After John Mott was captured at Bullecourt in April 1917, he was determined to escape.
He wrote a hidden message in saliva in a letter to his brother and became the first Australian officer to successfully escape from captivity in Germany during the First World War, travelling more than 130 kilometres through enemy territory to safety.
More than 100 years later, the letter is part of the National Collection at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
For Research Centre curator Jennie Norberry, the letter is a poignant reminder of Mott’s story of bravery, daring and luck.
Born in country Victoria, Mott enlisted in August 1915 at the age of 38. He was severely wounded in the neck during the fighting at Bullecourt in April 1917 and survived alone for three days in the bottom of a trench before he was discovered by the Germans. He was taken prisoner and eventually sent to the British officers’ camp at Ströhen in Germany.
“We have a letter that he wrote to his brother while he was in captivity,” Norberry said.
“When it was donated, he explained that he had inscribed an invisible message to his brother asking for materials for the escape.
“It was achieved by writing with a new writing nib dipped in saliva, and then his brother Arthur knew to go apply a diluted solution of ordinary ink over the page to bring the message out … You can see where the wash has been applied over the top of it.”