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Bull, George Robert, 1910-1996. Signalman W Smith recording a message to be broadcast to New Zealand on the Cassino Front, Italy - Photograph taken by George Bull. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch. Ref: DA-05598-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22702117

Bull, George Robert, 1910-1996. Signalman W Smith recording a message to be broadcast to New Zealand on the Cassino Front, Italy - Photograph taken by George Bull. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch. Ref: DA-05598-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22702117

A brief history of the Mobile Unit recordings

Sarah Johnston

In August 1940,  three New Zealand radio broadcasters set sail on an army troop ship from Wellington. They were bound for Egypt, where the New Zealand armed forces were part of the British Empire’s push to drive the German and Italian armies out of North Africa and the Middle East. With them was a mobile recording van, equipped to capture the voices and sounds of New Zealanders at war on lacquer discs, and send those recordings back for radio broadcasts on the other side of the world.

For the next five years, the National Broadcasting Service Mobile Unit recorded interviews and reports about the fighting and the day-to-day business of war, as well as thousands of simple messages home from servicemen – and a few women.  The unit also recorded in the Italy campaign and a second Mobile Unit travelled with New Zealanders fighting in the Pacific.

Today, the 1600 surviving Mobile Unit discs form part of the sound archives of Radio New Zealand, held by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. Work to digitise the discs and make them available online is on-going. Some of the recordings can be heard online already, while others may be requested via Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision's online catalogue.

Additional resources:

Johnston, Sarah. (2023). "Voices of the Long Range Desert Group: the brains behind the S.A.S. “Rogue Heroes”. World War Voices: Recordings of New Zealanders at war, 1940-1945

Johnston, Sarah. (2023). "With the boys overseas: How Homefront listeners shaped the work of Aotearoa New Zealand's first battlefront broadcasters. New Zealand Journal of Public History". New Zealand Journal of Public History 9, 33-58.


About the author

In 2021, Sarah Johnston, recipient of funding from the Judith Binney Trust and Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage New Zealand History Research Fund, commenced work on providing insight into the content and significance of the National Broadcasting Service Mobile Units. 

Online Cenotaph is pleased to be collaborating with Sarah to help match the personnel records with the recordings held in Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. Read more about the project at worldwarvoices.wordpress.com

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Results

Displaying 1 - 20 of 216 records
PhotoFamily nameFirst namesForceWarsService # 
118091CrowleyJackArmyWorld War II, 1939-194527257 
98982deCavalhoJacquine Edward O.ArmyWorld War II, 1939-19452432 
151557GrayRichard GeorgeArmyWorld War II, 1939-194531197 
152032HutchisonWilliamArmyWorld War II, 1939-194533042 
117789CaugheyJohn EgertonArmyWorld War II, 1939-194531827 
147784KingKenneth WalterArmyWorld War II, 1939-194523534 
122596WoolcottLawrenceArmyWorld War II, 1939-194535724 
121245QuayleDouglasArmyWorld War II, 1939-194529801 
134705StubbingEric VernaArmyWorld War II, 1939-1945602586 
122539WillsJames BenjaminArmyWorld War II, 1939-194527959 
118046CraigWinston MalbourneArmyWorld War II, 1939-194534394 
151620MunroWilliam WatsonArmyWorld War II, 1939-194531461 
151621KnightWilliamArmyWorld War II, 1939-194531468 
149560LockhartJohnArmyWorld War II, 1939-194527191 
151933MorganKenneth LeslieArmyWorld War II, 1939-194532712 
C142034SutherlandAlan KeithArmyWorld War II, 1939-19451451 
147499BellHenry HectorArmyWorld War II, 1939-194523034 
149013FairbairnRobert WilliamArmyWorld War II, 1939-194526110 
C136642HigginsWilliam ThomasArmyWorld War II, 1939-19453269 
151897WelchAlbert EricArmyWorld War II, 1939-194532608 

The development of the Online Cenotaph is an ongoing process; updates, new images and records are added weekly. In some cases, records have yet to be confirmed by Museum staff, and there could be mistakes or omissions in the information provided.