John Curtin Dies - A Great Australian (1945) newsreel

Running time
7 min 1 sec
Date made
Place made
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory; Perth, Western Australia

Copyright expired - public domain

Newsreel footage of the memorial service and funeral for Australian wartime prime minister, John Curtin, in July 1945. This would have been shown at cinemas throughout Australia. British Pathé FILM ID:2084.32


[Opening credits - A Great Australian passes... Cinesound Review. Music. JOHN Curtin was a man of the people who had high authority thrust upon him at a crucial hour. His simplicity, honesty and unwavering purpose carried him to greatness and the whole world mourned his passing.]

From this house, his home in Cottesloe, Western Australia, just a home like so many others in the towns and cities of Australia, John Curtin - a man of the people - plain John Curtin, went to Canberra. There he became the first citizen of the Commonwealth, a leader of its parliament and its people. Prime Minister John Curtin. His was the voice that summoned up the resolution of the nation against the grim menace of the enemy close at hand. His was the voice that declared our war against Japan.

'Mr Speaker, I move that this House approves of the action of His Majesty's government in the Commonwealth in having advised the issue of a proclamation declaring the existence of a state of war with Japan.'

None knew better than John Curtin in his close friendship with General MacArthur how grave the danger was in those early days of 1942, but with greater responsibility than any Australian had ever had to bear, John Curtin was still that plain man with time and heart for simple humanities.

He went abroad. He won the respect of men like Winston Churchill and the late great President Roosevelt. And when he returned, 'I'm happy to be back in Australia. I've seen many things and many places, and although every man can be forgiven for loving his own country best, I believe it is an impartial assessment of the facts to say that I have not seen any country nor any people better than my own'. Through John Curtin, Australia had in his phrase 'looked to America in the perilous hour', welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, and Mrs Roosevelt, the death of whose great husband was the culmination of the sacrifice of health and strength in the interests of the nation, as was the passing of John Curtin.

[Daily Mirror (NSW) headline reads 'Curtin Dead: Gave Life For Nation'.]

Dead. A casualty of war. And for the fallen leader, now one with others who have died for their country, the nation mourns. His work has cost the life of plain John Curtin. From all parts of the Allied world came tributes to this unpretentious man in whose mind the light of statesmanship had shone on the country's darkest hours. In Canberra, where his body lay instate, representatives of the nations paid their respect to the leader of an Allied nation at arms. For the British (Royal) Navy came Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser. Royalties, the (Governor-General) Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. The leader's widow and her airman son, Sergeant John Curtin.

To them, the sympathy of all Australia. So he rested from his labours, honoured at the scene of his greatest service (Parliament House). Heavy-hearted were his colleagues, the men of his Labour Ministry, and the members of the other political side - to them also, John Curtin was a great Australian sadly gone from their midst. For burial, John Curtin would go home. The John Curtin who called for planes for the defence of Australia, and who saw the greatest hope of future development of this country in terms of aviation, John Curtin was flying home. He had seen the day break free of the clouds of tyranny in Europe. He was not spared to see the end of the war, in which he with all his mind and energy, had fought for Australia. John Curtin flies into the setting sun.

In the west, the Duke of Gloucester's Avro York airliner arrives, bringing Mrs Curtin and the Prime Minister's son, with Mr Forde, the acting Prime Minister. Mrs Curtin, who has shown her fortitude on this sad journey, is met at the airfield by other relatives: Mrs JW Coles, a daughter, and Mrs John Curtin Junior. The plane bearing the body of the Prime Minister is escorted in with Royal Air Force honours. John Curtin goes to his last resting place at Karrkatta Cemetery, bourne on a gun carriage, symbol of his service to the nation.

At the request of Mrs Curtin, the cortege passes by the home he loved in Cottesloe. From here, where he set out, it had been a long and arduous journey. One that had taken him to the summit of the nation and into the nation's heart, and from its heart - sadly but gratefully - the nation could say of John Curtin, the tired statesman's cares are laid aside, and he who filled so loyally his part seems closer now, under the people's heart. We mourn him, and in mourning him, we know such men in any nation's life are rare. T'is bitter truth, but only when they go, we realise the load they had to bear. And so John Curtin becomes one with the earth of the land he loved and served unstintingly, as he felt men should serve, counting no costs too great in the service of Australia. Vale John Curtin, for such a man as you have been, these hallowed words are worthy.

[Closing credits - "Greater love hath no man than this, That a man lay down his life for his friends." The end.]

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