Remembrance 2022

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The Kaleidoscope of Conflict

Eachyear in Remembrance we share reflections on the nature and influence of military conflict in our Australian lives. This year, we commence our exploration of how our collective experience in wartime has shaped, and been shaped by, popular culture: our programming theme for the coming year.

Our reflections are fashioned by current world events to take on deeper meaning. We are reminded of the fragility of peace through the emergence of new challenges to the relative peace and order shaped in the aftermath of the Second World War and defended by members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to this day.

As i write, political ambitions again drive nations to assert military dominance and breach the painful precipice to broker war—forces plain to see in Russia’s war on Ukraine. Nightly we witness the cost to combatants, on both sides, and the plight of those forced to flee their homes to seek refuge.

The warning of the costs of breaking peace are at the forefront of our ceremonial activities as we reflect on loss and suffering, and the enduring hope of peace secured for the betterment of all, this year’s Remembrance Day theme.

Closer to home we are reminded that service and sacrifice are alive and present in our community through the dedication and actions of the 88,000 full-time and Reservist members of the ADF—including the 40,000 who served during

20 years of continuous wartime engagement this century: in Timor, iraq, Afghanistan, and in bushfire, flood and COViD relief.

The spirit of Anzac walks among us; yet we have also observed a strengthened emergence of radical views within Victoria and Australia. The Shrine’s is a ‘broad church’, yet its purpose is immutable and enduring. Despite this, some seek to declare ownership to the exclusion of others. We witnessed this last year in the staging of protests in the name of freedom. We have seen this again in the intolerance shown to our efforts to share inclusive stories of service.

Opinions reasonably held and expressed are to be respected, but there is only one source of truth to the meaning and purpose of the Shrine of Remembrance and that is the Shrine of Remembrance Act. This document clearly sets out our purpose, “… as a memorial to honour the service and sacrifice of Victorians and Australians in war, conflict, peacemaking and peacekeeping; and as a site of national, State and cultural significance ...”

As we seek to fulfil our purpose through sharing stories of the experience of those in service, we will on occasion address topics uncomfortable to some in our community.

Over the past 12 months we have shared stories of the passions inflamed in times of war: on the battlefield and the home-front;

shared the experiences of First Nations peoples in service to Australia; and, for the first time for an Australian war memorial, brought light to the stories of LGBTiQ+ members of the Australian Defence Force during more than a century of service.

Fifty years ago, the creation of a memorial to women’s service at the Shrine was controversial and opposed by many. Earlier this century similar opposition was expressed to the introduction of an annual service commemorating Aboriginal and Torres Strait island service people. A decade ago, conversations around veteran suicide were taboo, yet today it is the subject of a Royal Commission.

Society’s values change, and the Shrine is an active participant in that change. We will continue our efforts to honour service and sacrifice of all who have served Australia and look forward as we act with integrity and respect to share these stories with you, our readers.

Yours in commemoration,




On 2 April 1928, the National War Memorial Committee launched a state-wide fundraising appeal to meet the costs of building a ‘Shrine of Remembrance’. The goal was to raise £90,000 by Anzac Day. Donation forms were posted to all corners of the state and shortly thereafter signed pledges, some promising an annual donation for the next five years, began returning in the mail.

in somewhat unusual fashion, contributors were also encouraged to return a detachable portion of the donation form ‘so that it may be lodged in the Crypt of the Shrine of Remembrance.’ in this way, the names of individuals who had made a financial contribution to building the Shrine would be preserved for posterity; as had the inaugural donation from Melbourne City Council, which had been recorded on parchment and sealed in a

leaden time capsule beneath the Foundation Stone on Armistice Day 1927.

it would be another decade before the individual donation slips, then numbering between 30–40,000, would be sealed in airtight containers made of zinc and deposited inside a stone and bronze encasement in the Crypt of the Shrine. The encasement, like the crypt itself which had been envisioned in the beginning as a simple vault for housing records, took on added significance as construction of the Shrine progressed and the possibility of transforming the space beneath the Sanctuary into a commemorative sanctum took shape.

it was then that the Graecian inspired decoration and ornament, already a feature of the Shrine’s façade, was added to the ceiling and walls of the Crypt. The Records Cenotaph, as the encasement

was then called, completes the illusion of being transported to the Classical world with its polished brass meander frieze and acroteria. Such was the prominence given to the encasement that the architects, Philip Hudson and James Wardrop, proposed storing a copy of their original architectural designs within it. in fact, discussions as to what should be stored inside the encasement were lively, with proposals that—in addition to the architectural plans—copies of the Duke of Gloucester’s and the then Premier Sir Stanley Argyle’s dedicatory speeches be included, alongside a gramophone recording of the 1934 dedication ceremony. in the end, there would only be room for the names of those individuals who had contributed money.

All of this would be history had it not been discovered that the zinc containers holding the donation

For more than 70 years, containers holding tens of thousands of donation receipts lay undisturbed in the Shrine’s Crypt. This year, they were opened revealing the names of those who were pivotal in the Shrine’s construction.
IMAGE LEFT Curator, Exhibitions and Collections at the Shrine, Kate Spinks-Colas, holding the new cases for the receipts in front of the Crypt Casket.

For reasons that are still partly unknown, each of the rectangular zinc containers began swelling

The donation slips inside the boxes show names and messages from people who donated money to help build the Shrine Evan Tindal from the Grimwade Conservation Centre gently cut the zinc containers open with a small blade The cardboard boxes were taken out of their zinc cases The new containers housing the receipts. The boxes are made from non-acidic blue board corrugated card and sealed in acrylic cases

slips had swollen in size. For reasons that are still partly unknown, one by one each of the rectangular zinc containers began swelling to the point where they were no longer able to rest comfortably in the encasement. Clearly, the efforts by the committee to preserve the records from silverfish, moisture, and mould had worked and hermetically sealing the records had prevented anything getting in, but it was also clear that the seal was preventing something from getting out.

To assess the situation and to assist in opening the containers and transferring the records to new containers, the Shrine enlisted the help of paper and object conservators, Peter Mitchelson and Evan Tindal, from Grimwade Conservation Services at the University of Melbourne. With their assistance, the containers were carefully opened and the contents examined.

While a cause for the swelling could not be concluded definitively,

there is reason to suspect that acidic deterioration of the original cardboard boxes holding the slips released a gas that caused the sealed containers to swell. Having opened the containers, the slips were assessed and photographed before being re-housed in new acidfree cardboard boxes and returned to the encasement in custommanufactured transparent acrylic containers.

While the idea of a Records Cenotaph has seemingly not taken wing, the practical idea behind it—that the names of individuals who made a financial sacrifice to the building of the Shrine should be preserved, in anonymity, alongside the names of the Australian fighting units of the First World War and beneath the regimental colours— invites reflection.

For nearly 90 years, the Shrine has been the focus of wartime commemoration and remembrance within the Victorian community. While the meaning and experience

of remembrance has changed across the years, the permanence of the Shrine, its lapidary qualities and symbolism, are deeply entangled in these experiences, a defining feature, one might posit, of what makes them our experiences.

it is for this legacy, one that the National War Memorial Committee could have only imagined at the time, that we have now played our part by honouring the names of Victorians who contributed to the 1928 Shrine Appeal. The question now is how can the community continue to carry this legacy into the future?



Toby Miller is Collections Coordinator at the Shrine of Remembrance



Lucky Starr December 1966 1st Australian Task Force Base, Nui Dat, Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam photographer William James Cunneen REPRODUCED COURTESY OF THE AUSTRALiAN WAR MEMORiAL SMT/67/0065/EC

The Shrine of Remembrance’s latest special exhibition Tours De Force: Entertainers on the Frontline draws attention to the entertainers who have given their time and talent to serve their nation’s fighting men and women since the Vietnam War. The exhibition also celebrates the special military unit responsible for the care and safety of these beloved Australian performers.

Stage shows and musical concerts have sustained the spirits and mental health of Australian troops throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. These live shows remind servicemen and women of the lives they live, pleasures they enjoy, values they hold, institutions they serve, and people they love.

in late 1965, a privately organised tour to South Vietnam by popular Australian singer Lucky Starr prompted a question in Federal Parliament to then Prime Minister Robert Menzies—would it not be beneficial for Australian troops, and safer for performers, if the Australian defence forces sponsored such tours themselves?

The Forces Advisory Committee on Entertainment (FACE), today known as Forces Entertainment, was established in January 1966 to provide live entertainment for Australian forces serving overseas. The original FACE comprised

representatives from the Army, the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), the commercial radio and television networks, and various theatrical agencies.

it is interesting to note that the entertainer’s trade union, Actor’s Equity, refused to be involved in FACE due to its opposition to Australia’s military deployment to South Vietnam. This action proved the opening salvo in what has often been a highly politicised arena. Participation in a Forces Entertainment tour can be as risky to a performer’s career and their personal safety depending on the public support enjoyed by the deployment in the wider community. This important aspect of the history of Forces Entertainment continues to the present day.

Support for Australian military personnel abroad has not always been universal among Australian entertainers. The 1967 play On Stage Vietnam by Monica Brand was

one of the first plays anywhere to be critical of western involvement in Vietnam. Brand, an Australian Communist Party Member, was a close associate of fellow playwright and former Actor’s Equity secretary Dick Diamond. Brand and Diamond had both lived in communist North Vietnam in the late 1950s. The exhibition features an original script of On Stage Vietnam as well as other paraphernalia from the show. Certainly the vast majority of Australian entertainers visiting Vietnam worked on the southern side of the border!

Despite hostility from many in the arts community, the original FACE succeeded in sending 54 concert parties to South Vietnam between 1965 and 1971. The Returned Services League paid for 28 of these tours via the Australian Forces Overseas Fund (AFOF) which continues to assist the operations of Forces Entertainment to the present day. Five Christmas shows, meanwhile, were joint FACEAFOF efforts.

Ella Hooper from ‘Killing Heidi’ 16 December 2001 Dili, East Timor photographer Corporal Mark Eaton Reproduced courtesy of the Australian Defence Force

Some 350 FACE-AFOF performers toured South Vietnam during the war, among them individuals who remained household names for decades—ian Turpie, Lorrae Desmond, Pattie Newton, Denise Drysdale and the Deltones. Little Pattie and Col Joy were famously performing at the 1st Australian Task Force base at Nui Dat during the Battle of Long Tan (18 August 1966).

All FACE-AFOF artists touring South Vietnam received security details, free transport and accommodation, as well as daily allowances, but no performance fees. Tours lasted between one and four weeks. All major Australian bases and hospitals in South Vietnam—at Saigon, Nui Dat, Vung Tau and Phan Rang— received FACE-AFOF concert parties, so too outlying posts and rest and recreation centres. The last joint FACE-AFOF concert party of South Vietnam occurred between 8 and 16 December 1971. The successful six-year scheme cost the Australian taxpayer a mere $780,000 ($9 million today).

This early period of Forces Entertainments history is represented in Tours De Force with images from the Australian War Memorial collection and original exhibits on loan from the Arts Centre’s Australian Music Vault collection and Museum Victoria.

