It was 9am Sydney time on August 15 1945 when British Prime Minister Clement Atlee announced that Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. “The last of our enemies is laid low” he said. â??PEACE!â? roared The Sun. In Martin Place massive crowds spontaneously gathered to yell and dance in celebration of the end of the War.Â The Australian Broadcasting Corporationâ??s (ABC) Talbot Duckmanton was there that day to record the scenes, describing to his audience some of the finer details of the setting â?? a Hitler effigy being hung from the windows of one of the banks, circles of dancing women before him (â??lovely looking ladies, too!â?), the din of a mosquito zooming around maniacally over head.
The recording captures an emerging style of documentary radio reportage adopted more widely by the ABCâ??s radio correspondents after the war, as they took advantage of new, more versatile recording technologies to head out of the studio and into the streets and backwaters of Australia. As Martin Thomas has discussed, a greater sense of immediacy was possible through the mobile, technologically-mediated spatiality of documentary radio, which used first-person narration in order to situate the recordings in a specific time and place. According to Thomas, â??scripted commentary during this period frequently emphasised that we are out in the field with recorder and microphone â?? that you are listening to the sound of â??realâ?? Australia and not a confection cooked up by actors and the sound effects man in a city studio. The result of this was a sense of immediacyâ?.
Standing in Martin Place today, listening in on an iPod to the sounds captured by the ABCâ??s recording of these ebullient scenes some sixty-five years ago, one feels a giddy sense of time travel, being transported to that triumphant moment as it had been experienced right here. The sense of immediacy established by Duckmantonâ??s reportage draws todayâ??s listener back in, to share with his radio audience of the day in imagining the scenes being described; â??thereâ??s no policeman directing traffic on Pitt St todayâ? he tell us all.Â Today there are crowds of snappily-dressed workers to be seen, plenty of them with iPods, milling about in the pedestrian promenade flanked by some of Sydneyâ??s proudest sandstone buildings baking in another hot summer afternoon. Watching all this, while listening to the sounds of this re-purposed radio recording through headphones, a different kind of audio-visual interaction is experienced, one that combines the immediacy of the visual present with a recording of its 1945 aural equivalent.
Source: ABC Radio 1945.
Video featuring this same event can also be viewed here.
Inglis, K. (1983) This is the ABC: The Australian Broadcasting Commission 1932 â?? 1983, Melbourne: Black Inc.
Thomas, M. (2007) â??The Rush to Record: Transmitting the Sound of Aboriginal Cultureâ?. Journal of Australian Studies; Issue 90; 2007; -121.