She prefers the khaki uniform to the feminine mode of dress

In December 1915, Miss Maud Butler, a waitress working in Sydney, cut her long brown hair, donned the woollen uniform of an Australian soldier, and walked down to the transport ships moored at Woolloomooloo. Barely seventeen years of age, her slight and boyish figure easily passed for that of a soldier. The moment night fell, she slipped aboard a troopship bound for Egypt.  

Once on deck, Miss Butler took shelter in a small covered boat and remained there until the ship was well out at sea. For two days, she mingled in the company of soldiers ‘picking up all the points about soldiering she could’. Then she was discovered. An officer asked to see her identity disc. Even then, her sex ‘was not suspected’. Surprising as it may seem, Miss Butler still passed as a boy. The officer insisted if the young stowaway ‘wanted to go on’ with the troops and ‘he’ see the medical officer and pass the required physical exam. Only then did Maud reveal her true identity.

Though Maud Butler risked punishment as a stowaway or a spy, the authorities treated her leniently. She was offloaded in Melbourne, interviewed at Victoria Barracks, and permitted to go free. The captain of the Suevic reassured Military Intelligence that ‘the girl was of good moral character’, but added she was ‘venturesome and had a very strong will’. Nor as it turns out was Maud the kind of girl who was easily discouraged. In March 1916, she tried to stowaway again. Eluding the ship's officers proved more difficult this time and she was marched from the ship long before it sailed.

Whether she intended to or not, Maud Butler became a cause célèbre amongst the pro-conscription movement in Australia. She was a means of shaming the shirker and showing men what should be done. Her example also highlighted women's limited opportunities for war service.

And what of Maud Butler? A stiff fine in the Magistrate’s Court discouraged any further acts of impersonating a soldier. Maud Butler served out the war in the YMCA rooms in Sydney, serving tea and cakes to soldiers. But they never looked quite as good in that uniform as she did.