University of Melbourne Archives

Your Greatest Challenge

An exhibition marking the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of World War 2 using material from the University of Melbourne Archives

Monday 16 August to Wednesday 15 September 1999
Exhibition area, 1st floor, Baillieu Library, The University of Melbourne
Curator: Dr Mark Richmond


As the anniversary of Australia's entry into the Second World War on 3rd September 1939 draws near, I imagine that every one of us will be able to reflect that no family was unaffected by the turmoil of those years.

So it is with the Archives: the records of so many organizations and individuals held in the Archives span the 1930s and 1940s, whether those of the University itself and its members at home and in the field, the many businesses - be they involved in manufacturing, retailing, farming or transport - likewise the large range of trade unions, peak bodies from both capital and labour, the many professional and service organization, and the diverse collections of personal papers.

It is only possible to show a selection of this material, which it is hoped will give an idea of the range and diversity of collections held at the Archives. In a sense, the subject of the exhibition is as much the resources of the University of Melbourne Archives as it is the progress of the War or the unfolding of the war years.

During the 1930s, the portents of another major conflict were increasingly manifest, with a volatile situation in most parts of Europe and the aggressive activities of Japan in China. With hindsight, the seeds of this conflict are apparent in the package put together at Versailles in 1919 (a mistake which US Army Chief of Staff and planner Marshall was at pains to avoid as a scheme for rebuilding European economies was set out in 1947), though the formation of an alliance involving European fascists with Japan was slower to evolve: it was not until November 1936 that Germany and Japan concluded a pact against communism (driving Russia in the direction of the democratic states and leading it in December to adopt a new 'Democratic' Government - at least until August 1939, when the non-aggression pact with German was signed, whereupon Japan abandoned its pact with Germany).

A sequence of momentous events beginning before the end of the First World War, with the withdrawal of Russia to resolve its internal Revolution, the formation of communist parties across the world including Australia (with a branch formed at a meeting in Sydney in October 1920), the rise of fascism in a number of European countries, spiralling inflation, the onset of a severe Depression and years of widespread unemployment and industrial unrest, together with ominous developments in Asia, had helped rebuild a sense of present or impending crisis and the potential for another major military conflict.


The journal Proletariat, published from April 1932 by the newly-formed Melbourne University Labour Club, increasingly focused its attention on the subjects of war and peace and the growing threat of Fascism; in the July 1932 issue a page headed 'Towards Fascism' under the sub-heading 'At the University' carried a photograph of a group watching as a man is pushed sprawling into the University lake, captioned 'The Dialectic of the Fascist'; the June 1933 issue was a special 'Anti-War Number', with a cover graphic of a worker squeezing a British militarist/imperialist; articles included one by Ralph Gibson on Fascism in Melbourne; another article is entitled 'Australia Prepares for War', in which war is pointed to as 'the solution' to the crisis of capitalism in its final stage, noting that only workers can carry out the war preparations, and thus the working class, if it is organized, has in its hands the power to prevent war, and concluding 'The enemy is in our own country'. Despite these assertions, the more general feeling was that wars occurring elsewhere would not again involve Australia, helping account for Australia's lack of defence preparedness planning until after the mid-1930s.

Many Australians, of course, had first-hand knowledge of European and Asian countries in the 1930s. The Melbourne Herald sent journalist Kenneth Wallace-Crabbe to report on developments in Germany at the end of 1935; he commenced filing stories in April 1936. He also sent back private letters and photographs and compiled a scrapbook of material collected, photographs taken by himself and others, from many parts of Germany.

Kenneth Wallace-Crabbe Collection
Hordern Collection
A united front

The Spanish Civil War, when Franco's rebels returned from Morocco to overturn the Republican Government, invoked a widespread engagement from supporters of either side of the ideological conflict which overlay the war. The Catholic Worker had been founded in 1936 to counter a perceived spread of communist influence in Australian society and the Spanish conflict figured largely in its columns. It proclaimed in its first issue that 'We Fight' both the old capitalism and the new Communism. In its issue of 3 April 1937, it reported on the Spanish debate at the University, when B.A. Santamaria led the affirmative on the question that 'The Spanish Government is the ruin of Spain' and the Public Lecture Theatre rang to the cry, so goes their report, of 'Long Live Christ the King', the battle cry of Catholic Action.

Catholic Worker Collection

In at least one instance, it was the Union movement that took the initiative on a defence question, when the Port Kembla members of the Waterside Workers' Federation refused to load pig iron to Japan (though iron ore exports were suspended in July 1938, the shipment of other types of iron were allowed). It was Attorney-General Menzies' attempt to overturn this ban that earned him the sobriquet 'Pig Iron Bob' (though this tag would dog him to the grave, and his term as initial wartime Prime Minister was an uneasy one, nevertheless the later war years and the atmosphere of reconstruction would be the crucible in which Menzies astutely forged the formation of the most effective conservative party in Australia thus far).

