Case 7: War and Industry

Letters from here and there

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.

  • Letter from Flight-Sgt. Geoffrey Raymond Emmett on the beauty of New Guinea, 16 June 1943.
  • Register of War Service, open at Emmett's record; it includes newscuttings about Emmett's tragic death a month after he wrote the letter, when his Beaufort was accidentally shot down by a U.S. plane, and details the circumstances which hampered rescue attempts, even though the life raft was sighted at different times as late as 6 August 400 miles away, before a severe storm is thought to have sunk it.
  • Letter from Air-Vice-Marshall Frank McNamara, who had won a Victoria Cross as an airman in 1917, describing his present 'parish', which covers Ethiopia, British Somaliland, Socotra and much more, plus a vast area of sea to patrol, 25 December, 1944.
  • Card from Lieut. A.G. Austin, later a Professor of Education at the University, Christmas 1942.
  • Letter - Arthur Hayes, RAAF, India, 13 October, 1944, recounting pleasure in reading the College magazine The Griffin; trip from England to India via 'a lonely desert station in Iraq...met Jack Devine. We 'nattered' like two of the local 'wogs'...'

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.

  • Card index, Ormond College service record 1939-.
  • Postcard of Alexandria, Egypt from Col. Clive Disher, 24 March, 1941.
  • Letter, Capt. E.E. Dunlop, Jerusalem - Allen, 2 February 1940, recounting a discussion with Col. Clive Disher; Dunlop had arrived at Port Said from England ten days earlier.
  • Lletter, H.J. Tippett (a principal of Ballarat engineering firm Ronaldson & Tippett, shown in another case in the exhibition) - D.K. Picken (Master), 2 March 1943, enclosing copy of a letter concerning the disappearance of his son Arthur on a costal air operation with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
  • Letter, David Derham, New Guinea - Allen, 16 August, 1943; recounting meetings with other Ormond people; recently had his first beer for 5 months (David P. Derham was another son of A.P. and Frances Derham, and would later be Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, 1968-1982).
  • Letter, Lex Rentoul, London - Allen, 29 March, 1941, describing life in bomb-ridden London.

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.

  • Letter John Foster (Registrar) - Ted Finn et al., 27 June 1941.
  • Selection of cards and letters from office staff in the services.
  • Photograph of administrative, library and other general staff associated with the Registrar's office c.1937.
  • D. Lewis, circular letter, 7 October 1942 with news from the office and the University generally, including air raid drill and a strike by medical students.

War Production: Directors and manufacturers, big and small

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.

  • Letter from Sir Alfred Davidson, Bank of New South Wales, to Hartnett, 21 June 1940: one of many in his files congratulating him on his appointment (his reply is carbon-copied on to the back to save paper).
  • Photograph of Bren Gun carriers trialling on sand.
  • Mounted scale model of Bren Gun carrier presented to Hartnett by Kenneth Cox, Production Manager 'as a token of personal appreciation'.
  • Cartoon and three photographs relating to the production of Anti-Tank Guns by General Motors-Holden, whose engineering work force included women.
  • Hartnett album with cartoon of key Munitions figures astride a shell launched by the Director of Explosives, and photographs relating to 25-pounder guns, supplies damaged in an air drop over New Guinea prior to the development of the 'Storpedo' by the Inventions Directorate - a spring wire capsule designed to bounce, Anti-Tank gun barrel, and Hartnett on a mission in relation to the 'Lend Lease' Agreement with the United States.
  • Mounted samples of spirit bubbles produced by the University of Adelaide for the Ordnance Production Directorate (several of these had 'gone missing' prior to transfer to Archives).
  • Copy of letter from BHP Chief General Manager, Essington Lewis (who had been appointed Director-General of Munitions in May 1940, just one of many official wartime positions he held) to Hartnett 24 May 1945, recalling their team's efforts since 'the dark days of 1940'.
  • Opening section of Hartnett's address to the Annual General Meeting of the Australian Industries Protection League at the Melbourne Chamber of Manufactures 11 April 1945, in which he emphasises the overwhelming role of private industry in war production (and the ongoing need to protect private enterprise in the postwar period with a Labor government).

Hartnett Collection

  • Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, set up late in 1936 by a consortium including General Motors-Holden, BHP and Collins House companies, continued to manufacture Wirraways as trainers during the war years, diversifying as the war progressed into Mustangs and other models.
  • Photographs of the 200th Wirraway off the Fisherman's Bend production line, December 1940.
  • Graph of wage-labour numbers working at C.A.C. during the war years, prepared by Jack Nowell, assistant to Aircraft Factory superintendent.

Nowell Collection

  • Many 25-pounder guns and other items were produced by Richmond firm Chas. Ruwolt Pty Ltd. Established in Wangaratta in 1902 to make windmills and farm machinery, moving into mining dredge construction and repairs for the Victorian and Malayan market, the firm relocated to Melbourne in 1913 and was acquired by British giant Vickers Ltd. in 1948. The works was a 24-hour operation at the height of wartime production.
  • 'Top brass' inspection.
  • Manhandling a Howitzer in the field.
  • Invitation to a Display of Completed Ordnance Equipments at the works, 9 May 1944, to mark the occasion of the completion of the 1000th Gun (with background photograph).
  • Two photographs of delivery of petrol lighters fabricated at Ruwolts.

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'.

  • Minute Book, showing part of minutes of 4 December 1945, with item reprinted from Ballarat Courier, 9 January 1945.
  • Photograph of 3" 20 cwt. Mobile anti-aircraft gun fitted with Ronaldson & Tippett gun cradle.
  • Page of photographs from a firm scrapbook, relating to its float in the 'Victory Day' procession, 10 June 1946.