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Mural marks Narelle’s war service

Giving Back Positive Ageing Stories Wellbeing
  • IRT Greenwell Gardens resident Narelle Hewett features on mural in Nowra’s city centre
  • Served in women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force during World War II
  • Life membership of the Australian Legion of Ex Servicemen and Women
  • Mural commissioned by Shoalhaven City Council
25 February 2018
Narelle treasures her service medals, enlistment papers and photos from the time

A Nowra CBD mural pays tribute to IRT Greenwell Gardens resident Narelle Hewett’s war service.

Sitting in her suite at IRT Greenwell Gardens, Narelle Hewett (Hart) is, at first, reluctant to talk about why her face features on a new mural in Nowra’s city centre.

But then the 96-year-old slowly opens her handbag and digs deep for a treasured box she keeps close to her at all times.

Inside are her service medals for the years she spent in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force during World War II, from 1943 to 1946.

So too is her medal recognising her life membership of the Australian Legion of Ex-Servicemen and Women.

On the outside of the box she’s written a number: 108781.

“That’s my service number,” she says quietly.

And it’s the reason she features in the large mural on the southern wall of the Holt Centre in Nowra’s CBD.

Commissioned by Shoalhaven City Council, it pays tribute to Narelle’s war service and was painted by Claire Foxton during the week spanning Anzac Day.

The council had approached the Shoalhaven Historical Society to identify any surviving WWII WAAAF women and the society suggested Narelle.

Narelle served as a young WAAAF recruit with the Base Torpedo Unit, at Nowra Hill.

“I was 22 when I started,” she recalls.

“I was a typist. I also worked in Records in Melbourne for a while.”

Narelle then shares some of her other war memorabilia, including her Certificate of Service and Discharge and a certificate signed by then Prime Minister Paul Keating in 1995.

“On the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, a grateful nation expresses its thanks to Lorna Narelle Hewett for contributing to the war effort and coming of peace,” it says.

After the war, Narelle worked in the office of Woodhill’s department store, in Berry St, as a typist and on the company’s accounts.

She remained there for 33 years, even after the company was sold to Burn Philps.

No doubt the Double-Entry Bookkeeping certificate she earned from the Southern Cross Commercial College in 1936 stood her in good stead for her long career; it shows she scored 100%.

In 2003 the Nowra Chamber of Commerce presented Narelle with a certificate for her long contribution to the workforce in the area.

In 1979 she married local hairdresser Ted Hewett, but sadly he died a few years later.

Narelle lived in Bridge Rd, Nowra for most of her life before moving into IRT Greenwell Gardens. Council Strategic Planning Manager Gordon Clark says the mural of Narelle was painted as part of the Council’s Nowra Revitalisation Strategy.

“The project included public art and the mural of Narelle was the fifth one we completed,” he says.

“We talked to the Historical Society about identifying a female and someone who had served in the armed forces and they suggested Narelle.

“She was an ideal subject because she also has a really long-term connection with Nowra’s CBD.

“We’ve received really positive feedback about the mural; it’s great.”

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