ANZAC Voices exhibition opens
ANZAC Voices is the Memorial’s new special exhibition on the First World War, which opened to the public today. It features treasures from the Memorial’s written archives; the voices of the ANZACs presented through their letters and diaries, and supported by a variety of other official documents, photographs, artworks and historical artefacts.
The curators chose the above photo to be the exhibition’s theme image for obvious reasons, given it’s built around the written record. We also thought it was a good strong image that could carry off the important exhibition ‘branding’ role. Who knows what he’s writing – we might imagine it’s a letter home to the family, but it could just as easily be some routine administrative paperwork.
The photo’s original caption reads,
In billets at Flesselles. A member of the 2nd Battalion "carrying on" with his correspondence. The muddy state of the yard was not quite so bad as the trenches. Note the canvas action cover which protects the breech of his rifle.
Date made: 17-30 November 1916.
The soldier himself if quite anonymous and with no stripes on his sleeve, appears to be a private. The 2nd Battalion’s war diaries reveal they were stationed at the little French village of Flesselles between 17-30 November 1916 for rest, refit and further training. The battalion was between stints in the front line on the Somme during that dreadfully wet autumn, which in turn led to a bitterly cold winter. Flesselles is only about 5 miles north of Amiens, and actually very close to Vignacourt, the focus of another of the Memorial’s recent special exhibitions. In November 1916 the Australian sector of the front was around Le Sars, Gueudecourt and Le Transloy, about 20 miles east of Flesselles, so our writing man would have heard the guns booming in the distance.
Those familiar with Australian military uniform will probably notice this man has the brim of his hat turned up on the right-hand side, opposite to the norm. At first we thought the image was simply reversed, but upon checking the negative it was clear the photo’s orientation is correct. So perhaps this man was either a bit of a rebel, or he simply plonked it on his head the wrong way around as he sat down to write.
ANZAC Voices runs until Sunday, 30 November 2014.