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.


  • 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].

The Memorial is interested in making contact with the relatives or contributors to the famous Changi quilts.  If you can provide more information about the women who made these quilts please contact info@awm.gov.au

REL/14235 - Embroidered quilt : Female internees, Changi Prison, "Australian Quilt"

When Singapore fell on 15 February 1942, 400 women and children were interned. The quilts were the idea of Mrs Ethel Mulvaney. Supposedly made for the wounded in Changi hospitals, the quilts were actually meant to relieve boredom, to boost morale, and to pass information to other camps. Three quilts were made, one each for the Red Cross organisations of Britain, Australia and Japan. 

The Australian War Memorial is privileged to hold two of these quilts, the Australian Quilt  [REL/14235] and the Japanese Quilt [RELAWM32526].  The quilt for the British Red Cross was taken to England after the war.

Dozens of women contributed to the quilts, embroidering or appliquéing small pieces of salvaged material which were then combined to create the three quilts.  According to one of contributors, Sheila Bruhn (nee Allen) “You could call them signature quilts, but they are also more than that, for they represent the thoughts and hopes of these women, linking them to the nearby Prisoners of War, some of whom were their husbands, to the Girl Guide movement and to the Red Cross Society”. A fourth quilt, the Girl Guide Quilt, constructed from blocks of hexagons, is held by the Imperial War Museum in London.

A full description of the quilts, their history and a detailed description of the Australian quilt, panel by panel, is available on the Australian War Memorial’s online Encyclopaedia. Below is an alphabetical listing of those who contributed to the quilts held by the Australian War Memorial, the quilt in which their work is sewn, the square number and a description of each square:

