A second large hole has been cut into the fuselage this week, this being for the lower tunnel gun position.  A large amount of modification to the airframe had been carried out to support flooring, and various large camera mounts thorughout it's time as a geo survey platform.  All these modifications were removed to clear the area, and open up the space ogininally occupied by the tunnel gun. 

Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, Ms Quentin Bryce AC, with Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG, in the Hall of Valour, 21 February 2011.

Before a gathering that included living Victoria Cross holders Keith Payne VC OAM, Corporal Mark Donaldson VC, Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG, Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC, the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia officially opened the Hall of Valour on Monday 21 February.

The Hall of Valour honours the 98 Australians who have received the Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery in action in the face of the enemy.  Symbolically located beneath the commemorative heart of the nation, namely the Hall of Memory and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,  it is the home of the national collection of 63 Australian Victoria Cross medals as well as three British Victoria Cross and several George Cross medals.

Guests last Monday also included the descendants and families of more than 100 Victoria Cross and George Cross recipients including the Canberra based family of medical officer Major General Sir Neville Reginald Howse VC KCB KCMG, who was awarded Australia’s first Victoria Cross in 1900 for rescuing a wounded man under heavy fire while serving with a mounted infantry brigade during the Boer War.

Also in attendance was the Hon. Julia Gillard MP, Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon. Tony Abbott MP Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Warren Snowdon MP Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Senator Michael Ronaldson Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.

The Hall of Valour has been one of the Memorial’s most ambitious redevelopment projects recently in the lead up to the refurbishment of the First World War Galleries in time for the centenary commemorations of the Gallipoli landings in April 2015.

The Victoria Cross was instituted in 1856 by Queen Victoria and made retrospective to 1854 to cover the period of the Crimean War. The metal used in all Victoria Crosses is taken from old captured cannons, reputedly from the Crimean War. 

For images of the opening of the Hall of Valour http://www.flickr.com/photos/australianwarmemorial/sets/72157625746048143/

 

Recently, I have been working on the papers of Field Marshal the Lord Birdwood, the First World War British General who commanded the Australian Corps for much of the First World War (including at Gallipoli). Amongst the papers, donated by the Birdwood family in the 1960s, I have found a story I think is suitable for a Valentine’s Day blog entry.

My research is continuing but it was the romantic notion of ‘The airman who married the General’s daughter’ that caught my attention. It is the story of Constance ‘Nancy’ Birdwood, the eldest daughter of Birdwood, who married a Western Australian grazier, Colin Craig. Nancy was an Australian Red Cross nurse while Colin was an airman who flew for the Royal Flying Corp during the First World War.

Nancy (back right) with other nurses in the grounds of No. 1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital (1AAH), Harefield, England, c. 1916.

Nancy (back right) with other nurses in the grounds of No. 1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital (1AAH), Harefield, England, c. 1916.

My first hint of the story was a letter from Colin’s former schoolmaster which was apparently in reply to an enquiry from Birdwood. Later I found several letters from Colin Craig to then Lieutenant General Birdwood. With the letters was a photograph of Colin looking rather dashing in his uniform (below).

Colin Craig in uniform

Colin’s letters are filled with nervous anticipation and reassurances as he introduces himself and explains his background and his desire to marry Nancy. He tries to be frank about the life Nancy would live on remote sheep stations in Western Australian. Apparently, Lady Birdwood approved of Colin but was distressed by the thought of Nancy being so far away.

From the letters and Birdwood’s own memoirs, it would appear the couple met sometime in 1916 and love blossomed. They first confided in Lady Birdwood before telling Birdwood. However, any thought of marriage must have been put on hold when Colin was shot down over Arras and held as a prisoner of war by the Germans. As a result, the happy ending to the story did not happen until March 1919 when Nancy married Colin at Brompton Parish Church.

Presumed to be Nancy Birdwood

Birdwood and his wife visited their daughter and son-in-law in Australia on several occasions. Their official tour in 1919-20 was extensively covered by the newspapers of the day and met with great enthusiasm especially by veterans. The visit happily also coincided with the birth of Nancy and Colin’s first child.