Communist Party of Australia, Victorian Branch Collection

As the situation in Europe worsened, peace groups such as the Movement Against War and Fascism changed ground. Though the Soviet-oriented International Peace Campaign maintained an ambivalent position during the early stages of the Germany-Russia non-aggression pact even after war was declared, other groups supported the war against Fascism.

(International Bookshop Collection) Postcard reproduction, Merrifield Collection, State Library of Victoria

Prominent industrialists and financiers - such as Essington Lewis (BHP), W.S. Robinson (Collins House group), Colin Fraser (Broken Hill Associated Smelters, and other Collins House companies), Laurence Hartnett (G.M.H.) - of whom University of Melbourne Archives holds collections of personal papers, had clearly seen the advent of war particularly after Lewis's visits to Japan and Germany in 1935, and the potential threat to Australia's ability to defend itself, especially in aviation. From that time, they became increasingly impatient with Government tardiness in putting in place the train of invitation for enterprises to enter the field of aircraft and other manufacturing (which could be perceived as munitions-orientated and needed Government sanction, and which were also capital-intensive and needed the implication of Government orders which would be embodied in the invitation to enter the field).

[In fact, Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty. Ltd. had been registered on 17 October 1936, major shareholders being BHP, Broken Hill Associated Smelters, Electrolytic Zinc Co., General Motors-Holdens Ltd., ICI and Orient Steam Navigation Co.]

This impatience with the Lyons and Menzies Governments was manifested also in a widespread feeling of dissatisfaction across many industries and unions at the 'Business as Usual' public agenda promulgated by Menzies after the declaration of war.

W.S. Robinson Collection


After undergraduate study in Sydney, Raymond Maxwell (Max) Crawford spent three years at Oxford 1927-30, and returned there after a stint of school-teaching in Sydney. In 1933 he started a research project on democratic and social change in Spain, though his interest in the growing crisis there was informed by a concern with the history of ideas, albeit a humanitarian concern also, but not a political one.

In the event, he returned to a job at Sydney University in 1935, and did produce some material on Spain, and took an interest in the material generated by the Spanish Relief Committee.

In 1937 he took up the History Chair at Melbourne and began to comment on the Spanish Civil War from a liberal democratic perspective, writing a letter to the Argus and giving addresses.

In 1938 his standing as a public liberal intellectual was enhanced when he became one of the Vice-Presidents of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties, and when Vice-Chancellor Medley took him on to the University National Service Committee he became a forceful critic of a proposal of Professor Copland in 1938 that service be made compulsory.

Crawford maintained that the University's most useful contribution to National Service, and, later, the War Effort, was to continue to operate as a teaching institution. There followed support for the ACTU boycott of National Registration, and a letter to The Age with thirty colleagues in May 1940 protesting at the curtailment of liberties by the National Security Act. This provoked controversy such that they wrote a further letter proclaiming their loyalty.

Amongst Crawford's other interests were developments in Soviet Russia, which took a practical turn when, as President of the University's Fine Arts Society, he organised a Russian cultural event to raise money for the Sheepskins for Russia appeal.

And after the election of the Curtin Government just before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Crawford wrote to Evatt (Minister for External Affairs), offering his services - for example, in Moscow or elsewhere. When the M.P. William Slater was appointed the first Australian Minister to the USSR, he lobbied to have Crawford go with him as First Secretary, and so in October 1942 they were farewelled by a meeting of 4000 at the Australian-Soviet Friendship League.

While engaged in routine work with the legation, and a spell working with Polish refugees and Displaced Persons, Crawford formed ideas for a book on post-revolutionary Russia. Ill health eventually saw him back in Melbourne in 1944, where he became foundation president of Australia-Soviet House. One of several organisations fostering friendship and understanding of the ally country, it encountered rapidly changing attitudes as Cold War positions resumed early in the postwar period. And before the end of 1946, Hawthorn M.L.A., F.L. Edmunds, named Crawford as a 'pink professor' in the House; and in 1947 renewed his attack on him for not relinquishing his connection with the 'subversive Communist subsidiary Australia-Soviet House'.

Further attacks saw the University leadership and SRC supporting Crawford, but his rebuttals were revealing a seachange in which he more explicitly distanced himself from Communist doctrine, and also stated he would not seek re-election to the Australia-Soviet House position. Crawford was for a time in the early 1950s denied a visa to enter the USA, but by decade's end he would be embroiled in a fresh controversy about Communist activity at the University, in which he would now be an accuser.

[much of this information was provided by Crawford's biographer, Fay Anderson.]

A Professor's War - MAX CRAWFORD
Kathleen Fitzpatrick Collection


Under his Presidency, the Society's most successful event for 1942, recorded in this copy from the original minute book, was an afternoon in the Union Theatre in conjunction with the Labour Club, at which Russian cultural films were followed by folk dancing, marionettes and a Russian ballet, all in aid of Russian War Relief (Sheepskins Appeal), September 1942.

