New Beginnings

War’s end provides demobilised service personnel, displaced persons and ‘war brides’ with a chance to re-establish an existing relationship, or forge ahead with a new one.

The transition is seldom easy.

Adapting to war’s destructive aftermath tests even the most committed couples.

An address scrawled on a slip of paper led to love...

  • Corporal Herbert ‘Slim’ Wrigley escaped from a German prisoner of war camp in Salonika, Greece in September 1941 and fled south to Katerini where he was sheltered by English-speaking schoolteacher, Ioannis Papadopoulos.

    Slim subsequently fought alongside Greek partisans, facing hardship and great danger until 1943 when he was evacuated to neutral Turkey. Ioannis, meanwhile, was caught and executed by the Nazis on 13 January 1944—leaving his family destitute.

    Papadopoulos’ daughter, Xanthoula, was reminded of Slim in 1949 when: windy night sitting around looking at some family photos... a small piece of paper fell out. On it was a name and an address in Melbourne, Australia. The name was Herbert Wrigley (Slim), our special digger friend...

    Xanthoula wrote to Slim for assistance. He remembered his protector’s beautiful daughter and sponsored her passage to Australia. They were married in 1951, five weeks after her arrival. Slim died in 1995.

    I still marvel that a horrific event like war changed the course of our lives, and that an address scrawled on a slip of paper led to love.

    - Xanthoula Wrigley (nee Papadopoulos)

    Related objects

    • Studio portrait of Herbert ‘Slim’ Wrigley, 1950
    • ‘Here to Wed Man She Hid from Enemy’, 23 January 1951

Studio portrait of Herbert ‘Slim’ Wrigley 1950


‘Here to Wed Man She Hid from Enemy’ 23 January 1951


Back home January 1946

by Herman Sali (1898–1993)

On loan courtesy of The Australian War Memorial ART22893

War’s end can signal new beginnings for a couple – or a relationship’s end.

Divorce rates in Australia rose dramatically in the years immediately following both world wars and some 38% of Vietnam veterans’ marriages failed within 6 months of their repatriation.

Veterans of modern wars continue to struggle. Without support, some individuals – restless, traumatised or alienated – may neglect, abuse or desert their significant others.

Long periods of self-sufficiency, meanwhile, may give their spouses confidence to contemplate life alone.

Now don’t forget—you’re only a mascot! 1943

by Joan Morrison (1911–69)

On loan courtesy of The Australian War Memorial ART92684

Joan Morrison was one of Australia’s most successful pin-up artists and often trod a fine line between parody and pandering to her audience’s prejudices. The gormless Second World War digger in this pin-up symbolises an entitled and triumphalist mindset of a nation that has reasserted itself as a colonial master and a victor in war. His Papuan ‘mascot’ can be seen as a metaphor—representing, among other things, the sexual experience amassed by Australian servicemen during their military service.

One of hundreds of unsanctioned loves between Australian soldiers and their Japanese fiancées...

  • Warrant Officer Ian Robertson served with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) in Japan with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force and then—after the Korean War (1950–53) broke out—in that country from September 1950 to April 1951. It was while staying at the Hotel Maiko in Kobe, Japan that Ian met, and fell in love with, Motoe Higashida.

    Australian Servicemen were initially officially discouraged from fraternising with, and barred from marrying, Japanese women. Despite official prohibitions and considerable social pressure in both Japan and Australia, hundreds of Australian soldiers and their Japanese fiancées applied for exemptions, or married without permission.

    In 1952, the Menzies government finally granted permissions for Japanese wives and fiancées of Australian servicemen to migrate to Australia. Motoe was one of approximately 650 Japanese war brides to settle in Australia. Ian remained in the army, serving a tour in Vietnam in 1970–71. He and Motoe raised two daughters in the meantime and lived happily together until Ian’s death in 2014.

    Related objects:

    • Tradition kimono
    • Portrait of Motoe Robertson
    • Kokeshi dolls c 1940
    • Ian and Motoe Robertson with their friends, 1956
    • Ian and Motoe's courting years

Traditional kimono

Brought to Australia by Motoe Robertson in 1954


Portrait of Motoe Robertson

Photographer Ian Robertson


This portrait of Motoe Robertson was taken by Ian Robertson for his camera club soon after his and Motoe’s arrival in Australia.

Kokeshi dolls c 1940

Brought to Australia by Motoe Higashida


Ian and Motoe Robertson with their friends 1956

Photographer Ian Robertson (with timer).


Ian and Motoe's courting years

Reviewed 11 February 2022