Margaret Darling AM
Margaret Darling AM

Margaret Darling (Anderson ’39) is recognised for her service to the Australian war effort during the Second World War and for her lifetime of work in heritage building conservation.

After graduating from St Catherine’s School, Margaret studied architecture at RMIT before embarking on a period of service with the Women’s Royal Australian Navy Service (WRANS).

From 1943 to 1945 she was posted to the Fleet Radio Unit, a signals intelligence unit based in Melbourne. A joint venture between Australia, the US and top secret British code breaker unit, Bletchley Park in England, the Unit’s task was to pick up messages and decipher codes the Japanese were sending throughout the Asia Pacific. Margaret thrived in this tense environment, and soon became the WRANS youngest commissioned officer at the time, attaining the rank of 3rd officer. The Unit played a key role in the defence of the Pacific. Its greatest success was the interception and decoding of a message resulting in a US Army fighter aircraft shooting down Admiral Yamamoto’s aircraft over Bouganville Island. A grateful US bestowed a decoration on the Unit.

Following the War, Margaret married her husband Gordon Darling and had four children. It was then that she developed her interest in heritage building conservation, working as a volunteer with the National Trust Women’s Committee where she organised a retail outlet for the Trust and was involved in producing several publications. From 1966 to 1990, Margaret was a member of the Council of the National Trust, and was President of the Council from 1980 to 1983. Having a special love for gardens, Margaret served on the Como and Ripponlea Garden Committees and developed a country garden at Woomargama Station in 1965. From 1990 to 1999 Margaret was Chairman of the Australian Garden History Society.

Margaret was honoured for her work in heritage building conservation in 1991, when she became a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).
Just months before her death in November 2010, Margaret was sent a letter from the British Prime Minister, The Right Honourable David Cameron, enclosing a medal awarded for her collaboration with the Bletchley Park unit.

Updated January 2016