Name Quilt Square Description
Agnew, M. R. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 48 Red, yellow and blue flowers cut from floral print fabric and applied with black, green and grey buttonhole-stitch. Flowers sit in a green chain-stitch bowl with a green and pink chain-stitch band across it. Yellow chain-stitch signature ‘M.R. ?Agne[w]’.
Aitken, V. W. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 35 Eight small scattered appliquéd flowers in puce, blue and green, cut from floral fabric and applied with red buttonhole-stitch. Signature in red stem-stitch ‘V? W? Aitken’.
Allen, Sheila REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 21 Green satin-stitch map of Australia with dark brown kangaroo and green grass within it. Top left corner has a pale grey aeroplane and bottom left corner a passenger ship in black and cream on a pale blue sea. Shadow lettering in red stem-stitch at top ‘AUSTRALIA’ and bottom ‘CHANGI’. Signature in red stem-stitch, bottom right corner ‘Sheila Allen 1st May 1942’. The word ‘Prison’ beside the word ‘Changi’ at bottom has been drawn in pencil but over stitching has been removed
Auger, T. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 65 Black, beige, green and mauve stem and satin-stitch embroidery of a palm tree and a thistle. Mauve stem-stitch signature ‘JUDY GOOD’. Square 66: Appliquéd blue, green, grey and cream floral fabric [same fabric as Square 55] edged with grey buttonhole-stitch. Signature in dark grey stem stitch ‘T.AUGET [or AUGER]’.
Austen-Hofer, E. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 27 Figure of a Japanese child? with a rake beneath a tree. Face, body and jacket in brown, pink and green stem and buttonhole-stitch. Trousers appliquéd from pink and white fabric. Rake and clogs in brown chain-stitch. ‘Leaves’ on tree made from appliquéd circles of brightly coloured fabric; trunk from brown and blue chain-stitch. Chain-stitch flowers in pink and mauve at base of tree. Blue chain-stitch pond behind figure. Green chain-stitch signature ‘E. Austen-Hofer’.
Austin-Hofer, E. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 8 Blue, mauve and silver-grey stem-stitch wall with figure of a woman in a red dress sitting in the lower right corner. She has a thought bubble of a tree with a blue and cream trunk, green leaves and pink flowers; a brown, white and black loaf of bread; a red, green and black bottle with ‘WINE’ label, and words ‘AND THOU BESIDE ME IN THE WILDERNESS’ [a misquote of Omar Khayyam]. Upper right corner has signature in red ‘CHANGI E. Austen-Hofer’
Barnes, N. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 11 Dark brown and silver-grey butterfly surrounded by yellow, pink and mauve chain-stitch daisies with pale-green satin-stitch leaves. Cream satin-stitch signature ‘B. Milliard’ and mauve satin-stitch signature ‘N..oa? Barnes’.
Beck, Helen RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 33 Mount Fuji in white and pink stem-stitch with a light brown stem and chain-stitch pine tree in the foreground. Signature in light brown stem-stitch ‘Helen Beck’.
Bell, M. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 54 Grey and blue convolvulus flower and bud in buttonhole and satin-stitch. Flower has a yellow centre. Leaves, stems and tendrils are embroidered in dark and light green chain, stem and satin-stitch. Signature in grey stem-stitch ‘M Bell’.
Bell, M. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 40 Black stem-stitch figure of a Scottish terrier in centre, with black, white and yellow satin-stitch figure of Jiminy Cricket in top left corner. Signature in black stem-stitch ‘M.Bell’.
Blackman, E. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 18 Toddler in yellow stemstitch with curl on top of head, black eyes, pink mouth, and a wreath of pink and mauve flowers on its head. The child is seated on a mauve stool placed on a pink rug with a black zig-zag edge. Black stem-stitch signature ‘E. Blackman’.
Blackman, s. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 5 Stem-stitch outline of a yellow bear riding a pink and black tricycle. The tricycle is towing another yellow bear sitting in a mauve cart with pink wheels. The features of the bears are in black. Black stem-stitch signature ‘S. Blackman’.
Bloom, Freddy REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 53 Black, red and grey stem-stitch winged alarm clock in top left corner with three walnuts? in lower right corner and signature in centre ‘F.BLOOM’.
Bloom, Freddy RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 7 Appliquéd daffodil with green ribbon stem and leaves and a yellow towelling flower. Cream stem-stitch ‘DAFFODIL RAMPANT by F.BLOOM’. Placement of flower head, stem and leaves is made to look like a striking cobra.
Bond, Betty REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 47 Yellow ochre, grey, light green, black, white and red representation of a house in Malacca with trees, palms and a mountain done in stem and satin- stitching and cross-hatching. Underneath ‘MALACCA’ in red stem-stitch. Signature above in yellow ochre stem-stitch ‘Betty Bond 24.5.42’.
Bridges, S. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 55 Six satin-stitch flowers. Two royal blue with yellow centres, two yellow with brown centres and two purple with yellow centres. Green stem-stitch stems and leaves. Signature in red stem-stitch ‘S. [or G.] Bridges.’.
Broardbent, M. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 40 Circle of large yellow and small blue flowers in satin-stitch. Yellow flowers have black centres and blue flowers yellow. Pale green leaves. Grey chain-stitch signature ‘M Broadbent’.
Brown, I. D. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 45 Two sprigs of heather in green stem-stitch and mauve and puce knot-stitch. Signature in green stem-stitch ‘I.D.BROWN’.
Brown, I. D. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 3 Dark brown stem-stitched wall with pink buttonhole stitch hollyhocks set against it. There are smaller flowers and foliage, in yellow, orange, purple, mauve and green chain, stem and satin-stitch, and green satin-stitched Cyprus trees. Signature in green ‘I.D. BROWN’
Burgin, Valerie REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 44 Grey wool representation of a wall. The lines of wool are held in place by cram cotton over-stitching. Above in red embroidery ‘CHANGI HOLIDAY HOME’. Beneath, also in red, ‘Valerie Burgin Cell 38 A.V.’. [Stitching missing in some places]
Burnes, Margaret REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 24 Red, yellow and green satin-stitch maple leaves with ‘CANADA’ above them. Below signatures in satin and stem-stitch ‘M.Burns’ and ‘E.Mulvany’.
Burnes, Margaret RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 49 Yellow ochre buttonhole-stitch flower with black stem-stitch details and pale green buttonhole and stem-stitch leaves and stalk. Signature in yellow ochre stem-stitch ‘MARGARET BURNS’.
Burstall, Norah REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 45 Satin stitch representation of a tropical fruit or vegetable in two shades of green. Green stem-stitch signature ‘Norah Burstall’.
Clark, M. G. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 32 Shirley poppy flowers and buds sewn in cream and pink buttonhole-stitch with olive green stem-stitch stems and leaves. Signature in olive green stem-stitch M.G.CLARK.’
Cogan, Geraldine REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 26 Three stylised pink flowers and leaves in satin-stitch, in shades of pink and green, within a double green circle. Pink stem stitch words within the circle edges ‘GERALDINE COGAN CHANGI SINGAPORE 1942’.
Corley, G. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 43 Blue and green appliqué fabric flowers in a basket. Blue flowers are edged with black satin stitch and defined with blue and orange thread. Leaves and stems are over-sewn with black and defined with various shades of green. Basket is embroidered in black. Black stem-stitch signatures ‘D.Corley’ and ‘G.Gottleib’.
Corneilius, D. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 62 Blue stem-stitch dove of peace. Red stem-stitch signature ‘D.CORNELIUS’.
Cray, Joan Stanley REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 48 Brown stem-stitch figure of a male skier, set against mountains. Signature in same colour ‘JOAN STANLEY CRAY’.
Cubbin, J. M. S. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 61 Pink, puce, white and green floral fabric flowers appliquéd with dark blue buttonhole-stitch. Signature in grey chain-stitch ‘J.M S Cubbin’.
Cutler, R. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 29 Appliquéd tulips made from blue and ochre patterned fabric edged with cream buttonhole-stitch. Leaves in light green fabric. Signature in red chain-stitch ‘R.Cutler’.
de Jager, S. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 62 Three flower sprigs in plain blue, green, cream, yellow and mauve fabrics appliquéd in buttonhole-stitch. Details, such as stamens, veining etc. have been added in green, blue and white cotton. Signature in dark blue chain-stitch ‘S de Jager’.
de Moubray, Katherine REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 58 Pink stem-stitch tudor rose with cream french knot centre and cream stem-stitch leaves and stalk. Beneath, within a pink stem-stitch scroll a mauve signature ‘Katherine de Moubray’.
Dickinson, Pauline RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 50 Dolly Varden figure at a dovecote in a flower garden. Figure has green and blue stem-stitch poke bonnet, mauve and pink stem-stitch bodice, yellow stem-stitch neck and arms, and blue, mauve and green floral print fabric skirt applied with blue buttonhole-stitch. Dovecote in green satin-stitch; doves in blue satin-stitch. Flowers and path in green, blue, orange, mauve and pink satin and stem stitch. Signature in pale green stem-stitch ‘Pauline Dickinson 1942’.
Dixson, Nolah RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 53 Bunch of pale yellow and orange flowers with green leaves and brown stems in buttonhole, stem and satin-stitch. Outstanding quality embroidery. Signature in brown chain-stitch ‘Nolah [or Norah] Dixon’.
Edwards, J. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 42 Pair of grey chain-stitch doves with yellow eyes and beaks, and red feet. One bird is within a pale green, mauve and yellow circle of chain-stitch flowers. Grey chain-stitch signature ‘J.Edwards’.
Edwards, M RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 8 Printed fabric flowers and leaves in blue and green, with pink, red and yellow details, appliquéd with red buttonhole-stitch. Signature in red back-stitch ‘M. Edwards’.
Ennis, M. Elizabeth REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 30 Dark blue stem-stitch passenger liner on a silver-grey sea, leaving the palm trees (also dark blue) of Singapore behind. Beneath the words, on dark blue, ‘HOMEWARD BOUND’. Signature in black stem-stitch ‘M.ELIZABETH ENNIS’.
Evans, A RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 31 Three groups of red and pink chain-stitch daisies, with yellow centres and green stem-stitch stems, leaves and ground. Signature in green stem-stitch ‘A? Evans’.
Fletcher, Lucy REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 55 Appliquéd floral fabric in pale blue, cream and grey [same fabric as Square 66] edged with silver-grey buttonhole-stitch. Signature in silver-grey stem-stitch ‘Lucy Fletcher’
Fr, S REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 63 Stem and satin-stitch wreath of flowers with a bee and a butterfly. Flowers in orange, mauve, cream and silver-grey with green stems. Beige chain-stitch signature ‘S. (or G) FR...(disappears into seam).
Francis, E. M. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 4 Nine chain and stem-stitch daisy heads in shades of pink, mauve, purple and blue, with yellow and black centres. Signature in green stem-stitch ‘E.M. Francis’.
Francis, Kay REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 54 All over pattern of chainstitch flowers in shades of pink, mauve, blue, red and green. Plain fabric diamond shape in centre bears green embroidered signature ‘KAY FRANCIS’.
Good, Judy REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 49 Arabesque, lyre-shaped design in pink, mauve and pale green stem-stitch. The following signatures etc are easily legible ‘Thumbs Up’, ‘J Tompkins’, ‘The Crypt', ‘Helen Loxton’, ‘Judy Good’, ‘Irene Whitehead’, ‘J.H. Nealson’ and ‘M.S.MacDonald’. Each arabesque ends with a tiny embroidered place name e.g. ‘Ipoh’
Gottleib, G. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 43 Blue and green appliqué fabric flowers in a basket. Blue flowers are edged with black satin stitch and defined with blue and orange thread. Leaves and stems are over-sewn with black and defined with various shades of green. Basket is embroidered in black. Black stem-stitch signatures ‘D.Corley’ and ‘G.Gottleib’.
Gouch, E. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 7 Appliquéd flowers made from cut-out floral print fabric in pink, blue and brown. The appliqué is edged with cream button-hole stitch. Signature in cream stem-stitch ‘E.Gouch’.
Greaves, F. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 59 Sprig of holly in red, green, brown and black chain-stitch. Red stem-stitch signature ‘F. Greaves’.
Griffith-Jones, A. L. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 34 Mauve, green, grey, dark blue and cream stem-stitch figure of a man shooting on the moors. There are flowers and other vegetation in the foreground and ‘1942’ in green issuing from the gun barrel. Signature in mauve stem-stitch ‘A.L. Griffith-Jones’.
