Winter Collection to tell stories

Published on 07 August 2020

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August 15 will mark the 75th anniversary of the announcement of Imperial Japan’s surrender in WWII. Although not officially signed until September 2, 1945, this announcement was the beginning of the end of hostilities in WWII. 

Burnie City Council Mayor Steve Kons said “The Burnie Regional Museum holds an amazing collection of photographs marking the Japanese surrender in New Guinea, taken by the late A.J. 

(Bert) Winter on 13 September 1945. These photographs were donated by Bert’s son, Colin Winter, in 2013 and are a significant historical record of Australia’s involvement in New Guinea during WWII. 

“Burnie Regional Museum volunteer, Julie Harris, has catalogued this collection and was inspired to go to New Guinea and visit the site of the surrender at Wewak.” 

“Council kindly invite the media to make use of its collection to help tell the stories as the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII approaches.” 

Bert Winter was a prominent member of the Burnie community and also part of the Winter family legacy that saw three successive generations of photographers capture almost a century of Burnie’s history in pictorial form. Some 300,000 of the Winter family’s images are now held at the Burnie Regional Museum. 

Bert was chosen as the official RAAF Photographer to document the surrender of the Japanese forces under General Adachi at Wewak.  The commander of the Japanese 18th Army in New Guinea limped 400 yards between the ranks of 3000 men of the Sixth Australian Division, Navy and RAAF personnel – the same man who had driven his army into the swamps of the Sepik - before handing over his sword and officially surrendering his 14,000 troops. 

After the war, General Hataz┼Ź Adachi was charged with war crimes, for the mistreatment and execution of prisoners of war.  He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1947, but on 10th September that year he committed suicide in his quarters at the prisoners’ compound in Rabaul rather than face the dishonour and shame he felt at returning to his country.  Before taking his own life, he wrote a letter to the officers and men of the 18th Army who served under him in New Guinea. 

“I have demanded perseverance far exceeding the limit of man's endurance of my officers and men, who were exhausted and emaciated as a result of successive campaigns and for want of supplies. However, my officers and men all followed my orders in silence without grumbling, and, when exhausted, they succumbed to death just like flowers falling in the winds. God knows how I felt when I saw them dying, my bosom being filled with pity for them, though it was solely to their country that they dedicated their lives. At that time I made up my mind not to set foot on my country's soil again but to remain as a clod of earth in the Southern Seas with the 100,000 officers and men, even if a time should come when I would be able to return to my country in triumph."
Extract from a letter written by General Adachi before committing suicide.

Bert Winter joined the RAAF in 1943.  After completing a four month course on aerial photography in Canberra he then went to Goodenough Island off New Guinea, from where his squadron was bombing the strategically located Japanese-held Rabaul.  It was Bert’s job to photograph and record the coordinates of Japanese activities from the air.  The RAAF used his information in their bombing raids.  In his free time, Bert took many stunning photographs on the ground, which record day to day life in New Guinea for the Australian troops and the native New Guineans. 

Bert’s brother Keith was also working as a photographer in the RAAF and was stationed in Aitape in northern New Guinea at the time, so the two brothers managed to spend a few weeks together before Keith’s tour of duty ended.  Bert remained in New Guinea for another 12 months, until the Japanese surrender in 1945. 

 

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