Update 21 March 2011

I've just found this picture of Colin and Nancy's wedding in the Memorial's collection. I do wonder how I missed it but then the Memorial does have over 300 000 photographs online!

Colin and Nancy's wedding

Three months into this phase of the project has seen significant progress on both the external and internal conservation of the tank. Externally, all original armour plate components have been repaired. Replica plating has been fitted to replace inaccurate or missing components, with some plates requiring considerable modification to fit this individual tank, and to correct minor errors in externally supplied fabrications. 

All the original running gear and mudguards have been conserved or remanufactured, and refitted, with replica components installed as necessary. Hubcaps on the track return rollers and idler sprocket are still to come, and the replica tracks have not been installed at this stage as further surface work is required on the hull exterior.

As a project 'milestone', all rear armour plating was fitted, and missing external fittings and equipment, replicated from collection images of other Ha-Go tanks, was made 'in house' and installed. The turret has not been reinstalled at this stage.

In parallel with this external work, internal transmission components were investigated for ease of removal. Given the severe degree of water induced corrosion inside the tank, the main gearbox and transfer gearbox were able to be removed, with badly corroded mounting bolts requiring removal by oxy cutting. Removal of the main gearbox enabled the final reduction gear and drive sprockets to be treated.  As these sub-assembies had very corroded and inaccessable fasteners, to reduce dismantling impact  it was decided not to remove these assemblies from the tank, but to treat in situ. After rust removal from the badly corroded brake drums, the final drives now rotate freely.

Given the past 70 years of weathering, neglect and abuse, it was surprising to find the main and transfer gearboxes were in virtually pristine condition internally, with no corrosion and no wear marks on the gear teeth. It appears that the tank was landed by the Japanese marine landing force at Milne Bay and travelled only a relatively short distance. It was engaged in four actions with men of the Australian 61st, 2/10th,  and 25th Battallions. It was stopped during the third encounter by Corporal JFP O'Brien, recovered by the Japanese, and  later captured after the fourth encounter by the Australians on 29th August 1942. (One careful owner, low mileage!)

Of considerable interest, after all these years, two more  cartridge cases from the 7.7mm Japanese machine guns were found under the gearboxes. These are highly likely to be relics from those actions in 1942, and complement the battle damage found on the tank.

The success of the progressive dismantling of the transmission has now enabled a serious attempt at removing the badly deteriorated engine for treatment. The tank had been sitting exposed  to the weather in a scrap yard for many years, with five of the six cylinder heads missing, and at this stage the engine appears to be rusted solid. Interior examination with a borescope shows no oil in the sump and the engine interior has surface rust.

   

Interesting aspects of this project are the identification and preservation of battlefield damage and relics still present that relate directly to the known history of the tank, and the progressive nature of the treatment, as initial unknowns are resolved and future actions become clearer.

Update!

The engine has been removed from the tank. Note the five missing heads.

(Tech specs: The engine is a 14.3 litre, six cylinder, air cooled diesel engine, of 240 BHP at 2000 rpm)

From now on it will be slow and steady work investigating, cleaning and treating the engine ,

 and the internal hull surfaces!

Part of the work involves sourcing or replicating missing components to complete the external appearance. For example, the tank jack mounted on the mudguard - 

  

Fortunately, a modern 10 tonne ratchet jack was virtually identical in overall appearance. After removing English lettering cast into the jack and unobtrusively stamping "AWM II" to identify it as a replica, it fittted perfectly into the replica mounting bracket (made in-house from an original image of a Ha-Go tank).

Cosgriff's Diary: Friday 7th February 1941

Fallen soldiers.  Letters from Aileen, Elsa, home (2), Dr Pascal. Tom missed out on mail – sent cable.  Pay day 13 pounds short.  Alex this arvo with Len.  Bath in Errington’s bath-room.  Met Sam Johnston at Windsor Hotel.  Found whereabouts of Owen Steele.  Coffee with Campbell and Honils.  Home at 12:30. 

