Jean Salisbury (1922-2014)
Jean Salisbury was appointed in 1942 as one of two Stenographer Secretaries to Frederick Shedden, the Head of War Cabinet Secretariat. She worked in the Secretariat until early 1945. Born in 1922 in Melbourne, she died in Canberra in 2014.
Interview with Jean Salisbury part 1
J Armitage: This is an interview with Mrs Jean Salisbury who worked as a stenographer in the War Cabinet Secretariat from early 1942 to 1945. In December 1942 she was appointed Personal Stenographer to Mr Frederick Shedden, later Sir Frederick, Secretary of the Department of Defence, who had oversight of the War Cabinet Secretariat. Jean will be speaking with me, Joan Armitage, for the Oral History Program conducted by the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. Jean, on behalf of the director of the Museum, I’d like to thank you for agreeing to participate in the program.
Do you understand that the Commonwealth owns copyright in the interview material but disclosure will be subject to any disclosure restrictions you impose in completing the Rights Agreement?
J Salisbury: Yes I understand that.
J Armitage: This being so, may we have your permission to make a transcript or a summary of this recording should we decide to make one?
J Salisbury: Yes that’s okay.
J Armitage: Thank you. This interview is taking place today on the 6th of March 2014 at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, Canberra. Jean, can we begin with when and where you were born?
J Salisbury: Yes, I was born on the 5th of January 1922, and I was born in South Melbourne.
J Armitage: Okay, what was your family background?
J Salisbury: My father was a public servant, later on, not as early as that but later on in his life he became the Assistant Secretary to the Department of Air, and then my mother did home duties.
J Armitage: Do you have any brothers and sisters?
J Salisbury: Yes, I had one sister, Nance.
J Armitage: Okay, was older or younger than you?
J Salisbury: Older than I am.
J Armitage: Okay, so you were the younger of the two?
J Salisbury: Yes.
J Armitage: Yep. Where did you — what level of formal education did you attain?
J Salisbury: Well I attended Coburg High School which was a selective high school, and you had to pass an examination to get into that school, and I went from — called different things in those days — the seven, eight, nine and ten, year ten — was the top class that I was in; it was a very, very good school, it was tremendous.
J Armitage: What made you decide to go there?
J Salisbury: I think it was my father’s decision; I lived in Preston and I could’ve gone to the girls’ high school but it wasn’t as — didn’t take as many subjects as he thought I would be — I would find useful, and so I went over to Coburg High and a number of my friends did too.
J Armitage: So what qualifications did you leave school with?
J Salisbury: I had a Leaving Certificate — not Leaving, Intermediate Certificate — and yeah, that’s near enough.
J Armitage: So when you left school, what were your first jobs?
J Salisbury: I’d just like to mention how that when I was at Coburg High School I was top of the class in each year, I have books at home to prove it [laughs].
J Armitage: Oh well they’re rather nice things for your family to have.
J Salisbury: They are nice, I’m very pleased with them. What was that next question?
J Armitage: Well, given that you were top of the school, you obviously could choose what jobs you had when you left, so what were the jobs?
J Salisbury: Well first of all I went to business college called Dacomb Business College because I’d done Dacomb Shorthand, and then I was there for about three or four months and then I applied for a job as a stenographer at a firm called Fitzgerald & Thompson; they were chartered accountants and they lived in Chancery Lane in Melbourne.
J Armitage: What — just interested — what’s the difference between Pitman Shorthand and Dacomb Shorthand?
J Salisbury: It’s entirely different; Pitman was dreamed up by the Pitman name, and Dacomb Shorthand was puzzled out I suppose you could call it, by the Dacomb sisters, there were two of them.
J Armitage: Ah right, so they were sisters?
J Salisbury: Yes, I’ve got a — somewhere at home there’s a textbook on it.
J Armitage: How interesting; I hadn’t ever heard of Dacomb.
J Salisbury: Haven’t you?
J Armitage: No, no, no.
J Salisbury: No? Well they had their own college in the cities, in Melbourne.
J Armitage: So it was — it seemed to be held in quite high regard then if you went into a firm of chartered accountants as soon as you left?
J Salisbury: Oh it was quite acceptable, yes, yeah. It was — my sister did Pitman actually — but I think Dacomb was a bit easier to learn than Pitman, and I never had any trouble using it and being able to read it, you know, after I’d taken down…
J Armitage: How many words a minute?
J Salisbury: One hundred and twenty.
J Armitage: That’s pretty good.
J Salisbury: Actually it was more than that; when I was at my top it was 140, yeah.
J Armitage: That’s excellent, words a minute.
J Salisbury: Yeah, I quite like shorthand, and I can still do it.
J Armitage: Oh do you do it? When you’ve been doing your books, have you…?
J Armitage: Just when I want to take something down quickly on the phone or something I’ll break into shorthand.
J Armitage: All right, so it’s still there. So how long did you stay with the chartered accountants?
J Salisbury: [hesitates]
J Armitage: If you can’t remember that’s fine, you know.
J Salisbury: No, I really can. Yeah so I was there for the best part of a year, from April to December, that’s right, of 1938, and then I sat for the Commonwealth Typists Exam which gave me entry to Commonwealth public service, which I’m glad to say I passed that!
J Armitage: So what made you decide to join the…?
J Salisbury: Once again, it was probably my father [laughs].
J Armitage: Oh right [laughs].
J Salisbury: He was a public servant himself and I think he really — he really thought it was — well, in two ways — it was a more — well it paid better I think, and there was more chance for promotion, yeah.
J Armitage: So you had a career path in it? Yep, rather than just working in a small firm?
J Salisbury: Yeah that’s right.
J Armitage: So why did you choose to join the Department of Defence?
J Salisbury: My father was connected with it; that probably had something to do with it.
J Armitage: Yes, with it being in the Department of Air, yes.
J Salisbury: Yes, yeah, he was — he was in defence from — oh, goodness me, 1910 I think — and when the Department of Air was formed in 1921, well he moved over to that.
J Armitage: Okay.
J Salisbury: But it was all pretty well defence you know, yeah.
J Armitage: Where was the department located?
J Salisbury: Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, St Kilda Road; a nice, dark bluestone building, and it’s nice.
J Armitage: You’ve still got an affection for it by the sound of it.
J Salisbury: I have; when I go past it on the tram, which is not very often these days, I say, ‘Ah, there’s the office.’
J Armitage: There it is.
J Armitage: What were your jobs after you joined the Department of Defence?
J Salisbury: Well for a very short time I was in the staff section; they put everybody into the staff section for a start, and then I was moved to work for the Defence Committee. Now the Defence Committee consisted of the three chiefs of staff and the secretary of the department — Sir Frederick wasn’t knighted then but he was later on — and I worked for the Defence Committee for how long? Oh dear, it must have been about three years I think…
J Armitage: Right.
J Salisbury: Two years perhaps, and…
J Armitage: Because you joined the public service when? In 1939 would it be…?
J Salisbury: Thirty-nine, in January, yes. I did the exam in late ’38, and was appointed almost immediately to the defence department, yeah, yeah.
