This film is part of Free

Australia at War

A film full of contrasts captures Australia at a pivotal point in its history: under threat from Japan at home, but pledging to defend the British Empire and the Crown abroad.

Non-Fiction 1941 18 mins


Australian troops in their distinctive slouch hats, are cheered through the streets by crowds of well-wishing onlookers, as they march off to the docks, bound for the war in the Mediterranean. This issue of March of Time is packed with images from a time when Australia’s identity was at a crossroads, shots of sheep-shearing and the Sydney Harbour Bridge are familiar to the point of cliche, but a pair of women in thick overcoats in a tea-shop look as if they could be sheltering from an English winter.

This film champions the pioneering spirit of a country rich in raw materials and independent, but loyal to the Empire. Shots of girls in science lessons, men shearing sheep, engineers in factories, and the Australian armed forces, in their distinctive new uniforms, show a modern Commonwealth nation, uniting against the fear of Japanese aggression in the South Pacific. The film, which was made in March 1941, also shows a nation at a crossroads: by December of that year, the Japanese had captured Malaya and Singapore. When it became clear that the UK could not lend more military aid, Australia turned to the USA for help, and that unquestioning loyalty to Britain, repeatedly emphasised here, was gone forever.