Posts Tagged ‘Australian war photography

13
Oct
20

Photographs: ‘Gunner Andrew Rumann embarkation for Singapore, August 1941’ and other WW2 Australian photographs

October 2020

 

Andrew Rumann. 'Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]' 1941

 

Andrew Rumann (Australian, 1905-1974)
Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]
1941
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

 

These photographs were given to me in an envelope titled “Gunner Andrew Rumann embarkation for Singapore, August 1941”. I have carefully digitally scanned and cleaned them. The attribution seems correct for the first group of photographs in the posting, Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore, but not for the rest. I have located Rumann’s POW record and found several pictures of the ship he would have taken to travel to Singapore.

The other photographs in the posting show Australian armed services personnel (none are American), but there are several anomalies that enable me to say that these are later photographs. Four Australian women personnel stand in front of an American Red Cross sign, and the ARC (or Amcross) did not arrive in Australia until 1942. And in the photograph Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23, the men an women are standing on a US Army transportation barge, unlikely to have been in Australian waters before 1942. Behind them Carley floats hang from their tethers.

As always, what interests me most about these photographs are the details contained within: the casualness of the men waiting at Post Exchange No. 2, with their sandals, singlets and slough hats; the man caught mid-clamber, climbing up into the truck in Taking out the rubbish; the women in dark glasses and hat sheltering her eyes from the sun in BKC*23; the men peering out of the portholes in the same photograph, one with a fag in his mouth.

We can feel the heat emanating from these photographs (it must be summer). All the men are in shorts and topless. In photographs such as Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23 and Embarkation we can admire their lithe bodies, and observe the ubiquitous 1940s mop of curly hair with short back and sides. They were already athletic before departure, but imagine fighting in the stinking hot forests of Burma on Army rations, or ending up in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, with so little meat on the bone to start with. You would be a skeleton before long. Finally, there is one personal sign that you can make out in the crowd seeing off the troops to Singapore from Circular Quay in 1941. “Jim Carr” it reads. Did he survive the war? Who knows.

More than 15,000 Australian soldiers were captured at the fall of Singapore. Of these, more than 7000 would die as prisoners of war, some in transport ships on their way to Japan, sadly torpedoed by Allied submarines. Andrew Rumann survived his trip to Japan as a POW and returned to Australia after the war. He died in 1974 aged 68 years old.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All photographs have been digitally scanned and cleaned by Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Gunner Andrew Rumann

Headquarters, Royal Australian Artillery, 8th Division, Australian Imperial Force (AIF)

Service Number – NX26452
Date of birth – 13 Sep 1905
Place of birth – Hungary
Place of enlistment – Paddington NSW
Next of Kin – Rumann, Rena

Malaya, captured at Singapore

Camp: Osaka, Japan

Andrew died in 1974 in Toor, Australia at 68 years old

 

In January 1941 a large component of the Australian Army’s recently raised 8th Division was posted to Malaya. An element of some 6000 men departed Sydney in the liner Queen Mary as part of Convoy US9 on 4 February 1941, arriving in Singapore two weeks later on 18 February. A further 5000 troops in Convoy US11B arrived at Keppel Harbour on 15 August 1941. Under the command of Major General Gordon Bennett, the force initially established its headquarters at Kuala Lumpur. Bennett had urged for specific territorial responsibility for his Division, and this resulted in an area which included Johore and Malacca, coming within his responsibility.

The Australian Army 8th Division in Malaya eventually reached about 15,000 men. An apt description of the commander, Major General Henry (Gordon) Bennett, found in a Veterans’ Affairs publication, (Moremon & Reid 2002) reads:

“A prominent citizen soldier, he had proven himself in World War I to be a fierce fighter and leader, but he was well known for his prickly temperament, argumentative nature and proneness to quarrel. His relations with senior British commanders and staff in Malaya were, at times, strained, as he grappled to maintain control of the Australian troops.”

Bennett’s independent spirit did not fit into the Allied command structure, however his Division generally acquitted themselves well against a seasoned enemy.

Walter Burroughs. “The Naval Evacuation of Singapore – February 1942,” on the Naval Historical Society of Australia website. June 2019 edition of the Naval Historical Review  [Online] Cited 04/09/2020.