J Armitage: What did the Defence Council do?
J Salisbury: What?
J Armitage: What did the Defence Council do?
J Salisbury: Defence Council?
J Armitage: Sorry, the one you were working for when you first joined? The Defence Committee?
J Salisbury: I don’t like the word Defence ‘Council’.
J Armitage: Defence Committee.
J Salisbury: Defence Committee? Well they had meetings of the three chiefs of staff, and they had minutes to be typed up and agenda before that, and it was quite a — because they were the three chiefs of staff they had a lot of influence; they were Chief of the Air staff and Chief of the Naval Staff and the Chief of the General Staff they called it, and they wrote a lot of important minutes.
J Armitage: So your job there was to do what?
J Salisbury: Take shorthand from the secretary of the Defence Committee who was called Vincent Quealy, who was great, a nice man to work for, and then he had staff of about four — four young men I’d say, who were — yeah I think they were all graduate clerks, and they attended to all the work to do it.
J Armitage: So you were really privy to secrets?
J Salisbury: To what was going on, yeah, I was.
J Armitage: Did you have to have any security check or anything?
J Salisbury: Yes, yeah we did, yeah.
J Armitage: So what was it? What did you have to go through?
J Salisbury: What did I do? Oh they — because my father was Secretary to the Department of Air that was a sort of kick off you might say, because… [laughs] But I was asked various questions for this, this was actually the department who was called Colonel Archie Wilson, and he interviewed me and said, ‘Don’t say anything about what happens in this office to any other living soul.’ [laughs] Right, okay.
J Armitage: Not even your father? [laughs]
J Salisbury: He did say that, actually…
J Armitage: Did he?
J Salisbury: He said, ‘Not even your own family,’ yes. And so I took that very much to heart.
J Armitage: Yes, yes.
J Salisbury: Didn’t say a word to anyone.
J Armitage: Well they were dark times, weren’t they?
J Salisbury: Yes, yeah.
J Armitage: So when you — when did you — or why did you apply for the position of stenographer to the Secretary of the Department of Defence in late 1942?
J Salisbury: It was advertised in the Commonwealth Gazette, and what happened? I remember a person called something Stuart, what was his name? Doesn’t matter very much; he was a member of the department — the staff section, that’s right — and he came up to me and he said, ‘We want an application from you for this job.’ Righto.
J Salisbury: So I applied for the job and I was interviewed by Sir Frederick and I gained the position, so I was pleased with that.
J Armitage: So you were head hunted, in other words?
J Salisbury: Yeah I was really, yeah.
J Armitage: Well I suppose you’d had something to do with him through the previous committee work?
J Salisbury: That’s right, yes, exactly.
J Armitage: So he knew…
J Salisbury: He knew who I was, yeah.
J Armitage: And how good you were.
J Salisbury: [laughs] Well, hopefully!
J Armitage: Yes, you would have been that good to have been asked to apply for the job. So what did you — when you were working for Sir Frederick, what did your role involve? What did you do? What sorts of things?
J Salisbury: When I was working for Sir Frederick?
J Armitage: Yes, as…
J Salisbury: Well it was mostly shorthand in the way of letters to people, might have been to the Chief of General Staff or someone like that, and I’d take it down in shorthand and type it back, and that was an interesting job actually, I liked that.
J Armitage: So do you have any sort of, particular letters or particular things that stand out?
J Salisbury: No, not really, I didn’t — I didn’t try to remember all that work.
J Armitage: No, I guess a lot of it would have been reasonably routine as well as important things.
J Salisbury: Oh, not very routine, no, not in that job, no.
J Armitage: Okay. So did your role change over time?
J Salisbury: No, not really, no.
J Armitage: So you just worked very closely with Sir Frederick?
J Salisbury: Yes, and there was another girl called Jean Duncan who was my colleague, and we were both Class 2 typists, which was better than a Class 1, and we were both made class 2 typists, and I think — looking back — I think there were only short term appointments, temporary appointments almost, because I think the end of the war they didn’t want to have a whole lot of people who were substantially Class 2s and they’d revert them to a Class 1, you know…
J Armitage: Oh right, okay so you were acting Class 2?
J Salisbury: I was acting, but we were getting paid, so that was all right.
J Armitage: That’s right.
J Salisbury: I remember the rise in salary, it was lovely [laughs].
J Armitage: Always helps doesn’t it? How many hours did you work a day or a week or…?
J Salisbury: Mostly nine ‘til six, and we — if the secretary was in a meeting we never went home until he came out of it because he might have had something to do; Jean Duncan and I, we just — there was usually something for us to do, you know, some copying or something — and we’d just fill in the time and wait til he came out.
J Armitage: Did that happen very often, that you were there late at night or…?
J Salisbury: Well we were quite often there after dinner as well; we’d go into town into the city of Melbourne for dinner and then come back to the Victoria Barracks and we’d then be at work for as long as we were needed.
J Armitage: What was it like, sort of, going out in wartime Melbourne for a meal, say in the evening?
J Salisbury: Melbourne was pretty good I thought; we went to town on the tram for dinner and then back in the tram, and it was all — it was pretty civilised, yeah.
J Armitage: Right, so it wasn’t anything that you felt sort of, apprehensive about?
J Salisbury: Anxious about? No, we did have trips to Sydney and Brisbane, and Brisbane was full of American soldiers; I said, ‘Don’t hang about.’
J Salisbury: So we didn’t.
J Armitage: We’ll talk a bit more about your trips because I think there’s lots of really interesting things that you can tell us about the times and what you did on those trips, but how many people were in the Secretariat at the time?
J Salisbury: Jean Duncan and I were the typists, there were stenographers, and then the secretary’s personal assistant was Sam Landau who was great, who was a very good worker, and he was really in charge of the secretary staff, and there were a couple of girls there who we called ‘librarians’, they were people who looked up things, you know, that were needed, and I can remember — I don’t know if you want their names do you? — Jane Price was one.
J Armitage: That’d be good if we can have their names, yes.
J Salisbury: Jane Price and Rosie Fraser, that’s right, yeah, and there was Nancy Turner — that’s right, there was another one, three of them — and they were all right, they were, yeah, good workers.
J Armitage: So they researched, did they? For the…
J Salisbury: Yeah they were researchers really, yes, yeah.
J Armitage: What sort of topics would they be researching?
J Salisbury: Ah…
J Armitage: That’s alright. It wasn’t your work, I was just interested.
J Salisbury: No, although sometimes we did a bit of typing for them. No, I can’t really remember that, no.
J Armitage: That’s alright, no, no. So who else was in the — how many people altogether, and then we can sort of — roughly?
J Salisbury: The secretary and Sam and his three girls, the librarians and June and me, yeah.
J Armitage: Oh that was the Secretariat?
J Salisbury: Yeah.
J Armitage: Okay, I thought there might have been some other people, but obviously I…
J Salisbury: Ah well, there were, yeah there were really; there were two men who were — they were — well at the time they were note takers at the War Cabinet meetings, but later on they both became assistant secretaries, they were, you know, good high level people. One was Vincent Quealy and the other one was Bert Port, and they had a staff too; they had about — I can think of two girls’ names that worked for them.
