Tuesday 28 July 2009 by Alexandra Orr. 4 comments
News, New acquisitions, Collection, Ephemera, Iraq.

The 31st of July 2009 will mark the end of Operation CATALYST. CATALYST began on the 20th of March 2003 and defined the role of the Australian Defence Force in assisting multinational forces in the stabilization and security of Iraq. It also involved ADF support in the implementation of the country’s recovery programs.

Boatswains Mates, HMAS Parramatta, 2009 Boatswains Mates, HMAS Parramatta, 2009

During the course of this operation, the Australian War Memorial’s collection of Iraq material has grown substantially as more and more service personnel realise the value of donating material. The Memorial encourages ADF personnel who have served or are continuing to serve in recent conflicts, such as the war in Iraq, to donate items in relation to their deployment. The experiences of those deployed in recent conflicts have their own significance and uniqueness which are worthy of expression, and the Memorial is eager to obtain material which reflects this. The Memorial realises that capturing recent ADF experiences in the form of diaries, letters and other paper messages remains difficult as email and phones have replaced much of these traditional formats. Under these circumstances, the Memorial endeavours to capture what it can and it has been fortunate to have received some interesting donations.


Instructional Pamphlets RC04106 RC04103 RC07969 Instructional Pamphlets RC04106 RC04103 RC07969


Examples of material in the collection relating to Operation CATALYST include a range of items issued officially to personnel during the course of their deployment, including preparation for deployment. For instance, the items pictured above are instructional pamphlets for personnel.



Group of souvenirs. RC05416, RC03664, RC01870, REL31418, 2/1/2 Iraq Formed Collection. Group of souvenirs. RC05416, RC03664, RC01870, REL31418, 2/1/2 Iraq Formed Collection.


Other items are more personal and range from souvenirs to correspondence and artistic expression. The items shown above include the first Iraqi postage stamp issued post-Saddam Hussein; Canteen Currency; Transport Tags; an Agro doll - the mascot for HMAS Darwin; and Wipe Out Saddam white board paper. Other items have included the Iraqi booklet on Saddam Hussein and weapons instruction manual, pictured below.


Iraqi pamphlets. RC01728 RC05046. Iraqi pamphlets. RC01728 RC05046.


As greater numbers of material are born digital, the Memorial must work harder to capture these representations of the ADF experience. For instance, below is a copy of an electronic newsletter produced by the crew of HMAS Parramatta during its deployment in the Gulf in 2008-2009. Such newsletters depict something of the crew and their life on board. These can be circulated to family members back home and, along with cruise books and unit and squadron histories, they will be useful for those researching the experiences of deployed ADF personnel in years to come.

Parramatta Post Issues 5 and 4, 2009 Parramatta Post Issues 5 and 4, 2009

There is no doubt that items such as these reflect something of the experiences of ADF personnel during the Iraq War, including camaraderie and hardship. Colour patches, for example, are not only a way of identifying roles and official attachments but reflect identity. They also make useful souvenirs and many on deployment swap their patches with other personnel, including with international forces.


Group of Colour Patches: REL34601, 39878, 39730, 39877, 35849, 35651 Group of Colour Patches: REL34601, 39878, 39730, 39877, 35849, 35651


Humour remains important as ever, as is demonstrated by the email joke below. Tradition, however, is just as significant, as illustrated by the copy of a program for an ANZAC Day Dawn Service held by HMAS Toowoomba while in the Gulf.

Email joke and souvenir program. RC03681_1, RC07258. Email joke and souvenir program. RC03681_1, RC07258.

Although CATALYST will conclude at the end of July, the ADF will continue to contribute to the protection of diplomatic staff in Iraq under Operation KRUGER and offer support with the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) under Operation RIVERBANK. Likewise, Operation SLIPPER will continue the ADF’s contribution to the War on Terror in Afghanistan, as well as combating piracy and providing maritime security in the Gulf.

Aviation team, HMAS Parramatta, 2009 Aviation team, HMAS Parramatta, 2009

As these and other ADF operations continue, the Australian War Memorial encourages those personnel currently serving to keep us in mind when wondering what to do with those instructional leaflets, souvenir stickers, postcards, photographs and cruise books. These items will express the ADF experience long after the Iraq War has passed into history.

A Finding Aid to the Research Centre's Iraq 2003 Formed Collection may be found on the website of the Australian War Memorial, here.


Colonel Marcus Fielding

Alexandra, Well done on yet another timely blog. Having returned from Operation Catalyst a few short weeks ago it is heartening to see both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence publicly recognise the contribution made by ADF members to the mission in Iraq over the last six years. Despite the political controversy surrounding Iraq and the fighting there over the last six years I think its important for the public to recognise that the ADF is a servant of the Government and simply seeks to carry out its direction to the best of its ability. I am confident that everyone of us that served there believed that we were contributing to making Iraq and the world a better place. I can assure those who served in Iraq in the early years that the security situation has greatly improved and that the rehabilitation of Iraq is well underway. I can also assure you that the vast majority of the people of Iraq understand the efforts that the Coalition has gone to and appreciates our sacrifices. Now that this chapter of Australian military history has closed I encourage all those who participated in this event to make contact with the AWM and determine if you have items that will contribute to the record of our experiences. Colonel Marcus Fielding

Robyn van Dyk

Great post - I love the images!

Alexandra Orr says:

Thank you Colonel Fielding for your response - and in particular for urging ADF members to donate their material. Considering the fact that the number of people serving in Iraq is far less than the World Wars and that the conflict has been winding down, it is all the more important that we obtain items to depict the experiences of service personnel before they are lost with time.

Dave Taylor

To all who served... Thank You