Web equipment : Private G J Giles, 29 Battalion, AIF

Unit 29th Australian Infantry Battalion
Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Corbie Albert Area, Morlancourt
Accession Number RELAWM04500.001
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Personal Equipment
Physical description Brass, Cotton webbing, Leather, Metal, Soil, Wood
Location Main Bld: First World War Gallery: Western Front 1918: Giles/1918 Uniforms
Maker Mills Equipment Company
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c 1916-1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Set of mud encrusted 1908 infantry pattern khaki web equipment, comprising: waist belt; two sets of five small arms ammunition pouches (Carriers, cartridge, 75 rounds); small haversack; shoulder straps; blue enamel water bottle in khaki wool cover; water bottle carrier; Pattern 1907 bayonet scabbard; 'Carrier, intrenching tool, helve' (handle); intrenching tool helve; and 'Carrier, intrenching tool, head' (intrenching tool head not present). The left hand 'Carrier cartridge, 75 rounds' is a Mark II variant, with the lower three pouch lids restrained by a short strap. This was a modification introduced after soldiers complained that these pouches rubbed against trench parapets, and became hard to effectively close.

History / Summary

This equipment was collected from 4172 Private 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. Giles was photographed as he came out of the line and his entire uniform, equipment, rifle and bayonet were collected, encrusted with mud. 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. George Giles died 30 June 1942 aged 58 years.