A Polish ship, British children and caring Sydneysiders captured in concrete

This memorial to British children evacuated to Australia in 1940 also commemorates the local women who looked after them at Sydney's Quarantine Station. Image: Ursula K Frederick, Sydney Harbour National Park.

This memorial to British children evacuated to Australia in 1940 also commemorates the local women who looked after them at Sydney’s Quarantine Station. Image: Ursula K Frederick, Sydney Harbour National Park.

The Polish passenger liner MV Batory seems an odd ship to be commemorated at Sydney’s North Head Quarantine Station, as it never moored there. Yet its presence is captured in concrete: ‘BRITISH EVACUEE / CHILDREN / ARRIVED 16TH OCTOBER / 1940. M.S. BATORY / VA + DS’, followed by 37 names etched into four neat panels.

In fact, despite outbreaks of influenza, measles and ‘school sores’, the Batory was never quarantined. Rather, for the British children it rushed to Sydney in 1940, North Head represented a safe haven from German bombers and invasion scares.

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Lynton Lamb’s Orient Line designs

Panels from the Orient Line Building design by Lynton Lamb - on display at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Panels from the Orient Line Building design by Lynton Lamb – on display at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

It is so often the way that in the name of progress, much of what once was is now lost. So it was with great fortune that in 1988 Australian National Maritime Museum staff were able to work together with developers to salvage part of Sydney’s rich maritime history. As part of a renovation of the Orient Line Building in Sydney, the interiors were to be gutted and the fixtures and decorations removed. These included maritime themed murals, glass panels and floor mosaics. The glass panels designed by Lynton Lamb, 20 in all, were carefully extracted and taken to the museum.

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