Three years ago the museum’s education team and the NSW Department of Education began to investigate how to run a student-centred research program to engage high school students with stories from World War II (WWII). This program would mark the significant anniversaries of the WWII battles in the Pacific. Eight high schools from Australia and the USA joined the scheme this year to research ‘War and Peace in the Pacific 75 years’, a project funded by the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney Australia, the New South Wales Department of Education – Learning Systems Directorate and supported by the USA Bicentennial Gift Fund.
Last Thursday I had the privilege to attend the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea on board USS Intrepid, a WWII aircraft carrier, where the museum’s new documentary Clash of the Carriers, premiered in front of Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull and Mrs Turnbull, President of the United States, Donald and Mrs Trump, veterans of the battle and 700 guests.
On 28th March 1942 the troopship RMS Queen Mary arrived in Sydney with 8,398 Americans on board, destined for the Pacific War. These first American troops to be transported on the ‘Grey Ghost’ (the nickname for the camouflaged giant, yet fast, former liner) had embarked in Boston on the 18th February on what became known as their ’40 days and 40 nights’ voyage.
SS Mariposa was launched in 1931 by the Matson Line to carry 700 passengers in luxury across the Pacific from San Francisco to Sydney. Stripped down to carry up to 5000 personnel, Mariposa was one of the minor ‘monsters’ of the Allied troopship fleet during World War II. The world’s biggest ocean liners, nicknamed ‘the monsters’ were requisitioned to transport troops and materiel because they could outrun most enemy ships and submarines and therefore needed fewer naval escorts as they sailed around the world.
Where else can you see a President’s signature (Abraham Lincoln), a Queen’s signature (Victoria R), rare books and etchings, and a seventy-year-old gardenia in one place – but in the USA Gallery of the museum!
These are just a few of the objects from the multi-million dollar collection of paintings, models and artefacts we’ve compiled from the museum’s American collection to represent more than 200 years of the close maritime connection between the seafaring nations of the USA and Australia.
Throughout my internship I have been investigating various diaries and logs to gain access into the lives of the authors, quite literally. Who were these people? Where did they live? In what country? Did they have any relatives? Children? A spouse? When was their birthday? Do they talk about their occupation? These are just a few questions running through my mind as I read and research. But while this process is important to conducting a thorough search into the object to understand provenance and historical background, there is another increasingly overlooked reason to conduct this research – copyright.
Gervais Purcell’s photographs depicting tests for an underwater camera by Amalgamated Wireless Australasia in Sydney have an interesting association with the discovery of the sunken HMS Affray on 14 June 1951 near Hurds Deep in the English Channel.
The first week of September sees the Blu-ray release of The Monuments Men. Imbued with an all-star cast, including George Clooney, Cate Blanchett & Matt Damon, this isn’t just another wartime drama, but the true story of the greatest art heist in history.
Julian Bickersteth of International Conservation Services tells part of that story here.
It is not often that a conservator appears in a movie – we are one of those professions that tend to operate under the radar, hidden away in the back of museums. But when we do hit the limelight we like to do it in style, so it is great to see a conservator taking a lead role in The Monuments Men, played by none other than George Clooney.
George plays the central character of George Stout (called Frank Stokes in the film) who was a key player in the Monuments Men, or to give them their full title, the Monuments, Fine Art and Archives (MFA&A) section. Set up by the Allied Forces in World War II, they were entrusted with the mission of locating and protecting works taken by the Nazi Regime. The film is based on the book of the same name by Robert Esdel, and tells their remarkable story, based around a simple job description: to save as much of the culture of Europe as they could during combat.
I’m pleased to announce the first winner of the museum’s #HoodsHarbour People’s Choice competition for the month of April. Myleah Bailey from Victoria has chosen this photograph from the museum’s Samuel J Hood collection via our Flickr Commons photostream. It depicts crowds at Circular Quay, Sydney welcoming home the crew of HMAS Sydney II on 10 February 1941. The ship had left Australia 10 months previously for battle in the Mediterranean and relatives were keen to see their fathers, uncles, cousins, brothers, husbands, fiancées, boyfriends and friends again. Myleah told us why this was her favourite from the Hood collection, which now forms the basis for the photograph’s exhibition label:
The faces and fashions change, but be it 1941 or 2014 the heartfelt message, and title, of this image remains the same – ‘Welcome Home’.
Our winner told me she ‘was very surprised to receive it! I really enjoyed seeing the pictures in the exhibition and there were many beautiful ones displayed.’ Congratulations Myleah!
Every now and then, a story comes forward from within the museum’s collection that astounds us. For a long time the identity of the young woman depicted in this World War II propaganda poster was a mystery. Staggeringly, just two months ago, the woman on the poster came forward. This is a snippet from Weslee D’Audney’s story which has featured in the museum’s latest issue of Signals. The exhibition Persuasion: US propaganda posters from WWII closes on 20 March 2014.
“I HAVE NEVER BEEN FAMOUS, though my face adorns a famous poster that blanketed America during World War II – and even now pops up almost weekly in a new form. I’m probably the only person alive who remembers its creation.
This humble fishing trawler led a double life during World War II. In 1941, in Singapore, it evacuated people to Sumatra during the Japanese advance. Renamed MV Krait (after a deadly Indian snake), the boat was fitted out in Australia for Operation Jaywick in 1943. Perfectly disguised as a local fishing vessel, Krait sailed boldly into Japanese-occupied waters with a team of Z Special Unit commandos whose mines blew up and severely damaged seven enemy ships in Singapore harbour.
After the war, Krait worked in the Borneo timber trade, until it was recognised by two Australians on a business trip in 1962. Krait returned to Australia to a hero’s welcome, a testament to Australian sacrifice during war. Krait is on loan from the Australian War Memorial.
The vessel was recently moved to Noakes shipyard on Monday 9th December 2013 for its annual slipping. The work package for this preservation was agreed by the Australian War Memorial and the Australian National Maritime Museum. MV Krait ex-WWII veteran under the care of the ANMM has been slipped for a preservation period of 2 weeks.
In 1938, on an uninhabited island somewhere between America and New Zealand, a German nobleman anchored his schooner. He had a mission. Twenty-one years previously, he’d buried treasure, or as he told the American press, ‘a chest with gold and German banknotes’. He told The Australian Women’s Weekly that a ‘plan of the hidden treasure was tattooed on his knee’ and he was finally making the journey from his country to retrieve it. There have been many labels used to describe Count Felix Graf von Luckner – war raider, Nazi spy, gentleman pirate, ‘rollicking buccaneer’, and the list goes on. Some of them are unfounded, yet some of them contain elements of the truth. So when he finally arrived, Samuel J Hood was on hand to photograph the man famed for sinking 28 Allied merchant vessels in 1917. Hood’s photographs display a glimmer of the controversy and suspicion aroused that day back in May 1938 as tensions brewed in Europe and a German war raider known as Der Seeteufel (the Sea Devil) sailed into Sydney waters in the dead of the night. Continue reading
The year is drawing to a close and we have enjoyed investigating, researching and sharing parts of the museum’s collection with you. We have come across the weird and wacky, but we have also made discoveries that have stopped us in our tracks and demonstrated the enormous depth of the collection.
She had a lovely voice. I wanted that voice. She was leaving to go to her house and I did not want her to go. I grabbed her by the throat. I choked her; I choked her. (Edward Leonski, quoted from trial transcript, National Archives of Australia Barcode 101035 p364)
In early 1942 two very different American soldiers arrived in Australia as part of a surge of United States troops based in Australia to fight the war in the Pacific. Hayford Octavius Enwall was a lawyer who was working as the Chief Legal Officer of the US Army Services of Supply and Edward Joseph Leonski was a problematic, troubled soldier with the US 52nd Signal Battalion. By the end of the war Enwall left Australia a married man, having fallen in love with Jean Kennett – a poster girl for Australian army recruitment. Leonski on the other hand did not leave Australia alive, and was executed at Pentridge Prison in 1943 for the murders of three Melbourne women. Continue reading
Arriving in Australia in 1892, as the Australian towing industry was coming into its own, HERO remained a feature on (and at the bottom of) Sydney Harbour for nearly 70 years. Continue reading