|Title:||Proceedings for the discharge of Sidney Nolan from the Army|
|Keywords:||military service, artists, desertion, deserters, discharge, Ned Kelly paintings|
|Record creator:||Central Army Records Office|
This is the form completed on 25 May 1949 by the Australian Military Forces confirming that Corporal Sidney Robert Nolan, service number V206559, had been discharged in absentia from the Citizen Military Forces (CMF) for misconduct because of illegal absence. Nolan's service in the CMF was deemed to have ended on 21 June 1946, a total of 827 days from his enlistment, with the time from 20 July 1944 onwards classified as 'leave without pay' followed by illegal absence. The Army did not know Nolan's address and sent his discharge certificate via the General Post Office, Sydney.
This document records the end of a complicated period in the life of Sidney Nolan (1917–92), one of Australia's best known and critically acclaimed artists. Nolan had been conscripted into the army in 1942 during World War II (1939–45), commencing his service on 15 April. In August 1944 he deserted. Until 1948, he was in hiding, living and working under the assumed name Robin Murray, unable to resume his own identity and apprehensive that he would be caught.
The discharge certificate gave Nolan the means to resume his identity and operate legally within the civilian world. He was initially discharged in absentia on 21 August 1946 for misconduct during service but no discharge certificate was prepared. In 1948 an amnesty for deserters was declared, enabling Nolan to come out of hiding. Despite his failure to report to the Melbourne depot with his army kit, Nolan's discharge was finally posted in 1949.
Documents in his CMF personnel dossier imply that finding Corporal Nolan and returning him to duty were not high on the army's list of priorities. The army was already releasing men from duty in 1944 once it was clear that Australian troops would not be involved in the assault on the Philippines. The army was, however, quite concerned by the loss of Nolan's kit, which contained army-issue clothing and equipment valued at more than £15.
While absent without leave and sometimes in hiding, Nolan painted prolifically. During this time he completed the iconic Ned Kelly paintings, many of which explore the themes of concealment and identity, concerns that were very close to Nolan's own experience while avoiding military authorities.
An entry on this form reveals that Nolan had suffered the amputation of the ends of two fingers on his left hand during his army service. This had occurred in August 1943 and by November the army had recorded that no negligence or misconduct was involved. Injuries to the hand were usually considered suspicious as they were often self-inflicted by men trying to end their military service.
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