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Tuesday 24 April 2012

Anzac Day, Typewriters and Guinea Gold

Staff prepare the home news pages of Guinea Gold, working at their typewriters. From left, the newspaper's last editor, Corporal H. L. Chisholm,
of South Yarra, Melbourne, Staff Sergeant G. L. Griffith, of Hamilton, NSW, 
Staff Sergeant C. W. Cook, of Ipswich, Queensland,
the paper's inaugural editor Major R. B. Leonard, of Melbourne, 
and Lieutenant J. D. Holdsworth, of Sydney.
Tomorrow, April 25, is ANZAC Day, a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand. The date marks the 1915 unparallelled slaughter of members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) at Gallipoli in Turkey the thousands of men who were sent to their inevitable deaths in the cause of British imperialism and on a Winston Churchill whim.
Sergeant Cashen Fitzgerald, from Sydney,
and Private Jack Williams, from Melbourne, at their typewriters.
ANZAC Day has come to be a day on which New Zealanders and Australians more broadly commemorate all those who served and died in military operations. None of these wars have been of New Zealand’s or Australia’s making.  They have fought for the British in the Boer War, World Wars I and II and in Malaysia, and alongside the Americans or for United Nations forces in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Guinea Gold editor Major R. B. Leonard, of Melbourne, (standing),
and Lieutenant J. D. Holdsworth, of Sydney,
at a Remington portable typewriter.
Canberra, Australia’s federal capital city, is home to the Australian War Memorial, an impressive institution at which any visitor to Canberra should spend some time. It sits at the top of Anzac Parade, along which are many other memorials. However, some Canberrans are calling for even more monuments.
Papuan Loa Dia at his typewriter
A letter writer, Rick Smyth of Narrabundah, commented in this morning’s The Canberra Times:
“As we approach another Anzac Day, and with the  controversy over memorials ringing in our ears, would it not be an appropriate time to consider a memorial to those who have reported  back from ‘the front’ to Australians ‘at home’?   I refer to the war  correspondents, photojournalists, war artists and media reporters who have risked, and in some cases given, their lives to this cause. Some who did return  have suffered ongoing effects from witnessing the  atrocities  wrought in human conflict, armed only with a typewriter, camera or  paintbrush. They deserve our recognition with an  appropriate sculptural monument on Anzac Parade.”
Taking down the news from radio on a Royal portable typewriter.
This call must apply particularly to those Australian servicemen and women, and their Papua New Guinea helpers, who during the height of the Pacific War - from November 19, 1942, to June 30, 1946 - produced under the most trying of conditions a newspaper called the Guinea Gold. The 1944 book Jungle Warfare recorded:
"Giant air transports dropped food, tobacco and copies of Guinea Gold. If anything, this little newspaper was more eagerly sought than rations. To troops practically marooned in the thick of the jungle swamps, this link with news of the outside world came almost as tidings from another planet."' 
The Guinea Gold was published in Port Moresby for Americans and Australians serving in New Guinea. New Guinea was the only war zone in which the US armed forces did not produce a local edition of their own newspaper, Stars and Stripes. The US edition of Guinea Gold was flown daily to Buna, Gona and Milne Bay.
A US soldier reads the paper on the steps
of the Guinea Gold newspaper office.
The Guinea Gold published a record number of world scoops, since US General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the South-West Pacific, had given it permission to publish his communiques 20 hours before the news was released for the rest of the world's media.
In 1942, Melbourne Herald war correspondent Reg Leonard suggested that the Australian Army should produce its own daily newspaper. Promoted to major, Leonard became Guinea Gold's foundation editor. Leonard was later 
managing director of Queensland Newspapers.
After the war, Leonard recalled soldiers intercepting radio news by match light during bomber raids.
Reg Leonard at his editor's desk
The Guinea Gold’s last editor, Horace ("Chis") Chisholm, recalled, "Overcoming incredible production problems, the newspaper came out seven days a week without missing a single day … Its 1320 days' continuous publication was easily a world record for service publications. At its peak in 1944, it produced 64,000 copies (US edition 37,000, Australian 27,000). Maximum readership was estimated at 800,000. The front and back pages concentrated on up-to-the-minute news from around the world, including coverage of major sporting events on the back page. Page 2 was devoted to extracts from Australian and US newspapers published a few days previously, which air transport crews delivered to Guinea Gold.
