The School Rats

Accession Number ART28414.003
Collection type Art
Measurement Sheet - irregular: 63.8 x 48.4 cm
Object type Work on paper
Physical description gouache on paper
Maker Nichol, Arthur John
Place made Poland: Stalag VIII-B
Date made c. 1941–45

Item copyright: AWM Licensed copyright


A poster for a theatrical performance produced by artist NX4185 Sergeant Arthur John Nichol in German POW camp Stalag VIII-B (later renamed Stalag 344). This poster was one of many produced by Nichol throughout the duration of his internment using art supplies supplied by the Red Cross. Camp concerts and plays like the one advertised on this poster were held regularly to boost the morale of the POWs.

Nichol enlisted in November 1939 in Sydney at the age of 25 and served with the 2/1st Battalion, 2 AIF. In May 1941, much of his Battalion was captured in Crete while defending the strategically important airfield at Retimo against German advances and he spent the remainder of the war as a German POW. He was interned at Stalag VIII-B in Lamsdorf, Silesia (now known as Lambowice, Poland). During the Winter of January 1945, Nichol, along with thousands of other POWs were forced to march west by the Germans to escape the advance of Soviet forces. This event became known as 'The Lamsdorf Death March' or 'The Long March', where many fatalities occurred. Nichol survived the march and was eventually liberated in 1945 and repatriated back to Australia. His final rank of Sergeant was confirmed prior to his discharge in August 1945.

Nichol trained as an artist at the East Sydney Technical College during the 1930s. Before the war, he worked as a freelance graphic artist and worked for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Bulletin producing caricatures and illustrations. Upon his return to Australia in 1945, he exhibited some of his works and returned to work for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Bulletin, and continued his freelance work with other various publishers including the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph and Smith's weekly. Whilst working casually for The Bulletin during the 1960s, he signed his cartoons with the pseudonym 'Kurt Nodt' (Nichol Arts, 2021).