“.. give what you can, give a little of your happiness, a little of your well-being and a lot of your soul.”

These words are an English translation of a 1916 French poster for “Journée Nationale des Orphelins” (National Orphans’ Day).

Philanthropic organisations and patriotic groups moved swiftly to help alleviate the suffering caused by the First World War. A new vulnerable class of people had been created. There were former soldiers permanently incapacitated by injury, those who had tuberculosis, refugees and orphans. Although there was eventually some state aid, many people fell through the cracks of bureaucracy. In Europe, Australia and America, local fundraising as well as national campaigns were soon in full swing. Women’s voluntary organisations, made up mainly of women from the upper and middle classes, were essential in providing support for these activities.

National badge days were a common method of fundraising. The organisational logistics of holding such days must have been as enormous as they are today. Promotional posters and badges needed to be produced and volunteers required co-ordination.  

During the First World War, Germaine Boglio (nee Roquebrune) was a schoolgirl living in Nice, France. Like other community-minded students, Germaine sold badges on fundraising days. A collection of her badges is now held by the Memorial.

Thanks to the Boglio donation, the Memorial now holds both badge and poster for Journée Nationale des Tuberculeux (Anciens Militaires), 1917.

The standard of graphic detail shown in the badges is impressive. However small the badge, the image is clearly recognisable. Graphic production for fundraising badges would have drawn on European traditions of medal-making and engraving. In terms of technique, both traditions were capable of delivering extraordinary detail within a small area.

Fundraising imagery can be symbolic, which aligns it with medal-making, or can tell a story which is reminiscent of engraved illustrations. Here are examples of both.

More symbolic imagery is shown in a series that commemorates the contribution of African soldiers and those from other French colonies. Of the eight million troops who fought for France in the First World War, almost half a million were colonial troops.

The Boglio collection is part of the Research Centre’s Souvenirs 5, Appeals and Fundraising Souvenir Collection.

Today a wreathlaying ceremony will be held at the Sandakan Memorial in the Australian War Memorial’s Sculpture Garden to remember the prisoners of the Sandakan Death Marches of 1945. It seems appropriate to highlight a new Sound Collection acquisition which relates to another group of prisoners of the Japanese.

The Sound Section received a donation of a lacquer disc containing a recording of a radio broadcast made in September 1945 by David Druitt Nathan of the 5th Signals Corp. Captain Nathan was based in Saigon, and he speaks about the prisoners of the Thai-Burma railway in this recording.

As you can see from the above image, the disc is in a very fragile state, and we were not sure that we would be able to recover the audio from it. The core of the disc is metal and it has been coated with a lacquer compound into which the grooves of the recording have been cut. Over time, the lacquer surface has degraded and cracked as the metal core expanded and contracted with fluctuations in air temperature.

Luckily the recording starts about two centimetres in from the edge of the disc which is where the worst degradation of the surface has occurred, meaning our audio engineers were able to play and digitally preserve the complete recording.

Listen to the digitised audio of S04844

Our innovative audio engineers used a paintbrush to gently hold down the arm of the record player to ensure the needle did not skip out of the grooves on the disc when it hit a crack in the surface.

Now that this disc has been digitally preserved, the original disc will be safely stored and won’t be subjected to being played again.

The postcard concept had its origins in Germany and the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century. By the outbreak of the First World War, millions of postcards were being sent across the world via postal services. The phenomenon of collecting postcards was also well and truly established.

A new display featuring images of women from the First World War postcard collection, is currently showing in the Australian War Memorial’s Reading Room.

The Memorial has a rich collection of postcards that servicemen sent to family and friends, and also those they collected for themselves. Many of these postcards depict images of women. In this display, several prominent themes are featured.

“Women in Uniform” encompasses symbolic nationalistic images such as Britannia and La France, as well as photographs of the women’s war effort. Thousands of allied women worked as nurses, in factories, in general services and on public transport. Images of the British war effort were used for propaganda purposes, and postcards of women working in these capacities were released in several languages.

