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image icon Excerpt from an interview with Gladys Joyce, 1997 - asset 2

Excerpt from an interview with Gladys Joyce, 1997 - asset 2
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library


This is an excerpt (approximately 2 minutes in length) from a 1997 oral history interview with Gladys Joyce, in which she relates memories of her time as a secretary to Prime Minister John Curtin from 1941 to 1945.

transcript iconA transcript is available for this resource.

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • This asset reveals something of the censorship imposed by governments in times of war - mail to and from troops was censored to ensure that no information about military plans and movements was passed on to the enemy, inadvertently or otherwise; Gladys Joyce was employed on the secretarial staff of John Curtin (1885-1945, Prime Minister 1941-45) shortly before he became Prime Minister of Australia on 7 October 1941, and she recalls that working in the Prime Minister's office meant she often learned of secret information that had to be kept confidential.
  • This asset refers to the return of Australian army divisions from the Middle East to Australia - after Japan's entry into the Second World War with the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and the subsequent fall of Singapore and bombing of Darwin in early 1942, Curtin asked British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965, Prime Minister 1940-45) to send the 6th and 7th Divisions of the Second Australian Infantry Force home to defend Australia; after Churchill diverted the 7th Division towards Burma without first seeking Australian approval, Curtin was outraged and top-secret cables flashed between the two leaders; at Curtin's insistence, the ships were turned away from Burma and Churchill finally agreed to their return to Australia.
  • This asset touches on the losses suffered by families in wartime - Joyce recounts how she was in Perth working for Curtin when she heard that one of her four brothers, who were all serving in the air force in the Second World War, was missing in action; her family was later to learn that he had been killed.
  • This asset reveals that, as prime minister, Curtin retained the ability to relate to ordinary Australians - he kept the 'common touch', making him a popular wartime leader; Joyce recalls Curtin's sensitivity and concern for her wellbeing when she learned that her brother was missing in action; Curtin invited her to stay with his family in their Cottesloe home, rather than at a hotel.
  • This asset reveals facets of the character and personality of Curtin - Joyce relates how Curtin had taken cold showers as a young lad because his older sister had to take one every morning as part of her treatment for tuberculosis; Curtin told Joyce that, 'I always think things are better if you share them so I had a cold shower, too'.
  • This asset refers to TB (tuberculosis) -,primarily an illness of the respiratory system, TB is an infectious disease like the common cold and spreads when infected people cough, sneeze, talk or spit, propelling TB bacilli into the air; before the advent of antibiotics, it was treated in various ways, including rest and the isolation of patients in sanatoriums; TB is now generally curable with a 6-8-month course of antibiotics.