Chester Wilmot’s 1941 recording of front line troops added to NFSA’s Sounds of Australia

A recording from the ABC’s Archive Unit has been added to the National Film and Sound Archive’s Sounds of Australia collection.

ABC war correspondent Chester Wilmot (1911-1954) pioneered the use of recording equipment in the field, and his report from Tobruk has this year made it into the important national collection.

Wilmot spent several months in Tobruk in 1941 during the siege by German and Italian troops when the Australian soldiers became known as the Rats of Tobruk. He recorded his dispatches on lacquer discs, sometimes with the sounds of gunfire or bombing raids in the background.

In October 1941 the ABC Field Unit recorded a concert put on by 400 Australian soldiers in an ammunition cave. Wilmot’s introduction places you right in the cave alongside the men and the musical performances (including the short song Bless Them All and a wistful saxophone and piano accordion instrumental) reveal the acoustics to be surprisingly good.

The highlight is one soldier’s stirring rendition of The Legion of the Lost, with the massed voices of the makeshift military choir bringing the song to a rousing finale.

Listen here.

Another significant radio item to be added to the collection this year include the aboriginal radio program Deadly Sounds, which ended this year.

Cold Chisel’s 1978 tribute to those who served in the Vietnam War has also been added to the list, along with a range of other significant songs and historical recordings.

See the full list and listen to the segments here.


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