 

Bryant's Diary: Saturday 8th February 1941

Appointed a Bren instructor for a fortnight to 2/15th Bn.  The squad members are keen and should do all right.

 

Troops of 2/23 Battalion in action with a Bren gun at a front line section post in Libya, August 1941.  This one is 400 yards from the enemy.  Photograph by George Silk. 

 

Cosgriff's Diary: Saturday 8th February 1941

Alarm hopeless.  Mass at 7:30.  Steele here and with him all adj at 2/9th.  Churchill,... O’Connor and Surn back from Derna.  Our future uncertain but not operating here.  Arranged Masses here and staging – hope I get some.  No more office.  Plenty to do – but no conveyance.  Wrote to Aileen and expect never to hear from her again. 

 

Bryant's Diary: Sunday 9th February 1941

Went up to the A.G.H. today and saw Wal Legge, the first Mudgee casualty in this war. Wal is in the 2/4th Bn and received shell shock at Tobruk but only his ears were affected.  He is O.K. now and expects to be out of hospital in a day or so.  Also saw Ted Taylor.  Nothing else happened.

 

Bryant's Diary: Monday 10th February 1941

Kept instructing Bren all day at the 2/15th Bn.  It was as cold as hell.

 

Cosgriff's Diary: Monday 10th February 1941

Mass at S. Catharina.  Breakfast – steak and eggs.  New watch protection.  Lunch at Union Club with Len.  Bath in matron’s room.  Ackland and Horan had breakfast on train to Alex – jam sands and cake.  Mary held Tom’s hand in sympathy of no letters.  Benediction at S. Catherina.  People reciting prayers and singing Pangi in latin.  Handsome youth at book-shop – nun speaking French – two bots of altar wine. – Rudd loaned us his car – home 11:30 slept most of way – letter from J. McGlynn.  Horan saw... French navy. – Saw Adam Johnston again.  Best day so far – Mass at St. Saluna altar.

 

Bryant's Diary: Tuesday 11th February 1941

Tom Dinnen sent to hospital yesterday.  Nothing else happened.

 

Cosgriff's Diary: Tuesday 11th February 1941

Missa in Tempore Belli [Mass in Time of War]. Jack Chambers has mumbs. Rothstadt  –  probably malaria.  John Devine to go with C.C.S.  Doctors visiting hospitals in Alex.

 

Bryant's Diary: Wednesday 12th February 1941

Nothing happened today.

 

Cosgriff's Diary: Wednesday 12th February 1941

Pino Defunctis [For the dead]. All thrill alarms failing no function now and we always sleep in.  Nurse went to see Kantara today.  Put up tent for batmen.  Shifted into new mess.  John Devine – pretty homesick left at 10 pm.  Rudd under orders to go too.  Marsh’s lid’s pinched by Gyppos making box.

 

Bryant's Diary: Thursday 13th February 1941

Jack Wilson returned from 28 days in Jerusalem jail. He had a pretty rough time.  Reg Tait went to hospital again.  That makes 3 out of the section in hospital now.

 

Cosgriff's Diary: Thursday 13th February 1941

Pro pace [For Peace].  No mail for days.  Tim McCarthy in Alex.  To Alex after paying Men. Wally Condar and Rouelands of H.M.S “Perth”.  Meet Tim and Steele.  Driver’s name – Gerrard from Canberra.  Home early with Horan.  Boys stayed late and visited Mary’s home at 3:45 am.  Wrote to Dave, Elsa, Tooze and Doyle kids.

The aft turret support bulkhead was fitted to the fuselage late last week, and is the first major peice of the turret support structure to be completed and installed.  The installation of this bulkhead will give the structural integrity to allow the removal of damaged and modified floor structure, and the continuing installation of support structure further forward in the fuselage.

