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Australia Post – Post Office Film (1942)


This is an unedited mute, black-and-white film record of the dismantling of the Sydney General Post Office (GPO) clock tower, as well as street scenes near and around the GPO, in 1942.

Curator’s notes

During the Second World War the Postmaster-General’s Department, then responsible for post, telegraph and telecommunications, took on a substantial amount of specialised work for the Defence Forces. The Sydney GPO was a key location for these operations. When Japan entered the war in late 1941, it was feared that the Post Office tower would be targeted for aerial attack. Vital communications equipment within the building, especially the Morse room and the trunk telephone exchange located to one side, were at risk. In 1942 the decision was made to remove the tower.

The work was carried out under government supervision and 1890s drawings were used to identify and label individual parts as they were dismantled. The clock and bells were taken down, then the stones and columns, one by one. As was the case with all city buildings, the GPO was blacked out for the duration of the war. The glass roof lights were painted over and blast screens were installed. For 12 years after the war ended there was no move to re-erect the clock tower on the building. A campaign to have the tower returned began to grow, but was resisted by government on the grounds of cost. Finally in 1964, after much lobbying, the clock tower was returned to its rightful place.