Sharing Stories of Service: Major Dorathea Jane Skov
After the Second World War, Major Dorathea Jane Skov founded the Ex-Service Women’s Association of Queensland to help provide ongoing support and welfare for ex-servicewomen.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, there was a need to free up men from other military duties and send them into more forward areas. Sir Percy Spender, Australia’s Minister for the Army considered women an underutilised resource in the war effort and approved the formation of the Australian Army Women’s Service in August 1941, which later became the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS).
Prior to the creation of the AWAS, women had only been accepted into the Army’s medical service areas. Between September 1941 and August 1945, over 24,000 women enlisted as volunteers in the AWAS. Ranging between the ages of 18 and 45, servicewomen were initially needed to work as clerks, typists, cooks and drivers.
Skov volunteered for the AWAS in 1941 after spotting an advertisement for girls interested in becoming army officers. She trained at the Officer’s School and was appointed Assistant Commandant Northern Command.
The AWAS served beyond its original posting at Headquarters and Base Installations and, after further specialist training, units were posted to almost every army service.
3,618 members served with the Royal Australian Artillery: some manning fixed defences in Hobart, Cairns and Perth and a further 3,600 proving themselves in the Australian Corps of Signals.
Drivers found themselves behind the wheel of all sorts of vehicles, from ambulances, trucks (of up to three tons), floating jeeps and Bren Gun Carriers.
Another AWAS group was attached to the experimental chemical warfare unit in Queensland.
In 1945, special approval was given for a contingent of up to 500 AWAS volunteers to serve outside Australia. These members were posted to HQ 1st Australian Army and sailed to New Guinea.
The AWAS disbanded in 1947. Later, Skov became the Queensland representative on the Sybil Irving Memorial Fund Committee.
Major Jane Skov’s military career is featured in the World War Two Gallery at Anzac Square.
This year we will be featuring 15 stories of service personnel from WWI to present. We encourage you to share your stories of service with us. To learn more about this campaign and how you can contribute, visit our website.