Delighted to be home: four of the six Australian army nurses arrive in Sydney on 13 September, 1945. Left to right: Captain Kay Parker, Lieutenant (Lt) Lorna Whyte; Lt Daisy 'Tootie' Keast; Lt Mavis Cullen.

Fried shrimps and scallops, ham “a la King” and lemon sponge: these were the dishes that six Australian Army nurses would dream of while they were held captive in Japan during the Second World War.

Instead, the prisoners received a monotonous diet consisting mostly of rice and soya bean soup, and stew with questionable pieces of meat. On the eighth day of each month – known as “degradation” or “humiliation” day – the meagre vegetables that were issued were thrown into a cesspit and the women made to retrieve them; occasionally they were made to eat scraps from a pig bucket.

The nurses’ ordeal, which was to last three years and seven months, began 70 years ago when they surrendered to the Japanese after the invasion of Rabaul on 23 January 1942. Rabaul was the administrative capital of Australia’s Mandated Territory of New Guinea. It had a strategically important, deep-water harbour and airfields that were well-positioned for reconnaissance and bombing sorties over the Japanese naval bases in the Caroline Islands. But few resources were allocated to the protection of the garrison, and the men who tried gallantly to protect it from attack were overwhelmed by a much larger invading force.

The Australian army nurses were mostly country girls who had sailed from Sydney on the converted troopship Zealandia in April 1941. The nurses were the only servicewomen on the island and served with the 2/10th Field Ambulance, which consisted of two doctors and 20 male orderlies.

The army hospital in Rabaul had been evacuated on 22 January and transferred to the Roman Catholic mission at Vunapope. The army doctors didn’t stay on and took with them the ambulances, most of the medical supplies and the orderlies. The head nurse, Sister Kathleen Parker, and an Anglican chaplain surrendered on behalf of the hospital when the Japanese arrived.

The nurses were made to stand for hours in the blazing sun with Japanese machine-guns trained on them. That day the Japanese killed about 20 patients, as well as the chaplain. The army nurses expected to be killed too; instead they were imprisoned in a convent within the mission until July 1942, along with a small number of missionary and administrative nurses and one civilian woman. Some Australian soldiers were also imprisoned in the mission.

In early July the nurses and other internees – including the Australian soldiers -- were taken by ship to Yokohama, Japan. The women spent most of the next two years under guard in the Yokohama Amateur Rowing Club, not allowed to write to their families. At first, the conditions were tolerable: they had clean toilets and cold showers were always available; hot baths were occasionally allowed. There were ping-pong sets, badminton and cards, and during the warmer months they swam in the club pool. But conditions declined after the first year in captivity: the women were regularly slapped and occasionally they were lined up at gunpoint. Red Cross officials were stopped from visiting them. They suffered greatly in the extreme cold of the winter months: their bed coverings were flimsy and heating within the building was poor or non-existent, so to stay warm they slept two to a bed.

Food was always on their minds, and a recipe book compiled by Sister Eileen Callaghan and held at the Australian War Memorial reveals just what they desired: cheese dishes, hearty roasts, fresh salads, luscious desserts, and cakes.

Nurse Daisy Keast recalled that after her release, her first letter home to her parents demanded that her first meal when she arrived home be roast pork and steamed date pudding.

“That’s all we thought about and talked about,” she said. “My family said we never talked to them at all, all we talked about was food.”

The women were moved in April 1944 to a farmhouse at Totsuka, about 50 kilometres from Yokohama and with a view of Mount Fuji. The house had no heating or showers so they washed from buckets. They were made dig air-raid trenches for the Japanese, and in winter had to shovel paths in the snow. They grew weaker from hunger and suffered deficiency diseases such as beri-beri.

The women had scant news from the outside world, but by 1945 they could tell the war was going badly for the Japanese. They watched the bombing raids over Yokohama and Tokyo. On 17 August, 1945, the internees were told that peace had been declared. The women were free, but afraid of reprisals, they remained in the compound. Food suddenly improved, a doctor visited and gave them medicine, and they also received coats to cover their tattered nurses’ uniforms.

On 31 August, after three years and seven months of imprisonment, two of the army nurses intercepted an American convoy and were finally rescued from Totsuka. They were flown to Okinawa Island and then to Manila. They were among the first prisoners of war to arrive home, most of them arriving in Australia on 13 September 1945. Sister Callaghan, who had contracted tuberculosis and received no treatment, arrived back in Australia one month later. She died in March 1954 from continuing problems related to the disease.

