Research Centre display: Sailor art and the Second World War
A new display of art by sailors of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is now on show in the Memorial's Research Centre. These pieces were prepared for inclusion in the RAN Christmas Annual, H.M.A.S. Mk IV, and in most cases, never used.
H.M.A.S. Mk IV was one of a series of Christmas books published for the RAN by the Australian War Memorial between 1942 and 1957. The purpose of these books was to help honour those who served, or were still serving, and provide an outlet for their experiences during time of war. Other books in this series paid similar tribute to the Australian army and Royal Australian Air Force.
During September 1945, the navy invited contributions toward the fourth book in the series and awarded cash prizes for suitable contributions. Stories, verse, drawings and photographs by sailors were all considered for inclusion. The fourth (and last) naval edition was publised as H.M.A.S. Mk IV at the close of 1945.
The display highlights the input of sailors who fancied themselves as drawers. Section 4 of the entry terms states that offers of drawings must be "black and white - humorous or otherwise - for reproduction by line block, on the whole or half of a page, paper size 8 and 1/4 by 11 inches deep." A winning entry in this category attracted prizemoney of £10, second prize £5, third £3 and seven additional prizes of £1 each.
Our display consists of 17 drawings, penned by eight different artists, whose work was not merited by the judges for inclusion in the book. The submissions, however, were not lost to history. They made their way into the files of the naval historical collection and accessioned by the Memorial as Official Records series AWM124.
"They disclose to us something of the character of the men" wrote Admiral Hamilton in the Forward of H.M.A.S Mk IV. In commemorating sailors in 2008, the Memorial reflects on the achievement of our sea-going artists as we approach the 63rd anniversary of their contribution.
To view the showcase, please visit the Reading Room of the Australian War Memorial.