For the Introduction and Glossary for this blog go to:

/learn/schools/resources/tobruk-diaries

 

Owen Thomas Cosgriff

Owen Thomas Cosgriff was born 21 December 1907 in Korumburra, Victoria.  In his adult years he moved to Brunswick, Victoria, where he lived until his enlistment with the 2/4th Australian General Hospital (A.G.H), AIF, (Australian General Hospital) in Caulfield.  In December 1940, Cosgriff left Melbourne aboard the Maurentania bound for North Africa.  After a brief visit to Perth, the ship moved into the Indian Ocean and after a week of travelling, Cosgriff disembarked in Colombo where he remained until 15 January 1941.  By 24 January Cosgriff’s ship had entered the mouth of the dangerous Red Sea and after spending some time at Sugo arrived at Anastasia on 31 January.  It is here that Cosgriff’s diary entries begin:

Arthur Francis Bryant

Arthur Francis Bryant was born on 27 August 1916 in Mudgee, NSW.  Bryant enlisted in 2/17th Battalion, A.I.F on 29 May 1940 in Paddington NSW.  He completed his basic training at Ingleburn, then moved to Bathurst army camp for subunit field training.  In October 1940, Bryant left Sydney Harbour bound for the Middle East.  He disembarked at Bombay and entrained for Deolali Rest Camp on 7 November.  He sailed on to Kantara on 12 November, arriving almost two weeks later.  He entrained for Ryrie Lines Camp, Kilo 89, at Gaza Ridge, Palestine, then, on 17 December Bryant left for Port Said on Garrison duty.  For the first fortnight his section guarded an ammunition dump in Raswa Area and on 10 January 1941 he returned to the same lines in Kilo 89 for further training and re-equipping.  It is here that Bryant’s diary begins:

 Lieutenant Colonel J.W. Crawford, Commanding Officer of Bryant's battalion, the 2/17th Battalion, along with company commanders in Tobruk, Libya, 1941-09-11

Edmund Crawford Lecky

Edmund Crawford Lecky was born on 1 October 1920 in Coolah, New South Wales.  After spending his teenage years as a signalman in the pre-war Militia and working as a Public Servant, Lecky enlisted in 8th Division Signals A.I.F in 1940 in Paddington, NSW.  On 3 November, he was transferred to 9th Division Signals, where he was commissioned as a lieutenant. Lecky embarked upon HMT Queen Mary on 26 December 1940 for the Middle East where he was to attend No 2 course 1 Australian Corps Signals School.  It is here that Lecky’s letters begin:

 Group portrait of officers of signals units of the 9th Division awaiting ferry transport to the troop transport Queen Mary for embarkation prior to leaving for the Middle East.  Lieutenant E.C. Lecky is kneeling on the left in the front row.

Every effort has been made to transcribe the following diaries and letters as accurately as possible in order to preserve the original language of Chaplain Owen Thomas Cosgriff, Warrant Officer Arthur Francis Bryant and Captain Edmund Crawford Lecky.  Please note however, the task of accurate transcription is a difficult one involving a number of challenges including the age of the sources, illegible handwriting or incorrect spelling and grammar.  Dr Charles Bean, war correspondent and historian, communicated these challenges in the introduction to his First World War Official History: [/cms_images/AWM38/3DRL606/AWM38-3DRL606-90-1.pdf].    Please keep these difficulties in mind as you read the text below.

The diaries shown in this blog are held in the Memorial's collection as: Cosgriff: AWM 3DRL/3367; Bryant: AWM PR03012 and Lecky: AWM 3DRL/7816.  You can also find the records for these men at the National Archives of Australia website: http://www.naa.gov.au/.

Please note that the meanings of all underlined words within the text can be found in the glossary (which will be available later in February).

Bryant’s Diary:   Friday – 31st January, 1941

We were to foster the 2/3rd Field Workshops tonight and early in the morning, but their arrival has been postponed indefinitely owing to casualties incurred in an air raid at Kantara.  It is bad luck for them to cop it this way, but c’est la guerre.

