Voice of Penshurst WWII heroine heard again

St George has its lion's share of Anzac legends but one of the more unusual stories of bravery during World War II was that of a woman who lived quietly for decades in Penshurst.

Australia's only female Coastwatcher, Ruby Boye-Jones played an important role in helping the Allied victory in the Battle of the Coral Sea.

She risked her life relaying information via radio from a remote outpost in the Solomon Islands on weather and Japanese shipping movements.

For her efforts, Ruby Boye-Jones was personally thanked by the Commander of the US Fleet, Admiral William Halsey and received the British Empire Medal.

She was born Ruby Olive Jones at St Peters in 1891, one of eight children.

She worked as a saleswoman and married Sydney Skov Boye in 1991.

Mr and Mrs Boye moved to the Solomon Islands with her son, Ken in 1928 where Mr Boye worked as a manager of the Lever Brothers logging company on the remote island of Vanikoro in the Santa Cruz group of islands.

They lived in the village of Paeu where another son, Don was born.

Following the outbreak of World War II staff at the logging company were evacuated back to Australia except for Mr and Mrs Boye.

Their sons were also sent to Australia to stay with relatives.

Mr and Mrs Boye were the only Australians left on the island.

Mrs Boye took over the logging company's radio operations filing reports four times a day that were used by ships and aircraft.

This included relaying information that the Solomon Islanders brought to her about Japanese shipping movements.

As the Japanese advanced through the islands, Coastwatchers were advised to stop transmission and leave.

Mrs Boye also received threatening messages from a Japanese radio operator.

But she continued radioing information about the weather and Japanese shipping movements even though capture by the Japanese would have meant execution.

In 1943, Mrs Boye was appointed an honorary third officer in the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANs).

It was hoped that a rank in the WRANS would offer some form of protection from execution in the event of being captured by the Japanese.

She continued her radio operations and is credited with relaying important information during the Battle of the Coral Sea the Battle of Guadalcanal.

Mr and Mrs Boye moved their radio equipment to a remote jungle location, evading Japanese reconnaissance planes.

After the Americans established a Catalina flying boat refuelling station on the island, there were regular Japanese air raids.

After the war, Mrs Boye was visited and personally thanked by Admiral William Halsey for her efforts.

She also received the British Empire Medal for her bravery.

Mr Boye fell ill in 1947 and they returned to Sydney where he died shortly after of Leukemia.

Mrs Boye married Frank Jones in 1961. He passed away in 1961 and she lived alone in her Penhurst home for 30 years and then moved to a nursing home at Narwee at age 96.

Ruby Boye-Jones died in 1990 at the age of 99.

An accommodation block at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra is named after her.

Penshurst RSL Sub-branch is employing a researcher to find out if Ruby Boye-Jones was a member.

"We are going through our old records to see if she was a member of the sub-branch so we can honour her memory in some way," sub-branch president John Hoban said.

"We also hope to trace any of her relatives.

"The fact that she went through so much and then settled in St George is a wonderful discovery of a true local hero."

Penshurst RSL Sub-branch member David Potter lived next door to Mrs Boye-Jones from 1976 to 1990.

"She was very well-known in the area," Mr Potter said.

"I knew she was a Coastwatcher. She talked about her wartime experiences and showed me a photo of when Admiral Halseuy visited her on the island.

"Ruby had her leg amputated in her 90s and survived the operation. She wanted to live to be 100 but lived till 99.

"She was a remarkable person and a very good neighbour."

WANT MORE LOCAL NEWS?

SIGN UP FOR YOUR FREE WEEKLY NEWSLETTER