ARMED FORCES MEDIA
The Australian colonies contributed military contingents to the New Zealand Wars (1860– 66), Sudan (1885), the Boer War (1899–1902) and the Boxer Uprising in China (1900–01). Regimental newspapers, such as the Cyclone or Austral-Englishmen and the A I Register, were printed on troopships bound for the Boer War, while in South Africa, various colonial military contingents and personalities had their own journals. At home, patriotism ran high and postcards primarily designed to encourage military enlistment were popular, as were artworks such as Norman Lindsay’s Giving Him a Hand (1899). Early cinematography (the biograph) gave public showings, under titles such as The March Down Queen Street (1899) and Two Hours in South Africa with the Troops (1900), to enthusiastic Australian audiences.
In December 1914, coinciding with the Australian occupation of Rabaul in German New Guinea, the Namanula Times (to become the Rabaul Record, 1916–18), possibly the first Australian Army newspaper, was published there. When troopship convoys left Australia for the Middle East from late 1914, many informal soldiers’ newspapers and information sheets, such as Honk: The Voice of the Benzine Lancers (HMAT Ceramic), the Coo-ee (HMAT Suevic), and the Osteralia (RMS Osterley) were published on board.
In 1915, Australian soldiers at Gallipoli received copies of the Peninsula Press, the daily news sheet of the General HQ, Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, but also devised their own irreverent publications, such as Snipers Shots and Dinkum Oil, both edited by 6th Battalion Sergeant Frank Noonan. The Australian and New Zealand military headquarters in Egypt, Palestine, Salonica and Mesopotamia produced a popular official magazine, the Kia-ora Coo-ee, in 1918.
On the Western Front, a range of Allied soldier trench literature was published, such as the Wipers Times (1916–18). Australian troops produced Rising Sun (formerly Honk), Digger (1918–19) and others, and the AIF’s official Aussie: The Soldiers’ Magazine (1918–31).
Many Australian soldiers documented their experiences with Bullet Kodak (‘hits the mark every time’) cameras. Official Army photographers were also active while, on the home front, Australasian Gazette cinema newsreels supported military recruitment drives.
The audio-visual dimension became more important during World War II. The military developed a cinema section and Damien Parer, of the Official Photographic Unit (later to win an Academy Award for his 1943 documentary Kokoda Frontline), sailed with the first convoy of the Second AIF to the Middle East (1940), while the ABC travelled with the next, producing a radio series, At Sea with the AIF. The ABC established a field radio unit and studios in Gaza, Palestine, and also provided printed news material for soldiers.
The 6th Division’s Ammunition Sub-Park newspaper, Ammo Daily (1940), claimed it was the first officially published by the Army during World War II. In Palestine, The AIF News (1940–45) grew to a circulation of 40,000 copies throughout the Middle East. SALT: Authorised Education Journal of the Australian Military Forces and Royal Australian Air Force was launched by the Army Education Service (AES) on 24 September 1941 and distributed ‘one copy to each three soldiers or airmen’; it continued until 1946. The RAAF published Air Force News weekly in 1941; it reappeared as Wings in 1943. The Current Affairs Bulletin, an AES weekly designed to provide ‘knowledge of current events to build morale’, was published from 1942–46; it was taken over by the Commonwealth Office of Education in 1947. Convoy ships and individual regiments continued the tradition of publishing their own—often enduring—newspapers, such as Mud and Blood (2/23 Battalion), Muzzle Blast (2/2 Machine Gun Battalion) and the Ack Ack (2nd Anti-Aircraft Regiment). In 1941, troops in North Africa established a ‘noble roneoed effort’, the daily Tobruk Truth.
Pacific theatre operations brought concentrations of Allied troops to Australia and New Guinea. In Darwin, the Army News was published from 1941 to 1946. In Port Moresby in early 1942, soldiers established Kitbags, a single-sheet paper, followed by the weekly Moresby Army News Sheet. An official Army newspaper, Guinea Gold, started in Port Moresby in November 1942, circulating widely into the South-West Pacific from 1942–46, with up to 64,000 copies printed daily. In North Queensland on 17 May 1943, the Atherton premises of the Tableland Examiner were occupied by the Army, which then produced its own daily newspaper, Table Tops. Later published in Morotai (Netherlands East Indies), Table Tops closed in 1946.
After Prime Minister John Curtin and General Sir Thomas Blamey criticised its efforts for the troops, the ABC created a national Forces Programme (which began on 5 July 1943), broadcast six days a week. In February 1944, radio station 9PA was established jointly by the ABC and Army in Port Moresby, to be followed by RAAF stations in Madang and Milne Bay (the Voice of the Islands). In 1945–46, Australian Army Amenities Service radio stations started elsewhere in New Guinea, including Torokina, Lae and Jacquinot Bay. These services were extended to Australian bases in Borneo, Sabah, Morotai and, eventually, Japan with the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces. More than 20,000 radio receivers, designed specifically for tropical conditions, were produced and distributed.
In the Korean War (1950–53), Radio Commonwealth was established near the Imjin River, close to the truce line with North Korea. During the Malayan Emergency (1948–60) and Indonesian Confrontation (1963–66), the RAAF, building an airfield at Butterworth, established a radio system (1956) using camp loudspeakers. This evolved into RAAF Radio Butterworth, which broadcast to thousands of RAAF base personnel from 1960–87.
Radio broadcasting was also a feature of armed forces media in the Vietnam conflict (1962–72). In 1966, the 1st Australian Logistic Support Group developed its own low-powered station, Radio DJ Vietnam, at Vung Tau, South Vietnam. From 1969 to 1972, the Australian Army operated its own Australian Forces Radio Vietnam, also from Vung Tau. A small, unofficial station,with studios and transmitter, was developed by the RAAF unit at Phan Rang airbase.
The electronic media and the internet took precedence in the armed forces media arena during Australian military operations in the First Gulf War (1990–91), East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq, and in peacekeeping roles. In 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, Radio Australia commenced a daily program for Australians held hostage. A political debate about Radio Australia’s role ensued, and it later—under sufferance—broadcast a program produced by the Royal Australian Navy for sailors during the Gulf War.
Today the main print media organs of the individual Australian Defence Force services remain the Navy News (RAN, 1958– ), Army: The Soldiers’ Newspaper (Australian Army, 1980– ) and Air Force News (RAAF, 1997– ). In addition, the internet and social media afford Australian military personnel worldwide the opportunity to access news and information from home.
REFs: K. Fewster (ed.), Gallipoli Correspondent (1983); K.S. Inglis, This is the ABC (1983); R.L. Wallace, The Australians at the Boer War (1976).