Biography

Birth date: 25 December 1879
Birth place: Australia: Victoria, Ballarat
Death date: 01 July 1953
Death place: United Kingdom: England, Sussex, Littlehampton
Final rank: Captain
Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
Units:
  • Remount Section
  • Australian Remount Depot

William Frederick Longstaff was a cousin of the portrait painter Sir John Longstaff. From 1900 to 1901, Will Longstaff served with the South African Light Horse in the Boer War. Following his return to Victoria, he taught art privately with Leslie Wilkie at Eltham. He enlisted with the 1st Australian Remount Unit in October 1915 and served in the Middle East, where he made pictorial records of the ANZAC Mounted Division and the Desert Column. He then served in France before being invalided to England in October 1917.

In 1918, Longstaff was trained in camouflage work in London with fellow Australian artists Frank Crozier and James F. Scott; he was subsequently appointed an official war artist working as officer in charge of camouflage for the 2nd Division AIF in France, where he saw out the end of the war. As an official war artist he depicted a variety of subjects, including landscapes, buildings, battles and allegorical scenes.

After the war, Longstaff joined a group of artists working for the Australian War Records Section at the St John's Wood studio, London, preparing material for display in the proposed Australian War Memorial. These included paintings depicting the battle of 8 August 1918 and the breaking of the Hindenburg line (25 September). Longstaff later moved to Sussex, where he lived quietly with his second wife and two children.

Longstaff's Menin Gate at midnight is one of the best-known paintings in the Australian War Memorial's art collection. In the years following the First World War, this painting's tribute to sacrifice, combined with its spiritualist overtones, struck exactly the right chord with many Australians who had lost family and friends in the war. Longstaff painted the work after he had attended the unveiling ceremony of the Menin Gate memorial at the entrance of the Belgian town of Ypres on 24 July 1927. This memorial was dedicated to the 350,000 men of the British and Allied forces who had died in the battles around Ypres. It was purchased by Lord Woolavington in 1927, who in the same year presented the painting to the Commonwealth of Australia.

Rolls and Awards

First World War Embarkation Roll

  • Rank: Captain
  • Date of embarkation: 12 November 1915
  • Place of embarkation: Melbourne

Honours and Awards (Recommendation)

  • Unit: Australian Remount Depot
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: Remount Section
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Collection Items

Art

Australian 9.2 howitzer

Although 'Australian 9.2 howitzer' was painted in 1919, immediately after the war, it clearly represents a scene from the last phase of the fighting. The centrepiece is a large howitzer, the heaviest gun used by the Australian siege batteries. It is appropriate that Longstaff recorded the...

ART03004

Lorries en Route

Watercolour sketch depicting three military lorries travelling down a French road with large trees either side and a faint sketch of a soldier in the left of the work. Will Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1879. From 1900 to 1901, he served with the South African Light Horse in the Boer...

ART03011

Water Scene

Depicts a water scene with a beach and palm trees and a ship on the horizon.

ART03018

El Arish, Sinai Peninsula

The bleached arid landscape extends beyond the horizon where a dense city scape marks the viewers entry to El Arish, on the Sinai Peninsula. In late December 1916 troops from the ANZAC Mounted Division and the new Imperial Camel Corps Brigade occupied El Arish after it was abandoned by the Turks....

ART03019

[Masaid]

In the distance an Australian military camp with tents and guns are arranged into lines. In the middle ground, a mule drawn medical cart crosses the desert. In the foreground, camels shelter in the shade of the palm trees in the lower right.

ART03020

Battle scene

Depicts a battle scene of a German gun in the middle and prisoners in the foreground.

ART03030

Immortal shrine

Longstaff's 'Immortal shrine', also known as 'Eternal silence', depicts endless columns of ghostly soldiers marching past the Cenotaph on a rainy Remembrance Day in 1928. The Cenotaph itself has a surreal presence, gauntly white in front of the sombre blue-back buildings that dissolve into the...

ART14196

Australians Advancing from Villers-Bretonneux, August 8th 1918

Watercolour sketch depicting Australian soldiers in battle advancing from Villers-Bretonneux on August 8th 1918. The image depicts soldiers in the midst of battle, a wounded soldier being attended by a Red Cross soldier, a dead soldier, soldiers on horseback. Aircraft overhead, a tank, supply...

