RUTH Milkins, whose incredible life has spanned almost a century, survived a shocking attack from the ‘Brownout Strangler’ during her time in the army.
Ruth was another resident of Wonthaggi’s Rose Lodge to be celebrated by the state government’s ‘Recognising senior Victorians’ initiative.
Born in 1923 and raised in Numurkah by a farming couple, Ruth and most of her family gave their service during World War Two.
“You felt like you were doing something for your country,” she said.
“I had a brother in the Air Force, another in the Army, and my sister was in the Army.
“She was a Lieutenant because she was a nurse.
“People don’t understand today but when the War started, Australia had nothing and I mean really nothing.”
Ruth served in the Australian Women’s Army for four years and was initially “shocked” at how basic the conditions were.
“We joined up in Shepparton and I got my name on an honour role, and we were taken by train to Spencer Street and gathered up as a group and from then on, belonged to the Army,” she said.
“There was no division in the toilet facilities and showers were the same.”
During her time, Ruth reached the rank of Lance Corporal but was traumatised after her experience with American GI Edward Joseph Leonski, known as the Brownout Strangler.
While going on duty, Ruth was attacked after getting off a tram at Fawkner Park and was being strangled.
Fortunately, a male officer was nearby and turned around when she screamed and the attacker fled.
After the War, Ruth went back to Shepparton and married.
“In those days, of course, it’s nothing like it is today, and I’m glad it’s improved but we just came out of the services and my brothers too, and you were just expected to pick up life as if you hadn’t been away,” she said.
“Everything looked great, we had a nice place to live but unfortunately, he [husband] was an alcoholic.
“We had two babies and when one was two and a half and one was six months, I had to either walk out or get carried out by a coffin.”
Years later, Ruth would meet her dream husband, Allan Milkins and they both moved to Wonthaggi.
“When Allan passed away, I managed but I had a couple of heart attacks and strokes, but I’m as healthy as a fish,” she said.
“I always say this, if you can be happy, your body is happy, your mind has got a lot to do with that.
“Of course, we were brought up very basic and our main thing in life was always integrity.
“I’m just so happy I have a Christian faith; it does carry you through.”
Ruth also added she was “very happy” to be recognised by the government for her achievements and contributions.