The Ho Chi Minh Campaign Museum – HCMC, Vietnam

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Entry to the Ho Chi Minh Campaign Museum and statue commemorating the communist People’s Liberation Forces Victory of April 30 1975. Photo: Julian Tennant

The Ho Chi Minh Campaign Museum (Bảo tàng Chiến dịch Hồ Chí Minh) is a military museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, that recounts the final months of the Vietnam War, culminating in the communist’s  victory over the South Vietnamese in April 1975.

The North Vietnamese 1975 Spring Offensive was initially envisioned as a two-stage strategy that would take two years to complete. However, an early victory at Phouc Long (Route 14) on 6 January caused the communists to speed up their offensive. The People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) then launched “Campaign 275”, also known as the Central Highlands Campaign, which climaxed in March with the capture of  Buon Ma Thuot cutting South Vietnam in two. Surprised by the rapid collapse of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) forces, the communists then turned their attention north, commencing the Hue-Danang Campaign, securing the isolated coastal regions by April 3.

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Refugees clogging the roads as they flee towards Saigon during the last days of the Vietnam War. Photo: Hiroji Kubota

Most of the South Vietnamese army  had been routed, but with the communist forces closing in on Saigon, the ARVN made a spirited last stand at the Battle of Xuan Loc, 60km northeast of the capital. Xuan Loc, a vital logistical hub for the South Vietnamese, sat at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 20. They believed that if they could hold there, the situation could be stabilised,  their units re-grouped and the country saved from defeat. However, despite the heroic efforts of the ARVN’s 18th Infantry Division, Xuan Loc fell and by 21 April the road to Saigon was open.  The PAVN victory at Xuan Loc, allowed the communist forces to encircle Saigon, moving 100,000 troops into positions around the city by April 27.

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An ARVN Soldier hangs on to his wounded comrade as they both stay flat on the pavement of the Newport Bridge during a Communist attack on April 28, 1975. Photo: Hugh Van Es Bettmann/Corbis

Despite fierce resistance from troops of the 12th ARVN Airborne Battalion at the Newport Bridge (Cầu Tân Cảng) and from the 81st Ranger Group at Tan Son Nhut, the situation for the South Vietnamese Government had became untenable. At 10:24, on 30 April, South Vietnam’s President Minh announced an unconditional surrender to his troops. Shortly after, at 10:30 after hearing Minh’s orders, the paratroopers at the Newport Bridge stood down allowing the PAVN to cross and at 11:30 PAVN forces entered Tan Son Nhut Air Base after the Rangers also laid down their arms. Around noon, PAVN tanks crashed through the gates of the Independence Palace. Later that afternoon, President Minh publicly announced that the South Vietnamese Government had been dissolved at all levels. The Vietnam War was over.

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PAVN armour entering the grounds of the Independence Palace, in Saigon on April 30, 1975. Photograph: Francoise De Mulder

The Ho Chi Minh Campaign Museum commemorates this successful 1975 offensive by the communists and was established in July 1987. It is housed in a two-story building (that once was the former Republic of Vietnam’s National Defence College) in District 1 close to the Vietnam History Museum and a few blocks away from the famous Notre Dame Cathedral.

The museum is divided into outdoor and indoor display areas, with the outdoor area displaying vehicles, artillery pieces and aircraft related to the campaign including the F5E fighter flown by Nguyen Thanh Trung when he defected from the South Vietnamese Air Force and bombed the Presidential Palace on 8th of April 1975. It also features T54 tank No. 848 of the 203rd Brigade, which was one of the tanks that entered the grounds of the Palace on the 30th of April. Other outdoor exhibits include an M113 APC captured in January during the Phuoc Long Campaign and then subsequently used by the 7th Division for the remainder of the conflict, plus the usual assortment of artillery pieces, wrecked ARVN aircraft and equipment.

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T54 tank No. 848 of the 203rd Brigade, which was used to enter the grounds of the Presidential Palace on the 30th of April. Photo: Julian Tennant

Entering the museum building brings visitors into the Ho Chi Minh Campaign rooms. Here, visitors are shown a large ‘mud map’ model giving an overview of the offensive plus other exhibits relating to the final stages of the war such as the official Ho Chi Minh Campaign diary. This is followed by rooms detailing each stage of the offensive, beginning with the Battle for Phuoc Loc (Route 14) and followed by the Tay Nguyen Campaign ( Campaign 275) and the battle for the Central Highlands which resulted in the destruction of ARVN forces in the II Corps zone. The focus then shifts to the Hue-Danang Campaign which isolated then defeated the South Vietnamese troops in I Corps.

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The Ho Chi Minh Campaign exhibition room. Photo: Julian Tennant
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Chinese Type 63 (renamed the H12 by the Vietnamese) 107mm rocket launcher that was used in the attack on Ban Me Thuot on 10 March 1975. Photo: Julian Tennant

The second floor has two main rooms. The first deals with the South Vietnamese high command and ARVN forces including insignia, medals, records and documentation captured from the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam. Other exhibits related to the campaign and activities of the Viet Cong local forces are also shown in the upstairs areas whilst the final room is dedicated to the Ho Chi Minh Campaign Headquarters and leadership group. This includes some unusual collections including several sets of spectacles used by various communist leaders and an old extendable car aerial which is described as the “Swagger-stick of General Tran Van Tra”.

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Captured ARVN officer’s personal files. Photo: Julian Tennant
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Captured Air Force F-5 Vietnam novelty patch and an unconfirmed (by me) black panther patch. I think it may be a 1st ARVN Division Strike Company (also known as Hac Bao, Black Panthers) patch variation, but am not 100% certain of this identification. Photo: Julian Tennant
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People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) cameraman with a Bolex H 16 SBM 16mm movie camera. Photo: Julian Tennant

Overall, the museum is well laid out with an interesting selection of exhibits that are accompanied by English language descriptions. However, the victors write the history books and as can be expected, the museum gives a very warped perspective that reflects the communist rhetoric. This is evident in both the language used, with the usual “imperialist puppet troop” type descriptions and also how the artifacts appear. The ARVN and South Vietnamese exhibits always seem to be broken (such as the scrap metal wrecks outside), run-down or looking rather aged and disheveled when compared to the PAVN artifacts which are kept fresh and look almost new. The museum is definitely worth visiting because of the material being displayed, but don’t rely on it giving an accurate representation of the conflict from an even remotely unbiased perspective.

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Officer of the Vietnam People’s Ground Forces (Lục quân Nhân dân Việt Nam) on duty at the museum. His insignia identifies him as a Senior Lieutenant (Đại úy) from the Corps of Engineers. Photo: Julian Tennant

Ho Chi Minh Campaign Museum (Bảo tàng Chiến dịch Hồ Chí Minh)
2 Le Duan Street
District 1
Ho Chi Minh City 70000, Vietnam

Phone: +84 (0)336 578 946

Website (Vietnamese language): Ho Chi Minh Campaign Museum

Open: Monday – Friday 07:30 – 11:00 and 13:30 – 16:30
Note that the museum is frequently closed without notice.

Entrance Fee: Free

 

Event: 5 March 2022 – Australian War Memorial Technology Centre Open Day

Coming up this weekend is the Australian War Memorial’s Treloar Technology Centre – Big Things in Store 2022 open day.

Big Things in Store is the Australian War Memorial’s  Treloar Technology Centre’s bi-annual open day. It presents a  are opportunity for visitors to see one of the world’s largest collections of military relics, including aircraft, rockets, tanks and artillery.  The collection spans centuries, including artillery pieces dating from the mid-1870s, as well as artifacts from the twentieth century and more recent conflicts.

