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Megawatt '41
Papers 1975

MSS 0172


Megawatt '41 programmeOn 8 January 1941 radio stations 5KA Adelaide and 5AU Port Augusta were closed down by the Post-Master General's Department for alleged 'subversive broadcasts'. These radio bans were the culmination of a series of events involving suspected communist activities by the Jehovah's Witnesses, who were accused of transmitting coded messages to the enemy regarding ship movements.

A 1940 Intelligence report stated that the Adelaide group of Jehovah's Witnesses and the radio station 5KA had been under suspicion for some time. This led to an official enquiry into the Jehovah's Witnesses, who were banned by the federal government under the National Security Regulations, and also led to the eventual closure of the radio stations.

At the time, the Witnesses' actions were deemed particularly subversive due to their vocal opposition to military service, their politically neutral stance, and the fact that they were conscientious objectors. In 1943 the Witnesses won their High Court appeal against the Commonwealth, and were once again free to associate with each other, and their confiscated property was returned.

Thirty four years later, in 1975, Jim Vile directed the inaugural production of the University of Adelaide Department of Drama - a documentary theatre production entitled Megawatt '41. Providing a total dramatic experience for 65 first year drama students, the project involved the students in the entire process from beginning to end. Participants worked in groups to research the necessary documentary material, then sifted through and organised their findings, transposed them into dramatic form, and finally presented their production on stage.

These documents comprise the working papers of director Jim Vile, and the first year students who participated in the project. Highlights of the collection include manuscript notes, draft scripts, promotional material, and a wealth of background research papers.

Documents transferred from University of Adelaide Archives S.608 July 2013


Contents Listing

Series 1: Production materials (draft scripts, production, directorial, scene and casting notes) 6 cm

1.1. Draft scripts / scenes / directorial notes (37 items)
1.2. Casting / rehearsals (35 items)

Series 2: Publicity (promotional material, press list, complementary lists, invitations and associated correspondence) 4 cm

2.1. Promotional material

  • Photocopy of Megawatt '41 programme and song sheet (3 p.)
  • Poster designs (5 p.)
  • Miscellaneous publicity notes (15 p.)

2.2. Press and complementary lists (21 p.)

2.3. Invitations and associated correspondence

  • Letter of thanks from Jim Vile to Vice-Chancellor Professor G.M. Badger
  • Letter of acceptance from the Lady Mayoress (Mrs. Roche)
  • RSVPs and invitation checklist (22 items)

Series 3: Background research material 10 cm

3.1. General news and events 1939-1943

  • Notes, news clippings and other miscellaneous material describing the era and providing context to the Megawatt '41 events (45 p.)
  • News clippings about Tanunda during WWII and an interview with Tanunda resident Roger Teusner (12 p.)

3.2. Political

  • Winston Churchill quote (1 p.)
  • Oath of allegiance (1 p.)
  • Copies from The Argus Law Reports 1943 (26 p.)
  • Copy of the National Security Act 1939 (8 p.)
  • List of members of the Australian government 28/10/1940-7/10/1941 (3 p.)
  • Photocopies from various parliamentary papers 1939-1941 (52 p.)
  • ‘Labor will do right things in defence of Australia' (2 p.)
  • Miscellaneous background notes and photocopies (4 p.)
  • Chronology of events relating to radio bans 1936-1942 (3 p.)
  • Notes on the National Security Act of 1939 (1 p.)

3.3. Jehovah's Witnesses

3.3.1. Government files (excerpts from Attorney-General's Dept. correspondence files)

  • Extracts from official documents concerning the ownership and control of Broadcasting Stations 2HD, 4AT, 5KA, 5AU. Jehovah's Witnesses. P.M.G.'s Cabinet Minute 1941 (4p.)
  • Jehovah's Witnesses & kindred organisations. Jehovah's Witnesses, action after declaration (8. p.)
  • Jehovah's Witnesses, High Court Action 1941 (5 p.)
  • Fitzgerald & Thiele ‘Re High Court Action - Questionnaire', 1941 (2 p.)
  • Broadcasting station licences - Stations 2HD; 4AT; 5KA; 5AU ‘Jehovah's Witnesses. P.M.G.'s Cabinet Minute' 1941 (5 p.)
  • Jehovah's Witnesses, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Judge Rutherford - activities in Australia 1936-41 (2 p.)
  • Jehovah's Witnesses, subversive propaganda, government and peace ‘Jehovah's Witnesses, statements, memos, etc. 1940' (3 p.)

3.3.2. Miscellaneous research material

  • Prohibited words, and Jehovah's Witnesses as a ‘subversive association' (3 p.)
  • Jehovah's vs Catholic Youth - meeting notes (1 p.)
  • Jehovah's Witnesses in court (3 p.)
  • ‘Information in regard to Jehovah's Witnesses' by Ksavers Polis (2 p.)
  • The Adelaide Company of Jehovah Witnesses vs. The Commonwealth (1 p.)
  • Excerpt from Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 17/1/1941, and Govt. press statement declaring Jehovah's Witnesses to be a subversive association (2 p.)
  • Copies from book ‘Jehovah's Witnesses' (10 p.)

3.4. Social and cultural

3.4.1. Music

  • Note regarding sheet music obtained for Megawatt '41 production
  • Song titles from 1939-1943 (44 p.)
  • Notes on radio censorship of German music during WWII (1 p.)

3.4.2. Cultural context

  • Anecdotes (9 p.)
  • 1941 Spring dress by Jacques Fath (1 magazine clipping)
  • The Australian Women's Weekly Anniversary Cook Book 40 years of good cooking
  • Miscellaneous cultural notes (4 p.)

3.5. Interviews

  • Interview with Jim Tonkin (5 p.)
  • Notes from Bob Caldicott (14 p.)
  • Notes and interview with Rod Lightfoot (5 p.)
  • Interview with Terry Cameron (1 p.)

3.6. Radio Bans

  • Sequence of events which led to 5KA being taken off the air (3 p.)
  • 5KA playlist (15/1/1941) (3 p.)
  • Notes referring to radio bans, including newspaper clippings (6 p.)
  • Newspaper clippings (2 p.)
  • Excerpt from ‘The Magic Spark' (1 p)

3.7. 1941 radio scripts

  • Letter from Bob Caldicotti including copies of two ABC scripts from 1941 (27 p.)

3.8. Research correspondence

  • Correspondence between Mr. K. Polis and Mr. W. Hosking (2 letters)
  • Reply to James (Jim) Vile from the Crown Solicitor, Canberra - with annotations (1 letter)


Vikki Langton
September 2013

University Library

Barr Smith Library
South Australia 5005


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