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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Noble, Beryl Margaret Elizabeth (1907–1984)

by Janette Bomford

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Beryl Margaret Elizabeth Noble (1907-1984), Australian Women’s Army Service officer, was born on 21 December 1907 at Geelong West, Victoria, first of three children of Victorian-born parents Wesley Burrett McCann, manager, and his wife Zeta, née Manchester.  Educated at the Geelong Church of England Girls’ Grammar School (The Hermitage), Beryl was head prefect in 1926 and represented the school in baseball.  She subsequently (1936, 1939) served on the school council.  A graduate of the University of Melbourne (BA, 1932), for a time she worked with radio 3AW’s Women’s Session with Gwen Varley.  She was overseas when World War II broke out but returned to Australia 'on the last ship back' and worked as a Red Cross volunteer at Stonington Convalescent Home, Malvern, Melbourne.

When she enlisted in the AWAS on 6 June 1942, McCann was described as 5 ft 3 in (160 cm) tall, of fair complexion and with brown hair and blue eyes.  After attending a recruits’ school and a non-commissioned officers’ course in Melbourne, she was appointed to a clerical position.  She became an acting sergeant in September and an acting lieutenant next month.  In November McCann attended an officer training school at Grong Grong mansion, Toorak, before joining the 5th Administrative Cadre where she was engaged in recruitment work and carried out a preliminary survey of units in Southern Command, prior to setting up a pilot course for the first AWAS education school.  On 30 August 1943 she was appointed as chief instructor of the Supervisory Personnel School, AWAS, Darley.  After establishing the school for redundant officers and NCOs, she served as officer-in-charge of all seven courses that were run.  McCann visited every State, selecting volunteers for training as supervisory personnel to work with the Australian Army Provost Corps.  Promoted to temporary captain in October, she became a substantive captain in April 1944.

In January 1945 McCann attended the Allied Forces Land Headquarters Administration School and at the end of the month she was appointed deputy assistant adjutant general for Army Women’s Services in the Directorate of Rehabilitation, LHQ, Melbourne, the first and only female officer to hold that appointment.  Described as 'keen and capable with a rather forceful personality and an analytical mind', McCann was hardworking, intelligent and a very sharp thinker.  It is not surprising that her planning and courses 'went like clockwork'.  She transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 13 November 1945 and was placed on the Retired List on 17 September 1956.

After the war McCann managed a grazing property, Frogmore, at Fyansford, Victoria.  Her fiancé, John Steel, had been reported missing during the war; she later learned that he had died in 1944 as a prisoner of the Japanese in Thailand.  On 31 October 1951 at St David’s Presbyterian Church, Geelong, she married a second cousin, John William Noble, who was also a grazier.  Survived by her husband, she died childless on 12 February 1984 at Anglesea, Victoria, and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • B884, item VF345427 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information

Citation details

Janette Bomford, 'Noble, Beryl Margaret Elizabeth (1907–1984)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 7 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • McCann, Beryl Margaret Elizabeth

21 December 1907
Geelong, Victoria, Australia


12 February 1984
Anglesea, Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence