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Winnie the War Winner radio

Dr Philip Norrie

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My name is Dr Philip Norrie

FYI - I am the son-in-law of Ron Vivian who was the cartoonist who drew Winnie the War Winner every week for the Australian Women’s Weekly. I am currently writing a thesis about him and during my research I have come across many original black ink on white cardboard WTWW cartoons. I thought your members may be interested because the WTWW radio was vital in the campaign to contact Darwin.

I wish to know why did they name it after the cartoon ( the Australian War Memorial still has it being named after Winston Churchill in their radio display even after I convinced their historian that it was named after Ron’s cartoon) and who thought of it ?

Secondly I wish to donate an original WTWW cartoon to be displayed with the radio in the National War Memorial in Canberra but they cannot guarantee this - the Vivian family do not want it locked in their archive never to be seen again - it should be with the radio !!

Any help in these two endeavours would be greatly appreciated.

I can send you an 8 page article I wrote about Ron which appeared in Inkspot - the quarterly journal of the Australian Cartoon Association  - ( the oldest in the world). Ron is in their Hall of Fame as he drew Ginger Meggs for 20 years from 1953 to 1973 after its creator Jimmy Bancks died in 1952. He  was the most diverse cartoonist in Australia and the most diverse cartoonist during WW2 until he joined the RAAF after Pearl Harbour and did two tours in PNG. Most cartoonists did one cartoon during WW2 such as Wally and the Major or Bluey and Curley but Ron did WTWW, Private Willie , Ginger ( no relation to Ginger Meggs) and cartoons for the RAAF magazine WINGS which came out every two weeks during WW2 - so four different types of cartoons in all.

I am also writing a book on the portrayal of women in cartoons during WW2 and it will feature a chapter on Ron, because he was the most diverse cartoonist in WW2, as well as WTWW and the 2/2 Commandos WTWW radio story - some International cartoon exposure for you !!


Phil Norrie

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Thank you for making contact Phil – apology for the late response.


I note that the view that the radio was named after the WTWW cartoons is made in an article ‘Timor epic’ Australian Women’s Weekly January 16, 1943: 10, which states that:

‘They nicknamed it ‘Winnie the War Winner’ after the Australian Women’s Weekly.  The … Weekly is proud to have had this honourable mention among the heroes of the Timor hills’.  https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/4719505.  See also ‘The story of The Australian Women's Weekly: the story of this paper...’ Australian Women’s Weekly June 14, 1947: 21.

However, no source for that assertion is made in those articles, though it may have been sourced from the articles written by Bill Marien, who had visited Timor in November 1942 in company with the famous war cameraman, Damien Parer, that were widely published in the Australian press in early 1943.  This could be checked out on the Trove newspaper database.

The Sparrow Force men would have been familiar with the cartoons that were published prior to them leaving for Timor in December 1941.  Copies of the AWW were also probably available to the men along with other newspapers and reading materials after they began to be resupplied following the re-establishment of contact with Australia using WTWW in April 1942.

I also see that the AWM acerbically notes in its article on WTWW that ‘The name 'Winnie the War Winner' appears to have two sources – one source has it named after a popular but misogynist and dated ‘Australian Women's Weekly’ cartoon of the period drawn by press artist Ron Vivian.  But the commandos themselves contend that the radio was named in honour of Winston Churchill’.  (https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C137997).  Again, no source is given for the last assertion.

Getting the AWM to change or add to their collection displays as you would like to do is an uphill battle; the Association strongly advocated to them recently, unsuccessfully, that the Timor campaign display that features WTWW should be in a more prominent location.


If you have a digital version of your Inkspot article about Ron, please attach it to another reply on this Forum.


Thank you for your interest and support Phil – please notify us when your book is published.

Ed Willis

Committee Member, 2/2 Commando Association of Australia



Edited by Edward Willis
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