The next open day is on Saturday 5 March from 9 am (last session entry at 2.45 pm)

All visitors (including minors) will require a free 2 hour timed ticket to enter the event and visitors are required to comply with all COVID Safe requirements. This may include requirements to wear face masks, maintaining physical distancing from others, and check-in using the Check IN CBR app

To book a ticket for the 5 March 2022 open day go to this link

Australian War Memorial Treloar Technology Centre
6 – 10 Callan Street
Mitchell, ACT 2911
Australia

Website: www.awm.gov.au

Phone: +61 (02) 6243 4211

E-mail: info@awm.gov.au

A Japanese Navy Shinyo suicide motorboat on show at the AWM – 5 March 2022

One of the items held in the Australian War Memorial’s Treloar Technology Centre is an Imperial Japanese Navy Shinyo (‘Ocean Shaker’ or “Sea Quaker) suicide boat. It is believed to be one of only two extant examples of a complete Shinyo and it can be viewed by members of the public during the bi-annual Big Things in Store 2022 open day which is occurring on the 5th of March (see below for more information).

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The development of these boats began in 1943 but was given a boost in March 1944 when the Imperial Japanese Army’s Warship Research Institute at Himeji, near Kobe, was directed to devote considerable effort to the development of “special (attack) boats”. A month later the Imperial Japanese Navy issued a similar directive. The Army developed the Maru-ni boat and the Navy created the Shinyo which is the type held in the AWM collection.

By the summer of 1944 both the Army and Navy were beginning to deploy suicide boat squadrons, consisting of volunteer ‘pilots’ who were told that their duties were to be ‘special’, i.e. suicidal. By November 1944, some 650 pilots and 2,500 support personnel were available for the Navy’s Shinyo squadrons alone, with Shinyo Squadrons 1–5 sent to Chichijima and Hahajima in the Bonin Islands, while Squadrons 6–13, with a total strength of 300 boats were sent to Corregidor in the Philippines. Others, including the Army boats were deployed to Okinawa and smaller numbers to Korea, Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong, but the vast majority were kept along the shores of Japan.

Each Navy squadron consisted of 40 -50 plywood hulled Shinyo that carried a 300kg TNT explosive charge rigged to explode on impact when the crushing of the boat’s bows although on later boats a trigger was added in the cockpit which could also be used to detonate the charge. The boats could achieve a top speed of 20 knots per hour and travel for 31/2  hours at that speed.

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The boat crew consisted of a single pilot although one boat in every squadron was crewed by two men, the squadron commander and his pilot. It was intended that in a mass sortie, the commander would bring up the rear, observing the attack and if possible give covering fire from a swivel mounted Type 93 heavy machine gun. Once his men had driven their strike home, the commander would then order his own pilot to attack, detonating the explosive in his own boat in the process. Planners expected about 10% of the craft to hit their targets, but in the face of defensive fire, the results were much lower with only twenty-one allied vessels falling victim to their attacks with the largest being the USS Hutchins, a 2,000 ton destroyer which was damaged on 27th April 1945

The Shinyo in the Australian War Memorial collection was recovered by HMAS Deloraine at Sandakan Harbour, British North Borneo, in October 1945. It was one of six that were discovered in an immediate state of operational readiness complete with fuel tanks filled and ready to be deployed.

This launch was used by sailors from HMAS Deloraine for joy rides and as a ski boat on Sandakan Harbour. It returned to Australia with the Deloraine in late 1945 and was presented to the Australian War Memorial. You can learn more about the Shinyo on the AWM’s Collected Podcast Episode 18: Shinyo, available here.

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Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. September 1945. Able Seaman (AB) Les Coad of Ballarat, Vic; AB Ian Cox of South Yarra, Vic, and AB Kevin Sorrenson of Coorparoo, Qld, all RAN and members of the crew of HMAS Napier, inspecting a Japanese suicide launch (boat) surrendered in the Yokosuka Naval Base.  AWM Accession Number: 019161

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Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. September 1945. Australian naval ratings from HMAS Napier inspecting a Japanese Shinyo suicide launch and a midget submarine alongside each other in the Yokosuka Naval Base. They are, (on launch) Able Seaman (AB) Kevin Sorrenson of Coorparoo, Qld; AB Led Coad of Ballarat, Vic, AB Ian Cox of South Yarra, Vic, and (on submarine) Petty Officer Alan Mole of Mitcham, SA; AB Myer White of Prahran, Vic, and AB Max Dillon of Sygnet, Tas. Note the face painted on the bows of the launch. This is the insignia of the Japanese suicide squadron at the base. Australian War Memorial Accession Number: 019162

AWM Treloar Technology Centre – Big Things in Store 2022

AWM German WW1 Artillery Collection copy

Big Things in Store is the Australian War Memorial’s  Treloar Technology Centre’s bi-annual open day. It presents a  are opportunity for visitors to see one of the world’s largest collections of military relics, including aircraft, rockets, tanks and artillery.  The collection spans centuries, including artillery pieces dating from the mid-1870s, as well as artefacts from the twentieth century and more recent conflicts.

The next even is on Saturday 5 March from 9 am (last session entry at 2.45 pm)

All visitors (including minors) will require a free 2 hour timed ticket to enter the event and visitors are required to comply with all COVID Safe requirements. This may include requirements to wear face masks, maintaining physical distancing from others, and check-in using the Check IN CBR app

To book a ticket for the 5 March 2022 open day go to this link

Australian War Memorial Treloar Technology Centre
6 – 10 Callan Street
Mitchell, ACT 2911
Australia

Website: www.awm.gov.au

Phone: +61 (02) 6243 4211

E-mail: info@awm.gov.au

Museum: Recollections of War – Albany, Western Australia

Recollections of War is a military museum run by John & Kathryn Shapland near Albany in Western Australia. The museum exhibits their personal collection and presents a fascinating insight into the lives of ordinary men, women and children during times of conflict.

The port city of Albany, which sits 418km (260mi) southeast of Perth has played an important part in Australia’s military heritage and the region has many related sites for visitors to explore, including Recollections of War, a private museum that should be on the itinerary of anybody with an interest in military history.

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The museum, which is located about half an hour’s drive along the South Coast Highway outside of Albany on the way to Denmark, features the collection of Kathryn and John Shapland, whose hobby rapidly expanded into a custom built exhibition building featuring six display rooms with space also dedicated to a library, research area and theatre.

It continues to grow and there are also more extensions in the planning stage, the latest being a WWI aviation gallery to house a replica Fokker D VIII that has been donated to the museum by a pilot from nearby Manjimup. This will be complemented by items belonging to Sir Keith Smith and other early aviator artifacts and having viewed some of the Australian Flying Corps pieces that Kathryn and John have, I am eagerly awaiting its completion.

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The replica Fokker D VIII that has recently been donated to the Recollections of War museum. Photo: Kathryn Shapland

Visiting the museum, it is astonishing to realise that the Shaplands only started collecting militaria in 2009 after John, who is originally from Sussex, returned to England on a holiday with his eldest daughter. Whilst there, he visited an air-show at Duxford and returned home with some souvenirs including a limited edition aviator signed print by noted artist Robert Taylor.

