germans?
GS: Yes, they came back at the same time, every day, which was just on midday.
JH: Yes.
GS: They never varied.
JH: Very punctual.
GS: Very punctual so all the planes took off before they came, after that, any that were able to, they did a lot of damage the first way round.
JH: Yes, so did you organise your lunch around the German attacks?
GS: So, what we all used to do then, was to make sure we took an early lunch, and got our lunch, and then we went down to the basement of the, of the dining room.
JH: My goodness, and erm -
GS: So, we made sure we were fed [chuckle].
JH: Yes, I believe a couple of your WAAF colleagues weren't so lucky, they in fact were killed in one of the raids?
GS: No, as far as I remember, one of them was - In the first raid the, erm, hanger door was blown off, and I think she was an aircraft woman who was doing maintenance, you know, and she was, she was killed in that, she got the door. I can’t remember her name or anything now, but there were a few casualties.
JH: Yes, and also, I think one of your jobs was to go around with your erm, your commanding officer inspecting the bomb damage craters, and you had to take notes?
GS: That was, that was the, erm, what would he be now, he’d be the engineer wouldn’t he?
JH: Yes.
GS: The engineering officer, who had no help, you see, so he got me to go and take notes for him, to walk round with him, and the last, or the last one we were at, it was at the airman's quarters, just in at the foundation of the quarters, and he climbed down into this hole, and had a look at the bomb, and he literally turned white, and said ‘get out of here, it’s still live’, scrambled out and that was the - [laughs].
JH: You broke the record for a hundred yards probably.
GS: I can’t remember, I can’t remember what happened after that, but obviously they must have dealt with it, but I wasn’t there when it was dealt with.
JH: So, Gillie, did you continue for a while with fighter command at different bases, or, when did you move over to bomber command?
GS: I can’t, look, I can’t remember, I moved around quite a lot.
JH: Yes.
GS: Erm, but I was commissioned in - Unfortunately, I didn’t put a date on that did I?
JH: You were commissioned as a section officer, so you went through the ranks, didn’t you?
GS: ASO, you started as an assistant, ASO.
JH: ASO, yes.
GH: Yes, ASO.
JH: Well, look it doesn’t matter, but I think last time you mentioned you were up in Number 3 Group in Durham at some stage, and also Newmarket?
GS: No, Newmarket that is.
JH: Newmarket?
GS: Yes, that was Bennet.
JH: Ah, yeah tell me a bit about that?
GS: No, you see I went - I was - eventually went right through the ranks and was a sergeant, and when I went to 3 Group, I was a sergeant then.
JH: Ok.
GS: And that was Bennet, Air Vice Marshall Bennet.
JH: And not only that, you were mentioned in despatches, MID?
GS: No, that was the end of the war.
JH: That was the end, yeah, ok. So, tell me about your experience with Bennet?
GS: Well, with Bennet, I remember this civilian coming and, very hush-hush, and it was, I’ve already forgotten his name.
JH: Bennet?
GS: No, no, the bomber, the man who made the bombs?
JH: Oh, Barnes-Wallis?
GS: Barnes-Wallis, yes. He came and, very hush-hush, and I only found out really after the war, well not after the war, very much later, that he was the one who was, and Bennet obviously was going to supply the, the planes to do it.
JH: Yes, so Bennet was involved in that? Yes, so, so Bennet took over, I think it might have been in ‘42, command of the Pathfinders, was that when you were involved with Bennet? Do you remember that, when he was posted to, er?
GS: Well, certainly it was ‘42 when I was there.
JH: Mm, that was in ‘42?
GS: Yes, certainly was ‘42.
JH: Yes, and er -
GS: The end of ‘42 that would’ve been.
JH: Ok, well, what a, what a thing to experience that.
GS: So, look, I just cannot remember, I was at a station in - [pauses] I was sent to a – No, I can’t remember, I know I was stationed near Cambridge.
JH: Yes.
