First World War, 1914-1918
Signed flag: Sergeant A Ahradsen, 13 Battalion, AIF
Satin weave cotton flag, divided vertically dark blue and white. The white section bears multiple signatures in black ink. The upper part of the white section has the inscription 'From Your Friends And Those You Leave Behind at Marcus Clark's', and numerous signatures, including those of women, of the staff at the Marcus Clark Department Store at Newtown, Sydney. This section is separated from the signatures on the rest of the white section by an ink line. The signatures beneath the line (about 155) are mainly those of members of 9th Reinforcements to 13 Battalion, AIF, although a few men from other units have signed the flag as well. They are likely have been collected on the troopship 'Argyllshire' and while the owner of the flag, Alexander Ahradsen, who also signed it, was training in Egypt before moving to service on the Western Front. The colours of the flag may have been intended to represent the colour patch of 13 Battalion, which was worn at the head of the uniform jacket sleeves. This patch was, however, a horizontally aligned rectangle divided light blue (not white) over dark blue. A white over blue patch in the same shape was worn by 16 Battalion.
Alexander Ahradsen, a 35 year old upholsterer working for the Marcus Clark Department Store at Newtown, Sydney, enlisted for service in the AIF on 26 July 1915 and was assigned as private to the 9th Reinforcements of 13 Battalion. Born in Wellington, New Zealand, he had served with the New Zealand Volunteer Company for six years before he emigrated to Australia. Ahradsen sailed for overseas service aboard HMAT A8 Argyllshire on 30 September 1915 and underwent training in Egypt. He qualified as a Lewis gunner and in April 1916 transferred to Machine Gun Section of his battalion. In May he was promoted to lance corporal. The battalion left Egypt for service in France on 1 August 1916. Ahradsen was promoted to corporal at the end of the month; to lance sergeant in January 1917 and to sergeant in March 1917. He twice received a Divisional Commanders Congratulatory Card, in December 1916, and February 1917, for work undertaken in the Gueudecourt area. He was killed in action during the Battle of Bullecourt on 11 April 1917. It is thought that this flag, initially presented to him by his fellow employees at Marcus Clark, was then signed by soldiers who travelled with Ahradsen to Egypt on the troopship Argyllshire. Most of the signatures are those of members of the 9th Reinforcements to 13 Battalion, but others are of men from units who also sailed on this transport. Two signatures are of men who were repatriated to Australia in March 1916 after becoming sick in Egypt. Ahradsen must have sent the flag home to his wife, Emily, before his death as it is not listed in the effects that were officially returned to her. Emily Ahradsen developed nervous paralysis when she learned of her husband's death and at one time it was feared that she would never walk again.