The newsreel voice-over features jokes and language that would certainly create a social media uproar today - the girls are referred to as 'peaches of the beaches' and 'luscious lifesavers', and the camera does not hesitate to focus on the women’s legs. When asked if this was the kind of attention the lifesavers received on the beach, Muriel is firm in saying this was not the case.
'My experience was that people on the beach were supportive', she says. But unfortunately, there were still naysayers. 'There were some that thought women couldn’t do these things', Muriel admits in her trademark no-nonsense style. 'But we could do it and we proved it.'
On one memorable occasion, the patrol team spotted a shark in the water and were quick to react. 'It seemed to be coming in on a wave', remembers Muriel. 'We knew it was there and did something about it.'
Although Muriel’s mother Jean knew what her daughter was up to, she avoided mentioning this to her protective husband. And so Muriel’s father Jim simply thought she was at the beach for recreational purposes. A taxi driver by trade, he decided to drop by one day and pay her a visit. When he saw her in the water, he assumed the worst and rushed out to rescue her – forgetting that he himself could not swim. In the end, he was the one that had to be helped back to shore!
The female lifesavers patrolled Terrigal beach from 1942 to 1945. After the war, Muriel took a weekend trip to Katoomba, where she met a handsome young man from the air force named Max James who became her husband. These days, Muriel enjoys spending time with her sons and their families – which now include eleven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. 'I’d love to see everyone again', says Muriel of the upcoming Bronze Medallion ceremony. 'But it’s not possible.'
She is looking forward to returning to the beach though. 'It was a beautiful place', she says. 'We always appreciated the wonderful surroundings and loved the satisfaction of doing good work.'