Soldiers Without Uniform: 'A great partnership'

Soldiers Without Uniform: 'A great partnership'
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A family sits around the breakfast table after son Ted has finished his night shift at the munitions factory. His mother tells him how proud she is of both her sons – one in the armed forces fighting overseas on the frontline, the other working in the factory to make weapons – and that they both form a 'great partnership, an unbreakable one’. The youngest child, Topsy, listens wide-eyed in silence, with food on her face. Over a montage of Australian scenes, the mother talks about her and her husband passing on to their children the Australian heritage of freedom and liberty. Men continue to labour in the factories as the voice-over commentary praises their efforts in producing the weapons wielded by Australian troops overseas. Summary by Poppy De Souza.

The dramatised sequence at home places the factory workers in the context of their family relationships and national pride. The film featured non-professionals, many of whom were employed in munitions plants. Soldiers Without Uniforms positions the work done on the home front in the factories as being as important as that of the soldiers fighting overseas. The voice-over reinforces this vital partnership between workers and troops in protecting the nation’s sovereignty and connecting father with son, brother with brother, and soldier with mate.


Soldiers Without Uniform synopsis

Charles and Elsa Chauvel’s short wartime documentary made for the Commonwealth Department of Information highlights the work of Australians in munitions factories. It includes a dramatised narrative about one family in which a father and son work in factories while the other son fights on the frontline overseas.


Soldiers Without Uniform curator's notes

Made between the feature films Forty Thousand Horsemen (1940) and The Rats of Tobruk (1944), Soldiers without Uniform was the first of four documentaries Chauvel produced for the Department of Information (DOI). According to his wife Elsa, Chauvel offered his services to the DOI as a way of serving his country. Each film aimed to boost the morale of domestic workers by recognising their contributions to the war effort.

Soldiers Without Uniforms was filmed in the manganese factories in Victoria where workers often had to be carried outside as a respite from the heavy fumes inside. Chauvel depicts these demanding conditions through cinematographer George Heath’s close-ups of sweaty workers, a persuasive and commanding voice-over narration and a rhythmic soundtrack conveying the machinery of war. These scenes are balanced by the dramatised domestic situation which places the workers in a context familiar to working-class families of the time.

Notes by Poppy De Souza

Production company:
Commonwealth Film Laboratories, Department of Information
Charles Chauvel
Charles Chauvel