University of Melbourne Fine Arts Society Collection

By October, however, Crawford was off to Russia as First Secretary to the Australian Ministry to the USSR

R.M. Crawford Collection
R.M. Crawford Collection
Kathleen Fitzpatrick Collection
R.M. Crawford Collection


Hume Dow, whose father had attended the University of Melbourne then worked in literary journalism before becoming Australia's official representative in the USA in the 1920s and 30s, was educated at Staten Island Academy, New York, and Harvard University (graduating 1938). He then returned to Australia, had some engagement with the peace movement and soon moved through journalism into the Australian Army Educational Service, becoming a staffer and editor of Salt. Demobilized in 1946, he returned to journalism and after a teaching stint joined the staff of University of Melbourne English Department in 1953, retiring as Reader in 1981. He died in 1997. It is of interest that his future wife Gwyneth, then married to journalist Rohan Rivett, was one of the team of young women employed to collect data from households selected for the Prest Social Survey (see case 8).


After the fall of France in 1940, Australia was faced with the necessity of finding a substitute for the imported optical glass needed for gun sights and other optical munitions.

Laurence J. Hartnett was seconded from his role as Managing Director of General Motors-Holden Ltd. to be Director of Ordnance Production, Ministry of Munitions, and Chairman of the Optical Munitions Panel.

E.J. Hartung, Professor of Chemistry, experimented with various local sands to produce a glass of the required purity, and with blends of fire clays to make suitable pots. Within months satisfactory results had been achieved, and optical glass was being manufactured in Australia.

The Department of Natural Philosophy (Physics) under Professor T.H. Laby was almost entirely devoted to experimental work, testing, and small-scale manufacture of optical munitions.

Related projects of the Optical Munitions Panel (or Scientific Instruments and Optical Panel as it became) were the Aluminizing Process for producing mirrors for Optical Instruments, the production of graticules (small discs inscribed with measuring marks or scales for determining the size, distance, or position of objects viewed), and the development of methods of tropic-proofing optical instruments against fungi, a problem particularly acute in New Guinea. The Archives holds material on all of these projects.

Summary of the contributions made by the University of Melbourne to the Australian War Effort from The University of Melbourne Annual Reports 1939-1946. Many University Departments are mentioned in the Summary. Here, the activities of the Chemistry School are described.

Hartung Collection
Hartung Collection
Hartung Collection
Laby Collection
J.F. Richardson Collection
Hartnett Collection
Hartung Collection


The magazine Australia To-Day was an annual supplement to the Commercial Travellers' Association house journal The Traveller, from 1905 to 1973. It had wide circulation in Australia and was published in time to be sent 'home' to the United Kingdom at Christmas in the hope of attracting immigrants.

During 1940-6 it carried many articles on aspects of the war, with numerous photographic illustrations, some obtained from the Commonwealth Department of Information, and most of the advertisements made some reference to the war effort.

Artist Cliff Wood, who did many paintings for the magazine over two decades, was unsuccessful in his application to become an Official War Artist, but his talents were used as a camofleur in the North, whence he made a number of pencil sketches towards future paintings. And he continued to do artwork for Australia To-Day.

Commercial Travellers' Association Collection

Case 6 - upper ON ACTIVE SERVICE

The University of Melbourne Archives holds the papers of two medical men who served in both World Wars, Clive Disher and A.P. Derham.

(Harold) Clive Disher was born on 15 October 1891, in Rosedale, Victoria. Having spent his early childhood in Gippsland, often visiting the family property, Strathfieldsaye (which he later inherited), he then moved to Melbourne to board at Scotch College. After matriculating in 1912, he enrolled in medicine at the University of Melbourne and resided at Ormond College. His keen interest in rowing, gained during his school years, continued as he became a leading oarsman for both the College and University.

Disher obtained an M.B. B.S. after the outbreak of the First World War. Soon after his graduation in 1916 he enlisted in the A.I.F. Between the years 1917 and 1919 he served in France as a medical officer. Between the wars Disher continued his association with the army. Joining the Reserve, he was elevated to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

In World War II he once again enlisted and was appointed the Assistant Director (and later, Director) of Medical Services for the First Australian Army. This position took him to the Middle East, Greece, Crete and New Guinea.

After the second World War Disher retired from medicine and managed Strathfieldsaye, which he bequeathed to the University of Melbourne when he died, aged 84, in 1976.

Case 6 - upper (cont.) ON ACTIVE SERVICE

One who served in New Guinea and returned there to a distinguished civilian career was John Minogue. He had been active in the Melbourne University Rifles while a law student in the 1930s; he was called to the Bar in 1939, but entered the Army in 1940.

He worked with Intelligence in New Guinea, in 1942 with a lone companion making an epic crossing of the Kokoda Trail.

