The voices of now-dead veterans will come back to life and ring out on social media over the next two weeks, in a unique salute ahead of the 75th anniversary of victory in the Second World War.
Today we reveal the first look at the One In A Million project, which singles out defining moments of Australian men and women who served and reimagines their actions in captivating live-drawn animations.
Some names are well-known; others hardly at all. But their varied experiences are equally compelling and serve as a focal point for the campaign’s broader aim — encouraging recognition of all the one million Australians who enlisted for the war.
The clips were created by TV animator Andrew Fyfe, known for his work on Hey Hey It’s Saturday and The Footy Show. As archive recordings recount each story, Fyfe’s pen sketches it out in time-lapse.
In some cases, such as Vivian Bullwinkel’s account of the Bangka Island massacre, the animator had the responsibility of trying to represent a scene that was never recorded in any visual form — a job that required copious research and sensitivity.
Fyfe also worked to portray these stories of great scale and emotion in bite-sized chunks — and was successful. “They are small but capture the enormity of the tale,” he said.
One In A Million is being launched by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs this weekend. Australians are encouraged to share the films from the DVA’s social channels with the hashtag #OneInAMillion. Aussies are also invited to use the same hashtag while posting selfies holding a photo of their own WWII relatives — or any veteran they admire.
And along with News Corp, the DVA is this weekend also launching the latest film from the equally innovative Anzac360 project — a virtual reality account of the Fall of Singapore, covering the Bangka horror and serving as a background to many of the One In A Million stories.
EXPERIENCE THE #ONEINAMILLION CLIPS BELOW
“They were singing, they were clasping one another … Then a woman came up to me and said ‘Thank you for winning the war’.”
Scenes of jubilation — and a novel use for Schweppes drink bottles — as crowds celebrated VP Day on the streets of Melbourne in 1945 are recalled by a chuckling Roden Cutler, the famous artilleryman Victoria Cross recipient who later became Governor of NSW.
“I had my arm round him and I held him up. He half-finished the letter and he couldn’t go any further. And he died”
A kamikaze attack on the HMAS Australia in 1944 left scores of men dead or wounded, among them naval gunloader Keith Roberts’ mate Frank — whose dying wish was to write a farewell to his mother. As a choked-up Keith explains, it was never finished.
“We were ordered to march into the sea … they started machine-gunning from behind. And I was hit”
Vivian Bullwinkel, sole survivor of the hideous Bangka Island massacre in 1942, tells how 21 captured Australian nurses were executed on a beach by Japanese soldiers — and how she escaped by playing dead. The murderers also slaughtered the nurses’ patients.
“I had no skin left on the soles of my feet … I couldn’t walk, I had to crawl home on my hands and knees”
Among 13,000 Aussies forced to labour on the Thai-Burma Death Railway, Harry Nesbitt tells how the Japanese expected even crippled men to work — and made the other POWs stand on parade until the unfit and lame dragged themselves back to camp each night.
“That probably, in the Second World War, affected me than any other individual event”
As a young soldier in New Guinea, the future RSL president William Keys saw a fun-loving cobber joking around — then moments later that same man was killed. He reveals that seeing “your first dead friend” is the one of most devastating experiences a soldier can have.
“I remember this last kiss. And I turned my back on her and walked down the hill. And I never looked back at Dot — I couldn’t bear to”
Legendary entertainer Smoky Dawson remembers saying goodbye to his beloved wife as he went off to war. A glance through his troop train window to see her still waving made “this tough soldier” break down in tears, convinced he would never see Dot again.
“Mum told him about Dad and he said ‘I’m awfully sorry … I’ve seen so much death it means nothing to me’.”
Edith Edwards’ big brother Jimmy was reported missing after the Fall of Singapore in 1942. Only their dad held out hope he was alive — but died before that was confirmed. Jimmy was terribly affected by the POW experience in mind and body. “It was a sad homecoming”.
“She said, ‘My two brothers: we’ve not heard anything about them’ … she burst into tears and I think I did too”
Stopped months after the war by a woman seeking news of her two brothers, Father John Brendan Rogers was horrified to realise the family still hadn’t been told the awful truth — that their sons, who he had known as a POW, had perished on the infamous Sandakan Death March.