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Conflicts : World War Two : South Australians on active service

South Australian members of the Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF) saw action against Germany and its allies in Europe, North Africa and the Mediterranean, and in the Pacific, particularly in South East Asia and Melanesia, against the Japanese forces.

Hamilton Cummings served as a radiographer with the Free French forces in France and North Africa. His diary describes the conditions under which he worked. His entry for 12 June 1943, reads,

Sunny with a strong breeze. Left at 9.30 am & travelled 112 miles arriving 5 pm. Dust storms all the way & everything covered with sand. Went thro' Ben Ghardine (took 2 snap shots from the car) & then across from (?). Road pretty ghastly & sand, sand, sand. Then passed Pisida in Libra & Zuara & camped between there & Sabratha. I think we are not far from the sea, site not too charming flattish & strong wind. Worden & I in tent next to (?) & just outside Vigne's tent. But dont know how long we shall be here. Not sorry to leave Tunisia & as far as I can see neither are the F.F.C.. I am glad we are staying with the 8th Army but wonder where we shall go. Lots of rumours - Turkey & Balkans/or England.

In fact Cummings went to France where he faced quite different conditions. His entry for 7 January 1944, reads,

Very cold minus 12° I hear . Lots of wounded & yarns of German attacks all over the place - north of Strasbourg (25 kms away) & I hear a village 15 kms from here has been taken. Hope we shant all be prisoners soon. Rigged up a super dark room.

South Australian journalist, Colin Kerr, served with the AIF in both North Africa and the South West Pacific. He worked with the Far Eastern Liaison Office, FELO, as editor of their propaganda pamphlets, and also with the United States Psychological Warfare Branch. His diaries record his experiences in New Guinea and the Philippines. While in New Guinea, on 9 October 1944, he wrote,

If propaganda is worthwhile - and every competent commander today realises it's immense value - the propagandists should be given every possible facility to do his job. I hope that my brethren in the next war don't have to waste weeks & months digging up technicians, training unskilled men-in fact, building up their organisation as they go along.

FELO organised broadcasts in Pidgin English to remote areas of New Guinea to gain the support of the local people. Colin Kerr's records held by the Library include photographs of men loading shells with propaganda leaflets to be dropped in some remote areas of New Guinea and the Pacific.

South Australians contributed to the allied war effort in many other ways. Amongst the less well-known contributions is that of the Intelligence Corps. The experience of one of its members, Don Laidlaw, is told in his booklet, Anecdotes of a Japanese Translator. He had wished to join either the Royal Australian Airforce or Navy, but colour blindness prevented this, so he enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the Intelligence Corps. His memoir explains how, as a new recruit, he found himself called upon to be a Japanese translator with the 4th Military District at Keswick Barracks.

4M.D. Intelligence Corps had need to establish a Japanese Room if only to read and file instructions about matters pertaining to Japan which began to arrive from Victoria Barracks in Melbourne and other Military Districts around Australia. A Room was allocated and, since I was the one person without specific duties, I became the first member of the Japanese section.

Later Don was transferred to Brisbane as an officer with the Central Intelligence Corps, where he worked as a decoder of Japanese radio messages intercepted by the allies.

Women's contribution to the war effort was on a far larger scale and across a much wider range of activities than in the First World War. However, as with that war, the women who served overseas were mainly nurses.

Eve Bidstrup was a South Australian nurse who joined the Australian Army Nursing Service in 1940. She was attached to the 2/4 Australian General Hospital and went with the unit to the Middle East early in 1941. The nurses in the unit were evacuated from Tobruk just before the siege of that garrison. In March 1942 the unit returned to Australia. Later, while still serving as a member of the Australian Army Nursing Service, she spent six weeks with a team of military personnel promoting the sale of war bonds. Her story is one of a number told by South Australian nurses who served overseas, recorded as part of an oral history project for the State Library of South Australia. Details of these recordings can be found under the title History of Nursing in South Australia (OH 17).

2nd Australian Imperial Forces
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A loudspeaker in the New Guinea jungle
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Anecdotes of a Japanese translator. Part 1 of 2
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Anecdotes of a Japanese translator. Part 2 of 2
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Audio equipment used for broadcasting propaganda
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Australian Imperial Force
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Australian Imperial Force
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B.G. Francis and D. M. Shepley
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Battalion of Infantry
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Bridging the gap between two wars
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Broadcasts to New Guinea
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Colin Kerr standing outside a grass hut
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