Original photographs, pertaining to the FACE tour undertaken by singer Fred Ward and the military service of rock star and Armoured Personnel Carrier crew chief, Normie Rowe, are displayed alongside a program for the Superama ’66 Concert, a starstudded affair which raised money for AFOF. Other exhibits include a letter sent to Barry Humphries by the Army in response to his request to join a FACE tour (ultimately rejected) and keepsakes of beloved television ventriloquist Ron Blaskett (and his good friend Gerry Gee). Blaskett, in addition to embarking on a FACE tour in April 1968 and again in 1971 as part of a private tour, had served with the 1st Australian Entertainment Unit—a proto-FACE travelling road show which gave 12,000

performances during the Second World War and included well-known entertainers George Wallace, Gladys Moncrieff, Bebe Scott and Smokey Dawson.

it is valuable to note that ‘private’ tours of South Vietnam by Australian entertainers continued parallel to the sponsored FACE/ AFOF tours. indeed, almost half of all Australian performers who toured South Vietnam between 1965 and 1971 did so as part of privately contracted troupes. The unsponsored entertainers were paid by the Australian Government only when actually performing for Australian troops. To maximise earnings, so-called ‘unofficials’ generally performed for the far more numerous (and better paying) American forces.

Some Australian entertainers travelled to South Vietnam alone, at their own expense. Unbound by government contracts, they worked clubs, bars and private engagements, as well as military

ARIA Award-winning Aussie Hip Hop trio Bliss n Eso fire up a crowd of Australian and United States troops 6 September 2013 Camp Holland, Tarin Kowt, Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan photographer Corporal Chris Moore Reproduced courtesy of the Australian Defence Force

bases. Professional exploitation and in the case of young female performers, unwanted sexual advances, were rife and danger ever present. The poor conditions faced by Australian, American and other allied entertainers in South Vietnam was subject to United States Senate inquiry in 1969.

The difficulties experienced by many unsponsored performers—most tragically the murder of 19-year-old Sydney singer Cathy Wayne on stage at a United States Marines base in 1969—convinced many officials in Australia that all future tours, by civilian performers in combat zones, should come under the direct control of the Australian Defence Force. in recent years many nonFACE entertainers who toured South Vietnam have had to lobby hard for recognition for the work they did during the war.

The original incarnation of FACE was disbanded in 1985 due to a drop-off in Australian Defence Force (ADF) deployments in the

post-Vietnam War era. The 1999 independence crisis in East Timor, however, led to Australia’s largest military deployment since 1971. This in turn highlighted the need for live entertainment for Australian troops.

The difficulties faced by the Australian-led peacekeeping force sent to help the East Timorese spurred renowned music promoter Glen Wheatly into action. Wheatly believed a televised star-studded Christmas extravaganza in East Timor’s capital, Dili, would boost peacekeeper morale and demonstrate Australia’s support for fledging East Timorese nationhood.

Wheatley secured A-list acts—Kylie Minogue, John Farnham, James Reyne, The Angels, James Blundell, Gina Jeffreys, The Living End and The Dili Allstars—and the concert headlined as Tour of Duty was telecast live across Australia. Tour of Duty demonstrated just how well live shows by civilian entertainers ‘in country’ could energise ADF personnel overseas.

Tour of Duty remains the most famous military concert put on for Australian servicemen and women. Tours De Force benefits from the inclusion of a host of keepsakes owned by recently, and very sadly, deceased impresario Glen Wheatley. The Shrine is eternally grateful to Glen’s widow Gaynor who has made the display possible at what is a very difficult time. The Wheatley items are displayed in company with mementos belonging to Paulie Stewart of the Dili Allstars, including a slouch hat signed by General Peter Cosgrove and a band t-shirt signed by Xanana Gusmão, the former president of East Timor. The famous gold dress worn by Kylie Minogue during the concert, on loan from the Arts Centre, is another standout.

The tremendous success of Tour of Duty led directly to the reactivation of FACE in 2000. Today, Forces Entertainment is a tri-service body of the Joint Operations Command responsible for fostering relationships between the ADF and the entertainment and arts industries.

Hamish Blake and Andy Lee broadcast live from the ‘Giggle Bunker’ 17 April 2008 Operation SLiPPER. Camp Holland, Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan photographer unknown image reproduced courtesy of the Australian Defence Force

in the past two decades, musicians Angry Anderson, Tim Freeman, Missy Higgins, Doc Neeson, and comedians Anthony Lehmann, Gretel Kileen, Mick Molloy, Fiona O’Loughlin and Merrick Watts along with scores of others have performed for troops in East Timor, Afghanistan, iraq, the Solomon islands, Sinai and onboard HMAS vessels at sea.

The sections of the exhibition dealing with this more recent phase of the activities showcases loans from Forces Entertainment, and images and video footage from the ADF and Channel 10’s 7PM Project. Visitors will learn that the nature of the entertainment offered to Australian troops overseas has changed considerably over the decades since the Vietnam War. Some once popular entertainments (e.g. bikini-clad go-go dancers, ‘blue’ comedians, etc.) have

lost relevance over time as the ADF has diversified, but the core purpose of Forces Entertainment remains.

The experiences of performers on Forces Entertainment tours varies widely. Some have found the difficulties and privations such, that one tour is enough. Others love the rough and tumble and partake in multiple tours. The motivations for going on tour are as varied as the entertainers themselves. Some are motivated by a sense of patriotism, adventure, and comradery. Some seek fame, experience, or bragging rights. Few are in it for money, as most can earn far more by staying at home.

Entertainers become ‘Defence Civilians’ when deployed to an Area of Operations and must consent to Australian Defence Force discipline

regulations and comply with all General Orders, lawful commands and directions issued by, or under the authority of, the Commander. All entertainers undergo medical and dental check-ups and like the FACE performers of the Vietnam War era, only receive a daily allowance, the same rate as the military personnel accompanying them.

Military traditions and discipline can prove highly confronting for entertainers, as can the ‘rough and ready’ meals, living conditions and forms of transport with which they must contend. individualistic and often outright subversive personalities must be schooled in what they usually view as the bewildering protocols of the military.

in addition to the stories of wartime entertainers, this exhibition explores

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki shoulders a Carl Gustav recoilless rifle 8 March 2013. OPERATiON SLiPPER. Multinational Base, Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan photographer US Army SGT Jessi Ann McCormick. image reproduced courtesy of the Australian Defence Force

the mission, operations, personnel and experiences of the men and women who have facilitated these successful tours.

Visitors can learn how Forces Entertainment personnel scout for, and contract performers, how they familiarise these often unconventional talents in the ways of the military culture and most significantly, it will highlight how Forces Entertainment keep these performers safe and comfortable in dangerous combat zones that few other Australian civilians will ever experience.

The exhibition’s broad timescale, from 1965 to 2020, means visitors will encounter entertainers of different eras. Many will be curious to know how their favourite entertainers have fared in difficult, dangerous

but undoubtedly interesting environments.

Several beloved Australian entertainers have been involved in the development of the exhibition, agreeing to share their stories, memorabilia and even offering to help promote it. Patricia Amphlett (Little Pattie), Normie Rowe, Gaynor Wheatley, Paulie Stewart, John Schumann, Anthony Lehmann (Lehmo), Merrick Watts, and Tom Gleeson have all lent a hand. in addition, the Shrine has sought and received the complete support of the Forces Entertainment Unit of the Australian Defence Force. We thank them for their contribution.

Neil Sharkey has been a curator at the Shrine of Remembrance since January 2007 and in that time has developed the Shrine’s Second World War Gallery and dozens of Shrine Special Exhibitions. These include his most recent Lust, Love, Loss: Australian stories of wartime relationships and Tours De Force: Entertainers on the Frontline


Singer-Songwriter Chantelle Delaney (left) and Urban Songstress Tiaan Williams test out the seating in 6x6 troop carrier 25 June 2009 OPERATiON ANODE. Solomon islands photographer CPL Guy Young image reproduced courtesy of the Australian Defence Force



In October 2023, the Shrine will launch a special exhibition that uncovers the connections between modern fashion and military garments from times gone by.

Military garments have long influenced fashion, both on the catwalk and the high street. The politicised clothing of war, especially the uniforms worn by combatants, have fascinated designers and consumers alike.

Australian fashion scholar Jennifer Craik writes in the introduction to the 2014 book Fashion and War in Popular Culture, that military uniforms ‘offer fashion qualities

of spectacle, order, repetition and carefully contrived lines and silhouettes which evoking images of discipline, civility and heroism’.

Military garments and uniforms remind us of violent histories of colonialism and imperialism. Yet, appropriated by fashion, these garments also tell stories about globalisation and the movement of people and culture around the world.

The fact that these items have become iconic cultural signifiers alerts us to the significance of war and military conflict, not only as events of catastrophic social consequence but also of lasting cultural influence.


Designed in the early twentieth century to combat issues of visibility when flying at high altitudes, Aviator style sunglasses—built with a thin metal frame, recognisable double bridge, and teardrop-shaped lens—first went on sale to the public as Ray-Ban Aviators in the late 1930s. it was during the Second World War that their popularity spread, especially among pilots in the US military, who wore the style both in the air and on the ground. Following the war, Aviators remained a stalwart of military garb. They were also gradually adopted by celebrities, from Elvis Presley and Freddie Mercury to Gloria Steinem and Bianca Jagger.

Perhaps the most iconic portrayal of Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses in popular culture is the 1986 film Top Gun, in which Tom Cruise plays the enviably cool US Navy hero Lt. Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell. The inclusion of these sunglasses in the film catapulted demand for the style, with sales of Aviators reportedly increasing by almost 40 per cent in the seven months following the release of the film. Cruise’s 2022 reprisal of the role in Maverick: Top Gun has once again spurred sales of the style, with sunglasses retailers reporting that the RB3025 Aviator Classic is one of the top sellers of the 2022 summer.

Adjusting his black beret and wearing Ray Ban sun glasses, is crew commander, 39113 Corporal ian Donald Mathieson, A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Royal Australian Armoured Corps, (RAAC). Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (P07256.023)


The evolution of the trench coat begins as far back as the early 1820s, when rubberised cotton was first used in outerwear. Named after their inventor Charles Mackintosh, these ‘macks’ were effective in keeping the rain out, however, they also kept the sweat in. Thus, textile manufacturers continued to experiment with alternative waterproofing solutions.

in 1856, Thomas Burberry opened his eponymous menswear business, where he sold his innovative gabardine twill coats in muted tones, which quickly gained popularity with upper classes and adventurers. This new textile was also uniquely suited to changing military tactics, especially during the Crimean War of the 1850s when the bright colours previously used to distinguish troops were replaced with khaki uniforms that protected soldiers by allowing them to better blend into the landscape. The trench coat itself was invented in response to the wet and muddy trenches of the First World War and, as British fashion scholar Jane Tynan puts it in the 2012 book Body: Militarism, practice and experience concern for the soldier exposed to forbidding weather’.

The trench coat is a practical garment, but it is also stylish, flattering, and cool. The garment, and its association with high-ranking military officers, soon assumed a glamour that increased its popularity with civilians. This was further exacerbated by Hollywood, whereby actors such as Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn donned the garment in films including Casablanca at Tiffany’s (1961). Today, Burberry trench coats are symbolic of class status, associated with fashion pedigree as much as, if not more than, military history.

Three Australian Army men fire 18 pound field gun at Port Stephens c 1938 photographer G Short Reproduced courtesy of State Library Victoria (H98.105/3895)


During the First World War, US military pilots were issued with flight jackets created by the US Army Aviation Clothing Board to keep them warm whilst flying in the open-air cockpits of early fighter planes. Following the development of closed cockpit jets, the US Army Type A-1 jacket, featuring neat knit waistband and cuffs, was introduced. Later versions of the functional leather jacket—including a zip rather than button fastening and featuring a fur collar—were worn by US military pilots in the Second World War. Like with trench coats and Aviator sunglasses, the association with military uniform imbued the so-called ‘bomber jacket’ with allure. The wearing of the garment by Hollywood-style icons such as Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) solidified its popularity as a fashion item.

