The Australian War Memorial, which had opened in Canberra in November 1941, became part of Australia’s propaganda effort during the Second World War. The Memorial’s staff organised an extensive war art program, collected historical items (including film and photographs) and published the famous wartime ‘Christmas Books’ series.
Its staff also supported the nation-wide screening of the film Sons of the Anzacs which used footage created by well-known cinematographers such as Damien Parer, and Frank Hurley to document and celebrate the exploits of Australian military, naval and air services in the war against Germany in the Mediterranean and against Japan in the Pacific. The film’s commentary was written and delivered by the great war correspondent and later historian Chester Wilmot.
It was called Sons of the Anzacs to reflect both the fact that the fathers of many serving in the Second World War had served in the Australian Imperial Force – in the Great War, twenty-or-so years before, affirming that the sons were continuing the Anzac tradition.
The film was shown to audiences across the nation from late 1944 (and to servicemen and women overseas), and included what came to be regarded as ‘classic’ scenes – of Australians in action at Tobruk and El Alamein, in Malaya and at Kokoda, in the battle of the Bismarck Sea and in the war in New Guinea, still being fought.
This, the program booklet accompanying the film, informed audiences about the RAN, the Australian Army and the RAAF, men who had been awarded the Victoria or George Crosses for gallantry and included details of the cinematographers. Shortly before the film’s release one of them, Damien Parer, had been killed filming American troops in the invasion of Peleliu (now Palau) in September 1944, though the booklet did not mention the fact.