 

Convoy US11B

Convoy US11B

Departed Sydney 29/7/1941 – Arrived Fremantle 6/8/1941
Departed Fremantle 8/8/1941 – Arrived Singapore 15/8/1941

Ships: Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt, Katoomba, HMAS Sydney, Marnix Van St. Aldegonde, HMAS Canberra, Sibajak.

In late July 1941 a convoy was organised to transport 8th Division troops to Singapore. The convoy included three Dutch passenger ships, and escort ships from the Royal Australian Navy.

 

Summary of Embarkation for Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (HMT FF)

The following troops embarked Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt at Woolloomooloo, Sydney on 29/7/1941 for the voyage to Singapore.

61524 – 8 Division Artillery

29 men arrived including 3 officers, 1 warrant officer, 3 sergeants, 22 corporals and privates.

(Source: Australian Army War Diary 1/15/14 – District Records Office Eastern Command May – July 1941)

 

Troopship 32 – Voyage 4

She [JVO] departed Sydney on July 17 and headed for Auckland New Zealand where she arrived on July 21 and departed again on the 22nd. She returned to Sydney arriving on July 25 and departed again on the 29th, sailing via Fremantle to Singapore arriving on August 15. End of Troop voyage 4.

 

 

Johan van Oldenbarnevelt on the way to Fremantle, 1/8/1941

 

Johan van Oldenbarnevelt on the way to Fremantle, 1/8/1941
Aerial Starboard side view of the Dutch liner Johan van Oldenbarnevelt transporting Australian troops to the Middle East as part of convoy US11B. Note the 4.7 pound gun and 12 pounder AA gun aft
1st August 1941
Australian War Memorial Naval Historical Collection
Public domain

 

Trooper Johan van Oldenbarnevelt is seen departing Wellington New Zealand during Troop Voyage 6 on September 15, 1941

 

Trooper Johan van Oldenbarnevelt is seen departing Wellington New Zealand during Troop Voyage 6 on September 15, 1941 – Note the guns up on the aft section!

 

Andrew Rumann. 'Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]' 1941

 

Andrew Rumann (Australian, 1905-1974)
Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]
1941
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Circular Quay with the Sydney Harbour Trust building at left in the background. The spire is the CQ Fire Station No. 3.

 

Andrew Rumann. 'Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]' 1941

 

Andrew Rumann (Australian, 1905-1974)
Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]
1941
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Andrew Rumann. 'Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]' 1941 (detail)

 

Andrew Rumann (Australian, 1905-1974)
Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore] (detail)
1941
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Gunner Andrew Rumann POW entry

 

NX26452 Gunner Andrew Rumann POW entry

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Encampment]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Encampment]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Women standing in front of an American Red Cross sign]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Women standing in front of an American Red Cross sign]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

 

The American Red Cross (ARC or Amcross) in Australia during WW2 became the largest hotel and restaurant chain in Australia at the time. Amcross was headed by Norman H. Davis with its headquarters in Sydney, NSW. …

Four American women led by Miss Helen Hall arrived in Australia in about late August 1942 to take charge of American Red Cross Service Personnel and to establish new American Red Cross centres and to extend existing centres. Miss Hall was the administrative assistant to the delegate in charge of American Red Cross Service Clubs and Leave Areas in Australia. The other three women were Miss Hannah More Frazer, who was appointed Director of the American Red Cross Service Club in Melbourne in about September 1942; Miss Florice Langley who opened an ARC Service Club in Cairns, in far north Queensland; and Mrs. Anita Woodworth who opened an ARC Service Club in Charters Towers in north Queensland.

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Post Exchange No. 2]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Post Exchange No. 2]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Post Exchange No. 2]' 1942-45 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Post Exchange No. 2] (detail)
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Taking out the rubbish]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Taking out the rubbish]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [BKC*23]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [BKC*23]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [BKC*23]' 1942-45 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [BKC*23] (detail)
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Mike Peel. 'Carley float' 2018

 

Mike Peel
Carley float
2018
CC-BY-SA-4.0

 

 

Carley float

The Carley float (sometimes Carley raft) was a form of invertible liferaft designed by American inventor Horace Carley (1838-1918). Supplied mainly to warships, it saw widespread use in a number of navies during peacetime and both World Wars until superseded by more modern rigid or inflatable designs. Carley was awarded a patent in 1903 after establishing the Carley Life Float Company of Philadelphia. …