GS: That was a bomber station of course, but what it was called?
JH: Was it Wyton, RAF Wyton?
GS: No, no.
JH: Um, there’s Warboys, Gravely?
GS: I doubt if I'd remember its name even, nothing, nothing rings a bell, you know? And I didn’t keep a record of any of them.
JH: Yes. So, it sounds like you were moving around quite a bit, er, at that stage?
GS: Yes, I think wherever, wherever, they needed somebody, and I always went to the group headquarters, and, usually -
JH: Yes.
GS: Usually to the adjutant because he was the one normally who needed someone, you know?
JH: Yes. Now tell me how you, what was the stage when you ended up in High Wycombe, in the Bomber Command headquarters?
GS: Well, after I, after I – after I was commissioned, that was my first job, so as an officer, that was my only job [chuckles]. I was at High Wycombe.
JH: Right ok, can we backtrack? You were married -
GS: Oh, yes, yes.
JH: - before that, to Morris Gilbert, Royal New Zealand Airforce, I believe he was a navigator?
GS: He was a navigator, yes.
JH: And erm, so how did you meet Morris? Where did you meet Morris?
GS: I met him before the war.
JH: Ok, when you were working in London?
GS: When I was in London, yes, there was a whole lot of them, came over, erm, he was an optician though and he’d come over to do an English exam, you know, but he was with a whole lot of others, who were destined to Canada, to train, so that’s how I met all the New Zealanders, and of course, he went back to New Zealand, and then went back to Canada to train, and finished up as an observer, then came back.
JH: Observer, navigator, yes, yeah same as my father. Ok, so back to High Wycombe, erm you were a PA to the senior, the commanding officers there?
GS: The second, second in command, yes.
JH: Yes.
GS: As far as I remember, Air Vice Marshall Sir Robert Sornby.
JH: Sornby yes. What was it like working there? What sort of, tell me a typical day, at High Wycombe?
GS: Well again, we were in married quarters, or, well of course we were in officers’ married quarters, we weren’t a big, I can’t remember how many there were, but there weren’t a lot of us.
JH: Was that close to the headquarters, or was that in High Wycombe?
GS: It was, oh no, it was separate from High Wycombe.
JH: Yes, it was a little village wasn’t it?
GS: It was - I don’t know what it was used for, whether it had always been an air force base, or?
JH: I’m not sure?
GS: I’m not sure myself, but it was all, the married quarters were there too, and we had married quarters.
JH: Yes, yes.
GS: Erm, and the - Well, the airwomen too, they were in married quarters as well, so -
JH: Yes, so you just used to walk to the headquarters?
GS: You had to walk, yes, walk through the beech trees [chuckles].
JH: Yes, yeah, and so, what would be a typical day?
GS: Er, you had to be there by eight o’clock, I would often see my [pauses] not Sornby, but my third one, who was Walmsley.
JH: Walmsley, yes.
GS: He would be walking through and sometimes we’d walk through together, he was very approachable.
JH: Yes.
GS: Whereas Sornby wasn’t.
JH: He wasn’t?
GS: No, I mean he was your boss, that was it, he wasn’t unpleasant or anything.
JH: Yes, yes, ok.
GS: But he’d drive past you in his Rolls-Royce and he wouldn’t pick you up [laughs]. Oh, I shouldn’t say that, you better rule that, take that out.
JH: [laughs]. Oh, I don’t think it matters now.
GS: No, take it out [both laugh].
JH: And now what about?
GS: Well, you’d do that and you’d have rotation, or whatever was going you know, files, and files to get, and files to take, files to get around. Generally, odd body, you know that’s what -
JH: Yes, so, would there be the reports of the raids the night before coming through? And you’d have to go through those? Like the losses?
GS: They went to, they went higher, they went to Harrison, through his PA, his PA was a flight officer.
JH: Yes, and I believe one morning, terrible morning, you had the news there at the office, you saw your, your husband's name?
