The lost diggers of Vignacourt
These six objects embody six stories of Australian soldiers from the exhibition Remember me: the lost diggers of Vignacourt. Explore them below and investigate further with the questions under each story.
Father James Gilbert MCIn 1917 Father James Gilbert, an army chaplain with the 60th Battalion, was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery and devotion to helping wounded soldiers under very dangerous conditions. For 48 hours Gilbert put his own life at risk, carrying the wounded and tending to the dead. While he was one leave in Vignacourt, Father Gilbert was informed that he had been awarded the medal. He finally returned to Australia in 1919.
What is a chaplain?
What would a chaplain’s job be during wartime?
Was it Father Gilbert’s job to help wounded soldiers? Who usually does this job?
Helpful link: /sites/default/files/forever_yours.pdf
The families of the 60,000 Australians who died in the First World War, including Hammond’s family, received the next-of-kin plaque.
Find other medals that have been awarded to military personnel, such as the George Cross or Distinguished Flying Cross, and research an Australian who has been awarded these medals. Where did they serve? What did they do to earn their medal?
Why did the family receive a next-of-kin plaque?
Who sent it?
Helpful links: /encyclopedia/medals/
This tambourine was made by soldiers during wartime. What is the tambourine made from?
Why would someone have made it?
What effect does music have on a person’s well-being?
19th Battalion colour patch
The 19th Battalion disbanded (was broken up) in Vignacourt in October 1918. There were not many men left in the battalion, so they were sent to other units. This was a difficult time for them, as a battalion was like a soldier’s home.
Do you wear a uniform? Perhaps for school or scouts? What do have on your uniform to identify yourselves as part of your school or scout group?
Examine the photograph above. Where did soldiers wear their colour patches?
Joseph Maxwell (shown seated on the right) was awarded not only the Victoria Cross, but also the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Cross and Bar.
On 3 October 1918, when he was 22, Maxwell took over from his wounded company commander and went on to capture an enemy machine-gun. Maxwell then attacked another post. He was briefly captured, but managed to pull out a concealed revolver and fire at two of the enemy, which allowed him to escape with his men. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for this action.
This photo was taken in Vignacourt, France, in November 1918.
Research three other Australians who have been awarded the VC. Why were they awarded the medal?
Helpful link: /visit/hall-of-valour/
PutteeThe word “puttee” comes from the Hindustani word meaning “bandage”. Puttees were a uniform item made from a length of cloth wound firmly around the leg 7 times, from the ankle up to below the knee. Puttees were intended to support the leg when walking and also to protect against the cold and mud.
On the Western Front, many soldiers suffered from trench foot, a painful medical condition of the foot. Puttees were partly to blame, as they cut off circulation to the lower leg and foot. Standing in mud for days on end, and the lack of the right kinds of food, also contributed to trench foot.
On the battlefield, what else could the soldiers have used a puttee for?
What helped to prevent trench foot?
Why were women in Australia busily knitting socks for their loved ones serving in the trenches?
Examine the photo above; one of the soldiers has used his puttees to store some tools. What are they?