The skirl of the bagpipes and the beating of the drum have been the inspiration for many a Scots unit during various wars. But when the pipes and drums were played by three attractive young ladies during World War II, it was to entertain the troops rather than lead them into battle.
The three women, Yvonne Gibbons (nee Blumenthal), Gloria Kelly and Beverley Mackett, collectively known as The Highland Trio, spent much of their time during World War II entertaining troops throughout New South Wales and helping to sell War Bonds.
Yvonne started work as a secretary for Timbrol, a large chemical factory, at Rhodes in Sydney when war broke out. When The Highland Trio became a popular act with the UAP Concert Party organisation, her employers were very understanding and gave her lots of time off so she could attend concerts on evenings and weekends.
The Highland Trio took part in the first concert in November 1939 at Ingleburn Army Camp and were an immediate hit.
"Two of us played the bagpipes and the third was the drummer," Yvonne recalled. "During the concerts, my friend, Gloria Kelly, played accompaniment while the drummer, Beverley Mackett and I danced the Highland Fling.
"We later joined the Kookaburra Concert Party and were individually asked to play on Radio 2GB.
"Later in the war when the Americans arrived, the American Red Cross held concerts for their troops and we often participated. When American warships came into Sydney Harbour, we went on board and played pipes and danced.
"On one occasion, in gratitude, an American sailor went below deck and brought up three Gobs hats, one for each of us. I still have mine and the name of the American sailor whose cap it was, had his name on it, JH Bennett."
The Highland Trio played for many organisations including The Rawson Institute, the Mission to Seamen, the Australian Red Cross, the American Red Cross, the Food for Britain Fund, the Flying Angels Merchant Service Club, Legacy and the St James Rehabilitation Mission in New Guinea.
"Part of Hyde Park (in Sydney) was taken over by the British Centre," Yvonne recalled. "We did lots of concerts there on a regular basis.
"When we went to Wollongong, we were wined and dined at the fire station and when we went to Nowra we were met at the railway station by a Navy jeep and transported to Nowra Fleet Air Arm Base."
The Highland Trio regularly went to Ingleburn Army Camp where they piped the troops on their route marches from the camp to the cross roads at Liverpool and back.
"In 1943, the Presbyterian Ladies College at Croydon was taken over to become the RAAF radar base," Yvonne said. "Every Friday morning we piped the troops on their morning church parade tot he service at Malvern Hill Methodist Church and back to the radar base. We were provided with regimental shirts and black ties to become part of the unit."
The Highland Trio regularly entertained the Allied forces at about 26 different Army, Navy and RAAF camps and hospitals.
"On the completion of our 500th camp show, Major General Lloyd and his ADC, Captain Ivan Layton, congratulated us at Army HQ at Parramatta," Yvonne said. "Captain Layton later became ADC to General Sir Thomas Blamey.
"On VE Day the crowds were celebrating in Martin Place and my friends and I entertained them by playing the pipes and drums on the balcony of the CML Building overlooking the Cenotaph.
"The crowd below went mad, forming single file "crocodiles" and dancing along the roadways and footpaths."
The Highland Trio received numerous letters of appreciation, one in the form of a poem written by Signalman LJN Delaney, EC Area Signals, Liverpool Camp.
"The bagpipes were askirling in Liverpool tonight,
In fact I almost hear them as I sit here and write,
For there's nothing more appealing when the music that is played
Is by pretty women pipers and a lovely drummer maid.
My heart was set abeating by the beating of that drum
And I'm hoping that I hear it on many nights to come,
For a drum although rather noisome can be quite thrilling too
When a smiling Scotch lassie is smiling down at you.
So here's the best of all that's good to those who played to me
And may they ever be remembered no matter where they be."
The material for this article was supplied by Yvonne Gibbons (nee Blumenthal) of New South Wales
Back to the Stories Index