Thursday, 3 November 2011

Unclaimed portraits of lost Diggers sent home

HUNDREDS of unclaimed portraits of World War I Diggers taken in London before they left to fight on the Western Front will be added to the National Archives collection today.
The 500 black and white portraits were found among 1600 photographs of Allied soldiers collected by the Imperial War Museum, London, after the war. The 500 are significant because they are not known to exist anywhere else, mainly because soldiers never returned from battle to collect them.
The Department of Veterans' Affairs historical researcher Courtney Page-Allen said the studio portraits were valuable because they were about the individual. ''The most important thing is that it reminds you that every one of these men was a real man with a life and a family,'' she said.

''Over the years I have seen literally millions of photographs from public and private collections. But these are different. They are not photos taken in the trenches or on the frontline where the story was the battle. These are about the individual.''
In contrast, Ms Page-Allen pointed to servicemen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan who are remembered as individuals - mainly possible because modern-day fatalities are comparatively low. But this was not possible during the First World War because the numbers were so overwhelming.
Among the portraits is Ballarat engineer William Robert Allen, who was killed in France in February 1917, six months after being promoted to lieutenant.

Also found was a photograph of Queensland farmer Irvine Barton, who was 19 when he joined the Second Lighthorse Regiment in 1914.
He died in France of wounds in April 1918 after being awarded the military cross for his ''coolness, dash and military judgment of the highest order'' a month earlier.
According to a report in the London Gazette, he was on patrol behind enemy lines when he allowed eight German soldiers to come within a few feet of his concealed position. After calling on the enemy to surrender, Barton was wounded in the gunfight. Within a month he had returned to the frontline, where he was fatally shot.



No comments:

Post a Comment