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 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 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 features in a new highlights audio tour at the Memorial.
Visitor services manager Gerard Pratt said the new highlights audio tour tells the personal stories behind a range of collection items from the First World War through to Afghanistan.
“Giles’s mud-smeared uniform 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,” he said.
“The new highlights audio is another way in which the Memorial is helping Australians to remember, interpret and understand Australia’s experience of war and its enduring impact on society.”