The nurses had survived because of a determination to not let the Japanese defeat them. “If we had given up we wouldn’t have come back, it’s as simple as that,” said Sister Marjory Anderson. “If we gave up hope we’d have just died.”

Sources and further reading

Catherine Kenny, Captives : Australian army nurses in Japanese prison camps (University of Queensland Press, 1986)

Second World War Official Histories, Volume VI – The New Guinea Offensives (1st edition, 1961)

Rupert Goodman, Our War Nurses: The History of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps 1902-1988 (Boolarong Publications, 1988)

Michael (Mike) Coleridge will always be remembered for the photograph he took on 26 August 1967 of a group of soldiers of 5 Platoon, B Company, 7RAR, waiting for an Iroquois helicopter to land and take them back to Nui Dat at the end of Operation Ulmarra. This photograph has become an Australian icon of the Vietnam War and is graphically featured on the Vietnam National Memorial on ANZAC Parade in Canberra. But this is just one of 558 still photographs and 54 films taken in Vietnam by Mike Coleridge in the Australian War Memorial's collection.

Mike Coleridge, Members of 5 Platoon, B Company, 7RAR waiting to board an Iroquois helicopter to return to Nui Dat, 26 August 1967

Coleridge was born in Slovenia on 11 July 1933. At the end of the Second World War his parents' marriage failed, and he accompanied his mother to Austria, before migrating to Australia as an unaccompanied 16-year-old. As a young man, he worked in a range of manual jobs in Sydney, always struggling to make his junior wages cover his expenses. At 18 he found work on a property in rural New South Wales, where his circumstances improved and his life assumed some degree of normality. A young man looking for adventure, he eventually found his way to Darwin. Life in the Northern Territory was exciting, and during this time he learnt to fly and was awarded a private pilot's license.

Vietnam. 1967. Private Peter Harding of Ballina (NSW), paddles out from the bank of a tributary of the Song Rai River in a boat which had been secreted among mangroves by the Viet Cong. Assault pioneers from the 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR), discovered nearly a dozen craft.

In 1957 Coleridge enlisted in the Australian Army, hoping to enter the fledgling Army Aviation Corps. Believing the recruiting sergeant's assurances that he could transfer after completing his recruit training, he signed up; however, his lack of formal education proved a barrier to army pilot training and he found himself a gunner in the Royal Australian Artillery Corps. He never realised his ambition to fly. Gunner Coleridge was posted to Malaysia in 1961, and during his tour he privately made films for the British Army using his own cameras.

On his return to Australia in 1963, Coleridge sought a transfer to the Royal Australian Army Education Corps as a public relations photographer. During this time he married and had two children. But his marriage failed, leaving him with his two children of his own and another his wife had brought to the marriage. Coleridge, now a single father, was posted to Vietnam. With much difficulty, and without any support from the army, he arranged for a family in Melbourne to care for his children. Sergeant Coleridge arrived in Vietnam on 19 November 1966, and although posted to Headquarters in Saigon, he spent most of his time at the new 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) base at Nui Dat. Over the next 12 months he recorded the activities of 5RAR, 6RAR and 7RAR and other elements of 1ATF. There were no facilities at the 1ATF base for a photographer, so he constructed a makeshift darkroom, in which he developed his own films.

A digger with his dog and gun watch for the Viet Cong during Operation Paddington, 1967.Vietnam. 1967. On top of Nui Dat hill, the highest point in the Australian Task Force area, Delta (D) Company soldiers of the 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR), keep constant watch for Viet Cong movement.

Coleridge operated independently, accompanying soldiers on operations, seeking out images to satisfy the needs of the Public Relations Officer in Saigon and taking many photographs in response to the conflict that surrounded him, including many shots of Australian soldiers moving through the Vietnamese landscape. Like many photographers of the time, he always carried a number of cameras, including 35 mm and 120 still cameras and frequently a 16 mm Bell and Howell movie camera. Using his own initiative, Coleridge started using colour film in both his still and movie cameras. However, the army was geared to providing the print media and TV with black-and-white images, and so initially it didn't support Coleridge's use of colour. Because the army only supplied black-and-white film, colour film and colour stock either had to be traded with other photographers or purchased privately. Colour film had to be processed privately in Saigon, and as most of his salary was spent supporting his three children back in Australia this must have been very difficult for him. Many of Coleridge's colour film stills, and the colour films of the photographers who followed him, were duplicated in black-and-white for use in the media. Coleridge's persistence was eventually rewarded by the Army Public Relations Directorate in Canberra: a signal sent to Saigon in September 1967 acknowledged both the high standard of the colour footage and the fact that Coleridge had provided the colour stock personally, and advised that replacement stock would be dispatched from Canberra.

After completing his tour of Vietnam on 21 November 1967, Coleridge was posted to Melbourne. His period of enlistment had expired and he resisted the army's efforts to keep him, realising how difficult it would be to continue serving as a single father. Vietnam. 1967. During operation Broken Hill in Phuoc Tuy Province, troops took the elusive Viet Cong by surprise. Lance Corporal Geoff McGuffog of Tamworth, NSW (right), leads a gagged and securely tied Viet Cong suspect past Bombardier Jim Creber of Mortdale, NSW.Vietnam. 1967. The tracks of armoured personnel carriers of A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, take heavy punishment in the war and have to be changed about every 2000 miles. Soldiers of the Squadron lay out new tracks ready to be fitted.

Over the decades that followed the war, Mike Coleridge traveled the countryside, finding work wherever he could. He worked for a time as a photographer for the Melbourne Truth and at other jobs, always supporting his two children. He moved to Darwin and then, in the early 1970s, to North Queensland, where he drove steam locos in the cane fields; from there it was on to Western Australia, where he mined gold, before moving to New South Wales. He and his children settled in Canberra in 1984, where he worked for a time as an attendant at the Australian War Memorial. With his children now grown up, he found some relief from his responsibilities and began growing walnuts on a small property at Jerangle, New South Wales. His final move was to a property on the outskirts of Braidwood, where he raised Angus cattle. Identity discs worn by 4410203 Sergeant Michael (Mike) Coleridge

Like many Vietnam veterans, Coleridge experienced a range of health issues, including first cancer of the bladder and more recently lung cancer. Just before Christmas 2011 he had a bad fall in his house and was taken by ambulance to the Braidwood Hospital. He was transferred to hospital in Canberra, where an X-ray revealed he had two fractured vertebrae in his lower back.

Michael Coleridge passed away peacefully in hospital in the early hours of 10 January 2012. He is survived by his son, David, daughter, Rhonda, and granddaughter, Julia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get the most out of summer in the national capital with blockbuster exhibitions and family programs at

Canberra’s top attractions.

From 1 January to 1 February 2012 look for the Summer Bonus Card brochure at selected cultural institutions, Canberra Centre and the Canberra Visitor and Information Centre. 

Detach the card from the brochure, slip it into your wallet and enjoy bonus benefits wherever you go.

Simply present your card at each attraction for great rewards, such as two-for-one offers, free posters, recipe booklets and parking vouchers, and special offers  at the Canberra Centre,

while stocks last.

 

Australian War Memorial

Free recipe booklet        

The Australian War Memorial is a special place for all Australians.  Over summer come along with your family and friends to discover the stories of Australia’s wartime nurses, explore world famous galleries and take part in our free family programs. 

Present your card at the Memorial Shop to receive a free 48-page colour recipe booklet: Australia’s Wartime Kitchen. 

Canberra Centre Logo

 

 

 

 

Canberra Centre

Special offers from over 50 stores

Experience Canberra’s premier shopping attraction and cultural hub for fashion, dining and entertainment – Canberra Centre.

Located on Bunda Street, in the heart of the city, Myer and David Jones lead an outstanding collection of Australian and International fashion labels, along with a stunning range of specialty stores. Experience local and international cuisine at Canberra Centre’s North Quarter, where dining and entertainment culture thrive day and night with an array of award winning restaurants and Premium Class Dendy Cinemas.

Special Offer: Present your card at the Customer Service Lounge to join our VIP shoppers’ club and receive special offers from over 50 stores, plus all visitors residing outside a 100km radius will receive a bonus one day parking pass. Proof of residency is mandatory. One pass per person during the promotion period.

National Gallery of Australia

Free poster

Encounter paintings by great Italian artists in the stunning Renaissance exhibition and present your card at the Cloak Room to receive a Renaissance exhibition posters, free. 

Summer is your chance to see the Renaissance exhibition on display until 9 April 2012. The National Gallery of Australia shows seventy paintings by great Italian artists such as Raphael, Botticelli, Bellini and Titian. The exhibition highlights the amazing art of Early and High Renaissance Italy. These treasures from Bergamo will only be displayed in Canberra.  

