HG Wells, Hitler and Tasmania’s darkish previous: the tales behind arrival playing cards in Australia’s Nationwide Archives | HG Wells

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Years after he wrote The Conflict of the Worlds – impressed by European massacres of Tasmanian Aboriginal individuals – HG Wells arrived in Australia, his paperwork describing him as a “man of letters”.

On his notorious go to to Australia in 1938, he by no means made it throughout Bass Strait, however he did handle to create a world uproar by criticising the Nazi authorities in an period of appeasement.

By the point Wells got here to Australia he was one of many world’s most well-known authors and thinkers. His 1898 basic imagines Martians fleeing a dying planet to take over Earth, touchdown within the genteel English countryside.

It had been catapulted again into the general public’s thoughts solely weeks earlier than Wells’s journey due to a panic-inducing radio broadcast of the textual content by Orson Welles on 30 October 1938.

Michael Foot’s biography of Wells recounts that the guide was impressed by a chat along with his brother Frank on a stroll within the Surrey countryside in regards to the European “discovery” of Tasmania, when Frank noticed: “Suppose some being from one other planet have been to drop out of the sky out of the blue and start laying about them right here!”

On the second web page of The Conflict of the Worlds, Wells suggests people not decide the Martians too harshly, as a result of Europeans did the identical factor to “its personal inferior races” – a racist phrase that has been criticised ever since.

He additionally writes in The Conflict of the Worlds that Tasmanians have been “fully swept out of existence in a struggle of extermination waged by European immigrants”, a false assertion that was echoed by Unesco till this 12 months, however which did at the very least give due weight to the dimensions of the atrocities.

Regardless of repeated invites, Wells didn’t go to Australia for 40 years after the guide got here out. He lastly arrived in Fremantle on the Comorin on 27 December 1938.

That occasion is recorded among the many digitised data of boat arrivals at Fremantle (the place most ships from Europe first docked) from 1989 to 1972, held by the Nationwide Archives of Australia – an enchanting and searchable historical past of tourists and migrants.

Wells stirred up controversy on his go to, significantly when he attacked Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini as “prison Caesars” in an interview in Melbourne on 5 January 1939.

“There’s a little group of males in Germany – significantly Hitler, whom I regard as licensed lunatic. Then there may be Mussolini, who’s a unbelievable renegade from the socialist motion. These males are freaks,” he stated.

The prime minister, Joseph Lyons, who supported appeasement, stated the federal government wouldn’t be related to the “dangerous style” remarks and regretted that Wells had “thus far indulged his well-known political sympathies as to make disparaging remarks in regards to the leaders of different nations”.

Wells was additionally important of Australia’s censorship legal guidelines, saying it was a “half-fascist nation” as he launched the Melbourne department of PEN Worldwide, which fights for freedom of expression for writers.

The data of his go to, captured by the Nationwide Library of Australia’s analysis device, Trove, monitor his journey across the nation. Reporters famous his “mood [was] inclined to fray” and that he was “a person of moods – scorching and sticky”.

In January 1939 he visited Canberra’s Telopea Park public college for the congress of the Australian and New Zealand Affiliation for the Development of Science.

He reportedly “resented” the press consideration, “however no one would depart him alone; curious crowds adopted him wherever he went”.

Journalists famous he was “rising slightly petulant”, that his voice was “comfortable and weak”, and that he gave the impression to be “weak within the legs [with] massive, bulging knees”.

Amongst different high-profile guests, the NAA paperwork the arrival of Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Gregory Peck and others for the filming of On the Seashore, “one of many final Chilly Conflict motion pictures, a bleak depiction of nuclear apocalypse that retains energy to at the present time”. As “aliens”, their arrival playing cards function their passport photos.

The Australian Girls’s Weekly reported on the time that Astaire “plans to look at the dances and rites of two teams of Australians – an Aboriginal tribe and punters on a racecourse”.

In 1964, the Beatles stormed Australia, however not earlier than filling of their touchdown playing cards: John Winston Lennon, aged 23; Paul James McCartney, 22; George Harrison, 21; and James George (“Jimmie”) Nicol, 24.

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Nicol briefly filled in for Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr), 23, who joined the rest a couple of weeks in.

The Canberra Times reported that the Beatles believed their arrival in Adelaide “was the biggest welcome they had received anywhere in the world”.

“One girl, about 15, fell and was almost trampled by the huge crowd as the group appeared on the Town Hall balcony,” the newspaper reported.

The Duke of Gloucester wrote his surname as “His Royal Highness Duke of Gloucester” and given names as “Prince Henry William Frederick Albert” on his arrival in 1934. At the time the West Australian said his “pleasing personality and ready smile won him the affection of all”.

Similarly, Princess Anne entered “Princess” as her surname, and “Anne” as her first for her 1970 visit (which is listed in the archives as 1969). She travelled with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip – but kings and queens do not have to carry passports or fill out entry cards.

One Russell Ira Crowe arrived from New Zealand in 1968, aged four.

Julia Eileen Gillard arrived in 1966, listing her destination initially as Victoria, before that was crossed out in favour of SA.

The archives’ assistant state manager for public engagement in Victoria, Patrick Ferry, says the historical records can be incredibly useful.

“The two typical scenarios for these are people doing their family history – mum and dad arrived as migrants, were interested in finding the records, and that’s the starting point for them,” he says.

“They’ll find the arrival form and that can be a lead to find other forms that supported the migration process.

“The other scenario which is quite common is that lots of people arrived in Australia as migrants and never became citizens, they became permanent residents, then they reach the age where they have to deal with agencies who need proof that they arrived legally in the country.

“So it’s not just for an interested family historian, they’re supporting the rights of people to benefits and assistance from the government as well.”

Wells, often described as a pacifist, wrote about war long after he wrote about the alien invasion. In his 1933 book The Shape of Things to Come, he predicted a great European war would begin in 1940.

“Although each year in the thirties saw the international tension in Europe increasing, it was only in 1940 that actual warfare broke out,” he wrote.

He was not far off. Wells left Australian shores in February 1939. The second world war began in September.

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