Hancock, Clarice RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 66 Machine embroidered black, orange and white ‘floss’ flower, cut out and appliquéd with cream over-stitching. Signature in pink back-stitch ‘CLARICE HANCOCK’
Harkness REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 61 Bunch of flowers in elongated chain-stitch, with french knot centres, and stem and satin-stitch leaves and stems. Flowers in pink, gold and blue, with gold centres; leaves in green. Pink signature ‘HARKESS’.
Heath, K. M. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 64 Grey and black stem-stitch scene of a table set for tea. A church and a village can be seen through the window. Signature in grey stem-stitch on the table edge ‘K.M.HEATH’
Heath, K. M. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 33 Black, pink and cream stem-stitch image of Changi Prison, seen from behind bars, with a Japanese flag flying from the central tower. Signature in black ‘prison’ arrows ‘K.Heath’.
Hegarty, B. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 65 Five tulips in pink, puce, yellow and mauve buttonhole and stem-stitch, with green stem-stitch stalks and leaves. Signature in green stem-stitch ‘B.HEGARTY’.
Henderson RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 18 Appliquéd flower, stem and leaves in grey, red, cream and yellow print fabric, edged with black buttonhole-stitch. Signature in black chain-stitch ‘Henderson’.
Hergarth, Bridget REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 41 Red, white and blue stem-stitch ‘V’ for Victory, filled with blue and pink satin-stitch flowers with green leaves. Signature in blue stem-stitch ‘Bridget Hergarth’.
Hillies, Ada RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 56 Maroon, pink and white brocade fabric flower appliqued with grey buttonhole-stitch. Signature in grey stem-stitch ‘Ada. H[W?]illies’.
Hooper, G. S RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 26 Bunch of heavy, pink grub roses, and other flowers, with green foliage. Signature in brown stem-stitch ‘Mrs G.S. Hooper’.
Hughes, Mary C. C. C. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 11 Two interlocking circles of satin-stitch flowers and leaves in shades of blue, pink, orange and green. Flowers have yellow centres. Signature in green stem-stitch ‘Mary C.C.C. Hughes’.
Hughes, Mary C. C. C. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 39 Red stem-stitch map of England with light blue embroidered ‘Scotland’, ‘England’, ‘Wales’, ‘North Sea’, ‘Irish Sea’, ‘English Channel’, ‘Edinburgh’, ‘Cardiff’ and ‘London’. Top right has buttonhole-edged cloud in blue with red ‘England Scotland & Wales’. Red stem-stitch signature ‘Mary C.C.C.Hughes’.
Iris RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 60 Dark red fabric three-petal flowers with yellow centres, applied with black buttonhole-stitch, with green fabric leaves applied with yellow buttonhole-stitch. Signature in pink ‘IRIS’.
Jackson, P. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 10 Appliquéd printed fabric flowers and leaves in red, pink, blue and green, edged with black buttonhole-stitch. Signature in black chainstitch ‘P. Jackson’.
Jamieson, A. L. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 57 Grey feather-stitch circle with a red, pink, blue and green printed floral fabric flower in the centre applied with grey over-stitching. Signature in grey feather-stitch ‘A.L. Jamieson’.
Jenkins, Isobel REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 59 Satin and stem-stitch figures in black, red, mauve, blue, brown and yellow of two of the Seven Dwarfs from Disney's ‘Snow White’. Top left is a black embroidered menu ‘Bubor Soup - Rice Limejuice Rice Pudding’. Lower right is a red embroidered menu ‘Porridge Cold Ham - Rice Soup - Pickles Bun - Butter Cheese’. Across the centre in black ‘THERE IS ALWAYS A TOMORROW’.  Signature in black ‘Isobel Jenkins (R.A.M.C.)’.
Jones, Eileen RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 44 Circle of pale pink, pale blue, yellow and white flowers in candlewick-stitch, with green stem-stitch leaves. Cream stem-stitch signature ‘Eileen Jones’. Embroidery appears to have been done on a lawn handkerchief which has then been appliqued to the cotton issue square with white buttonhole-stitch.
Jones, Eileen REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 31 Fine black chain-stitch head of a `Tommy' in a steel helmet, giving the thumbs-up. Signature ‘EILEEN JONES’.
Jones, Nora J. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 27 Vase or basket of flowers in shades of yellow, rust, dark cream and green, in a combination of satin, elongated chain, stem and buttonhole-stitches. Signature in dark cream stem-stitch ‘Nora J.Jones’.
Jones, Nora J. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 6 Spray of mauve, pink and blue printed fabric flowers appliqued with black buttonhole stitch. Signature in black stem-stitch ‘NORA J. JO[NES]’.
Kennard, K. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 37 Pink, mauve, green, yellow and black pansies and a daisy. Stem-stitch signature in pink and green ‘Marion Williams’; grey chain-stitch signature ‘P J Mitchell’ and grey stem-stitch signature ‘K.Kennard’
King, E RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 34 Yellow stem-stitch sun rising out of a grey stem-stitch sea. Yellow stem-stitch ‘Singapore 28-4-1942’ and grey stem-stitch signature ‘E? King’.
Kinnear, G. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 23 Appliquéd flowers cut from mauve and blue printed floral fabric, edged with grey button-hole stitch. Signature in grey chain-stitch ‘G.Kinnear’.
Kock, Cynthia RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 41 Fine red chain and satin-stitch rose with green chain and stem-stitch leaves and stem. Red stem-stitch signature ‘Cynthia Kock’.
Kronin, A. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 21 Appliquéd flower (rose?) in faintly striped cream fabric. Flower edged with pink buttonhole-stitch; details of petals in pink chain-stitch. Signature in pink chain-stitch ‘A.Kronin’.
Ktts, Rhoda RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 13 Bunch of orange, gold and pink chain-stitch daisies with green stem-stitch stems and leaves. Stems held together with pale blue stem-stitch tie decorated with orange dots. Pale blue stem-stitch signature ‘Rhoda KITTS’.
Lacey, C. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 14 Two green fabric clover leaves appliquéd with green buttonhole-stitch. Stems in green stem-stitch. Signature in green stem-stitch ‘C.Lacey’.
Lacey, H. G. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 32 Stem and satin-stitch embroidery of Sir Francis Drake playing bowls at Plymouth before setting out to defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588. Shows Sir Francis smoking a pipe and bowling, part of a galleon and houses, and the words ‘ROSE INNE’, ‘PLYMOUTH HOE 1588’. Colours - black, cream, blue, puce and green. Signature in puce stem-stitch ‘H.G. Lacey’.
LaCloche, A. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 17 Union Jack in red, white and lavender stem-stitch, flying from a black staff. Signature in red stem-stitch [some stitches missing] ‘A. LaCloche’.
Lindsay, Gladys RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 28 Pink and green chain and stem-stitch tulip. Pink stem-stich signature ‘Gladys Lindsay’.
Logan, Diana REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 28 Embroidered hat badge of the Gordon Highlanders in silver, grey, green, brown, yellow and dark blue, showing antlered stag within a wreath, surmounted by a crown. Underneath the regimental motto ‘BYDAND’ [watchful]. Signature in puce stem-stitch ‘Diana Logan’. Above, also in puce, ‘CHANGI 1942’. The word prison is sketched in pencil but the stitching has been removed.
Loveridge, Edith A. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 58 Three orange buttonhole-stitch marigolds with black centres and green chain and stem-stitch leaves and stems. Black satin-stitch signature ‘Edith A Loveridge’
Loxton, Helen REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 49 Arabesque, lyre-shaped design in pink, mauve and pale green stem-stitch. The following signatures etc are easily legible ‘Thumbs Up’, ‘J Tompkins’, ‘The Crypt', ‘Helen Loxton’, ‘Judy Good’, ‘Irene Whitehead’, ‘J.H. Nealson’ and ‘M.S.MacDonald’. Each arabesque ends with a tiny embroidered place name e.g. ‘Ipoh’
MacDonald, M. S. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 49 Arabesque, lyre-shaped design in pink, mauve and pale green stem-stitch. The following signatures etc are easily legible ‘Thumbs Up’, ‘J Tompkins’, ‘The Crypt', ‘Helen Loxton’, ‘Judy Good’, ‘Irene Whitehead’, ‘J.H. Nealson’ and ‘M.S.MacDonald’. Each arabesque ends with a tiny embroidered place name e.g. ‘Ipoh’
MacIntosh-Whyte, Joan REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 52 Black fabric appliqué and black and brown satin and running-stitch showing a small figure sitting in a shaft of sunlight in a Changi cell, with the words ‘HOW LONG O LORD HOW LONG!’. Underneath the signatures ‘JOAN MACINTOSH-WHYTE IRIS G.PARFITT CELL 2G AIII’.
Martin, L. A. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 22 Yellow chain-stitch daisies with black centres, and black stem-stitch leaves and stems. Leaves have red chain-stitch ribs. Signature in red chain-stitch ‘L.A. Martin’.
Martin, N. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 52 Grey chain-stitch bell-shaped flowers with dark and light green chain and running stitch stems and leaves. Signature in dark green chain-stitch ‘N Martin’.
Mather, Dorothy REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 35 Royal blue and red stem-stitch map of the Malay Peninsula and Singapore, with arrows linking the towns of Alar Star, Taiping, Sarambon and Changi. Verse and signature in red ‘I wandered down a long long trail from Alar Star to Changi gaol. Dorothy Mather’.
Maunder RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 24 Crocus flowers cut from gold brocade fabric appliquéd with gold button-hole stitch. Further details added in black stem-stitch. Stems and leaves in light green and blue stem-stitch. Signature in green stem-stitch ‘Maunder’.
McCubbin, J REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 23 Three stem and satin-stitch thistles in shades of green, mauve and brown, within a green circle held by a sprig of heather, in the same colours, tied with a green bow. Signature in green stem-stitch ‘J.McCUBBIN’.
McIntyre, V. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 42 Dark green armoured figure of St George fighting a red dragon blowing red and yellow fire. Signature in cream stem-stitch ‘V.McIntyre’.
McIvor, J. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 15 Appliquéd map of Scotland in fine pink/blue/yellow check fabric that has an overall tartan effect. Edged with silver-grey buttonhole stitch. Two signatures stem-stitched in the same grey ‘J. McIvor’ and ‘S.K. McKenzie’. Brown stain above the ‘M’ of McKenzie.
McKenzie, S. K. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 15 Appliquéd map of Scotland in fine pink/blue/yellow check fabric that has an overall tartan effect. Edged with silver-grey buttonhole stitch. Two signatures stem-stitched in the same grey ‘J. McIvor’ and ‘S.K. McKenzie’. Brown stain above the ‘M’ of McKenzie.
McLeod, C. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 2 Circle of blue hearts, and red and blue flowers with yellow centres, in fine stem and satin-stitch. Blue stem-stitch signature beneath ‘C McLeod’.
McMorine, Martha REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 29 Appliquéd fabric butterfly edged with dark blue button-hole stitch. Antennae and pattern on wings in dark blue stem-stitch. Signature in dark blue stem-stitch ‘Martha McMorine’.
Moir, E. A. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 36 Three red stem-stitch flowers with red and yellow centres and pale green leaves and stems. Signature in grey stem-stitch ‘E.A. Moir’.
Morier, M. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 12 Three interlocking circles of satin-stitch flowers. One circle red flowers with white centres, one white with red centres and one grey with white centres. Signature in grey satin-stitch ‘M. MORIER’.
Muir, E. M. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 1 Red stem-stitched outlines of three flowers, with stems and leaves in dark cream thread. Name embroidered in cream ‘E.M. Muir’. The embroidery has been done over a blue indelible pencil design.
Mulvany, Ethel RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 38 Satin and stem-stitch arabesque spray of flowers and leaves in greens, reds, orange, pink, blue, yellow and grey. Work of outstanding quality. Signature in black stem-stitch ‘Ethel Mulvany’.
Mulvany, Ethel REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 24 Red, yellow and green satin-stitch maple leaves with ‘CANADA’ above them. Below signatures in satin and stem-stitch ‘M.Burns’ and ‘E.Mulvany’.
Murphy, E. H. H. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 10 Three green stem-stitch circles bearing respectively, purple and green thistle, mauve and green heather, and blue and green bluebells. Underneath in green stemstitch ‘THERE WILL ALWAYS BE AN ENGLAND AS LONG AS SCOTLAND STANDS. E.H.H. MURPHY’.
