The Australian War Memorial has remarkable hidden stories in its sound collection. This compilation of interview extracts reveals the lucky escapes of five men that served during the First World War. These men suffered wounds, sickness and witnessed the horrific casualties of war. They describe themselves to be the lucky ones.
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The Australian War Memorial is currently undertaking a project to create a comprehensive digital archive of the ANZACs and their deeds, and of the wider Australian experience of war. The collections are selected from our extensive archives and reflect the experiences of Australian servicemen, nurses and civilians during the First World War, not just well-known personalities. This project will digitally preserve the Memorial’s collections as well as provide full copies for research on the Memorial’s website.
The ANZAC voices exhibition features a number of rare documents displayed for the first time, such as some of Frederick Tubb’s diaries and John Simpson Kirkpatrick’s letters. It is also the first time the Memorial has displayed relics recovered from the Pheasant Wood mass grave at Fromelles.
They are a combination of personal and military issued items. Five of the six items are associated with unidentified remains, the sixth item, a scrap of gas goggles, is associated with Ray Pflaum who died of wounds as a prisoner of war on 19 July 1916 and who is featured in the exhibition. The goggles are very fragile and it is amazing that any part of them survived. You can still see one of the yellowed celluloid eye pieces and the holes where stitching has come undone.
On 20 December 1915, Private John Kingsley Gammage of the 1st Infantry Battalion wrote in his diary, This concludes a real experience that money could not buy with an enemy that fought fairly and clean. Gammage was one of the last 10 000 Australian troops remaining at Anzac Cove. These men departed Anzac Cove during the night of Sunday 19 December through into the early hours of Monday 20 December 1915. The preparations for their departure had been carefully planned down to the finest details.
I would not have joined this contingent if I had known that they were not going to England.
Private John Simpson, 3rd Field Ambulance, Christmas Day 1914
In December 2012, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) announced that for the very first time, ADF members would be allowed to march in uniform at Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade in 2013. This momentous announcement coincided with the ADF’s 20th anniversary of the removal of the ban on homosexuals serving in the armed forces. The march would also fall on the 35th anniversary of the parade, making the inaugural uniformed march all the more historic.