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Naval issue life preserver

Date: 1939-1945
Overall: 700 x 520 x 50 mm
Medium: Calico, cork
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Life jacket
Object No: 00051503

User Terms

    Royal Australian Navy life preserver, or life jacket, made from canvas covered blocks of cork. This jacket was issued to Walter George Mountain, who served in the Royal Australian Navy from 1939 until 1945.
    SignificanceThis style of canvas and cork life jacket was issued to sailors and soldiers aboard troopships in WWI and also utilised through the early years of WWII. The life jacket demonstrates the dangerous occupation of naval life at sea, and compared with modern life preservers used by the Navy, shows how these key safety devices have changed over time.
    HistoryFollowing on from the era of wooden ships, where the provision of life jackets was considered by the Royal Navy to provide a potential opportunity for sailors to jump ship, the importance of providing life preservers only became common international concern following huge losses at sea such as the TITANIC in 1912, and by navies during World War I. Cork was used in the earliest life preservers of the 1850s, right up until the end of WWII, although at the start of the 20th century, kapok began to overtake cork in popularity.

    This life jacket was issued to Able Seaman Walter George Mountain, S 2926, who served in the Royal Australian Navy from his time of enlistment in Sydney on 4/09/1939, until discharge on 25/01/1945.

    The life jacket has been marked with Mountain's name, RAN, and dated February 1941. According to service records Mountain was in London from 19/01/1941 to 25/04/1941, and at the training base HMS VICTORY I from 26/04/1941 to 3/11/1941, therefore he may have been given this life vest during his period of training there. He did not return to an Australian vessel until HMAS NESTOR on 4/11/1941.

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