GS: Oh no, that was in 3 Group, when I was in Bennet’s.
JH: Oh, that was in Bennet’s, 3 Group?
GS: That was ‘42, yes. That was in ‘42. No, we just went on. It’s just, they were long days, I mean you never knew when you were going to finish.
JH: Yes, like if there was a raid on, they would, well, let's say most raids they’d be leaving, eight, eight p.m., ten p.m., coming back three or four in the morning, did you have to be there at night?
GS: No, no. That was taken care of by the, by the, you know, the station, that they were on, they did all the interviewing, and sent the reports back.
JH: So, did you encounter Harris often? Was he very approachable, or?
GS: I mean, I’ve seen him, you know, but you might see him going to his car, or something like that, I don’t think I ever spoke to him.
JH: Yes, oh I should imagine the security must have been very high there, especially as you would be seeing a lot of information?
GS: Especially on D-Day, especially prior to D-Day, there was very tight security then.
JH: Yes, and ok. Well, I’d like to ask you, still talking about High Wycombe, how you met your second husband?
GS: Ah, well, that was [chuckles]. It really is nothing to do with Bomber Command.
JH: But I think, what I was trying to think of was, I believe on a Sunday the WAAF’s would have a special lunch?
GS: Yes, we had a half a day off a week, which was a Sunday, from Sunday at midday, a half a day off and we, about once a month, had a sherry party at midday on a Sunday, and we’d invite, you could invite people in from outside as long as they were escorted to you and escorted back again, you know. So, we had a WAAF, a New Zealand WAAF, called Bunty Watts, who, I'm not quite sure what she did, but she had, she had lost, or she eventually lost four brothers in the war, the last of whom was lost on D-Day -
JH: That’s astonishing.
GS: - flying a glider into Arnhem, for the landing at Arnhem. Anyway, she invited, some obscure way she knew Australian airmen so she decided to ask, they were somewhere near High Wycombe, Freddie and his mates, because they’d come to get the prisoners of war but of course the war didn’t finish -
JH: So, he was Australian army -
GS: Yes, Australian army.
JH: - and he was over here, I believe he was a doctor in the commandos in New Guinea?
GS: Yes, but he was medically unfit then, so he couldn’t be employed, they were looking for something for him to do, and they were all, this little group of them who were all medically unfit, and they were waiting for the prisoners of war to come out. So, they were, she invited them anyway for this sherry party, and of course I can remember seeing these, there were three or four of them I think, I can’t remember now but I can still see Freddie with his hand like this, saying, ‘Where’s the beer? Where’s the beer?’, which of course there wasn’t any [chuckles], and they wouldn’t have liked it anyway because it would’ve been warm [emphasis].
JH: [Laughs] He wasn’t too keen on the sherry I take it?
GS: No way [emphasis]. So that’s where I first met him.
JH: Yes, oh that’s interesting. So, back at High Wycombe, you know what I’ve read, the Bomber Command tactics were very much area bombing and then the Pathfinders came in, it was more precision bombing, and there’s been this controversy about area bombing ever since, when you were working there, were you aware of these discussions going on, amongst the command?
GS: No, no, I was aware of when the Americans came in, and they had quarters at High Wycombe and, I knew that there was a lot of argument then, about bombing in daylight, they had the fortresses to bomb, but they had no fighter support.
JH: Yes.
GS: And they were warned that they would have horrible losses.
JH: Which they did.
GS: Which they did, and there was a great [emphasis] kerfuffle going on then about whether they would pull out, or whether they would continue on.
JH: They nearly went home, you mean?
GS: Yes, they nearly went home, they nearly pulled out, but they wouldn’t take any notice what anybody else said, they knew better.
JH: Yes, did the Americans have a separate HQ at High Wycombe, or was it all combined?
GS: Oh yes, completely separate.
JH: Completely separate, yeah.
GS: Nothing to do with us at all, just we saw some of the officers, of course, we saw some of the people who were there, they used to come to our sherry parties [laughs].