From 1944 to 1946 he was with the Australian Military Mission to Washington. He returned to New Guinea in 1962 as a Supreme Court Judge, Chief Justice 1970-74, and Pro-Chancellor of the University.

With outbreak of World War II Alfred Plumley Derham left practice as a leading paediatrician in Melbourne to enlist as a Colonel in the Australian Army Medical Corps, and Assistant Director Medical Service 8th Australian Division A.I.F. With the fall of Singapore he was taken prisoner in Malaya by the Japanese. In prison camp he served as medical practitioner to fellow prisoners (his son, Driver T.P. (Tom) Derham, was a prisoner with him and acted as his batman).

University staff members to enlist included the Professor of Dental Science since 1934, Arthur Amies, who joined the 2nd A.I.F in June 1940, having been a member of the Army Medical Corps Reserve since 1935. He served as a major in the dental services with the 4th Australian General Hospital at Tobruk and the 2nd A.G.H. in Egypt. Returning to University duties in 1942 until his retirement in 1967, he also became Patron of the Victorian branch of the Rats of Tobruk Association.

Balfe (born 1900) studied science subjects at the university, 1920-22, when he joined M.U.R. Again in 1937-38 he was back studying Commerce subjects. By then, he had risen from Lieutenant to Major (1934), and in April 1938 to Lt.-Col., when he took command of the regiment, succeeding Lt.-Col. W.S. J.P. Heslop. He is mentioned in the Committee of Melbourne University Women's minute book in August 1940 as being C.O. of an Officer Training School at the University, whose trainees were entertained by the women at a dance at the Conservatorium.

Balfe transferred out of M.U.R., and joined the A.I.F. in 1942, serving in New Guinea in 1943. The badge on the cap was a style introduced in 1930, used until replaced by a slightly modified version in 1948

Andrew J Ray Collection (with loose badges from Minogue Collection)

A company of Volunteer Rifles was formed at the University in 1884, of whom two Privates (John Monash and John William Purnell) later became Generals. This was disbanded and succeeded in the 1890s by the University Corps of Officers, and in turn it gave way to the Melbourne University Rifles, two of whose companies were based around leading Melbourne and Geelong schools.

Though the unit itself has no battle honours, it has made its contribution to the Australian Army, providing 23 officers and 771 other ranks to the 1st AIF (of whom a further 180 gained commissions on active service). During World War Two, 1162 officers and many other ranks from M.U.R. joined the AIF. After that war, the unit was reformed as Melbourne University Regiment.

Case 6 - lower ON ACTIVE SERVICE


The letters and diaries of William ('Scotty') Scott Heywood (whose final letter-diary entries prior to his death in a prisoner-of-war camp in Japan are shown in another case) reveal a fairly typical soldier's odyssey. Born in 1911 in Daylesford, he joined the Australian Instructional Corps in 1938, was seconded to the A.I.F. in 1940 and sailed for Malaya in July 1941, leaving a wife and two young 'bairns'.

Heywood's frequent letters - nearly all of them love letters to his wife - came from camps and other army establishments as diverse as Seymour, Caulfield Hospital, Ballarat, Ocean Grove, Bathurst (one shown here), Stawell; somewhere in South Australia as his train headed for the Nullarbor Plain, Broadmeadows, Bonegilla, the Small Arms School at Randwick, and from his point of embarkation (one shown here with a lock of his 'curls' from their final haircut), 'at sea' (one shown here), and from Malaya prior to its fall (one shown here). The cartoon shown was popular with Heywood and other Warrant Officers (W.O.s).

Scott Heywood Collection

The Melbourne Teachers' College (later incorporated into the University) set up a War Effort Committee in May 1940; its activities included a War Effort Fund, registered under Victorian Patriotic Fund legislation, to provide comforts for ex-students on war service, and a large file of correspondence and cards built up as a result. It established a register of war service, in which was also entered the date and summary of contents of items of correspondence received.

Melbourne Teachers' College Collection

Ormond College also kept a war service record on cards, arranged in the following groups: Dead; P.O.W. or missing (including E.E. Dunlop); Army; Navy; Navy Chaplains; Army Chaplains; A.A.M.C.; R.A.A.F.; R.A.A.F. Medical; Released; British Forces; and Home Service.

The Vice-Master, H.W. ('Barney') Allen acted as conduit for correspondence with former students and a clearing-house of college news.

As well as letters to and from family, the Archives has several other sources of letters from enlisted personnel in diverse locations.

For instance, the remaining staff in the University Registrar's Office in June 1941 established a contributory scheme to enable them to purchase canteen orders or vouchers to send to colleagues in the field. Office staff took turns to write a periodical letter with news and anecdotes, and those in the field sent letters of reply and cards, often printed for their particular units. The first such letter, 27 June 1941, went from Registrar John Foster to only four names, but in time there were a dozen or more on the list.

