whose story began at the frontline, by Malcolm Brown
- 25th April 2006
The Sydney Morning Herald)
War correspondents have often been in peril, but
few have reached the dramatic heights of the war
artist Tony Rafty, 90, who found himself in 1944
putting aside his sketch pad to fire an Owen submachine
gun at attacking Japanese.
the encounter, Rafty, who will lead the Australian
War Correspondents Association in today's Anzac
Day parade through the city, helped a badly wounded
man across brutal terrain, inadvertently avoiding
an ambush because they were so slow.
sketched the war, producing drawing after drawing
destined for the Imperial War Museum in London,
the Australian War Memorial and the Australian
National Library. Born Tony Raftopoulos in 1915
of Greek parentage, Rafty saw the surrender of
the Japanese South-East Asia Army in Borneo.
sketched the aftermath, searched for his younger
brother, Stanley (already killed in a naval battle),
and was ordered to cover Indonesia's war of independence.
went to Surabaya where the British brigadier A.W.
Mallaby, negotiating a ceasefire between the British
and Indonesians, was shot dead on October 30,
landed aboard an aircraft carrying the future
Indonesian president Soekarno, and a Herald journalist,
Nigel Palethorpe. Rebels opened fire and peppered
the aircraft with 18 bullets.
after, seven Australian correspondents were trapped
in a hotel by Indonesian rebels. A British war
artist called Hennel, trying to sketch and return
fire with a revolver, was killed. Rafty informed
Soekarno, who ordered a ceasefire. Rafty then
negotiated the release of two Herald journalists,
Ray Olsen and Ian Flemming.
and Flemming were released and Flemming was able
to tell the world that Mallaby had been killed
two days before," Rafty said a long time
later. After five months covering the war of independence,
he returned to the Sun.
went to the London Olympics in 1948, starting
a career of sports caricaturing, in which he sketched
every significant athlete that has performed in
the Olympic or Commonwealth Games till 2004.
retired in 1980, received the Medal of the Order
of Australia 10 years later and became one of
just three recipients in Australia of the Greek
Orthodox Church's Cross of Mount Athos. Rafty,
president of the war correspondents association
for 14 years, is a worthy representative of a
profession whose members have sometimes paid the
Rafty: Caricaturist and Australian National Treasure