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In Belgium, in 1919, Australian soldier Jocko Wilson celebrates the war's end by going to see his sweetheart, tempermental English entertainer Aggie Dawlins. That same day, Jocko sees a starving little boy fighting in the street and takes him and his little sister under his wing. When Jocko's leave is over, he realizes that he is too fond of the children to abandon them and so sneaks them aboard his ship. Jocko then asks Aggie to be the mother of his children, not explaining that the children already exist. Meanwhile, at the orphanage from which the children came, a friend of their late father explains that the children do not know, but the boy's father actually adopted the girl after her own parents had been killed. Later that afternoon, Jocko gets in a fight and lands in the brig before sailing, and Aggie is left single and fuming on the shore. Many years later, the boy, now called "Nipper," is a successful boxer and the devoted Jocko has made his Sidney pub a success. Convinced that Nipper can win the title "champion of the empire," Jocko takes on all bettors for the fight. That night, the girl, Mary, who has been away for years at an expensive boarding school, arrives for a happy reunion. At home, she is introduced to "Dusty" Rhodes, an American sports reporter and friend of Nipper, who is immediately attracted to her. Hoping to buy a place in the country, Jocko overextends his book, and when word gets out that he may welsh if Nipper loses, the bar patrons become rowdy. Nipper calms them by saying his earnings will cover the book, then secretly admits to Mary that only the winner's purse will be enough. Nipper badly injures his shoulder in the fight, and Jocko wants to throw in the towel, but Nipper refuses and wins. Later, the doctor tells Jocko that Nipper may never fight again because every ligament in his shoulder is torn, but Nipper vows that he will go to America to fight for the world championship. A worried Jocko temporarily dissuades him, however, by buying a hotel in the country. Several months later, Nipper has maintained his workouts with the assistance of his friend, Father Polycarp, and Jocko and Mary cannot convince him that his boxing career is over. Because of expenses and no customers, Jocko is having financial problems, and Mary suggests to Nipper that they go back to Sydney to find jobs. She wants to work in Dusty's office, but Nipper, who for no apparent reason is anxious over her romance with Dusty, is reluctant. One day, Aggie, who is now a rich widow, appears, pretending to have forgiven Jocko. Jocko decides to marry her to keep the hotel, but she knows about his financial problems and lures him into card and dice games until she eventually wins the hotel and hires him as its manager. Soon Dusty arrives before leaving for his new assignment in Berlin and asks Mary to go with him as his wife. She wants to go back to Europe to find out about her family, but turns him down because she does not love him and is so happy with Jocko and Nipper. When Nipper, who has been fighting his physical attraction to Mary, sees her kiss Dusty goodbye, he misunderstands and angrily slugs Dusty. The next day, Nipper apologizes to Dusty and shakes his hand, but cannot face the confused Mary. He then goes to see the sympathetic Fr. Polycarp, who has suspected Nipper's torment and offers him sanctuary at the monastery. A short time later, Nipper tells Jocko that he is retiring from the ring and plans to leave Australia. Mary and Jocko are both hurt and cannot understand what has happened. When Aggie goes to comfort Mary, she reveals that she has always felt safe with Nipper, but curiously has no memory of him from her early childhood. That night, Germany invades Poland and the British Empire goes to war. Jocko and his friend, Ginger Gaffney, decide to enlist and Jocko will not listen to Aggie's questions about how he met the children. Jocko is shattered when the army turns him down because of his health, but determines to be part of the war effort by doing whatever he can. Some months later, when the Japanese bomb Darwin in Northern Australia, children need to be evacuated south and Aggie and Mary turn the hotel into a shelter for displaced children. When Ginger is slightly wounded, he comes to the hotel looking for Jocko, not knowing that his friend had told Aggie and Mary that he was an army officer. Japanese bombing continues that night and the hotel suffers some damage. Jocko, who is working as a ditch-digger nearby, sees bombing near the hotel and rushes over. Just then, Nipper, back in Australia after being wounded, goes to the monastery and also sees the bombing. On his way to the hotel, his truck is hit by a bomber. Jocko finds the slightly wounded Nipper in the truck and the two head for the hotel, which has just been occupied by the crew of a downed Japanese plane. Nipper and Jocko successfully fight the Japanese and free Mary and Aggie. As Nipper and Mary embrace, Fr. Polycarp arrives with their birth certificates and other information from Belgium, confirming that they are not blood relations. Aggie then explains everything to Jocko, who gets a call from Brisbane asking him to report for duty as a captain in the militia. Jocko knows that Aggie has arranged this and as Mary and Nipper walk hand in hand in the garden, Jocko and Aggie embrace.