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It was the acquisition of autographed aviator prints such as Robert Taylor’s “Eagles out of the sun” (top) that started the Shapland’s collecting journey. Photo: Julian Tennant

Back in Albany, he recruited wife Kathryn, who had been a collector of stamps, coins and other items since she was young, to help him find more items on-line. One of the early pieces Kathryn found was a Corgi die-cast model signed by Billy Drake, a Battle of France pilot. The seller turned out to be an engineer restoring warbirds at North Weald airfield and mentioned that there was a Hurricane muster there in October and that John should return to the UK to attend. He did, meeting the veteran pilots and aircrew, examining the aircraft and museums.

The result was that their collection rapidly outgrew a couple of display cabinets and a few prints in the house. John, who in addition to running their cattle farm was a builder and cabinet maker converted his workshop into a custom made exhibition space for the WWII aviation collection. Kathryn recalls,

‘We started with the WWII aviation room and the first library as that was John’s main interest at the time. As visitors started to come, it became apparent that we were lacking in other areas and so we expanded to cover the main three military services and eventually the auxiliary services too. Similarly, John’s interest was WWII and we started getting veterans from more recent wars. In addition, we were coming up to the ANZAC centenary, so decided WWI artifacts and stories needed to be added. We now go from the Boer War to the present day.

I have a very broad focus and far too many things appeal to me. I suppose at the heart of it all there must be a story about the people that used or produced the items. John has a good general knowledge about military history and the hardware used (but) my interest is in social rather than military history. I love the research side of things.’

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This is one of a couple of First World War US Army groups that are held in the collection. These items belonged to James William Walston who served with the US 5th Infantry Division during the Great War. Photo: Julian Tennant
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First World War period US Army ‘doughboys’ toy soldiers made by the German firm of Elastolin and sold in the USA prior to America’s entry into the war in 1917. Photo: Julian Tennant
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A soldier’s friend. The “Camp Pocket Candlestick” is a small tin containing a candle and box of matches that was given to Commonwealth troops during WW1. It allowed them to read or write letters whilst in the trenches with the lid of the tin offering some cover to limit the glow from the lit flame of the candle. Photo: Julian Tennant

The collection now features thousands of meticulously researched items recording the war experiences of both the military personnel and civilian populations from the Anglo-Boer War onward. But rather than emphasise the battles or weapons, the focus is centered around the histories of ordinary people living through the war and the layout does not follow a chronological sequence. Items are grouped together to help broaden understanding and give additional context to individual pieces, which makes it all the more fascinating to explore. John describes the museum as a ‘treasure hunt’ which is an apt description.

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A couple of sweetheart badges including a nice painted acrylic Netherlands East Indies (KNIL) Air Force Pilot – Observer flight qualification wing. Photo: Julian Tennant
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A magnificent hand-made aluminium ‘sweetheart’ badge made in 1916 by George King from Kent, who was serving as a 1st class air mechanic in the Royal Naval Air Service at the time. Photo: Julian Tennant
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Medal group, locally made dagger and photograph belonging to a member of V Force, an intelligence gathering and screening force for the British 14th Army in the India/Burma area of operations. Photo: Julian Tennant

Kathryn spends much of her time researching and scouring the internet for suitable items, but many pieces have also been donated by visitors and locals who recognise the important role that Recollections of War plays in maintaining our knowledge of conflicts.  

In the aftermath of both world wars, the southern region of Western Australia became home for many ex-service personnel who took advantage of the Soldier Settlement and Group Settlement schemes which were respectively aimed at getting returned servicemen into some form of gainful work and aimed at both increasing the population of W.A. as well as increasing primary (especially dairy) production. In subsequent years the local veteran community has continued to grow and includes former service personnel from more recent wars and several nations.

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Detail from a group of items belonging to Alexander George Jerrat who served with the Palestine Police. Photo: Julian Tennant
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Helmet worn by Peter Geoffrey Larard during his Vietnam service as a pilot with the Royal Australian Air Force. Peter Larard flew Sabre’s with No. 79 Sqn whilst stationed at Ubon in Thailand from 9 September 1965 until 4 November 1965 and then served with the RAAF element of the HQ Australian Forces Vietnam from 26 November 1968 until 26 November 1969. Photo: Julian Tennant

 

As a result, the museum displays several donated items which would otherwise be unlikely to be shown to the public as they fit outside the curatorial focus of institutional collections or the RSL. One such display is the collection of over 300 toy soldiers that were scratch-built by Reg Copeman, an Englishman who had served with the Royal Artillery during the Korean War, then 22 Special Air Service Regiment in the Malayan Emergency and Aden prior to his discharge as a WO2 in 1968. Reg then worked for WatchGuard International  the private military contracting company which had been formed by SAS founder Colonel David Stirling and John ‘Jock’ Woodhouse in 1965. This took Reg to Zambia and Sierra Leone before he moved to Australia in 1973 and finally settled in the nearby town of Denmark in the 1990’s.

Reg’s soldiers are all hand-made and each took around 50 days to complete. There was no set pattern to which soldier would be made next, sometimes basing his decisions on the book he was reading at the time. Reg was keen to keep the collection together and now in his 90’s he decided to donate the entire collection along with his reference material to Recollections of War where it is displayed in a custom made display cabinet.  

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Some of the 315 model figures that were scratch-built by 90 year old Reg Copeman, a Royal Artillery and 22 Special Air Service Regiment veteran who now lives in south western WA. Photo: Julian Tennant.

John’s own family connection is also included in the displays. His father, private Alan James ‘Jim’ Shapland enlisted in the Sussex Regiment during World War II and later volunteered for the Airborne Forces, joining the 22nd Independent Parachute Company which acted as the pathfinders for 6th Airborne Division. However, Jim was injured in mid-May 1944 during a training jump for D-Day and was hospitalised. As a result, he did not return to the unit and subsequently served with the Seaforth Highlanders for the remainder of the war.

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A group belonging to John Shapland’s father, private Alan James ‘Jim’ Shapland who qualified as a military parachutist on Course 80 which ran at RAF Ringway from 30 August to 9 September 1943. The course instructors’ notes record that Alan had a cheerful disposition and was a good performer. Jim then joined 2 Platoon of the 22nd Independent Parachute Company, but  was hospitalised in mid-May 1944 after carrying out a training jump for D-Day. He did not return to the unit and subsequently served with the Seaforth Highlanders. Photo: Julian Tennant

As can be expected from a collection that focuses on the personal histories of the participants and witnesses it also contains dozens of documents, letters, keepsakes and personal photograph albums reflecting the experiences of people from all sides, which can be viewed by visitors. One of the albums that I found particularly interesting belonged to a German sailor who served as a signaller on minesweeper’s during WWII. In addition to photographs and recording service details, the album also includes his Kriegsmarine and trade insignia plus the award certificate documentation which accompanied his Minesweeper War Badge. His group also includes an extensive hand annotated notebook, complete with diagrams but unfortunately, not being fluent in German, I could not make much sense of what I was viewing.

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Notebook and photo album from a German sailor (signals specialist) who served on a minesweeper carrying out anti-submarine operations. In addition to these badges, the photo album also contained several photographs of his time at see and the original certificate for his Kriegsmarine Minesweeper War Badge. Photo: Julian Tennant

 

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A deceased Japanese soldier’s haramaki (belly band belt). The blood stained belt has a small pocket on the reverse side which held the photographs of loved ones and notes (shown). Also included is a photo of the original owner after he had been killed during the fighting in New Guinea in September 1943. Photo: Julian Tennant

Many of these albums and documents are not immediately on display, but like all collectors, the Shapland’s are keen to share their collection with visitors, which is why they encourage visits by appointment only rather than having fixed visiting hours. It allows them to create a more intimate and personalised experience. When I spoke to Kathryn prior to my visit, she asked what my interests were and when I arrived, she had gathered some of their Australian Flying Corps pieces for me to view. As I wandered through the exhibition rooms, if I found something of interest John and Kathryn would answer my questions and were more than happy to pull things out of the cabinets to let me see specific details.

