‘Scenes from the Second World War’ is a striking collection of photographs of Australian military forces in action in different war zones. The images capture, in magnificent detail, aspects of wartime experiences. There are scenes of navy, army and air force personnel in action and depictions of the diverse environments in which Australian soldiers fought during the Second World War. The work of celebrated Australian war photographers Damien Parer, George Silk and Frank Hurley is featured.
- The trail graphically portrays the experiences of some of the personnel in the Australian military forces in the Second World War, and it suggests their capacity to deal with the many challenges they faced. The images reinforce the perception that the Australian services were spirited, highly proficient and versatile, and that they significantly contributed to the Allied war effort. The images show Australians effectively waging war in very different environments, all dangerous.
- By the 1940s improved technology, including the capacity to travel quickly over long distances by sea and air, had changed the way that war was conducted. The picture trail shows aircraft being employed for a range of purposes and includes detailed photographs of cannons, guns and bazookas that could be fired with accuracy and devastating impact on land and at sea. Examples of sophisticated communication and targeting systems used in battle are included.
- The trail includes dramatic images of the war in North Africa and the Middle East, which required a coordinated effort by navy, army and air forces. There are air crew in action, anti-aircraft guns firing at sea, and infantry attacks and long-range shelling on land. Images of soldiers training in the snow in Lebanon contrast with scenes of desert battles. Photographs of soldiers and support crews working together illustrate the teamwork that existed.
- Photographs of soldiers fighting in Papua New Guinea illustrate the enormous challenges of jungle warfare. There are images of Australian troops in close combat with Japanese troops, exhausted men taking respite from battle and wounded soldiers moving to first-aid stations. The important role played by Papuans is also captured. An image of relaxed healthy young soldiers resting in Queensland contrasts starkly with emotionally charged scenes from the front.
- RAAF squadrons played an important role in the Allied war effort in Europe and are represented in the trail by the famous Lancaster bomber ‘G for George’. Australian crews conducted raids on German cities and war infrastructure with devastating results, revealed in a photograph of Stuttgart taken after the War. Australian forces suffered heavy casualties and the extreme danger that troops faced is evident in an image of a damaged plane.
- The quality of images in the trail is testimony to the talent of war photographers, who took considerable risks to capture the war experience. Particularly striking are the images of young soldiers fighting in the different war zones and George Silk’s iconic photograph of a blinded soldier being led to a field hospital by a Papuan. The trail shows the artistic uses of composition, framing, size and camera angles by the photographers to communicate their stories.
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