ART15522

Gas Alert

Watercolour sketch depicting the ruins of a building in a village in France. A soldier is standing in the ruins with a pack on and rifle. Will Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1879. From 1900 to 1901, he served with the South African Light Horse in the Boer War. Following his return to...

ART19797

[Ammunition wagon]

Pencil sketch depicting a General services articulated limber wagon which, among other things, was used to transport ammunition and equipment. The inscription relates to the formation of the colour patches which were displayed on the rear at these vehicles. The patches shown on the right relate to...

ART90362

Menin Gate at midnight

'Menin Gate at midnight' was painted by Will Longstaff to commemorate those soldiers with no marked graves on the Western Front during the First World War; also known as 'Ghosts of Menin Gate'. Longstaff attended a ceremony dedicating the Menin Gate memorial to the soldiers of the British empire...

ART09807

Not titled [sketchbook containing 27 pages of drawings made in Glisy on the Western Front]

Artist's sketchbook covering the campaign on the Western Front during July - November 1918. The sketchbook comprises 27 pages with 46 drawings of landscapes, artillery, animals, camp life and battlefield scenes, with notes on the inside and back covers. Places depicted include Glisy, Amiens,...

ART19796

War planes of the Australian Flying Corps

Depicts the 1st Australian Imperial Force, No 2 Squadron and No 4 Squadron, war planes of the Australian Flying Corps. The identifiable aircraft in the painting are from top to bottom; Handley Page O/100, Sopwith aircraft (either Camel or Pup), fighter, and a French aircraft. Australia became the...

ART03029

Breaking the Hindenburg Line

The Battle of the Hindenburg Line which began September 18, 1918, was a key turning point in the Hundred Days Offensive that eventually led to the end of World War 1. British forces spearheaded the attack against the German Line, continuing their effective use of tanks that stated earlier in the...

ART03023

[Blank page]; verso: [Salvage Dump]

Recto: A blank page; Verso: Depicts a man loading a cart with empty shells. A team of four horses stand harnessed to the cart and there are two trees in the background. From the artist's sketchbook covering the campaign on the Western Front during July - November 1918.

ART19796.012

[Villers Bretonneux]; verso [Villers Bretonneux]

View of the town of Villers Bretonneux. Verso: expanded left view sketch of the town of Villers Bretonneux. From the artist's sketchbook covering the campaign on the Western Front during July - November 1918.

ART19796.006

[Gun captured by 58 Battalion 8/5/18, Baymoulers 9/8/18]; verso: [Dead soldier; Dismembered leg]

recto: A gun is turned upsidedown on the earth with its wheel carriage exposed. verso: two sketches, a soldier in uniform lies face down in a field with his pack to his left; and a dismembered leg lies in a field of red poppies.

ART19796.021

[Tree landscape]; verso: Street in Amiens from Cathedral

Right view of the double page pencil drawing of landscape dominated by trees. Verso: A street scene in Amiens looking from the cathedral to the village of Amiens. From the artist's sketchbook covering the campaign on the Western Front during July - November 1918.

ART19796.011

recto:Glisy; verso: Villers-Bretonneux

A drawing of a field artillery gun at Glisy, 11 July 1918 on the recto. On the verso a page of sketches of field artillery, artillery barrels and range finders. From the artist's sketchbook covering the campaign on the Western Front during July - November 1918.

ART19796.001

[Villers Bretonneux]; verso [Villers Bretonneux]

Right view of a double page pencil sketch of the town of Villers Bretonneux. Verso: expanded left view sketch of the town of Villers Bretonneux. From the artist's sketchbook covering the campaign on the Western Front during July - November 1918.

ART19796.007

[Donkey's Anatomy]; verso [Villers Bretonneux water point]

Four pencil drawings of a donkey and anatomical parts of the donkey including the head, the back half and the forelegs and chest in profile. Verso: A pencil drawing of the town of Villers Bretonneux. From the artist's sketchbook covering the campaign on the Western Front during July - November 1918.

ART19796.009

Canal, Somme Valley near Belloy sur Somme

Watercolour sketch depicting the canal near Belloy sur Somme. The canal is in the foreground with the Somme Valley in the background. Will Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1879. From 1900 to 1901, he served with the South African Light Horse in the Boer War. Following his return to...

