Boots : Private G J Giles, 29 Battalion, AIF

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Corbie Albert Area, Morlancourt
Accession Number RELAWM04500.005
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Uniform
Physical description Brass, Leather, Steel
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 standard issue brown leather ankle boots without toecaps, with eight pairs of brown painted brass eyelets threaded with leather laces. The soles have steel toe taps and horseshoe shaped heel protectors. The boots are caked with dried mud.

History / Summary

These boots were collected from 4172 Private George James Giles of the 29th Battalion. 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. After the attack Giles was taken from the front line and told to walk four miles to 8th Brigade Headquarters. Two photographs, covering front and rear, were taken of Giles, along with Private John Wallace Anderton of the 32nd Battalion, who had been brought off the line for the same purpose. The two men were then taken to the Deputy Assistant Director Ordnance Service, where they handed over all of their uniform and equipment, and were provided with fresh kit. The uniforms were then handed over to the Australian War Records Section for their collection. These uniforms were part of a plan, first raised in February 1918 by Charles Bean and Captain John Treloar, to collect twenty full uniforms, so that the future Australian War Memorial could, ‘show how our men came out of the trenches’. Giles’ uniform was full of holes and encrusted in mud, from the summer rains that occurred in the region in the days before their attack. Originally displayed on a figure entitled 'Out of the Line' in the original Australian War Museum in Melbourne, the uniform and equipment have been displayed almost continuously at the Australian War Memorial since its opening in 1941.

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 in which 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. After the war Giles returned to work on the railways, before working as a baker from 1923. George Giles died 30 June 1942 aged 58 years.