From March 1916 Australian divisions began arriving in France. Initially the troops found a pleasant land and a welcome change from sea voyages, the cliffs of Gallipoli, and the training camps of Egypt. There were four divisions, each about 20,000 men, and they were sent to French Flanders close to the Belgian border. Now, for the first time, the AIF was at the main theatre of the war.
Over the past few months the Memorial has been increasing its efforts to acquire photographs of men and women who died on active service whilst serving in the Australian military forces. 102,000 names appear on the Roll of Honour, and where possible, the Memorial has been trying to put faces to names by acquiring photographs of these men and women to link to their online Roll of Honour records.
Series AWM347 is a recently acquired collection of historical records of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI). Accumulated from 1927 to 1984, these records afford a detailed and often fascinating look into the thinking that characterised Australian and Allied intelligence doctrine for over half a century.
The Memorial holds a small collection of paper napkin souvenirs from the era of the First World War. Printed on crepe paper from Japan, their fragility defies their survival for over 90 years.
Here is a napkin printed for the wedding of Lieutenant Colonel Athelstan Markham Martyn DSO, RAE (Royal Australian Engineers) to Miss Stella Swifte at St Mary Abbot's Church in Kensington, London, on 21 October 1916.
Villers-Bretonneux and Bullecourt are two towns on the Western Front that continue to have an ongoing connection with Australia. Due to the warmth and hospitality of the locals in receiving us, the battlefield tour will also not easily forget these towns.
Today is the 63rd anniversary of the sinking of the 2/3rd Australian Hospital Ship (AHS) Centaur. On 14 May 1943 Centaur was en route from Sydney to Cairns when she was sunk by a Japanese submarine south of Moreton Island, off the Queensland coast. From the 332 people on board, only 64 survived.
Dawn and Geoff Harwood were surprised to find that they had a relative buried at Vignacourt British Cemetery. They recognised him as family by his home town and his unusual surname. Geoff and I sat together after dinner last night and using the memorial's website and databases we were able to uncover a little bit more about George Radnell.
When walking the battlefields of the Somme it is evident that most of the visible signs of destruction caused by the First World War have disappeared. The enormous Lochnagar Crater is one of the few surviving scars left on the terrain in this region. A monument to the devastation of war, this crater was caused by a 60,000 lbs mine and is 100 metres in diameter and 30 metres deep. It is hard to capture its sheer size in a photograph.
The major battles of 1916 took place on the Somme. The offensive began on the 1st July 1916 and would become one of the most costly episodes of the war. Between July and mid November the losses reached a total of 1,300,000 men.