Tuesday 11 February 2014 by Yi Jiang. 1 comment
Education at the Memorial, News

Thank you to everyone who had a go at last week's Collection Detection, and congratulations to those who guessed (or searched!) correctly:


It is a ‘Garland’ improvised trench mortar, found in the Australian trenches at Lone Pine, Gallipoli.

A trench mortar in action at Gallipoli.

Most mortars, like this 'Garland' type, were essentially hollow tubes that fired a small bomb in a high arc over the trenches. Such simple weapons lent themselves to use with improvised projectiles, such as the ubiquitous cigarette or ration tin, which could be filled with shrapnel and explosive. Streamers made from fabric strips would stabilise the bomb in flight. Many such mortars were themselves improvised behind the lines or in weapons factories converted from pre-war cycle workshops in Britain.

Improvisation was a key part of adapting to the unique challenges of warfare on the Gallipoli peninsula. Expecting a rapid advance to the Ottoman capital Constantinople, the Anzacs landing at Gallipoli were ill-equipped for the trench warfare that soon developed. The situation was worsened by frequent supply shortages that left them without proper equipment and food. Yet with typical resourcefulness they were able to produce effective tools and weapons out of the materials around them.

Soldiers of the 3rd Light Horse at Quinn's Post holding a trench periscope and a smouldering rope (left), about to light a jam tin bomb (right).

Some of the well-known Australian examples include the ‘periscope rifle’, which allowed a soldier to aim and even fire his weapon without exposing himself to the enemy, and the ‘jam-tin bomb’ – a grenade made from used ration tins that could be lobbed by hand into the enemy trenches, which at Gallipoli might be as little as 20 or 30 meters away. These could be made in large quantities when insufficient commercially-made bombs and ammunition were reaching the beaches.

By the summer of 1915 even paper was in short supply at Gallipoli. Still eager to keep in contact with home, sapper John Howes of the 3rd Light Horse Signal Troop made a ‘postcard’ from a piece of his own uniform shirt:

Dear Gibby, Just a line to let you know I am still in the land of the living. I have been away from Egypt nearly 7 weeks now. I received your letter dated 4.4.15 also childrens’. Hope you got my beads and wireless photos and cards O.K. I am in the best of health. Hope all are the same… Kind regards to you and yours etc Jack.

Sapper Howes' fabric postcard.

Many stories of improvisation at Gallipoli were told through the items recovered after the war. The Garland mortar was found at Lone Pine in January 1919 by Lieutenant William Hopkins James. James had led a small group to Gallipoli for the Australian War Records Section, which had been formed to collect the records and remains of Australian participation in the war. Along with the mortar and other weapons were the vehicles, uniforms, trench signs, tools and souvenired materials that were left behind when Gallipoli was evacuated. The Australian War Records Section became the forerunner of the Australian War Memorial, and groups like Lieutenant James' helped lay the foundations of its vast collection.


Garth Walpole

I found one of these (or what was left of one) to the rear of Quinn's Post in 1996, and not sure of what it was thought it was a star picket punch left it with a pick axe