Private, Gowrie House

Unit 2nd Australian Imperial Force
Place Europe: United Kingdom, England, Sussex, Eastbourne
Accession Number ART26277
Collection type Art
Measurement framed: 52 cm x 47 cm x 5.5 cm
Object type Painting
Physical description oil on hardboard
Maker Bowen, Stella
Place made United Kingdom: England, Greater London, London
Date made 11 June 1945
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Description

Portrait of an Australian infantry soldier, identified by the artist in her correspondence with the Australian War Memorial as 'Pte (Name lost) Gowrie House 11/6'. Despite being one of the Memorial's most iconic Art objects, the subject has remained unidentified, even after being displayed as part of the travelling exhibition 'Stella Bowen: art, love and war'. The subject was believed to be Indigenous, but no further information was forthcoming to verify this assumption. In 2014, curatorial research into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island prisoners of war who went through Gowrie House, Eastbourne, in mid-1945 revealed an identity.

Private David Harris (WX1823) was wounded in battle on the Greek island of Crete and captured by German troops while convalescing at a Casualty Clearing Station. Following liberation from German captivity, Private Harris arrived in England on 4 May 1945. He spent the next few months in south England recovering from his wounds and a severe case of pneumonia. During the Second World War, Gowrie House, in East Sussex, was the reception facility for the No.1 AIF Reception Camp that facilitated Australian prisoners of war awaiting repatriation, and Private Harris's military service record indicates that he was in this region of England at the time that Stella Bowen was working out of Gowrie House. A comparison of photographs of Private Harris with Bowen's portrait, and further verification from his family in Western Australia, support the identification of this portrait - 69 years after it was created.

For more information: ART26277