JH: Yes [chuckles].
GS: A bit more civilised [laughs].
JH: Yes, and, maybe I can ask you if there’s anything else you can recall from High Wycombe, in those days?
GS: Not really. It was pretty routine work, and long, long days, quite long days, it could go on, you know, because I was there when my boss was there, but not overnight, I wasn’t expected to be there at night.
JH: Yes ok. Now I believe you ended up in a DC-3 over Berlin? Can you tell me how that happened?
GS: Erm, that was after the war ended, and they were doing a photographic reconnaissance more or less, over various areas, and my, one of my bosses, er, said I could go, so of course I jumped at the chance, so we flew over Holland and we saw all the areas where the, where they bombed the dykes, you know, and the water had all gone through, we saw that area, and er, we went over Berlin, and we went over, I don’t know.
JH: Was that a non-stop flight? You didn’t land in Holland?
GS: No, we didn’t land - No, we couldn’t have gone over Berlin, that’s too far, but we did Holland and we did all the sort of areas down through the -
JH: The Ruhr, maybe?
GS: Yes, I’m sure we were over Emden, and which was the one that had the firestorm?
JH: Dresden?
GS: Dresden, yes.
JH: But not Berlin?
GS: No, I don’t - I can’t remember now but I don’t think- It wouldn’t have flown, wouldn’t of been -
JH: Um?
GS: DC-3? It might’ve done?
JH: Might’ve done, yeah, anyhow it might come back.
GS: I can’t remember being over Berlin.
JH: Let’s say you did fly over Dresden, can you remember what you thought when you were looking down to see all the damage, the bomb damage? Were you shocked?
GS: I think I thought how efficient the Bomber Command had been [chuckles].
JH: Yes, you weren’t shocked? You thought, well -
GS: No, no because I’d seen the damage in London, you know we - I was in London one night, for something, I can’t remember what, when they were bombing and that was terrible [emphasis], I mean that was scary, really scary [emphasis].
JH: Yes.
GS: But, that was the war.
JH: Yes, I always ask in these interviews, with aircrew, or whoever, what they thought about the area bombing, do they have any misgivings now? Or did they think it was total warfare? Most people I've spoken to, believe it was justified, and total warfare.
GS: Yes.
JH: Yes, and you’d agree with that, that’s how you feel?
GS: I would agree with that, yes. After all they started it [chuckles]. And, you know, if they’d continued on a bit longer at the Battle of Britain, they would have invaded Britain, because we just about got to the end of our aircrews. Not so much planes, but people to fly them, their casualties were so [emphasis] heavy.
JH: Yes, were you, at High Wycombe, were you aware of the high casualty rates in Bomber Command?
GS: Oh yes, yes.
JH: It was um -
GS: You were lucky if you did your thirty ops.
JH: Yes, yes.
GS: You were very lucky if you did your thirty ops, and then a lot of them went on to be Pathfinders, and that was even worse.
JH: Yes, which is even more dangerous, yes.
GS: Yes, more dangerous, but then of course we got our night fighters.
JH: Yes, the Mosquitos, didn’t they do a good job.
GS: They were wonderful [emphasis] planes, oh, they were really wonderful planes. They could take a bomb load the same as a Fortress, and they were fast.
JH: Fast, high, yeah.
GS: Yes, and they could fight, you know, they could staff as well, so, they were really- They made a great, great [emphasis] deal of difference so. We called them the grey ghosts.
JH: Yes. There’s a chap in Sydney, I interviewed, Frank Dell, he was a Mosquito pilot, and was shot down, unfortunately his navigator was killed, and he - The Dutch farmers hid him in a barn, until the British forces came through. So, well let’s talk about, here we are in Orange, before that you were in the UK, how did you end up in Orange?
GS: Well after the war, eventually, I married Freddie, that was 1947 we were married, because he took his discharge in London to do his surgical degree, his English degree. Which he did, and I worked down there as well, I worked in London for a little while.
