Army Magazine / South West Pacific


Page text (C) Greg Ray

AUSTRALIA in World War 2 produced
a variety of ephemeral publications of potential interest to modern-day collectors.

Service newspapers, unit journals and a range of essentially propagandist publications pop up periodically in shops and at deceased estates.

One of the most appealing of those which occasionally appear is “Army”, a glossy A4-sized magazine published by K.G. Murray, the publisher of the “Man” magazine stable.

The first issue of Army appeared in November 1942 and the publication ceased with a combined August/September 1945 issue (Volume 5, number 6).

Murray produced Army for the Commonwealth Department of Information, and one suspects it may have been part of a deal that enabled Man to remain in print throughout the war when a great many other publications were forced into recess by shortages of paper and ink.

A very high quality magazine (considering wartime constraints), some issues featured articles by Ion L. Idriess and other well-known authors.

Murray used its stable of excellent artists - including Jack Gibson and Hartmuth Lahm - to create a really outstanding publication, chiefly designed to circulate among servicemen and women and their families.

Army may also have been an attempt by the Government to create an authentically Australian publication to stand alongside or counter the American service and government magazines then flooding into the country with US soldiers.

The first issue carried an introductory editorial that ran as follows:

“Soldier, this is your first issue of Army Magazine. Foremost among its aims it proposes to record, by the use of both words and pictures, the job you are doing.

“While being documentary it intends also to be entertaining and informative. It is also designed that your homefolks can read it . . . without being bored for an instant.

“Never before has this Australia been so completely, body and soul, tied up in a war, because never before has war come so close to these shores of ours. It is fitting, therefore, that no phase of this, the most historic period of our national life, should be lost. And the best time to record it publicly, with all its laughter and tears, is while the heat is on.

“Army is compiled and edited voluntarily. Its profits will go to the fund controlled by the Commander-in-Chief for the Amenities Directorate.”

The first issue carried a summary of the New Guinea campaign to date, some useful hints on learning Japanese, an article by Ion Idriess and some sketches by Hal Missingham.

The full run of 30 magazines makes an appealing collection of Australian wartime fiction, propaganda, artwork, photography and cartoons.

Single issues of Army appear often enough, but it is quite difficult to assemble a full set, especially because of the demand from Idriess collectors.

Idriess appears in Volume 1 #1 and Volume 1 #3.

While Army was designed for a domestic readership, a modified version was published for overseas readers.

This edition was titled “South West Pacific” and the content - though very similar to Army - was tailored to win the sympathy of the foreign press and opinion leaders to Australia’s plight.

The Government was acutely conscious of debate in America about how much effort ought to be put into the Pacific while Hitler remained unbeaten in Europe.

South West Pacific set out to show exactly why the Pacific theatre deserved its share of attention.

Chief among the arguments was that Australia, a white nation - very like America - was straining every last sinew, despite its small population and its isolation, to preserve itself as the perfect base for Allied efforts to wipe out the Japanese.

After the war South West Pacific continued to be published for some time by the Department of Information and the postwar issues are distinguished by articles and photographs by very well-known Australian exponents.

Because its main circulation was overseas, copies of South West Pacific are relatively difficult to find.

Page updated 22nd June, 2009.

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