J Armitage: So you had — Sir Frederick that had the support people in yourself and the other stenographer, plus the researchers and Sam, and then also involved were these two other people?
J Salisbury: Yeah.
J Armitage: Who — as note takers. So did you ever — was it your responsibility to type up their notes or…?
J Salisbury: Yes, yeah, well they might — for instance, they might have wrote the — written, sorry — written the minutes which would have to be approved by the secretary before they were finalised.
J Armitage: How often did the War Council meet?
J Salisbury: Oh, ‘Cabinet’ please.
J Armitage: Cabinet, sorry, yes.
J Salisbury: I don’t like the word War ‘Council’, that’s…
J Armitage: Okay, War Cabinet, yes.
J Salisbury: That’s nothing. There was a similar body called the Advisory War Council which consisted of — I’ve got a piece of paper at home that shows that, it had four — oh, if I remember rightly — I’ll need to look it up — four members of the War Cabinet and four members of the opposition, because they were all elected people, you know, and they represented the country, and so that was how they ran it, so that the Advisory War Council knew what was going on as well as the people who were in the War Cabinet.
J Armitage: The War Cabinet.
J Salisbury: Yeah.
J Armitage: But was the principal work with the War Cabinet then, rather than the Advisory…?
J Salisbury: Yeah it was really, yes.
J Armitage: Or both? Did the Secretariat support both?
J Salisbury: Yeah, yeah, she did.
J Armitage: So apart from minute-taking and well note taking and writing the minutes, was there other work that the Secretariat, the War Cabinet Secretariat did…?
J Salisbury: Oh there’d be — there were a lot of letters, letters to, as I said, the Chief of General Staff or someone of importance like that, and other people, Essington Lewis’s name crops up, he was in charge of — no, I’ve forgotten.
J Armitage: That’s all right.
J Salisbury: But you know, there were — that was quite an important part of the work.
J Armitage: Who set the agendas for the War Cabinet?
J Salisbury: Well it could have been the service departments if it was a naval matter, it would have been the Department of the Navy, and that’d come in, and all the army, all the air force, all supply, that was the fourth one, and then if they were too long they were summarised by the assistant secretary to the department, because some of them were far too long for people to grasp it all in a quick reading, and so that was that. Actually the man I married, Alan Salisbury, he was doing some of that work, yeah.
J Armitage: So yes, that was — that was in 1945 wasn’t it, when you married him, yes, yes at the end of the war. J Salisbury: Yeah, that’s right, May it was, which was not quite the end of the war, nearly was.
J Armitage: Nearly, yes. Did you — how did they move papers between the War Cabinet Secretariat and the War Cabinet, or the Advisory War Council?
J Salisbury: What was the beginning of that?
J Armitage: How did they move the papers? Move, you know, agenda items…
J Salisbury: Shift them?
J Armitage: Yes, yes.
J Salisbury: Actually, my husband did it, Alan Salisbury did quite a lot of that.
J Armitage: Oh really?
J Salisbury: Yes, he’d take sealed envelopes to — and he’d deliver them himself to the — into the hand of the person who — like the chief of the general staff, because they were either secret or top secret, and they had to be safe handed, you know, not just any old messenger doing it.
J Armitage: So did the War Cabinet meet in Melbourne mainly? Or did it…?
J Salisbury: Well I made 25 trips to Canberra.
J Armitage: Right, we’ll get onto that, yes! [laughs]
J Salisbury: That was for meetings of the War Cabinet and Advisory War Council, and it was — I enjoyed that, I thought it was very interesting you see. We came up there, we stayed at East Block, at least we worked at East Block, and stayed at Brassey House mostly.
J Armitage: So that was when Sir Frederick came up for the War Cabinet meetings?
J Salisbury: Yeah, the War Cabinet meetings here.
J Armitage: Yes, 25 of them?
J Salisbury: …in Canberra though, yeah [laughs].
J Armitage: So — and where were those meetings held? Where were the War Cabinet meetings…?
J Salisbury: They were held, yeah, in what they called the War Cabinet Room at Old Parliament House, yeah.
J Armitage: Right, yes, right okay. Did you ever come over with Sir Frederick to — for any meetings?
J Salisbury: I wasn’t present at the meetings, no, no, no. The men who did the note taking were senior men, they were 40, aged 40; I was 21.
J Armitage: So you were in East Block waiting for them to come back and then to do — to type up notes and minutes?
J Salisbury: That’s right.
J Armitage: And did you work late when you were here or…?
J Salisbury: Yes we did, quite often, rode our bikes back to Brassey afterwards.
J Armitage: Oh you were staying at Brassey? Okay.
J Salisbury: And yes, sometimes we did work — I remember one week we worked four nights one week.
J Armitage: Really?
J Salisbury: It was wartime and — but mostly we didn’t — two nights was about average I think.
J Armitage: So what was your length of stay here? It varied, did it? From a couple of nights to…?
J Salisbury: It varied, for instance, sometimes we stayed for the whole of the parliamentary session; it might be six weeks because they had a lot of meetings, all the houses in session, suited them I suppose, and — but other times we came up just for a week or it might even have been for three days because they were having a meeting here.
J Armitage: How did you travel up?
J Salisbury: Train.
J Armitage: By train?
J Salisbury: Train, yeah. Nice, I like the trains, Spirit of Progress was great [laughs]. Actually the sleepers were good too.
J Armitage: So you sometimes did — did you come up overnight?
J Salisbury: Yes, we left the office at half past six at night and made a rush trip to the Spencer Street to get the Spirit of Progress, and then we arrived at Albury at about 10:20 and then got into the sleeper, and then went to bed. And we arrived at about nine o’clock the next morning and a car took us, met us, took us to — we took our bags to Brassey and then went to the office.
J Armitage: So you went straight to the office?
J Salisbury: Yeah.
J Armitage: So the station you came into was Canberra Station?
J Salisbury: Yeah, Canberra Station, yeah, yeah.
J Armitage: Yes, yep, yep. Goodness, 25 times!
J Salisbury: It was a busy time. It was a busy time and it was also very interesting, I mean I know there was a war on, but you know, that was awful, I mean, I knew boys who were — I knew eight boys who got killed in World War II, but nevertheless it was very interesting from an office point of view.
J Armitage: Tell us more about that.
J Salisbury: Well it was really the — well, typing up of the various — well information on, you know, what they — well we didn’t do anything on casualties or anything like that, no. We did things like manpower commitments and — gosh, I should remember this better…
J Armitage: It’s a long time ago [laughs].
J Salisbury: It really — I can remember we had a lot to do.
J Armitage: Yes, quite obviously if you were working four nights in a row sometimes.
J Salisbury: Yes, yeah.
J Armitage: Well every so often the lights go out, turn them on. Okay. So what was the atmosphere in Canberra like at the time?
J Salisbury: It was all right. There was not much time to do anything except work. We brought our bikes up on the train.
J Armitage: Oh really, all the time? Each time you came?