ART03014

Sketch for Salvage Dump

Watercolour sketch depicting the salvage dump at Glisy with horses and wagon being unloaded by two soldiers. There are tents in the background and the dump contains boxes and empty artillery casings. Will Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1879. From 1900 to 1901, he served with the South...

ART19798

[Americans attack]; verso: [Villers Bretonneux]

recto: right hand panorama related to ART19796.024 verso, includes men and tanks advancing towards German lines; tanks in background; verso: Two girls place flowers on a British soldier's grave with a mule and cart and burnt trees in the background.

ART19796.025

[Dugouts near Villers Bretonneux]; verso: [Covered trucks parked]

The right hand panel of a panorama sketch for 'Dugouts near Villers-Bretonneux'. This painting depicts dugouts set in the side of earth works, a corrugated iron lean-to and two soldiers. Verso: two canvas covered trucks are parked on the side of a road lined with trees. From the artist's sketchbook...

ART19796.005

8th August, 1918

The Battle of 8 August 1918, showing the Australian Artillery moving forward from Villers-Bretonneux. Horse drawn artillery and tanks, at right is a a British Mark V tank, can be seen moving forward. In the centre of the work there is a column of German prisoners of war with an armed escort. The...

ART03022

[Horse and rider studies]; verso: [Group figure study]

recto: Studies of horse and rider, to the left is a frontal study with horse in action with right leg raised. The second study is taken from the left profile in the position of refusal with the hind legs bent and the front right leg straight, left front leg bent and the mouth open in response to...

ART19796.027

[Three studies of a mule with saddle and harness]; verso: [Harbonniere]

recto: Two small studies of mules with harnesses; one sketch of a man riding a horse. verso: A street scene of Harbonnieres showing the church bell tower in the distance. Includes colour notations on the buildings.

ART19796.020

[Acute surgical ward No 3 OGH]; verso: [No 3 OGH ( Holmes Rd)]

recto: Depicts the right hand panorama of a hospital interior containing patients in bed. verso: The left hand side of a panorama depicting a view of tents arranged alongside a road and telecommunication wires. In the upper left of the composition there is a small sketch of a wagon.

ART19796.015

Templeux looking back to Peronne

Depicts a scene from Templeux looking back towards Viller-Bretonneux.

ART03026

Somme Valley near Villers-Bretonneux

Watercolour sketch depicting a view of the Somme Valley near Villers-Bretonneux. There are three figures in the centre of the image and an unhitched wagon to their left with a grove of trees behind the wagon. There is a vast expanse of plain and in the background is what appears to be a wood. Will...

ART03016

[Mont St Quentin]; verso: [Attack on Mont St Quentin]

recto: Extensive landscape sketch with artist's notes: trench, high ground, wire, railway line. verso: Left hand panorama of recto ART19796.024, containing hills, trees, fence and the artist's colour notations.

ART19796.023

Amiens Cathedral

Watercolour sketch depicting the Amiens Cathedral and surrounding village buildings. Will Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1879. From 1900 to 1901, he served with the South African Light Horse in the Boer War. Following his return to Victoria, he taught art privately with Leslie Wilkie...

ART03002

[Tanks at Glisy]; verso: [Acute surgical ward]

recto:Depicts two pencil sketches of tanks and men at Gilsy; verso: Depicts the interior of a surgical ward containing a long row of hospital beds and surgical equipment on a trolley.

ART19796.014

[No 3 AGH]; verso: [Ammunition dump, Glisy]

recto: Interior of a hospital ward with a nursing sister and patient. verso: View along a road shaded by tall trees with ammunition dump underneath.

ART19796.018

[Villers Bretonneux]; verso: Moor at Villers Bretonneux

Right view of a double page pencil sketch of the town of Villers Bretonneux. Verso: expanded left view sketch of the town of Villers Bretonneux. From the artist's sketchbook covering the campaign on the Western Front during July - November 1918.

