“On Her Majesty’s Service”
The On Her Majesty’s Service exhibition toured venues across Australia during 1953 and 1954, with over 200 photographs – shot by “an army photographer” – demonstrating the organisation and achievements of the defence forces in Korea. The popular touring exhibition supported defence force recruitment efforts, with newspapers noting that ex-servicemen attending the exhibition found themselves pictured.
The un-named army photographer behind the images would have been employed by the Department of Public Relations, an army section which documented the activities of servicemen and servicewomen. Photographers were tasked with recording details and documenting people, place and units, providing a historical record that ended up as part of the National Collection at the Australian War Memorial, including the works of photographers such as Phil Hobson, Alan Queale and Harold Dunkley, who documented the Korean War with images that resonate across generations. As well as forming an archive of official photography, photographs were often circulated to newspapers, informing the public on military activities in Korea, and connecting stories, people and localities with the images of Australian serviceman.
Official photography from the Korean War can be viewed on the Memorial’s website. Amongst this collection are a number of striking portraits of servicemen taken outside in the traditional portrait form.
Curators do not have any information about the identity of these men or women, and often wonder why subjects’ names are not recorded. Perhaps the intention was to view them as photographic studies, or the original captions may have been damaged or lost before they ended up at the Memorial. Despite a number of past attempts, the Memorial has been unsuccessful in establishing identifications. This small gallery of portraits may prompt some suggestions, and we encourage anyone who recognises the subject of a photo to complete the Memorial’s online form, including a comparative portrait, so we can investigate and connect names to these images.