- Thomson, Max
- Biographies and personal histories, WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Hawkesbury I, ML817
- March 2001 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Amid remarkable circumstances in the Philippines, ‘MANILA CALLING’ seemed such an appropriate film in Leyte Gulf for Aussie sailors aboard the attack transport USS La Salle.
In Majuro Atoll, in the Marshall Island, HMAS Hawkesbury men got ashore to see ‘ATLANTIC CITY’ in a classic jungle-clad setting. Back in Leyte Gulf they later enjoyed ‘FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK’ aboard the destroyer USS Thomason and later ‘GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE’ aboard the American fleet repair ship USS Henry T Allen.
On the USS Medusa some who had “dipped out” for earlier invitations saw ‘WHITE SAVAGE’ and ‘CANTERVILLE GHOSTS’ as a double-header – a rare treat.
Across at Macassar in the Celebes in a town theatre not long wrested back from the Japanese the film ‘DAMES’ provided novelty purely because of the circumstances and the setting.
In time our RAN ships in the forward areas had their own film projectors and about the first signal exchanged when the mudhook hit the bottom at an anchorage was a quest to swap films with adjacent ships.
But the truly big occasion lay in the rare opportunity to enjoy a live show.
Harry Dearth’s renowned wartime concert party, or the Tasmaniacs group, or the Tivoli Circuit entertainers visited forward bases and were ever-popular.
A highlight always was an invitation on to one of the big battleships to see a big-name band, such as the Artie Shaw Orchestra or topliners like Bob Hope, Carol Landis, Jerry Colonna, Frances Langford and others.
Just occasionally some of the old films of those wartime years are dusted off and used in the graveyard hours of midnight to dawn television. You see them advertised occasionally in the TV listings, reviving memories not so much of the films themselves but of the fascinating locations and uncertain circumstances under which they were once viewed all those years ago, when they offered a brief interlude in the wartime lifestyle of our service personnel.
Every ship of the wartime RAN could write its own enthralling chapter.