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Joyce Mary Snelling (1904–1988)

by Betty J. Mount-Batten

This article was published:

Joyce Mary Snelling (1904-1988), army officer, was born on 15 December 1904 in Sydney, only child of New South Wales-born Robert Dunstan Holden, agent, and his wife Minnie Hamilton, formerly Scott.  Joyce was educated at Miss Baker’s College, Hurstville, and North Sydney Girls’ High School.  As a young woman living at Mosman she was a good organiser, helping to raise funds for charity.  She also enjoyed participating in amateur theatricals.  On 20 January 1931 at St Clement’s Church of England, Mosman, she married Rewi Reginald Louis Snelling, a New Zealand-born master printer.  They settled at Clifton Gardens and had two daughters.

In 1939 Rewi Snelling was commissioned in the Citizen Military Forces and appointed to the 30th Battalion, New South Wales Scottish Regiment.  His wife joined its ladies’ auxiliary.  After studying first aid and home nursing in a class of forty-one women, she formed Voluntary Aid Detachment No.9218 with herself as commandant.  The VAD was affiliated with her husband’s unit.  Volunteering for the Australian Imperial Force, Rewi Snelling fought in Malaya as a company commander in the 2/19th Battalion.  In January 1942 he was severely wounded at Parit Sulong and was later listed as missing.  He was one of a group of 130 wounded, killed by the Japanese.

Joyce Snelling served for several years as honorary secretary of the Joint State Council of the VAD organisation.  She assisted in selecting and enrolling the first draft of voluntary aids sent to the Middle East in 1941.  On 21 September 1942 she herself began full-time military service with the VADs.  In October she was commissioned as a lieutenant and appointed assistant commandant in New South Wales.  Next month she transferred to the AIF as a captain and was posted to Ingleburn as chief instructor with the VAD Training Company.  By January 1943 she was assistant controller of the new Australian Army Medical Women’s Service, New South Wales Lines of Communication Area, Sydney.  The AAMWS had been formed to administer the voluntary aids now employed full time by the army.  Promoted to acting (later substantive) major in February, she impressed her superiors with her efficiency and dedication to the welfare of the women under her command.  In January 1947 she was transferred to the CMF and her appointment redesignated as part-time assistant controller, AAMWS, Eastern Command.  She was placed on the Reserve of Officers in May 1950 but resumed duty in November as assistant controller, AAMWS (Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps).  On 18 October 1951 Major Snelling was again placed on the reserve.

In 1950 Snelling chaperoned Miss Australia, Margaret Hughes, on a six-month tour of Britain and Europe.  President (1950-75), life member and vice-patron of the national Ex-AAMWS Association, Snelling was also president (1966-73) of the New South Wales association.  She was active in the State branch of the War Widows’ Guild of Australia.  Serving (1947-55) on the VAD committee of the Australian Red Cross Society, New South Wales division, she was appointed MBE in 1972.  In retirement an interest in painting prompted her to join the Royal Art Society of New South Wales.  Survived by her daughters, Snelling died on 13 November 1988 at Mona Vale, Sydney, and was cremated.  In 1990 members of the Ex-AAMWS Association of New South Wales unveiled a plaque in her memory in the Garrison Church, Millers Point.

Select Bibliography

  • The History and Regimental Standing Orders of the 30 Infantry Battalion. The New South Wales Scottish Regiment (1959)
  • A. Walker, Medical Services of the R.A.N. and R.A.A.F. (1961)
  • B. Mount-Batten, From Blue to Khaki (1995)
  • R. Burge, No Peacetime Cinderellas (2008)
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 10 December 1967, p 138
  • Manly Daily, 17 September 1985, p 15
  • B883, item NX138446 (National Archives of Australia)
  • family information.

Citation details

Betty J. Mount-Batten, 'Snelling, Joyce Mary (1904–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 17 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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