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image icon Letter from RAAF airmen to John Curtin, 1942

Letter from RAAF airmen to John Curtin, 1942
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library


This is a handwritten letter of thanks to Prime Minister John Curtin from six Royal Australian Air Force servicemen based at the RAAF station in Canberra, 4 January 1942. In it, they express gratitude to Curtin for hosting them to lunch at the Prime Minister's Lodge on Christmas Day, 1941.

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Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • This asset indicates that Prime Minister Curtin (1885-1945, Prime Minister 1941-45) hosted six airmen to dinner at The Lodge on Christmas Day 1941 - the pressure of war work meant that Curtin could not spend Christmas with his family in Western Australia, so he telephoned the Canberra headquarters of the RAAF and asked if six WA men could be his guests at luncheon; the 30 Western Australians there drew lots and those who were not successful that day were scheduled to be Curtin's guests in batches of six over the next few weeks.
  • This asset reveals something about the character of Curtin, his identification with WA and his relationship with the Australian people - missing his own family, he chose to share his Christmas with a group of servicemen from his home state, men who were, in their own words: 'obscure members of His Majesty's Air Force'; Curtin had a working-class background and was a man of the people who genuinely enjoyed the company of ordinary Australians.
  • This asset is an example of a letter sent by ordinary Australians to Curtin in the war years - many people wrote to Curtin on all sorts of personal matters, feeling that he was not only the nation's leader but also a friend who would understand their problems and help if he could; this letter of thanks is friendly and respectful in tone, plainly showing that the airmen felt that they could write freely to Curtin and that the Prime Minister would be interested and responsive; for the young airmen, lunching with the Prime Minister was 'one of the most outstanding in the cavalcade of our experiences' and that 'of all the Powers, only in Australia could such an event happen as you prepared for us'.
  • This asset suggests that 1942 was a year in which 'onerous trials' would have to be met by the Prime Minister and by Australia - in December 1941, Pearl Harbor in Hawaii had been bombed by Japanese planes, signalling the start of a rapid Japanese offensive throughout South-East Asia; the airmen's premonition proved correct because the British colony of Singapore fell to the Japanese in February 1942, and many Australians believed that the last bastion between Australia and the advancing enemy had gone; air raids on Australian soil sent shock waves through the country and fear of a full-scale Japanese invasion was widespread; however, using Australia as a base, Allied troops gradually repelled the Japanese advance and, by late 1942, the threat of invasion had waned.
  • This asset provides an example of an RAAF letterhead from the war years which features the Imperial Crown above a wedge-tailed eagle in flight - the RAAF badge also features the crown and eagle; the badge's design shows a circle inscribed with the words 'Royal Australian Air Force' and ensigned with the Imperial Crown; a wedge-tailed eagle in flight is in front of the circle, and beneath is a separate scroll with the Latin motto 'Per ardua ad astra', today translated as meaning 'Through struggle to the stars'.