Today marks the 70th anniversary of the War Widows’ Guild of Australia.
A powerful and influential voice for war widows for over seven decades the Guild was established to lobby for, and advance the interests of, women whose lives have been forever changed by war.
“The work the War Widows’ Guild has done over the past 70 years to provide companionship, counselling and support to the widows of our war dead is remarkable,” Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Mr Robert said recently.
The Guild was founded in 1945 by the late Mrs Jessie Mary Vasey CBE, OBE. Her husband, General George Alan Vasey, an army officer, commanded Australian forces in Greece and New Guinea during World War II. While on leave in 1945 he called on the widow of one of his men and was appalled at her living conditions.
It was Major-General Vasey's wish that after he returned from the battlefields he, with the help of his wife, would look after the families of the men who were killed while serving with him.
On 5 March 1945, however, Major-General Vasey was killed in an aircraft accident just six months before World War II ended.
The seeds of caring had been sown before Mrs Vasey’s own loss, and she went on to create an organisation dedicated to the service of Australian war widows.
Through Mrs Vasey's leadership, Guilds were formed in all States during 1946-1947 plus the Australian Capital Territory in 1966. All were united in a National Guild over which Mrs Vasey presided until her death in 1966.