Later, a version of the bomber jacket fabricated in coloured silk became popular with American soldiers during the military occupation of Japan after the Second World War. These embroidered souvenir jackets or sukajan, fashion historian Elizabeth Kramer writes, went on to be ‘worn as an act of defiance by members of subcultures both inside and outside Japan, developing connotations of rebellion’. Drawing on these associations with military history and rebellion, one of the most recent cinematic representations of the garment was in the film Drive (2011), in which Ryan Gosling wears a striking white satin jacket embroidered on the back with a large yellow scorpion.

Flight Sergeant R. C. Dunstan, 9 September 1943, photographer unknown. Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (UK0489)


The earliest iteration of the footwear we now think of as combat boots are perhaps caligae, hobnailed open-weave leather sandal boots worn by low-ranking Roman foot soldiers and cavalry. Much later, this hobnailed footwear evolved into a covered leather boot, with nails inserted into the sole and, often, a steel cap on the toe. During the First World War, US Army personnel were issued with trench or ‘Pershing’ boots designed for the wear in the cold, muddy trenches of Europe. The British Army used similar nail-studded boots, known as ‘Ammunition’ boots, until the late 1950s.

While heavy-soled, lace-up leather boots had long been a mainstay of military attire, they only became an item of fashion and civilian wear in the 1960s and 1970s, thanks in large part to the rising popularity of Dr. Martens boots, which were first introduced in Britain in 1960. The boots became a defining feature of British punk aesthetics and spread, during the 1980s, to the US via bands such as the Sex Pistols. heavy black combat-style boots became central to the grunge scene and adopted by designers such as Perry Ellis. Combat boots, which have now become more synonymous with countercultural movements than with their military origins, remain a fashion favourite, revisited frequently by both high and fast fashion brands.


Dr Harriette Richards is a Lecturer of Fashion Enterprise in the School of Fashion and Textiles at RMIT University, Melbourne. She is co-founder of the Critical Fashion Studies research group and co-host of the Critical Fashion Studies podcast.
Private Steve Kyritsis and fellow members of B Company, 3RAR. Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (CRO/68/0244/VN)

From Stawell to Burma

The journey of WO1 William Scott Heywood

Conditions 75 Kilo Camp

Warrant Officer 1, William Scott Heywood,

a Prisoner

There is little to celebrate in war. The suffering of all participants, whether at home or abroad, is intense and deeply felt. Men, women and children all fall victim to its senseless anger, futility and blindness.

As a young child living in the country town of Hamilton, Victoria, with my mother, my grandfather Sergeant John (Jack) Hawkins, my grandmother, Uncle ian and my older brother John, life was happy and uncomplicated. i knew that my father Scott Heywood had been killed in Japan during the Second World War and that Anzac Day was a time to remember those who had died, but beyond that, i had no further knowledge of my father.

My grandfather died when i was seven years old, and four years later, in 1952, the family moved from Hamilton to Williamstown in Melbourne. A couple of years after we had settled into our new home, i discovered, in a camphor box, a

large number of letters Mum had been keeping but never read. When i asked her what they were, she told me they were letters [a diary] that my father had kept while a prisoner on the infamous Thai-Burma Railroad.

Mum told me that in 1945, while still living in Hamilton, a man named Doug McFadyen visited her with a bundle of letters. Doug was a friend of my father who had been a POW in the same Burma camps as Dad and had survived. Doug told her that when Scott found out that he would be transported to Japan, transported to Japan, he handed over the letters with the hope that if he (Doug) survived, he was to give them to my mother. And so, he did. Mum told me she had never read them, but i could if i wanted to. So, i began to sort them in chronological order.

Once sorted, i began reading the Thai-Burma Railroad letters and became very angry with the Japanese. As the paper Dad was

using was, in some instances, partially destroyed by ants after being buried to hide them from the Japanese, i began to transcribe them on an old Remington typewriter. At that time in my life, i found them confronting and would only occasionally get them out and continue the transcriptions. in the late ‘70s, i got Mum’s permission to donate them to the Melbourne University Archives where they could be used for research.

in the late ‘90s, Mum’s health began to deteriorate; while helping her, i found another collection of letters and old newspapers. They included 106 letters, as well as photos, showing life in Malacca in 1941 and letters that Dad wrote before and after their marriage in 1942. Mum had also kept newspaper articles during the war as she searched for information about her husband, telegrams and letters from the Army and the Red Cross and telegrams and letters from friends.

of War on the infamous Thai-Burma Railway. His letters from Australia, Malacca and Burma provide a valuable insight into the life of a young patriot who, like many involved in an international conflict, is an unsung hero. His story is the subject of the book A Week in September by Peter Rees and Sue Langford.
Scott Heywood in uniform,1941

Letters pre-fall of Singapore 21 January 1942


it was not until 2011—the hundredth anniversary of my father’s birth—that i began transcribing all his letters. My son and i went to the university archives and began digitising all the letters. This preserved them and made them easier to read by enlarging the very small handwriting. in the early days, i used a magnifying glass.

Over the next ten years, i transcribed the many letters Dad wrote to Mum in Australia, before and after they married. in addition to that were the 116 written while he was stationed in Malacca before the fall of Singapore, 400 pages as a POW on the Burma Railroad and finally, all the telegrams, letters and newspaper articles.

The letters from Australia painted a wonderful picture of two young lovers from 1938 and their journey until he sailed for Singapore in August 1942, six months after they were married. The 106 letters, written in Malacca, showed the depth of his love for my mother.

in one letter, dated 20 August 1941, he wrote:

Another day gone treasure, one more nearer home. How are you this morning? I have been buzzing around a bit. We are expecting a visit from a few brass hats, so the camp is being cleaned up. Nothing to report yesterday, just the same old routine. Wrote to Jack yesterday, am gradually cleaning up my correspondence. Still have a lot to write though. Am keeping a roster of whom I have written to and the date so that anyone who doesn’t answer promptly is off list. Tomorrow is mail day, am hoping for a letter or two. It seems ages since Sunday. I’ve read the last issue till I know them nearly by heart. You seemed very near at 9 last night. Was lying in bed looking at my photos and it seemed as if you were in the tent with me. Perhaps you were in spirit, my beloved.

They also gave a great insight into the life and culture of the people . On the 18th of September 1941, he wrote: Went through Chinatown last night. I’d like to take you through one day. Narrow streets full of kids and grown ups, all sorts of noises and smells. We had a look at the beginning of a Mourning Service last night. Heard a clashing of

gongs and poked our noses in. You should have heard the noise. Three fellows beating a big brass gong while another was burning paper streamers over a woollen thing like a big wishbone and a couple more were chanting. You should have heard the row.

Through these letters, i began to get a greater understanding of my father and what his values were.

i found my father’s letters from Burma the most confronting. Not just because of the injustice, the brutality

and the deprivation the POWs suffered, but also the detailed and vivid descriptions of daily life working on the Thai-Burma Railroad

On Saturday 12 June 1943, while he was a POW at the 105 Kilo Camp, he wrote:

Roll call at 7.30 tonight, don’t know the reason. I am afeared my eyes are going on me at last. The last few days it is very blurry writing. Lack of vitamins, I guess. There are some shocking ulcers about now. Men in RAP with eyes eaten

Scott Heywood in uniform

into the bone. As we continue to go downhill, they will get worse. Don Macintosh went in yesterday, dysentery, I fear. We will leave him in camp, he looks very bad. Beriberi is on the increase. Fever much as usual. I sometimes shudder when I look into the future and imagine how we’ll be after six more months of this. Not many will be left. Then we have the long marches to look forward to. A lot will fail to see them out.

i also began to realise the strength of my father’s character. His commitment to the welfare of his men was unconditional and his disgust of those officers, often referred to as ‘White Japs’, who ingratiated themselves to the Japanese, was apparent. My father also acknowledged there were good guards and Japanese officers. Yet, even in appalling circumstances, he

could see and describe the beauty of the countryside and nature. Also, each diary entry, written as a letter to my mother, further shows the depth of his love for her.

The book’s final section illustrates how difficult it must have been for this young woman to understand and cope with the knowledge that her husband was a POW in Japan. The uncertainty of whether he was dead or alive would increase her anxiety and add to the roller coaster of emotions she must have felt. Life would seem unbearable at times.

After transcribing all this correspondence and adding appropriate footnotes, i published a 1,300-page book titled Guests of the Uncivilised for the family, with one copy going to the Australian War Memorial.

Ray Martin, the well-known

Australian television journalist and entertainment personality, saw my publication and suggested a shorter version should be written. The Australian author Peter Rees read my book and asked if he could write the story. Peter collaborated with his wife, Sue Langford, and my father’s story A Week In September was published in 2020 by Harper & Collins.

My publication, Guests of the Uncivilised, is not to glorify war nor pass judgment on the Japanese. it was written to remind us that the most potent enemy to the promotion of peace and the welfare and happiness of humanity, is war. The story also highlights the plight of my mother, who, like so many war widows, had to struggle with her husband’s untimely death and come to terms with the reality of raising her young children. As i was assembling

Scott Heywood with Doug Heywood Scott Heywood outside a tent in Malacca.
Conditions 105 Kilo Camp

the final section of the book A Wife’s Perspective, i began to understand the significance of her journey, her incredible strength, the depth of her love for her husband and, above all, her capacity to live a creative and positive life.

Although i never knew my father, the discovery of his diary and letters to my mother allowed me to get to know him uniquely. i came to

understand the deep loving bond that he and my mother shared and why my mother never re-married. i admire and respect my father’s inner strength through all his suffering. His honesty and integrity are beyond doubt, his sense of duty unshakable, his thoughtfulness and care for others are frequently apparent, and his love for his wife and family is unquestionable.

Douglas is well known to people who watch the annual ‘Carols by Candlelight’ as the Choral Director. in 1995 he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in recognition of his service to music education and community music.

Margery Heywood with her sons John and Doug in 1944
Conditions 105 Kilo Camp
A Week in September, written by Peter Rees and Sue Langford, follows the story of Scott Heywood and his enduring love for Margery.




Stained glass windows have long been an art form used to remember the service and sacrifice of men from the First and Second World Wars. From Victoria, to South Australia and Thailand, take a glimpse into the subjects,

When the Shrine of Remembrance opened its Galleries of Remembrance in 2014, Victorians were given an expanded opportunity to examine and reflect on those who lived and died in war and war’s impact on generations since. Like the Shrine itself, commemoration of the men, women and events has always been a part of the public recognition of service and sacrifice since the Boer War, most notably in the stone digger, obelisk or cenotaph erected in cities, country towns and villages throughout the country.

At the same time, hundreds of memorials in stained glass were installed. it became an accepted, if somewhat limited, form of commemoration after the Boer War, but with increasing numbers of deaths among the Great War volunteers, more windows were commissioned for individuals or groups within congregations, communities or districts. These were generally in churches, but also in hospitals, schools, and civic buildings. Despite their significance, they remain – hidden in plain sight – and sometimes lost or forgotten, particularly as many church buildings are now not as well patronised.