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RAN commemorative port, bronze ‘Naked Army’ statuettes and Special Air Service Regiment beret. The SASR beret belonged to 54159 John Murray Robinson who, as a sergeant, completed both of 3 SAS Squadron’s tours of Vietnam in 1966-67 and 1969-70. Photo: Julian Tennant
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Vietnam in-country made 1 Troop, A Squadron, 3 Cavalry Regiment, Royal Australian Armoured Corps patch attached to a lightweight flying suit which was worn around the base area at Nui Dat. Photo: Julian Tennant
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Mid 1980’s period 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment brassard featuring the distinctive 3RAR parachutist wing. Photo: Julian Tennant

Whilst Recollections of War is listed as a museum, I would describe my experience as being more like visiting another collector, discussing the objects and comparing ‘notes’. Kathryn agrees and goes on to say

‘I would love for more authors, researchers and students to visit and make use of our libraries and other archives. I can’t see the point in having all this stuff if it can’t be shared with like-minded or interested people.’

As a result, if you’re a collector or somebody with specific interest areas, you may find that you spend more time at Recollections of War than you anticipate. My primary area of interest is airborne and special operations insignia and I had expected to be at the museum for two to three hours, but I ended up staying over four and then returned the following day for another couple of hours to examine more of their collection… and I still wonder what else I may have missed. So, my advice is to plan accordingly, when arranging a visit let Kathryn know what your interests may be and allow yourself time to take it all in.

Albany is great long-weekend destination being a pleasant four hour drive from Perth and home to several military related attractions for the interested visitor. The city of Albany is also home to the Princess Royal Fortress which opened in 1893 and was Australia’s first federal fortress. Later, during the First World War, the town was the last port of call for the ships carrying the ANZAC troops departing Australia. The fort’s gun batteries and port were also active during the Second World War, particularly at the point in time when the Japanese were on Australia’s doorstep and Albany, along with the port of Fremantle were seen as providing safe refuge, beyond the reach of Japanese aircraft. Albany then became home to three USN submarines along with tender craft and crews. The military history of the region is preserved and presented in a series of military museums and displays including the National Anzac Centre at the fortress site. These are all in close proximity, opening at 09:00 and can be adequately covered in a few hours allowing enough time to visit Recollections of War in the afternoon or following day.  

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Recollections of War
Halcyon Park
51253 South Coast Highway
Albany WA 6330
Australia

Phone: +61 (0)8 9845 2083    /    0447 765 511     /    0428 981 976

Email: contact@recollectionsofwar.com.au     kathryn@recollectionsofwar.com.au

Website: https://recollectionsofwar.com.au/

Opening hours: By appointment – Call to arrange a time.

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The entrance to the Recollections of War Museum at 51253 South Coast Highway, which is about half an hour’s drive out of Albany on the way to the town of Denmark. Photos: Julian Tennant

Birdwood Military Museum – Geraldton, Western Australia

The Birdwood Military Museum, Geraldton, Western Australia.

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One of the earliest known purpose-built Returned and Services League (RSL) halls in Western Australia is also home to one of the state’s regional military museums.

Continue reading “Birdwood Military Museum – Geraldton, Western Australia”

The Fallschirmjäger Collection – Overloon War Museum, The Netherlands

Photographs of the German paratrooper displays at the Fallschirmjäger Collection shown in the Overloon War Museum in the Netherlands.

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On the 30th of September 1944, shortly after the failure of Operation MARKET GARDEN, German and Allied forces clashed in the vicinity of Overloon, approximately 35km south of Nijmegan. It took almost three weeks before Overloon was liberated and the clash went down in history as the most intense tank battle that ever took place on Dutch soil. Harrie van Daal, a civil servant was living in the area during that time and in May 1945 after walking through the battle ravaged Overloonse forest petitioned the Mayor and local pastor to create a memorial honouring those who fought. On May 25, 1946, the Oorlogsmuseum Overloon (Overloon War Museum) opened to the public – even before the village itself was rebuilt. It was the first museum about the Second World War in Western Europe. I will cover the museum in more depth in a future article, but one of the highlights is undoubtedly the Fallschirmjäger Collection which is part of their “Turning Point Europe” exhibition section.

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Unlike the Dead Man’s Corner museum in Normandy (see my review and pictures here), which concentrates on the actions of the German paras at Normandy, the Fallschirmjäger Collection presents an overview of the German paras from the early days of WW2 up until 1945. It does this in eight display cases filled with uniforms, equipment and related ephemera.

The first display shows the paratroopers of the early war and the invasion of the low countries, including mannequins representing their Dutch opponents.

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The next section shows the uniforms and equipment used during the campaign in North Africa. This is followed by a showcase displaying the paratroopers as they would have been seen in Sicily and the Italian Campaign.

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The mannequin display cabinets are also broken up by others featuring an impressive collection of fallschirmjäger related documents, insignia, personal artifacts and other related ephemera.

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This is followed by showcases depicting the fighting in the Netherlands during the 1944/45 period and then jumps to displays of the fallschirmjäger kitted out in the equipment used during the fighting in the area of Monte Cassino and the Grand Sasso.  The exhibition finishes with the final display cases representing the paratroopers on the Eastern Front during the winter months.

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I visited the Oorlogsmuseum Oveloon as a day-trip excursion during my exploration of the battlefields and museums related to Operation MARKET GARDEN in the Arnhem area. Traveling by car it is a relatively short trip from Oosterbeek, roughly an hour’s drive  from The Airborne Museum Hartenstein. If you have the time, definitely plan to visit, even without the Fallschirmjäger Collection, the Oorlogsmuseum Overloon remains one of the most impressive WW2 military museums that I have encountered.

Oorlogsmuseum Overloon / Overloon War Museum
Museumpark 1
5825 AM Overloon
The Netherlands

Website: www.oorlogsmuseum.nl/en/

Phone: +31 (0)478 – 641250

E-mail: info@oorlogsmuseum.nl

Reservations: publieksdienst@oorlogsmuseum.nl

Open: The museum is open Monday to Friday from 10:00 – 17:00 and on weekends from 11:00 – 17:00. It also has reduced visiting hours on some days and is closed on some public holidays so it is best to confirm their opening schedule here. Due to current restrictions the museum only allows a limited number of visitors each days and online ticket reservations are essential prior to visiting.

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The D-Day Story Museum – Portsmouth UK

The recently refurbished D-Day Story (formerly the D-Day Museum) in Portsmouth is the only museum in the UK dedicated to Operation Overlord and the 6th of June 1944.

Portsmouth News Photo 1940
British soldiers negotiating a barbed wire defence during a seashore invasion exercise near Portsmouth in 1940. Photo: The News archive.

Portsmouth, situated on the coast 110km south-west of London has been a significant naval port for centuries. During the Second World War it was a critical embarkation point for the 6 June 1944 D-Day landings. It’s role as a major Naval Base and Dockyard had seen the city bombed extensively by the Luftwaffe from August 1940 and by August 1943 the Southsea seafront, which included the city, was declared a restricted zone. At the beginning of April 1944, in preparation for Operation Overlord, Portsmouth became part of a 16km deep coastal strip from the Wash to Lands End which was closed to all visitors. By this time, the whole of Southern England had become a huge armed camp in the build-up for the invasion of Europe, with Portsmouth being the headquarters and main departure point for the units destined for Juno Beach on the Normandy Coast.