J Salisbury: [murmur of agreement].
J Armitage: A nice bike.
J Armitage: A Turner.
J Salisbury: Oh really, that was a locally made Melbourne bike?
J Armitage: No I bought it in Melbourne and — it was hard to get a bike, everything was short, you know, short supply, but it was quite a useful thing because we rode our bikes to work all the time and put them at the side of East Block, and yeah, it was good.
J Armitage: Did you go into the city very much, the city centre?
J Salisbury: Not a great deal, a little bit.
J Armitage: Was food fairly plentiful here, or in Melbourne? Was food fairly plentiful?
J Salisbury: Yeah food was all right, yeah, yeah; well we stopped at Brassey for — went home for lunch, you know, we sort of had three proper meals a day.
J Armitage: Okay.
J Salisbury: So we did — we did very well with eating.
J Armitage: Well you were working hard.
J Armitage: So when you were travelling, who made the travel arrangements? Was that…?
J Salisbury: Oh Sam Landau did that, yeah.
J Armitage: Okay.
J Salisbury: He always made sure that we all had seats and all that, yeah.
J Armitage: And all the papers you carried with you, obviously?
J Salisbury: Yeah, Alan Salisbury used to do a lot of that.
J Armitage: Right.
J Salisbury: And I could probably say at this stage I was falling in love with Alan.
J Armitage: Now which year was that? Forty three or ’44 or…?
J Salisbury: Well yeah…
J Armitage: About that?
J Salisbury: We were married in ’45, we didn’t get — we were engaged to be married in ’43 actually.
J Armitage: Oh right, okay.
J Salisbury: But I really felt that my duty was at the office, and the rector — not the rector, the secretary of the department — had asked me to stay til the end of the war and I thought, ‘Well I want a commitment here.’ [laughs] And I really — I liked the work and so we weren’t married until May ’45.
J Armitage: So really, you put off your marriage?
J Salisbury: Yeah we did really, yeah, yeah.
J Armitage: To continue your work.
J Salisbury: Yes, well it was — it suited everybody; you couldn’t buy a house in Melbourne anyway, and you know, you really — getting accommodation for permanent habitation was very bad in Melbourne, awful, and in the finish we found a room up the top of an old house which we moved into after we were married, and that was ’45, yeah, and then a little bit later we got a better flat, and then later on bought a house; 1951, 1950 before we bought a house.
J Armitage: Gosh.
J Salisbury: Yeah.
J Armitage: Accommodation was so difficult?
J Salisbury: It was terrible, yeah. Nobody had had built anything since 1942 and you just, you know, people would queue up for an empty room somewhere; I remember doing a bit of that too.
J Armitage: Really?
J Salisbury: Yeah.
J Armitage: So did you miss out on a few before you finally got your little flat? Did you miss out on a few before you got your little flat?
J Salisbury: Yes I did, yeah, yeah.
J Armitage: When you — you said you went to travel to Sydney and to Brisbane as well as your 25 trips to Canberra…
J Salisbury: That’s right.
J Salisbury: Sydney — why did you go to Sydney?
J Salisbury: There were meetings there, war meetings. Now let’s see, what did we do there? I can remember where I stayed, it was up Kings Cross…
J Salisbury: Maybe?
J Armitage: It was in a respectable boarding house.
J Salisbury: And just trying to think…
J Armitage: That’s all right.
J Salisbury: Where — oh I know — Martin Place — on the Corner of Martin Place and — I should remember that, I can see it, you know? There was Commonwealth offices on the corner of Martin Place and another street I remember, it was right opposite the post office, you know Sydney Post Office?
J Armitage: Yes, yes.
J Salisbury: Yeah, and it was on the hilly side of that, and that’s where we went to work during the day, but we stopped over at the Cross.
J Armitage: Did you have your bicycles with you that time?
J Salisbury: No, no, no bikes in Sydney, no.
J Armitage: So how did you travel when you were going from the Commonwealth offices to near Kings Cross, how did you travel?
J Salisbury: Oh then — it was a tram.
J Armitage: Oh really?
J Salisbury: There was a tram in Sydney — it went up Pitt Street I think — but that didn’t — I think that was discontinued in 1961; I think I might remember that correctly.
J Armitage: So the two of you always travelled together did you? The two stenographers?
J Salisbury: Pretty well, yeah, we were — there was always a girl ready to take whatever the secretary wanted, you know.
J Armitage: And you travelled from Melbourne to Sydney by train as you did…?
J Salisbury: Yeah, train.
J Armitage: Always travelled by train?
J Salisbury: Yeah.
J Armitage: Anything — what was the atmosphere like in Sydney at that time?
J Salisbury: Oh I don’t remember feeling anxious. I thought — I thought — we were careful what we did, I mean we didn’t loiter around but — and we had some men with us; my husband was one and Sam Landau was another, and we were — I thought we were carefully looked after, you know, I wasn’t concerned.
Interview with Jean Salisbury part 2
J Armitage: What were the most significant occasions? The most significant occasions when you were travelling? What stands out? Is there something that actually stands out for you as you think about it, reflect on it?
J Salisbury: Yeah, no nothing that stands out very much, I think we were — we were very conscious of the fact there was a war on; you really — you couldn’t get it out of your mind at all and for that reason everybody did their best, they really did, it was a very — a very concentrated effort from everyone. Nobody said, ‘I’m not going to work tonight,’ if you were told, you know, so they’d say, ‘Canberra tomorrow night?’ they’d say, ‘Righto.’ You didn’t argue and if you had something on well it was just too bad you know?
J Armitage: Yeah.
J Salisbury: But there were one or two girls who wouldn’t take the jobs that took them to Canberra because they didn’t want to be travelling.
J Armitage: Really?
J Salisbury: They didn’t want to be missing out on their boyfriends or something, who some of them were soldiers, and I really didn’t agree with that.
J Armitage: So, but most people, because it was wartime and not easy times then people really worked…
J Salisbury: Yes, it was, you know, well I knew, I knew men who were at the war, and as I said I lost eight of them, and well, they were killed in action, and you really — you’re very, very conscious of war all the time. I was talking to my daughter about this once and she said, ‘Were people who were not in the defence department so conscious of the war?’ And I said, ‘I think perhaps the defence department was far more aware of what was going on than the general public.’ Yeah I believe that.
J Armitage: You said also that you went to Brisbane. You went to Brisbane; how often did you go to Brisbane?
J Salisbury: Oh only, say the once or twice. What happened? MacArthur was there, that’s right.
J Armitage: Oh really?
J Salisbury: Yeah, after he left — he was in Canberra when he first came in March ’42, he was living in Canberra. For a little while he was at Menzies Hotel in Melbourne, and then he came up here, and then he went to Sydney and Brisbane, and my boss wanted to have a talk, you know, a conversation with him and so he took us to Brisbane with him, yeah. We went up in the train for that too. I think I only went to Brisbane either once or twice, I really just can’t quite remember that. I remember where we worked in Edward Street and Queen Street; it was the Commonwealth offices there.
J Armitage: So did you work on the train or did you…?