Of staff shown in the photograph (from c.1937), communications are on file from seven men, and there are others from personnel who joined the staff after this photograph was taken. The cards shown are from the Middle East, HMAS 'Bingera', Malaya, HMAS 'Shepparton', Darwin, HMAS 'Manoora', R.A.A.F. locations unnamed, Naval Beach Commando unit somewhere in the Pacific, and, closer to home, Flinders Naval Depot.

They include a card from Bill Berry (from Accounts, 2nd from left in back row of photograph), at that time a L/Cpl with the HQ 23 Australian Infantry Brigade based at Larrakeyah, Northern Territory. Rejected by the R.A.N. in 1940 because of colour blindness, he enlisted in the AIF, becoming Intelligence Sgt and serving also in New Guinea.

After the War he was a long-serving head of the Graduate Union. Bill Berry died in July this year, aged 78.

Case 7 - upper WAR AND INDUSTRY


Laurence Hartnett, Managing Director of General Motors-Holdens Ltd. since 1934, was seconded in 1940 to the position of Director of Ordnance Production, Munitions Department until 1945; his other wartime positions included Chairman of the Army Inventions Directorate 1942-46 and Chairman of the Optical Munitions Panel (see Case 4).

Some of the contracts were to his old firm, General Motors-Holdens - such as production of Anti-Tank and 25-pounder Guns - but these were not the times to raise questions of conflict of interest, and besides there were plenty of contracts to be allocated, some quite small and specialised.

Hartnett Collection
Nowell Collection
Vickers Ruwolt Collection

Ballarat engineering firm Ronaldson Bros. & Tippett, renowned for 'Austral' engines, and a range of spray plant, chaffcutters and other agriculture-oriented lines, diversified through war-time contracts into a number of specialized products such as gun cradles for 3" anti-aircraft guns, marine diesel engines, shell-varnishing machines and lathes, and a line of air-cooled engines.

Small-to-medium country establishments were well-placed to gain such contracts because of the Government desire to decentralize facilities across inland locations less vulnerable to invasion or air attack. This was an important input into regional economies.

At a General Meeting of 4 December 1945, E.J. Tippett gave a brief review of the company's war years' record. In September 1939, the number of employees was 166, and sales for year ending June 1939 totalled £135,000. In August 1945 the figures were 312 and £323,000 respectively. In that time, the annual production of engines grew from 1700 to 3800, 19,500 units being produced during the six years. There followed an outline of specialized lines produced for the Army and the Ministry of Munitions, some put out under licence for production in other plant.

Intentions are also stated to continue some new items such are marine engines for the civilian market, and to negotiate with the Disposals Commission to acquire surplus engines and parts for resale, and to permanently acquire leased machine tools.

Tributes followed to those employees who enlisted, particularly 'those who will not return', and to those in the works including 'a number of foreman and men [who] never missed a shift in six years'.

Case 7 - lower WAR AND INDUSTRY

Adelaide firm Perry Engineering Company Limited was awarded a contract to build six 75-foot tugs for the United States Army.

Commercial Travellers' Association Collection

Another small and very specific project was that undertaken by Sydney firm F. Dickin Pty Ltd, namely, building the wooden rear spar of the D.H. 98 - the Mosquito Bomber. As a souvenir of this work they made a record of it in a New Year 1946 album, in which their immense pride in this work is evident.

Essington Lewis Collection

The F. Dickin Pty. Ltd. photographs show that some women were in work situations that would have been unusual before the War. The onset of war, especially after the entry of Japan late in 1941, raised the whole question of women workers in traditional 'male' jobs, and gave added impetus to the push for Equal Pay. Many pamphlets and articles produced by particular unions or their peak bodies, some of which are shown here, now specifically put their arguments into the context of women working in the changed circumstances of war.

Melbourne Trades Hall Equal Pay Committee Collection

Perhaps the most visible occupation in which women were brought into jobs previously done by men was on the trams, with the first conductresses starting work in August 1941.

From the time of its original proposal, the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures was critical of the idea of setting up a Women's Employment Board, believing the Arbitration Court to be the proper authority for dealing with female wage rates, and agonised over whether or not to take up the Government's invitation to nominate a representative on the Board, and later on whether to mount a High Court challenge to the validity given to the Board. It decided to proceed, but later discontinued the action after the Board's regulations were re-enacted and validated by the Parliament, after a stand off with the Senate, in September 1942.

In the minutes of 24 March 1942, shown here, the President of the Chamber conceded that 'where women are taking men's work in war industries...some payment at equal rates would have to be considered', but cautioned against any agreement with a union in particular cases for fear of creating a precedent.

Australian Chamber of Manufactures Collection

In her pamphlet Are Women Paid Men's Rates?, written in late 1942 by Muriel Heagney for the Council of Action for Equal Pay, of which she was secretary and treasurer, she describes in vivid prose the crisis in the Parliament over the validation of the Women's Employment Board legislation:

The regulation of the employment of women in industry recently became a matter of front rank importance. For a few days it became the issue upon which the fate of Labor's wartime Government hung in the balance.