Murphy, Pat RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 47 Brown, green, red, yellow, mauve, pink, blue, puce and black stem, chain and buttonhole-stitch embroidery of a garden gate in a wall with various flowers, including hollyhocks, growing in front of it. Signature above in blue ‘Pat Murphy’.
Nealson, J. H. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 49 Arabesque, lyre-shaped design in pink, mauve and pale green stem-stitch. The following signatures etc are easily legible ‘Thumbs Up’, ‘J Tompkins’, ‘The Crypt', ‘Helen Loxton’, ‘Judy Good’, ‘Irene Whitehead’, ‘J.H. Nealson’ and ‘M.S.MacDonald’. Each arabesque ends with a tiny embroidered place name e.g. ‘Ipoh’
Oldworth, E. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 60 Wreath of pale grey satin-stitch flowers with yellow centres and green stems and leaves. Signature in black ‘E.Oldworth’.
P, A. M, REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 13 Wreath of light blue wool cross-stitch flowers with yellow centres and pale green leaves. Signature in yellow wool cross-stitch ‘A.M.P.’.
Palomar, Leonor RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 15 Posey of buttonhole-stitch flowers in shades of pink, blue, mauve, purple, yellow and orange, with green buttonhole-stitch leaves. Stem-stitch signature ‘Leonor Palomar’.
Parfitt, Iris P. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 52 Black fabric appliqué and black and brown satin and running-stitch showing a small figure sitting in a shaft of sunlight in a Changi cell, with the words ‘HOW LONG O LORD HOW LONG!’. Underneath the signatures ‘JOAN MACINTOSH-WHYTE IRIS G.PARFITT CELL 2G AIII’.
Patterson, V. M. H. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 51 Maypole seen from above with a green satin-stitch circle of grass and red, blue and pink chain-stitch flowers. Coloured chain-stitch `ribbons' in orange, blue, pink, yellow, cream and green lead from the centre of the pole to the letters of the maker's name in the grass ‘V M H PATTERSON’.
Pearson, E. M. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 17 Bunch of mauve, pink and blue chain-stitch flowers with yellow centres, in a vase stem-stitched in two shades of green. Signature in blue stem-stitch ‘E.M.Pearson’.
Rackham, Anne REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 14 White stem-stitched Highland Terrier with brown eye, nose and claws, standing on olive green grass. Olive green stem-stitch signature ‘ANNE RACKHAM’.
Rank, M. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 20 Appliquéd flowers and leaves cut from blue, red and green floral print fabric. Applied and edged with black buttonhole-stitch. Signatures in red stem-stitch ‘M.Rank E.Sadler Psa.103’. [Refers to Psalm 103: ‘Praise the Lord, O my soul: and all that is in me praise his holy Name’. Rank and Sadler were American missionaries]
Rattray, Edith Lascelles RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 5 Red and yellow chain-stitch tulips with green chain-stitch stems and leaves. Signature in red stem-stitch ‘Edith Lascelles Rattray’.
Reilly, Rodney REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 22 Dark blue and red stem-stitch figure of a Michelin tyre type figure that is knitting and the words ‘Tiny, William, Joe, Suge?, Joe, Watty, Allan’. Signature ‘Rodney Reilly’.
Renton, Constance E. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 43 Appliquéd grey satin rabbit edged with grey buttonhole-stitch, with grey stem-stitch whiskers and a white satin-stitch tail. Rabbit is sitting in a field of pink and yellow flowers and green grass in satin and stem-stitch. Light green stem-stitch signature ‘Constance E. Renton’.
Russell-Davis, Freda E. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 46 All-over pattern of yellow, pink and blue chain-stitch flowers with leaves and stems in various shades of green. Signature in green chain-stitch ‘F.E. Russell-Davis’.
Russell-Davis, Freda E. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 20 Appliquéd Dolly Varden figure with mauve satin poke-bonnet and sash and pale blue satin dress with puffed sleeves. Dress lifts at back to show four rows of appliquéd lace petticoat. Bonnet has green satin-stitch ribbons and yellow flowers. Dress is over embroidered in a sprig pattern of yellow French knot flowers and green chain stitch leaves. The figure is set against a border of red, puce, pink, blue, cream and yellow flowers in stem and chain-stitch and French knots. There are smaller groups of similar flowers on both bottom corners. Embroidered signature in green stem-stitch ‘F.E. Russell-Davis (Freda)’.
Ruthven, D RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 16 Spray of light blue chain-stitch daisies with yellow centres and green stem-stitch stalks and leaves. Signature in red stem-stitch ‘D.Ruthven’.
Sadler, E. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 20 Appliquéd flowers and leaves cut from blue, red and green floral print fabric. Applied and edged with black buttonhole-stitch. Signatures in red stem-stitch ‘M.Rank E.Sadler Psa.103’. [Refers to Psalm 103: ‘Praise the Lord, O my soul: and all that is in me praise his holy Name’. Rank and Sadler were American missionaries]
Scott, Mary P. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 19 Appliquéd flower made from cream fabric printed with pale blue and mauve flowers. The fabric cut-outs have been applied with cream buttonhole-stitch. Signature in pale blue stem-stitch ‘M.P.Scott.’.
Scott, Mary P. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 6 Bunch of chain-stitch flowers and foliage in dark blue, light blue, pink and white. Flowers have yellow centre dots. Signature in brown stem-stitch ‘Mary P. Scott’.
Sheila REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 51 Brown and cream chain and stem-stitch figure of a Tommy with a steel helmet, pack and rifle, and brown stem-stitch hands giving the thumbs-up sign. The soldier is dreaming of Hovis bread, wine, cigarettes, women and beer, which are contained within a pink stem-stitch bubble. Dark blue stem-stitch signature ‘SHEILA’.
Shorthouse REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 9 Single appliqué, four-petalled, buff coloured flower edged with red button-hole stitch. Signature in cream stem-stitch ‘Mrs. Shorthouse’.
Smalley, B. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 16 Stem-stitch and elongated chain-stitch daisies and foliage with curved stems and leaves. Foliage is light green and daisies red, silver-grey and yellow. Signature in black stem-stitch ‘B. Smalley’.
Smallwood, M. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 12 Running, satin and chain-stitch ‘picture’ of an open-barred window in a brick prison cell, showing truckle bed with blanket and pillow, packing-case table with mug, bucket, dress on a hanger, and a bra and two pairs of panties drying on a line. Colours- cream, beige, light blue, dark green and pink. Above, in cream satin-stitch ‘A ROOM WITH A VIEW’ and ‘M. SMALL’[rest of signature in seam - Smallwood]
Sowerby, O. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 57 Cut out and appliquéd printed fabric of a Scots piper. Signature in grey back-stitch ‘O.SOWERBY’.
Stafford, N. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 9 Bunch of cherries in fine red and blue chain-stitch, with pale green chain-stitch leaves, brown chain-stitch stem and pale green satin-stitch cherry stalks. Signature in red chain-stitch ‘N. STAFFORD’.
Sullivan, M. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 30 Four appliquéd flowers and leaves made from plain coloured cream, gold, blue, mauve, purple, pink and white fabric, edged with black and cream buttonhole-stitch. Stamens and leaf ribs in green and red longstitch. Signature in blue stem-stitch ‘M. SULLIVAN’.
Tan, Ruth K. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 39 Bunch yellow, red and green chain and buttonhole-stitch flowers with dark green chain-stitch stems and leaves. Signature in red back back-stitch ‘Ruth K.Tan’.
Thomas, Mary REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 2 Five flowers, in mauve, yellow, red and blue, with stems and leaves in green, on a green hill. The sky is blue and the sun and its rays yellow. Executed in stem and running stitch. White chain-stitch name ‘MARY THOMAS’.
Tomkins, G. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 38 Appliquéd fabric scene of the New Zealand mountains and a lake. Fabrics in white, blues, mauve and brown have been used. Green satin-stitch has been used to edge and further define the scene. Beneath in blue stem-stitch ‘NEW ZEALAND MOUNTAINS G.Tompkins’.
Tompkins, J. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 49 Arabesque, lyre-shaped design in pink, mauve and pale green stem-stitch. The following signatures etc are easily legible ‘Thumbs Up’, ‘J Tompkins’, ‘The Crypt', ‘Helen Loxton’, ‘Judy Good’, ‘Irene Whitehead’, ‘J.H. Nealson’ and ‘M.S.MacDonald’. Each arabesque ends with a tiny embroidered place name e.g. ‘Ipoh’
Uniake, M. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 37 Red, yellow and grey stem-stitch flowers with green stem and chain-stitch leaves. Black stem-stitch ‘KIA ORA’ and signature ‘M Uniake’.
Uniake, M. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 64 Two Gollywog figures cut out of brown fabric and appliqued with cream button-hole stitch. They have green wool hair, yellow eyebrows, cream eyes and teeth, red noses, mouths and ties. One has embroidered in black above it ‘Dungie’, the other ‘Dungetta’ [refers to Mrs Uniake's son and daughter interned with her]. Black stem-stitch signature ‘M.Uniake’.
Unknown RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 63 Stem and running stitch embroidery of a red Japanese bridge over a white and blue river, with a background of mountains, trees and shrubs in green, light brown, red, white and aqua. Signature not legible - disappears into border.
Von Hagt, Ethne REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 56 Stem and running-stitch representation, in black, brown, cream, yellow, red, green and pink, of ‘Changi Hairdresser A.III Cell 7’. Shows stool, hairdresser, broom, bench with scissors, brush etc, and a mirror, all set against a black grid. Notice reads ‘Hours 10-12.30 DAILY EXCEPT SUNDAY’. Red stem-stitch signature ‘Ethne von Hagt’.
Von Hagt, Violet REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 19 Red stem-stitch heart with silver-grey words within it ‘Good Luck. Happy Days 1942’. Underneath in red ‘A.III Cell.7 Changi’. Signature in silver grey ‘Violet von Hagt’.
Watson, Margarie REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 36 Thatched cottage with latticed windows set in a flower garden. Embroidery in a combination of satin, stem and buttonhole-stitches and green, yellow, blue, mauve, brown and different pink wools mixed with green cotton embroidery thread. Signature in black stem-stitch ‘Marjorie Watson’.
Watson, Mary REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 4 Elongated chain-stitch daisies in brown, beige, light blue, cream and pink, all with brown centres, contained within a cream herringbone stitch rectangular border. A triangle in each corner of the rectangle is filled with the daisies and in the centre is a pale grey stem-stitch signature ‘May Watson 1942’.
Webster, M. A. REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 46 Red and white satin-stitch, four-armed cross-roads sign. Arms bear respectively the words ‘TOMORROW’, ‘TODAY’, ‘EVERYDAY’ and ‘YESTERDAY’. Above is ‘1942’ and below ‘CHANGI’. Signature in same colours ‘M.A.Webster’.
White, H. D. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 1 Dark blue chain-stitch swallow tailed pennant and staff with Japanese characters in red satin-stitch (translates as ‘Banzai!’), with red satin-stitch signature beneath ‘H.D. White’.
Whitehead, Irene REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 49 Arabesque, lyre-shaped design in pink, mauve and pale green stem-stitch. The following signatures etc are easily legible ‘Thumbs Up’, ‘J Tompkins’, ‘The Crypt', ‘Helen Loxton’, ‘Judy Good’, ‘Irene Whitehead’, ‘J.H. Nealson’ and ‘M.S.MacDonald’. Each arabesque ends with a tiny embroidered place name e.g. ‘Ipoh’
Wickett, Mary RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 3 Bunch of red, yellow and blue flowers with green leaves cut from a piece of floral print fabric and appliquéd in light and dark blue, red and green buttonhole-stitch. Stems are embroidered in green stem-stitch and are held together with a light blue stem-stitch bow. Signature beneath in black stem-stitch ‘Mary Wickett. 30-4-42’.
Williams, Sue REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 25 Stem and satin-stitch scene of Penang in green, beige, cream and blue, showing beach, native boat on the water, hills, a cloud and a palm tree, all within a beige stem-stitch rectangle. ‘PENANG’ and signature ‘SUE WILLIAMS’ in blue.
Willis, Helen REL/14235 "Australian Quilt" 50 Heavy yellow cotton stem and satin-stitch embroidery of the regimental collar badge of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders showing interlocking wreaths containing a Scottish wild cat and a boar respectively. The scrolls to contain the mottos [Sans Peur and Ne Oblivis Caris] have been embroidered in but the mottos have not been filled in. Signature in black stem-stitch ‘Helen Willis’.
Wood, F. RELAWM32526 "Japanese Quilt" 25 Appliquéd flowers cut from plain coloured fabric in cream, orange and green, edged with cream buttonhole-stitch. Stamens, leaves and ribs have been applied in satin-stitch. Signature in pink chain-stitch ‘F.Wood’.

