Meet the Women Behind Some of the Most Famous (and Infamous) Men in History
Author Recognizes 40 Forgotten Wives, Mistresses, and Partners in New Book
While political, cultural, and celebrity figures such as Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, and Frank Sinatra often receive their own chapters in history, the women in their lives barely register a footnote despite having their own remarkable stories and contributions.
In her latest book, Behind Every Great Man: Forgotten Women Behind the World’s Famous and Infamous (ISBN: 9781492603054; MARCH 3, 2015; $16.99 U.S.; Biography/History; Trade Paper), author Marlene Wagman-Geller features 40 women who were overshadowed by the alpha males in their lives, yet merit their own place in the annals of history.
Meet the untold half of history, including:
- Literary Wives—Constance Lloyd (Mrs. Oscar Wilde), Ann Charteris (Mrs. Ian Fleming), and Joy Davidman (Mrs. C.S. Lewis)
- Hollywood Wives—Alma Reville (Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock), Oona O’Neill (Mrs. Charlie Chaplin), and Jane Nebel (Mrs. Jim Henson)
- Political Wives—Kasturba Kapadia (Mrs. Mohandas Gandhi), Cyla Müller (Mrs. Simon Wiesenthal), and Emilie Pelzl (Mrs. Oskar Schindler)
- Infamous Wives—Ethel Greenglass (Mrs. Julius Rosenberg), Ruth Alpern (Mrs. Bernie Madoff), and Althea Leasure (Mrs. Larry Flynt)
This collection of 40 short biographies highlights the powerful women who stood behind their men, for better or for worse, and helped steer the course of history.
REMEMBER THE LADIES
Over the centuries, the saying, "Behind every great man is a great woman" has proven to be more than a girl-power chant. As it turns out, the long shadows cast by alpha males throughout history have obscured many stories of truly intriguing women who acted as their right hands and muses, the magicians behind the screen. For these intrepid females, supporting their famous husbands and partners by helping them achieve their destinies was frequently a Herculean task, accomplished in spite of sagas of alcoholism, infidelity, breakdowns, divorce, and despair (usually on the men's part).
How did these women do it? Were they members of some more evolved species than the rest of us-equipped to handle the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of power? By casting light on the wife (or girlfriend) behind the famous man, we can begin to understand these "better halves" who left indelible lines on the visage of history through their husbands and their own works. The fairer sex has consistently been relegated to the footnotes of time under the label of "so-and-so's lover," "wife," or "widow." As Dorothy Parker observed in "The Little Hours," "Oh, well, it's a man's world." It is time for them to emerge from the shadows, both because their stories shed new insight on the famous men featured in history and because their own lives are equally as fascinating. In the feminist essay, "A Room of One's Own," Virginia Woolf stated, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." Behind Every Great Man explores the biographies of those who never received a room of their own to shine or whose rooms and stories have never been properly explored.
Wives have generally been the untold half of history, so this book offers a different perspective on history than what we expect: it tells the story of these famous men (and one woman) from the wives' point of view. Public lives and private lives are indivisible, and the detail of the marital relationships of some of the most well-known men gives a rounded picture that helps history come alive. Each chapter explores the real-life Lady Macbeths and Carmela Sopranos whose love humanized their men while often dehumanizing themselves.
But the women profiled here are not those who commandeered time in the spotlight themselves, as their biographies and stories are already part of our cultural psyche. Hence there are no chapters devoted to Eleanor Roosevelt or Hillary Rodham Clinton. The criteria for inclusion entail marriage to a famous spouse who outshone them in the pages of time. While Oscar Wilde is known as the literary great imprisoned for "the love that dare not speak its name," few know of Constance (an apt name for Oscar's semper fidelis spouse), who found herself wed to Europe's most (in)famous homosexual. Mohandas Gandhi is a world icon, depicted with his ever-present spinning wheel, but what about Mrs. Mohandas? She bore him four sons, fasted when he was imprisoned, and died in Aga Khan Prison for complicity in fighting to wrest her country from the yoke of the British Raj. While everyone is familiar with Germany's notorious Nazi dictator and his trademark mustache, few know much about his mystery woman, Eva Braun-Hitler's consort for fourteen years and wife for forty hours. Their relationship leaves lingering questions: was she the First Lady of Nazism or just an apolitical blond who lived in his Bavarian mountain retreat, oblivious to the genocide of which her lover was architect? Can one love a monster and yet not be evil oneself? Find out the answers to these questions and countless others about the remarkable yet little-known women behind history's famous (and infamous) men.
After the joy that ensued from my first three books, I desperately desired a fourth, but inspiration, like love, does not come when summoned. In this case, I found it in the most unlikely of places: former First Lady Laura Bush sparked the idea for Behind Every Great Man. In a White House roast, she likened herself to a character from television's Desperate Housewives. She told the audience, "I am married to the president of the United States and here is our typical evening: nine o'clock, Mr. Excitement here is sound asleep, and I am watching Desperate Housewives. Ladies and gentlemen, I am a desperate housewife!"
After reading this, I rolled my eyes-she was married to the president, her daughters look like they posed for a Norman Rockwell painting, and her wealth was as vast as her native Texas. She, I felt, couldn't possibly know what it was like to be a real desperate housewife. Many American wives congregate every day at work, at home, online, anywhere, bemoaning their lives plagued by drug-addicted family members, threats of foreclosure, and credit card bills with as many digits as phone numbers. But then I wondered if there was more to Mrs. Bush's quote, and it led me to think of the real desperate housewives of history, those who lived and died with their lives forgotten, swallowed by the long shadows cast by the alpha males who garnered the spotlight. Creation is a conjugal act; it is a miscarriage of justice for the great men of history to skimp on spousal credit due to their wives and partners who helped them become who they were (or are). Behind Every Great Man helps settle the score.
The women profiled were chosen by the following process: First I thought of a colorful famous man, and if his wife dwelled in the shadows, I investigated. If her life was an intriguing one and shone light on a hitherto unknown aspect of her husband, she merited a chapter. To illustrate the forgotten wives and partners are not bound by geography, I included ladies from various locales: Emilie Schindler (Germany), Betty X (the United States), Gala Dalí (Spain), and many more. During this process, I discovered fascinating, strange, and sometimes inspiring new information. For example, when Warren Buffett's wife, Susan, departed for San Francisco to become a "geriatric gypsy," she asked Astrid Menks, a middle-aged, never-married, Latvian immigrant to look after her husband. Soon, Christmas cards were signed "Warren, Susie, and Astrid." After Susan passed away, Buffett married his mistress, making her the spouse of the world's second-richest man. This certainly offers hope to all middle-aged Latvian cocktail hostesses.
As with all relationships, upon the conclusion of Behind Every Great Man, I dwelt on the ones that got away-chapters not included. Katharina von Bora, disenchanted with life as a nun, escaped her convent hidden in a wagon that delivered herring. From this odorous start, she became the wife of the great reformer, Martin Luther. The bell tolled for the poet-priest John Donne when he secretly wed the seventeen-year-old daughter of Sir George More. His none-too-pleased father-in-law had him thrown in Fleet Prison where he wrote his wife: "John Donne, Anne Donne, Undone." They don't make 'em like Renée-Pélagie de Montreuil anymore, wife of the world's most prolific pornographer, the Marquis de Sade (who gave us the word "sadism"), her tale lost in the shadow of the Bastille. She stood by her sadomasochist spouse through his sex scandals and jail terms and lived in a convent to provide him with the luxuries he felt his due. There was also the tale of Charles Dickens and the woman-his wife-who bore him ten children before she was supplanted in his affections by actress Ellen Ternan, his muse for Great Expectations. Bugsy Siegel named his Vegas hotel after his lover Virginia Hill, whom he nicknamed "the flamingo" due to her long, slender legs. Both casino and mistress led to his Mafia murder.
