A rare gift to the nation by Kerry Stokes AC
Published: Thu 9 Aug 2012
Today Mr Kerry Stokes AC presented a collection of fragile First World War photographic glass plates to the Australian War Memorial.
These plates form part of the Louis and Antoinette Thuillier Collection, uncovered in 2011 after sitting undisturbed for nearly a century in the attic of a farmhouse in the French town of Vignacourt. Mr Stokes is donating more than 800 of these glass-plate negatives, which feature Australian soldiers in informal settings.
Mr Stokes said: “It is my honour to present this extraordinary collection of plates to the Australian War Memorial. Their discovery by Max Uechtritz, Ross Coulthart, Mark Lllewellyn and all the team at Seven’s public affairs programme, Sunday Night, has struck a chord with Australians. All of us are pleased to know that the Australian War Memorial will ensure that the stories behind these historic images can be told and those who served our country honoured. I strongly believe that it is for all of us to play a part in preserving, honouring and acknowledging our history. Our history defines us as a nation.”
“We also wish to offer our special thanks to the Thuillier and Bacquet families, Louis and Antoinette Thuillier's relatives, for allowing the collection to be brought to Australia, and to historian Laurent Mirouze, whose persistence in tracking down the hiding place of the Lost Diggers was key in bringing these images to public attention."
“The Australian War Memorial is very excited to receive this important collection from Mr Stokes,” said Nola Anderson, Acting Director, Australian War Memorial.
“These photographs represent one of the most important recent discoveries of material from the First World War,” said Anderson. “They provide a unique insight into the lives of our soldiers in France.”
Remember me: the lost diggers of Vignacourt, an exhibition showcasing this unique collection, will open at the Australian War Memorial on 2 November 2012. The exhibition will explore the personal experiences of Australian soldiers on the Western Front.
“The intimate and informal nature of the photographs gives us a very personal insight into how these men dealt with the challenges of serving during the First World War . Most of the men in the photographs are unidentified, but their faces reveal both the trauma and spirit that have come to symbolisethe Australian experience of war,” said Anderson.
During the First World War, Vignacourt was located behind the front line of the fighting. The town was used as a forward rest area, a place where troops came to recover from recent battles and prepare for the next. The experiences of these troops were recorded by a local photographer, Louis Thuillier, and his wife, Antoinette, who photographed the men in a humble outdoor studio in the courtyard of their house.
Most of the photographs were taken during the harsh winter that followed fighting on the Somme between November 1916 and January 1917. Many of the soldiers depicted had fought in the battles of Fromelles and Pozières. The collection also includes images from 1918 that show men who had survived the final Australian battles of the war.
Remember me: the lost diggers of Vignacourt will tell personal stories of Australian soldiers on the Western Front drawing on material from the Memorial’s collection, including diaries, letters, uniforms and works of art. The exhibition will be on display from 2 November 2012 until 31 July 2013.
Tom Vasey (02) 6243 4575 0409 600 038 firstname.lastname@example.org
Marylou Pooley (02) 6243 4383 0412 646 298
Direct media requests for Mr Stokes to Simon Francis SFrancis@seven.com.au