National Library of Australia

Bookshop discounts

Present your card at the Book Shop for a 15% discount on current National Library exhibition catalogues: Handwritten and Library of Dreams.Bonus Handwritten poster. While stocks last.

Handwritten: ten centuries of manuscript treasures is an extraordinary exhibition featuring 100 unique manuscript treasures from the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Berlin State Library).

Spanning more than 1000 years of history, the exhibition includes exquisite illuminated manuscripts, rare letters, sketches and documents and priceless musical scores, each handwritten by major figures in literature, religion, science, exploration, philosophy and music. The exhibition is being shown only at the National Library of Australia so book your free ticket at nla.gov.au/exhibitions/handwritten. 

National Museum of Australia

Buy one tour, get one free

Learn more when you take a guided Museum tour showcasing Phar lap’s heart and the Holden Prototype. Tours are presented daily and last for one hour. Present this card to the Museum Information Desk, purchase one guided Museum tour and get another of equal value free.

The National Museum of Australia is a place where we can get to know the real, the treasured, the surprising and the inspirational objects from Australia's history - from a piece of ochre that was used to make Aboriginal art over 50,000 years ago, to Phar Lap's unusually large heart and the Holden Prototype No. 1.

The Museum is a place that celebrates our people and our culture of storytelling, where we come together to share stories of our unique and distinctive nation. Come and join the conversation. Be part of the story.

Note: Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer.

Questacon 

Q Shop discounts

Present your card at the Q Shop to receive great discounts. Buy a 3D art bookmark for $2.50 (normally $6.95) and/or a Questacon solar-powered key ring for $2.50 (normally $5.95).

Limit of two items per customer.

Questacon’s brand new gallery Q Lab allows visitors to discover the fascination of scientific inquiry. Visitors can watch live science demonstrations and participate in hands-on activities with Questacon’s science communicators and visiting scientists.

With different hands-on activities every day, visitors to Q Lab can; make rocks float, use food dye with flowers to show capillary action, experiment with chemistry, see the microscopic world and extract DNA from peas.

My name is Romy Turner. I am a work experience student from Canberra Girls Grammar School at the Memorial for this week. As part of my work experience I had to research an item, a trench sign, from the Memorial's collection.

The trench sign ‘To Stinking Farm & Currie Ave’ was collected during the First World War by Lieutenant Colonel John Basil St. Vincent Welch, whilst he was serving as part of the 13thField Ambulance in Belgium. Welch arrived in Marseilles on 13 July 1916 as a member of the Australian Field Ambulance. He was appointed the commanding officer of the 13thField Ambulance and was stationed around the village of Messines, which would be the site of the Battle of Messines 11 months later. Stationed at Kandahar Farm, Welch assisted in this battle, tending to the wounded as they came back from the front and organising the transportation of the men further back the line to the field hospitals.

 As Stinking Farm and Currie Avenue were part of the British territory, English trench signs were used to identify the large network of trenches. They both played small parts in the Battle of Messines, which took place on 7 June 1917. The farm was 800 metres behind the British front line and acted as a holding station for reinforcements awaiting orders to proceed towards the frontier, whilst Currie Avenue was one of the many back line trenches that led to Stinking Farm and eventually the front line.

Welch served on the Western Front until September 1917 and had ample opportunity to collect this sign during his travels up and down the front line. In February 1918, when he left England to return home he brought his war mementos with him. John Basil St. Vincent Welch died on 21 May 1920 as a result of his war service. His name is listed on the Roll of Honour.

My name's Sean Limn, and I've been doing work experience at the War Memorial for the past week. One of my tasks whilst at the Memorial was to research a collection item, a piece of an old tent found at Gallipoli in 1919. The tent piece was found at Rest Gully, and is from a hospital tent left during the evacuation in December 1915. The tent was left behind as part of the ruse  to prevent the Turks from realising that an evacuation was taking place.

In July 1915, a temporary hospital was established in Rest Gully in response to a breakout of Cholera at Cape Helles. No outbreaks of the disease were reported at Anzac but the hospital remained to accommodate other ailments and conditions like diarrhoea. Initially Rest Gully was unsafe for tents to be erected, and it wasn't until much later in the campaign that tents were used there.

