Already seven weeks old when the Royal Australian Air Force was formed on 31 March, 1921, Betty Howells celebrated her 100th birthday on 21 February, 2021.
Already seven weeks old when the Royal Australian Air Force was formed on 31 March, 1921, Betty Howells (nee Raby) celebrated her 100th birthday on 21 February, 2021 and was honoured by a presentation from the Chief of Air Force recognising her birthday and service to the Air Force during World War Two.
An initiative of the Air Force 2021’s Connect with a Centenarian project, former members of the RAAF who are celebrating their 100th year in 2021 will receive a presentation recognising their service as the RAAF commemorates its 100th year.
Betty Howells was born in Willoughby, North Sydney, NSW and enlisted in the Air Force on 4 January 1942, commencing work as a Stores Clerk.
Educated at Willoughby Central Domestic Science School, passing her Qualifying Certificate and completing 18 months in a Commercial Course, a clerical position was a natural fit for Betty.
Gaining working experience in the commercial field at World Marine and General Insurance Company of Bond St., Sydney, before the war, Betty’s skills were sought after as Australia depended on everyone to apply their job skills to support the war effort.
Betty’s Air Force career encompassed training at Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) Geelong before postings to No 5 Aircraft Depot Wagga and No 5 Maintenance Group, Darling Point.
Betty’s expertise was invaluable in keeping Bristol Beaufort, Bristol Beaufighter, Lockheed Ventura and B-25 Mitchell aircraft in the air during her posting to Wagga.
The important function of providing administrative support to RAAF maintenance units in NSW, Queensland and the South West Pacific Area was Betty’s role at No 5 Maintenance Group, Darling Point, Sydney.
Discharged from the Air Force on 13 December 1945, having attained the rank of Sergeant, Betty now lives in Adelaide SA.
The family tradition of service continues and as Air Force commemorates its Centenary, Betty’s Great Granddaughter, Leading Aircraftwoman Emma Singleton is starting her career as a Personnel Capability Specialist.
Posted to No 6 Squadron, RAAF Base Amberley, Leading Aircraftwoman Singleton finds similarities in her career.
“I thought it special that my great grandmother was in No 5 Maintenance Group and I start my career in No 6 Squadron,” said LACW Singleton.
“When Mum called and asked me what I thought about being invited to attend this very special presentation I realised just how much it meant to me.
“Knowing that I was following in her footsteps, and realising that I was going where she had gone, was at the front of my mind.
“Realising the differences in how the Air Force was then, and how far forward it is now is illuminating.
“When Great Grandma joined, it was in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force, but I joined the Royal Australian Air Force. Today women are on equal footing with men and able to serve in any capacity.
“Great Grandma had a very fast career progression from recruit to sergeant in three years. She was obviously very intelligent, a hard worker and must have adapted very quickly to her roles.
“I am so proud to be her great granddaughter, I am so proud of her achievements and I am so proud that I have the opportunity to attend this very special presentation to her.
“I love my Air Force career and I look forward to a long career as a Personnel Capability Specialist and hope my career progression is as rapid as my great grandmothers,” she said.
Group Captain Greg Weller, Director Community Engagement RAAF Edinburgh, and Warrant Officer Janet Brennan, Executive Warrant Officer Intelligence Directorate, presented the award to Betty in a small private ceremony with her family at her home in Adelaide on 22 February 2021.