Breeches : Private G J Giles, 29 Battalion, AIF

Unit 29th Australian Infantry Battalion
Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Corbie Albert Area, Morlancourt
Accession Number RELAWM04500.004
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Uniform
Physical description Cotton drill, Leather, Metal, Soil, Wool 'Bedford Cord'
Location Main Bld: First World War Gallery: Western Front 1918: Giles/1918 Uniforms
Maker Unknown
Date made c 1916-1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Pair of mud encrusted khaki wool cord breeches with leather strapping inside the knees. The self fabric leg extensions below the knee are bound with khaki cotton drill and closed with a pair of celluloid buttons. The back of the waist is notched and six pressed metal buttons are sewn around the outside (three now missing) for the attachment of braces. Six pressed metal buttons close the fly, which is lined with cotton drill. The same fabric lines the waist and forms the bags of the slash pockets on either side of the front. The waist has been cut by the wearer with three pairs of vertical slits, one on each side of the front and one at the centre back, which originally carried an improvised string 'belt'.

History / Summary

These breeches were collected from George James Giles by official historian Charles Bean at the end of July 1918 when Giles was on his way out to rest after a week in the line near Morlancourt. On 29 July 1918 the 5th Australian Division successfully attacked the German positions at Morlancourt, taking two lines of trenches, 128 prisoners and 36 machine-guns. The 29 Battalion war diary notes that although the weather condition were fine, the trenches themsleves were 'in a very bad state with mud and water from the recent rain'. In some places men had to wade in water as high as their knees.

Giles was born on 4 November 1884 and was a 33 year old labourer on enlistment in the AIF on 16 May 1916. He embarked for overseas service with 29 Battalion, 10th Reinforcements aboard HMAT Port Melbourne on 21 October, arriving in England in December. Proceeding overseas to France on 5 April 1917 Giles was taken on strength by 29 Battalion on 10 April. He had an extended period out of the line from July to October when he was hospitalised with influenza. After returning to his unit, Giles was hospitalised for a second time in January 1918 again suffering from influenza. He was evacuated to England and convalesced there until April when he returned to his unit.

During the August offensive Giles was recommended for a Military Medal for actions at Vauvillers. His recommendation reads “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during the operations near VAUVILLERS, East of VILLERS-BRETONNEUX on 9th August 1918. During the work of consolidating several of his comrades, whilst covering the working party, were wounded by snipers, who were operating from concealed positions at very close range. Pte. GILES though not a stretcher bearer, and in spite of the fact that he was exhausted, went forward and succeeded in dressing the wounds, of his comrades. He organised stretcher parties and personally assisted to remove the wounded to a place of safety. By so doing he undoubtedly saved the lives of several men. Throughout the whole operation he displayed great courage and coolness under most trying conditions. By his personal efforts he did much to ensure the success of his platoon.” This award was gazetted on 24 January 1919.

Giles transferred to 32 Battalion on 12 October where he remained until the end of the war. Returning to England in April 1919, he embarked for return to Australia aboard HMAT Orita on 23 June arriving in Melbourne on 6 August. He was formally discharged form active service on 14 September 1919. George Giles died 30 June 1942 aged 58 years.