The year of this book’s appearance, 1942, was one of grave crisis for Australia. Japan had conquered south-east Asia, including Australian territories in New Guinea, and was raiding Australia – Darwin from February and in May, Sydney Harbour itself. Although the Japanese had decided not to invade Australia, many Australians feared that the nightmare of invasion would come true. The Curtin government encouraged this fear, hoping to motivate Australians’ commitment to the war effort.
A Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC), a large force of civilian volunteers, mobilised in communities across the country. Hastily armed, their members needed to be trained, perhaps to meet the expected invasion.
This book was produced by two members of the Australian Instructional Corps, the ‘Permanent’ Army’s training organisation, to instruct VDC members especially in the use of their weapons, using diagrams to help its instructors. With modern weapons in short supply, often men learned the theory of observing, aiming or firing without having the actual weapons or equipment.
The authors, Joseph Brearley and John Shimeld, had both been born in British India and had migrated to Australia. In 1942 they were promoted to temporary ranks of lieutenant and warrant officer respectively, presumably in recognition of the importance of their task. Both in their mid-30s in 1942, they were to remain in the Australian Army for a further twenty years.
Their book, published in a cheap ‘war economy’ edition by the major Australian publisher, Angus and Robertson, would have been sent to VDC units all over Australia, but many copies would have been used until they fell apart, making this a rare survivor of Australia’s year of crisis.
NoteUpdated 1/3/2021 ST: removed phrase 'probably as sergeants' following request from PS; Janet Mullins (family historian) advised that: 1) Joseph was born in India in 1908. Joseph left India with his Mother, brother and sister when WW1 broke out and they returned to the UK.
Joseph's father stayed in India with the 13th Hussars and was sent to France for a short time and then the Regiment went to Iraq and saw action against the Turks. They were the first troops to enter Baghdad.
2) After WW1 Joseph and his family lived in Leeds, UK. until 1924 when the family joined the Group Settlement Scheme and migrated to Northcliff, WA. Joseph was 15 years old when the family left the UK.
3) Joseph joined the Permanent Military Forces in 1934 and first served in the Coastal Artillery Defence at Fremantle, WA Place of publication[Sydney]PublisherAngus and RobertsonPublication date1942Extentix, 92 pages : chiefly illustrationsLanguageEnglishCollectionRare BooksSub-collectionUNSW Canberra Rare BooksLink to item in Library collectionLibrary collectionContact us
Digital Collections | Library (1st Mar 2021). The small arms instructor's diagram book. In Website Digital Collections | Library. Retrieved 18th Oct 2021 07:17, from https://digitalcollections.library.unsw.edu.au/nodes/view/3090