Today in Motorcycle History

Harry's Cafe de Wheels

Harry's Cafe de Wheels is a famous Sydney icon. Alan was commissioned to paint the entire outside of the building with 1940's Australian memorabilia. Here are the results!

Clicking on a figure will reveal that figure full-screen.

Dawn in Sydney town 1945 celebrating the end of WWII and the establishment of the famous Harry's. National Flag flying, a patriotic Miss greets you, and our RAAF fighter pilot returns to an optimistic postwar Australia.

Most of the centre section of the front or street wall is taken up with serving hatches but on either side we have returning servicemen. On the left the Infantryman, on the right a Sailor is greeted by his girl and is doing one of the things Sailors like doing best.

The west wall celebrates the night. On the left is Frank Sinatra who came out here and got very much on the wrong side of our newspaper reporters, calling the lady reporters "hookers" and my painting makes a sly reference to this, thus the "press" notebook behind her back. Above Frank's head is a street sign "Palmer St.", site of Sydney's red light district in the 40s/50s when the infamous State Premier and the Chief of Police ran New South Wales as their private bank.

The two on the right are Roy Rene in makeup as his stage persona "Mo", and Hal Lashwood playing the innocent from the country. Mo's character was that of a big city larrikin / conman. This pair were huge in radio right through the 50s but Roy Rene was very successful on stage from the 20s onward. The skyline is much as it was then, Town Hall being the citys tallest building.

"Eternity" in chalk on footpaths all over Sydney was the work of Arthur Stace, who devoted his life to this simple spiritual message, always in the same impeccable copperplate hand.

Here is the image of HMAS Sydney on the side facing the bay and the docks of the Australian Navy.

The Sydney was lost with all hands in 1941, a terrible blow to the morale of the Australian nation. Only recently I learned details of the battle between the Sydney and the German raider Kormoran disguised as the Dutch merchantman Straats Malaca. A German veteran Lieutenant Messerschmidt tells the story. Sailing off the northwest coast of Australia the raider was challenged by Sydney. Apparently suspecting nothing amiss, Sydney came alongside and asked Kormoran to display flags with the days code. The raider had hoped the Sydney would inspect the ship and wish good morning and bon voyage. They could see the cook on deck with a white hat having a smoke, they were that close. The lack, naturally, of the days code spelled doom for the Sydney as well as the German.

At that point the Kormoran dropped the false side panels exposing their guns, first pouring machine gun and 20 mm cannon into Sydneys bridge to dispose of the Officers while heavy guns amidships fired into Sydney's side point blank and exploded inside. The Sydney did get off some shots, one shell going through the funnel which housed piping which cooled the oil for the diesel engines. This set the oil alight which fell into the engine room killing all below.

Mr Messerschmidt believes no survivors in the Sydney were possible. He is, of course, a very old man now and has been to Australia several times and has many friends here. I still don't know how the survivors of the Kormoran were saved, another story perhaps. Mr Messerschmidt says his Captain's leadership was responsible.