On 7 December 1941, the Japanese attacked the United States’ Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, destroying dozens of ships and planes, and killing thousands of American servicemen. Japan and the United States were at war.

Australians were already fighting in Europe and the Middle East, but Prime Minister John Curtin quickly expanded Australia’s Second World War commitments, declaring that we, too, were at war with Japan because of its “unprovoked attack on British and United States territory”.

In the first year of the war in the south-west Pacific, Australians and Americans would fight the Japanese in Malaya and Singapore; in Ambon, Java and Timor; the Philippines; Papua, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Borneo. Not often, however, did they come together on the ground, and so some of the best known land campaigns fought by Australians – on the Kokoda Trail, and at Milne Bay – are unknown to Americans. Australians, meanwhile, play down the importance of the concurrent US campaign at Guadalcanal and the naval battle at Midway Island.

In December, on the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, an international conference of experts and veterans from America, Australia and Japan will meet in New Orleans to discuss the first-year battles of the Pacific war, and to share the experiences of each of the nations involved, as well as some of the misconceptions that exist. Among the speakers are two of the Australian War Memorial’s senior historians, Dr Steve Bullard and Dr Karl James.

Bullard, a Japanese-speaker, has translated extracts from the Senshi sōsho (War history series), the official account of the Japanese experience of the Second World War. His talk on “Japanese operations in New Guinea: a prelude to invasion of Australia?” will introduce an American audience to Australia’s wartime fears of Japanese invasion , and our continuing misconceptions of Japanese intentions.

In the early part of the Pacific war – January, February and March of 1942 – the Japanese were discussing a partial invasion of Australia, but this idea was quickly rejected, Bullard says. Japan’s main motivation for going to war was to secure natural resources, such as oil, rubber and tin, in south-east Asia and the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). Occupation of bases in Papua and New Guinea, and attacks on the Australian mainland, were designed to protect the supply of these resources.

“There is a common misconception that they [the Japanese] were coming south and they weren’t going to stop until they had captured Australia; and that our boys in Papua stopped them. But in actual fact the Japanese had clear objectives ... and it never involved them continuing on to take Australia,” Bullard says.

James will deliver a talk on “The Kokoda Trail” that takes in the Australian actions along that well known track in Papua, as well as the fighting at Milne Bay.

“Kokoda and Milne Bay were among the best known Australian campaigns in the Second World War, but an American audience will probably have never heard of them,” he says. “A conference like this helps give the global perspective to the first year of the Pacific War, and remind an American audience that Australians were heavily involved in the south-west Pacific.”

The Japanese suffered their first defeat in the Papuan campaign at Milne Bay. The Japanese saw the Allied airstrips in the area as a stepping stone on their way to Port Moresby. On the night of 25 August 1942, they landed by sea at Milne Bay. Two Australian brigades (about 4,500 men), some American engineers, and two RAAF squadrons were awaiting them. A savage battle raged along the shore, but the Japanese never took the airstrips. They were evacuated by sea on 4 September.

The Kokoda campaign, fought between July and November 1942, saw some of the most desperate and vicious fighting encountered by Australian troops in the Second World War. The Australians were ultimately successful in stopping the Japanese from capturing the Papuan capital of Port Moresby.

Both Kokoda and Milne Bay were part of a larger campaign fought in Papua that – after the bloody beachhead battles of Buna, Gona, and Sanananda at the end of the year, from November 1942 to January 1943 – cleared the Japanese from Papua.

James says Australia’s victory in the Kokoda campaign is linked to the US victory at Guadalcanal: severe losses suffered by the Japanese in the Solomon Islands resulted in their South Seas Detachment on Kokoda being ordered to withdraw, which was the beginning of the end for their campaign in the Owen Stanley Range.

James says being able to share the Kokoda story with American historians – and, in turn, to learn more about what happened at Guadalcanal – will “help to put the Australian story into context, which makes it more meaningful”.

The conference, from 7 to 9 December, is the first of a series of five on the Second World War that will be convened by the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana.


As senior curator of Film and Sound at the Memorial, I was greatly privileged in February this year to go with the ADF to the Australia’s area of Middle Eastern Operations.   Not only did I meet with and interview an amazing range of ADF members based in or around Al Minhad, Kandahar, Tarin Kot and Kabul, but I found myself in the rare position of being a female civilian, totally immersed in the ADF’s world.   I trained with ADF.  I wore body armour.  I travelled by armoured convoy and by Hercules aircraft.  