JH: Yes, so where did Freddie come from in Australia? Was it Orange?
GS: Sydney.
JH: Oh Sydney, he’s from Sydney.
GS: He was Coogee.
JH: Oh [pauses]. The Shire, down there, a Coogee boy.
GS: Yes, he was a surfer, not a surfer, a surf lifesaver.
JH: Yes, so you came out by boat?
GS: Oh yes, six weeks. Yes, the only way to come out, it was the only way you could come.
JH: Yeah, and what were your first impressions, in Australia?
GS: Hot.
JH: [Laughs] Yes, yeah.
GS: Yes, hot.
JH: Were you homesick?
GS: Erm, not really because I’d been wandering around, I hadn't been home for a long time, not since 1938. So, I really had plenty of time not to, you know, except it was a little bit different this time.
JH: Yeah, so you settled down in Sydney?
GS: That’s it, yes, we settled in Sydney.
JH: And started a family, yes.
GS: But I didn’t work after that.
JH: Yes, and erm, so how did you make the move to Orange? What was that story?
GS: Well, we - Freddie had patients from around this area, around Yeoval and that area, of course he was a children’s surgeon, and we more or less became friendly with them, and then he got the idea he’d like to farm [chuckles]. So, they looked around and they saw this little property was for sale, but of course there was no house or anything down there.
JH: Yes, it was all farming down here.
GS: This was well and truly - That was a dairy next door to us, anyway - And this was a dairy too. So he decided that we’d buy this, which we did in 1964, and our neighbour, that way, was a very good stockman, very good horseman, and he agreed to look after it during the week and we came down at weekends. I came down one weekend, he came down the next. So we did that until he retired, and he decided he’d had enough when he was fifty-eight, he thought he’s not going to work anymore in Sydney, he’s fed up with it. So, we, then bought our bigger property, which Ian is on now.
JH: Yes, near Cudal?
GS: Yes, well yeah, Cargo, between the two. And we moved up here. Left the three of them, that was Ian, my daughter and Neil, the youngest one, Anne was then a nurse, he was doing law, which he didn’t like very much [chuckles]. And, erm, we left them in a little semi at Coogee which was good for them, and we came up here and I started to work [emphasis], really hard [chuckles].
JH: What did you do, working on the farm?
GS: I had to do everything. What did Freddie do?
JH: Yes.
GS: He, as soon as he got up here, the base hospital, the old one which is over there, had lost their medical superintendent, so they rang Freddie and said, ‘Do you think you could just fill in for a few months until we get somebody?’, ‘Oh yeah, yeah, but I’ll have to leave every day at three o’clock, because I've got work to do,’ you know? Well, of course, it never happened.
JH: Yes, I bet.
GS: And he stayed for three years. So, I was left to run the fifteen hundred acres out there, and [emphasis] this place [chuckles]. Never having ridden a horse, or done anything.
JH: Tell me Gillie, these days do you keep in touch with, like the RSL, erm, ANZAC Day celebrations and so on?
GS: Oh yes, we had a very strong women’s association here, ex-services association here, and we’ve always, we’ve always marched. We’re down now, there are, what [pauses] really only two active members, the third member is totally blind now so she is - Well I mean we still get her, well we did, get her and go and have lunch once a month or so.
JH: Yes, marvellous.
GS: But there are only two of us left now.
JH: Yes, well Gillie that has been fantastic.
GS: That’s about all isn’t it?
JH: Yeah, we well – First of all I’d like to say this incredible lady, on the 7th of July, celebrated her hundredth birthday [emphasis].
GS: 8th of July.
JH: 8th of July was it?
GS: 8th of July, yes.
JH: Ok, which is fantastic, now it’s been a real pleasure to interview you, and thank you very much for that.
GS: Thank you, for the opportunity.

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Citation

John Horsburgh, “Interview with Gillie Street,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 12, 2021, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/27100.

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