IN 1942, women from Terrigal Surf Life Saving Club patrolled the beach while the regular lifesavers were away at war.
These ladies became Australia’s first all-female lifesaving patrol, making sure no lives were lost at Terrigal Beach on the Central Coast from 1942-1945, despite women not being allowed to be lifeguards until 1980.
In November, they finally received the recognition they deserved – their Bronze Medallions.
Surf Life Saving Australia rolled out the red carpet for the ladies and their families at a ceremony attended by Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove.
Six of the original 35 lifeguards – Tricia Berry, Joan Fogarty, Dora Hattley, Muriel Ogden, June Raynard and Norma Lawrence – attended the event, while Lois Cambourn watched in Queensland via a live feed. The seven women, now in their nineties, are the only members still living, and received the awards in their maiden names.
* Video footage courtesy of Cinesound Movietone Productions and is not to be reproduced without their express permission.
Back in the 1940s they bucked convention and authority to patrol the beach. They had no uniforms, so made their own with whatever materials they could – including their grandmothers’ tablecloths and a found parachute.
Some uniforms had to be retired to land-only events when it was discovered they turned transparent when wet!
In March 1943, the women-on-patrol ran half a mile on the sand, used the rescue reel to pull an unconscious man from the water and performed CPR until the ambulance arrived, saving his life.
They were trained by Harry Vickery, one of the original lifesavers who was unable to enlist because he was working in a protected industry. Harry was posthumously awarded a Parliamentary Medal for his role in training the women.
Their incredible story has touched many, including the Queen, who sent a message commending the ladies for their services to the community.
Norma, 92, still couldn’t quite believe she was receiving her medallion after all these years. “It’s being recognised in your street by your neighbours that counts,” she said.
She described her patrol work as “all very serious, but we had fun!”.
The presentation may have never happened if it wasn’t for Cathy Cole, a club member who delved into the club’s
history for its centenary. She took it upon herself to track down the women, and was recognised for this during the ceremony with a nomination for the Central Coast Community Volunteer of the Year award.
The club is still looking for the families of Bessy Campbell, Olive “Dinkie” Campbell and Dot Crick. Anyone with information can email Cathy at firstname.lastname@example.org