The beauty of stained glass, with its vibrant colour and play of light, is only part of the full story of each window. Each one becomes a record of Australian history, telling the stories of the men and women inscribed on the glass, the artists, designers and makers, and the families, parishes and communities who raised considerable funds to install them, as well as the art history that underpins the iconography of each window. in this article, i explore just three of the hundreds of significant windows found in Australia and across the world.

symbols and motivation behind these installations.

Caulfield RSL Sub-Branch, Victoria

This pair of windows were among the last of the First World War memorial windows. They were installed in the Caulfield RSL Sub-Branch in Victoria to mark the twentieth anniversary of the end of the Great War; as Australia was to go to war again. The building was officially opened in 1938 by the Minister for External Affairs, and Australian Prime Minister during the First World War, William Morris Hughes, who stressed the ‘dangers confronting the nation’ and ‘the need for a vigorous defence policy’.

From the Boer War onwards, subjects for commemorative stained glass favoured British saints and heavenly warriors, St George and St Michael topping the list. in the two decades after 1918 however, images of the Australian soldier were gradually accepted, not only in secular buildings, as seen at Caulfield RSL, but also in churches across the country. By the late 1930s, driven in part by economic demands, leadlights were now popular in domestic settings, and at the Caulfield RSL, which was formerly a substantial suburban residence, leadlight was an appropriate choice. Despite being

neither painted nor stained, these windows dramatically depict a helmeted, khaki-clad soldier in the trenches in 1914 in one, with the dynamic charge of the Light Horse at Beersheba in 1918 in the other, thus neatly bookending Australia’s involvement in this war.

The designer of the Caulfield RSL windows was Bernard William Patrick (Bernie) Bragg, a returned serviceman and a member of the sub-branch. Bragg had first-hand knowledge of the war in France, having enlisted as a 21-year-old draughtsman in 1916. His skills were utilised preparing maps and diagrams during his service with the 15th Brigade; illustrating covers for the Brigade Unit Diaries, and Australian soldiers’ magazine, Aussie. in the 1930s he was working as an illustrator and caricaturist with the Melbourne newspaper, The Argus, and contributed to the press until well after the Second World War. Despite working with glass, an unfamiliar medium, Bragg’s distinctive window designs for Caulfield RSL demonstrate his skilful draughtsmanship and ability to capture the moment.

Article Author: Precis Author image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image

Point Macleay, South Australia

Sometimes it took many years to raise sufficient funds for a suitable memorial in stained glass. At the formerly government-controlled Mission Station, Point Macleay in South Australia, 350 residents took several years to raise £217 to erect a tribute to four Ngarrindjeri men who died in service to their country: Cyril Rigney and his brother Rufus, Francis Alban Varcoe and Miller Mack.

Rufus, aged only 16, received permission to enlist from the South Australian Chief Protector of Aborigines, officially the ‘Legal Guardian of all Half Caste Aboriginal Children’ who apparently accepted his stated age – 19 – at face value. Rufus was wounded and captured at Passchendaele and died on 16 October 1917, while Cyril was killed in action in Belgium and his body never recovered. Varcoe and Mack enlisted together in August 1916, but Varcoe was killed in action with the 27th Battalion in May 1917. Mack suffered tuberculosis and returned to Australia ‘medically unfit’, before his discharge in May 1918. His death in 1919 was rightly accepted by the community of Point Macleay as the result of his war service.

Today, Point Macleay is known as Raukkan and is managed by the First Nations community. The commemorative window in the Uniting Church is simple, elegant, full of light, but with limited colour, and appropriately sited above the holy table in the white-washed interior of the building. Each of the two centre lights of the window has ‘The Great War’ inscribed above the AiF badge and laurel wreath set against a leadlight background. The texts, one in each laurel wreath, read ‘Honor the Dead’ (sic) and ‘Faithful unto Death’, with names of the men on scrolls below. The outer lights each have a shield with ‘1914’ above the Union Jack in one and ‘1918’ and Australian flag in the other.

The four lights are linked by leaded ribbons and united by an inscription across the entire base: ‘To the Glory of God and in sacred Memory of our Men who died for Justice and freedom’. Brigadier General S Price Weir DSO unveiled the window in August 1925. it remains the only known commemorative window to First Nations Australians and must stand for the thousand or more indigenous men, who despite their treatment by the early white settlers and the generations that followed, fought for God, King and country.


Thai-Burma Railway Museum, Thailand

Unlike either the commemorative windows at Caulfield RSL or Raukkan, the windows at the Thailand-Burma Railway Museum, known as the ‘Death Railway’ Museum at Kanchanaburi in Thailand, were donated by the artists. The museum is sited on the west side of the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery where more than 5000 soldiers are buried or commemorated. it tells the stories of the notorious Thai-Burma railway, built by British, Australian, Dutch, and American prisoners of war, as well as local labour, driven by the need for improved communications to support the large Japanese army in Burma.

After a visit to the museum in 2014, Gerry Cummins and Jill Stehn were inspired by the artistic possibilities in the stories within the abundance of historical documentation, photographs and artworks on display. Setting up a temporary studio on site, Cummins and Stehn shipped in tools, paints, kiln and other equipment, as well as crates of glass, which was all cut, painted, kiln-fired and leaded to create images that encouraged contemplation of the past and reflection on the future

through a prism of peace and compassion. The windows were installed in 2015, seventy years after the end of the Second World War.

Humanity towards one’s fellows, no matter their colour, faith, or nationality, is exemplified by the windows, The Cutting and The Bridge in the foreground of The Cutting, is the riverbank where an exhausted Tamil woman is offered a water canteen by an emaciated Australian digger, while to the right is a steamboat nudging up the river; a Thai smuggler bringing medicines for the POWs despite the risk of death.

in the second window, the scene shifts to the view from inside the bamboo frame of the hospital, where doctors are treating the ill and dying with very few medical supplies and improvised surgical equipment.

Across the middle ground of both windows, the relentless building of the railway continues, with teams that appear like ants in the huge expanse of the cutting, or on the trestles of the bridge, always overseen by the ever-present, everwatchful guards. The backdrop to both scenes is the jungle that will

Bronwyn Hughes is an art historian with specific interest in stained glass of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Shrine of Remembrance exhibition, William Montgomery’s commemorative stained glass, co-curated with Jean McAuslan, ultimately resulted in the future publication of Lights Everlasting: Australia’s commemorative stained glass from the Boer War to Vietnam, Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2023. She is founding president of the not-for-profit GLAAS Inc, dedicated to promoting the creative use of glass in twenty-first century architecture and preservation of Australia’s historic stained glass through research, education, and publication.

ultimately reclaim this land and try to obliterate this period of history, while prominent in the foreground are lotus flowers, a symbol of peace and respect among the Thai people. The border incorporates the simple word, ‘Peace’, painted in languages of the nationalities involved in this massive engineering project; the site of so much suffering.

Although not among the lost or forgotten windows, these three examples provide only a snapshot from Australia’s remarkable corpus of stained glass. Each tells of a different war, from a different time in Australia’s twentieth-century history. Each one recognises Australian war service and sacrifice through subjects and symbols that remain universally acknowledged, allowing us to glimpse the wealth of artistic, military, and social history of our past. They and hundreds of other stained-glass memorials stand as representatives of the men and women who fought for God, King and country and, by ensuring they remain in safe hands, generations of Australians will remember them for decades to come.

Bronwyn Hughes’ new book, Lights Everlasting: Australia’s commemorative stained glass from the Boer War to Vietnam will be available in February 2023.

Two soldiers stand in a section of the Bomana War Cemetery, conducted by 1 Graves Registration Unit. Australians and members of the Papuan infantry Battalion are buried here. Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (100440)

The need for permanency of war graves was established on the battlefields of the First World War. Here, an obligation of the state to acknowledge the value of the deaths of the enormous citizen armies was great. That obligation extended into the Second World War.

More than 90,000 Australians were killed in both world wars, with the dead now lying in war graves in over 78 countries around the world. Australia experienced far fewer deaths in the Second World War than in the First. However, where deaths were relatively contained to central battle areas during the First World War, Australia’s war against Japan was fought over a far more widespread area, in isolated locations around the Pacific region and beyond.

Australia’s war graves units provided the first level of official registration

and organisation of the dead, either as battlefronts passed or as formerly occupied areas were freed after Japan’s surrender. These units were responsible for ensuring the dead were located and properly identified and that graves were correctly marked. They were also responsible for beginning the task of consolidating the many temporary war cemeteries utilised during the war into the main war cemeteries we see today.

in areas of active operations, the work of war graves units began with field burials carried out, where possible, during or in the immediate aftermath of the fighting. Responsible for burying their own dead, fighting units did their best for a decent burial and marked field burials with whatever they could find. Often, rough wooden crosses were made, and a piece of tin imprinted with the details of the deceased, if

known. Some would burn the name of the deceased into green timber. These initial stages of burial and marking of graves formed the basis of the important role of war graves units. This relationship between field burial and the work of war graves units was a vital one. Without the efforts of soldiers to bury their own dead, the work of war graves units would have been much more difficult, if not all but impossible.

Despite their responsibilities and the significance of their work, war graves units were small, usually made up of one officer and seven or eight other ranks. Some units had their strength increased toward the end of the war. Units were reinforced by local villagers or, in some areas, Japanese POWs after Japan’s surrender.

in areas where cemeteries did not exist, the first war graves units on

Since the Second World War, the work of one band of men, whose legacy has provided comfort to relatives of the dead, has remained largely anonymous, and the gruesome nature of their war service overlooked. The contrast between the familiar war graves and cemeteries we see today and the lack of recognition of Australia’s war graves units who worked to create them is stark.
Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit workers, working with 7 War Graves Unit, unloading caskets from a truck for reburial in the Wewak war cemetery. The caskets came by plane from Maprik. Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (098146)

the ground were responsible for their establishment. Where they did exist, their work included the lining up of graves, digging graves and burying remains, making and inscribing temporary crosses, topping up graves and levelling cemeteries, photographing graves and cemeteries, erecting boundary fencing and entrance gates, cutting and building roads, and general ongoing maintenance in and around each cemetery.

While organising cemeteries was important, it was the search for the dead that was the most vital component of the work of war graves units. Location trips would range from just a day or two to weeks at a time, with a handful of men carrying out the task. Field burials, as well as surface remains, needed to be located and properly identified

and remains interred in the nearest cemetery.

The task that Australia’s war graves units faced in the Pacific was both unique and considerable. Here, the very nature of the war meant that Australia’s dead—like the dead of many nations—were scattered across the region, in areas difficult to locate. The dead were often hidden by thick jungle or buried in scattered graves or mass graves, sometimes with little or no record of death or burial to guide those tasked with searching for remains.

Torrential rain caused havoc for units throughout New Guinea, both in cemeteries and on location trips. Entire weeks were often spent repairing damage in cemeteries from heavy rain. With it impossible to utilise trucks in and around

cemeteries until roads dried out, work was subsequently carried out using small barrows.

Heavy rains also posed a danger to the men. A location trip around the Milne Bay area to visit 30 graves of the 2/9 Australian infantry Battalion was made in torrential rain where ‘creeks forded in this journey [were] waist high and running very fast.’

Challenges posed by the very nature of this theatre of war meant that even when remains were located, identification often proved difficult, even impossible. On the Kokoda Track it was recorded that:

Two new bodies were found – one with an identification disc – all but obliterated and the other one about 600 feet down a very deep gully – this body had no disc but a small cross was found in his wallet

Sergeant R. Townsend, Australian War Graves Maintenance Unit, mowing the lawn at the Soputa war cemetery. Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (099128)

which might lead to his eventual identification.