The Prime Minister, realising that his Government could not command a clear majority in either House of Parliament, had defied the Opposition, who had already disallowed the Government's regulations in this matter to defeat these proposals when embodied in legislative form. For a brief period, the Jovian thunders rolled, the lightning flashed, flickered fretfully for a moment, and then died away, leaving as the concrete result of the storm the 'Women's Employment Act, 1942'.

The Act confirms the creation of the Board to fix wages, hours and conditions for women who are employed or whom it is sought to employ in work formerly either performed by males or not performed at all in Australia. The creation of the Women's Employment Board is an emergency wartime measure superimposed upon the existing industrial arbitration machinery. The charter constituting it does not lay down any general principles to guide it in on the general question of the fixation of female rates of pay. As it is framed, that charter is designed to facilitate the employment of females upon conditions considered by the Board to be just and proper in the circumstances.

The only indication which is given to the Board as the principles which it should apply in fixing rates of pay is a provision of a minimum of 60 per cent. and maximum of 100 per cent. of the male rate.

Melbourne Trades Hall Equal Pay Committee Collection
Hume Dow Collection
Pamphlet Collection, University of Melbourne Archives

Kathleen Fitzpatrick of the University's History Department was involved in the question of women's war work when she was given charge of a group of students required for fruit-picking in the Shepparton district, 1942-3. In a draft memoir, she recalled being 'so absurdly unfit for [my] role at Shepparton. That situation is, I suppose, typical of war-time when so many people are called upon to act in situations for which they are unfit and in ways which are incongruous with their training, experience and characters.'

She recounts the circumstances whereby University student labour under Manpower regulations was required at Shepparton, the men in picking and the women in the cannery.

As a staff volunteer, she found herself in charge of a women's hostel, in a building which had been a brothel ('I imagine that there must be very few academic women who can claim as I can, to have been mistaken for the madam of a brothel').

A problem arose because of a differential arrangement about wage-rates, whereby students were paid the female basic wage, or more if their output came to more at piece-work rates, whereas casual pickers worked only at piece-work rates. The rationale for this was that the students were living away from home and had to pay 35 shillings a week board. In the event, the students found they were only being paid piece-work rates in slack periods, and after confronting the management of Shepparton Preserving Company, Fitzpatrick found that only the mention of a report to the Storeman and Packers' Union would achieve company compliance with the original agreement on wage rates.

Fitzpatrick and her colleagues and student representatives submitted a report and recommendations designed to eliminate some of the problems in future Manpower requirements.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick Collection

Fitzpatrick was also involved, with colleague Mollie Bayne - who published the booklet Australian Women at War in July 1943, in the Council for Women in War Work, which strove to encourage women in war work generally, but also took an interest in those who donned the uniforms of the women's auxiliaries in the Services, the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force (which started recruiting in March 1941), the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service (April 1941), and the Australian Women's Army Services (October, 1941).

Australian Railways Union Collection
Australian Railways Union Collection

The war years did see women gain permanent entry to certain jobs such as tram conducting, but it would be another quarter-century after the end of the war before the principle of equal pay gained more than lip service from many management, male unionists or politicians (perhaps ironically, Menzies stitched up the critical support of the Australian Women's National League for his new Liberal Party in 1944 by designing a hierarchy in which women were guaranteed representation in decision-making and office-bearing).


The Australian Comforts Fund was formed after a 9th January 1940 Melbourne meeting of delegates of various State funds to provide better coordination than during World War I.

The function of the Fund was to provide services to fit and well members of the Australian Forces, men and women, within and outside Australia. The function of the Red Cross was care of wounded, sick and POWs. Both were officially accredited to the Forces. Three other bodies came to be officially recognised - the YMCA, the Salvation Army and the YWCA (the last a bit later, when increasing numbers of women in the Forces called for a separate organisation to care specifically for their needs).

Generally, the ACF was accepted as the coordinating collecting body in most States, and the other accredited bodies agreed to make no separate public appeals except by mutual agreement.

Many functions were for the joint benefit of a combination of bodies.

The conjunction of the six-pointed ACF Red Star with other organisations' emblems became a feature of letterheads, posters and programmes.

Case 8 - upper HOME FRONT: YWCA

The YWCA embraced the war effort on a number of fronts, affiliating with the Australian Comforts Fund, forming linkages with the Land Army and Garden Army, and establishing a network of 'Leave Houses' in Australia and beyond.


Another organization connected with the ACF was the Conservatorium of Music at the University, which also had strong linkages with the Victorian Symphony Orchestra through conductor Bernard Heinze and many of the other members who taught at the Conservatorium.

Heinze conducted performances of Coleridge-Taylor's 'Hiawatha' in Aid of War Charities in October and November 1939.