The D-Day Story (previously known as The D-Day Museum) is located near Southsea Castle in Portsmouth and recounts the story of Operation OVERLORD and the landings on the Normandy coast. Originally opened as a the D-Day Museum in 1984, it was closed in March 2017 for refurbishment before reopening in March 2018 as the D-Day Story. (Note that some of the photographs featured here include images of the older displays taken during a previous visit in 2015). The new museum tells the story of Overlord by recounting the experiences of the people who participated in the invasion or lived in the area at the time.

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A Sherman Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle (BARV), nicknamed ‘Vera’, War Department No. T145523 as displayed prior to the 2018 refurbishment. The Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle was developed specifically for the Normandy landings. It utilised a modified Sherman Mk.III M4A2 tank that was able to wade into water up to feet deep and push or pull ‘drowned’ vehicles out of the sea. They could also help refloat beached landing craft. Trials of the BARV began in December and by D-Day, 5 were available for service. This particular tank was originally built in 1943 as a regular gun tank. Markings on the hull suggest that its parts were produced in a modular fashion by several different companies and then assembled together. It was produced with “LO”, a type of steel particularly adapted to cast large pieces of armour. The tank was assembled at Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio as part of contract S/M 1012 for the British Government. The hull (part number E4151) was built by American Steel Foundries East St. Louis (Illinois) Works, and the bogies were made by several companies including the Continental Foundry & Machine Company of Coraopolis, Pennsylvania. This BARV’s exact wartime history is not known, but it is known that a relatively small number of BARVs were converted. It shows the markings of a beach recovery section of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. Sherman BARVs remained in British Army service until the early 1960’s.

The museum exhibits around 500 artifacts, from a collection of over 10,000, which are combined with touch screens, audio and video presentations to allow the visitor to understand the complexities of planning such a huge operation and its impact on the people involved. To tell the D-Day story, the museum is divided into three sections: Preparation; D-Day and the Battle of Normandy; Legacy and the Overlord Embroidery.

Preparation covers the period from the Dunkirk Evacuation (1940) until just before 6 June 1944. It gives visitors an overview of the planning for Operation OVERLORD including some of the equipment specially developed to assist in the invasion, plus details of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall and the German defenses.

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Betty White’s coat. Five year old Betty White collected 89 badges from the British, American and Canadian troops who passed her house in Gosport on their way to Normandy. Her mother sewed them onto her coat.

ALLIED PREPARATIONS FOR D-DAY
Preparation for D-Day. Troops storm ashore from LCAs (Landing Craft Assault) during Exercise ‘Fabius’, a major invasion rehearsal on the British coast, 5 May 1944. Nearest landing craft is LCA 798. Photo: Imperial War Museum Collection. Object ID: 205359422

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The D-Day and the Battle of Normandy section describe the landing, fighting in the bocage and the breakout leading to the Liberation of Paris. This section features displays of personal items, weapons and equipment, accompanied by an audio-visual display to give an overview of the experiences of the troops fighting on the five beaches.

D-DAY - BRITISH FORCES DURING THE INVASION OF NORMANDY 6 JUNE 19
Commandos of 1st Special Service Brigade led by Brigadier Lord Lovat (in the water, to the right of his men) land on Queen Red beach, Sword area, c. 0840 hours, 6 June 1944. Sherman DD tanks of 13th/18th Royal Hussars and other vehicles can be seen on the beach. Lovat’s piper, Bill Millin, is in the foreground about to disembark. Photo: Captain JL Evans, No.5 Army Film and Photographic Unit. IWM Object Number B 5103

Portsmouth d-day museum Overlord Embroidery

The final section, Legacy & Overlord Embroidery explores the experiences of loss and coming home through film clips of veterans recounting their experiences with some supporting artifacts, but is dominated by the Overlord Embroidery an 83m long tapestry consisting of 34 different panels takes up a significant section of the floorspace in a relatively small museum. It is underpinned by a small central gallery that explains the techniques used by the twenty members of the Royal School of Needlework who took seven years to complete its construction.

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A Churchill Mk.VII Crocodile (flame throwing) tank. The history of this particular tank is not known. It has been given representative markings for tank T173174H named ‘Sandgate’. This Churchill Crocodile belonged to C Squadron, 141st (The Buffs) Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps, and on D-Day was commanded by Lieutenant John Shearman (awarded the Military Cross for actions on and after D-Day). In late 2020 the tank was moved to its current location aboard the LCT 7074.

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Landing craft tank LCT 7074. Able to transport 10 tanks, LCT 7074 is the last surviving Landing Craft Tank (LCT) from D-Day.

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Outside the main building, visitors can go on a tour of LCT 7074, one of two hundred and thirty five MkIII LCT’s that were built for the invasion and the last surviving Landing Craft Tank in the UK. LCT 7074 transported 10 tanks and crew to Gold Beach at 02:00 on 7 June 1944 before returning to England carrying POWs.  On board visitors will find the Churchill and Sherman tanks that once stood at the front of the museum. The tour includes a series of short films showcasing the history of LCT 7074 including its post war life as a riverfront nightclub in Liverpool before falling into disrepair and sinking at Birkenhead Docks. It was rescued in 2014 and restored to its current state before being moved to the museum in 2020.

A visit to D-Day Story presents a good start point to develop a broad understanding of the invasion if you’re in the UK and are planning to head across the channel to visit the battle sites at Normandy. The museum opens at 10am every day and tickets can be purchased in advance. You should allow around two to three hours to examine all of the exhibits. Portsmouth’s long naval and military history is also commemorated in several other military museums in the area, so plan for a two or three days stopover to check out some of the other museums and to experience more of this interesting city’s attractions.

D-Day Story Museum Portsmouth-01

D-Day Story
Clarence Esplanade
Portsmouth PO5 3NT
England

Website: https://theddaystory.com/
Email:  theddaystory@portsmouthcc.gov.uk
Phone: +44 (0)23 9288 2555

Open: The D-Day Story is open seven days a week, from 10am to 5.30pm. Last admission is 3.30pm to LCT 7074 and 4pm to the museum.

Parking: There is a large 125-space car park located next to the D-Day Story. The car park is open 24 hours a day and has toilet facilities on site. There are 25 coach spaces, with a wash bay facility available. For parking charges please see The Seafront D-Day car park . There are marked disabled bays within the car park and on Clarence Esplanade in front of the museum. Parking is free for blue badge holders.

Park & Ride: Portsmouth’s Park & Ride is available from Junction 1 of the M275 motorway which is the principal route into Portsmouth from the north. Follow the brown direction signs to the Park & Ride car park. The nearest Park & Ride stop to The D-Day Story is at The Hard Interchange transport hub which is adjacent to Portsmouth Harbour railway station and Gunwharf Quays. Catch a connecting number 3 bus to Palmerston Road then it is an attractive 10 minute walk across Southsea Common to the D-Day Story on the seafront. On Sundays there is an hourly number 16 bus which will stop outside the museum.

Buses: The nearest bus stop is an attractive 10 minute walk from Palmerston Road across Southsea Common, to the D-Day Story. See directions above from The Hard Interchange to Palmerston Road.

Train: The nearest train station is Portsmouth & Southsea – a 1.5 mile walk from The D-Day Story. The most direct route is via Isambard Brunel Road, Grosvenor Street, Cottage Grove, Grove Roads North and South, Palmerston Road and Avenue de Caen. There is also a taxi rank outside Portsmouth & Southsea railway station.