"Soldiers with newspaper experience, who had been transferred from other units when Guinea Gold was established, wrote news stories by taking shorthand notes of shortwave radio bulletins from Australia, the US Armed Forces station in San Francisco, the British Broadcasting Corporation All-India Radio and others.
Staff Sergeant John Eyre, of Canberra, taking papers from the press.
 Stacking papers is  Seri Eno. In the background oiling the machine is Private J. W. Dormer, while Corporal M. Nicholas, of Sydney,
is feeding the paper into the press (rear).
"At Lae, the second-hand Miller high-speed flatbed press ran 20 hours a day, printing 34 million copies in little more than two years. When it was retired after the war, it had 50 welds. It is now an exhibit at the National War Museum in Canberra." 
Chisholm recalled: “The worst crisis in Guinea Gold's life was the day that the Port Moresby Linotype and the Dobodura press broke down simultaneously. The problem was overcome by having the type set in Dobodura, flying the type 100 miles over the Owen Stanley mountains, and the paper printed on the Moresby press. Papers for the northern edition were then flown back over the Owen Stanleys.”
Sergeant Stan Cracknell, from Sydney, setting type
on a Linotype machine at the Guinea Gold newspaper. 
The Guinea Gold was a good example of the co-operation of the air forces. Royal Australian Air Force pilots flew almost daily over the Japanese lines to drop small bundles to forward fighting areas, and the day after the American forces landed at Cape Gloucester, New Britain, Flying Fortresses dropped Guinea Golds to them.
Chisholm wrote that when the newspaper promoted a "Girl I Left Behind" contest, 1700 photos of wives, sweethearts and baby daughters swamped the editorial office. The Australian-US judging panel comprised Dorothy Faull, of Canberra, a friend of Leading Air Craftsman M.J. Jones, RAAF, and  Mrs  Osmun, wife of Captain G. B. Osmun, US Army.
Private B. F. Baxter, from South Yarra, Melbourne,
 examining entries for the Guinea Gold newspaper competition.
Production of the newspaper was often interrupted by air raids, but deadlines were still met. Blow-lamps were used to melt Linotype metal during frequent power supply breakdowns. Because the hand-set type was so badly worn, it had to be packed with layers of gummed paper underneath, to raise it to type height.
On one occasion, the printers ran out of Ts. A Papuan helper chiseled some out of wood. When there was a shortage of Rs, Leonard added tails to Ps by cutting them from Ls.
Private Alec Lennox, from Sydney, setting headlines
for the Guinea Gold.
Isolation was described as a “morale-destroying disease in New Guinea” … radio sets were few and far between, and men were cut off from day-to-day news. An historian noted, “The result was a flood of false rumours which swept along the Owen Stanley trail when Australian troops were just starting to push the Japanese back from their mountain strongholds.
 “Guinea Gold daily brought to the news-hungry men of the Australian and American forces serving in the steaming jungle topics of interest to allay their boredom and boost their morale.”
Seura Dai, from Hanuabada Village, making metal page casts.
Bennie Resino, of Vabukori Village, pouring hot metal pigs
for Linotype machines.
Ganiga Davay operating the platen press.
Hani Hani operating a proof press.
Private P. W. Hannon, Private F. J. A. Edwards and Private G. W. Bright
 read the Guinea Gold on Bouganville Island, December 40, 1944.
Lest We Forget


Scott K said...

Excellent post Mr Messenger! I have seen the press that you speak of, althought I haven't been to Canberra for quite some time.

Thanks for the in-depth article. Great work.

ANd I'm glad that someone remembers why we say 'lest we forget', as opposed to the flagwaving 'mateship' celebration that this day has unfortunately become.

Bill M said...

Thanks for the very excellent and interesting post.

Roy Cochrun said...

I have linked to this excellent article from my WWII page found at Readers also will find a large number of PDF scans of the Guinea Gold itself with more to come.

Carl Mario Nudi said...

Fascinating article. Although I am not old enough to remember WWII first hand, as a retired newspaperman, working first in the back room as a hot metal printer and then moving into the front as a copy editor and reporter, I can appreciate the work that went into keeping the troops informed.
I also appreciated that the names of everyone pictured were included in the cutlines. Excellent reporting. Thank you.

Zoe Holdsworth said...

Lieutenant J.D Holdsworth (John Douglas) was my grandfather. I have never seen a picture of him until my mum and I happened to find this article. This is so special to me as i had never met him and have only really heard a few stories. Thank you so much.