By early 1940, the University Conservatorium Group of the Red Cross and Comforts Fund had been established, and it continued to contribute to the Australian Comforts Fund - Victorian Division and the Lord Mayor's Red Cross Appeal Fund into the postwar period.

Conservatorium Collection

Other groups at the University to engage in Forces entertainment and fund-raising included the Committee of Melbourne University Women. For instance, a dance was held on 30 August 1940 for interstate and country soldiers doing a course at the Officer's Training School stationed in the M.U.R. hut. The University Women's Ball of 1941 was in aid of the Women of the University Patriotic Appeal. A picture night on 12 September 1941 was in aid of the Women of the University Patriotic Appeal, who would pass the money to the Red Cross Ambulance Appeal.

Committee of Melbourne University Women Collection

Many other groups were involved in fund-raising or providing facilities for Service personnel, for instance a Fund with illustrious patronage (and Professor Crawford as a Vice-President) opened an Appeal to provide Australian Sheepskins for Russian Sick and Wounded.

Clothing Trades Union, Victorian Branch Collection

Another organization to establish an Allied Services Canteen was the Allied Services Patriotic Fund of Australia-Soviet House (of which Professor Crawford was President, and several other Professors were Vice-Presidents).

Clothing Trades Union, Victorian Branch Collection

Miscellaneous items:

Olympic Consolidated Industries Collection

University Newscutting Collection

As well as organizations raising funds or providing services to the Forces, there were others that looked after the civilian needy, whether individuals or families, many of whom had their life circumstances exacerbated by the contingencies and disruptive effects of war.

The case-files of the Charity Organization Society during these years often reflect the exigencies of life in a decade beset by the Depression and extended unemployment, followed by a decade uniquely affected by defence and wartime circumstances.

In this case, a Melbourne artilleryman stationed in Queensland in 1943 (who had been unemployed for four years during the 1930s) has on the advice of his C.O. written to the A.I.F. Women's Association Welfare Branch asking if they could help his family in Melbourne. A covering letter from the C.O. related that the man has several times gone A.W.L. in order to go to Melbourne.

The Women's Association has forwarded the letter to the Charity Organisation Society, and the ensuing case report reveals that his 25-year old wife, with six children under the age of 8, has to regularly take one child to hospital, during which times her husband had looked after the other five children. After his posting interstate, this task was sometimes performed by the next-door neighbour. But now this woman, her husband in the Navy and a son on Active Service, has herself been called up by Manpower for laundry service.

Citizens' Welfare Service of Victoria Collection [now the Drummond Street Relationship Centre]

The University of Melbourne Archives also contains valuable data in the Wilfred Prest Collection relating to 'normal' suburban families in wartime Melbourne. The creation of this material originated with the postponement of the 1941 census because of the War, whereupon a grouping of the University, the Department of Postwar Reconstruction and local businesses financed a survey of 1 in 30 households across Melbourne, with a follow-up to households in the industrial west, the latter being the subject of the monograph by Prest, Housing, Income and Saving in War-Time: A Local Survey (1952).

Prest Collection; note: Wilfred Prest, who had come from Britain with knowledge of urban social surveys there, was Senior Lecturer in Economics from 1938, becoming Professor in 1946.

J.H. Reeves Collection



The Y.M.C.A. was one of the organizations accredited to the Forces as a provider of services to members of the Australian Forces, in Australia and elsewhere.

The first meeting of the Victorian Y.M.C.A. Military Service Committee occurred within three weeks of the declaration of war - but as the statement 'The War and the Y.M.C.A.' recalls, negotiations between the National Committee and the Defence Department had begun as early as 1936 against the possibility of such an eventuality.



Even before the War had started, Chairman and Managing Director of Myer's, Norman Myer had been commissioned by Prime Minister Lyons to visit the United States to seek information about military clothing.

The day after the declaration of war, Myer had written to Menzies offering the services of his business empire. Myer was soon appointed Honorary Business Consultant to the Defence Department, and the manager of Myer's Ballarat Woollen Mills advisor to the Department of Supply and Development, one task being to advise on the clothing requirements of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

However, Myer in January 1942 resigned from the Board of Business Administration amid allegations in the House and the Senate of price-fixing and profiteering by the firm. This matter hung over the reputation of the firm for some months. A letter from W. Massy-Greene soon after his resignation suggested that Professor Copland was the one 'out of step' in the interpretation and implementation of price control measures and had made 'horrible examples' of some firms in order to create a climate of fear. Though he resigned, Myer offered to serve in some other capacity. And he would soon found a services club under the aegis of the Australian Comforts Fund.

As a protected industry, the Ballarat Mill retained sufficient staff to work double shifts. In the Melbourne store, many younger staff enlisted, their placed being taken by 'those Grey Haired Girls at Myer's'. As the War progressed, many goods became unobtainable, especially imports. With petrol rationing, delivery fleets were pooled, and the familiar badges of Myer's, Foy's and so on were painted over.

