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Remembering the men who stood with China during World War II


09-02-2015 00:07 BJT

Full coverage: 70th Anniv. of Victory of Anti-Japanese Aggression War

In 1938, Australian dock workers refused to load iron onto the Dalfram, a steamship bound for Japan, because they feared the cargo would be made into weapons and used against the Chinese.

More than 75 years later, the Dalfram Dispute remains a source of immense pride for the workers' families, and their community.

 More than 75 years later, the Dalfram Dispute remains a source of immense pride for the workers' families, and their community.

For Lorraine Lehman-Jones, the photos of her father represent a lifetime of memories.

“Bless his heart, he was not your textbook dad; he did a lot of things wrong, a lot of things right,” she said.

The memories are of a man whose life was defined by a single decision almost 75 years ago.

Norman Gamble was a 26-year-old dock worker when he and more than 170 of his Port Kembla colleagues went on strike.

They refused to load iron onto a ship called the Dalfram, which was bound for Japan.

“It was believed that the pig iron that was to be loaded on to the Dalfram was to be turned into bullets that was going to be used against the Chinese and also possibly to come back here to Australia," Lehman-Jones said.

The men endured physical violence and economic hardship during the 11-week strike. And they did it in part for people they had never met, the people of Nanking who had suffered hundreds of thousands of deaths at the hands of Japanese troops.

“They were doing what they thought was the right thing,” said Sandra Pires, producer/director.

Sandra Pires is the producer and director of the documentary “The Dalfram Dispute 1938: Pig Iron Bob.”

It chronicles the strike and its impact.

“They were not going to have blood on their hands in sending war materials to a country that was invading another country,” Pires said.

“It’s an almost unique event in Australian history because this is a dispute not about wages and conditions; this is a dispute about principle,” said Glenn Mitchell, senior lecturer, University of Wollongong.

Despite its historical significance, the only thing that exists here today of what happened in Port Kembla in 1938 is this sign that sits in the middle of a parking lot.

Pires and some of the families are trying to get a memorial built on a hill overlooking the ocean. It is not far from the port where Gamble requested his ashes be spread.

“I’m so proud for what he accomplished back then,” Lehman-Jones said.

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