At 95, Norma remains a passionate supporter of The Salvation Army, a relationship that began in 1942 when she was just 18 and caught in a whirlwind of loss, friendship and romance among the backdrop of World War II.
With her father fighting overseas, the passing of her mother, plus the loss of many young friends on far-away battlefields, Norma decided to join the war effort. In February 1942, the Australian Corps of Signals was formed and she was one of 500 young women who joined the army.
After three months training, Norma and three other women were sent to a camp outside Brisbane where she served for three and a half years.
“I was sent to a camp as a telephonist she recalls. “There were 1500 soldiers in the camp, many of whom had served in the Middle East and were later sent to New Guinea.
“We were quite astounded when we got there and we had two bedrooms with mattresses and pillows, no sheets, no nothing, just a grey army blanket to put on the top.
“It was the next day that The Salvation Army people came to see us and they were absolutely wonderful. The following day they supplied us with sheets for our beds, pillow cases and towels.
“They gave us writing paper to send messages home to our families and they also saw the empty room and said, ‘Oh we’ll see what we can do about that’ and they brought an old-style gramophone and all these beautiful records.”
Norma says it was a period of great loss – losing young friends and grieving for them and their families.
“We’d been to church with them, we’d sang in the choir with them, been on picnics with them, really grown up with them and it still hurts me, it still makes me feel very sad. They turned 18 and they were called up and they never came back…”
She says the Salvos’ presence also helped spiritually and emotionally, both at camp and on the battlefield where her fiancée served (who later became her husband of 68 years).
“Being a Christian, [the support of the Salvos] made a great difference to my life and also to my husband,he felt the same way that I did,”she says.
Norma has supported the work of The Salvation Army ever since.
“I saw how good they were in the time of need,” she says.“And my husband used to say the same thing. When he was in the Middle East (and later New Guinea). He said there was always a Salvation Army person they could talk to.
“We knew if we wanted something, we knew where to go, we were always sure that The Salvation Army would help.
“I am aged 95 now and have never forgotten the kindness of The Salvation Army. I have made regular donations to the Salvos for all these years. They’ve always been very special to people, they really have!”