Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Melbourne Cup

It's the day of the Melbourne Cup! Though horse racing is as crooked as they come I do love to watch it: the horses are beautiful to watch, I'm a firm believer in the wearing of hats and I love the idea that everything stops for a horse race of all things. Plus I get a public holiday! Each year I help run the sweep at work (go Crime Scene!) and always find an old photograph to use. This year my research skills seem to have deserted me but I did want to share with you some images of the Melbourne Cup during World War II. I find these extremely touching. All these images are courtesy of the Australian War Memorial - a truly fantastic resource.

Girls from the Australian Womens Army Service enjoying the race.

Organising the sweep, PNG

Troops of Headquarters, 7th Australian Division gathered around a radio set to listen to the running of the Melbourne Cup (Norman Stuckey 1943). There are similar photos from army bases all over the world. Film footage of the event was also raced to soldiers.

Explaining the Cup to a local, PNG

Melbourne Cup run on mules in Beirut. I managed to lose a related series of pictures from the HMAS Something, which showed sailors on hobby horses racing the deck of a ship while various captainy admiral types looked on in cardboard top hats.

The Heidelberg Repatriation hospital took many injured soldiers along to the Cup in 1945

I love this one for the catalogue record:
HELOUAN, EGYPT. 1940-10-25. Australian and New Zealand patients at the hospital draw the horses in a sweep run on Melbourne Cup. The fortunate and unexpected winner had in the meantime returned to the desert and was last heard of expressing doubts as to the hope of ever seeing his money.
Made from an empty bully beef tin at a Sandakan prisoner of war camp in North Borneo, 1942. Deciding to mark Melbourne Cup day with their own race, the Australian officers at the camp set up a straight track for nine or ten entrants, between the officer's huts. Each track was divided into thirty squares and each competitor wore a coloured top of somekind to represent jockey's silks. Drawing a number from a deck of cards to determine their position on the track, a race caller then proceeded to draw cards which determined how many squares each jockey could advance. The first to reach the end was the winner and was presented with the 'Melbourne Cup'. In October 1943 the officers were transferred to Batu Lintang prisoner of war and internee camp at Kuching in Sarawak. This camp had a parade ground and in November that year the officers built a circular track and competed for the Melbourne Cup again, using the same method. At both events bookies took bets and evidence from the 9 Military History Field Team which collected the cup from the barracks in 1945, suggests that Lieutenant William Peck, of 4 Anti-Tank regiment, won the cup on at least one occasion and possibly both years.

The Australian War Memorial collection also inclueds a similar cup, made of coconut shells in the Sime Road POW Camp in Singapore, which was awarded to the winner of a frog race.

Not from the 1940s but a fabulous image - racehorse trainer Tommy Woodcock with his champion racehorse Reckless on the night before running second to Gold and Black in the Melbourne Cup of 1977, Flemington, 1 November 1977.

Best of luck to you all! Have a great Melbourne Cup.

1 comment:

Sailor Lily said...

beautiful blog thanks, what amazing images and stories behind them.