‘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.

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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
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