‘Darnley Dixaline’ banjo brightened weary Australian soldiers

As the 2/28th Australian Battalion struggled to hold the Libyan port city of Tobruk during the 241-day siege in 1941, one Australian soldier did what he could to lighten the sombre mood. Private Walter John Darnley fashioned this banjo, dubbed the Darnley Dixaline Mark IV, using an army mess tin called a ‘dixie’, along with a discarded drum, plastic toothbrush handles and wood. He requested his wife, Thelma, to send the strings from Australia. Darnley would play the banjo to his mates, often making up hilarious words to the tunes. He had all the members of his signal platoon, known as the Rats of Tobruk, sign his beloved instrument. They scribbled the names of the places they’d seen and the battles they’d fought, on the banjo’s exterior.

Available at:

Birdwood Military Museum

The men behind the medals

The Geraldton RSL Birdwood House features a collection of military artefacts within the Birdwood Military Museum. The items reveal something of the men behind the medals and the characters behind the...


Corner Forrest St & Chapman Rd
Geraldton WA 6530

Open Hours

Mon & Thurs 9am - 2pm

More from the Birdwood Military Museum

Hand-painted memento to lost warship

HMAS Sydney (II) sank, off Shark Bay, in a World War II battle in 1941 with the German raider ship HSK Kormoran. The whole nation grieved over the loss of this once-triumphant warship and her crew of...

Flag from war-ravaged Gallipoli and France

This flag takes pride of place in the foyer of Birdwood House. It once joined Australian soldiers during the Gallipoli campaign of 1915, and later travelled through war-ravaged France before finally...

While you're in the area

The Hermitage
The Hermitage
The Hermitage is a charming historical building in Geraldton that was one...
Hermitage Street, Geraldton, WA 6530
Windsurfing and Surfing
Windsurfing and Surfing
On a global windsurfing stage, Geraldton is rated among the best for its...
via Willcock Drive, Geraldton, WA 6530
Latitude Gallery Jewellers
Latitude Gallery Jewellers
Latitude Gallery is situated in the evolving heart of Geraldton’s Marine...
169 Marine Terrace, Geraldton, WA 6530
Central Greenough
Central Greenough
Located approximately 25 kilometres south of Geraldton and 380 kilometres...
corner of Brand Highway and McCartney Road, Greenough, WA 6532