Audio Description – NES Helmet, WWII

Click the play button to hear an audio description of the NES Helmet

Hurstville Museum & Gallery has recently undertaken an audio descriptions project for a number of collection items to help increase the accessibility of the collection. This entry is part of the project.

Image 1: World War Two NES helmet held in Hurstville Museum & Gallery’s collection.

As the Second World War began in 1939, the National Emergency Service (NES) New South Wales was established. With its aim of helping to ‘protect, educate and provide aid on the home front’[1], the NES had recruited 115,418 people as volunteers by the end of the war[2]. In 1941, Australian Prime Minister John Curtin, stated in a now famous speech ‘Give of your best in the service of the nation. There is a place and part for all of us. Each must take his or her place in the service of the nation, for the nation itself is in peril. This is our darkest hour. Let that be fully realised …[3]

This call for all Australians to assist with the war effort resulted in many civilian organisations being established, with men, women and children asked to ‘support and protect their homes from the enemy’[4]. Anticipating attacks, air raid shelters, trenches, air raid sirens and barbed wire across beaches were used to prepare the public against fears of possible aerial bombardment and of national attack at the height of the Second World War.

Image 2: National Emergency Service bridge, Government Printing Office 1 – 23388 [Collection: SLNSW]

Under the NES scheme, each local government area in New South Wales had an Area Control Centre, which received reports from volunteer Wardens, who co-ordinated with the fire brigade, the police and gas and electricity companies. The Wardens, who wore helmets, were also responsible for monitoring air raid security and blackout regulation breaches. In cities and towns around Australia evacuation procedures were planned and practised[5]. The Northern Star reported in 1940 that ‘The National Emergency Service is a well organised body especially trained to handle any circumstance, that may arise during an air-raid. If any injury occurs to people in your vicinity contact your warden immediately’ [6]. Above the local area centre, the State Control Centre ‘co-ordinated the state and communicated with the military’[7]. All the centres were manned by volunteers 24 hours a day, from December 1941 to early 1945. The NES in New South Wales, with its thousands of volunteers, was disbanded six months after the end of the war[8].

Image 3: ‘The Spearhead reaches South’, Government Notice, Courier Mail, 1942.

Find out more about this item on e-hive, our collection database.

Hurstville Museum & Gallery has recently undertaken an audio descriptions project for a number of collection items to help increase the accessibility of the collection. This entry is part of the project.


[1] ‘World War II: 1942 NSW Prepares for War- The National Emergency Services’, NSW State Archives, https://gallery.records.nsw.gov.au/index.php/galleries/war-and-australia/war-and-australia-world-war-ii/

[2] Ibid.

[3] ‘The National Leader’, http://john.curtin.edu.au/shapingthenation/htm/theme4_2.htm

[4] Emergency Home Defence’, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/world-war-ii-1939-1945/resources/all-australian-homefront-1939-1945/

[5] Ibid.

[6] ‘National Emergency Services Hint’, Northern Star, Mon 9 Sep 1940, p.7  https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/98655107?searchTerm=National%20Emergency%20Service

[7] World War II: 1942 NSW Prepares for War- The National Emergency Services’, NSW State Archives, https://gallery.records.nsw.gov.au/index.php/galleries/war-and-australia/war-and-australia-world-war-ii/

[8] ‘State Emergency Service’, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_Emergency_Service


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