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image icon Excerpt from an interview with Hazel Craig, 1997 - asset 2

Excerpt from an interview with Hazel Craig, 1997 - asset 2
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library


This is an excerpt (approximately 3 minutes) from a 1997 oral history interview with Hazel Craig, a stenographer in the Prime Minister's Department, in which she relates memories of working for the War Cabinet during the Second World War.

transcript iconA transcript is available for this resource.

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • This asset reveals something of the long hours, hectic pace and type of work undertaken by War Cabinet staff in the years of the Second World War - Hazel Craig recalls working long into the night at Victoria Barracks in Melbourne, where the War Cabinet often met, noting that they 'might be there until about 2 o'clock in the morning'; she recounts how her colleague, Irene Lenihan, took shorthand verbatim at these meetings and sometimes worked until midnight.
  • This asset suggests Australia's lack of preparation in September 1939, at the beginning of the Second World War - Craig recounts that 'Britain wasn't ready for the War and we were even worse if it came to that point, and not only didn't we have the departments, we didn't have anybody to head them or anything'.
  • This asset indicates something of the membership of the War Cabinet and its importance in decision making - Craig relates that the War Cabinet included the Prime Minister and the Ministers for 'Defence and Army and Navy and Air Force' and that it 'took precedence over the general Cabinet'.
  • This asset refers to the War Cabinet formed by Prime Minister Robert Menzies (1894-1978, Prime Minister 1939-41, 1949-66) - two weeks after the outbreak of war, Menzies announced the formation of the War Cabinet, which included, in addition to the members noted by Craig, the Ministers for Supply and Development, External Affairs, Commerce, Munitions and Transport, and the Attorney-General; originally intended to be an executive subcommittee of Cabinet, the War Cabinet increased in authority and stature as the War progressed, with major decisions being made by the War Cabinet, while the full Cabinet dealt with more peripheral issues.
  • This asset indicates that Victoria Barracks in Melbourne played an important part in the war effort - in the years of the Second World War, Melbourne was the headquarters of the three armed services and the home of the Departments of Defence, Munitions, Supply and Development, and of the War Cabinet Secretariat; consequently, many meetings were held in Melbourne in the War Room of Victoria Barracks, as well as in the Cabinet room at Parliament House, Canberra; members of the government and the administration had to move back and forth between Melbourne and Canberra, usually by train, sometimes several times a week.