At home in the war years
John Curtin's personal secretary, Gladys Joyce, recalls the discomfort of plane flights across the continent in the war years

JCPML. Records of Gladys Joyce. Interview of Gladys Joyce, 3 July 1997. JCPML00210. (Interviewer Isla Macphail)   

But we had very interesting trips to Perth. We always travelled by train, well, I say we always, we didn't always: one of them was by a Lancaster bomber, but mainly we went by train. Mr Curtin said, "That's the only time I get away from the telephone, and it's a little peaceful trip for me to get over and travel by train." But people always met him at every stop. He got a few interruptions, but we had a special carriage, so he could be quite private from the public.

The main thing was the time we went to Perth in the Lancaster Bomber. That was a thing I shall never forget [laughs]. We joined it in Adelaide and it all had to be kept very quiet. I wasn't even allowed to tell my family that I was going in this bomber. I was terribly interested because my brother was in England fighting in Lancaster bombers at the time and I was well, at that time we hadn't a lot of experience in flying.

It wasn't very general for people to take flights in those days. I didn't think I might be the best of fliers because I was not the best of sea travellers, so I fortunately was wise enough to take some big brown office envelopes.

And the plane was just still fitted out as a bomber. All the crew were in their seats hanging out from their special positions. Mr Curtin was up the front at the navigator's table and I was sitting on a seat over the bomb bays-well, we all were. And it would be no more than eight or nine inches wide, nothing to hold you on.

And while we were flying over the sea it was beautiful, very smooth. When we got to the desert it was a different story, and I was very ill. They had the ambulance waiting for me at Kalgoorlie and I spent only a few hours there. They were shocked at the hospital: they took me straight away to the St John of God hospital in Kalgoorlie where they did what they could for me, and then I had to go on the train to Perth that night. Very hard. It didn't do much good for my nervous system for quite some time [laughs].

Fortunately, we came back by train, so I didn't have to face that again. But if anyone had told me at that time of my life that I would fly around the world numerous times, I would have told them, "Don't be silly; you won't get me up in a plane again." But I did, and Mr Curtin gave the crew, and included we ladies in it, a dinner in it at the end of that week and when I appeared the crew took one look at me and they said, "Thank goodness you're here, we didn't think you were going to live." [laughs]

Anyway, that was one experience I had there, and Mr Curtin who didn't like flying said, "Glad, there was only one percentage difference between you and me." And he said, "I didn't enjoy it very much." But he was certainly not sick.

Return to At home in the war years