J Salisbury: A little bit, not a great deal. I took some shorthand once in the train, but I didn’t type it until I got to a typewriter. But no, we didn’t really work on the train, no.
J Armitage: Did you see General MacArthur?
J Salisbury: Yes I saw him in Melbourne. Now, I was looking out a window in Victoria Barracks and I saw him walking up the path, and he had a lot of medals on [laughs].
J Armitage: Did you ever meet him face to face?
J Salisbury: No.
J Armitage: No? No.
J Salisbury: It was only a journey.
J Armitage: Were there any reflections from any of the Secretariat about him?
J Salisbury: No, not really, I don’t think they talked about it [laughs].
J Armitage: Right okay, okay, and that was all part of being wartime? Yes, yes. What was the atmosphere like in Brisbane? Because…
J Salisbury: There were a lot of American soldiers in Brisbane, just streets full of them but — now this was — my sister’s daughter was born this time, the 1st of June, 1943, yeah, it was just about that time, yeah, and — well there were a lot of soldiers walking about the streets.
J Armitage: And again, you basically were there to — you were there to do the shorthand and to do the typing?
J Salisbury: Yeah, yeah, yes, anything that needed to be typed, so sometimes after a meeting the secretary would call us or call me into take shorthand of the minutes or something like that.
J Armitage: So you really were privy to a lot of secret…?
J Salisbury: Oh yeah, yeah we were [laughs], yes. We had — I don’t know if you’ve ever seen them, I should have brought a sample — but there was a stamp, it said, ‘Secret’ or ‘Top secret’ you know, and they were — all the papers were marked, you know, to suit. My husband did a lot of that; he made sure that the right papers were marked correctly [laughs]. He wasn’t long — talking about my husband — he wasn’t my husband then, we weren’t even engaged but… [laughs]
J Armitage: But, as you said, you did have an eye for him [laughs].
J Salisbury: I really believe he had an eye for me too [laughs].
J Armitage: Mutual, it was mutual.
J Salisbury: He was great; Alan is you know, good — a good worker.
J Armitage: So are there any incidents in any of the cities that sort of stand out in your mind that you reflect on?
J Salisbury: No, I don’t think so. They were a good crew; I can remember, you know, the people who were working for the secretary were all very conscious of the fact there was a war on, and you never lost that, you know, you — I mean it’s a bit silly I suppose to say, ‘We’re going to win this war if it kills us!’ [laughs]
J Armitage: So that was something that you all were very conscious of saying or thinking?
J Salisbury: Yes. I was, and I think they all were, yeah. But they were good workers, all the people that were working for the secretary were very, you know, well as I said, they never said, ‘I’m going out tonight, I’m not going to come back.’ You didn’t say that, you just didn’t. I remember one — it was a rehearsal, I was in the Melbourne Philharmonic and it was a rehearsal with Sir — what’s his name? — I’ve forgotten now, an Englishman — and I had to miss a rehearsal that this particular man was conducting and I thought, ‘Bother it!’ [laughs]
J Armitage: What did you play? What instrument?
J Salisbury: Oh I just came to work, didn’t say anything.
J Armitage: But what instrument did you play in the orchestra?
J Salisbury: No, I wasn’t an instrumentalist, I was a singer.
J Armitage: Oh you were a singer? Okay.
J Salisbury: Yeah, yeah, it was great, lovely [laughs].
J Armitage: But you missed this famous conductor?
J Salisbury: Yeah, just for one night; the second night I was there, we had two rehearsals but — Sir Thomas Beecham, that’s right — was great. But I mean, you really, you don’t argue with them, you know, you don’t say, ‘I’m not coming,’ I can tell you.
J Armitage: When you were travelling, what did you do to relax, as a group, you know, or was it all work?
J Salisbury: Well, what do you mean, in the train or…?
J Armitage: Well no, just anything, you know, you were away from home for, as you said, sometimes for six weeks…
J Salisbury: Yeah, yeah.
J Armitage: What did you do to relax?
J Salisbury: Nothing [laughs].
J Armitage: You just worked?
J Salisbury: Well it was mostly work, yeah, it really was. It was not — you don’t — you know, we did drive out to the Cotter once, or ride out on our bikes. It was a bit of a hill coming up too.
J Armitage: There is!
J Salisbury: And the roads weren’t all made then, and we came up a dirt road on the bikes, it was fairly uncomfortable. But we were all good friends, you know, we worked well together and it was very — it was very — I was, you know, very satisfied with the work and with the people.
J Armitage: So the friendships were part of relaxing, yes?
J Salisbury: Yeah, yeah.
J Armitage: They weren’t just people you worked with, you were…
J Salisbury: Oh, no, we were friends, yeah. Jean Duncan was the girl I worked with, and actually I thought I’d tell her about this meeting [laughs]. She lives in Melbourne…
J Armitage: Does she?
J Salisbury: And she’s married Ron — oh well she’s a widow now — but she’s nice, and she was a good worker, great, yeah. Jean Duncan her name was.
J Armitage: Goodness, yes. Were there any low points, low times, hard times, when you worked in the Secretariat?
J Salisbury: When I got fed up you mean? [laughs]
J Armitage: Yeah when you got fed up, yes!
J Salisbury: I was fairly fed up when I missed that rehearsal with Sir Thomas Beecham I must say, very fed up [laughs]. That was probably the worst one! But it was 1914, it was July, and I wasn’t working for the secretary then, but there was a terrible lot of work to do, you know? You really couldn’t say, ‘I’m not coming.’
J Armitage: Well what were the high points or a high point of working in the Secretariat? Something that sticks out in your mind.
J Salisbury: I liked the travelling actually, yeah I — sitting in the Spirit of Progress and having a dinner on the train was really very enjoyable, you could look out the window and you know, have this beautiful roast lamb [laughs]; I thought that was pretty good.
J Armitage: So it balanced out the hard — the long hours? The travel to different places and…
J Salisbury: Yeah, that didn’t seem to worry me, no, no, no.
J Armitage: And what was…
J Salisbury: I was only young, I mean you know, you can stand a fair bit when you’re 21.
J Armitage: You can, can’t you?
J Salisbury: Yes.
J Salisbury: Now I’d probably go to sleep [laughs].
J Armitage: What was Sir Frederick like to work for?
J Salisbury: Oh he was good, he was great, yeah, very nice. He was always sort of pleased with what we did; I will admit we put our best foot forward, but he, you know, he’d always say, ‘Thanks very much for that,’ and yeah, he was really very nice, I couldn’t fault him.
J Armitage: And what was his style of operation? How did he manage people and all of the pressure and…?
J Salisbury: Some people thought he was a little bit — a bit — a bit too quiet, you might almost say, you know, he didn’t chat. Of course he didn’t chat, he had too much to do. But yeah, as far as I was concerned, with Jean Duncan, you know, we got on very well with him, he was — you know, I never stopped to talk about the weather I can tell you! But he’d just say, you know, just yeah, ‘Thank you for your cup of tea.’ [laughs]
J Armitage: Now when you were travelling did you travel actually with him? Physically with him, or was he in another carriage or did you…?