There also existed issues in the recalling or retelling of information. in one area it was noted that:

A good deal of evidence passed on to the unit regarding the location of graves has proved unreliable making our work of recovery still more difficult. It would appear that much of this evidence is founded on hearsay and not on facts.

Once located, remains were wrapped in blankets and were often lashed to bamboo poles and carried out of the jungle to the nearest temporary cemetery or nearest road for transport to a cemetery.

One of the longest location trips made by an Australian war graves

unit was also the first undertaken along the Kokoda Track since the fighting there in 1942. The 17th Australian Graves Registration and Enquiry Unit was led by Captain Robert Houghton, who was aware of the ever-growing importance of locating the dead as quickly as possible and that time was against him. Houghton noted in mid-August while at Bomana, ‘there are several missing soldiers to be located and every day counts, especially in bush country.

Leaving Bomana on 28 August 1943, Houghton and a small section of his unit spent four weeks working along the Kokoda Track. At Brigade Hill, the scene of fierce fighting between Australian and Japanese forces in early September 1942, not only is Houghton’s dedication to finding the dead evident but so too is just

The Eora Creek War Cemetery containing casualties mainly from the 2/1st infantry Battalion which occurred from the 1942-10-28/22. The graves were later transferred to the Kokoda war cemetery. Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (072350) The grave of an unidentified Australian soldier in the Australian War Cemetery, Soputa, New Guinea. Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (094088)

how fruitless this effort could be when he wrote, ‘had a great deal of searching and consequently had to spend considerable time in the area, searched all tracks and gullies between Brigade Hill and Mission Hill.’

Ten days after their trip began, Houghton learned that the remains of Victoria Cross recipient, Private Bruce Steel Kingsbury, were still missing and ‘was supposed to have been killed 50–80x* from old isurava village.’ Houghton and two local villagers conducted a search for Kingsbury; however, both searches ‘proving fruitless.’ Private Kingsbury’s remains were later located and he is now buried at Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery.

Location trips enabled general maintenance in temporary cemeteries. Old nameplates were fixed and new nameplates were added to memorials, while local labour cleaned up each cemetery. At Eora Creek, Houghton ‘stopped for a

few minutes to fix a new plate for Pte Boyce’ before proceeding along the track.

Amidst the gruesome nature of their work, war graves units spent much of their time beautifying the cemeteries they worked in as part of the imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission’s beautification scheme, which lent itself to the uniformity of war cemeteries.

By beautifying war cemeteries, both the Army and the authorities ensured that the bereaved knew their loved ones were not only being cared for but were being memorialised in places of peace and tranquillity.

While the beautification scheme extended to all cemeteries, some saw more attention than others, dictated largely by the availability of supplies and labour, and the willingness of personnel. At Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery, trees, shrubs, creepers, and grasses were planted. Wrought iron entrance

gates were crafted and erected on stone pillars by an Australian war graves unit after its official opening on 5 August 1944. A ten-foot waterfall was constructed, which tumbled into a small rock pool at the base. Overflowing to another rocky outcrop and into a constructed fish and lily pond, plantings of maidenhair and other ferns, moss, and miniature alpine creepers surrounded the water feature. Such efforts transformed these places of death and destruction into places of tranquillity, adorned with horticultural and architectural features designed to soothe the grief of those touched by war.

The many temporary cemeteries utilised during the war were eventually consolidated into the three major cemeteries we see today at Port Moresby and Lae in New Guinea and Bita Paka (Rabaul) in New Britain. Moving the dead from scattered temporary cemeteries and isolated graves to these three main war cemeteries signalled the

VX61395 Corporal F. J. Gleeson (left) and Q148237 private N. G. Creswell of the 15th Australian War Graves Register and Enquiry Unit, painting crosses. Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (054559) * The meaning of ‘x’ is unknown. it could refer to steps or a measurement.

winding down of operations for war graves units before handing over the responsibility of war cemeteries to the Anzac Agency of the imperial War Graves Commission (iWGC).

it was an immense logistical undertaking. The lifting of entire cemeteries of their dead and the transporting of remains across both land and sea were carried out as well as the day-to-day work, all while challenges continued to hinder the work of these units. Yet this was

Lisa Cooper is a writer and historian, and Research Fellow at Deakin University. She has recently completed her PhD at Deakin University on the work of Australia’s war graves units in caring for the dead of Australia’s war against Japan

a necessary step, ensuring easier maintenance and security of graves and, with careful placement of each main war cemetery, easy access for visitors.

By May 1948, all war cemeteries in the region had been handed over from the Army to the iWGC, with the exception of Yokohama War Cemetery in Japan; the task of recovering the dead was completed just a few short years after the war’s end.

The experience of Australia’s war graves units remains virtually unknown in the eight decades since their role in the Pacific war began. These men went wherever they were needed, wherever the dead lay. They dealt with remains in whatever state they were in; all to afford the fallen a level of decency and honour in death and to provide comfort to the bereaved. Eighty years after their work began in the Pacific War, may we remember the men of Australia’s war graves units.

If you or anyone you know has a connection to the Australian war graves unit and would like to share your story, contact Lisa Cooper via

The Kokoda War Cemetery viewing eastwards from the Kokoda plateau with the Japanese War Cemetery at the left foreground. The temporary graves from the area between Efogi and Wairopi were removed to this cemetery. Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (072430)

isaacWilliam Benson, Gunner for the 12th Field Artillery Brigade, was one of thousands of First World War soldiers to bring home souvenirs from their time overseas. Souvenirs ranged from beautifully made jewellery and carved letter openers to large models of tanks and beer mugs, but many had the common attribute of being made from salvaged wartime material.

Today known as trench art, these objects were made from spent bullets, barbed wire, shell casings, coins, and salvaged helmets. They varied in size from small rings through to large, and rather inconvenient to transport home, sculptures.

Family legend suggests Benson brought the shell cases back from

the Western Front. The shells are 1916 and 1917 18-pound rounds and feature engravings of Australian flora and fauna, including gum trees, kangaroos, koalas, emus, and native birds. Written across the middle of one shell is ‘Souvenir of France 1916 - 1919’. Ammunition casings were made of brass, so the silver coating of these shells is particularly special, showing an extra level of craftmanship.

Some examples of trench art were made by the soldiers themselves to pass the time between duties and battles. Daily life at the front, although always potentially dangerous, was often routine and boring. When official duties were done, Australians had downtime to fill, which they did by writing letters,

playing cards, reading and, in some cases if they had the skill, making trench art.

it is likely that smaller whittled wood and bone works, or works made of bone, were made in the trenches and that larger or more intricate works made from salvaged metal were made behind the frontlines or in local souvenir factories.

These two intricately engraved, white metal plated spent ammunition shells were probably not made by Benson, but rather by the booming local French souvenir industry that emerged to service the soldier tourist market. This industry created popular gifts for those at home, building on established traditions, such as embroidered post cards and cushion

Gunners of an Australian battery use an 18 pounder British field gun to rain ‘barrage fire’ on the enemy trenches, July 1916 Pozieres. The shells in this image show what Benson’s souvenir looked like before it was plated and engraved. Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (EZ0141)

covers, and expanded into new ones, making cigarette cases, sculptures and good luck charms.

Many manufacturers in these conflict zones pivoted to souvenir production as a means of survival. Normal, prewar industry was suspended with the arrival of conflict, manufacturing

supplies were scarce and import and export nearly impossible. Factories and workers turned to creating things with what they had—salvaged war material—and targeted their only market: soldiers. This was also a way to help people who were displaced by war earn an income after fleeing from their homes with nothing.

Benson returned to Australia in April 1919, and sometime between his return and the item donation in 2020, they were filled with cement and used as door stops by the Benson family.

Tessa Occhino is Exhibitions and Collections Officer at the Shrine of Remembrance
Souvenir of France 1916 Shrine of Remembrance Collection Engraved koala in gum tree


AMC Uniform with MFO beret 2020

Military uniforms perform multiple functions. in battle they offer protection, camouflage, comfort, and, importantly, distinguish between opposing combatants. Behind the frontline they promote cohesion within the military unit, easily identifying a group, while rank insignia establish a disciplinary hierarchy. in a museum they take on a new educative role.

The Shrine collects uniforms from all eras of modern conflict. They offer insight into the conditions of military life and serve to illustrate the development of more functional designs and safer materials across time. A recent donation from former Warrant Officer Class 1 (WO1) Andrew Daniels, additionally offers an opportunity to explore a littleknown area of Australian service.

Daniels donated his Australian Multicam Camouflage Uniform (AMCU), the most recent iteration of the Australian Army uniform. Launched in 2014, it represents a significant advance in design,

Katrina Nicolson is a Research Officer at the Shrine. Most recently, she curated the special exhibition For Kin and Country: First Peoples in the Australian Defence Force.

camouflage in desert terrain, and useability from the previous Disruptive Pattern Camouflage Uniform (DPCU). This is an important addition to the Shrine’s collection, but it is the accompanying unusual terracotta coloured beret and cap that intrigues.

Berets have been used to denote differing units within the Australian Defence Forces since the 1940s. Many will be familiar to most: black for the Royal Australian Armoured Corp; Rifle and Sherwood green for the Royal Australian Regiment and the 1st and 2nd Commando Regiments respectively; fawn for the Special Air Service Regiment; varying shades of blue for air services; and scarlet for the Royal Australian Corps of Military Police. Familiar too, the blue beret and dove insignia of the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces.

Daniels’ unfamiliar terracotta head gear is from the final deployment of his forty-plus year career—ten months serving with the Multinational

Force and Observers (MFO) in Sinai, Egypt. Daniels worked within a small team run by an Albanian from Kosovo and alongside local Egyptian and Bedouin people. His role was operations planning, control, and supervision, and primarily coordinating logistics with civilian contractors.

The MFO began in 1981 as a nonUnited Nations force charged with keeping the Egypt–israeli peace agreements. it is one of Australia’s longest running, but least known, peacekeeping missions. Australian involvement from 1982–86 was provision of a combined Australian/New Zealand Air Force helicopter squadron. in 1993 a new commitment was made to provide an Army contingent. Never large, at present there are 27 Australians serving with the MFO.

A recent donation highlights a littleknown Australian peacekeeping mission.
Visit our website to find out more about the Shrine’s collection policy and donating artefacts AHS R ETHiS ARTiC L E


I forget where I last left off writing to you –I think it must have been about Hugh. He is probably dead by now – I haven’t heard and I suppose I shall never hear of him or Stevie either... That’s the beastliest part of this beastly war – not knowing what becomes of people…



The writer, Staff Nurse Marjorie Hill, was a masseuse with the 2/13th Australian General Hospital (AGH), one of almost 2,500 passengers fleeing the burning city of Singapore on the Motor Vessel Empire Star. Also on board was a forlorn little rabbit in a bowtie – a child’s soft toy – now preserved in the Shrine’s Galleries of Remembrance. This poignant relic of Australia’s war in the Far East – eyeless, nameless, separated from its owner – is an

emblem of the chaotic, bungled evacuation of civilians from Singapore in the desperate last hours before its fall.