Interviewing at Camp Holland, Tarin Kot

I had meals in the food halls where everybody else ate - lining up outside to sterilise my hands - and slept in the same accommodation, sharing bathroom and laundry facilities.   Every day brought a hectic round of new names, acronyms, places, and protocols to remember;  every day was a day of early starts and late nights.  Some days were marked by fun (joining in Camp Baker's Trivia Night) or frustration (repeated cancellation of flights), whilst other days were memorable for their sadness  – the loss of an Australian sapper the day we left Tarin Kot; attending, with a host of coalition force members,  a US ramp ceremony at Kandahar Airfield.  

There was nothing about this trip for which the standard day at the office could have prepared me.    

As one of a three person team of Memorial curators for the Collecting in Action program,  I  spent three weeks on  deployment, travelling across the Middle Eastern Area of Operations (MEAO). In keeping with the Memorial ‘s tradition of documenting Australians’ experience at war,   I recorded  interviews with  a wide cross section of the ADF  - men and women of  different ranks, performing different duties , in a range of locations on base and in the field. Their stories were fascinating and inspiring, providing a unique insight into the life and times of Australia’s current serving military.  The team also sought items to include in the Memorial’s collection, from photographs and personal cloth patches, to gear too big to bring back right away, such as vehicles.

This video compiles a small selection from the many hours recorded during my deployment.  The Memorial thanks all those who contributed their time to this program.


The ADF do their utmost to prepare you for travelling to a war zone. Along with a large cohort of ADF members, our team undertook a training course at Randwick Barracks. Full days of lectures covered topics as diverse as vaccination, how to speak to the media, and how to conduct oneself in the event of capture.  A month later we departed with the scheduled ADF sustainment flight to Australia’s Al Minhad base, where we undertook  a further four days of lecturers and training. This included being taught how to assemble and fire a rifle, how to identify explosive devices, to call in a medivac (evacuation by air), how to apply a tourniquet, and how to dress an open wound.  My wound dressing skills being somewhat more theoretical than actual, I quietly hoped no one would have to depend on my training in an emergency!

During the training period I met many people who were , like me , about to go “in country”, but unlike me, would stay on for many months past the date of my return to the comforts of  “civvy” life. They would continue to work the long hours,  in  harsh environmental conditions, which  characterise  Middle Eastern and Central Asian deployments.  These and other  ”pattern of life” matters were discussed by many of  my interviewees.  

Outside Kabul

My interviewees included troopers, snipers, members of mentoring task groups, medical staff, unmanned aerial vehicle operators, artillery trainers, ground support crew, engineers, a Chaplin, a legal officer, a Federal policeman and, offering a different perspective, an Afghan translator.    In every case, I asked them how they came to enlist, what brought them to their current situation, what their jobs entailed, what life is like on an Australian base.  What did they enjoy about life in the Forces, what was not so good? If they had any downtime, how did they spend it? And what is it like to work with other nationalities?


Artillery practice

 People willingly shared their experiences, personal insights and thoughts for the future.  A nurse spoke of the bravery of an Afghan child who’d sustained horrific facial injury in a tractor incident.  A Lieutenant Colonel, remembering his earlier work the UN, described having to repatriate the bodies of UN personnel killed in the war between Hezbollah and Israel.   A postal operator, missing her own young family, told how amongst the inmates of Camp Baker she was known as the Morale Princess, for distributing precious news and gifts from home.  An experienced Warrant Officer described the importance of keeping people busy when sad events at home or at war tested their morale.  One interviewee showed me his publically displayed artworks, which, while allowing him artistic outlet, enlivened both his spare time and the walls of the base , pleasing ADF and coalition personnel alike.    A sniper described how his team narrowly avoided being taken out by an insurgent with a rocket propelled grenade launcher. A female officer told me about the respect shown her as a trainer, working with Afghan military.  Another interviewee described meeting his Canadian fiancée at a fitness class on base.

Stencil Art - Kandahar Airlfield Base

Some interviewees felt they might not have enough to tell, or suggested that they “weren’t interesting enough”.      The fact is everyone has a story to tell. Not only are their individual experiences interesting in their own right, but every single interview contributes a part to the whole story of Australia’s history.   In the years to come, their descendants will come to the Memorial seeking out their stories, just as the grandchildren and great grandchildren of our First and Second World War veterans are now looking for the records and recordings of their ancestors, which form the Memorial’s collections.    

The Memorial seeks to build its collection of film, photo and oral history with material from current and recently serving ADF members.  Please contact the Film and Sound section if you would like to help.

Well, we got wind in the morning that the Armistice was either signed or about to be signed... And the word finally came through and of course there was great excitement... I was only sorry I hadn't arrived there Armistice night because the chaps that got off the train, the girls just formed a ring around them.. and they wouldn't let them out of the ring till they'd kissed every one of them. - Former Corporal Ted Smout, a member of the 3rd Sanitation Section,  Australian Imperial Forces, 1915-1919 ( S03424)

Remembrance Day was once known as Armistice Day,  the day when World War I ended. It is a day to reflect on the losses incurred by the “Great War”, as it was known at the time. The Memorial holds many stories of the Great War; these are the oral histories of survivors, veterans who recorded their stories of the war years leading up to Armistice, and in some cases beyond.    These stories are a fascinating insight into the minds of a previous generation, revealing not only the history of how campaigns were fought – essential information for researchers -  but also the realities of war at the individual level, deeply personalising the Australian history of war. The WWI oral history collection has a character all its own; the idle browser may find their expectations confounded.  Although the scale of death and destruction during the Great War was unprecedented for the time, and certainly many a horror and hardship of war is alluded to, graphic descriptions of killing or dying do not typify the collection:

Oh, the trouble is it's so long ago that, you know, any unpleasant memory seems to sink away to the bottom. You only think about anything that was funny or pleasant, actually. -Former Private George Cooper, of the Gordon Highlanders, recorded in 1994 for the Department Veterans’ Affairs “Diggers and Mates” project (S02036)

Traumatic events are in the main obscured, possibly by polite discretion, possibly also by the mellowing of memory -  for few recordings predate the 1970s,  and  interviewees were well advanced in years by the time they recorded their stories.  Conversely, the passage of time produced revelations for some.  John McNeil, as Brigadier,  5thLight Horse Regiment, demonstrates this in his  recollection of being shelled at Gallipoli:

One afternoon I was writing a letter at the table and a shell came in and hit the corner of the table, turned it up, threw me into a corner of the dugout and the shell went into the other corner and exploded. I was dug out and taken down to the casualty clearing station.. Subsequently at a reunion in Brisbane some years later, I met one of my sergeants and he said, 'Oh... Skipper, did they ever tell you how we dug you, came to dig you out that time you were buried?' And I said, 'No'. ‘ Well..Sergeant so-and-so', he said,  ‘we went along to the dugouts when the shell exploded and we said, oh well the skipper's in there...We tossed up to see whether we'd dig you out or leave you where you were.’  And he said, ' We got lucky..it turned out heads...' Interviewer: What, that meant heads to dig you out? Brigadier McNeil: Yeah. Heads they'd dig me out and tails they didn't bother. Interviewer: And they finally got you out alright. McNeil: Oh, yes, well I'm here. -  Interview conducted in 1980 by Major Aylmer Campbell Robertson (S00186)

An interested listener will always find the numerous, humorous anecdotes of war; our WW1 veterans always made time to tell a funny story, seldom missing a chance to turn a near death experience into a light hearted tale. Sheer chance  - whether pure or perverse - was credited with saving many a life; seldom does heroism get a guernsey. And while their inherent resilience saw them through to old age, it's also worth noting that these veterans went to war at a time when a majority of people at home in Australia supported the war, despite the losses suffered.   Whether at war or at home , this was a generation for the most part accepting of global events beyond their control :

Interviewer : Did you realise they’d lost a lot of people? Veteran, Norman Chapman: oh yes. Interviewer : Had that changed your attitude to the war? Norman Chapman : No. Interviewer : What was your feeling then? Were you a bit apprehensive or... Norman Chapman : No, I was never that way. The only thing is, you know, had to carry on. - Former Lieutenant Norman Chapman, interviewed in 1994 by Bryan Butler of the Memorial about his service in 3 Field Company, France (S00466)

When asked to reflect upon their lives, the veterans characteristically respond modestly:

Well, I think the only thing that I actually feel that I'm justified in feeling slightly proud of is that I gave my word, I never broke it or anything like that..I just take things as they come, and don’t worry. –  George Cooper

The total number of WW1 audio recordings held by the Memorial is 269. At least 32 are with Gallipoli veterans, many  of whom were also at the Western Front in France, and five Western Front veterans  recall witnessing the fall of the famous German flying ace, The Red Baron (Baron Manfred von Richthofen) .  Many recordings are interviews conducted on site at the Memorial, or as part of special projects, while a few are memoirs, where the veteran spoke their stories to a recorder,  rather than being interviewed. Examples of other interesting stories include Private Eric Abraham’s self recorded tape,  ( S04443) in which he recounts his time in the 5th Division Signal Company, in Gallipoli and France, during the period 1915-1919.  He recalls stumbling across corpses of the enemy, narrow escapes from shrapnel and shells, while resting at Hooge Crater on the Menin Road, and a time in France so fatiguing,  that he actually slept through the night while rats ate his hair.  Listen to Eric recall how he lost a friend in a shell attack, and later how he celebrated his birthday in France: Download MP3 (deadly shell story)

Download MP3 (birthday story)

Australian soldiers bringing in the wounded to the dressing station at Hooge Crater near Ypres in Belgium during the battle on 20 September 1917.

