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Quick thinking helps preserve our wartime history.

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DVA 70 Wednesday, 2 August, 2000

Quick Thinking Helps Preserve our Wartime History

Almost 60 years on, the result of a young sailor’s quick thinking is helping to preserve Australia’s wartime history, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Bruce Scott, said today.

Mr Scott was speaking at the Brisbane handover of a copper water jug and pair of signaller’s binoculars from Mr Bill Pickup, of Clontarf, to the Australian War Memorial for preservation amongst the Memorial’s collection.

In the early hours of August 9, 1942, as the World War II heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra was taking in water following the Battle of Savo Island, Leading Signalman Bill Pickup, was sent below deck to gather blankets and coats to help keep the injured warm, Mr Scott said.

"His quick thinking, under the circumstances, in grabbing an officer’s copper water jug to hold drinking water should the crew have to take to the lifeboats was a commendable humanitarian act," he said.

"In some small way this jug and the binoculars might now be said to represent a memorial to the 84 men of HMAS Canberra’s ship’s company who lost their lives in the Battle for Savo Island.

"Mr Pickup’s decision to handover his Canberra relics may not have occurred had he not become aware of The Great Search — a quest for wartime memorabilia that could possibly be used in the upcoming Australians at War television documentary series."

The Great Search invites all Australians to make available their ‘wartime pieces from the past’ for possible use in the television series, companion book and internet website. So far, more than 1400 responses have been received, covering every conflict in which Australia has taken part, from the Boer War through to current UN peacekeeping operations.

"We are not asking people to give up their items, only make them available if needed, however, some people want to hand over their memorabilia to ensure it will be properly cared for and appreciated by future generations," Mr Scott said.

Mr Pickup's are the first items from The Great Search to be accepted for preservation in a museum collection.

Mr Scott said, there may be many Australians who are not yet aware of The Great Search.

"To those Australians, I encourage you to take look amongst your family treasures, large or small. You may just have something that could contribute to this outstanding project."

Commissioned by the Federal Government to mark the Centenary of Federation, Australian’s at War is planned for broadcast on ABC Television around Anzac Day, 2001.

Further information can be obtained on The Great Search by telephoning the Department of Veterans’ Affairs on 133 254.

Media contact: Mark Croxford 02 6277 7820 or 0408 645 787

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