Sister Kathleen McMillan, 2/10th AGH, of Terang, Victoria, picked the toy up as she boarded Empire Star in Singapore on 12 February. Beyond this fact, the rabbit has no provenance – perhaps part of its fascination. With no history of its own it invites imagined back-stories. What became of its

ABOVE Aerial starboard side view of the British cargo motor vessel Empire Star Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (303256) RIGHT Lieutenant Kathleen McMillan, a 10th Australian General Hospital nursing sister, found this toy rabbit near Singapore Harbour wharf in the days before Singapore fell to the Japanese on 15 February 1942

owner? Did they survive the sinking of the escape ships that ran the gauntlet of ‘Dive Bomb Alley’ in the Bangka Strait? Did the ‘lost’ toy even have an owner? Accounts of the Empire Star’s miraculous escape from Singapore, by some of her lucky passengers, provide some missing pieces of the rabbit’s tale.

Hill and McMillan were two of 130 Australian nurses supporting the 8th Division in Singapore and Malaya in December 1941 when Japanese forces struck. Military and civil leaders believed it would take months for the Japanese to fight through the jungles of Malaya to the gates of Singapore, and that ultimately reinforcements would bolster the besieged city and ‘throw the little men off.’

Misguided confidence fed official reluctance to evacuate the

thousands of civilian refugees who flooded into the island city, doubling its population to about one million. General Percival felt that if European women and children – ‘noneffectives’ – were forcibly evacuated ‘the effect on the Eurasian and Asiatic population would clearly be little short of disastrous.’ in truth, the optics of British prestige and control were at stake. in the end, the result was disastrous – relatively few women and children of any racial or social background left Singapore until late January 1942. Despite daily air-raids, everyone thought they were safer in the fortress city. But, against all expectation, within seventy days, Singapore fell.

When Japanese troops landed on the island on 8 February the mood shifted to panic. Hospitals and civilian homes were being shelled at close range. Early on the morning

of 11 February the Australian Nurses were assembled by their Matrons and thirty from each AGH were ordered to take a suitcase and leave immediately for the Singapore docks. Matron Drummond hugged her 2/13th girls goodbye and waved them off with ‘Good-luck Kids!’

Marjorie Hill wrote:

the day we left, the Japs were three miles away from us - just down the road, and odd ones were sniping all over the place. I shall never forget Singapore as I last saw it - street after street practically empty with here and there heaps of ruins… a few dejected Chinese sitting mutely in the gutters, and over it all a low dark cloud of smoke hanging quite motionless in the hot still air.

The palls of black smoke came from burning warehouses full of rubber,

Troops on the deck of the Empire Star. (Donor R. Sayers) Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (P01117.008)

blazing offshore oil depots and the abandoned Naval Base; fires lit as part of a scorched-earth policy. Japanese planes circled high above, and air-raid sirens wailed. Cars packed with evacuees and luggage crawled toward the waterfront, past rubble and burnt-out vehicles, fallen telegraph poles and tangled power lines.

Also heading for the harbour was Carline Reid, a Tasmanian who had worked for the Local Defence Corps in Malaya before fleeing to Singapore. Dismissed from her role at Malaya Command, she was handed a pass for a ship leaving at 1pm: ‘Please allow Miss Reid to proceed on board the E.S as a member of the Royal Corps of Signals party.’ At 12.30pm she was driving her little Austin Seven through ‘streets and streets of absolute desolation’:

A police officer came up saying he had been told to round up any women and children he could find and send them to a ship… ‘Go at once, it will take about half an hour to find the way’… The Japs had announced by radio from Tokyo that the British were not going to be allowed to get away with it again - Singapore would be no Dunkirk - all ships attempting to leave would be suitably dealt with…

Reid stopped to ask directions from a straggling group of soldiers.

They turned out to be the defeated, unshaven, difficult kind, asked was I going to catch a ship, as they were coming too, and with that they climbed all over the car. The car wouldn’t move under their weight, so they reluctantly got off, saying ‘Good luck to you.’

She continued on, past a long line of abandoned cars with their doors wide open, and finally reached Clifford Pier. She showed her pass to an armed sentry and squeezed through the gate. it was 12.55pm.

MV Empire Star only had cabin space for sixteen passengers, but over 2,000 people were now crowding toward her gangway: 1,573 military evacuees, mainly British and New Zealand Air Force ground crew and technicians needed to continue the fight in Java; about 40 British nursing sisters with 80 stretcher cases; and a crew of 88. There were at least 164 civilians and 35 young children. Not even the ship’s master, Selwyn Capon, knew the exact numbers. At this stage he was letting any civilian, any woman without a ticket, board his ship.

informal group portrait of members of the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) in the air raid shelter in the hold of the cargo vessel, Empire Star after their evacuation from Singapore Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (PO3315.012)

Capon was a skilled Merchant Mariner who was awarded an OBE for distinguished service in the First World War. He’d reached Singapore on 29 January with BM11, one of the last military convoys, bringing arms, equipment and 17,000 reinforcements of the 18th Division (they would walk into captivity 17 days later). Today, from the bridge, he watched troops rolling abandoned cars and trucks to the edge of the pier and pushing them into the sea.

Ambulances carrying the 2/13th Nurses reached the crush on the pier. Staff Nurse Phyllis Pugh, of Brisbane, recalls being ‘assisted from the swaying gangplank by two merchant seamen on to the Empire Star, which had previously been used in evacuating troops from Greece and Crete.’

Hill thought she was with:

the oddest assortment of soldiers, airmen, and civilians that you ever did see; all of them, civilians excepted, in clothes that they had worn for days and covered with a goodly growth of beard. We crowded together on what little deck space there was and watched Singapore retreat, blazing and snorting guns from one end to the other…

Meanwhile, Carline Reid wrote that she was surrounded by people from across the world ‘wearing anything from shorts, slacks, every kind of dress, to Chinese pyjamas…’

Naturally anyone with jewellery brought it with them... it was quite common to see a rather grubby woman just dripping with diamond

rings, whilst others showed occasional glimpses of necks strung about with pearls…

Maude Spehr, 2/13th AGH, remembers:

climbing up a rope ladder hanging from the Empire Star and my haversack falling into the sea. The hold smelt of stale meat as there wasn’t even any time to clean it out. I remember, too, some of our army boys throwing cartons of cigarettes and toys to us in the hold. I caught a Teddy Bear that my grand-daughter still has – we called it ‘Blitzer’.

Reid confirms:

the wharves and go-downs were full of goods, many of which had lately been landed - toys for Xmas which had taken a month or two

Children on Singapore wharf being evacuated from the city before the island was taken by Japanese. Girl is holding doll and boy several flat boxes, possibly board games Reproduced courtesy of State Library Victoria (H00.200/688) iMAGE LEFT Australian nurses on deck of SS Empire Star approaching Fremantle, Western Australia image courtesy of Australian War Memorial (P09909.030)

extra to come out from England, teddy bears and tins of chocolates - also stacks of ammunition and arms, unpleasant company during raids. The crew and the RAF men bustled about helping everyone; they thought of everything, even collected toys for the amusement of the children on board… All the afternoon more people streamed on board, men brought their wives, said goodbye, and went back to the inferno.

Nurses from the 2/10th AGH arrived and were pressing through to the gangway. Captain Sinclair RNR, commander of convoy escort HMS Kedah, recalls the wharf:

…[was] slithery with oil-fuel… littered with abandoned cars. The place shocked one with its countless signs of aimless haste and confusion. Dropped

like a discarded hand of cards lay somebody’s life story in photographs. Personal belongings, cherished to the water’s edge, that had in the time between one breath and the next suddenly become too much - or too little - to bother about…

Here, Sister McMillan spotted a little toy rabbit under foot and gathered it up, thinking its young owner was already onboard.

With the 2/10th AGH Sisters we numbered sixty and were sent down into the hold where we saw English and Indian nurses. The English and Indian girls were very nervous, having been through a very bad time recently.

Phyllis Pugh

Hill remembers ‘there was just room for us to lie down in the hold and

we lay flat on ground sheets and sweated as I have never sweated before.’

Out on the harbour on HMS Jarak, Lieutenant Commander Curry RNVR heard the drone of planes – 27 twin–engine bombers approaching from the east. He was horrified to see:

scores of children, and women, standing right up to the very edge of Clifford Pier, waiting desperately for rescue. Our guns on Blakang Mati were shelling the enemy lines, the shells passing over us… Before going below to take cover I looked at those children, dressed mostly in white with ribbons in their hair, waving to us. No shelter at all. Dear God.

Offshore on MV Penna, Tom Simkins RN saw:

Staff Nurses Vera Torney and Margaret Anderson, awarded for bravery during Empire Star air attacks Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (P09909.30)

[a] stick of bombs falling towards us. It was either a wide miss on Blakang Mati or a near miss on the dock, and the Empire Star that was taking on evacuees. The shock wave and swell that ensued seemed destined to separate us from our tow as both vessels bobbed ‘yukked and yawed’ alarmingly.

An anti-aircraft gun firing from the wharf rocked the ship as the planes came over.

Curry thought of the defenceless children on the pier.

As soon as the crash of bombs finished, I rushed up top and, thank God, the children were still standing there, waving to us. A large Chinese junk was burning and people, also on fire, were jumping into the sea. Our job was

to proceed to the minefield at dusk, show a red light and guide escaping ships and craft through... The children and women stopped waving as they watched us leave. I have had the picture of those children in my mind’s eye for 34 years…

‘Stragglers’ who’d been milling around on the pier all day, watching the Empire Star, now sensed their last chance to escape the blazing city. Military Police held the more forceful back at gunpoint, but some parties, identified as ‘Australians,’ pushed past and streamed up the gangway. Chief Officer Dawson saw ‘panic at the shore end of the gangway’ and went there to quell it, telling the men: ‘this ship was reserved for RAF personnel, women and children. Eventually these Australian troops quietened down and we were able to proceed,’ but others were out on

the water in small boats, looking for any way to get on board. Capon ordered ‘gangway up’ and lines cast off.

As the ship’s engines roared to life an Australian Sergeant was trying to haul himself up a mooring rope, onto the ship. A shot rang out from the pier, and he splashed down into the water. An RAF Corporal saw a woman with a small boy pushed aside by twenty Australians who surged up onto the ship.

Flight Sergeant Harry Griffiths, 453 Squadron RAAF, was one of hundreds of men drawn to the docks that morning. Recovering from injuries in hospital, he’d fled as the Japanese closed in and stumbled, exhausted and feverish, into a deserted hotel. Sitting at the bar drinking water, he felt a tap on his shoulder and a voice said, ‘get to

At sea, off Singapore, 1942-02-12. members of the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) in the hold of the cargo vessel Empire Star, being evacuated from 2/10th Australian General Hospital. Left to right: Sisters Satchell, Gibson, Gethla Forsyth, ship’s steward, Garrood, Bentley. Sisters Garood and Bentley were from the 2/13th AGH Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (P01117.006)

the docks - a ship is leaving.’ Griffith turned, but no one was there. He staggered in a daze toward the waterfront, putting his hands on the gangway of the Empire Star just as her crew were pulling it up.

it was now 6pm and dark. The harbour was bathed in the lurid glow of burning fuel dumps, but it was still too dangerous to move through the minefields. Empire Star and fourteen other merchant ships waited in the Roads till dawn, when HMS Kedah, cruiser HMS Durban and two destroyers led the convoy out into the Durian Strait. Just after 9am alarms were sounded, and six Japanese dive bombers descended on the Empire Star

Women and children were all ordered below into the little saloon - and there we sweltered, portholes shut and scarcely room

to move… It was very nasty hearing the zoom of the planes, then a loud voice calling ‘Get down, all down!’ and bodies would prostrate themselves along the walls, under tables…

The ship’s machine guns hit one plane as it came in low. it spiralled into the sea trailing black smoke and flame. Reid recalled, ‘Children screamed incessantly, and terrified mothers tried to comfort them. A few people passed out now and then, but we never knew if it was caused by fear or heat…’

A second plane was hit and broke off over the horizon, pouring smoke.