Simply by casting it over the side, the lightweight Carley float could be launched more rapidly than traditional rigid lifeboat designs, and without the need for specialised hoists. It could be mounted on any convenient surface and survive the battering against the ship’s sides during heavy seas. Unlike the rubber inflatable rafts of the period, it was relatively immune to compromise of its buoyant chambers. Seafarers in it were however completely exposed to the elements, and would suffer accordingly. An inquiry of 1946 reported that many sailors who had succeeded in getting to the safety of Carley floats had nevertheless succumbed to exposure before rescue could be made. The crew of the Canadian minesweeper HMCS Esquimalt, sunk offshore of Nova Scotia in April 1945, lost at least 16 to hypothermia during the six hours in which they awaited rescue. Few of the survivors could still walk.

Despite these shortcomings many seamen did owe their lives to the Carley float. Chinese sailor Poon Lim survived for a record 133 days adrift in the South Atlantic aboard a Carley float after his freighter SS Benlomond was sunk on 23 November 1942. He fashioned fishing gear from components of the raft. He was close to death when discovered off the coast of Brazil on 5 April 1943, but was able to walk ashore unaided.

Though its occupant did not survive, a shrapnel-ridden Carley float carried the body of an unknown man to land on Christmas Island in February 1942. The sun-bleached corpse had evidently spent a lengthy period at sea, though to this day it remains unknown from where the sailor had come. It has long been suspected that the body was that of a sailor from HMAS Sydney, which was lost with all hands under mysterious circumstances off the coast of Australia on 19 November 1941. A second Carley float, more confidently believed to be from Sydney, was recovered drifting 300 km off the Australian coast one week after the ship sank. It had been badly damaged by shellfire, but was empty. The float is now displayed at the HMAS Sydney exhibit of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23]' 1942-45 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23] (detail)
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Embarkation]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Embarkation]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Embarkation]' 1942-45 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Embarkation] (detail)
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

 

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18
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘Portraits of War: The Crown Studios Project’ at the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 28th June – 21st September 2014

 

Crown Street Studios 'Reginald Gardiner' c. 1918

 

Crown Street Studios
Reginald Gardiner
c. 1918
Date of Birth: 20.9.1898
Date of Enlistment: 17.5.1918
Trade or Calling: Book keeper
Born in or near what Town: Orange

 

Reginald Gardiner was born on the 21st of September 1898, and was recognised as a trade book keeper. Besides that, not much is known about him.

 

 

They were so young

for Australians

to die

under the Rising Sun

 

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the State Library of New South Wales for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Crown Street Studios. 'Eric Hughes' c. 1918

 

Crown Street Studios
Eric Hughes
c. 1918
Date of Birth: 4.5.1900
Date of Enlistment: 5.8.1918
Trade or Calling: Labourer
Born in or near what Town: Newtown

 

Crown Street Studios. 'Alfred Duroux' c. 1918

 

Crown Street Studios
Alfred Duroux
c. 1918
Date of Birth: 11.8.1892
Date of Enlistment: 12.6.1918
Born in or near what Town: Cangai via Copmanhurst

 

Crown Street Studios. 'Jack Hodgson' Nd

 

Crown Street Studios
Jack Hodgson
Nd

 

Jack Hodgson was left blind after he was wounded in Gallipoli around 1915. He served in the 4th Battalion and is pictured here showing his service medals to his son.

 

Crown Street Studios. 'William Joseph Langworthy' c. 1918

 

Crown Street Studios
William Joseph Langworthy
c. 1918
Date of Birth: unknown
Date of Enlistment: 19.2.1918
Trade or Calling: Driver
Born in or near what Town: Canley Vale
Address prior to Enlistment: Prospect Rd Canley Vale

 

William Joseph Langworthy from Canley Vale returned to Australia on July 7, 1919. He served as a private in the 34th Battalion after enlisting on February 19, 1918.

 

 

For the first time in nearly a century an extraordinary and haunting collection of over 230 photographic portraits of WWI soldiers from NSW will go on show in a free exhibition at the State Library of NSW, from 28 June 2014. Produced as part of the Library’s WWI centenary program, Portraits of War: The Crown Studios Project reveals the fascinating story behind the creation of the portraits and delivers a moving experience that bears witness to the individual faces of Aussie soldiers who served their country and faced a hostile and deadly conflict far from home.

The pocket-sized images on show are drawn from the Library’s collection of some 1,600 portraits taken in 1918 – prior to the soldiers heading overseas – by Sydney’s largest photographic studio at the time, the Crown Street Studios, as part of an ambitious WWI collecting project. According to NSW State Librarian & Chief Executive, Alex Byrne: “When the project began it encountered a storm of newspaper criticism and monopoly accusations by Sydney photographers however, thanks to the tenacity and support of the Principal Librarian at the time, William Ifould, the project continued and he secured the portraits for future generations.”

The project was initiated through a generous proposal made by Sydney’s Crown Studio’s proprietor Mark Blow in 1918. Blow’s idea was to compile a portrait collection of all WWI soldiers from NSW by photographing the men in his studio or by asking relatives of soldiers to forward existing images for copying. The entire collection would be donated ‘free of charge’ to the Mitchell Library [now part of the State Library]. Ifould addressed the monopoly concerns by inviting all photographers to supply photo-portraits as long as they met the required size and quality conditions. Unfortunately, the project was never completed.

A damaging fire at the Studio in December 1918 hindered the collection process and while copies of the portraits were protected in a fireproof safe, the Studio did not re-open again until 1 July 1919. Exhibition curator Louise Tegart says “the information on the back of each print is just as compelling as the portraits themselves with personal details handwritten, including whether soldiers made it home or not.”

“The exhibition features a portrait of Sgt Gates, a Sydney-based plumber before enlisting in 1917 and who was killed in action in 1918, aged 24. His only brother, Private Frank Gates, was killed in action just the day before,” says MsTegart. “The portraits capture the faces of men of all ages set against different backgrounds and sadly, it could be the only photograph families had of their sons, brothers or uncles.”

Press release from The State Library of New South Wales

 

“They’re very intimate photographs,” says the exhibition’s curator, Louise Tegart. “What really strikes me is the diversity of the soldiers… You get a wide variety of ages, backgrounds, and religions.” The photos were taken by Mark Blow at Sydney’s Crown Street Studios from June 1918, after he approached the NSW Premier wanting to document the soldiers from across the state that were going off to war. His only condition in doing this was that the photos were kept at the Mitchell Library (now the NSW State Library).

“Photography had been around for probably 70 or 80 years at that stage, but not a lot of people could afford their own cameras,’ says Louise. “Going in and having your photo taken in a studio context was still a very special and quite expensive experience. “Another part of the project was if people couldn’t come in to the studio to have their photo taken, or if they’d been part of the war prior to 1918, family members sent in their photographs and had them copied.”

In December 1918, a fire ravaged the studios, bringing an end to the project. “It’s really only a small sample of what could’ve been a much larger project.”

Robert Virtue. “Release of war hero’s portrait triggers hunt for information,” on the ABC Central West NSW website, 25th June 2014 [Online] Cited 16/06/2021

 

Crown Street Studios. 'Claude James Hunt' c. 1918

 

Crown Street Studios
Claude James Hunt
c. 1918
Date of Birth: 8.3.1899
Date of Enlistment: 3.7.1918
Trade or Calling: Grazier
Born in or near what Town: Inverell
Address prior to Enlistment: “Como” Frazer St West Narrabri

 

Crown Street Studios. 'Roy Henderson Robertson' c. 1914-15

 

Crown Street Studios
Roy Henderson Robertson
c. 1914-15
Date of Birth: c. Feb 1899 at Scarborough NSW
School: Clifton NSW
Other military training: Compulsory cadets
Date of Enlistment: 14.6.1915 at Scarborough NSW
Trade or Calling: Grocer’s assistant
Born in or near what Town: Scarborough NSW
Address prior to Enlistment: Scarborough NSW

 

 

He was just a fresh-faced 16-year-old when he was killed fighting with Australian troops in Gallipoli on November 7, 1915. Roy Henderson Robertson, from Scarborough in NSW, enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force’s 20th Infantry Battalion just four months before he was killed. A portrait of the grocer’s assistant, who rests at Gallipoli’s Walker’s Ridge Cemetery, has been in a collection owned by the State Library of NSW for almost a century.

 

Crown Street Studios. 'Louis Robert Bromham' c. 1918

 

Crown Street Studios
Louis Robert Bromham
c. 1918
Date of Birth: 9.8.1899
Date of Enlistment: 2.2.1918
Trade or Calling: Schoolteacher
Born in or near what Town: Coolamon
Address prior to Enlistment: Tooyal Nth, Coolamon

 

Crown Street Studios. 'Roy Wilfred Williams' c. 1918

 

Crown Street Studios
Roy Wilfred Williams
c. 1918
Date of Birth: 18.3.1900
Date of Enlistment: 24.4.1918
Trade or Calling: Carter
Born in or near what Town: Lithgow
Address prior to Enlistment: Pottery Estate Lithgow

 

 

State Library of New South Wales
Macquarie Street, Sydney
NSW 2000 Australia
Phone: +61 2 9273 1414

Opening hours:
Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm
Saturday – Sunday 10am – 5pm

State Library of New South Wales website

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03
Sep
12

Exhibition: ‘Home Front: Wartime Sydney 1939-45’ at the Museum of Sydney

Exhibition dates: 31st March – 9th September 2012

 

S Hood. '6th division AIF troops waving from troop-train carriage, 13 September 1940' 1940

 

S Hood
6th division AIF troops waving from troop-train carriage, 13 September 1940
1940
© Australian War Memorial

 

 

Some poignant photographs in this posting of young Australian men setting off to fight in the early stages of the Second World War. The message scrawled in chalk on the side of the train (below, at left) reads, “Berlin first stop. Look out Hitler, we’ll be there soon.” Little did they know it would be five long, hard years of fighting and countless deaths before that aphorism would come true. The 6th division AIF troops first fought in North Africa against the Italians at Tobruk and was then sent to Greece to fight the German advance. About 39 per cent of the Australian troops in Greece on 6 April 1941 were either killed, wounded or became prisoners of war. The division then fought in the Pacific War on the Kokoda Trail campaign in the New Guinea theatre until the end of the war.

I wonder how many of the men, smiling and leaning out of the train carriage or departing on a troop ship, returned to these shores?

The last photograph in the posting is so very eloquent it actually moved me to tears. The women being hoisted aloft to kiss her loved one last time – clutching her handbag, complete with rumpled, lumpy stockings. To the right (and this is what caught my eye), a man looks straight at the camera while another right next to him has this distant melancholy look on his face as though he is not actually there. A portent of things to come. Brave men, fighting in the only war that Australians have had to fight for their own freedom, not at the whim of a colonial power or overseas ally in some far of distant land. Brave men and women – we wouldn’t be here without them.

.
Many thankx to the Museum of Sydney for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Troops of the 6th Division wave goodbye, Sydney 1940' 1940

 

Anonymous photographer
Troops of the 6th Division wave goodbye, Sydney 1940
1940
© Australian War Memorial

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Men of the 6th Division returning from Wewak crowd the deck of HMS Implacable, 18 Dec 1945' 1945

 

Anonymous photographer
Men of the 6th Division returning from Wewak crowd the deck of HMS Implacable, 18 Dec 1945
1945
© Australian War Memorial

 

Anonymous photographer. 'An Australian built DAP Bristol Beaufort VIII aircraft, serial no A9-700, in flight over Sydney Harbour near the Bridge' c. 1944

 

Anonymous photographer
An Australian built DAP Bristol Beaufort VIII aircraft, serial no A9-700, in flight over Sydney Harbour near the Bridge
c. 1944
© Australian War Memorial

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Partly submerged RAN accommodation ship damaged during the unsuccessful Japanese midget submarine attack 1 June 1942' 1942

 

Anonymous photographer
Partly submerged RAN accommodation ship damaged during the unsuccessful Japanese midget submarine attack 1 June 1942
1942
© Australian War Memorial

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Two women donning gas masks as part of an air raid drill' Nd

 

Anonymous photographer
Two women donning gas masks as part of an air raid drill
Nd
© Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Members of the Wardens' Women's Auxiliary making for the scene of an incident' c. 1943

 

Anonymous photographer
Members of the Wardens’ Women’s Auxiliary making for the scene of an incident
c. 1943
© Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria

 

 

In May 1942 three Japanese midget submarines entered Sydney Harbour in an attempt to sink allied ships, bringing the once far away war to the shores of the harbourside city and shaking the country to its core. Coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Sydney Harbour, Home Front: Wartime Sydney 1939-45 a new exhibition opening 31 March at the Museum of Sydney, explores the experience of the women, men and children who rallied together to support the war effort from home.

Unprepared for another world war, Australians initially referred to the conflict as ‘the phoney war’, however it wasn’t long before propaganda posters were plastered around Sydney, censorship and food rationing became the norm, and tank traps and barbed wire replaced bronzed bodies on Sydney beaches. For six long years the world seemed to come to Sydney as soldiers, sailors and airmen from many nations called Sydney home, making wartime an exciting and thrilling period for some, while for others it was a long and lonely time interrupted by the occasional letter from a loved one serving overseas.

Almost 40,000 Australians lost their lives with the war leaving a lasting impact at home and transforming the lives of generations of Australians, in particular the lives of women, says Curator Annie Campbell. “As well as having to cope with war related anxieties and stress, many women were ‘manpowered’ to work in wartime industries such as ammunitions factories and aircraft construction. Everyone had to make sacrifices on the home front, however despite wartime shortages and rationing, women were expected and actively encouraged to look smart, which often involved some innovative thinking. One of my favourite objects in the exhibition is a wedding dress made out of parachute silk and mosquito net for a war bride, later worn by her sister and two girlfriends on their special days.

While the troops were busy on the battlefields, Sydneysiders prepared for the possibility of an enemy invasion on home soil. An anti-submarine boom net was installed across Sydney Harbour to keep out attacking forces, bomb shelters were constructed in Hyde Park and protective timbers were placed around landmark buildings. In 1942 blackout restrictions were introduced to limit the effectiveness of air raids, all Sydney lights were switched off and car, train and tram headlights were masked, giving the city a sinister feel. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom, large numbers of people were ready to have fun in Sydney and the Trocadero on George Street became a mecca for white American servicemen, while the Booker T Washington Club in Albion Street Surry Hills serviced the African-American GI’s,” says Campbell.

Highlights of the exhibition include the microphone used by Prime Minister Robert Menzies to announce that Australia was at war, remnants of the Japanese midget submarines that attacked Sydney, over 100 photographs and artworks depicting wartime Sydney, and a short documentary featuring historic footage. Over 200 wartime Sydney mementoes will also feature in the exhibition including propaganda posters, warden’s memorabilia, letters from soldiers serving overseas and a selection of wartime fashions.

Press release from the Museum of Sydney website

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Sydney kindergarten children wearing air raid headgear designed to muffle sounds and prevent them from biting tongues' Nd

 

Anonymous photographer
Sydney kindergarten children wearing air raid headgear designed to muffle sounds and prevent them from biting tongues
Nd
© Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Eve Holliman, Hilda Jamieson and Vera Thurlow converting a car into an ambulance' Nd

 

Anonymous photographer
Eve Holliman, Hilda Jamieson and Vera Thurlow converting a car into an ambulance
Nd
© Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Woman war worker' 1944

 

Anonymous photographer
Woman war worker
1944
© Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW

 

Anonymous. 'Change Over to a Victory Job propaganda poster' Nd

 

Anonymous
Change Over to a Victory Job propaganda poster
Nd
© Australian War Memorial

 

Anonymous. 'Advertisement for Ponds' 1945

 

Anonymous
Advertisement for Ponds
1945
© National Library of Australia

 

Weaver Hawkins. 'Jitterbugs' 1945

 

Weaver Hawkins (English, 1893-1977)
Jitterbugs
1945
Oil on canvas, Art Gallery of New South Wales
© Estate of H F Weaver Hawkins
Photograph Jenni Carter

 

S Hood. 'Sydney embarkation, 13 September 1940' 1940

 

S Hood
Sydney embarkation, 13 September 1940
1940
© Australian War Memorial

 

S Hood. 'Sydney embarkation, 13 September 1940' 1940 (detail)

 

S Hood
Sydney embarkation, 13 September 1940 (detail)
1940
© Australian War Memorial

 

 

Museum of Sydney
Cnr Bridge and Phillip Streets
Sydney, NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 9251 5988

Opening hours:
Thursday – Sunday 9.30am – 5pm
Closed Good Friday and Christmas Day

Museum of Sydney website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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