Alternatively, it’s a 1.7 mile walk from Fratton station to the museum, via Sydenham Terrace, Victoria Roads North and South, Lennox Road South and Clarence Esplanade.

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The Darwin Aviation Museum – Northern Territory, Australia

Some photographs and review after my recent visit to the Darwin Aviation Museum

Darwin Aviation Museum-17Replica of a Supermarine Spitfire Mk VIII on display at the Darwin Aviation Museum. Photo: Julian Tennant

The Darwin Aviation Museum (formerly known as the Australian Aviation Heritage Centre) is situated about 8km from the Darwin CBD, on the Stuart Highway in the suburb of Winnellie. It grew out of the activities of the Aviation Historical Society of the Northern Territory Inc  which was established in 1976 with the aim of recovery, restoration and document of aviation relics related to the defence of Darwin in World War II.

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Wreck of the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M-2 Type ‘O’ fighter of Petty Officer Hajime Toyoshima who was forced to land on Melville Island during the attack on Darwin of 19 February 1942. Toyoshima was subsequently captured by a Tiwi Islander, Matthias Ulungura and interned at Cowra in NSW under the alias, Todao Minami. He was one of the camp leaders of the infamous escape attempt on 5 August 1944, blowing the bugle to start the breakout. After recapture he committed suicide and is buried in the Japanese Cemetery at Cowra. Photo” Julian Tennant

Darwin raid Toyoshima POW
Wreck of the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M-2 Type ‘O’ fighter of Petty Officer Hajime Toyoshima on Melville Island shortly after his crash landing. Inset shows Toyoshima’s POW identification photo. The wreck is on display at the Darwin Aviation Museum.

Over the years the museum has expanded to cover all aspects of aviation history in the Northern Territory and today it features one of the largest private collections of aircraft and aviation artifacts in Australia. Housed in a custom built hangar that was opened in 1990 after the Society was able to secure a B52 G bomber and currently exhibits 19 aircraft, 21 engines and numerous other related displays.

Aircraft include a B-25D Mitchell Bomber (one of the few surviving in the world), a replica Spitfire, Mirage, Avon Sabre, a Royal Australian Navy Wessex helicopter that assisted in the clean-up of Darwin after Cyclone Tracy, F-111C and the centerpiece, the aforementioned  Boeing B52 G Stratofortress 92596 “Darwin’s Pride.” This aircraft entered service with the USAF in December 1960 and made its last flight (to the museum) on 1 September 1989. The museum was chosen for its final resting place as Darwin Airport allowed B52 Bombers to take off at their maximum ‘take off weight’ with full fuel tanks or payload.

This relationship with Australia’s American allies is well documented in the museum and includes several artifacts from the USAAF’s 33rd Pursuit Squadron which flew P-40 Kittyhawks and was virtually wiped out when the Japanese attacked on 19 February 1942, right up to the present day deployment of the  Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF – D).

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Uniform and flying helmet of Lieutenant Robert F. McMahon of the 33rd Pursuit Squadron USAAF who engaged the attacking Japanese aircraft in his P-40 Kittyhawk during their bombing raid of Darwin on 19 February 1942. Photo: Julian Tennant

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United States HMLA-367 patches from the MRF-D 2019 deployment. US Marine Corps Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 (HMLA-367) is a United States Marine Corps helicopter squadron consisting of AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters and UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters. Photo: Julian Tennant

One of the aircraft that I was pleased to see was the De Havillland DH104 “Dove” called Manatuto after a town on the north coast of East Timor. My interest in this aeroplane relates to a beautiful civilian Transportes Aéreos de Timor pilot’s wing  that I hold in my collection.

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Pre 1975 Transportes Aéreos de Timor Pilot wing. Brass and enamel multi-piece construction with rotating propeller. Collection: Julian Tennant

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Transportes Aeros de Timor (Timor Air Transport) De Havillland DH104 Dove ‘Manatuto’  Photo: Julian Tennant

The Manatuto was registered to the Portuguese Government and operated by the Transportes Aéreos de Timor (Timor Air Transport). Originally based at Dili, Manatuto provided regular passenger, mail and cargo service throughout Timor and to Darwin. In October 1975, just before the Indonesian invasion of Timor, the aircraft flew to Darwin. It was admitted to Australia as an ‘aircraft in transit’ but was subsequently declared an illegal import and impounded after the Indonesian invasion before finally being donated to the society by the Portuguese Government in 1978.

Unlike the Darwin Military Museum, which I reviewed in my previous post, the provenance of the exhibits here are well documented and as a collector whose focus is uniforms and insignia I found several pieces that aroused my interest including some of the less well known RAAF uniforms from recent times.

RAAF Flight Service Uniform c1980-1990. Photo: Julian Tennant
RAAF Flight Service Uniform c1980-1990. Photo: Julian Tennant

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Helicopter Air Crew Vietnam display. The mannequin is wearing the Gentex SPH-4 Helicopter Helmet, which was first produced in 1969 although this particular helmet appears to be a post war example. He is also equipped with a US Army issue 2-piece “Nomex” flight suit and the “Armour, Small-Arms-Fragmentation Protective” jacket which was commonly referred to as the “chicken plate.”  Photo: Julian Tennant

The museum also has a small cafeteria and bookshop which, in addition to their range of aviation and military histories also has model aircraft as well as generic Northern Territory related paraphernalia for sale. Overall, this is an interesting museum well worth the few hours I spent examining the exhibits. It is quite easy to get to using public transport as the number 8 bus stops at the front gate, but if you have a hire car and can set a day aside, I’d suggest combining it with a trip to the Defence of Darwin Experience and Darwin Military Museum at East Point which is about 20 minutes away.

Entrance to the Darwin Aviation Museum. Photo: Julian Tennant

The Darwin Aviation Museum
557 Stuart Highway
Winnellie Darwin, NT 0820
Australia

Phone: +61 (0)8 8947 2145
Email: info@darwinaviationmuseum.com.au
Website: https://www.darwinaviationmuseum.com.au/

Open: Every day 09:00 – 17:00

Entry Fees:
Adults: Au$16
Children under 12: $8
Seniors (65+): Au$12
Family pass: Au$36.00

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If you like what you see here, please FOLLOW this page via email or by using either the buttons below or in the column on the right.  I try to post NEW content as often as possible and knowing that somebody is looking at this gives me the encouragement I need to set aside time to go through my archives and collection in order to develop the content for the page. And of course, feel free to contact me here, via email or by visiting my Facebook or Instagram pages

The Darwin Military Museum & Defence of Darwin Experience – Northern Territory, Australia


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Keith Swain: ‘Japanese air attacks on Darwin Harbour, 19th February 1942.’ Swain’s painting depicts the Japanese air raid on Darwin on 19 February 1942. Japanese aircraft fly overhead, while the focus of the painting is the Royal Australian Navy corvette HMAS Katoomba, in dry dock, fighting off the aerial attacks. Of the 13 ships in the harbour at the time of the attack, 9 were sunk. Australian War Memorial Accession Number: ART28075

 

On 19 February 1942, Japanese aircraft bombed Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory. It was the first direct attack on Australian soil. At least 243 civilians and service personnel were killed, and it was the first of over 60 bombing raids on the frontier town between February 1942 and November 1943. Darwin’s proximity to Southeast Asia made it a strategically important location for the war in the Pacific and at its peak in 1943, there were over 110,000 servicemen and women based in the town and surrounding areas.  