 

Cosgriff’s Diary:  Friday Jan 31st 1941

Anastasia hotter.  Boys ashore last night and disgusted... Nobody wanted to take sisters and masseuses ashore today...no raids last night....Heavy uniform today but afternoon warm enough.  Two masseuses from 2 A.G.H. here for lunch.

 

Bryant’s Diary:  Saturday 1st February, 1941

Rained heavily last night and mud was everywhere today.  We did extra work at Squires Lines in preparation for the fostering of 2/3rd Field Workshops, who are due in at 12:30 tonight.  I have the job of messing N.C.O for the main workshops.  Rumours are current that we may be moving from Palestine very soon.  Ted and Jim Taylor were admitted to hospital for something or other.  That makes 4 out of the section in hospital or under treatment.

 

Cosgriff’s Diary:  Saturday Feb 1st 1941

Forgets ashore with Tyrer.  Port Tewfik quite clean but Sugo filthy.  Inspected Hospital – Good Shepherd – depressing place – terrible job for nuns – French – with filthy Arabs.  Tried to find priest for confession but failed.  Pilot on board to take us up canal but no word of departure.  Gen party with Shannon and masseuses.

 

  Radiologist, Major T.L. Tyrer (centre) in the x-ray room at the 2/4th Australian General Hospital, Tobruk, August 1941.

Bryant’s Diary:   Sunday 2nd February 1941

The story about the 2/3rd Field workshops being bombed is all bunk.  The coy fixed them up and I was in bed by 3 o’clock. During that night we had 2 air raid alarms, but no air-raid.  There was another alarm this morning, but no planes were seen.  The 1st Corps Guards Bn marched out today, probably to guard Dago prisoners.

 

Cosgriff’s Diary:  Sunday Feb 2nd 1941

Two masses.  Masses cancelled after I had finished packing to go up by train.  Another drink with Shannon then early lunch.  Disembarked at 1:30.  Scare about missing luggage then departure by train at 3:30.  Cairo at 7pm.  Woman feeding kid on station.  Black-out, searchlights veiled women, crammed streets.  Dinner at Continental 16/~.  Drinks exorbitant.  C.O. lit fly on masseuses who were out with Rudd and Marsh.  Walk through city with Chambers and Horan.  Entrained at 11:59 for Abu-el-Kadir.

 

Bryant’s Diary:  Monday 3rd February 1941

Air raid warning was sounded a number of times last night and once so far this afternoon, but no planes seen.  Had a thorough kit inspection this morning and I think new equipment and a move are on the way.  The Bn had a rehearsal this afternoon in preparation for Mr Menzies’ visit tomorrow.  Copped the guard for tonight.

 

Cosgriff’s Diary:  Monday 3rd February 1941

Slept well in train.  Daylight at Alexandria.  Nurses left there.  Arrived at Abu-el-Kandir desert, Gyppos, filth sand, cold, shacks and no transport...Set to with tents – Horan Ackland, Horan Devine and me.  No water, no shave and no Mass.  Day’s work making place habitable.  To bed on air mattress tired and dirty – I think Tom was here in last show.  Letters from Elsa and Tooze – none for newly-weds.

 

Bryant’s Diary:  Tuesday 4th February 1941

Had an easy time of guard and missed big review at Pier...for Mr Menzies.  The 2/15thBn marched in from Australia last night.  Pte Dalziel was knocked over and injured by a car while on guard duty.

 

Bryant’s Diary:  Wednesday 5th February 1941

Marched about 18 miles today and did a stunt.  Longest so far.  N.C.O.’s Officers of Bn were addressed by Brigadier Murray on leadership.  Nothing important.  One air raid alarm during the day.

 

Cosgriff’s Diary:  Wednesday 5th February 1941

Slept in today.  Wanted to get to Alex to see Tim but could not get ride.  Rang Alex but Tim away.  Wrote home Elsa and Tooze.  Said full service for nurses out today... Air raid alarm tonight but no bombs.  Censoring mail this day.  Trunks not here yet.  Sergeant Burston to Cairo today to see whether here or Derna – hope it is Derna.