As bombs struck the ship she heaved and gave a big shudder - sounded as if wood was being splintered. As the attacks went on

the girls started singing There’ll Always Be An England…

After each bad buffeting one of the men would come in and tell us what had happened [and] there would be loud cheers, and after he announced that we had brought down a plane with our game little guns, the excitement was terrific.

The ship received three direct hits; fires broke out in some of the cabins and a lifeboat was wrecked. Fire parties pushed through the crowded decks to extinguish the blazes. Australian nurses, including Phyllis Pugh, ‘quickly made dressing stations down in the hold and very soon wounded were brought down to us.’

informal portrait of, left to right, SX13081 Sister (Sr) Elvin Wittwer, 2/13 Australian General Hospital; WX11173 Sr Sara Baldwin-Wiseman; Captain Capon, SS Empire Star and TX6022 Sister (Sr) Hilda Hildyard Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (P09909.32) informal portrait of TX6022 Sister (Sr) Hilda Hildyard, Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS), hanging washing in the hold of SS Empire Star. Sister Hildyard was one of sixty Australian nurses evacuated from Singapore aboard SS Empire Star in February 1942 Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (P09909.31)

We organised ourselves into a hospital once more and took four-hour shifts on duty. Two British corporals were our ‘refuge and help’ in all this… tireless in keeping everyone cheerful (rocking with laughter in fact) and organising community singing and general buffoonery…

Marjorie Hill

Staff Nurses Margaret Anderson and Veronica Torney were tending wounded below deck when cabins started filling with smoke. They dragged the wounded up top, believing the danger was over, but Japanese planes returned and flew low, strafing the ship with machinegun fire. Anderson and Torney shielded the wounded men with their own bodies as bullets spattered the decks.

These sisters of the 13th AGH were noticed by the Captain on the bridge, working without regard to their own safety, and later recommended both for decorations.

Phyllis Pugh

For three more hours, twin-engine bombers high overhead harried the ship as the captain took ‘violent evasive action.’ Crew lay on their backs on deck, watching the bombers through binoculars, calling out their angles of attack so that Capon could turn his ship at the last moment – as the bomb-bay doors opened. Engines were thrown into full reverse to dodge the fall of bombs.

After sustained attacks from over 50 aircraft, the last wave of nine bombers came over at 1.10pm.

A last effort resulted in the Japanese dropping two onethousand-pound bombs one on each side of the ship. The Empire Star literally was lifted out of the water, and when it righted itself we heard only one of the two engines working.

Phyllis Pugh

Fourteen were dead and seventeen wounded. Carline Reid assisted with the wounded:

[Second Officer Golightly, his left elbow badly mangled] was brought in and laid out near where I was sitting. Presently a doctor was found, an RAMC man, very breezy and cheerful… I found myself watching, fascinated, while the doctor and nurse delved amongst the bits of human flesh and sorted out the bones from the

Group portrait of nurses of the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) after disembarking from Empire Star. Known to be in the photograph are: M Adams; QX22814 Lt Margaret Constance Selwood; VFX59690 Sister Sheila Daley (fourth from left); QFX22715 Sister Julia Elizabeth Blanche Powell; QFX19069 Captain (Capt) irene Dorothy (Dorothy) Ralston; Sister Pugh (probably QFX22716 Lieutenant Phyllis Pugh) Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (P03315.015) Five unidentified Australian nurses washing in the hold section of SS Empire Star Reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (P09909.006)

shrapnel, trying to stop the patient from watching it himself, while with his good hand he squeezed one of mine till the bones crunched…

Carline Reid

Engineers made urgent temporary repairs as the ship plodded on toward Java. Captain Capon rewarded the bravery of the nurses by granting them the use of his bathroom

[this] was much appreciated by the Aussie nurses and the Empire Star became the only ship in the British Navy with smalls waving gaily from the bridge.

Phyllis Pugh

It was heavenly to get up on deck again and breathe a little real air. They brewed tea, [and] a lunch of bully beef and army biscuits was shuffled round and ravenously eaten by young and old. With characteristic resilience the RAF men produced a concertina, and by 2pm we might have been on a pleasure cruise, all sitting on our haunches or luggage and dreamily singing Lily of Laguna and Down Mexico Way.

Carline Reid

Towards evening, Pugh ‘saw the burial at sea with full military honours for thirteen men… at this burial service they sang Abide With Me. if i hear it today, i still get a lump in my throat…’ After dark, they passed a strung-out convoy of the slower, smaller ships that had left Singapore before them on 11 February. How many of these made it through safely is unknown, but only three of the fifteen in the Empire Star convoy survived the Bangka Strait.

After 40 hours at sea Empire Star limped into Tanjong Priok, the port for Batavia. Military police came aboard and marched off 139 Australians who had embarked ‘without authority’ in Singapore. The fate of these men is unclear. Probably they were organised into the Australian units that stayed to defend Java from the Japanese. Many likely perished in captivity.

While Empire Star was undergoing quick repairs, they received news.

we got the perfectly ghastly news that Singapore had fallen… all our men trapped. Over 60,000 of them - no more would get away. It is not possible to describe the feelings of the people on our ship that day. It seemed too terrible to believe, but we had to believe it.

Most of the civilian evacuees transferred to other ships, but the Australian nurses were still on the Empire Star when she got under way and headed for Sunda Strait on 16 February. She arrived in Fremantle, ‘10am-ish’ on 23 February, where the local Red Cross met the evacuees with fresh clothing and provisions. Margaret Hamilton (2/10th AGH) recalls, ‘as we said goodbye to Captain Capon, he asked us to do two things every day of our lives: we were to thank God we were alive, and to never forget the Merchant Navy.’

As the Australian sisters left his ship, he wept. ‘Strange as it may perhaps seem,’ he later wrote, ‘nevertheless perfectly true, there are times when, deep down, i’m apt to be somewhat emotional...’

Eight months later, on a run to South Africa, Empire Star was sunk by a U-boat in the mid-Atlantic. Most of the crew and passengers got off into three lifeboats, drifting for two days in heavy seas. Two boats were rescued by the Royal Navy, but the third – carrying Captain Capon, and 37 others – was lost.

The Empire Star nurses dispersed to their home states, and to serve in military hospitals in New Guinea, Borneo, and Australia. Some went back to Singapore in September 1945 to rescue the pitiful, emaciated survivors of the Vyner Brooke, the ship that took the remaining nurses of the 2/10th and 2/13th Hospitals from Singapore on the Black Friday before it fell. Only 24 out of 65 had survived brutal treatment and captivity under the Japanese.

Two Victorians were given awards for bravery and devotion to duty in the air attacks on the Empire Star. Sister Vera Torney was awarded a military OBE, and Sister Margaret Anderson became the first member of the AANS to receive the George Medal, usually given ‘for acts of great bravery in a non-war setting.’

To the Australian nurses MV Empire Star was always the ‘Lucky Ship,’ for obvious reasons. Margaret McMillan never managed to reunite her lucky little rabbit with its imagined owner. it survives, in the Shrine’s Collection, a mute but eloquent symbol of the loss of Singapore, of the few who made it out and the many who didn’t.

Peter Luby is a writer and Visitor Experience Officer at the Shrine of Remembrance.


Do you know what these badges, brevets and patches signify?

Answers on page 70 1. 4.

2. 5.
? QU i Z
3. 6. 9.


New Delhi, india. c. 1945. 8048 Pilot Officer Rupert (Uncle) Osborne, a RAAF pilot of Elsternwick, Vic, reads a picture book to young Pat O’Sullivan who is the daughter of Lieutenant Colonel and Mrs O’Sullivan. image reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. (SEA0123)

is the thought of children’s books on the grim subject of war bizarre? Children can be victims of war and frequently they are the first to suffer from it. Should children be sheltered from the realities of war? i am attracted to the view that Marsha Rakestraw penned for the institute of Human Education:

If we truly want a peaceful world, then it’s important that we actively work toward one; that includes involving our youth in exploring issues of war and peace in thoughtful, age-appropriate ways.

The extent of children’s literature on war is wide–books, DVDs, posters and beyond. The coverage includes war, post-war, other conflicts and terrorism. There are books for juveniles (the preferred term for librarians) and about them. Some aim to educate about past wars, often guided by an age-specific syllabus. Genres also vary widely too, with narrative books, plays, picture

books, comics, collector’s cards, myths, fables, legends, biographies and poetry–all covering themes of conflict

Using Trove, an online library database maintained by the National Library of Australia, i recently discovered that there were at least 333 Australian book titles found by using subject searches for First World War, Australia and juvenile (and 157 for New Zealand). There were 361 for the Second World War (NZ 72), 20 for the Korean War (NZ 5) and 61 for the Vietnam War (NZ 13). Later conflicts also featured. This sort of search depends on the scope of collections and their cataloguing. Nevertheless, it is a considerable volume of literature and indicates the presence of a wide market for publishers.

in the early twentieth century, the stories told were often inspired by patriotic propaganda, reinforced by tales of derring-do and heroism,

with little emphasis on harsh realities. Many of the historical accounts were aligned with these thoughts. The perceived superiority of the British Empire loomed large. Some purported to be first-hand accounts.

During the First World War, the bravery of the Empire troops was contrasted against the brave Turk or the fiendish Hun. Echoing British books, the public schoolboy was depicted as a natural leader with idealised masculinity. Descriptions of air combat emphasised its chivalrous characteristics. Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians were seen as natural warriors. Some of these idealised characterisations deteriorated as the war progressed. Disproportionate credit was accorded to the contribution of tanks to final victory. Overall, it was depicted as a good war fought by young heroes for a just cause.

However, best-selling Australian books aimed at children has an

The scope and extent of Australian children’s literature can be surprising. It has early roots, flourished in the Victorian age, sought to inspire during the First World War and, in recent times, has been a source of syllabus-based education.
LEFT TO RIGHT (CLOCKWISE) Australians in Action: The Story of Gallipoli, 1915. Reproduced courtesy of the Royal United Services institute of Victoria A 1901 edition of Fitchett’s book. Reproduced courtesy of the Royal United Services institute of Victoria The School Paper for Grades Vi and Viii, November 1914. Reproduced courtesy of the Royal United Services institute of Victoria Claire Saxby & Max Berry, Meet the Anzacs, 2014. Reproduced courtesy of the Royal United Services institute of Victoria Vashti Farrer & Mary Small, Feathered Soldiers, 2006. Reproduced courtesy of the Royal United Services institute of Victoria

earlier genesis. The book Deeds that Won the Empire by W. H. Fitchett, a founder of the Methodist Ladies’ College, Kew, made him a household name throughout the British Empire. The book was ‘in a sense a literary accident’, arising from his journalism. Sir Cyprian Bridge, commander of the Australian Station in 1896, asked Fitchett to write commemorative sketches on anniversaries of notable events in British history. These became an Argus Saturday feature running for sixteen months under the pen name ‘Vedette’. The articles were pirated in india, republished in a London weekly, published in shilling form in Australia and finally, as Deeds that Won the Empire (1897). The book was placed by the Admiralty in all warships’ libraries,

adopted as a holiday-task book in some great English public schools and printed in Braille. There were 100,000 copies of the six-penny edition eventually sold.