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Parade at a 6-inch gun emplacement, East Point, 1942. Photo: Northern Territory Library

The strategic value of Darwin was recognised as early as 1892 when military planners perceived a threat from Japan. In 1911 Field Marshall Kitchener had recommended that two batteries of 6-inch guns be situated at the east and west points of the harbour entrance although this was not acted upon. In 1919 as part of Admiral Jellicoe’s plan for the defence of the Pacific a recommendation was made to establish a Far Eastern Fleet in Singapore with a secondary bases in Australia including Darwin. However, with the development of the ‘Singapore Strategy’ in 1923, Darwin’s role as a major naval base was removed and instead it was to be a naval refuelling facility protected by four 6-inch guns.

In 1932, Australian Army troops arrived to construct the fortifications and garrison accommodation and by 1936, four 6-inch guns, two each at East point and Emery Point, magazines, command posts and searchlight stations had been installed. In 1944 the 6-inch guns were replaced by 9.2-inch guns, but apart from firing test rounds in March 1945, not a shot was fired in anger and after the war, the guns were sold as scrap to the Fujita Salvage Company.

9.2-inch gun at East Point
9.2-inch gun at East Point at the end of World War II. AWM Photo Accession Number: 126155
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Replica of a 9.2-inch gun in its emplacement at the Darwin Military Museum, East Point. Photo: Julian Tennant

The battery emplacements at East Point are now the home to the Darwin Military Museum and co-located Defence of Darwin Experience. Originally established in 1965 by the Royal Australian Artillery Association (NT) Inc to showcase Darwin’s history during WWII, the museum has expanded to include exhibits from all Australia’s conflicts from the Boer War to the present day.

Darwin Military Museum 2021-18

The exhibition spaces have spread beyond the original museum which was situated in the command post bunker and are a mixture of indoor, covered outdoor and open air displays. Being in the tropics, this is presenting obvious preservation issues for some of the exhibits, particularly some of the paper and textile items that are not housed in sealed climate controlled environments.  

Naturally, emphasis is given to the Northern Territory’s role in Australia’s military history, past and present and there are some very interesting exhibits. of particular interest to me were the displays related to the little known 2/1st North Australia Observation Unit (NAOU), nicknamed the “Nackeroos” or “Curtin’s Cowboys” which had been raised by an anthropologist, Major William Stanner. The unit was tasked with patrolling northern Australia looking for signs of enemy activity, patrolling in small groups on horseback and maintaining coastwatching outposts. As the threat of Japanese invasion passed, the unit was reduced in strength and disbanded in 1945. The concept was resurrected in 1981 with the formation of the North-West Mobile Force (NORFORCE), which is based in Darwin and one of three Regional Force Surveillance Units employed in surveillance and reconnaissance of remote Northern Australia.

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WWII Buffalo LVT amphibious transport. Powered by a 250hp Continental radial engine, the Buffalo was originally of Australian design (according to the museum’s description panel, which I think may be incorrect) but its manufacturing rights were sold to the USA during the war. This particular example was slightly modified to allow it to be operated from outside the driver’s compartment, which would have become unbearably hot due the tropical weather and the engine being mounted directly behind the driver. Holes were cut into the armour plating on the front and the steering columns, accelerator and brake pedals extended through these apertures. Whilst the Buffalo had potential to be an outstanding utility vehicle, its design did not allow it to operate in any but the calmest of seas without taking on dangerous levels of water. Photo: Julian Tennant
Darwin Military Museum ferret
Turret detail of a 1954 Ferret MkII Scout Car. The ‘Nightcliff 1st Cavalry’ insignia is a mystery to me as no such unit is known to have existed and the badge appears to be a variation of the British Royal Hampshire Regiment (minus the crown). Photo: Julian Tennant
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1968 Australian variation of the Pandora Productions satirical anti-war ‘Fly Far Eastern Airways: This vaction visit beautiful Vietnam’ poster. Photo: Julian Tennant
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‘Cheap Charlie’ badge. The ‘Cheap Charlies’ were like a lot of other clubs of its type in Vietnam and served the same purpose… to break the monotony and drink booze. To qualify one had to be first and foremost a cheap bastard. Meetings were held every two weeks and fines were handed out to those found guilty of not being cheap, i.e. giving someone a smoke, buying someone a beer etc. The badge had to be carried at all times and be produced to another member on the demand of “Cheep Cheep” – the shower being a popular challenge location. Photo: Julian Tennant
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1943 dated Imperial Japanese Navy hat issued to Hiro Hikita (Volunteer No. 25664) of the Kure Naval Arsenal, which was established in 1903 near the city of Hiroshima. The Kure Naval Arsenal was one of Japan’s largest shipbuilding and repair facilities. The battleship Yamato was built here and commissioned in December 1941. Photo: Julian Tennant

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However, as a collector and researcher there are also some disappointments. My interests are quite focused, and my knowledge reflects those limitations but some of the mistakes in the exhibits are glaringly obvious to even somebody with a more general interest in Australian militaria.  These include presenting contemporary uniforms and insignia in displays that are described as being from earlier conflicts and including reproduction items as originals without identifying them as copies. Whilst these omissions may escape the notice of the general viewing public, they do undermine the integrity of the museum and the accuracy of its representation, which is unfortunate if its role is to preserve history and educate.

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A somewhat strange RAAF ensemble featuring a post WW2 Officer’s summer tropical jacket with current RAAF buttons and WW2 period pilot wings, plus pre-1950 tropical pith helmet. Photo: Julian Tennant
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One of the unusual ‘creative’ interpretations on display in the Darwin Military Museum. The mannequin includes a British Para smock, which I think may be the 1959 pattern, with Airborne forces Pegasus patch and Parachute Regiment beret but it also includes a Glider Pilot Regiment shoulder title which would not be worn by members of the Parachute Regiment and was not worn on para smocks. The Glider Pilot Regiment was disbanded in 1957. Unfortunately this is one of several mistakes that are displayed in the museum. Photo: Julian Tennant
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Melbourne Argus front page of 20 February 1942. (National Library of Australia)

One of the newer areas of the museum, which is done very well, is the co-located Defence of Darwin Experience. This is presented as a stand-alone attraction in a lot of the tourist orientated promotional material but is really just a new section of the museum which was added in 2012 and included in the one admission fee. This section tells the story of Darwin’s role in World War II through a combination of objects, firsthand accounts and multimedia presentations. Naturally there is an emphasis on the bombing of Darwin and unlike in some of other sections of the museum, the provenance of the artifacts is well documented presenting an engaging insight to the war in the top end by connecting the objects to the participants and their experiences.