The desperate housewives of Greek mythology had nothing on their nonfictional counterparts. There is a nod to these archetypes: the Harpie (Mrs. Salvador Dalí), Galatea (Mrs. Richard Wagner), and the vast spectrum of wives and partners in between. And no self-respecting bird's-eye view of marriage would be complete without the eternal love triangle. While the trio of Paris, Helen, and Menelaus caused the Trojan War, the one between Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII, and Anne Boleyn caused England to divorce Catholicism.
It is time to honor the historic helpmeets, the real-life Suzy Homemakers and muses whose loyalty to their famous men-for better or worse-proved far more extraordinary than what they ever imagined. For these women, the exchange of vows of love (whether formal or not) often equaled trauma-ever-after. Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne, who journeyed to Samoa with her husband, Robert Louis Stevenson, expressed this anti-metronome existence, "My life resembles a wild ride on the crest of a wave that rolls and never breaks."
Abigail Adams, the Founding Mother, admonished in a letter to John, "remember the ladies." It was her plea that the new American Congress not overlook women as they proclaimed freedom from tyranny. Alas, in the end, women were relegated to the shadows, though it did not stop them from leading from the sidelines. In the same way, the wives in Behind Every Great Man became marginalized by history, but never by their impact, though this may not be an insight to which even they were privy. However, sometimes self-effacement was voluntary. As an anonymous Russian literary spouse stated, "The more you leave me out, the closer to truth you will be." But as with the other wives profiled, their remarkable lives do not bear this out.
I hope in this volume you glean some interesting biographical tidbits and, in doing so, let great female figures emerge from the dustbin of time. Perhaps beleaguered spouses today can also take solace that no matter what insensitive or egregious acts their husbands or partners may have committed ("I can't believe you didn't take out the trash again!" or admittedly far worse for some of us), their experiences are likely nothing compared to those of these historic women. It is interesting to ponder, if in retrospect, these intrepid wives, when standing at the altar, had they been privy to what lay ahead (in the vein of "If I Knew Then What I Know Now") would have said "We don't" in lieu of "We do."
In a variation of the title of James Agee's classic novel, let us now praise these unfamous women and let them step out of the cloak of anonymity in which they have long been shrouded. Behind Every Great Man parts the curtain, allowing the wives of the famous or infamous to finally take their place on center stage. I hope Abigail Adams would be pleased in this remembrance of the world's great ladies.
Other books in this genre:
On Friday the 23rd of October 1987 my husband Patrick and I closed the door on our London flat and embarked on an adventure that was to last for 27 years. At the end of it, our lives would be transformed beyond all recognition. Of course, we knew none of that at the time. All we knew was that we were setting out, with enormous excitement, to complete the formalities and furnish and settle in to our new holiday home in the Languedoc.
Three hours or so later we reached Calais, with our van and trailer loaded to the gunnels with household goods. We lumbered off the ferry and, ignoring a small official with a large hat who kept bellowing ‘Fret! Fret!’ at us, we made our determined way to the domestic immigration channel. The small official pursued us, and when he paused for breath I explained politely that, no, we weren’t freight: we were an inoffensive English couple taking some household goods to a maison secondaire. We had all the paperwork, I added helpfully. For a second this gave the small official pause, then he brightened. ‘Douanes, Douanes’ he said, gesturing towards a dilapidated hut off to one side of the docks. Dutifully, we made our way to the Douanes, the customs shed.
The customs officer peered disdainfully through his little window at the dusty Ford Transit sagging on its springs, at the laden trailer with here a chair leg, there a lamp shade poking out from beneath its insecurely tied tarp. Ignoring the fact that I had spoken to him in French, ‘Do you heff an eeenventory?’ he sneered.
Luckily a savvy friend had put me wise. ‘You’ll need an inventory,’ she said. ‘And make sure it’s detailed, if you want to get through customs without too much delay.’ It was good advice. So, taking a deep breath and a large notebook I plunged into the depths of what had been our dining room, but now looked very much like a furniture repository. Two hours later I emerged, bleary-eyed but satisfied with my labours. ‘Two arm chairs, leather,’ I had written. ‘One sofa, matching arm chairs; three side tables; two lamps with brown ceramic bases; two lamps with orange ceramic bases, five drinking glasses, green, small; six drinking glasses, green, large; six knives with red handles; six forks with red handles; six dessert spoons with red handles; five tea spoons with red handles…’ and so it went on, for page after page, and all copied, in triplicate, illicitly on the office photocopier.
We produced the document. It ran to 27 pages; it was written in English with a French translation for each item. It landed on the ledge with a satisfying thump.
‘Mon dieu!’ The customs officer smoothed his moustache with an agitated finger, ‘Passez, passez!’
We waited until we were a kilometre or two beyond the docks before we allowed ourselves the explosion of laughter we felt was our due.
In Destined for Destiny, George W. Bush offers readers an intimate, plainspoken, and often readable look at the character-shaping achievements that led to his inevitable rise to the office of President of the United States.
Written from the heart, not from the brain, this definitive autobiography takes readers on a journey through the 43rd President's life, including his hardscrabble beginnings as the child of West Texas oil millionaires, the remarkable academic performance that earned him entry into the finest East Coast schools, and his proud service to the country as an occasional member of the National Guard sometime around 1972 or 1973.
He proudly recounts his years as a successful oil-business failure and the owner of a baseball team. He even dares to dream the ultimate dream: to become Commissioner of Baseball.
The great man we meet here displays his mother's steely resolve and vindictive temper, his father's keen mastery of language, and his own unique gift of deciding.
His gripping life story deepens when a faith in God hits him one day "like a bottle of Jack on an empty stomach," and he has an encounter with the Prince of Peace that sets George W. Bush on a path to become the greatest War President in history.
To help craft this lasting account of his life and leadership, George W. Bush turned to two writers who have earned not only his trust but his deep friendship: Scott Dikkers, editor-in-chief of The Onion and coauthor of the #1 bestseller Our Dumb Century, and Peter Hilleren, former producer for public radio and some of the nation's finest public-access cable-television stations. Dikkers and Hilleren call on their finely honed journalism expertise every week to write and record the President's weekly radio address on WeeklyRadioAddress.com. Their work on such stirring addresses as "June Terror Update" and "The Pope Is Dead" made them the ideal choice to meet the challenge of chronicling the visionary mark left on history by its shining light, President George W. Bush.
* * *
Free from all the filters, handlers, and facts . . .
I tell the untold story of my inspirational life. You will struggle with me in my strugglesome youth. During the Vietnam War, you will be right there at my side as I face down the terrible enemy of my sinful partying. Together, we will meet and fall head over heels for the love of my life -- Jesus. And through me you will become a beloved, terror-fighting hero in the greatest hour of my presidency, September 11, 2001.
I embarked upon this important and historical work against the advice of my advisors. Come what may, I wanted you to hear my story from me, in my own talking.
George W. Bush
I was with three dogs, all from the same household: Ozzie, a bouncy, athletic and energetic bearded collie cross; Gem, a lovely-natured little Staffordshire bull terrier; and Sam, a rather overweight, but ultra-sociable Cairn terrier whose short, stumpy legs struggle to keep his belly from trailing the ground.
In a country park, high in the hills that overlook Paisley and Glasgow, we were following our regular route. As normal, I checked each field for sheep and cattle before entering. Except, on this occasion the cattle were not apparent from the entrance and were actually ensconced in an obscured dip, around a bend.
The three dogs were off-lead and slightly ahead of me as they charged through the open ground. Well, Ozzie and Gem, at least – Sam was mooching his way around as usual, searching for scraps of discarded picnic food and leaving his scent-mark on just about every raised tuft of grass that he passed.
