Haversack for box respirator : Private G J Giles, 29 Battalion, AIF

Unit 29th Australian Infantry Battalion
Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Corbie Albert Area, Morlancourt
Accession Number RELAWM04500.010
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Personal Equipment
Physical description Brass, Canvas, Cotton webbing, Leather, Twine
Location Main Bld: First World War Gallery: Western Front 1918: Giles/1918 Uniforms
Maker H.G.& R. Ltd
Place made United Kingdom
Date made 1917
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Khaki canvas haversack designed to hold the British Small Box Respirator. The haversack is roughly square, and has a top flap secured by a pair of brass press studs. The bottom section of the bag is reinforced with a second layer of canvas. A khaki cotton webbing strap approximately 110 cm long, with a brass adjusting clip at the right hand end, allows the haversack to be suspended around the wearer's neck. A brass stud halfway along the webbing strap enables it to be secured, when not in use, to a leather tongue on the right hand side of the bag. A pair of brass rings, one on either side, are located about two thirds of the way down the front. These enable the haversack to be securely located around the body via a length of twine, preventing excess movement when the respirator is being worn. Inside the top flap are stamped in black: a Broad Arrow marking; a black stencilled number '4552'; and a manufacturer's marking 'H.G. & R. Ld 17'. Other pencilled markings inside the flap are no longer legible. The outside of the flap is marked '3', indicating that the haversack was issued with a large size box respirator. The haversack is split internally into two compartments by a canvas divider, that on the right being slightly larger and designed to hold the respirator facemask and hose. The compartment on the left is intended to hold the respirator canister, and has a metal rack sewn in at its base, producing a cavity for air being inhaled through the bottom of the canister. Mud is adhered to the base and sides of the haversack.

History / Summary

This haversack was 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.

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.