4th Field Ambulance at Rest Gully

The evacuation of Field Ambulances began on 11 December, when they left the peninsula, taking their "more valuable equipment" but leaving their tents standing, to make it look like the hospital was still there.

5th Field Ambulance tents at Rest Gully

At the time of the evacuation these tents were used by the 5th Field Ambulance, who were evacuated on 16 December to Mudros. By 1919 all that was left of the tents was a muddy, weathered piece of rope and canvas. It has a large eyelet incorporated into the rope, which would have presumably helped secure the tent to the ground.

While not much of the tent is left, it is still an interesting relic from the evacuation at Anzac, as it illustrates what had to be left behind.

The Boulton Paul Turret was the first of the major componemts to undergo restoration, with work commencing in late 2009 on a large pile of turret pieces.  Over an eight month period, the parts were individually treated, and the turret slowly took shape.  The frame is a complex assembly, with literally hundreds of small brackets, all rivited together to make up the cupola, or frame. Aircrew gunner in the mid upper turret of Lockheed Hudson aircraft   The transparencies were moulded over size, and each piece required trimming to fit.  The transparencies will not be fitted until after the turret has been lifted into the aircraft.  This is to avoid any possiblity of cracking the trancperencies from felxing of the cupola due to the weight of the turret assembly during the lift.

The last battalion to be evacuated from Tobruk was Bryant's battalion, the 2/13th in December 1941.  Finally, German General Erwin Rommel and his Afrikakorps were forced to abandon the Siege, falling back towards Tripoli. 

The Australians had courageously and collectively defended the town for 8 months and established themselves in the annals of Australia’s military history.

During the campaign, 832 Australians were killed, 2,177 were wounded and 941 were taken prisoner.

For more information, go to:  /wartime/54/james-great-siege/

 

Edmund Crawford Lecky

Edmund Crawford Lecky was promoted to Captain on 24 July 1942, then to Major on 27 May 1944.  He was awarded the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) on 9 March 1945 for his work in communications at the landing of Finschafen in Papua New Guinea, 1943. 

For more information on Finschafen go to:

http://ajrp.awm.gov.au/ajrp/ajrp2.nsf/pages/NT00007E8E?openDocument     

Edmund Crawford Lecky died on 2 May 1981.   

Arthur Francis Bryant

Arthur Francis Bryant returned to Australia after the war, where he married Peggy, the love of his life.  Together, the couple started a family and opened and ran a sandwich shop, first in Sydney and later in Cremorne.

After retiring late in life, Arthur suffered from constant strokes and was cared for by his wife for the last 10 years of his life.  His daughter describes him as ‘a very gentle man’.

Bryant, Lecky, Cosgriff and the other 'Rats of Tobruk' were, this year honoured in a dedicatory exhibition entitled Rats of Tobruk, 1941.   The next exhibition, Nurses: from Zululand to Afghanistan, which tells the story of military nurses and their unique contribution in wartime, will open on 2 December 2011.

The Australian War Memorial holds T-shirts from the numerous Peace Keeping missions in which Australians have served. A usually inexpensive and useful type of souvenir, the T-shirts are often humorous and visually creative. They are an example of how soldiers have adapted a civilian item of clothing to a deployment context.

  Toucan Express East Timor T-shirt : Lieutenant D J Perryman, RAN

This T-shirt was purchased by Lieutenant Duncan John Perryman, RAN, while serving in East Timor as part of the International Force East Timor (INTERFET) in 1999-2000. Screen printed on the back is a locomotive, the body is made of a Victoria Bitter (VB) beer can, and another can is carried in the tender. Around the edge is a yellow circle with black lettering 'TOUCAN EXPRESS EAST TIMOR'. The image is repeated in a smaller form on the front of the T-shirt over the left breast. Underneath it is printed 'DILI CANTEEN'. REL28051 Associated with Sergeant William John Guthrie, RAAF, who served in East Timor with INTERFET's 1 Media Support Unit during 1999. On the front of the T-shirt is a comical unit logo consisting of a heraldic-style shield emblazoned with a pair of wings, the head of a bird, a commercial-grade video camera, and a dagger, underscored with `FORT ALAMO'. The unit's motto `FIRST TO GO LAST TO KNOW' is below this on a scroll. `EAST TIMOR 99' is printed on the right sleeve. REL33589 - United Nations Operation in Mozambique (ONUMOZ) T-shirt: Superintendent G A Hazel, Australian Federal Police