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War Damage Commission armband on display in the Defence of Darwin Experience gallery. The War Damage Commission was established to enact the Australian ‘War Damage Compensation Act.’ From 1 January 1942, under the ‘national Security Act’, every owner of fixed property in Australia was guaranteed compensation for war damage and was compelled to contribute to a fund from which the compensation would be drawn. After the boming of Darwin, skilled builders and tradesmen were recruited to assess the damage and make compensation recommendations. The assessors wore these armbands to ensure entry into all areas across the military-run district. The War Damage Commission made two major visits to Darwin, in August 1942 and July 1943. Claims were not limited to purely bomb damage; many buildings were purposely destroyed or stripped of materials for military purposes and claims continued to be made by property owners well into the 1950’s. Photo: Julian Tennant
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Uniform of Sergeant F.G. Jarvis during his service with the Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC) during WW2. The VDC (aka Dad’s Army) was made up of recruits too old to enlist in the regular forces. The majority of the men in the VDC were veterans of the First World War. Sgt Jarvis was one such veteran having served at Gallipoli as evidenced by the brass ‘A’ on the colour patch indicating active service with the 27th Battalion AIF. The cross-flags insignia represent qualification as a signaller. Photo: Julian Tennant

Overall, I found the Darwin Military Museum to be a mixed bag, sometimes disappointing due to the inclusion of fakes or reproductions that were not identified as such, obvious curatorial errors and the effects that poor display conditions are having on some of the objects. But the exhibits also include some very engaging personal stories and unusual artifacts that are not often found in the public domain. I spent half a day examining the exhibits, jumping back and forth between the various exhibition areas. Visiting the museum resulted in a much better understanding Darwin’s history during the war and when complimented by the ABC’s Bombing of Darwin Podtour,  I was able to develop a much more informed exploration of the military related sites in the area.

 

Darwin Military Museum Map

The Darwin Military Museum
LOT 5434 Alec Fong Lim Dr
East Point, Darwin, NT 0820
Australia

Phone: +61 (0)8 8981 970
Email: info@darwinmilitarymuseum.com.au
Website: https://www.darwinmilitarymuseum.com.au/#/

Open: Every day 10:00 – 15:30

Entry Fees:
Adults: Au$20
Children aged 5 – 15: Au$10
Children under 5: Free
Seniors (65+): Au$10 for Northern Territory residents, interstate and international visitors, Au$15
Family pass(2 ADULTS, 3 CHILDREN U16): Au$45.00
University/TAFE students: Au$10.00
Disability carers: ​Au$12.00
Serving Military Personnel: Au$15

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If you like what you see here, please FOLLOW this page via email or by using either the buttons below or in the column on the right.  I try to post NEW content as often as possible and knowing that somebody is looking at this gives me the encouragement I need to set aside time to go through my archives and collection in order to develop the content for the page. And of course, feel free to contact me here, via email or by visiting my Facebook or Instagram pages

The Dutch Armed Forces Nationaal Militair Museum

Dutch Nationaal Militair -01

 

The Dutch Armed Forces National Museum, known locally as the  Nationaal Militair Museum is located at the former Soesterberg airbase, approximately 50km southeast of Amsterdam. It combines the collections from the former Military Aviation Museum located at the same site with the Army Museum in Delft and the result has to be one of the best national military collections that I have visited.

The exhibits of the museum are organized thematically and although the museum represents all four services, the emphasis is on the land and air forces. The top floor tells the story of the armed forces through a combination of physical objects and interactive displays, which are broken down into sections leading the visitor through the story of the armed forces, the soldiers, conflicts, the relationship with civil society and the future.

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Interactive display at the Nationaal Militair Museum which allows visitors to identify the insignia and qualifications worn by members of the Dutch Armed Forces. Photos: Julian Tennant
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Commemorative Batik cloth of the two parachute companies belonging to the Korps Special Troops of the KNIL on display in the museum. They played an important role in the 2nd Police Action against Indonesian separatists in 1948/9. The 1st Para company consisted of Europeans (Dutch and Dutch East Indies soldiers), and the 2nd company of locally recruited Ambonese soldiers.
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Dutch Special Forces Afghanistan display. The chest-rig shown in the photo on the right was worn by Commando Captain Björn Peterse during operations in 2005. Photo: Julian Tennant
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Dutch Special Forces vehicle mounted patrol in Afghanistan. Photo: Julian Tennant

 

Dutch SF patrol vehicle Afghanistan
Mercedes-Benz 250GD soft top (11kN). This Mercedes was used in between 2004-2006 by Dutch Special Forces of the Korps Commandotroepen in Afghanistan. It was originally an ordinary military Mercedes soft top, but has been adapted to the demands of the commandos. In order to be able to carry out extended patrols, the loading capacity was increased from 750 Kilo (7,5kN) to 1,100 Kilo (11kN). The vehicle is armed with a .50 machine gun on the ring gun, whilst the commander / co-driver operates a MAG machine gun. In addition the vehicles sometimes carried a 60mm mortar plus AT4 or LAW anti-tank weapons and radio systems that permitted communications between the crew, other vehicles and additional assets. Photograph: The Nationaal Militair Museum

 

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Dutch Police Dienst Speciale Interventies (D.S.I.) sniper display. Formed in 2006, is the Dutch elite police anti-terrorist force that combines the SWAT units of the police and marines. It has a unit of specialized water operators (Unit Interventie Mariniers), an assault/intervention unit, comprised of a mix of police and military personnel (Unit Interventie) and police marksmen unit (Unit Expertise & Operationele Ondersteuning). The snipers of the Unit Expertise & Operationele Ondersteuning are armed with Heckler & Koch PSG1 and Mauser SR93 sniper rifles. Photos: Julian Tennant

 

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A Brigade Speciale Beveiligingsopdrachten (BSB) assaulter of the Koninklijke Marechaussee (KMar) Gendarmerie. Photo: Julian Tennant

 

The lower level, known as the Arsenaal, concentrates on weapons and the equipment used, from uniforms and field gear through to tanks, artillery and aircraft. The mix between objects and interaction is just right and there are lots… and I mean lots, of things to keep kids or, otherwise bored, spouses entertained. In the middle of the Arsenaal is Xplore which is filled with games activities including an F16 flight simulator, sniping and driving a tank.

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Displays in the Arsenaal section of the museum cover 3000 years of weapons and equipment. Here, part of the medieval display. Photo: Julian Tennant
Cutaway model of a Steyr Mannlicher Rifle, Model 1892. Photo: Julian Tennant
Cutaway model of a Steyr Mannlicher Rifle, Model 1892. Photo: Julian Tennant

 

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Dogtag of Corporal Boortman excavated from the battlefield at Waterloo. Photo: Julian Tennant

 

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Infantryman’s uniform from the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army, 1900. Photo: Julian Tennant
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Experimental insect-sized UAV camera device on display at the Nationaal Militair Museum. Photo: Julian Tennant

I visited the Nationaal Militair Museum towards the end of a month-long trip dragging the missus through the battlefields of Normandy, the Western Front and Arnhem. I figured that if I was lucky, I’d have a few hours to explore the museum by myself, but when she saw some of the displays decided to hang around and we ended up spending the best part of the day exploring the exhibits. Unfortunately, I did not take as many photos as I should have and snapped most on my old cell-phone, so the images really do not do the museum justice. This museum should definitely be on your itinerary if you are visiting the Netherlands and is easy to reach if you have a car, but is also quite accessible by public transport from Amsterdam and worth a day trip to fully experience what it offers.

The Nationaal Militair Museum
Verlengde Paltzerweg 1
3768 MX Soest
The Netherlands

Phone: +31  85 003 6000
Email: info@nmm.nl
Website: https://www.nmm.nl/en/

Open: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 17:00 excluding Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Koningsdag (27 April) 

Entry Fees:
Adults: €15,00
Children aged 4 – 12: €7,50
Children under 4: Free
Museumkaart: Free

For Dutch citizens, if you have a Defensiepas (Ministry of Defence card), Veteranenpas (Veteran’s Card) or an ICOM card or if you are a Friend of the Museum or member of Vereniging Rembrandt, you can collect a ticket from the cash desk upon presentation of your card. This gives you free access to the museum.

If you are relying on public transport, you can plan your trip online using the Dutch National Travel Planner at 9292.nl

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