 

Bryant’s Diary:   Thursday 6th February 1941

Nothing of importance, with the exception of pay, occurred today.

 

Cosgriff’s Diary:  Thursday 6th February 1941

Alarm bung – no Mass.  Desert storm today and we do not want another.  Zac unbearable today – ennui.  No mail yet.  John’s alert scene became a dust-storm.  Alex leave roster worked out.  No pay as Corps cleared out to Tobruk.  Marsh and Alec missed out on Masses today.  Issued with head-camp against dust.

 A group of the nursing staff and physiotherapists (masseuses) of 2/4th AGH (Australian General Hospital) aboard the ship, the Maurentania before its departure from Melbourne bound for Tobruk.  Victoria, 20 December, 1940.

  

Three generations of the Howse family at the Hall of Valour

Accompanied by her own children and grandchildren, Canberra identity Mrs Valerie Howse OAM  came to the Australian War Memorial recently to tour the newly opened Hall of Valour and to pay tribute to her late father-in-law, Major General Neville Reginald Howse VC KCB KCMG, honoured as the first Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross  in 1900 during the Boer War.

Born 26 October 1863 in Somerset  England,  Neville Howse studied medicine at  London Hospital before migrating to New South Wales.  He established his first practice in Newcastle later moving to Taree.  He  briefly returned to England  to undertake postgraduate work before finally returning to  Australia in 1897 and settling down in Orange.

In January 1900 he received his commission as lieutenant in the New South Wales Medical Corps and sailed for South Africa and the Boer War.  On 24 July 1900, while serving with a mounted infantry brigade at Vredefort, Captain Howse rescued a wounded man under heavy fire for which he became the first Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross. 

  

Mrs Valerie Howse OAM and the portrait of Major General Neville Reginald Howse VC KCB KCMG, the first Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross in 1900

Howse returned to Australia, but went back to South Africa as an honorary major in the Australian Medical Corps in February 1902, just as the war was ending.  Howse was twice elected mayor of Orange and married Evelyn Pilcher in Bathurst in 1905. Howse later served in the First World War and in September 1915 he was given command of ANZAC medical services and in November became director of the AIF's medical services.

In 1917 Howse was knighted and in 1920 he made a brief return to private practice before resuming work with the army. He resigned in 1922 and won the federal seat of Calare for the National Party. In 1930 he went to England for medical treatment but died of cancer on 19 September of the same year. He was survived by his wife and five children.

The story of  Howse VC is just one of 97  amazing accounts featured in the Hall of Valour - each one carries its own mark of   individual courage, the essence of mateship and rising above the call of duty.  The Australians represented here come from all over our nation and represent a range of backgrounds and fortunes, ordinary blokes who achieved the extraordinary on the battlefield.

Official Records is pleased to announce that arrangement and description of the records of the Royal Australian Corps of Signals are now complete. The records have been assigned the series number AWM277, and are catalogued to the National Archives of Australia database, RecordSearch.

Background

The basis of this series is the documentation created by units of the Corps to acquire, deploy and evaluate electronic warfare equipment from 1939 to 1997.

 

The Royal Australian Corps of Signals accumulated records detailing performance characteristics not only of its equipment, but the control and command structure and the many inputs used to determine its capability. The oldest item in the collection is a 1939 edition War Book of the Australian Military Forces. More recent material, such as item 296, describes Christmas Day 1974, when Cyclone Tracy struck Darwin and the Corps helped mount the aid and recovery effort.

As a technical collection of records, material usually associated with the conduct of military operations abroad - such as monthy war diaries, routine reports and orders - is not a feature of this series.

Reorganisations within the Department of Defence led to the disbandment of a number of these units. The records they yielded were arranged by security classification and dispatched to the Directorate of Communications (DCOMMS, later DSIGS – Defence Signals). Further adjustments and closures within the Defence organisation saw the records consigned to long-term storage. In 1999, the Australian War Memorial took custody of the records, later accessioned as AWM277.