Acquired by Chief Superintendent Geoffrey Alan Hazel in Mozambique in 1994, when he was the contingent commander for the second Australian Contingent. Screen printed onto the front of the T-shirt, are the letters 'ONUMOZ' [United Nations Operation in Mozambique]. Beneath this is a brown coloured bulldog wearing a United Nations blue beret and white badge, giving a thumbs up sign with a black gloved paw. Beneath the bulldog is printed 'TUDO BEM' (Brazilian Portuguese for 'how are you') in yellow lettering with black outlines. INTERFET 1 MSU T-shirt : Sergeant W J Guthrie, RAAF, 1 Media Support Unit

On the front of the T-shirt is a comical unit logo consisting of a heraldic-style shield emblazoned with a pair of wings, the head of a bird, a commercial-grade video camera, and a dagger, underscored with `FORT ALAMO'. The unit's motto `FIRST TO GO LAST TO KNOW' is below this on a scroll. `EAST TIMOR 99' is printed on the right sleeve.

We know that some of you out there are neglecting your razors in the name of raising money for a good cause, even some of the good men here at the War Memorial have put their hand up to cultivate magnificent moustaches. So we thought we’d bring you some MOtivational photos from our archives, to show you that competitive MO growing has been going on for decades!

ABLE BODIED SEAMAN COOPER, RAN, SHOWING OFF HIS BEARD ON HMAS PERTH.South West Pacific Area. 27 September 1944. The champion beards on the HMAS Shropshire. Able Seaman (AB) Lionel Evans of Cottesloe, WA, is having his beard trimmed by AB Alf Harris of Albany, WA, and AB Alec Perry of Earlwood, NSW.

During the Second World War, naval ships such as the HMAS Perth and Shropshire held beard growing competitions. Above, a champion beard grower, Able Bodied Seaman Cooper, shows off his award winning crop aboard the Perth; and on the Shropshire, Able Seaman Evans has his beard trimmed by fellow champion growers.

In other forces, where beards were perhaps not allowed, we start to see some imaginative moustache examples. This one below is an example of one of the longest, grown in Japan in 1946.

KAITAICHI, JAPAN. 1946-12-25. A MEMBER OF THE BCOF AUSTRALIAN MILITARY FORCES WORKSHOPS UNIT, WHO HAS THE LONGEST MOUSTACHE IN JAPAN.

Studio portrait of Warrant Officer Class 1 (WO1) Henry  Thomas 'Jack' Harwood, the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), (previously the 67th Battalion).

During the Korean War, soldiers took great pride in the cultivation of their moustaches, waxing them especially for the occasion of having their portraits taken. Official Photographer, Phillip J Hobson, took a series of portraits of men and their moustaches.

11034 Private A Hopes of Rockhampton, Qld, a member of 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), relaxes as he listens to a borrowed Decca 50 wind-up gramophone and records.  He has waxed his moustache for the occasion.

Private Moore, seen below receiving a haircut from a Korean barber, worries about the fate of his moustache, which, when waxed, is an impressive 6 inches from tip to tip.

In Korea there are two kinds of haircuts, sukoshi and takusan. Sukoshi means small or very little, and takusan means plenty. The only trouble is that Korean barbers vary widely in their interpretation of the terms, and once in the chair, a soldier who orders a sukoshi haircut is never certain whether he will finish up with sukoshi taken off or sukoshi left on.Port Moresby. 1945-07-10. 125110 Leading Aircraftman M. M. Sullivan of Manly, NSW, and member of No. 40 Squadron RAAF, is standing on the entry ladder to a Short Sunderland flying boat transport. He nominates for best moustache in the RAAF.A group of bearded members of HMAS Perth.

Happy Mo growing!

When we think of fertile faming lands, the Northern Territory is generally not the first place that springs to mind. Yet it was here, during the Second World War, that the Australian Army established the 1 and 2 Farm Company as part of the Australian Army Service Corps. On 11 September 1940, approval was given by the Minster for Army to acquire land. An area of 107 acres was purchased at Adelaide River. The land was only partly cleared and the farm commenced with a small area of 2 ½ acres in 1940. The Adelaide River Farm Section became the 1 Australian Farm Company. A small garden at Wycliffe Well ushered in the 2 Australian Farm Company in January 1942. Towards the end of 1942, approval was given to establish a further 7 farms at Adelaide River, Hayes Creek, Katherine and Mataranka.