J Salisbury: He was in another compartment, yes. June and I would have been in the same compartment, probably with a couple of other clerks, a couple of clerks, and he was usually in another compartment with Sam I think and — but he might have been discussing matters with Sam I think, yeah, official matters. But no, Sir Fred was good; I had no difficulty with him, he was, you know, you never dreamed of — as I said before — you never dreamed of saying, ‘I can’t work tonight, I’m going out with my boyfriend.’ [laughs] You didn’t.
J Armitage: No, you worked for him.
J Salisbury: You just said, ‘Righto, what time do you want me?’
J Armitage: Yes, yep, yep. Are there any particular times that you remember when working for him when he might have been either anxious or with particular issues happening?
J Salisbury: No I don’t really; he wasn’t — he wasn’t — he was always in control of everything, you know he really — he knew what he was doing, couldn’t fault him.
J Armitage: I understand that you actually — the Archives, the National Archives of Australia — asked you to look at some of his documents?
J Salisbury: Look I couldn’t hear any of that I’m sorry.
J Armitage: I understand that the National Archives of Australia asked you to look at some of his documents and transcribe them; was that the case?
J Salisbury: I’m not sure what you’re referring to there.
J Armitage: Did you write — did you, you know, you were a person who understood his writing…
J Salisbury: Oh yes, oh yeah, yeah, yeah now, I could have brought that book. He used to write — gosh, just a minute and I’ll tell you…
J Armitage: David someone, is it? Anyway, I understood that you did do some transcription?
J Salisbury: Yeah that’s right, he — there were books called War Cabinet notebooks, and these were notes that he made during a War Cabinet meeting and sometimes they had a bit more information than you’d get in the minutes, and I typed that up, yeah. I got — who was it? — one of the departments, it must have been defence I suppose — got it printed up in a book, yeah. I’ve got that at home, I’ve got a copy.
J Armitage: So that would have been interesting, going back through them.
J Salisbury: Oh yeah, yeah it was good, yeah. Yeah well I understand every word he wrote, you know, I was very used to his writing.
J Armitage: Did it bring back any memories when you were doing it?
J Salisbury: Oh yeah.
J Armitage: Tell me.
J Salisbury: I doubt if I can remember without the book, but it was quite a useful thing to do because, well if I hadn’t done it I don’t suppose anybody would’ve.
J Armitage: So it’s a very valuable thing that — because as you say, minutes are minutes, but notes are much more detailed.
J Salisbury: Yes, yeah. If you’d like to look in at any time I’ll show you book.
J Armitage: That’d be good; I’d like that, yes, yep, yep.
J Salisbury: It’s on my shelves.
J Armitage: Did you meet any politicians in the course of your work?
J Salisbury: I’ve got an idea I shook hands with Mr Curtin on day. I was in a compartment here and the secretary and the PM were in the next compartment and I had to see the secretary for something, and he said, ‘Meet my typist,’ you know, and I shook hands with John Curtin, but that’s all it was, we didn’t get into a long conversation.
J Armitage: But were you there to take notes then, of their conversation or what?
J Salisbury: No, no, no, I didn’t do that.
J Armitage: It was just to introduce you?
J Salisbury: Yeah, that’s all, yeah, quite quick. I just remember where he was sitting. I think — I’ve got an idea his wife was there too, I think she was.
J Armitage: Do you remember which year that might be?
J Salisbury: I probably can work it out; Sir Curtin he came in in 1941 he was elected PM, and he died in ’45, so it was sometime between those two. It’d be about ’42 I think, yeah.
J Armitage: Some of the dark times of the war.
J Salisbury: Yes, yeah, it was, yeah.
J Armitage: So you said you married Alan?
J Salisbury: That’s right.
J Salisbury: Good day, that!
J Armitage: In May 1945.
J Salisbury: That’s right, yeah.
J Armitage: And that’s when you finished work with the Secretariat?
J Salisbury: 26th of May, yes. Yes we — you weren’t allowed to be employed as a public servant if you were married so that was the end of that.
J Armitage: That must have been quite a difference, a big change for you?
J Salisbury: It was a big change, yeah it was — I was sort of — I mean, I wanted to get married, there’s no doubt about that, but at the same time I thought, ‘I’m sorry I’m not going to Canberra anymore,’ because I enjoyed it! So I was between the Devil and deep sea really, but anyway, Alan wanted us to be married; I thought, ‘Righto.’ [laughs]
J Armitage: But going back to your work, what was it that you really enjoyed about the work? What was it?
J Salisbury: I don’t know, I liked it all. I don’t think I can think if anything particular, it was a long time ago. Yeah, no, no, it was — the war had a great deal to do with it of course — you know, you really never forgot the war was on, it was in your mind the whole time, and there was some anxiety about the Japanese bombing Singapore, and then coming to Darwin and bombing Darwin, and I thought to myself, ‘Who’s next?’ And we were working in defence in Victoria Barracks, and it was — you just wonder if they’ll just fancy the building, you know? And I didn’t — now I didn’t really let it bother me too much, but it was a fact that the Japanese, they were also coming down the East Coast apparently, although you really didn’t hear much of that, but they were coming down the East Coast, and it was an anxious time, there was no doubt about it.
J Armitage: So when you say they were coming down the East Coast, they were…?
J Salisbury: The East Coast of Australia.
J Armitage: Just what, but with air or…?
J Salisbury: Came into Sydney Harbour.
J Armitage: Yes, yep, with the submarine.
J Salisbury: Yeah, yeah, and I believe they were in the vicinity of Bateman’s Bay, you know, down there somewhere. But it was — you had this feeling that they were getting a bit closer, you know? [laughs]
J Armitage: And you would know too, obviously.
J Salisbury: Yeah we knew more about it than the general public I think, yeah.
J Armitage: What about the decision on the Brisbane line? Do you…?
J Salisbury: Oh yeah, yeah people — well it was — people were making up stories about it I believe. Yeah I remember all the talk about it, and they had a, sort of an imaginary line from Perth across to Brisbane and anything north of that wasn’t too good. But I really — yeah we were a bit anxious about the intrusion of the Japanese coming south.
J Armitage: So you were married in ’45, you got your house in the beginning of the 1950s, and then when and why did you move to Canberra?
J Salisbury: Alan got a shift [laughs].
J Armitage: Right, transfer or something?
J Salisbury: Yeah, the whole department moved, the defence department moved as a body, and there was no alternative, you know, you really — it was Alan’s job and that’s where you went. That didn’t worry me at all. Fifty-nine we came up; in 1957 my mother died, and not long after he came here my father died, so my need to be in Melbourne wasn’t very strong by then and I didn’t mind, I knew what I was coming to because I’d been here during the war, and I thought, ‘This’ll be all right.’ And we moved into a house in half — what do you call it? — a house in Chowne Street, a duplex, and we were there for three and a half weeks, and then we bought the house we are living in now.
J Armitage: And that’s in Campbell, yes?
J Salisbury: It’s in Campbell, yeah. It’s a nice house, it’s beat, and the children — the children aren’t with me now — but they liked it and they still like me being there and it all works out very well.
J Armitage: So Campbell would be a bit different then from the way it is now?
J Salisbury: Yeah, the boundaries were Red Hill and Black Mountain and Mount Ainslie, and that was pretty well a settlement, and then after a while the other suburbs grew up, yeah.
J Armitage: What changes did you see in Canberra from when you’d visited during the war?
J Salisbury: There wasn’t a great deal because the big move to Canberra really didn’t take place until ’59. We expected it, all during the 50s we thought, ‘Oh…’ Even my dad used to think, ‘I’ll be going to Canberra one day.’ He was in the Department of Air, but he never, never ever got here because he died before that, but it was quite — well I didn’t plan where we going to live before we left.
J Armitage: Oh really?
J Salisbury: Yeah, and you know, I liked St John’s and I liked Campbell, and so there we are.
J Armitage: So you mentioned St John’s which is St John the Baptist Anglican Church in Reid, so did you go there in the war?
J Salisbury: Yeah, we did, lovely.
J Armitage: So when did you first start going there then?
J Salisbury: The 8th of February 1942.
J Armitage: 1942?
J Salisbury: Yeah that’s right.
J Armitage: Right. What made you choose St John’s?
J Salisbury: C’est la vie? [laughs].
J Armitage: Right, okay [laughs]. Did Alan go to church before you were married?
J Salisbury: Oh yes, yeah, yeah. We were married at St Alban’s Armadale, a church in Melbourne, which was his church when he lived there, and that suited me okay, it was nice, and that church was recently sold actually…
J Armitage: Goodness.
J Salisbury: Yeah, and they decided — I think it’s the movement of population, the people, you know, the Anglicans have moved off, went out to the suburbs. But yeah, and I’ve been — I’ve been very interested in St John’s from 1942 onwards.
J Armitage: Right, and as I said, did Alan go to St John’s in the wartime with you?
J Salisbury: Yeah.
J Armitage: Yep. So that was all part of the budding romance, was it? [laughs]
J Salisbury: That’s right, it was, yeah!
J Armitage: So I guess it was obvious when you came to live in Canberra and live in Campbell that you would actually return to St John’s?
J Salisbury: Yes, that’s right.
J Armitage: So how did you become involved with the churchyard?
J Salisbury: It’s a very interesting historical place; probably not many people — not a lot of people — realise. The first burial goes back to 1845. It’s, you know, it’s really — all those people that are there — the McDonalds and the Webbs and — they all came along quite early, and I find that’s very interesting, I think it’s great, and so I’ve recorded it all.
J Armitage: So when did you start recording everything?
J Salisbury: Oh I’ve got a book on it at home. Oh, I can’t quite remember that.
J Armitage: So how did you go about researching for the book? We know that the first edition was 2002 I think wasn’t it, it was published?
J Salisbury: Yeah that’s right, yeah that’s right. Well it was really — first of all I recorded all the headstones and got the relatives all together, you know, indexed it properly, and then — what did I do then? — I’ve sold a few copies of that book but I haven’t — I’d like to actually coax people to buy a few more [laughs].
J Armitage: Well you’ve just — the second edition you’ve updated the original one haven’t you?
J Salisbury: Yeah, yeah.
J Armitage: But you were researching before the internet, which everybody now uses for their family tree, so where did you go to get your information because…?
J Salisbury: Mostly the National Library.
J Armitage: Mostly the National Library?
J Salisbury: Yes.
J Armitage: Because what I notice from the book which has been so valuable for me is that you not only talk about the person when they lived and when they died, but where they came from, who their parents were, who their children were; each one in itself…
J Salisbury: Yeah, is a story.
J Armitage: Is a story, yes.
J Salisbury: Yeah, that’s right.
J Armitage: And I’m just fascinated how you went about telling the story.
J Salisbury: Oh that’s good, lovely, thanks [laughs].
J Armitage: No, it is, it’s…
J Salisbury: Yeah, well I — you know, a lot of these people came out pretty early, and a lot of it was the National Library, yeah, you can fathom out quite a lot over there.
J Armitage: Oh but yes, but researching would have been quite interesting to follow the trails. Did you also use the Mitchell Library or just National Library?
J Salisbury: No I didn’t go to the Mitchell. My daughter’s been to the Mitchell a few times, she does quite a lot of local history too, and no, it was quite interesting to, you know, sort of trace them back.
J Armitage: Any particular ones that stand out? I mean we’re talking about people coming out in the 1840s, even before that.
J Salisbury: Oh gosh, I should know all this [laughs].
J Armitage: No, no, that’s okay, how many graves are there? That’s the — there are quite a few of them.
J Salisbury: Yes, 900.
J Armitage: Nine hundred?
J Salisbury: Yeah, they haven’t all got headstones but about I think — I think the figure is about 600 have got headstones, at least, headstone’s a bit of a misnomer I think; sometimes you get three people, three different people on a headstone so it’s — you get more people than you get headstones if you see what I mean?
J Armitage: Yes. And there are quite a few unmarked graves too, aren’t there?
J Salisbury: Well there are a few unmarked, yes. We got some money from the government a while ago, two or three years ago, and they said, ‘This is for putting up new headstones,’ and so I selected about 30, which paid for the headstones — they’re modern of course, you know, they don’t fit in with the old ones very well — but at least it’s got the name of the person who’s buried there and, yeah.
J Armitage: I mean the first person was Barbara Potts, wasn’t it?
J Salisbury: Yeah that’s right, Barbara Potts.
J Armitage: Before the church was consecrated.
J Salisbury: Yeah that’s right, yeah.
J Armitage: Is that — where her headstone is — is that where she’s actually buried?
J Salisbury: Well to the best of my knowledge, yes. You know the Webbs? I don’t know if you know the Webbs?
J Armitage: Yes, yes. The prophetic grave as they…
J Salisbury: That’s an 1845 grave, and Barbara Potts is just a bit before that I think, and there were a couple of others too, the Shumacks, early Shumack, 1849, and I thought well, ‘I really believe they started using that area first so that’s where I put Barbara Potts…
J Armitage: Barbara Potts, yes.
J Salisbury: I thought it was as near as I could get to what I believe is accurate.
J Armitage: Were there any surprises during your research? Anything that…?
J Salisbury: Oh no, I don’t think so. There were — you know, it was an interesting study, it really was, and I liked doing it.
J Armitage: I’m still reflecting on, you know, your comment about, or what you said about, ‘The war was always there,’ and how you knew about the Japanese coming down and that general feeling, and how did that impact on you during the time, you know, that you were with the War Cabinet Secretariat?
J Salisbury: Yeah well, it’s just that you gathered it, you know, from various documents you were typing, and it really, you know, well I thought we were very lucky that we weren’t invaded actually, but it could have happened and I don’t — I had a couple of close friends in Melbourne who, I don’t think they were as aware of what was going…
Interview with Jean Salisbury part 3
J Salisbury: As I was, they went to the Defence Department and — but because you’re in the middle of it as it were, you know, you do pick up quite a bit. But we were fortunate we weren’t invaded actually.