Romantic images form the largest category of postcards of women. The sweetheart image was ubiquitous and we hold German, French, English, Egyptian and Australian examples. The woman writing to her sweetheart or waiting for news from him, became an iconic image of the time.

Portraits of beauties were popular to send to loved ones, friends and girlfriends. Glamorous postcards of actresses, the pin-ups of their age, were also widely collected. When looking at these postcards, a shared ideal of beauty and perception of fashion emerges that traversed national boundaries. 

The First World War enabled many Australians to visit countries, that they would have financially have been unable to reach.  The soldier-tourist collected postcards of these places. Scenes of women in daily life and wearing traditional dress, were among the customary postcards available from these countries.

A novel category for the soldier-tourist were French risqué postcards. Not available to any large extent at home, servicemen took full advantage of the opportunity to purchase these witty and stylishly illustrated cheeky cards.

For this display, paper flowers have been scattered amongst the postcards to either reflect national flag colours or to mirror the hand-tinted colours used in many of the postcards from the First World War. Our local scrapbooker, Assistant Curator Kim Giannasca, created and matched these flowers especially for the display.  

The display will be on for six months. The Reading Room is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm, and on Saturday from 1pm to 5pm.

Please note: Care has been taken to transcribe these entries without alteration to preserve the original language of Herbert Vincent Reynolds.

  The 7th Reinforcements for the 10th Infantry Battalion arrive at the Battalion Headquarters (BHQ) on Artillery Road in Victoria Gully.

'The enemies artillery has been very active, especially from Kaba Tepe, but the damage done was very slight compared to yesterday. They put one of our field guns out of action and disabled the crew. One of our seaplanes* has been very busy attempting to locate the enemy battery behind Kaba Tepe. Reinforcements have been arriving all day in destroyers.’

*Air support was important for conducting reconnaissance. This information helped plan attacks and select targets for Allied artillery.

Please note: Care has been taken to transcribe these entries without alteration to preserve the original language of Herbert Vincent Reynolds.

A group of Turkish soldiers in a deep trench with one soldier cutting another's hair.

‘A Turkish officer came into our lines at about 11am on the extreme right flank with a white flag and information was obtained from him to the effect that the enemy intended to heavily bombard our positions. Immediately afterwards a battery of field guns behind Kaba Tepe opened fire on out bivouacs and gave us an extremely hot time for a couple of hours. Where we are situated is on the rise just above the No2 ASC depot on Brighton beach and in full view of the enemies observation station on Kaba Tepe. The enemy can enfilade the whole Brighton beach from Hell Spit to our right flank and observe any movement on the beach at all. Dug into the shelter of the cliffs at the No2 ASC depot are our horse and mule lines and upon these the enemy seemed to direct his attention through shell after shell exploded over and around out bivouacs, keeping us under cover like rabbits. As many of their horses and mules that could be let loose were cut loose form the lines but we lost 20 mules and 12 artillery horses and suffered a number of casualties. We shall have to find another position for our bivouacs in a safer and more sheltered position if this new battery of the enemies is not knocked out of action. The battleships have been shelling it and one of our seaplanes has been up trying to locate it but without success, they cease fire when the plane goes over and immediately open up again when it descends.’

65 years ago a very special operation began to provide food to the starving civilians in the German occupied Netherlands.  During the harsh winter of 1944-1945 the Dutch population endured a major famine. Known as the ‘hungerwinter’ it was concentrated in the densely populated urban areas bounded by Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam and The Hague. By 1945 the daily ration had been reduced to 600 calories – a third of what it had been in 1941.

Loading up a Lancaster bomber for Operation Manna

On 29 April 1945, RAF aircraft took off from England to take part in the first of several missions to drop food to the starving Dutch. The British poetically named this mission ‘Operation Manna’, in reference to the ‘food from heaven’ in the Bible. The Americans began their food drops from 1 May, calling their involvement ‘Operation Chowhound’.

A photograph showing the total load of one Lancaster

Although the operation began on 29 April, negotiations with the Germans to allow Allied aircraft to fly over their occupied territories was not finalised or signed until 2 May. Despite this the early missions successfully flew over German occupied territories and dropped their cargo.

460 Squadron June 1945

On 30 April, the RAAF also became involved, with 21 aircraft from 460 Squadron setting out on the first of seven food drops over the Netherlands. The first plane took off at 2.24 pm, dropping its load over The Hague at 4.15 pm.  In only seven minutes, these 21 aircraft dropped a combined total of over 50,000 kilograms of food from only 150 metres above the city!

For some air crew, it was a change from the destructive bombing missions over Germany and occupied Europe. For others it was their only opportunity to take part in an operational mission. Near the end of the war, air crew numbers were high but there was not enough aircraft available for them.

The format of the Manna flights were very different from the normal bombing missions. The aircraft had to fly within designated areas and at low altitudes. They were within easy reach of any German weapons, including small arms. The German soldiers had instructions not to shoot the aircraft flying within the designated zones (although it occasionally did occur, there were no fatalities as a result of the arms fire).

The aircraft flew at such low levels because the amount of silk required to make parachutes for the food parcels was unavailable. The parcels were crammed into bomb bays and held in place during flight by the aircraft’s hydraulics. To disperse the supplies, the Bomb Aimer simply opened the bomb doors and free dropped the food over the designated area.

The food parcels were not aerodynamic, and their dispersal often caused dents in the leading edges of the tail plane and fins when they collided with the rear of the aircraft (causing the rear gunners to instinctively shrink out of the way as the supplies whizzed around them!).

For their own safety, the local population were instructed to remain indoors during the food drops, but many were too excited to follow the instructions; air crew reported seeing people outside, cheering and waving as they flew past. Although the supplies generally landed in the designated area (often a field or sports oval), sometimes they were dropped too soon or too late. In some instances parcels damaged buildings, and in some very unfortunate incidents, civilians were killed when they were hit by falling food parcels.

The final Manna run by 460 Squadron, on 7 May 1945 was also the largest for the squadron, with twenty eight aircraft taking part. With the end of the war in Europe on 8 May, Operation Manna concluded. Further food supplies were brought in by land. Although the situation in the Netherlands was still extremely difficult, Operation Manna provided a major morale boost for the occupied nation.

Over 340,000 kilograms of food in total was dropped over the Netherlands by 460 Squadron alone, which would have been enough to feed 400,000 people for one day.

Date  Number of aircraft  load per aircraft (pounds)  Approx Load per aircraft (kilograms) total load for mission (pounds)  Approx total load for mission (kilograms)  Dropping zone 
 30/4  21  5739 lbs  2603 kg  120,519 lbs  54,666 kg The Hague
 1/5  23  5739 lbs  2603 kg  131,997 lbs  59,872kg Rotterdam Area
 2/5  23  5310 lbs  2408 kg  122,130 lbs  55,397 kg Rotterdam Area
 3/5  24  5310 lbs  2408 kg  127,440 lbs  57,805 kg Rotterdam Area
 4/5  10  5310 lbs  2408 kg  53,100 lbs  24,085 kg Rotterdam Area
 5/5  10  5310 lbs  2408 kg  53,100 lbs  24,085 kg Leiden Airfield
 7/5  28  5310 lbs  2408 kg  148,680 lbs  67,440 kg Rotterdam Area
             
Total Aircraft  139   Total loads dropped 756,966 lbs 343,350 kg  

 

Further Reading:

  • Operation Manna/Chowhound : the allied food droppings April/May 1945 / Hans Onderwater, Romen Luchtvaart, Unieboek, c 1985.
  • AWM64 1/295 Operations Record Book No 460 Squadron RAAF January 1944 to October 1945
  • The Hunger Winter: Occupied Holland 1944-1945 / Henri van der Zee, University of Nebraska Press, 1998

This ANZAC Day marks the 95th anniversary of the start of the Gallipoli campaign, when tens of thousands of British, French and Dominion troops landed on the Turkish coast.