So, why did the Army decide to set up farms in the Northern Territory? Firstly, these areas were known for deficiency diseases caused by inadequate vitamin intake and there were concerns for the health of troops. During May 1939, the Chief Medical Officer advised that up to 25% of personnel at the Northern Territory garrisons had been on sick parade on one day. Dengue fever was also rife. It was recommended that fresh fruit and vegetables could assist in reducing the occurrence of these diseases. This revealed the second problem which was the supply of fresh fruit and vegetables. At the time, the policy was to purchase food supplies from civilian contractors. In the Northern Territory, local production of fresh vegetables and fruit could not even sustain the local population. An influx of 40 000 troops and their dietary requirements needed to be met another way. Thirdly, there were transport problems. Fresh vegetables forwarded from Adelaide had to endure a train journey of 3 or 4 days to Alice Springs. This was followed by 4 days or longer of transportation via trucks for distribution to areas around Darwin. During this time, 50% of the food stuffs were lost through the natural deterioration of food. The remaining 50% was edible but had lost most of its nutritional value and appeal.  The priority was on the production of salad and leafy vegetables. This included tomatoes, beans, cabbages, lettuce, silver beet, cucumbers, beetroot, marrows and pumpkins. Root vegetables had a lower priority. One problem that also had to be overcome was the way in which to cook certain vegetables that not been seen before. It was only after the practice of boiling sweet potatoes ceased that this vegetable joined the ranks.

The first commanding officer was Captain Henderson who depended on convalescent patients from the nearby camp hospital for labour to plant vegetables. During this time, watering was conducted by channel irrigation from shower overflow and manually with a bucket brigade of volunteers. The struggle for farm labour and equipment continued under the command of Lieutenant Nielson in March 1941. The tide began to turn with the arrival of Warrant Officer Campbell on 23 May 1941. Campbell obtained additional labour from 2/40 Infantry Battalion who detached platoons for a week or so to clear 30 acres. An irrigation scheme was also established and men from a nearby RAE unit supervised the construction of a 20 000 gallon iron tank. By November 1941, the war establishment for a Farm Section AASC was approved and the personnel rose to 1 officer and 54 other ranks. Lieutenant Campbell was sent to a training camp in Brisbane to select suitable farmers and these men were sent to Wycliffe Well. Central Australia also had several unit gardens and one of these was located at Elliot. One soldier reported that they had to keep raising the height of the brush fence that they constructed around this garden. The problem was not with local wildlife, but people interested in seeing what was behind the fence. It was hoped that the higher the fence got, the less inclined people would be to climb over and have a look.

During 1944 and 1945, a 16 acre area at Katherine was developed as an experimental farm by army personnel with agriculture specialist qualifications. The work that they did helped establish what varieties of fruit and vegetables were likely to be successful. This work was largely based on recommendations from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research after a visit in September and October 1944. This also called for further training for Major Campbell, Captain Kjar and Lieutenant Scott-Young to study modern methods in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and the vegetable research station in Canberra.

It is unclear what happened to the farms after the end of the war. A report, written shortly after the end of the Second World War, indicates that there were discussions during 1944 and 1945 about the future of the army farms once the Northern Territory returned to civilian control.  Unit war diaries exist for 1 Australian Farming Company until the 6 August 1946 when Captain J C MacDonald moved to 7 Military District. By this time the posted strength for 1 Australian Farm Company had been reduced to 1 officer and 1 other rank.

References:

  • AWM52 10/26/2 August 1940 to July 1945. 1 Farm Company Summary of Farm Activity
  • AWM54 337/7/5 [Farms and Gardens - Farming Units:] Inspection report on 1 Australian Farm Coy, Australian Army Service Corps, Northern Territory by Lieutenant N A M Kjar, August 1943
  • AWM54 337/7/12 Part 1. [Farms and Gardens - Farming Units:] Data relating to Australian Army Service Corps, Farm Coy project and associated farm activities (1939-1945) AWM54 351/1/3 [Food - General:] History of nutrition in Australian Army. Nutrition and food, requirements and catering. System of dieting. Rationing of hospital patients.
  • AWM254 [317] Army Farms AASC [Australian Army Service Corps report, photographs and newspaper clippings relating to 1 Australian Farm Company in the Northern Territory, 5 Australian Farm Company in Queensland, 3 Australian Farm Company in New Guinea, and 9 Australian Farm Company in New South Wales].
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