Dunstan, William 'Bill' (Captain, b.1920 - d.2015)

Accession Number AWM2018.94.1
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement Extent: 3.5 cm; Wallet/s: 2
Object type Letter
Maker Dunstan, William 'Bill'
Place made Australia, Belgium, British Mandate of Palestine: Palestine, Egypt, Germany, India, Italy, Lebanon, Netherlands East Indies, Singapore
Date made 1943-1946
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

Collection relating to the Second World War service of VX14436 / 309493 Captain William 'Bill' Dunstan, Australian and British Army, Egypt, Italy, India, Singapore, Belgium, Palestine, Dutch East India, 1943-1946. Collection consists of letters and airgraphs sent mainly between Cpt Dunstan and his father, also named William Dunstan, who had been awarded a Victoria Cross during the First World War. The letters date from 23 December 1943 to 25 May 1946.

Following the return to Australia of Cpt Dunstan's unit, the 2/4 Field Regiment, he sought a transfer to the British Army, which was quickly granted, allowing him to retain his rank and transfer directly to Egypt for training. The collection consists of correspondence during the period of Cpt Dunstan's application to join the British Army to his demobilisation from Batavia in early 1946. Many of the original handwritten letters were typed up contemporaneously and are attached to hand-written letters.

Wallet one:
Contains 147 letters and airgraphs relating to training in Cairo and tourism while on leave to areas in the Middle East such as Tel Aviv; the invasion of southern Italy; action seen in Belgium; movement towards the Elbe Valley and occupation work in Germany - the latter of which led to a boredom which saw Cpt Dunstan apply for service in the Pacific in order to get closer to Australia. In several letters, there are mentions of the Holocaust and Nazi ideologies, with Cpt Dunstan relaying stories he had heard, and his father having seen films of the atrocities. Also discussed are the large amount of looted items that were found in Germany as the occupation forces continued to travel through Germany, including 'a warehouse full of tonnes of silver', and another with 'enough arms to arm a full militia'. Many letters discuss Cpt Dunstan's post-war employment, and his father's attempts to allow him training in Canada and America to then join the Herald newspaper on his return. Also included is a piece of German aerial propaganda relating to the invasion of Southern Italy entitled 'Beach-Head Death's Head.'

Wallet two:
Contains 23 letters relating to service following the Japanese surrender, to Cpt Dunstan's embarkation on a ship to Australia on 25 May 1946. During this period, Cpt Dunstan spends time in the Middle East, India, and the Dutch East Indies. Much of the communication in this wallet relates to Cpt Dunstan's command of a small unit consisting of members from various Allied nations helping to quash insurgency attempts in the Dutch East Indies - the precursor to the Indonesian drive for independence, which they would gain in 1949 - and Cpt Dunstan's displeasure with the British Army in delaying his discharge. During this period, there are several letters addressing a court martial that Cpt Dunstan was required to attend in India following the theft of his cheque book and subsequent theft of money from his account.

Also included throughout in the collection are several letters sent to and from Cpt Dunstan's mother, and various letters sent by his father to his friends around the world asking for various favours in relation to his son.