To acknowledge this anniversary, the Australian War Memorial’s Research Centre is displaying previously unseen original letters and diaries relating to the campaign. The Research Centre’s collection is a rich source of records that tells the story of Gallipoli in the words of those who experience it.

The display is titled Gallipoli Landings and reminds the visitor that few of those Australians who served on the peninsula landed in that initial wave of 1,500 men from the 3rd Infantry Brigade. Many experienced their own ‘landing’ in the hours, days and months that followed, while others, including nurses, served on the ships and islands off-shore. Despite great efforts over eight months and the loss of many lives, little progress was made. The ANZACs were evacuated in December 1915. By January 1916, the last British troops had been withdrawn from their positions at Cape Helles, and the campaign abandoned. 

The varied experiences of those who served at Gallipoli can be seen in the letters, diaries and private papers from the Memorial’s Private Records collection. The Memorial began collecting wartime letters and diaries during the 1920s and continues to collect the private records today.

 

The items in Gallipoli Landings were selected from recent Gallipoli acquisitions generously donated to the Memorial by members of the public. Some of the Private Records material has been digitised and made available through the Memorial’s catalogue, for example, the note book of Chaplain Keith Single and diary of Private Harry Conigrave. We hope to provide access to more Private Records material online in the future.

Chaplain Single landed at Gallipoli on 22 August 1915 and kept a record of all the burial ceremonies he conducted, from his landing at Gallipoli until just before the withdrawal from the peninsula on 20 December 1915.  Private Conigrave's diary records both the spectacle and the danger of landing at ANZAC Cove.  Conigrave arrived at Gallipoli just over two weeks after the initial landing and he expresses his admiration for the men who landed on 25April 1915.

Also displayed, in the Research Centre’s treasures showcase, will be an original diary and notebook of Charles Bean, Australia’s official war correspondent for the First World War. The notebook and diary on display feature Bean’s impressions of the landing on 25 April 1915 and make fascinating reading.

Bean in a Trench at Gallipoli

Bean was later appointed the Australian official historian for the First World War. His papers are considered to be one of the most important sets of records created by a single Australian. The collection, now displayed in its entirety on the Memorial’s website, includes 286 volumes of diaries and notebooks.

To view the displays visit the Research Centre’s showcases near the entrance to the Research Centre Reading Room.

In the lead up to Anzac Day on 25 April, the thoughts of many Australians  often turn to members of their own family who served during the First World War. The Australian War Memorial's databases hold a rich source of detail for  families who may want to learn more about the service of their relative.

I was asked recently by ABC radio about what can be found online and in the Memorial's collections to help tell us the story of someone's military history. I was given the name Private Leonard Granrott to use as an example. The following story has been pieced togther from Private Granrott's personal service record, the published unit history of the 38th Battalion and the Memorial's online collections. The links to the online source material thoughout this story represent only a small cross section of the Memorial's total online collections.  

The story of Private Leonard Granrott:

Private Leonard Granrott was 25 years of age and working as a painter in Brunswick, Victoria when he enlisted on 8 March, 1916. He was to serve with the 38 Infantry Battalion which was a Victorian unit. Although Granrott was from Melbourne the 38th was very much a country unit with its heart in the Australian bush. The men trained at the Epsom racecourse at Bendigo and Leonard would have practiced jumping in and out of trenches there and slept in one of the many white tents pitched under the gum trees.

When his training was completed Leonard Granrott embarked for overseas with the rest of his unit. The 38th Battalion left on 20 June, 1916 from Melbourne on the HMAT Runic. Relatives and friends of those who sailed crowded the Port Melbourne pier to wave good bye.  Every vantage point of HMAT Runic was described as being covered with khaki as the men swarmed up into the rigging. The story and official history of the 38th Battalion A.I.F describes that from the pier hundreds of reels of coloured paper ribbon were thrown aboard and “thousands of flags, scarfs and handkerchiefs gladdened a scene which could so easily have been a sad one”.