ART19796.008

[Mont St Quentin]; verso: [Americans attack]

recto: right panorama landscape with colour notations by the artist; verso: Dead German soldiers in wire entanglements, smoke and shell bursts

ART19796.024

Artillery Mules, Glisy

Watercolour sketch depicting the artillery mules situated in plains around Glisy. Will Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1879. From 1900 to 1901, he served with the South African Light Horse in the Boer War. Following his return to Victoria, he taught art privately with Leslie Wilkie at...

ART03009

Ammunition wagon at dump

Depicts a scene of ammunition wagons moving through a muntions dump.

ART03025

Villers-Bretonneaux, Ruins of the Church

Depicts ruins of the Church, Villers-Bretonneux which was painted during heavy bombardment.

ART03005

In the Somme Valley

Watercolour sketch depicting a view of the Somme Valley with cows grazing and groves of trees in the background. Will Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1879. From 1900 to 1901, he served with the South African Light Horse in the Boer War. Following his return to Victoria, he taught art...

ART03015

Unloading shell cases, Glisy Dump; verso:[Dugouts near Villers Bretonneux]

A sketch showing men unloading shell cases from waggons at the Glisy Dump. Verso: the left hand panel of a panorama sketch for 'Dugouts near Villers-Bretonneux'. This shows some dugouts set in the side of earth works, and a barbed wire fence crosses the landscape. From the artist's sketchbook...

ART19796.004

[landscape with cathedral and spire]; verso: [1st Australian Division AIFcross]

recto: A pencil study of a French village containing a church and spire in the landscape. verso: an AIF memorial featuring a celtic cross with 1st Australian Division AIF inscribed onto the bars of the cross, below it is set into the ground and a memorial plaque is inscribed 'In Memory of the...

ART19796.022

Amiens Cathedral

Watercolour sketch depicting a view of Amiens Cathedral, Amiens, France. Will Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1879. From 1900 to 1901, he served with the South African Light Horse in the Boer War. Following his return to Victoria, he taught art privately with Leslie Wilkie at Eltham. He...

ART03003

Amiens Cathedral

Watercolour sketch depicting a view of the Amiens cathedral from the surrounding countryside, with the village of Amiens also depicted. Will Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1879. From 1900 to 1901, he served with the South African Light Horse in the Boer War. Following his return to...

ART03013

Dug-outs on road near Glisy

Watercolour sketch depicting the dug-outs outside the village of Glisy. Will Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1879. From 1900 to 1901, he served with the South African Light Horse in the Boer War. Following his return to Victoria, he taught art privately with Leslie Wilkie at Eltham. He...

ART19800

Dugouts near Villers Bretonneux

Depicts a group of Australian soldiers, and one American soldier, standing in front of dugouts near Villers Bretonneux in France, during the First World War. This painting was previously titled 'Group of diggers and one Yank standing in front of dugouts in bank'. Will Longstaff (1879-1953) saw...

ART03024

[Memorial cross to those who fell at Villers-Bretonneux]; verso: [Mending wire]

A sketch of a memorial cross erected 'In memory of the officers, NCOs & Men who fell in action hereabouts in a night-attack resulting in the recapture of Villers Bretonneux 24th & 25th April 1918 RIP'. On the verso three small sketches of men mending communication wires. From the artist's...

ART19796.002

Main dressing station, Querrieu

Watercolour sketch depicting the main dressing station at Querrieu. The image contains a tent in the centre, a Union Jack and Red Cross flag to the left and a partial view of the chateau in the right, all surrounded by trees. Will Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1879. From 1900 to 1901,...

ART03008

Amiens from near Querrieu

While 'Amiens from near Querrieu' is not dated, it was probably executed between 1918 and 1919 while he was working at St Johns. It depicts the countryside between Querrieu and Amiens. Querrieu was the main dressing station for the 5th Field Ambulance and also served as a headquarters and as a...

ART03021

Mont St Quentin

Watercolour sketch depicting the battlefield at Mont St Quentin. The image has a view of Mont St Quentin with trenches, the ruins of a civilian building and the stubble of trees. Will Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1879. From 1900 to 1901, he served with the South African Light Horse...

ART03001

Supply tank at Villers-Bretonneux

Watercolour sketch depicting the wreckage of a British Medium Type A Whippet supply tank at Villers-Bretonneux. Will Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1879. From 1900 to 1901, he served with the South African Light Horse in the Boer War. Following his return to Victoria, he taught art...

