ANZAC Musicians

April 25 is ANZAC day in Australia and New Zealand. ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) remembers the sacrifices of all Australian and New Zealand defence personnel in wars and armed conflicts. It began after World War One to remember the tragedy that was that war, and in particular the Gallipolli campaign, which began on April 25. I have written here about the ‘American Invasion’ of New Zealand during World War Two. In addition I have written an extensive history of the Kiwi Concert Party in World War Two for the website Audioculture and I have also written an article about Artie Shaw’s tour of New Zealand in 1943 found here so I won’t go into those here, but there were many other stories of musicians and their activities during World War Two. Here I’ll excerpt a couple of the individual stories from my thesis research. If you’re interested on reading more about them they are chapters 5 and 6 in my thesis, which can be found here.

Musician and composer Ken Avery was not involved in the Kiwi Concert Party or any of the other official bands (he was still a novice musician and wasn’t considered good enough for any of the bands), so he was essentially a music (especially jazz) fan. Avery served in the Middle East and around Italy and France during World War Two. While he was stationed in Maadi in Egypt Avery used much of his spare time listening to all of the allied forces jazz bands that came to play at the bases in Maadi, or civilian jazz bands on radio or record.

After being shipped to Italy circa mid–1944, Avery realised that if he really wanted to be able to play jazz, he needed an instrument to practice on, and bought himself a clarinet in the Southern Italian town of Bari. Once he had acquired a clarinet Avery regularly practiced when he was not fighting, and he continued listening to any and all jazz bands that he ran across. This pattern of listening and practice was one that Avery continued throughout the war, especially through the winter when there was little fighting.

On the troopship home in early 1946, Avery appeared in various concerts and revues and was finally able to play with the Kiwi Concert Party (which had been a dream of his during his service). The Concert Party had organised a series of concerts in which they regularly featured a ‘guest artist’ from the soldiers. Avery offered up his talents, and was accepted. He chose: “a waltz–time and swing arrangement of ‘Indian Love Call.’ A small group from the concert party orchestra provided the rhythm backing: Chas Patterson piano, Alan ‘Horse’ Brown drums, and George Campbell string bass, with Lew Campbell on cup muted trumpet. The whole performance went off pretty well – I think the Concert Party boys enjoyed it more than the soldier audience.”[1]

In contrast, trumpeter Jim Warren was already a professional musician before war broke out. While still civilians, Warren and fellow trumpeter Nolan Rafferty were asked by Ted ‘Chips’ Healy, who led the band at the Hobsonville base to sit in with the band for some dances as they were short of trumpeters. During the performance, they were persuaded to enlist so they could join the band officially. Warren and Rafferty enlisted in the Air Force in 1941, but the base band (unlike the Air force Central Band) was essentially a hobby and they needed a trade, so they joined the marine section, which serviced the flying boats and other marine craft.[2]

In late 1941 or early 1942, both Warren and Rafferty were sent with their unit to Fiji to work on the flying boats there. While in Fiji they managed to scrape together a dance band to play for dances and concerts. To this day, Warren is surprised at how much trouble they had finding other musicians “among the several hundred men stationed on the island” to play in the band. Warren served in Fiji until early 1944, when his unit was returned to New Zealand. At that point he decided that he would like to play in the Central Band, and so he made an application, auditioned and was accepted.[3]

For the rest of the war, Warren was a member of the Central Band, which he thoroughly enjoyed. He especially enjoyed the touring, and the diverse repertoire that the band tackled. It also dramatically improved his reading skills, which were not as good as they could have been.[4]

Warren recalled that it was a very privileged way to spend the war, especially in comparison to his two years of regular duties before being transferred to the band. Although the life certainly wasn’t easy, between being based in Rongotai, and constantly touring, they rarely saw their families, it was considerably less dangerous than the lives of their counterparts serving overseas.



[1] Ibid 13.

[2] Jim Warren Interview with Aleisha Ward (2009).

[3] Ibid.

[4] ibid.


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