J Armitage: So it came pretty close?
J Salisbury: Well Darwin, Sydney, my sister lives in Sydney. It was near enough to make you feel anxious, you know? I wasn’t one who lost sleep easily; I sleep like a top you know…
J Salisbury: Which is just as well because I had a lot to do. But it really was a — it was — I thought it was an anxious time. My mum and dad had been through two wars and they, you know, I talked to them a little bit about it and they knew what World War I was like, and then it was all over again you know, and it was really a bit rough.
J Armitage: Yes, and how did — you said Alan was one of the — was obviously the carrier of the papers — how were they stored after say, if you’d had you know, a War Cabinet meeting and then everything had been written up and everything — where were papers kept and stored?
J Salisbury: I couldn’t decide if I know that.
J Armitage: That’s all right, I was just…
J Salisbury: They had steel cabinets that were locked all the time, that’s probably it, yeah.
J Armitage: Was there ever any security around you when you travelled with all these important papers?
J Salisbury: Police or anything you mean?
J Armitage: Mmm.
J Salisbury: No.
J Armitage: No? You just travelled…?
J Salisbury: No, nobody shot at us.
J Armitage: Nobody tried to take any. No I mean that’s, for wartime, they were travelling by train with important war documents, the Cabinet documents…
J Salisbury: Yes, they were in the — the War Cabinet papers were in steel cases.
J Armitage: Oh right.
J Salisbury: They were — you know what an ordinary suitcase with your luggage looks like? They weren’t as big as that, they were smaller, but they weren’t very small, and they were locked, you know, they were steel cabinets locked, and Alan had to — he said you couldn’t leave them, you know, had to be somebody with them all the time, and then towards — later in the war he, or somebody decided that the best way to get them to Sydney — to Canberra — was to go by car and not go in the train at all, and he had an army or air force officer with him, and he and the case and the — she was driver — went up to Sydney — Canberra — and they did it in a day, they didn’t stop overnight anywhere because they had to keep them in these cases, and even when they ate there’d be somebody in the car with the cases; I remember he told me that it was very important that they weren’t left unattended.
J Armitage: And how did they travel to Sydney and to Brisbane, the cases?
J Salisbury: When we went to Sydney and Brisbane we had usually been in Canberra first, and Sydney to Canberra — Canberra to Sydney is not that far, it’s 200 miles, and then we might be there for a few days and then go to Sydney — Brisbane, and I think they did that in a day I think; 600 miles, that’s a fair bit but I think it was one trip, yeah.
J Armitage: So later it was — in the beginning they travelled by train but later on they separated the departmental secretary and Sir Frederick from the documents basically?
J Salisbury: Yeah from what I remember — I can’t absolutely guarantee this because I wasn’t in charge of them — but I think that’s about right.
J Armitage: Can you remember anything that Alan subsequently told you about some of the highlights for him of things that happened? I mean I’m taking you by surprise now I know, but…
J Salisbury: He was a good worker. Not particularly no, I don’t…
J Armitage: So he didn’t talk much about some of those times after the war?
J Salisbury: No he didn’t really, no. He really felt it was something he wouldn’t talk about to anybody.
J Armitage: Okay, you both kept it secret?
J Salisbury: Yeah we did really, you know, you really felt you couldn’t just have a good gossip about it.
J Armitage: No, not even to each other? [laughs]
J Salisbury: No, not even to each other, no.
J Armitage: Why were you awarded the OAM?
J Salisbury: Well I did write something on that somewhere; because somebody thought I was worthy I think.
J Armitage: Oh come on!
J Salisbury: It was a general thing I think; they never tell you who made the suggestion or the recommendation, and I’m very pleased that I’ve got it actually, great but…
J Armitage: I think it was for your wartime work partly, wasn’t it?
J Salisbury: It was for everything really that, yeah…
J Armitage: And St John’s as well, yes?
J Salisbury: Yes. I enjoyed the whole period, you know, in spite of the fact there was a war on I really, you know, enjoyed the work and the determination — it might sound stupid — but the determination to win the war was a great thing! [laughs] You really have an anxiety about it, you know, all the time.
J Armitage: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
J Salisbury: I don’t think I can tell you anything else.
J Armitage: It’s been — you’ve told a lot, thank you. And thank you for sharing what you’ve shared as well; it’s a time that’s important that we do have some record from people such as you who were so involved in it.
J Salisbury: Yes, well it was very — it was a very busy, as I’ve said, and a very interesting time. I wrote a few notes here but…
J Armitage: No well have a look at the notes, that’s — because it’s important that we do capture everything.
J Salisbury: Yeah. I’ve probably told you most of it. I like the people I worked with; they were really very, very devoted public servants, they were great.
J Armitage: I think that’s one of the things that has come through what you have said, is the commitment and the dedication and also the expertise too of the…
J Salisbury: The…?
J Armitage: The expertise of the people that were working in the War Cabinet.
J Salisbury: They were all, you know, they were all very good, yeah. Yeah we were very pleased when the 15th of August came along and peace was declared.
J Armitage: How did you celebrate?
J Salisbury: Alan went to work that morning — we were married by then — and he went into work and he was home at ten o’clock.
J Armitage: You thought, ‘What?’
J Salisbury: And he said — so we went into town, went into Melbourne, and there were people shouting and carrying on a treat [laughs]. It was great — it was so pleased, you know, everyone was pleased, yeah.
J Armitage: So what did you do in town? Did you have a meal or just join in the general celebration?
J Salisbury: I remember we were near the Melbourne Town Hall and all the trams had stopped, people all over the road [laughs]. I don’t remember what we did about eating, yeah. It’s quite an interesting life, I mean the fact that I lived through the war I think is — when I was 17 until I was 23 — and it’s an impressionable time of your life, you really, you know, you know what’s going on, and it was really very — a very, you know, memorable thing to have been through really.
J Armitage: How do you think it shaped you as a person?
J Salisbury: Don’t do it again.
J Salisbury: Not quite sure how I stop it but… [laughs]. Actually I think with — I think, well you know, probably the conditions of the peace were such that straight and out about what they were going to do and what they were not going to do, and I think their — what do you call it? — their armaments were stopped, was that right?
J Armitage: Yes.
J Salisbury: Yeah, and so I don’t think they’d try anything again, and I don’t think — or I don’t know of course — but I don’t think any other country would either, would take Australia. It’s not absolutely impossible.
J Armitage: No.
J Salisbury: No. Sometimes I’ve thought to myself, ‘There are a lot of people in China that must be a bit annoyed that we’ve got what looks like a big land, a big area of land and they haven’t got much at all.’ But there’s never been really a confrontation with China, yeah.
J Armitage: No, no.
J Salisbury: Right.
J Armitage: Okay, well as I said, thank you very much for spending the time…
J Salisbury: Not at all, I hope it was worthwhile.
J Armitage: And sharing it all with us.
J Salisbury: Yeah, good.
J Armitage: Thank you.
J Salisbury: Right…
This history has multiple parts.1 2 3
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