Private George Giles had just fought in the battle of Morlancourt and was marching back down into the valley of the river Ancre, when a tall, thin man in glasses approached and asked if he could have his uniform and kit.
It was July 1918 and the man was the Australian war correspondent and official historian Charles Bean. He wanted Giles’s torn and battered uniform to show what life on the Western Front was really like for ordinary soldiers.
Giles agreed, and Bean took reference photographs on the spot before organising for Giles’s entire outfit to be replaced.
More than 100 years later, Giles’s mud-encrusted uniform, along with his helmet, ammunition pouches, and kit, is one of the Australian War Memorial’s most treasured collection items.
It has come to symbolise the Australian digger to generations of visitors and embodies all the attributes that the Memorial is known for – collecting original objects with their personal stories from ordinary servicemen and women, and preserving these objects as they were found.
It is one of the ways in which the Memorial is helping Australians to remember, interpret and understand Australia’s experience of war and its enduring impact on society.