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South-west Pacific (1943)

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'Working on the home front' education content clip 1, 2

This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

This clip tells the story of a civilian worker who joined the war by helping to make engines and aircraft for the allies. His address to camera – filmed at a workbench against back projection of a factory floor – is intercut with images of his family pre-war, factory workers who assisted the war effort, and the construction of war supplies. He says that the impact of the war 'puts a mark on a man, a democratic mark. Something we’ll all be proud of’.

Curator’s notes

The beginning shot in this clip is an example of back projection – a technique which allows scenes that would normally have to be shot on location to be filmed inside a studio. The actor is filmed in front of a workbench measuring out sheets of metal. A background of a factory floor is projected behind him. Hall had first used this technique in some of Cinesound’s feature films, after bringing back equipment from a trip to Hollywood in 1935 (see Thoroughbred, 1936). The technique is used extensively and to good effect throughout this film to place the characters within their respective settings. These scenes are intercut with stock footage of the actual war, probably filmed by war camera operators working for the Department of Information.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This black-and-white clip is taken from an Australian Government-sponsored film from the Second World War, and is about a civilian worker who has joined the Australian war effort, making Beaufort bombers for the Allies. Telling his story to camera, the man details the significant changes to the workforce necessitated by the War, and industry changes to support the construction of war supplies, munitions and aircraft. The clip is a combination of acted scenes, back-projection techniques and stock footage of pre-War, wartime and factory scenes.

Educational value points

  • After the declaration of the Second World War large elements of Australian industry were converted to the war effort. The National Security Act (1939) gave the Government the power to order factories to shift production to the manufacture of munitions, aircraft and supplies. When the War moved closer to Australia in 1942 as a result of the Japanese advance in the Pacific, the imperative for industrial innovation led to new technologies.
  • The narrator talks about the sacrifices that he and other Australian workers have made on the home front. Intercut images of his pre-War life show him as a hardworking man providing financial security for his family. The footage of factory workers reinforces the view of civilians temporarily sacrificing their professional ambitions to join the war effort. The narrator’s view that people will return to past roles when the War is over strengthens the portrait of ordinary lives put on hold.
  • The depiction in this clip of civilians working together for Allied victory is consistent with the aim of sponsored war films to recruit more people to the war effort. The depiction contrasts with the reality of industrial conscription, legislated through the National Security Act (1939). Men and women of different professions, backgrounds, ages and abilities were required to perform essential jobs. This policy democratised the workforce somewhat; however, women were paid less than male co-workers.
  • Film techniques are used in this clip to present a sympathetic view of the civilian contribution to the War. The amiable narrator is positioned at a workbench, using the clear-speaking style of a trustworthy ‘everyman’. His address to camera is intimate and draws the viewer to him. His conviction is realised through the serious tone he adopts in telling the story of patriotic sacrifice, and his emotional recall of Australian victories in aircraft made by people such as him.
  • Production of Beaufort bombers, featured in the clip, was one of the largest Australian wartime industrial projects. Construction of these modern twin-engine high-performance aircraft presented a major challenge. The Beaufort program was based at Fishermens Bend in Melbourne and Mascot in Sydney. It made significant use of existing workforce as well as training new employees on the production lines. Approximately one-third of this project’s employees were women.
  • The first Australian-made Beaufort bomber flew in August 1941, and a total of 700 had been built by the time production ceased in August 1944 – evidence of a highly successful wartime project. However, between first production and January 1944 a high number of Beauforts crashed on training flights, including up to 93 from the Sale base alone, with significant loss of life. A faulty rod in the tailplane elevator coupling was identified as a production fault.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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