Leonard and his younger brother Jack were brought up by their mother Florence after their father died of Appendicitis in 1903. Only a few days after the Runic sailed from Melbourne, Leonard’s brother also enlisted to serve. Jack however, was discharged as medically unfit before he could embark.

On the journey over Leonard became ill with influenza and had to spend many months recovering in hospital in England. It wasn’t until February 1917 that he was recovered enough to rejoin his unit in France. He left from Folkstone, England for France on 4 February and spent at few days at the 3rd ADBD in Etaples before rejoining the 38 Battalion on the 9th February 1917. Many Australians were stationed at Etaples during the war and the place was often nicknamed “eat apples”.

During the harsh winter of 1916–17 the battalion was involved in several raids of the German trenches. In March, Leonard moved with his unit out to the Belgium front.  From 13 May the men of the 38th Battalion were moved into Ploegsteert wood in Belgium. The unit history of the 38th Battalion describes entering the wood was like walking into fairy land. It was mossy green and sunny and carpeted with flowers. Not far from Ploegsteert wood, however, the men of the 38th Battalion would soon fight their first major battle at Messines between 7–9 June, 1917.

The Messines Ridge overlooked the British Salient at Ypres. The Germans who occupied this high ground could see the British positions. The objective of this battle, therefore, was to remove the Germans from the ridge. On 7 June the 38th Battalion moved through four well-marked and reconnoitred routes via Ploegsteert wood through to the front. On this night the woods were less like fairy land and more like a nightmare.  During this battle 500 men of the 3rd Division were exposed to phosgene gas in Ploegsteert Wood. When the men of the 38th heard the “soft pat pat” of exploding gas-shells they put on their gas masks. They marched past gasping horses and mules and struggled to breath themselves in their masks. The heavy load of rifle, ammunition, tools, and rations, and the excitement of the occasion, caused heavy breathing and much distress.

By 3:10 am on the 7th June, the 38th Battalion were in position to attack. They were divided into three waves for the battle. Leonard Granrott was to be in the first wave. The men jumped off from their positions wearing gas masks and reached their objective ‘Ungodly trench’. The 2nd and 3rd waves were to pass through ‘Ungodly trench’ and their objective was the ‘Black Line’.

The men advanced behind a timed artillery barrage. The signal to start was a massive explosion created by 123,500 pounds of explosives of ammonal, placed in 19 tunnels which had been dug under the German lines during the preceding two years by Canadian, Australian and English miners. The mass explosion obliterated the enemy and the advance was largely unopposed. The height overlooking the Ypres Salient were now able to be occupied.

By the morning the 38 Battalion had two major strong points established. The black line had been dug 7ft deep and was fire stepped in places. During this advance the 38th captured 7 machine guns and two 7.7 cm field guns.

It is unclear from the sources when Leonard was hit but on the 7th he was severely wounded. He received multiple gun shot wounds including one which punctured his right lung. He was evacuated to London and spent a year recovering in hospital. He was eventually discharged to Australia in 1918 as medically unfit.

He received the British war medal and the Victory Medal for his service.

Please note: Care has been taken to transcribe these entries without alteration to preserve the original language of Herbert Vincent Reynolds. Australian soldiers in a dust storm.

‘Church Parade was interrupted this morning by a really severe storm* commencing in the middle of it, it has been almost unbearable during the day.’

*Extremes in weather experienced in the Egyptian desert were nothing compared to the conditions they would face at Gallipoli. Over the 8 months of the campaign the men would face blistering heat and sub zero temperatures.

Please note: Care has been taken to transcribe these entries without alteration to preserve the original language of Herbert Vincent Reynolds.

'Camp stories' By H Septimus Power‘Spent the morning on a route march and has the afternoon free of parades.’

Subscribe to