Army life: illustrated by Jim Manwaring 2/7th Field Ambulance

Jim Manwaring used his gift for illustration while serving with the 7th Australian Field Ambulance ...

Illustrated envelope, sent by Jim Manwaring to his sister Violet, c1943

Letters home to his sisters Violet and Marie often came in humorously illustrated envelopes and must have given the censors and post-office workers cause to stop and reflect on the stories they told.

James Manwaring, 2/7th Australian Field Ambulance, c1942

Stationed in New Guinea and New Britain from September 1942 to August 1945 Jim Manwaring describes in detail the conditions in camp and under enemy fire. Bemoaning the quality of the food and the heat, he expresses himself so well, you can almost see him grinning as he writes, always signing off with "Cheerio, Jim" he appears a happy-go-lucky fellow.

In June 1943 he wrote: "I lost my good pipe. I dropped it out off my pocket & a truck run over it & I picked up the pieces, had a little howl to myself".

Illustrated envelope, sent by Jim Manwaring to his sister Violet, Brisbane, c1943

We know these men lived under extraordinary conditions, heat, rain, mud, malaria and other diseases; always under the threat of air-raids and worse by the Japanese forces. Jim's letters are full of news of the silly things they got up to, keeping themselves amused, taking their clothes off to wade a swollen river so that they could attend the cinema.

Others candidly describe his efforts in the desperate bid to save lives during the Battle of Salamaua, working with Papuan bearers carrying wounded across the mountain ridges of Mount Tambu and Komiatum (also Kamiatum), to safety.

Members of the 2/7th Australian Field Ambulance, c1943, Jim Manwaring pictured far right.

Jim also spoke very highly of the men of the Papuan Infantry Brigade and their ability to hunt the enemy in a jungle that was so familiar to them, so unfamiliar to the Australians, where he claimed "spiders, they are that big, they would eat you".

Illustrated envelope sent by Jim Manwaring to his sister Violet, Brisbane, c1943

Even in the midst of the jungle and under enemy fire Jim never lost his obvious enthusiasm for the 'horses' reporting to his sister Marie that he backed 'Prince' in the Epsom handicap which ran second, and often gave tips for those with good form.

Also included in the Manwaring collection are handbooks for first-aid, photographs, a US Navy sailor's cap, and a number of letters from Bill Medley who served on USS Salt Lake City and his sister June, friends of Jim's sisters.

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