On the way to war there was no greater comfort to our troops than to receive a home made meal from the CWA of Quorn. Ironically, they can thank the husband of Mrs Pearl Hastwell, Quorn’s convenor of hospitality. Had he not brought a couple of soldiers home for some tea this legend may never had occurred.

The Advertiser, 3 March 1942. Source: trove.nla.gov.au.

Those two soldiers cleaned out Mrs Hastwell’s pantry. Seeing the need to replenish the troops on a long journey she made a call to Keswick Barracks and requested the CWA serve meals to all troop trains passing through Quorn. Not only was the request granted, but the first 114 troops were on their way to be fed.

With only £2 in the kitty, the CWA ran an urgent appeal. Troops were served their first hot meal for days at the local Masonic Hall. Wanting to leave their mark, some troops left their names on the walls. After this incident troops were served in the refreshment rooms at Quorn railway station.3

In September 1940 the CWA's state secretary was given official approval to serve meals. By February 1941 the Army Service Corps built a canteen in the railway yard and served meals alongside the CWA. As troop movements grew so did the demand for home cooked meals. By June 1941 the war intensified and the Army left the CWA to feed the troops alone.4

At the 1944 Annual Meeting Mrs Hastwell reported that approximately 137,000 meals had been served.6 Thinking of their own boys who had gone to war, she wrote:

"While we cannot perhaps help our own near and dear, we can in this work help and encourage the sons of other mothers."7

As the war shifted from the Middle East to the Pacific, so did those who passed through Quorn. By February 1942 the CWA were feeding evacuees from the bombing of Darwin and troops returning home from war.citation required

"Interesting People", Australian Women's Weekly, 29 July 1944. Source: trove.nla.gov.au.

Read more about troop train meals: A meal fit for a king

1 "Says a Soldier", Quorn Mercury, 10 April 1942

2 "Not a one-man war", The Mail, 21 March 1942

3 H. Parker et al., The first fifty years: golden jubilee history of the South Australian Country Women's Association, South Australian Country Women's Association, 1979, p. 69.

4 Parker et al., p. 69.

5 Parker et al., p. 69.

6 Parker et al., p. 70.

7 Parker et al., p. 70.