Schools, or perhaps more accurately, education departments, have played an important role in informing children about war, frequently as events unfolded. in a 1916 example of Victoria’s The School Paper a photo of crowds of men coming to enlist in the Army is shown with texts denouncing the German enemy and praising military volunteers. The New South Wales Department of Public instruction was able to issue this pamphlet to school pupils jointly written by C.E.W. Bean and Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett some 23 days after the Gallipoli landing.

This prompt production would be enviable today!

Sometimes, attempts to convey the story of a war are subject to alterations or even distortions, perhaps to make them more friendly to their intended audience. The 2015 book Meet the ANZACS by Claire Saxby portrays youths in uniform in a manner hardly representative of the reality. However, it can be seen as an example of an artist trying to lessen the reality of war by depicting it as a youthful adventure.

Another way to somewhat downplay some of the effects of war is to concentrate on the role of animals in wartime. Perhaps the most well-known example is Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse, firstly a British

Mrs. Hope James, President of the Kindergarten Committee at iwakuni, headquarters of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force Air Group in Japan, reading a story to a group of children (ca.1945 – ca.1952). image reproduced courtesy of State Library Victoria. (1724044)

book, then a Steven Spielberg film and an internationally successful play seen in 11 countries. Australian children’s books in this genre include ones on donkeys–yes, several on Simpson–dogs and pigeons.

in more recent times, children’s books have been written on many of Australia’s military campaigns including Korea, Vietnam and Timor Leste. These books are primarily educational and closely follow the requirements of state curricula. it is sad that there is a range of books on the juvenile experience of war at first hand. The 1942 Australian Ministry of Home Security civil defence publication The Care of Children in Wartime is a good example. The Canadian Red Cross

has a series of publications called Facing Fear: Helping Young People Deal with Terrorism and Tragic Events in four graded versions for children aged 5-16 with lesson plans and teacher notes.

Even sadder is the fact that more than one billion children, almost a sixth of the total world population, were living in conflict or areas emerging from war according to recent estimates. P.W. Singer’s Children at War (2006) is the first comprehensive book to examine the growing and global use of children as soldiers. indeed, the first American serviceman killed by hostile fire in Afghanistan–a Green Beret–was shot by a fourteen-year-old local boy.

There are many more examples of children’s books on war, and at least 250 such titles are held as a small part of the extensive military collection in the Library of the Royal United Services institute of Victoria, situated within Victoria Barracks on St Kilda Road. The collection has been rated as one of national significance. it is open to the public and its use is encouraged. it may easily be visited by appointment.

Michael O’Brien is a Retired Major General who is currently President of the Royal United Services Institute of Victoria (RUSIV). After a long Army career, he became an antiquarian bookseller, lectured in cruise ships around the world and delved into local and military history. His particular interest is building the library collection at RUSIV. An exhibition on children’s experience of war through popular culture will open at the Shrine in August 2023.
Legacy children carrying wreaths up the Shrine stairs (c.1945). Reproduced courtesy of Legacy

Extending our exhibitions

in the throes of lockdown, the Shrine was faced with the challenge of meeting their commemorative audience’s needs and was seeking alternative ways to connect to the public. The silver lining in this disrupted world was the ability to solve a problem and provide an alternative way for the public to connect with the Shrine of Remembrance through an online virtual tour. Now as we enjoy relative freedoms out of lockdowns, the opportunities of this technology continue.

The Shrine’s special exhibitions typically have a life of 12 months, after which they are preserved only through still images. However, this cutting-edge technology means these exhibitions will now remain open for the whole world to visit virtually.

To capture the exhibitions, we map out a customer journey and, using a sophisticated 360 VR camera on a tripod, move through the space one metre at a time taking 3D scans. The camera used to capture this is aptly named Theia, named after the Greek Goddess of Sight.

The camera is operated remotely from an iPad and captures dynamic, stabilised, 3D footage. The sophisticated software then stitches these panoramic images together using artificial intelligence to create the 3D digital twin.

To create the virtual tour of the Shrine’s Galleries of Remembrance, 861 panoramic photographs were taken along with 935 aerial photographs. in the smaller galleries that house special exhibitions, 78 panoramic photographs are typically taken.


From there, we add dynamic multimedia tags with interactive hot spots and clickable objects, meaning virtual visitors can delve deeper into the history and stories embedded in the exhibitions. importantly, it allows visitors to virtually walk through at their own pace and at a time convenient to them.

This cutting-edge technology is now being used to create a virtual archive of past gallery exhibitions so virtual tours can occur well into the future.

Recent exhibitions captured virtually include Imagining Centaur, Lust Love Loss and Defending with Pride: Stories of LGBTQ+ service.


There are also plans to bring the Shrine to remote and regional schools via facilitated virtual tours hosted by members of the Education team.

Sarah Seddon is the Founder and Director of CITE 360 and has more than 25 years of hospitality, events and tourism experience.
The camera used to capture the exhibition is named Theia after the Greek Goddess of Sight



An estimated 50,000 people joined the 2022 Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Shrine. image: Susan Gordon-Brown
1 4 5 2 3

1. Beaufort Bomber final reunion 6 March 2022

Air Vice-Marshal Kym Osley AM CSC, representing the Royal Australian Air Force; Christine Pollard, representing the families of those who served in Beaufort Squadrons and Squadron Leader Edward ‘Ted’ McConchie at the Last Post Service that remembered the legacy of Beaufort Bombers and the people who built, tested, maintained and flew them. image: Susan Gordon-Brown

2. Shrine Young Ambassador Rehan Ali and volunteer Daryl Bolton

3. Victorian Aboriginal Remembrance Service 31 May 2022

The Shrine hosted the annual Victorian Aboriginal Remembrance Service to honour the service of First Peoples men and women, past and present.

4. Remembrance Day 11 November 2021

Bunurong elders Uncle Mik Edwards and Uncle Shane Clarke performed a smoking ceremony and offered a Welcome to Country at the 2021 Remembrance Day Service – a first in the Shrine’s Remembrance Day history. image: Susan Gordon-Brown

5. Defending with Pride event 31 July 2022

Phil Neil and Rachael Cosgrove lay a wreath at the Last Post service to honour the service and sacrifice of all LGBTiQ+ people in the Australian Armed Forces. Phil is the last surviving member of the Gay Ex Services Association, and Rachael is the current President elect for DEFGLiS, the Defence LGBTiQA information and Support Service. image: Gemma Ortlipp

6. Rock for R’n’R 13 March 2022

The Rifleman performing at Australian National Verterans Arts Museum’s Rock for R’n’R event at the Shrine. image: Mark Direen, ANVAM 2022. Artwork detail: Kat Rae, Psychedelic Burka Road, ANVAM 2022

7. Lust, Love, Loss opened in December 2021

This special exhibition explored the issues of lust, love and loss in times of war. image: Vlad Bunyevich

8. Defending with Pride August 2022

The first of its kind for an Australian war memorial. it reveals the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people in service.

image: Gemma Ortlipp

9. Vietnam Veteran’s Day 18 August 2022

Marnie Jones, Denise Drysdale, Mike Brady and Normie Rowe, who all performed for troops during the Vietnam War, sang together at the Shrine for Vietnam Veteran’s Day. image: Susan Gordon-Brown

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1. South African Soldiers’ Association badge: This bronze and enamel lapel badge would have been worn by a veteran of the South African War 1899–1902. Approximately 16,000 Australians served in South Africa in what is commonly referred to as the Boer War. The red, blue, and yellow stripes represent the ribbon of the Queen’s South Africa Medal.

2. Mercantile Marine Torpedo badge: This gold thread sleeve badge in the shape of a torpedo was awarded to an officer of the merchant marine whose ship had been sunk or damaged by either a torpedo or mine and had made a voyage, of at least one month, on another British ship. issued by King George V on 17 May 1918 the badge was worn on the left cuff of either sea or shore rig.

3. Physical Culture Display 1916 badge: This button badge was awarded by the Education Department of Victoria to metropolitan school students who raised war funds by publicly performing physical activities such as maypole dancing, marching, gymnastics, and folk dancing.

4. Housewives Association badge: This badge was worn by a member of the Housewives Association. The Housewives Association formed during the First World War to address the high cost of living brought about by the war. After the war the association advocated for the representation of family issues within government.

5. 2/23 Australian Infantry Battalion colour patch: This diamond shaped felt shoulder patch was worn by a member of the 2/23 Battalion AiF. The diamond shaped design, inherited from the First World War, was replaced with a ‘T’ shaped patch in 1942 following the siege of Tobruk.

6. Second World War female relative badge: This badge was issued to female relatives of service personnel during the Second World War. The star represents the numbers of relatives on active service.

7. Helicopter Flight Vietnam Air Gunners’ brevet: This badge was retrospectively awarded to Australian personnel who served as ‘door gunners’ on American ‘Huey’ iroquois helicopters in Vietnam between 1967-71. The design of the badge is based on a Royal Australian Navy pilot’s aviator ‘wings’.

8. Caterpillar club lapel badge: This lapel badge is worn by members of the caterpillar club, an informal association of men and women who have parachuted to safety after their aircraft became disabled. The club was founded by the irvin Airchute Company in 1922. The name of the club refers to the production of parachute thread by silkworms.

9. Afghan National Army patch: This embroidered patch was worn by members of the Afghan National Army from 2002 until 2021.


Shop our new range of Shrine giftware and apparel to remember your visit to one of Victoria’s most historic landmarks.

Proceeds from every purchase go directly towards supporting our education and ceremonial programs that honour the service and sacrifice of Australians in war and peacekeeping.




caps notebooks


November 2022-23

Volume 12

ISSN 2209-3826

The Shrine of Remembrance acknowledges the Bunurong people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we honour Australian service men and women; and we pay our respects to Elders, past, present and emerging.


Singer Lorrae Desmond on stage entertaining soldiers of 5th and 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR and 6RAR), and other Australian Task Force units in Nui Dat, Vietnam. She was singing with the ABC dance band, to over 1000 troops on two 2-hour shows.

Remembrance is published by the Shrine of Remembrance

Editorial team

Sue Burgess, Sue Curwood, Naias Mingo and Laura Thomas

Art Director and Production Manager

Louise Thrush

Special thanks

Melissah Crumpton, Katrina Nicolson, Tessa Occhino and Carolyn Archibald

Friends of the Shrine enquiries

Friends of the Shrine

GPO Box 1603, Melbourne, Victoria, 3001

For more information, email or call 03 9661 8100

© All material appearing in Remembrance is copyright. Reproduction in whole or part, whether storied in an electronic retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, must be approved by the publisher. Contact for approval.

Every effort has been made to determine and contact holders of copyright for materials used in Remembrance.

The Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne welcomes advice concerning any omission.



Photographer: Michael Coleridge. image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (COL/67/0174/VN)

Thank you


Your support ensures that we continue to remember service and sacrifice—even when our doors are closed.


As a Friends Life Member, your generous commitment helps us to care for the Shrine and deliver our ceremonial services and free educational programs, ensuring future generations continue to honour Australian service and sacrifice.


Able Seaman Hiram Ristrom at a Last Post Service 26 January 2020 photographer Cormac Hanrahan
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