Private George Cooper of the Gordon Highlanders, sent to France in 1918, humorously relates how he trained in trousers, but “fought in a skirt”.  As a member of the Highlanders, he was required to wear a kilt as part of his uniform – without underwear!  Listen to George talk about Armistice, and the art of wearing a kilt, here:

Download MP3 (George's Kilt)

English born Queenie Sunderland, almost our only female interviewee for the WW1 period, was a “Pommy Bride”.  Queenie’s interview recalls her early life in Salisbury, England, and, whilst working at the Salisbury Train Station, meeting her tall, broad- shouldered Australian  husband-to-be ;  seeing Lord Kitchener on the train platform ; accompanying her husband to Australia on the troop ship Osterly, and while en route, staying up at 4am to see the Southern Cross for the first time, an experience moving for both her and the Australians aboard. She also mentions befriending a woman aboard ship who transpired to be one of the many "abandoned brides",  British women who, expecting to be met in Sydney by Australian fiancés, waited in vain – only to be repatriated by ship to Britain.   Queenie went  on to recall several anecdotes of her husband’s time in Gallipoli, including  briefly assisting an injured man onto the back of Simpson's donkey, and another time, whilst on guard duty, encountering a Turkish soldier doing the same ;  they came face to face, about turned without pause, and paced away from each other again!  ( S03442) Researchers often ask about the Memorial’s holdings relating to Victoria Cross Winners.    Our oral history holdings, in this regard, are small, and sadly there are no interviews with WW1 VC winners.  However, we have a couple of interviews with David Edward (Ted) Smout, one of the last WW1 veterans to live into the 21century, and one of those who saw the famous German flying ace, The Red Baron, shot down.   Ted’s 1997 interview, (conducted  by Peter Rubenstein for Department of Veterans’ Affairs 1990s oral history project, "Voices From The Great War"),  is of outstanding clarity and quality, particularly when its realised he was 99 at the time of his interview.   In an hour-long interview with Ted, Ted  discusses enlisting in 1915 , meeting Frank (later Sir Frank) Beaurepaire in the YMCA Hut at Le Havre, and how Frank's bread rolls disappeared during a period of harsh rationing; experiencing the harsh front- line conditions of winter in France, 1916 :  shelling, trench-foot, lice and "frozen blankets". Ted also reflects on Armistice, and what he was doing when it occurred; life after the war including the after- effects of shell shock, working with other veterans, and the success of his marriage.  We don't have permission at this time to post a clip online,  but the Memorial conducted its own interview with Ted in 2002, in which he discussed being a stretcher bearer and how, when the wooden duckboard paths (which provided safe passage over the bogs) were shelled to pieces, there was no way to get to the  wounded men lying in and around the shell holes. 

EPIP tents pitched in the grounds of a convalescent camp near the Australian General Base Depot at Le Havre. Note the Australian flag flying from the pole on the right, and the large YMCA buiding in the background (centre).

(a photograph from the collection showing a YMCA hut at Le Havre, quite possibly the same hut where Frank Beaurepaire’s bread rolls disappeared) . Reports of Baron Manfred von Richthofen's death vary according to source (for example, several people have claimed responsbility for his fall. )  But here is an excerpt from the Memorial's filmed interview with Ted ( F08487 ) , wherein Ted tells his story of the death of  "The Red Baron" :

When the Red Baron was shot down, we were only a couple of hundred yards away, in a rest camp, there was a group of six of us.  We were first there, that was before any guard was posted... and one report said, he was dead. He wasn't, he was alive, he lived long enough to be cleaned up, his face and body and clothing were covered in blood, he was cleaned up, taken out of the plane, and put beside the plane on the grass. And he recovered consciousness, and uttered one word : 'Kaput'.   K-A-P-U-T. And died. And that was it.

These are but a sample of the wealth of stories held by the Memorial’s Sound Section.  Recordings may be accessed in the Memorial’s Research Centre, or copies purchased via our ESales Section.  For information about a particular recording, contact the Sound Section.   We’ll let Ted have the last word, about the Great War:

..that was the war to end all wars. No wars ever ended a war. I don't think there's any place for war. The history of wars has never been for any peace. I wouldn't do it again.

The Memorial’s Research Centre holds original First World War AIF War Diaries [AWM4] that are now available to view on our website.  Hidden among the volumes of these records are some wonderful artworks created by the artist Bernie Bragg. Bernard [Bernie] William Patrick Bragg [Service number 2870] enlisted at 21 years of age on the 16 November 1916 at the Royal Agricultural Show Ground in Sydney.  His service record [held at: National Archives Australia] lists his occupation as “Draughtsman”.  He embarked from Sydney on A19 Africa on 8 November 1916 and arrived at Plymouth in January the following year.  From there he was sent to France to join the 59th Battalion and later to the 15th Brigade Headquarters.  Bragg was given the job of regimental draftsman – meaning he was responsible for drawing the maps and diagrams used by the regiment.  At the end of the War he was honoured with a Mention in Despatches. During Bernie’s time in France with the 15 Infantry Brigade he produced some beautiful War Diary Covers.  Australian Imperial Force Unit War Diary, 15th Infantry Brigade, May 1918

This is his illustrated cover of the Australian Imperial Force War Diary, 15th Infantry Brigade for May 1918. It depicts two soldiers, one swimming in a river and the other standing on the river bank, with the title lettering contained within a rectangular shape. For this image Bernie has used Indian ink and watercolours.

 Australian Imperial Force Unit War Diary, 15th Infantry Brigade, June 1918

Another illustrated War Diary Cover by Bernie for the 15th Infantry Brigade for June 1918 features an elliptical design depicting soldiers under a night sky and full moon, with Art Nouveau style title lettering and scrolls. For this one Bernie used gouache and inks. Australian Imperial Force Unit War Diary, 15th Infantry Brigade, March 1919

And this illustrated cover by Bernie was also for the 15th Infantry Brigade for March 1919, and depicts Australian soldiers marching past a memorial in France, with Brigadier General Harold Edward 'Pompey' Elliott taking the salute. For this one Bernie has used Indian ink and gouache. These are but a few examples in the Memorial’s Collections of illustrated War Diary covers and  they are a great testament to the skill and talent of their maker.  Before the war Bernie studied classical Art in Sydney and after the war he went on to become one of Melbourne’s most respected movie advertisement and newspaper illustrators. 

To view more items of Bernie Bragg’s art search our Collections Database

The Australian War Memorial's Heraldry collection contains a number of commemorative badges and brooches which display a high level of beauty and craftsmanship combined with poignant individual stories. A recently donated brooch demonstrates these characteristics excellently.

This fifteen carat gold brooch was one of four privately made for the Hislop family in memory of their son and brother, Allan Henderson, who died of wounds on 18 October 1916 while a German prisoner of war.  

Allan was born at St Mary’s, NSW on 6 October 1895, the fourth of six children (five surviving to adulthood) and only son of David and Annie Hislop. David and Annie were married in Brisbane in 1889 and relocated to Sydney after the birth of their first child, Evelyn. After the birth of their last child, Beryl Irene in 1890, the family returned to Brisbane, where David died in 1913.  

On 4 September 1915 Allan enlisted in the AIF as a member of 25 Battalion.  Joining up alongside his best friend Alec Peters (Alexander Drew Peters) both men were taken on by 10 Reinforcements. Allan and Alec were  just 19 years of age but both had already seen a number of years service in the militia and the naval cadets respectively.

Allan was also a gifted athlete and was noted for his excellence as a boxer and footballer. As a member of the Blue Star Football Club Allan played in and won the 1915 Queensland Rugby Football League 4th Grade Junior Premiership. 

Embarking from Brisbane for overseas service on 28 March 1916, Allan arrived in France on 5 June and joined up with 25 Battalion in the field on 16 July. At this time the battalion was yet to take part in a major battle on the Western Front but would do so in the coming weeks at Pozieres. At midnight on the night of 28/29 July, the battalion made their first attack during which Allan went missing. However, he was not confirmed as a prisoner of war until a month later. He had arrived at Gottingen Prisoner of War Camp on 7 August and was admitted to the camp hospital suffering wounds to his left hand and thigh. Hislop’s left hand was amputated and in the proceeding months he developed numerous abscesses on his body. He quietly passed away from an abscess to his heart at 8.30am on 18 October 1916.

