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15 October 2014
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The Jewel of Australia

by cambsaction

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
Frederick William Priestley and M. I. Priestley
Location of story: 
U.S.A. and Australia
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
30 October 2005

[This story was submitted to the People's War site by a volunteer from BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on behalf of F.W. Priestley and has been added to the site with his permission. Mr. Priestley fully understands the site's terms and conditions.]

The one thing that I was thankful for going into the service was that I traveled halfway around the world to find my wife.

I got my commission as second lieutenant in the U.S. Army-Air Force from Miami Beach, Florida. Upon graduation, I was sent to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. In December, 1942, I wanted to go home to Texas for Christmas, but my request was turned down. The next thing I knew, I had orders to go to Oakland, California and board the Frederick Funston for overseas duty. After a week at sea, we were told that we were on our way to Australia.
I arrived in Brisbane, Australia unassigned and after a week there, I was assigned as personnel officer of the 15th Weather Region, which was scattered from ‘hell to breakfast’—it was big—about 3,000 personnel all over the place. My duties as personnel officer involved a close relationship to the Finance Department of the U.S. base headquarters in Townsville, Australia. There is where I met an Australian girl who eventually became my wife; we had gone together for a year and a half before we were married. Her name was Iris O’Reilly, and she was from Brisbane. Iris was a WNEL and worked at base headquarters. I do not know what WNEL stood for, but we understood that they meant Women Never Encouraged Lieutenants. After going together for a year and a half, we decided to get married. My next move was to make an application for permission for us to get married, which I did. By the time my application was approved, my headquarters had been transferred to New Guinea. I placed myself in temporary duties in Townsville, Australia to get married and we were married in the Catholic Church there. Iris was the jewel of Australia, and for the next 60 years, we were very happy that the service helped me locate my wife.

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