Echoes of Voices from Overseas
In 1941 an ABC Field Recording Unit went aboard the cruiser HMAS Perth to record messages to be broadcast on the Voices from Overseas program, and this is how the broadcast began. Official Photographer George Silk captured many images of Perth's crew over several months in 1941, and photographed the recording session.
Next the cheerful voice of Patrick Kelly, a stoker in Perth, can be heard sending greetings and reassurances to loved ones back home: “We’re doing all right over here and our chins are up, so don’t worry.” Kelly enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy in 1935, aged 20. By 1940 he was in the Mediterranean, where Perth would see heavy action around Greece, Crete, and Syria.
Speaking on behalf of several Western Australians, Kelly signs off: “We’re all hale and hearty and in the pink, so everything’s right. So au revoir ’til we see you. Goodbye.”
Patrick Kelly was one of 357 Australians who died when Perth was sunk by the Japanese on 1 March 1942, during the battle of Sunda Strait.
In 1942 the ABC lent the original Voices from Overseas discs for copying and subsequent sale to aid the Red Cross in their fundraising efforts. Relatives and friends were invited to the Myer Emporium, where they could order their copy of a loved one’s recording. For many families this short recorded message would become their most tangible reminder of someone they lost, a way of ensuring his voice lived on.
This fragile metal-core disc was recently donated to the Sound Collection by Patrick Kelly's niece making certain that his voice would be preserved for future generations to hear. Listening to this young man's voice 70 years after he died is a reminder of the sacrifice made by him and by so many other Australians.
Listen to the digitised audio of this recording: