Monday 18 November 2013 by John Holloway. No comments
Education at the Memorial, News

Thanks to everyone who submitted answers to last week's Collection Detection challenge either here on the blog or on our Facebook page. Well done to those who knew the answer!

Answer

Improvised sentry’s warning wires such as this one were often strung along trench lines during the First World War. Made from recycled junk, they provided a quick and easily accessible way to alert those further along the trench that danger was at hand. A rattle of the wire could be passed quickly along the trenches by the men; a good example of resourcefulness, and an effective use of simple technology.

This item was found after the war by members of the Australian War Records Section. A small group, led by Lieutenant William Hopkin James, worked alongside Captain Charles Bean who led the Historical Mission to Gallipoli early in 1919. They were taking photographs and collecting items for the national collection now housed at the Australian War Memorial.

27 year old sawmill manager William James, of Newcastle in New South wales, enlisted soon after the outbreak of the war in 1914 initially into the 6th and then into the 1st Light Horse Regiment. He served on Gallipoli right up until the last barge left on the last day of evacuation. During subsequent service on the Western Front, he was awarded the Military Cross in 1917, “for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty”. While in command of his squadron he captured more than 300 prisoners and four machine guns under heavy artillery fire.

After Armistice, James worked with the War Records Section until discharge from the AIF early in 1920. His extensive knowledge of the terrain and operations undertaken at Gallipoli were invaluable in the painstaking collection of items from the peninsula.

During the Second World War James enlisted in the Second AIF as a Lieutenant Colonel, and served until his retirement in 1943, aged 56.


C03420 Trenches on Gallipoli were often narrow and winding. Visibility was limited, so the use of improvised communication devices like the warning wire were very useful. C03420
B01372A Officers of the Australian War Records Section in Egypt, 1918. Lieutenant James is standing, at far right. B01372A

 

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