The tragedy of the missing at Fromelles resonates once more 90 years after the battle. In June 2008 a further search for bodies began. It was initiated by a Melbourne school-teacher, Lambis Englezos. He was one in a group who became increasingly convinced that there were Australian and British bodies that had been buried by the Germans in mass graves who had not been recovered and re-interred after the war. Such claims needed to be backed up by careful research and this took some years to complete.
From March 1916 Australian divisions began arriving in France. Initially the troops found a pleasant land and a welcome change from sea voyages, the cliffs of Gallipoli, and the training camps of Egypt. There were four divisions, each about 20,000 men, and they were sent to French Flanders close to the Belgian border. Now, for the first time, the AIF was at the main theatre of the war.
Australian armed forces have had a long and proud association with surf lifesaving in Australia as reflected in this copy of ‘Surf in Australia’ magazine. It contains news and extracts of ‘letters from the services’ overseas, honour rolls of members killed in action, a report on the first R.A.A.F. surf lifesaving club at Evans Head run by the No.1 bombing and Gunnery School in New South Wales along with reports of fund-raising activities and news updates from Surf Life-Saving Association of Australia clubs all around Tasmania and across News South Wales.
Over the past few months the Memorial has been increasing its efforts to acquire photographs of men and women who died on active service whilst serving in the Australian military forces. 102,000 names appear on the Roll of Honour, and where possible, the Memorial has been trying to put faces to names by acquiring photographs of these men and women to link to their online Roll of Honour records.
Prisoners in German POW camps were very resourceful. My favourite items to have come out of POW camps in Europe are the maps they made for escape attempts. Early in the war men would draw their maps by hand, but this took a long time and at the end you would have only one copied map.
Series AWM347 is a recently acquired collection of historical records of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI). Accumulated from 1927 to 1984, these records afford a detailed and often fascinating look into the thinking that characterised Australian and Allied intelligence doctrine for over half a century.
One of my favourite items at the Memorial is a tall steel and iron German camouflage tree from the First World War. During the First World War fake trees were one method used for disguising observation posts on the Western Front. This tree is from Oosttaverne Wood (also sometimes spelt Oostaverne Wood), near Messines in Belgium. We don't know when the tree was erected in the wood, but it could have been used by the Germans up until 7 June 1917, when the Oosttaverne area was captured by the British during the Battle of Messines.
The Memorial holds a small collection of paper napkin souvenirs from the era of the First World War. Printed on crepe paper from Japan, their fragility defies their survival for over 90 years.
Here is a napkin printed for the wedding of Lieutenant Colonel Athelstan Markham Martyn DSO, RAE (Royal Australian Engineers) to Miss Stella Swifte at St Mary Abbot's Church in Kensington, London, on 21 October 1916.