I knew something was wrong the instant all three stopped what they were doing and stood still. Gem threw me a look from over her shoulder which I loosely translated as:
“We’ve got a problem …”
Confronting us now, and quickly rising to their feet, were about twenty cows. Worse - they each had their young with them.
I returned Gem’s look, hoping she’d interpret it as:
“Keep calm, and walk slowly towards the woods.”
At least in there, I reckoned, the cattle would have no room to charge us, and if we were seen to be walking away from them, hopefully they’d realise we intended no harm to their calves.
The most vociferous of the herd was by now no more than four metres from me. She was snorting and stamping her front hooves on the ground. The others were becoming more animated and vocal as they circled us. I shot a look towards the wooded area, some fifty metres away.
The alarmed baying of the group in front of us had alerted a splinter-herd, who had been resting-up in the shade of the very same woods.
Gem slowly turned her head towards me, a quizzical look on her face. I think she was saying:
“What now, wise-guy?”
‘What now?’ indeed.
Well, Ozzie, being of nimble foot, had already made himself scarce and scarpered towards the bottom end of the field. Gem, ever so trusting, was still awaiting instruction.
Sam, completely unaware of any possible danger, decided he’d like to make friends with the cattle. This was not helping, at all.
A car stopped on the road that bisects the park, and the driver came to the fence around a hundred metres away. From his vantage point, down the slope from where we were cornered, he could see a gap forming in the herd. He shouted to me and pointed to where we should run.
And run we did – Gem close by my side.
It was, as I’d read in magazine articles, ‘every man and dog for themselves,’ as we, the faithful Gem and myself, raced through the break in formation. Sam, however was still dithering around with his new ‘pals.’
“Come on Sam” I hollered. “BISCUITS!”
That did the trick. His little legs were a blur as he tried to catch up, more afraid of missing out on a treat than the danger of being trampled and kicked to death by an irate cow or two.
We quickly reached the sanctuary of the road, where Ozzie was waiting:
“What kept you?” I could imagine him panting.
My mother drives me crazy. She can send me from love to exasperation faster than my Uncle Henry's Jaguar racecar could go from zero to sixty. I'm almost fifty years old, and you'd think by now she couldn't exert this level of power over me.
"Mom, you can't just think about it. You have to call your doctor. A possible blood clot in your leg is nothing to mess around with."
Part of me wants to hang up the phone, pack my little-girl red-and-black-plaid plastic suitcase, and run away to oblivion.
I don't run. I stay because she's my mother and she needs me.
Travel with Beth on a journey through machine guns & mafia, romance & heartbreak, dreams & struggles and find keys to unlock your destiny all along the way. "Beth Olson is a great friend of mine. I know her well. In her new book, you can follow a life story of difficult decisions she made in following her passion, knowing God intimately. You'll also learn how to apply what she learned for practical use in your own journey.
I wish the world had more than just one Beth Olson in it." -Bob Phillips, Former Pastor with David Wilkerson at Times Square Church, Teaching Pastor and Director of Academy for Cultural Transformation at Heartland Church "Diary of a Missionary Kid by Beth Olson is a must read for anyone who desires to live a wide eyed adventure with God. The journey of Beth Olson is the ripe fruit of a life courageously and honestly lived." -Leif Hetland, Founder and President of Global Mission Awareness, Author of Seeing Through Heaven's Eyes
The Space Age: a time of Sputnik and Saturn rockets, populated by men with names such as Glenn and Gagarin. Now you can relive the countdown with In Their Own Words: The Space Race The Apollo, Mercury, and Gemini Missions, an unparalleled 7 Cassette audio suite that provides unfettered access to authentic Mission Control transmissions and interviews with the men behind them. Including a bonus 2-hour DVD containing rare archival footage and newsreels, In Their Own Words: The Space Race utilizes vintage vivid documentary and narrations, revealing interviews, and audio clips of Presidents and pilots alike to chronicle all 17 Apollo missions, including the pioneering Mercury and Gemini programs. From blastoff to splashdown, you are there, experiencing Neil Armstrong's lunar "leap for mankind" and the shocking suspense of Apollo 13. America's space program reverberates thrillingly throughout the In Their Own Words collection.
Rediscover the most groundbreaking moments in the history of space exploration with documentary footage and narration, candid interviews and the actual transmissions between Mission Control and crews of the Apollo, Mercury, and Gemini projects.
Tape/CD 1: The Beginning of the Dream: Project Mercury
Tape/CD 2: Gemini Ups the Stakes
Tape/CD 3: Race to the Moon
Tape/CD 4: The Triumph of Apollo 11
Tape/CD 5: Laughs from the Moon: Apollo 11 and 12
Tape/CD 6: "Houston, we have a problem"
Tape/CD 7: Apollo 14, 15, 16, 17 and the .Legacy of Apollo
*Race to the Moon
Features rare archival footage, documentaries, and an interview with Wernher von Braun, "father" of the Apollo program.
“William Charker, for your part in the burglary of the dwelling of Thomas Evans at St. Mary Lambeth and stealing goods to the value of £33.60 you are hereby sentenced, along with your accomplice, to 7 years transportation to the colony of New South Wales.”
William Charker was born in Winchester, Hampshire, England on 16th of December, 1774. The fourteenth child of a family of fifteen, his father, Edward Charker, a Tallow Chandler and his mother Elizabeth (nee Barr). The Charkers were wealthy traders and yeoman farmers and so William well educated and independent. On the 7th of December, 1800 he inexplicably became involved (with an accomplice) in a substantial burglary at the dwelling house of Thomas Evans at St Mary Lambeth stealing goods to the value of £33.6.0.
The two were arrested and tried on 25th of March, 1801 at the Surrey Assizes. Each sentenced to only seven years even though their crime being a capital offence. At his trial, his name given as William Charker, alias William Chalker, was is the first known use of the alias which became his general name in Australia, except on Legal Documents and Government Correspondence where he always used Charker.
William had known a little about New South Wales. He had said to Thomas “my knowledge amounted to little more than that after being discovered by the explorer James Cook in 1770,” New South Wales had become an alternate for transportation destination of convicts as the Americans were no longer willing to have convicts dumped there after their War of Independence in in1776.
Transportation had become a viable alternate both physical and financial to storing the excess prisoners that there was no longer room in the overcrowded prisons. The short term solution of holding prisoners in prison hulks moored in the rivers of southern England.
Hulks were retired naval or merchant ships that would still float but considered unseaworthy. In most cases, all the upper superstructure (Masts, etc.) had been removed and most of the below deck space converted into gaol cells. Because of the poor condition of the hulks, more guards were necessary as well as the continual outbreaks of disease created an unacceptable risk to the greater population.
Transportation costs would be about the same cost as keeping prisoners in hulks but once they arrived in New South Wales they could be put to work and the colony would become self-sufficient in a short time. Additionally, as there was no danger of escape back into the English general population, it became possible to cut a large number of guards.
On the 6th of December 1785, Orders in Council were issued in London for the establishment of a penal colony in New South Wales, on land claimed by Britain by explorer James Cook in his first voyage to the Pacific in 1770.
The First Fleet is the name given to the 11 ships which left Great Britain on the 13th of May 1787 to found a penal colony that became the first European settlement in Australia. The fleet consisted of two Royal Navy vessels, three store ships, and six convict transports, carrying more than one thousand convicts, marines and seamen, and a vast quantity of stores. From England, the Fleet sailed southwest to Rio de Janeiro, then east to Cape Town and via the Great Southern Ocean to Botany Bay, arriving in mid-January 1788, taking two hundred and fifty-two days from departure to final arrival.
William went first to the County Gaol and then on to the prison hulk HMS Protée. Protée started as a sixty-four gun ship of the line of the French Navy, launched in 1772. Captured by the Royal Navy on the 24th of February 1780 and converted to serve as a prison ship in 1799, then finally broken up in 1815.
