Archives Outside

For people who love, use and manage archives

Archives Outside - For people who love, use and manage archives

“Gone but not forgotten”

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Empty beer bottles on Norfolk Island, 1 December 1942, presumably emptied by DMR employees

During World War II the NSW Department of Main Roads built defence works for the Commonwealth government in the Northern Territory and Queensland and for the United States Army on Norfolk Island. It compiled photographs taken by its employees in albums, neatly labelling them.


Construction operations, Northern territory, 1940-1941.

I made use of these albums when putting together the World War II section of the Australia and War digital gallery. But I could only include a small number of these fascinating photographs. Now the albums have been digitised and are available through Photo Investigator. They record the construction methods and equipment, the working conditions and the effects of heavy rains on the work, as well as including picturesque touristy shots. They are well worth a look even if you are not into old cars and trucks.

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Plant bogged after rain, possibly Belyando River area, 1942-1943 (cropped image)


World War II Trench Art & Workplace Signs…. yes, really

Last year we featured records created during World War II by the NSW State Government on our website. They have included examples of the NSW government reaction to the bombing of Darwin, NSW Preparations for war  as well as NSW under attack, we hope that you have enjoyed seeing these.

We would like to post something completely different to highlight the fourth and last part of our War and Australia: World War II digital display. This part of the display features the work of manufacturing and transporting defence supplies within NSW, especially by the NSW Government Railways.

Trench Art

Firstly a contribution from a staff member. When my colleague, also called Jenny, first heard back in February 2012 that we were mounting a display about the war in Darwin, she brought in these salt and pepper shakers to show us. They were made from American .50 BMG cartridges by her grandfather, William Howard, whilst he was stationed at Darwin. He enlisted in the Australian Army on 12 October 1941 and was discharged on 1 September 1945.

The .50 caliber cartridges were manufactured by Remington Arms in 1942, as shown on their headstamps, and were of the type used in the Browning M2 machine gun. They are 14cm long in total. The length of the casing (10cm) provides plenty of space for salt or pepper. Thanks to Andrew, another staff member and Army Reservist, for helping us identify them. More information about this type of ammunition can be found at this site . We thought the salt and pepper shakers were extraordinary and deserved to be seen. And here they are!

They are an example of trench art. See the Australian War Memorial’s website for other examples of trench art using bullets including a Trench art cross and a Bullet Casing cigarette lighter.

 Workplace Signs

Secondly, a collection of signs found in the background of images of the Aircraft Production Factory at the NSW Government Railways Chullora Workshops. We have used one of these images in the latest part of the display. But the others were just too interesting to ignore! These signs vividly convey what was at stake. Did they work as a daily reminder or did they just become part of the scenery, like safety signage in our modern workplaces?


 ‘You can’t spell Victory with an absent “T”‘ detail from NRS 17420 item 603/27 showing staff during the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester to the Chullora Workshops 9 March 1945.

‘Near enough is not near enough. Be exact!’ detail from NRS 17420 item 603/57 Aircraft factory, Chullora, c.1943.

‘A concealed mistake is a crime! It may cost a brave man his life’ detail from NRS 17420 item 603/58 Aircraft factory, Chullora, c.1943.

Care to share?

Do you have examples of trench art or reminiscences that you would like to share? Or maybe a link to a favourite example on the web. Let us know in the comments.

Jenny Sloggett is an Archivist working in the Archives Control and Management section of State Records NSW.