A Norman Myer initiative for servicemen was to pay for the establishment of the 'Dug-Out', two cafes joined together beneath the Capitol Theatre in Swanston Street, providing bathrooms and a clothes mending room as well as food and entertainment. It was opened by General Blamey in May 1942, a representative of General MacArthur also being present. It was open daily from 9.30 a.m. to 11 p.m., staffed by 150 volunteers from Myer's during the evenings.

Linkages between Myer's and wartime production facilities continued into the peace, the company leasing the munitions plant at Maribyrnong as a furniture factory, and also marketing cheap prefabricated houses made for them by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation.



While the total number of Australian prisoners of war taken in Europe during World War II was 8,712 of whom 264 died in captivity, a much larger number fell into the hands of the Japanese in the Pacific and the 'Far' East. In all, there were 22,376, over 15,000 of them as the result of the fall of Singapore during the Malaya Campaign on 15 February 1942. Over 8,000 Australians died in Japanese prisoner of war camps.

Frances Derham Collection
Manning Collection

Many others, of course, never came back. Scott Heywood, some of whose letters written prior to his capture are shown in another case, was taken a prisoner of war, after the 'fall' of Singapore, spending time in various camps in Burma and Thailand. These included Thanbyusayat, where inmates were required to read Camp Commandant Lt. Col. Nagatamo's Fighting Speech, explaining the origin of the War and other matters, and to sign an undertaking not to attempt escape. Nagatamo's view of the cause of the War centred blame firmly on British and American interference in politics and the economy of the Asia-Pacific region. Japan had come to the Rescue! Later Heywood was to survive a torpedo attack en route by sea to a Japanese camp, but was not so lucky during one of the massive air raids on Tokyo in July 1945, just before War's end. Heywood was a casualty of the 'greatest air offensive in history' to that time, in which U.S. land- and carrier-based aircraft immobilized the remnants of the Japanese navy, and proceeded to shatter Japanese industry and communications. U.S. battleships shelled densely populated cities, and the Twentieth Air Force dropped 40,000 tons of bombs on Japanese industrial centres in one month. This was followed in early August by the coups-de grâce of the powerful Soviet entry into the war against Japan in Manchuria, and the dropping of Atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Scott Heywood wrote many letters to his wife after joining up, and many diaries or journals, also written in the form of letters to her. The final entry in his last surviving diary is dated 5 March, 1944; the previous page, written the day before, had asked of her 'Did I hear you say many happy returns sweetheart? Thank you. I don't feel very much older, but I'm sneaking on, 33 is getting ancient, & I've lost three good years over here.' The final entry talks of a 'whisper' that they are about to be moved, so he intends having his diary and letters sewn into his pack that afternoon. Subsequently, we know, he was moved to Tokyo, and killed there on 13 July 1945, when an allied bomb exploded close to his prison camp hut window, barely a month before the Japanese surrender.

Heywood Collection
J. Kelly Collection


More than 25,000 enemy prisoners-of-war were held in prison camps in Australia during World War II. Many had been captured initially by other Allied forces, and the largest single group were Italians. As well, a number of aliens and civil internees were held, the number peaking at 6,780 in September 1942. These included a number of refugees from Nazi Europe who had fled to Britain and were detained there after the outbreak of hostilities, then shipped to other countries in a curious reprise of Britain's much earlier policy of transportation to the colonies. The most celebrated of these were 2,800 who arrived on the 'Dunera' in September 1940, mainly Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria.

Leonhard Adam Collection
Registrar's Correspondence Series

While Adam and other Jewish refugees were often able to gain early release from camps and enlist or take up positions with the University, one who experienced the reverse process was Japanese instructor at the University since 1922, Mowsey Inagaki. He had arrived in Australia via Thursday Island at the turn of the century and in 1907 married Rose Allkins.

At 5.45 a.m. on Monday, 8 December 1941, news reached Melbourne of Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor and Manila. When Rose Inagaki returned home from work that afternoon, she found the house 'a shambles', her husband removed, along with Japanese dictionaries, literature and other items. He was interned at Tatura, and his wife's attempts to have him released had proved unsuccessful when she died in August 1943.

Registrar's Correspondence Series


Items relating to the many savings schemes, loan floats, and the gradual rationing of such commodities as clothes, tea, sugar, butter, meat and petrol include:

Oliver J. Nilsen Collection

Home front support included purchase of War Savings Certificates, Stamps and Coupons. The required quota being reached by households in a street, a metal plaque was fixed to the corner lamp-post.

Max Marginson Collection
Melbourne Teachers' College Collection
Hartnett Collection
Gladys Moncrieff at War Bond promotion,
Commercial Travellers' Association Collection
Hoffman Brick & Potteries Ltd. Collection
Clothing Trades Union Collection
N.D. Harper Collection
Nancye Perry Collection
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