William surveyed his surroundings and later he would recall to his children.
“The conditions on board the floating gaols were appalling; the standards of hygiene were so poor that disease spread quickly. The living quarters were so bad that it was like living in a sewer. The hulks were cramped, and we had to sleep in fetters. We had to live on one deck that was barely high enough to let a man stand. The officers lived in cabins in the stern.”
“When on arriving on board, we were all at once stripped and washed in two large tubs of water, then, after putting on a suit of coarse slop clothing, we were put in irons and sent below with our own clothes being taken from them.”
“We now were poorly dressed as well as unhealthy. They were supposed to give us a linen shirt, a brown jacket and a pair of breeches but the men who controlled the ships usually pocketed the money the government had given for our clothes.”
“Six-hundred of us were confined in this floating dungeon nearly, most of us were double-ironed, and I saw the horrible effects arising from the continual rattling of chains, the filth and vermin naturally produced by such a crowd of miserable inhabitants, the oaths and execrations regularly heard amongst them…. The sick were given little medical attention and were not separated from the healthy.”
“I felt elated when finally in January 1802, I was transferred to the convict transport Coromandel. Us convicts were housed below decks on the prison deck and often further confined behind bars. In many cases, we were restrained in chains and only allowed on deck for fresh air and exercise. Conditions were cramped, and we slept in hammocks.”
“We departed from Spithead in company with the Perseus on 12 February 1802.”
As soon as they cleared, England conditions aboard improved. They were now no longer considered a threat of escape, and so the restrictions were somewhat eased.
As they sailed south to and past the Canary Islands, the daily routine was beginning to set in. At four in the early morning, the prisoner cooks (three in numbers) were admitted on deck and at five-thirty. The captain of his division (the convict nominated as a senior convict) joined the other captains on the upper deck for the purpose of filling wash tubs while the remaining prisoners commenced taking up their beds and hammocks. By six, William and the first half of the prisoners were admitted for the purpose of washing their person. Within half an hour the other half were allowed to wash. Breakfast was at eight and during breakfast, the ship’s crew were cleaning upper deck and water closets
While heading southwards across the Atlantic to Rio de Janeiro, they ran into the first of many storms.
William managed to keep his food down, but the ship became awash with vomit. The seasoned sailors joked about how convicts predicament. It must be realised that the majority of the convicts had never been to sea and were still recovering from the cramped conditions aboard the prison hulks.
Aboard the Ship were several families of free settlers, but as they were kept separate from all the convicts, William knew nothing about them. He wondered what people would voluntary take their family to this unknown place that reportedly had very few refinements and facilities.
“The clouds seem to rise from the water, turning day into night. Then suddenly the wind began to howl, and initially the ship lurched dangerously to starboard before the helmsman could correct the list. I thought that we were goners. Then came the driving rain, It was so fierce I was sure it was cutting into the deck timbers above them. The unbearable stench of the vomit from my fellow prisoners seemed to cover the whole deck. We would have preferred to be on deck instead of in that hell hole we were confined.”
The storm abated after about 10 hours and then the weather calmed. The days were becoming warmer as the travelled through the tropics and the many tropical storms did not seem as bad as that first one not long after they sailed past the Canary Islands.
The daily routine continued and to Williams first surprise as well as cleaning and general “housekeeping duties” there was a regular schooling and religious instruction. He could not figure out if this were to subdue the convicts and keep discipline or did the authorities think that a better education and religious training would cause them to “change their bad habits.”
Not long after he sighted land off Brazil, he noted that the course turned to south-eastward and followed the westerly winds across the Atlantic to the Cape.
The seas were beginning to roughen up, and the temperature had dropped, but it was still a lot warmer than when they had left England.
The journey across the southern Atlantic was reasonably uneventful until they drew nearer to the Cape. The wind increased dramatically causing the ship to pitch and roll. Even the sight of land on the port side did little to raise the spirits of William although after they had sailed a day into the Indian Ocean, the weather improved.
It was during this time that one of the convicts became violently ill and despite the efforts of the crew, he passed away.
It amazed William to how all the crew and every convict lined the decks while the poor soul was given a decent burial at sea.
“We all lined the deck. Prisoners, officers, crew as well as the free settlers. The body was on a plank leaning over the side and covered with the Queen’s flag. As the captain said those words that committed the body to the sea, two of the crew raised one end of the plank, and the lifeless body slid from underneath the flag and into the deep.”
In reflection, William pondered as to how different the voyage was as compared to the horrific stories that had been circulation in the gaols and prison hulks in England.
He noted that the crew at no time had acted as guards, and a few of the crew showed great symphony for the convict’s predicament. He had also admired the respect that the crew had shown the female convicts and how some of them entertained the children of the female convicts.
By the end of May they had crossed the Indian Ocean and at times over the next few weeks, they kept seeing land to the north of the port beam.
The land kept on appearing as they turned north and there was an air of excitement mixed the in trepidation of what lay ahead.
Finally, on the 13th of July 1808, they sailed into Port Jackson.
As they sailed through the heads, the captain decided to allow groups of convicts on deck. Each group was allowed fifteen minutes. The captain knew that if he kept them confined he would run the risk of rioting because if they saw a glimpse of their destination, they would start to relax and possibly an air of excitement would replace the feelings of despair some must have been feeling.
“It was unbelievable.” William later recalled “This big harbour that seemed to go for miles. The soft green grass behind the mixture of rocky shores and small golden beaches and the thick bushland behind the shores made this place seem like paradise.”
They had sailed nonstop, the first convict ship to do so, Governor King on the 9th August 1802 was so impressed with the treatment and the condition of the prisoners that he wrote the following report:-
“The healthy state in which the Coromandel and Perseus arrived requires my particularly pointing out the masters of those ships to your notice. It appears by the log books, surgeon's diaries and the unanimous voice of every person on board those ships that the utmost kindness to the convicts. This, with the proper application of the comforts Government had so liberally provided for them and the good state of health all the people were in, induced the master of the Coromandel to proceed without stopping at any port. He arrived here in four months and one day, bringing every person in a state of high health, and fit for actual labour.And although it appears that the Perseus necessarily stopped at Rio and the Cape, yet the convicts were in as good condition as those on board the Coromandel. Nor can I omit the great pleasure felt by myself and the other visiting officers at the thanks expressed by the prisoners and passengers for the kind attention and care they had received from the masters and surgeons, who returned, an unusual quantity of the articles laid in by Government for the convicts during the voyage.”
William’s first sight of Sydney Cove was as they were disembarking at the rickety wharf.
“I was amazed at how the settlement had developed after only 14 years. Although rudimentary it was a thriving village.”
William was at first extremely unsteady on his feet due in part to a long sea voyage on rolling seas but also with the cramped conditions on board.
“The smells of shore are amazing. Clean, crisp air, the pleasant aromas of real food cooking but most importantly the lack of stench from humans living so close for so long. I could begin to see that it wasn’t going to be as bad as I had thought to live in this so called hell hole. I see that it may be possible eventually to have a real life in this colony if I behaved myself.”
Much of the town's buildings and infrastructure were centred on the military. The stores and trade were managed mainly be members of the New South Wales Corps and the whole town had a “garrison town” feeling about it.
“My initial thoughts are that the officers New South Wales Corps, seem to have too much influence over the running of the colony and appears that the governor’s office is just to rubber-stamp their decisions. Even the granting of pardons, as well as the allocation of land, seemed to be in the hands of the Corp’s officers.”
“My first night on land is an eerie experience. The lack of movement of the sea along with the entirely different sounds makes falling asleep terrible.”
“Awaking in the morning to the sounds of the native birds chirping along with the clatter of a bustling colony preparing for the task of the day was music to my ears.”
William was assigned shortly after his arrival, to work as a farm labourer for Jonas Archer and Mary Kearns at Mulgrave Place in the Hawkesbury district.
As he travelled to the farm, he was bewildered by the sights and sounds that he encountered.
“My first glance of kangaroos and other native animals give me discomfort although the aboriginals are causing me even more.”
As it turned out before long, he would build a bond and understanding with the local tribes that would lead to a long and peaceful relationship. It was unfortunate that all the settlers were unable to establish this relationship, and distrust disintegrated into bloodshed on many occasions.
Mary Kearns had been convicted of theft in Dublin in 1792 and was sentenced to 7 years transportation. She arrived in Sydney on 17 September 1793 aboard the "Sugarcane".
After completing her sentence, she was granted 65 acres of land in the Hawkesbury area at Green Hills, now known as Windsor.
She had been joined by her lover Jonas Archer and together they had started up clearing for the farm. Jonas was subordinate to Mary as he probably was reminded on many occasions that it was Mary’s grant and, therefore, her farm.
“It was incredible that in two short years, Mary and Jonas were able to clear the land and build a moderately successful farm on these river flats about 20 miles away from Sydney Harbour. Mary was a hard worker, and yet at the same time a very attractive woman, who was trying to build a real future regardless of her poor start.”
Having William assigned to their farm was a Godsend. William was a hard worker and built trust with them. He was always able to make positive improvements, and because he had been raised on farms by his yeoman farmer parents he had a natural gift for mixed farming. “If we plant the vegetable patch between the house and the storage shed, we should have more control over where the animals may roam,” he remarked to Mary shortly after his arrival.
Jonas, on the other hand, had a dislike for farming as well he was proving to be a liability with an extremely bad business attributes.
This untimely led to in 1803, Jonas Archer fled to avoid his creditors and Mary became the sole owner of the farm. Mary always had a liking for William, so it was no surprise that in a short time after Jonas left, she married William. The farm was then known as Chalker’s Farm.
The Rum Corps vs. Governor Bligh
Governor William Bligh reached Sydney on 6th August 1806. He had been sent to replace Governor King, who was looking forward to returning to England. (It was thought that he was disappointed that during his time in office, the officers of the corps had overridden his authority and left him somewhat dejected.
Bligh had a reputation for being extremely autocratic, and he did suffer insubordination from anyone at all.
Losing control of the HMS Bounty to his crew 20 years previous had made him even more ruthless.
Bligh had discovered to his dismay on his arrival that the New South Wales Corps ran most of the commerce under the command of Major George Johnson with the close cooperation of a former officer and now grazier and merchant John McArthur.
Resident farmers of the Hawkesbury region, in particular, had complained to Bligh about the high prices being charged by the Corps for staple goods. The restrictions on availability of mutton by McArthur and, therefore, the high prices for meat further raised their concerns along with the fact that the Corps had attempted to introduce alcoholic liquor (that the Corps had full control of) as a currency. This led the Corps being often referred to as “The Rum Corps” The name being a misnomer as whiskey was the only alcohol used as currency.
Bligh started to attempt to stop these practices and tried to restrict the commercial activities of the Corps but had little success. The impasse continued until on the 26th January 1808 Major Johnson (egged on by McArthur) led a troop in full military regalia accompanied by the regimental band to government house and arrest Bligh. Major Johnson installed himself as the acting governor.
For just under two years Bligh remained under guard until Lachlan Macquarie arrived to assume the position of Governor.
Macquarie was the first non-naval governor and just before his arrival the New South Wales Corps (now known as the 102 regiment of foot) was recalled to England and replaced by the 73 regiment of foot. Major Johnson was court marshalled in England while McArthur was put on trial in Sydney.
Through all this William mostly ignored what was happening in Sydney as he was still a convict and he needed to keep away from controversy for fear of being relocated to another work area. He did, however, hold contempt for the Rum Corps and even more for Bligh, who seemed too weak to control them.
By 1806, they were prospering, but all was about to change with a devastating flood in March of that year in which the settlers lost everything that could not be quickly moved to higher ground. William was driving his stock when he heard the call “HELP.” Looking toward the overflowing river, he saw three of his neighbours struggling in the torrent along with a small child. Without pausing, William ran to the riverbank where his little boat was tied up and rowed out to the middle of the river. He rowed to the child first and after he was aboard William then rowed to save the three men in turn. When it overturned, the adults drowned, but William swam to the shore with the child on his back.
He was rewarded with a Conditional Pardon in August 1806. Conditional pardon meant that although free he was not able to leave the colony until his pardon became absolute. To be pardoned said that William was no longer to be regarded as a thief sentenced to 7 years, but instead, a free man whereas Mary was always to be considered as an ex-criminal.
The Blue Mountains
After the harvest of 1806-7, their marriage ended with a legal separation notified in the Sydney Gazette of July 1807.
The marriage had endured only three years. When it ended, William left took only his horse and left all other property and goods with Mary.
William was granted an Absolute Pardon on April 7th, 1808.
He was now free to return to England but instead chose to remain and enter employment with Gregory Blaxland as his farm overseer, probably at his Brush Farm property and later at his more extensive South Creek holding. William made a good supervisor and had built himself a reputation as a hard worker and a very honest employee.
Along with his Absolute Pardon, William received a grant of 30 acres of land at the Cooks River but did not take up the grant. Instead, in August 1812, he applied for and received a grant of sixty acres at South Creek. The South Creek farm was used mostly to raise cattle while he pursued his other sources of income.
After leaving the employ of Blaxland, he also worked as an overseer for William Lawson at Prospect from 1810 to 1814.
Lawson and Wentworth, as well as being neighbours, were good friends. They were both visionaries who saw the need for the colony’s further expansion in the area. The Blue Mountains to the west had become a barrier to this development of the settlement which was now requiring more farming land to meet its needs, particularly after the droughts of 1812 and 1813.
“The local Indigenous people know at least two routes by which to cross the mountains,” William told Blaxland. The first was along Bilpin Ridge, later followed by Archibald Bell with the assistance of the local Darug people (now the location of Bells Line of Road), and the second was along Cox’s River.
Unfortunately too many of the landholders and free settlers would not believe William as they had all come to distrust the aboriginal people.
Some even believed that the aboriginals were of a sub-human race and therefore not capable of knowing such things. William had long since made friends with a lot of them and as such he appreciated their knowledge of the land. However, he was unable to influence those around him to allow the aboriginals to show the way.
Until 1813 however, the settlers remained unaware of how to cross the mountains, despite several attempts, including two by Blaxland himself. Early in 1813 Blaxland, who wanted more grazing land, obtained the approval of Governor Lachlan Macquarie and approached Lawson and Wentworth to secure their participation in a new exploratory expedition following the mountain ridges.
“Mr. Lawson was able to go with the other two knowing all too well that his farm was being looked after by me,” William told his son at a later date.
Blaxland, Wentworth, and Lawson led an expedition party, which included four servants, four pack horses, and five dogs. Two of the four men who assisted the party have been identified as James Burne, a guide and kangaroo hunter, and Samuel Fairs, a convict who arrived in Australia in 1809. The two others also thought to be convicts, remain unidentified.
The party left from Blaxland's South Creek farm near the modern suburb of St Marys in western Sydney, on 11 May 1813 and crossed the Nepean River later that day. They made their way over the mountains, following the ridges, and completed the crossing in twenty-one days. The explorers' success has been attributed to the methodical approach and decision to travel on the ridges instead of through the valleys. The three explorers and two of their servants would set out each day, leaving the other two men at their campsite, and mark out a trail, before turning back later in the day to cut a path for the horses and allow the rest of the party to progress.
The party first saw the plains beyond the mountains from Mount York. They continued to Mount Blaxland 25 km south of the site of Lithgow, on the western side of the mountains. From this point, Blaxland declared there was enough forest or grassland “to support the stock of the colony for thirty years,” while Lawson called it "the best-watered Country of any I have seen in the Colony.” The party then turned back, making the return journey in six days.
A Riffian's Tune is an autobiographical novel about forging your own path, the power of hope, and daring to step into the labyrinth of life - no matter what.
Deep in the heart of the rural Rif Mountains, one boy's life is dictated by tribal tradition, superstition and religion. But Jusef dreams of more; it's a dream that will send him far from his shepherding hills to the bustle of the big city in search of education, meaning and, above all, a different way of life.
From the richness of a story overflowing with tales of tragedies, courage and triumphs, Jusef's journey reveals the complexities of Moroccan culture and the overwhelming restraints facing those on the fringes.
As the country questions its identity in the fading period of colonial rule, one Berber boy must also challenge who he is and who he is meant to be - as he discovers in the fight against adversity, dreams might not be enough...
The aid workers fed the children and were attending to the needs of the mothers when Frank noticed a group of small boys kicking a football. He commented to John, “No matter how grim things may be, kids will always find a way to play.” One of the mothers told him that they had found the ball in one of the deserted, burnt out villages they passed through.
During a break, Emile was able to share a coffee with some of the aid workers. He was told that the North Vietnamese had set up overnight camps close to the Ho Chi Minh trail, right through the border region. They were usually under heavy vegetation cover and usually near fresh water. This particular camp was not used as it didn't have enough cover. However, it was used a few times. It was common practice for their camp to be surrounded by several land mine fields. The fields are usually well defined with signs in Vietnamese, along with “skull and cross bone” signs. They were made because they figured that any enemy would attack under the protection of darkness, and if this happened, they would not see the signs.
While Emile talked to the aid workers, Frank and John looked around the camp.
A group of small boys was kicking the ball when suddenly a gust of wind blew the ball into the land mine area. One small boy ran after it. He grabbed the ball and turned to the other boys. The huge grin on his face showed how proud he was. He then heard the other boys shouting at “Stand Still!” He looked bewildered until he saw the skull and crossbones sign. His grin turned into a look of horror as he realised where he was standing.
John was the first who heard the commotion and ran to see what was going on. Frank followed him. When they saw the boy in the mine field, John shouted to the boy. “Vẫn bình tĩnh, và chúng tôi sẽ đưa bạn trở lại đây một cách an toàn, nhưng bạn phải ở lại vẫn rất yên tĩnh.” which meant “Stay still, and we will get you back here safely, but you must stay very still.”
The boy nodded. John ran back to the Land Rover and grabbed a long piece of rope. When he returned, he tied one end around a large tree and the other end around his waist. He then said to Frank, “Feed the rope out as I go towards the boy, but make sure you keep it taunt.” He then shouted to the boy in Vietnamese that he was coming for him.
John carefully and slowly edged towards the boy, at the same time he was looking for any signs of the boy’s footprints. There were very few as the ground was fairly well compacted over time. Finally, he reached the boy who at this time was clearly frightened and a stream of urine running down his leg was obvious.
In one movement he picked the boy up and turned around and faced Frank. By now the entire camp had gathered at the site, including Emile.
John then shouted to Frank to pull the rope tight and tighten it around the tree. No sooner had Frank tied it around the tree, he walked out to John and the boy, using the rope as his guide. When he reached John, he took the boy in one arm and the rope in the other and slowly edged back out of the mine field. As he reached the edge, the whole camp roared into applause. He handed the boy to Emile and turned back to John.
John called to him to untie the rope from the tree and to place it on the ground. John then undid the rope around his waist and placed it the ground. He then took a step towards Frank and then another. Everyone was quiet until he took the third step and the sound of a “click.” John froze, and everyone else gasped. John had stepped on a Jumping Jack land mine.
John had a little knowledge of how it worked. He remembered his father telling him years ago that when someone stepped on it, the fuse was dislodged. Then, as the target person stepped off it, the main fuse ignited the first charge and propelled the unit about 2 metres into the air, where it then exploded. This way one mine could injure everyone within range.
He also remembered his father once telling him that, if you lie flat on the ground and a grenade was set off next to you, you would be unlikely to be hurt. This was because of the angle of the explosion. Provided that both you and the grenade were on the ground.
With this in mind, he shouted to Emile, “move everyone away for at least fifty metres, no, make it a hundred metres.”
“I am going to jump down and lie flat on the ground, If I am lucky, the explosion will go above me, and I should be alright. You both move back a bit!”
As soon as they moved back, John jumped forward, but before he reached the ground, the device exploded in the air.
John was killed instantly!
Frank and Emile were also struck! Emile had several shrapnel wounds on his arm, chest and leg. Frank had his left leg severed. Several of the aid workers gave first aid while their leader had called over the radio for help!
As the sunset over the headland at Kings Beach, an elderly couple watched as the passenger liner “Sun Beauty” sailed out to sea on its next voyage. The couple were in the twilight of their lives, and they had shared a beautiful life together. They had earlier that day, spent time with their children, grandchildren, and their great granddaughter while they celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary.
They shared a bottle of Muscadean, a white wine produced from white Muscat grapes grown in Ballandean, hence the name. A light, easy drinking aromatic semi-sweet white makes it perfect served chilled for that warm summer day picnic. They discovered the wine on a weekend visiting Queensland’s Granite Belt wine region and, at once it became “their wine.” Later on, the owners of the winery opened an outlet at nearby Mooloolaba, and while he could still drive, he managed to call in about once a month.
When the sun had set, he dozed off in his favourite chair, placed to take in the picturesque outlook over the entrance to Moreton Bay. She was comfortable with him dozing off, and she knew he was at peace. Although now in his eighties, they both liked to look back at the uncertain times, at the peak of World War two when they first met, and how over time, their love grew.
Although the population considered Australia to be safe at the start of the war, as Europe and Germany were on the other side of the world. Attitudes changed with Japan entering the war. Japan shared the same Ocean as Australia. Although Japan and Australia were successful trading parties before the war, with Japan attacking Pearl Harbour and making menacing overtures towards Singapore, Australia was now at war with Japan.
When Darwin was bombed for the first time in February 1942, the government played down the damage to the public. The general population knew nothing of other bombing raids at Broome, Mossman, Derby and even Katherine.
After the midget submarine attack on Sydney Harbour in May, it had become impossible to disguise that an impending threat became real. This became even serious when rumours began the spread about “The Brisbane Line.”
When it became seriously believed by the government and military that Japan would attack Australia, it needed to be quickly decided what areas should be protected. Because Australia was a vast island with the majority of the population confined to the southeast, in February 1942 General Ivan Mackay drew a line on the map of Australia. This line stretched from the coast north of Brisbane to west of Melbourne. Although no record of the “Brisbane Line” was being activated, many believed, (and some still do) that the line was implemented and all of the country north and west of the line was to be abandoned.
The other item kept from the public, concerned that during the twelve months between May 1942 and May 1943, 25 ships were attacked within forty miles of the New South Wales coast.
The government began to realise that unless they could control panic, large numbers of the population may abandon the major cities like Brisbane.
Because of its proximity to the Pacific battlefronts, Brisbane was the crucial point for resupplying the troops in battle. The Americans developed it as a Major Naval base, including a vast submarine base. In 1942, General McArthur set up his headquarters for the Pacific in Brisbane. Brisbane needed a civilian population to make sure the smooth running of so many essential services.
The government and the military were in a “catch 22” situation. Secrecy needed to be maintained for security, and yet, the population needed to be reassured of their safety. This, compounded by the military distrust of elected politicians, as well as the parliamentarian’s need to placate their constituents. A unique approach obviously was needed.
The member for Port Macquarie and now the defence minister, David Millar called an urgent meeting of his department heads to see if a solution could be found. Because of some of the difficulties, the meeting was held in Sydney. As it happened, in the same hotel that the defence department rented rooms, the senior media lecturer at Queensland University was with colleagues in a get together of their own. Tom Walker was the former editor of a major newspaper who also had extensive experience producing newsreel films. Tom and David were friends from the University of New South Wales, where they both studied. When the defence Minister ran into the media lecturer in the hallway, they made time to have a few drinks and reminisce about their university days.
It was during this time that the Minister started to conceive the basis of how Tom may be able to offer a solution to his problem.
Although they realised, the invasion of these cities by the Japanese would be remote; a specialist public relations unit still should be instigated. It could give reassurance through movies (newsreels) and newspaper articles that would show to the civilian population the defences were in place.
With Brisbane is becoming the headquarters for the allies command for the war in the Pacific, it would become necessary to play down the military importance of Brisbane as a target.
A by-product of these films would be to discourage a Japanese invasion, as they would show the Japanese Brisbane was too difficult a city to invade.
They finished their talk with Tom agreeing to put a concrete proposal together. He needed to show how it would also work including the resources needed. This plan was required to be able to be presented to the War Cabinet by the end of the week.
Being the driven person that he was, Tom was able to put the basis of his proposal together in just two days.
He approached the task as if preparing a lecture for his students. He defined exactly the end achievement needed. What would be the best way of achieving the result? What resources are needed? He was able to present a written proposal two days later.
To reassure the residents of Australia that there was no need to evacuate their homes and thus maintain a steady civilian population to enhance the war effort, I propose to set up the following civilian unit.
1. Reporting directly to, the Defence Minister, this unit will work, in conjunction with the military authorities, but the military shall have no control over the activities of the unit.
2. The unit would make newsreel motion pictures depicting the defence efforts of an area without divulging crucial information that the enemy may not know of.
3. The movies are to be processed and scripted before handing over to the distributors, who will then add the scripted soundtrack using their staff.
4. Regular newspaper and magazine articles are also to be produced.
5. Staff required would be
a. A General Manager to oversee operations and report to the Minister
b. A Cinematographer, who would produce the movies and supervising a cameraman. He would also act as the second cameraman.
c. A Journalist to write articles and the scripts for the movies.
d. A personal assistant to the General Manager who would also act as a secretary and other duties when needed.
e. A driver who must be competent in small boats and all types of motor vehicles. Would also be an aid in labouring and any other tasks as required?
6. The budget would be set by the Minister and vehicles, camera and other equipment to be supplied by the military where available. But the unit would buy directly when needed.
7. The Military are to supply accommodation including living, office and workshop space independently from the military accommodation. The Military is required to provide security for this area.
To his surprise, Tom received a call from the minister that afternoon is telling him it had been approved without alteration. A meeting was set up the next day with the minister and his senior staff. The chief of the defence forces would also be attending.
David told him the cabinet wanted this unit to be operating within a fortnight.
David arranged for Tom to use a parliamentary office in Canberra to enable him to get the ball rolling. Some of the minister’s staff members were allocated to generate all the legal and performance documents needed so that Tom could start with the recruitment. His first need would be for a personal assistant.
David suggested Jill Robertson, 32-year-old, a career public servant with the defence department. She had previously worked for David Millar before he entered politics.
She was married to Colonel Bob Robertson, an Australian military liaison officer attached to the British Air Ministry in London.
Her knowledge of the public service, politics and military protocols would make her invaluable in dealings with government and defence personnel. Not having any ties would enable her to travel as required.
David assured Tom that, as he would be operating a division of the Ministry of Defence and all members of his unit would be paid by the department, so would all expenses. In fact, even though there were shortages of materials and other supplies, Jill would order everything under the auspices of the department. Therefore, all suppliers would, under the wartime regulations, have no alternative than to supply the unit in preference to all others. This would also mean that the unit had priority over the three military branches.
All accounts would be forwarded to the department for payment. This also meant that all the unit’s civilian staff would be treated as Commonwealth Public Servants.
Tom was relieved that he would have no supply problems to hinder the operation.
Ministry Communications Unit
David arranged for an interview and within two minutes, Tom decided that she was ideal, and she wanted the job. Jill transferred to Tom’s unit that afternoon. Jill was an extremely good-looking woman. She stood about six feet tall with a body would make most Australian women envious.
Tom, hearing that the famed Australian filmmaker, Charles Chauvel, was in Canberra that afternoon, had one of his staff arrange for them to meet at the Canberra Hotel.
Although Tom couldn’t reveal much about the unit, he told Charles enough, so it was possible to ask if Charles knew of any suitable candidates for the Cinematographer's role. Charles had no hesitation in recommending Bill Munro, who had worked as an undergraduate cinematography assistant to Charles.
Bill, raised up, on his parent’s farm in central Queensland near Roma, went to boarding school at Toowoomba Grammar and a cinematography graduate from Queensland University. Being 22 years old and single would also be helpful.
As Bill was in Sydney, Tom met with him on Monday morning at an office that Jill acquired near Victoria Barracks.
In two short days, Jill arranged for working offices in Sydney and Brisbane, while the Army provided living and working accommodation near the Eagle Farm racecourse. The army also supplied a car in Brisbane and when required in Sydney and Canberra.
Over the weekend, Jill moved into the Brisbane accommodation while Tom, taking advantage of being in Sydney, met up with his two daughters. Both were staff car drivers at Victoria Barracks, which made it easy to catch up when he was in Sydney.
The meeting with Bill concluded remarkably successful, although he advised Tom that he needed a week to tidy up his current projects. He did, however, know of a young cameraman who would be ideal for them. Tom agreed to give Bill the week to tidy up and then, he was to join him at Eagle Farm the following Monday.
Tom also gave Bill the approval to employ the Cameraman, who lived in Clayfield, the next suburb to Eagle Farm.
On Tuesday when Tom arrived at the Eagle Farm property, he was impressed with what Jill had been able to organise, on such short notice.
She heard of an experienced journalist, Joe Grady. Joe, a feature journalist for the last ten years with the Brisbane Sun, had resigned from the paper with the intention to join the army.
Joe was thirty- years old and married to Joan, a nurse working in the burns unit at Royal Brisbane Hospital. Ninety percent of her patients were R.A.N. and RAAF personnel, injured while on duty in the Pacific. Both were career orientated although, Joe wanted to join the army. Jill met Joan several years ago at a conference, so on Saturday when she arrived in Brisbane, Jill gave her a call. She heard about Joe resigning, and she asked if he would see Tom before he enlisted. They made an appointment to meet with Tom on a Tuesday afternoon. Tom, being familiar with Joe’s work, looked forward to meeting him.
Joe and Tom hit it off at once. Joe could see the importance of the role and, even if he wasn’t to add a by-line to each article he wrote, he was allowed to keep copies for his resume after the war.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Minister arrived in Brisbane and called on Tom. He was impressed with the speed the unit set up. Tom explained that they could not arrange for film equipment until Bill came on board, the following Monday. He explained to David that the only position not filled was the driver.
David suggested that Alf Watson may be suitable.
Alf, a 23-year-old single man, grew up in Port Macquarie and worked on fishing boats. He had driven semi-trailers to market and is a good 'bush mechanic.'
When Alf was rejected by the army on medical grounds, because of his flat feet, he appealed to his local Member of Parliament and family friend (David Millar.)
As David had known Alf as the son of a friend, he never hesitated in recommending him to Tom. “Alf will be an ideal member of his team because of his driving ability, knowledge of the sea and his mechanical ability as well.”
When Tom called Alf, he jumped at the opportunity as he realised, it would be far more interesting than in the army, and he would still be contributing to the war effort.
Alf was on the next train north.
During the first week, Jill set up important meetings with the local Military commanders, where the Minister explained what was about to happen. He instructed them to brief Tom on the entire military (army, naval and air force) tasks surrounding Brisbane. They all agreed the first movies would centre on the sea approaches to Brisbane.
They felt most of the strategy for the defence of Brisbane seaways would be known to the Japanese anyway. There is only one shipping channel into Brisbane, and they were sure that the Japanese would have extensive charts. These would’ve been gathered before the war while Japanese cargo ships regularly carried cargo in and out of Brisbane.
Knowing the shipping routes, it would be a simple exercise for the Japanese intelligence to estimate where shore defences would most likely be located. Tom arranged for the Navy to take him on board for a journey between where they met incoming convoys and the Brisbane River.
This survey journey took place on Tuesday after Bill arrived. The first task he needed Bill for was to make a list of the photographic equipment he needed.
Jill would use her talents to make sure it was all available within days. Tom become amazed at what Jill could organise. He often wondered if Jill knew there was a war on and led to equipment being in short supply. If Jill asked for material, Jill got equipment. The acquisition of a truck and small boat created no problems for Jill.
The rest of that week the unit worked together and settled into their new roles. It was decided that they should wear army style work wear, and they were given “All Area” passes. This allowed them to enter restricted areas at any time. The unit was given the imposing name of “Ministry Communications Unit.”
They all now signed the Official Secrets Act and to make their job easier when moving around they were given talks on a broad range of military subjects covering all three services. They needed to be able to recognise all badges of rank for both Australian forces as well as American forces. They also needed to know operational requirements of the Navy as well as the army.
Their quarters at Eagle Farm consisted of a separate room for each person with shared toilets and showers except for Jill, who had her own. Joe had a room, although he usually stayed at home when not required. In the office block, they all had their workspace.
Alf was allocated an area allotted for his truck. This would be where he parked it, and could do any services that the army didn’t do. He also used a general store room that he stored any timber or other supplies that may be needed.
Bill had a comprehensive workshop where he could store all his equipment and prepare the film stock. All the processing of the film would be carried out at the Milton Kodak Laboratories.
The film, by its inflammable nature, was required to be stored in a special fireproof vault that somehow Jill found.
An American Air Force unit, being next to the Eagle Farm compound was ideal for meals. Jill arranged for breakfast and dinner to be taken at their Officers Mess while, lunch was sandwiches that Alf would collect after breakfast. They often joked about Alf being probably the only driver who ate in an Officer’s mess anywhere in the world. Jill had also arranged for tea making facilities to be available at their compound.
They started the day that they were to have their first journey with the Navy, by having the whole unit being assembled on the Hamilton wharf.
This was the same day that their cameraman, Fred Williams, joined them from the south coast. He signed the “Official Secrets Act” paperwork on the dock. Their vessel, a harbour tug, usually travelled through the channel with every convoy in the case of an incident.
As they departed the port, they looked at Fort Lytton on the southern side of the river. The fort had been erected to protect Brisbane from the Russians in the 1870s. The tugs captain pointed that the North West shipping channel ran from the Brisbane River to Caloundra. After leaving the river, the channel runs northeast to around Cowan Cowan on Moreton Island, and then it turns North West to Bribie Island where it then rounds Wickham Point at Caloundra and heads out to sea.
They saw defences at Cowan Cowan and again at Skirmish point on the Southern end of Bribie Island, and again towards the northern end of Bribie.
At the high points of Caloundra, they could see lots of activity and undoubtedly, a lookout or two. The tug captain told them of the trenches, barbed wire and other measures that extent to well past Currimundi.
On the return journey, they observed the tight formation of the ships in the convoy, and how the escorts weaved in front of the convoy. This was to make sure that no submarines were amongst them. The same procedure took place at the rear of the convoy.
Tom thought that the journey well worthwhile, but he knew a lot more knowledge of the defences would be needed. Before the planning of the projects could start he needed to be more familiar with all the activities around the Caloundra and Bribie Island regions.
A two-day fact-finding mission was arranged to take place on the Wednesday and Thursday of that week.
Tom wanted to have the cameras rolling by the following Tuesday. Meanwhile, there were meetings to be had with the printed press, as well as with the two newsreel companies.
Tuesday morning Tom met with the editors of the two local newspapers and explained his mission to them. They both agreed they would take and publish the articles Joe would write and give them by-lines of a staff journalist. They also knew that being a War Cabinet mission, secrecy of the source along with the need not to alter the transcripts were vital.
After lunch, Tom arranged for the team to meet at the Breakfast Creek Hotel. This was a “getting to know you” exercise. Tom stressed the importance of their job and he could take the luxury of relaxing for the first time since he had run into David. In only eighteen days the unit developed from a concept into a fully functional branch of the defence ministry. Jill commented that, in all her years in public service, she had seen nothing happen so fast.
At the beginning of a semester at the University, Tom had used the following exercise many times. It involved getting everyone to tell their life story to the group. They adjourned to a private room that Jill had organised and with jugs of beer on the table and a supply of nibbles Tom started the ball rolling.
“After I gained my degree at the University of New South Wales, I started out my working career as a cadet journalist with the Cumberland group in Parramatta. As a young man I met my wife, and we had two lovely daughters within two years. I became a feature editor for the whole group in less than ten years. When I was preparing an article to focus on the benefits of the new Harbour Bridge, I happened to stand right in front of the official party. I was amazed at the audacity of Captain de-Grout in cutting the ribbon. This led me to think words could never adequately describe the mood and reactions of the Premier and all the official party. The looks of amazement mixed with anger could not be captured in words alone. This led me to think about exploring the possibilities of working with film.”
“The following year I became editor of the Daily Telegraph and even though I enjoyed the work, I still had this nagging feeling about the inadequacy of the printed word.”
“I stayed there for three years before I joined the Cinesound Company as a journalist working on the scripts for newsreels. This led me to become a producer supervising the story choice and managing the film crews for them.”
“It was about this time that my marriage collapsed, probably because of the long and odd hours I worked, and it left me with the task of raising two teenage daughters by myself.”
“I realised that to bring up the girls, my life needed to be more organised, and I needed to be home far more than in the past. It was around this time that the media studies faculty at the University of New South Wales was put into place. I applied to join this faculty and became the first media lecturer.”
“War came along, and the girls were now young women. They both joined the WRAAC on the same day and now drive staff cars around Sydney.”
“About a month ago I was in Sydney for a meeting when I ran into David Millar, whom I had known from my student days. David suggested we have a few drinks, and it was during this time that the formation of this unit developed. David went back to Canberra and asked me to put a proposal together. Within two days David had presented my proposal to the Cabinet and Cabinet approved it unanimously.”
Jill was next to telling her story. She was apprehensive at first being acutely aware of her husband’s position and careful not to infer that her position in the public service had anything to do with her husband’s station in life.
“I was born in Sydney and spent most of my teenage years at the beach. I love the surf, and I am extremely motivated to be the best of whatever endeavour I undertake.”
“I went straight from high school into the public service as a clerk. I noticed those around me who sought a career in the public service had university degrees. This led me to enrol in a business studies program with a major in government studies.”
“An opportunity arose to transfer to Canberra that I jumped at. After all, Canberra was the place for an ambitious public servant to be.
Canberra was good for me as I started to get promotions even though still studying for my degree.”
“Canberra was also good for me as this is where I met my husband, Bob, a cadet at the Duntroon Military College. We married later that year and made a firm commitment not to start a family until later on.”
“Bob was more of an administrative officer and as it turned out the army is short of young administrators. They had plenty of leaders and field officers but, short of those with highly developed administrative skills. This was good for us as it meant Lieutenant, and then Captain and finally Major Robertson worked at Army Headquarters in Canberra.”
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