Thursday, August 7, 2008

[Propaganda] 1941 AIF Recruitment Poster

"Mister, Here's Your Hat!"

This AIF Recruitment poster, as published by the Department of the Army in 1941, was used to entice young men into enlisting in the Army. An attractive young woman hands an Army slouch hat to a prospective recruit.

How many men of the 9th Division were swayed into enlisting by the nameless girl will never be known, however I'm sure there were plenty of Diggers who wished they'd never laid eyes on her before.

In 1941, just like today, sex sells.

image ARTV06443 Australian War Memorial.

[Image] Thirsty work this desert warfare.

Western Desert, Egypt. 1st August, 1942.

Filling water cans at 9th Div HQ.

Fighting in the Western Desert is thirsty work, and none know just how thirsty like these men of 9th Division HQ who are filling water cans from the 500 gallon tanker in the picture.

Every single drop of water needed to be carted across the desert to the armies in the field. Rommel had more of a problem with the huge distance that his supply line had to transverse to get to the battlefields of Egypt. Water was a precious commodity, even more so when some could be spared from drinking for washing body and clothes.

Many Australians chose to drink their water and just rely on the occasional swim in the ocean at Alamein for all their bathing. The veterans of Tobruk were well versed in water rationing and had many novel ways to maximise the usefulness of even the tiniest amount.

image 024690 Australian War Memorial.

[Image] Bren Carriers at Tel el Eisa

Tel el Eisa, Egypt. 1st August, 1942.

Bren Carriers advance in support of 9th Division troops.

These Bren Gun Carriers are photographed at Tel el Eisa in support of an infantry advance by the 9th Division. The lead carrier seems to be mounting a Boys Anti-Tank Rifle in it's forward hardpoint whilst the unmistakable silhouette of the Bren Gun and bipod is visible out of the open topped carrier at the left.

image 041966 Australian War Memorial.

[Image] "Monty" and THAT Slouch Hat.

Lieutenant General B.L. Montgomery, CB DSO
Commander of the Eighth British Army
Tel el Eisa, Egypt. 21st August,1942.

When Lieutenant General Bernard Law Montgomery CB DSO paid the forward positions of the 9th Division at Tel el Eisa a visit on 14th August 1942 he is reported to have requested an Australian slouch hat to wear.

Members of Headquarters, 24th Infantry Brigade quickly found "Monty" his requested hat and from that point forward Montgomery chose to wear the Slouch Hat as a part of his standard field uniform.

In the photo above Montgomery is photographed with a rare smile on his face a week after being presented with the hat. By this time word had spread that the Commander of the British Eighth Army had taken to wearing Dominion head wear as standard dress. This caused a mixed reaction amongst members of the Eighth Army.

Here Montgomery is seen wearing the hat at Tel el Eisa after having toured the forward positions for himself. As he inspected his lines he passed through positions held by different forces under his command. At each opportunity Montgomery collected the hat badges of the units and attached them to his slouch hat. A good collection of them can be seen above.

Reactions to Montgomery's choice of hat varied. Members of the Royal Australian Artillery stated that he looked like a "prize galah", whilst members of the Infantry saw it as an honour that out of all the different nationalities and units under his command that he chose an Australian Slouch Hat. In spite of all the inherent practicalities of such a hat in the Western Desert it was a real morale boost for members of the 9th Division to see Monty in their hat.

Others however were not convinced as to the suitability of their General wearing this hat and members of the Royal Tank Regiment saw to it that they presented Monty with a black beret in the hope that he would restore order and wear appropriate head dress. Someone must have had a quiet word to the General as he gave up his adored slouch hat and wore the Royal Tank Regiment's beret for the rest of the Western Desert campaign.

Lieutenant General Bernard Law Montgomery CB, DSO's slouch hat is currently in the collection of the Australian War Memorial at Canberra, Australia.

images 041980, 044866 and RELAWM30701 Australian War Memorial.