Allan was buried in the neighbouring Gottingen Military Cemetery, however he was reinterred in Niederzwehren Cemetery in 1924 when four permanent cemeteries were established to house the graves of Commonwealth servicemen who had died in Germany. This cemetery is in the German city of Kassel, approximately 165kms south of Hannover.

After Allan’s mother and sisters were informed of his death they arranged to have four of these magnificent brooches made in his honour to commemorate his war service. One was made for each sister  – Evelyn, Meg (Margaret) Essie (Annie Estella) and Beryl. Only the brooch now held by the Memorial (believed to be Evelyn’s) is known to still exist.

The brooch is in the shape of a shield surmounted by a red enamelled King's crown. In the centre of the badge is a black and blue enamelled 25 Battalion colour patch, a gold machine gun and gold sergeant's rank insignia  On a white enamelled scroll above the colour patch is '4057 AHH FRANCE POZIERES 28-7-16. At the base is a black enamelled scroll with 'GOTTINGEN 18-10-16. The brooch is housed in its original blue presentation box with the maker’s details stamped in black on the inside lid.

Endnote: Alec Peters' survived the Battle of Pozieres but was killed in action at Flers on 5 November 1916. He is buried at Warlancourt British Cemetery in France.

The Memorial holds a fantastic collection of First World War trench art made by Sapper Stanley Pearl, who served in the First World War and later worked at the Australian War Memorial. Stanley Keith Pearl [6756] enlisted at 21 years of age on the 9 November 1915 at the Tasmanian town of Ulverstone.  On his service record, [held at: National Archives Australia] when asked about civil convictions, he responds that he was once convicted of riding a cycle on a foot path! The recruiter did not seem to mind and Pearl was accepted into the AIF.  He embarked from Sydney on HMAT Orsova on 11 March 1916 and arrived at Alexandria April that year.  From there he was sent to France with the 2nd Div reinforcements 8th Field Coy Engineers and by August was a Sapper with the 5 Field Coy Engineers where he served until the end of the War. During Pearl’s time in France he produced the most amazing and highly crafted items of trench art, much of which he later donated to the Memorial.   Trench art was made by soldiers in the trenches from any available material and ranged from small brooches for sweethearts to large sculptures made from brass shell casings.  The creation of these items helped occupy the soldiers between bouts of major action and gave an outlet for artistic expression.  RELAWM14153 - Trench art table napkin ring : Sapper S K Pearl, 5 Field Company Engineers, AIF

Sapper Pearl made this napkin ring at Armentieres in January 1918. The ring is a piece of 6-inch "dud" shell found lying near Favreuil. The stand is a nose-cap of a Newton rifle-grenade and the feet are 18-pounder shrapnel pellets dropped short near Le Touquet.  Trench art chrysanthemum vase : Sapper S K Pearl, 5 Field Company Engineers, AIF

This chrysanthemum vase was made by Sapper Pearl at Thy-le-Chateau from a French 75mm shell-case and embellished with the Royal Artillery badge and a French artillery button. The shell-case was souvenired from a French battery south of Villers-Bretonneux, while the handles are 1-inch copper steam pipes split down and flattened out. The latter were purloined from a German locomotive which formed part of the Armistice indemnity and were removed at night with a hack saw in spite of a guard.  Trench art clock : Sapper S K Pearl, 5 Field Company Engineers, AIF

This alarm clock was made by Sapper Pearl at Ypres in March 1918. The case was made from two 4.5 inch shell cases picked up on Christmas Day 1917 at the Australian batteries at Le Bizet. The foot support is a clip of an 18 pounder shell. The arms are detonator wells of rifle grenades and nose-caps. The hands are from a gun-cotton case, while the alarm cover is an American-made 18 pounder nose-cap with a 'whizz-bang' driving band. The Rising Sun badge belonged to one of Pearl’s mates who killed at Noreuil, while a button from the Pearl's greatcoat and a German bullet surmount the whole. These are but a few examples the trench art made by Sapper Pearl in the Memorial’s Collections.  They are a great illustration of the skill and talent of their maker.  After the war Stanley Keith Pearl became one of the original employees at the Memorial here in Canberra where he worked as a carpenter and senior tradesman from the Memorial’s opening in 1941 until his retirement. 

To view more items of Sapper Pearl’s trench art search our Collections Database. 

A young man, fit and blond, waits nervously in a trench, clenching his bayonet-fixed rifle across his chest. A whistle sounds and he throws himself over the top of the trench into no man’s land, which is already littered with the bodies of his fellow soldiers. Machine-guns chatter, more of his companions are cut down, and the young man drops his bayonet and runs as hard as he can toward the enemy trenches. Chin up, arms outstretched, his chest is riddled with bullets.

Few who have seen Australian director Peter Weir’s film Gallipoli can forget those final poignant scenes as Archy Hamilton and his friends are ripped apart by machine-gun fire in a failed charge toward enemy lines on the Turkish peninsula. But many may not realise that they are based on one particular battle fought at Anzac:  the Charge at the Nek, on 7 August 1915.

“The Nek was such a heroic failure it almost epitomises the First World War,” says Peter Burness, senior historian at the Australian War Memorial. “People connect with it because it’s on a scale we can grasp, and all the folly and valour we can accept.”

The Nek was a strategically important land bridge that connected Russell’s Top, the northern end of the Anzac front line, to the Turkish-held rise of Baby 700. The charge was a diversionary attack for the August Offensive, the last attempt of the allied forces at Gallipoli to break the stalemate that had persisted since the Anzacs landed on 25 April. It was to be carried out by the 3rd Light Horse Brigade.

The attack began with a bombardment of Turkish positions by artillery and a destroyer steaming offshore, but the bulk of the shells fell beyond their target and the shelling finished seven minutes early. The officers of the light horse held off the charge until the allotted time of 4.30 am, giving the Turks a chance to return to their positions after sheltering further back during the bombardment.

First over the top was the 8th Light Horse Regiment, and immediately they were shot down by Turkish rifle and machine-gun fire. Many were killed just metres out of the trench. The second line, also from the 8th, scrambled over the dead and wounded to make their attack, and suffered the same fate.

The charge had obviously failed, and cancellation of the attack was proposed. But Lieutenant Colonel Jack Antill, who had effective command of the 3rd Brigade, rejected the idea and a third line of soldiers, from the 10th Light Horse, were sent over the top – Archy’s regiment.  With the body count climbing higher, cancellation was again suggested, but before a decision was made the right flank of the fourth line charged as a result of a misunderstanding, and the rest of the line followed. They too were mowed down by the Turkish fire. The 8th Light Horse suffered 234 casualties, 154 fatal; and the 10th suffered 138 casualties, 80 fatal.

Burness became fascinated with the story of the Nek via the Official History writings of Charles Bean, the painting by George Lambert and other relics in the Australian War Memorial’s collection. In 1995 his account of the battle, The Nek: the tragic charge of the Light Horse at Gallipoli, was published and – owing to demand – he is now updating it.

“The whole thrust of the book is about the men involved in the charge, who they were and what made them tick,” Burness says. “In 1985 I’d interviewed survivors of the battle, and what they told me was included in the book. But since then I have had more material given to me by families of those who witnessed or were part of the charge. Research now is also easier, and there is much more material available at your fingertips on websites. This has confirmed and corrected information that I had, and gives a fuller picture.”

Burness has delved deeper into the lives of the senior officers overseeing the charge, and made some interesting discoveries.

 “The personal relationships between a couple of Australian officers were very poor – I’ve found they were poisonous,” he says.   At a time when clear thinking and cooperation were essential, there was no effective communication.  “One officer who later gave a clear description of the battle was very deeply affected by the failed attack.  I recently found out he committed suicide after the war.”

While today most people connect the story of the Nek with Peter Weir’s film, early generations compared it with the story of the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War.  Even Charles Bean made the comparison.  Burness says: “Behind the glorious charge of the Light Brigade there is a story of inadequacies, incompetence and bitter personal rivalries.  The action at the Nek was no different.  Yet still we marvel at the courage of those who took part.”

Burness will speak on “The Nek, a battle revisited” at the Narratives of War Symposium at the University of South Australia this Thursday, 29 September.  The new edition of The Nek is in production.

                                            The charge of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade at the Nek, 7 August 1915, by George Lambert

While major structural work is being carried out, work progresses on some of the smaller cabin fitout items as well.  Mark Aitken, one of the Large Technology conservators, is currently replicating the F24 Camera Well using a loaned original for reference, as well as original blueprints.

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