ART03007

Corbie Church

Depicts the Corbie Church with the ruins of the village of Corbie around it. Will Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1879. From 1900 to 1901, he served with the South African Light Horse in the Boer War. Following his return to Victoria, he taught art privately with Leslie Wilkie at...

ART03017

[Two studies of mules and despatch motorcycle rider]; verso: [studies of mules]

recto: Two pencil studies of mules with harnesses, a submarine and a sketch of a motorcycle rider. verso: three small pencil studies of mules.

ART19796.019

Australian artillery in action, Peronne

Depicts a team of six horses leads the Australian artillery advance at Peronne. Through the hilly landscape, the troops march on foot along the winding road. There are explosions to the right and left of the composition and a dead gunner in the lower right corner.

ART12427

[Salvage dump, Glisy]; verso: [Four men seated at table]

Men load a cart in the background, four trees in the mid ground and stacks of shells, crates and barrels are lined up in stacks along the front of the composition. Verso: Depicts a tent tied at either end to tree trunks. Four men , two in Australian army uniform enjoy a drink while seated at a...

ART19796.013

Amiens Cathedral; verso:Salvage dump, Glisy

A sketch of Amiens cathedral in a landscape setting. On the verso a sketch of a salvage dump at Glisy with shell casings, barrels and ammunition boxes. From the artist's sketchbook covering the campaign on the Western Front during July - November 1918.

ART19796.003

Church at Bresle

Watercolour sketch depicting a view of the church at Bresle. Will Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1879. From 1900 to 1901, he served with the South African Light Horse in the Boer War. Following his return to Victoria, he taught art privately with Leslie Wilkie at Eltham. He enlisted...

ART19799

[Mule studies]; verso [Untitled landscape]

Three pencil drawings of a donkey and a detail of a hind leg . Verso: left view drawing of a landscape domintated by trees. From the artist's sketchbook covering the campaign on the Western Front during July - November 1918.

ART19796.010

[Landscape studies]; verso: [Two studies of horses]

recto: Two trees and inset thumbnail drawing of trees in a landscape on the horizontal. verso: Two sketches of a horse in action, one with the torso and front legs of the horse and the other with the head of the horse and the torso and legs of a rider (sketch is upside down).

ART19796.026

Mt St. Quentin

Watercolour sketch depicting Mont St Quentin, which was an area over which the Australians advanced in August 1918. Will Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1879. From 1900 to 1901, he served with the South African Light Horse in the Boer War. Following his return to Victoria, he taught art...

ART03000

Bresle Church

Watercolour sketch depicting a view of Bresle Church. Will Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1879. From 1900 to 1901, he served with the South African Light Horse in the Boer War. Following his return to Victoria, he taught art privately with Leslie Wilkie at Eltham. He enlisted with the...

ART03010

[Officer Quarters, No 3 OGH]; verso: [Barracks and tents]

recto: The right hand side of a panorama depicting a view of buildings containing the officers quarters, parade ground, tents and established buildings; verso: view of tents and barracks.

ART19796.017

[Holmes Road]; verso: [Officer Quarters, No 3 OGH]

recto: Depicts the right hand panorama of Holmes road depicting a view of tents and telecommunications poles behind a fence. Recto: The left hand side of a panorama depicting a view of buildings containing the officers quarters, flag pole, procession area and a jeep in the front left corner.

ART19796.016

Night attack by 13th Brigade on Villers-Bretonneux

Depicts dramatic action occuring at night at Villers-Bretonneux on ANZAC Day (25 April 1918). In that action are Cliff Sadlier, from Perth, WA, who was awarded the Victoria Cross and Charlie Stokes, from Subiaco, WA who was awarded the DCM. Through the trees, on the far horizon, the remaining...

ART03028

Photograph

J01940

Portrait of Lieutenant (later Captain) William Frederick (Will) Longstaff, mentioned in despatches (MID) who was adjutant of the Australian Remount Unit from 10 November 1915 to 29 May 1917 and was afterwards appointed as an official artist.

J01940

Private Record

Timeline

Date of birth 1879-12-25
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1915-10 1st Australian Remount Unit
Date of embarkation 1915-11-12
Date of recommendation honour or award 1917-09-11
Date wounded 1917-10 Invalided to England.
Date of death 1953-07-01