Rest and Recreation
A major component of military service is rest. Most of the tasks at Rathmines involved either a high stress position that required a high level of training and concentration, or a less intellectually sophisticated position but one that required serious physical input and meeting the needs of massive numbers of people. Therefore, no matter the job being done, personnel required rest and recreation to keep them working at their peak efficiency.
Rathmines is significant as it had a number of features that allowed for a new and interesting range of activities for personnel to engage in. Access to the lake itself opened up an array of options, as did the close proximity to Toronto town. Likewise, with the WAAAF personnel living on the base, the possibility of mixed gender events such as dances and even a beauty contest, became possible. Likewise, as many married officers lived off the base, they were able to bring their spouses onto the base for various recreational events. Finally, access to the planes allowed some personnel to experience events in Sydney and other major cities as they had a viable mode of transport to get there.
Of course, the military have always provided rest and recreation options for their soldiers and many of these more traditional forms of activity were evident in sporting competitions, Christian groups and military bands. This combined with mostly palatable food made up a varied and enjoyable collection of activities that Rathmines personnel could partake in during the years of World War II.
One of the highlights of my stay at Rathmines was during "Victory Marches" in Sydney. While the march was in progress, six or eight Catalinas would fly down from the lake and fly over the city at a very low altitude, circling the parade. I always organised myself as a passenger.
I recall [two]…great mates, who went on leave at every opportunity. One night, after imbibing rather freely as usual, they arrived at the Kilaben Bay jetty to catch the launch back to the Base [and one] … decided that the launch was already there and stepped into the lake wearing his great coat!
RAAF personnel on leave went to Toronto, Newcastle, Gosford and other nearby towns – Sydney was also a popular venue – returning to Awaba Rail Station. There was a Sports Oval and Tennis Courts. I was a member of the Rathmines Tennis Team and I recall going to Cessnock to play against George Ryder’s team there.
I remember attending a concert put on by members of the Base. The WAAAF Chorus Line were quite good and their costumes were very colourful. The RAAF Officers put on a skit and their costumes were unbelievable. Then there was a skit on Cinderella with the RAAF Officers taking the female parts and WAAAF taking the male parts.
[Discussing the movement of the WAAAF personnel when they first arrived at Rathmines] "… the girls were moved to the huts on the other side of the Airmen’s Mess near the water. (Skinny dipping at midnight was not unheard of) … The advent of the WAAAF’s added interest to the Wednesday night dances. Athletic and swimming carnivals were held and greatly enjoyed by all."
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