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Patience Australie (Pat) Wardle (1910–1992)

by Patricia Clarke

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Patience Australie (Pat) Wardle (1910–1992), local historian and diarist, was born on 20 June 1910 at Hornsby, New South Wales, the eldest of four daughters of English-born parents Robin John Tillyard, school master and entomologist, and his wife Pattie, née Craske, a community leader. When Pat was ten, the family moved to New Zealand where she completed her schooling at Nelson College for Girls. The family relocated to Canberra in 1928. Next year Pat enrolled at the University of Sydney (BA, 1932) and in the following year she was among the first recipients of a Canberra University College scholarship to assist her studies in Sydney. At university she served on the student representative council (1930), gained Blues in hockey and cricket, and played in the New South Wales hockey team.

After graduation Tillyard went to England intending to commence a master’s degree at the Sorbonne in Paris but, following her father’s ill health and resulting financial pressures, took a teaching position at Liskeard County School in Cornwall. She played hockey for the county in 1934-35. Shortly after her father’s death in a car crash in 1937 she returned to Canberra and for the following two years undertook informal training at the National Library of Australia, then part of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library. She went to England again, in 1939, planning to study for a diploma of librarianship at University College, London. Once more her desires were frustrated; the course was cancelled on the outbreak of World War II. Tillyard worked in the economic library of the British Museum and with her sister, Hope, drove ambulances for the London County Council. In 1940 they returned to Australia in SS Rotorua, escorting evacuee children. In Canberra she was employed as research librarian in the Commonwealth Department of Commerce and Agriculture, recording the activities of the wartime boards under the department’s control.

On 2 April 1942 Tillyard enrolled in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force as a trainee administrative officer. Promoted to acting section officer next month, she served at No. 5 Service Flying Training School, Uranquinty, New South Wales (1942–43), and No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School, Evans Head (1943). In December 1943 she was promoted to flight officer. She was posted to Air Force Headquarters, Melbourne, in January 1944 and was employed as a camp commandant, in charge of about two thousand WAAAF personnel. On 12 June 1946 she was placed on the Retired List.

Tillyard resumed her former employment until the early 1950s when she was seconded to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. In January 1954 she was given leave without pay to join the Australian National University, where she was engaged for two years to help compile the biographical register, a card index that would form the research basis of the Australian Dictionary of Biography. On 12 April 1955 at St John the Baptist Church, Reid, she married Robert Norman Wardle, a widower who was the director of veterinary hygiene in the Commonwealth Department of Health.

Pat Wardle was a foundation member (1953) of the Canberra & District Historical Society in which she was active for thirty-eight years. She edited its newsletter until 1982, served as councillor (1960–80), president (1965–67), and vice-president (1970–71). Involved in organising excursions and the management of Blundell’s cottage museum, she also gave talks and wrote articles for the society’s publications. She was made a life member in 1983 and on 26 January 1990 was appointed OAM for service to community history. Predeceased by her husband (d. 1979), she died in Canberra as a result of a car accident on 22 April 1992 and was buried at St John the Baptist Church, Reid, leaving a collection of diaries (begun at age twelve), correspondence, photographs, newspaper cuttings, and historical notes to the CDHS.

Research edited by Brian Wimborne

Select Bibliography

  • Canberra & District Historical Society. 21931, Papers of Patience Australie Wardle
  • Canberra Times. ‘Obituary: Patience Australie Wardle. Canberra Era Ended in Autumn." 19 June 1992, 4
  • Clarke, Patricia. ‘Wardle, Patience Australie (1910–1992),’ Australia Women’s Register. Copy held on ADB file
  • National Archives of Australia, A9300 Tillyard, Patience Australie
  • Temperly, George. ‘Patience (Pat) Australie Wardle née Tillyard.' Canberra Historical Journal, September 1992, 5–7
  • Wardle, Patience. Interview by Alec Bolton, 17–25 August 1988.  National Library of Australia.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Patricia Clarke, 'Wardle, Patience Australie (Pat) (1910–1992)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2016, accessed online 27 February 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 19, (ANU Press), 2021

View the front pages for Volume 19

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Tillyard, Patience Australie

20 June, 1910
Hornsby, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


22 April, 1992 (aged 81)
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Cause of Death

motor vehicle accident

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