Black and white copy of a photograph taken of RAAF personnel digging trenches while stationed at the Exhibition Building in 1942. The donor, Jack Van Emden, is among the men photographed, probably on the right of the image. The photo depicts a wing on the eastern (Nicholson St) side of the building, no longer extant.

Physical Description

Black and white photograph of seven young men, smiling, wearing military shorts, some in white singlets, and some with bare chests digging a trench. Behind them is a wire netting fence, with part of the facade of the REB behind that. On the reverse of the photograph, handwritten, the names of those in the photograph and the year 1942.


From 1940 to 1946 the Exhibition Building was occupied by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as No.1 School of Technical Training, and subsequently as No.1 Personnel Depot. About 500 to 700 lived in for varying periods of time. The site was also used by the WAAAF. This photograph records one of the many ways in which the Royal Exhibition Building has been used since its construction in 1880. The building's size and space proved vital in times of crisis, such as World War II and the 1919 influenza pandemic, times of celebration such as Federation and the great exhibitions of the 1880s and for sport, such as the 1956 Olympics. In this way, the Royal Exhibition Building has played a central role in the social/commercial life of Melbourne.

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