  • Much of the material in this series is presented along the following themes:
  • Cryptographic equipment
  • Corps correspondence registers
  • Corps mess books
  • Corps publications and publicity
  • Counter terrorist exercises
  • Establishments and strengths
  • Function of signals equipment, installations and buildings
  • Military exercises
  • Records of the RA Sigs Corps Committee
  • Radio and television equipment
  • Satellite communications

Additionally, AWM277 incorporates conference papers and other intelligence sharing documents relating to Australia’s membership of certain defence alliances, tactical documents (e.g. Signal War Plans, call sign books) and a limited number of biographical profiles of Corps personnel. 

Using the series

Select the "Advanced Search" tab on RecordSearch. Click on the "Series" link and enter the series number. Refine your search by keyword or date. The records of the Royal Australian Corps of Signals are managed as Official Records according to the Archives Act 1983. Though all the records are catalogued to RecordSearch, only those in the "Open" period will be searchable (that is, from 1939 to 1981). "Not Yet Examined" material will need to be access examined prior to release. An "Open With Exception" item contains some material exempt from disclosure under the Act.

 Further information

To view material, you are invited to visit our link www.awm.gov.au/request or visit the Memorial's Reading Room. An "Application for Access (S.40)" form will need to be completed for items with an access status of "Not Yet Examined."

 

Among the items collected by Sir John Monash during the First World War are over 200 German shoulder straps worn by men who fought against the AIF in 1918. Single shoulder straps were routinely removed from dead or captured Germans for intelligence purposes so the  identity of German units opposing the Allied forces could be established.

Lieutenant General Sir John Monash by John Longstaff

Monash's collection consists of 26 loose shoulder straps and six wooden boards, each with up to 32 shoulder straps or officer's shoulder boards attached. The six boards are of particular interest as above each strap is written information such as unit, date captured and sometimes the rank of the wearer.

The collection is primarily made up of straps from infantry units but pioneer battalions, flying squadrons, field ambulance, mechanical transport columns, artillery and trench mortar units are also represented.  

Monash refers to this collection in a letter written on 21 August 1918.  He recorded that during the recent advances, the Australians had captured almost 10,000 Germans from 75 different units.

His Intelligence Staff collected a large number of shoulder straps, which he arranged to be labelled. He was going to send them home and suggested they could be exhibited to raise money for war charities. Initially he wanted 75 straps mounted and labelled - one for each unit captured. However, the project seems to have expanded and eventually six boards were made, holding 183 shoulder straps or officer's shoulder boards for Germans captured by Australian units between May and October 1918.

The shoulder boards for lower officers are a mixture of the older silver boards (either worn by men who had served from the early stages of the war, or shoulder boards that were second or third hand) and the later grey fabric boards. The Germans stopped using silver on their shoulder boards in 1915 because they were too shiny but also as a result of the metal shortages they faced due to the British and French blockade of German ports. Instead they were either covered with cloth, painted grey or replaced by the dull grey shoulder boards. These shortages are also reflected in the badges on the shoulder boards, some have earlier gilded brass badges, but most have grey badges made from 'Kriegsmetall' - substitute alloys.

The Saxon Labour Corps shoulder strap below also illustrates the shortages in Germany. It is a thin black strap made from cotton tape 4.2 cm wide (some of the width is hidden in the photo below by the strap next to it, but it is still thinner than most other shoulder straps). It is very basic - the button hole has no reinforcing stitching, the point at the end is created through a mitred corner and the strap does not have any sort of lining. Usually the straps were made by sewing two pieces of wool cloth together (often with coloured piping between the edges).

Monash's German shoulder strap collection makes up about half of the Memorial's collection of German shoulder straps and most importantly, the bulk of the collection records the dates when they straps were captured. It really is a very interesting collection.

Books of interest:

Imperial German Field Uniforms and Equipment 1907-1918 Volume II by Johan Somers

German Army Handbook April 1918

Uniforms & Equipment of the Imperial German Army 1900-1918: A Study in Period Photographsby Charles Woolley

Brassey's History of Uniforms: World War One German Army by Stephen Bull

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