ABC's wartime trickery
Just before Christmas 1943, thousands of Australian radio listeners fondly imagined they were hearing Gladys Moncrieff singing in a frontline concert for Australian troops in the muddy, sweaty, dangerous New Guinea jungle.
"Our Glad," as the nation's favourite musical comedy star was called, was in New Guinea all right, but she was performing in the comparative safety and comfort of the Port Moresby headquarters of the Army newspaper, Guinea Gold.
"It was a terrible swindle," soldier/journalist Sergeant Reg Luckie (right) wrote to his Sydney girlfriend Joan Hackett (whom he later married).
Their eldest son, Michael, now living in England, has posted the letter on the internet, disclosing a radio hoax that has remained secret for 62 years.
The letter (reprinted with Michael's permission) reads:
Gladys Moncrieff was born in Bundaberg in 1892 and as a child toured with her parents' theatrical company. She made her first stage appearance in Brisbane's Empire Theatre in 1912 and later toured Australia and South Africa.
She starred in many Gilbert and Sullivan operas and was affectionately referred to as Our Glad and Australia's Queen of Song. Retiring in 1963, she lived on the Gold Coast until her death in 1976. A Canberra suburb is named in her honour.
As for Reg Luckie, the Australian Army transferred him from Guinea Gold to Melbourne in 1944. He married Joan Hackett in Sydney in December of that year. Returning to Melbourne with his bride, he was mistakenly arrested for having gone AWL (Absent Without Leave) and was imprisoned for a brief period.
On August 17, 1945, hundreds of emaciated Australian troops were released from Japanese captivity in Singapore's notorious Changi jail. Luckie, as correspondent for the Army magazine Salt, was one of the first to interview them about their ordeal.
"Like all good reporters, he wrote well, was observant and had a healthy suspicion of authority," his eldest son, Michael, wrote on The Luckies' website.
"Reg left school at 15 to sell papers outside the Sydney Morning Herald's office...[After the war, he] became chief sub-editor on the Australian Women's Weekly. He wrote their book commemorating the 1954 Royal Tour. The money from that enabled the Luckie family to travel to England, originally for two years." They remained there for the rest of their lives.
Historian and author John Laffin and Reg Luckie were mates since their army days in New Guinea. They worked together on Sydney newspapers and visited each other when they both moved to England.
When Luckie died in 1994, Laffin wrote to Reg's family: