34 comments on “Australian troops on their way to the front line trenches. 1918.

    • “It doesn’t matter” Thank you for that 🙂

      I looked at the post from the 1st of June 2011…. then I realized that you meant 6th of Jan! (we use day month year, not month day year)

    • That is a great photo. The men in the far background, fading off into the distance, look like ghosts looking over the shoulders of the other soldiers.

      I have this photo- http://cas.awm.gov.au/photograph/055007 (a much clearer version!) framed on my wall. The man leaning over the rail having a laugh with the blokes on the dock was my great uncle. He didn’t make it home, and was killed in action in Borneo two years later, at the age of 23.
      These kinds of photos are both endlessly fascinating and terrible at the same time, aren’t they?

      • Yes they are. Kind of neat how you have that photo available though. We don’t have any photos of our ancestors, except grandparents.

        • I only found this photo through internet searches last year. I think the only other photo we have of him is the head and shoulders army id photo that was attached to his records. I was thrilled to see this one that actually shows a bit of his personality.
          It made me sad when I found it though, I doubt his mum ever saw it and I wonder how many times she saw him after he got on this ship to go away and fight.

  1. Knowing already the terrible losses suffered by the Commonwealth troops during WW1 makes looking back at photos like these even sadder. I can’t understand why parents continue to allow their children to be sent off to war. If all Governments were run by women would we know more peace?

    • I’m not sure, Margaret Thatcher was in charge at the time of the Falklands war, I wonder if a man would have thought of an alternative action, or if war was the only option available in that situation?

      I think that any person ruthless enough to get to the top in the first place will follow the course of action recommended by their advisors, even if it is war, regardless of gender.

      I would like to think that women would rule the world more benevolently, but I suspect that it wouldn’t really make much of a difference.

      Perhaps the difference would be made if countries weren’t run by the privileged elite?

      • You raise interesting questions, but I think it’s also important to consider that sometimes fighting is the only option left. I don’t think anyone today would say that there were alternatives for the Allies in the late 1930s or early 40s to Hitler besides taking up arms against him. Napoleon obviously was going to continue waging war until someone put a stop to his aggression. Peace has to be a two-way street.

        I’ll grant you that World War I was a completely unnecessary waste of 10 million lives, but there are wars in which one side is clearly an aggressor and the other side can either do nothing and be annihilated, or try to stand up for itself.

        Of course, that makes it no less sad for the families who lose loved ones.

        • I agree. Even though war is a terrible thing, sometimes it is a necessary evil. Every death is a terrible thing, but to just say they were fighting without reason is to minimise the soldiers own strength of feeling towards their countries. If the soldiers themselves didn’t believe they were doing the right thing we would never hear about those amazing acts of bravery that have peppered every conflict.

      • I think you’re right Metan. I mean look at J. Guillard, she’s not exactly rushing to bring our troops home from Afganistan is she? Things might be different if there were more women in parliament – at least 50/50 – but I can’t see that happening because the women who are into empathy and caring generally run away from politics. 😦

        • I also think that people thinking there are always alternatives to a show of force are a bit deluded. If every country was open to reasonable discussion the world would be a peaceful place, which it clearly is not.
          We can all wish that each conflict could be talked to a compromise that satisfies all parties but that can barely happen in a single country, I doubt that it will ever happen between cultures, all with their own personal agenda. Sex makes no difference, it just makes the issues different.

    • I was fascinated by it too. I tried to get it to save a bigger version so when you click on it the details are clearer but it wouldn’t let me…. grrrr… I really wanted to look at some of the faces of the soldiers and see the farmers they were passing more clearly.
      No matter what, I still get a sad feeling when I look at it, those poor young men. I wonder any of them had been to the front line before and knew what was coming.

  2. I saw some sad but engaging WW1 pics of Aussies in the Imperial War Museum in London when I went with my dad – he served in WW2. It’s the little things that bring it all home to you – like the letters written but never sent and a bullet-damaged Bible that was in some poor bloke’s pocket.
    Anyway mate – nice blog. Regards, Dave

    • Thank you.
      You’re right, it is those little thing that really show you the human side of conflicts. No amount of war paraphernalia can make you feel as sympathetic to a soldier as a single pocket-stained letter from home or a much looked-at photo of a loved one.
      We are a bit luckier now, people who go away to fight these days at least have the opportunity to communicate regularly with their families. I can’t imagine sending one of my sons off to war and not hearing from them for months at a time. I think that part would have been almost unbearable for the families.

      • Same here my friend. My dad was one of four and his two elder brothers saw each other fleetingly as they passed a checkpoint somewhere in Europe -one was a in a tank going towards the front and the other was an assault engineer going the other way after blowing a bridge. They shouted and waved and didn’t see each other for a year and a half after. As you say, nowadays folk worry if they haven’t heard from the kids for an hour or two.
        Nice to make your acquaintance mate 🙂

        • Imagine a year and a half of not knowing if your brother was alive or not. It certainly is a different time now. Just think of the outcry if any of our governments decided that soldiers serving away from home could only communicate by post. We go crazy now if we can’t get mobile reception, or our emails, whenever we want!

          • Exactly so. Can you get reception in the less-developed parts of Oz?
            funnily enough – lots of folk speak really loud on mobiles here – young working class women seem to be always criticising another young working class woman and the lads are either doing drug deals or pretending to for street credibility 🙂
            It makes you wonder how people survived before the digital age…

          • Reception can be pretty dreadful here, and in even slightly remote areas, zero. Supposedly 99% of the population has coverage but at the same time that only covers 25% of the landmass. Much of Australia is uninhabited but that doesn’t mean people aren’t everywhere at some time. Major towns have coverage but it is bad luck if your car breaks down when you are driving between them!

            Even though we live only 60km from the CBD of Melbourne at times my internet stick is as good as useless. Friends who live nearby have to stand in their gardens to talk on their phones as they don’t work inside. I suspect that telco executives only live in the cities so what do they care if we can’t use our phones properly…..

            I’m sad to admit that I remember the days before mobiles but now I can’t leave the house without mine!

          • As I thought – so the Outback is still pretty wild and deadly if you get caught out miles from anywhere.
            I live just outside Birmingham – UK’s second city (although Manchester doesn’t agree) and coverage is good. But the NIMBYs are so funny. Recently there was a planning application for a mast about 200m away from our road, which is fairly middle class and on edge of conurbation. All the residents were up in arms and calling meetings. When they knocked my door I asked if anyone had done any research on the likely effects – none. I also said it would be hypocritical to complain as I used a mobile. They didn’t come back as all use phones but want the masts put by poor people’s houses. Phones are great but I try to not carry mine if I can – the wife won’t leave hers at home in case daughter at uni needs to call.
            They say there’s nowt as queer as folk…

          • I’m the same as your wife, I carry it mainly in case the school calls for something about the kids. Number 2 son is something of a daredevil so they pretty much have me on speed dial, I am not being paranoid!

            I see why the whiners don’t want a mast near their house, but they can’t just expect others to be happy about it because they are from a perceived lower strata of society. We live in a society that expects everything to be perfect for us at all times, to exist with the minimum inconvenience.

            I remember when there were no mobile phones or electronic banking. If you wanted bucks you had to go into the bank, in working hours, and get it over the counter. Society didn’t come to a grinding halt, people still lived happily. A minor glitch in the way society functions now might cause some sort of breakdown in many people! Might do them good though 😉

          • I’ve just done a masters in Threats to Global Security 🙂 If there’s a major solar flare event it would fry all the telecoms in seconds so it’s quite possible – those in the know say one’s overdue…
            As you say, things may have already gone too far but it’s hard for ordinary folk to do much to slow down the headlong charge to digitise everything. Chips in the brain anyone?

          • Yep, chips in the brain…. Now imagine having this same conversation with any of the young men in that photo. It wasn’t taken that long ago really, and yet we live in a completely different world.

          • I always think of Terminator when someone mentions the singularity. The day when technology has so far surpassed humans that it realizes it is better off without us.

            I suspect humans will end up the way of the people in the movie Wall-e. Immensely obese, unable to move around without floating chairs and constantly glued to screens even when the person they are communicating with is right beside them. Oh, and unbelievably stupid.
            Yes I watch too many movies 😉

          • I’ve seen both 🙂
            It sounds silly but remember your comment about lads from WW1 – I think it’s equally dystopic – only yesterday a Texas school board announced plans for all kids to carry location-transmitting chips and look at how drones have taken off (pun came by accident) I read the US have flown a lot of drone missions from Oz.
            But, and this is important, people – as you say – seem to be regressing. When you think how aware a pre-technological person would have to be to survive it may be that we are dumbing down, but think we’re cleverer because the technology is doing much for us. I watch folk round here, always looking at phones which means they have little awareness for their surroundings. And most youngsters are getting texts every few seconds about non-important stuff; what kind of consciousness does that engender? Fragmented at least. What do you think?

          • I think that now it is more likely for people to know a lot about their chosen field (politics, tech, history, the Kardashians) but not a lot about anything else. For some the internet has widened their horizons but for many, many, others the rise of social media has made their world very small and self centred. There is a whole big interesting world out there that doesn’t have a screen, people don’t see enough of it!

            I am addicted to blogging but I don’t do twitter or FB or anything else, I spend enough time here at WP and have other things to do with my time! I always think that if anyone finds the slightest bit of interest in the kinds of status updates I would post “dropping the kids off”, “making dinner” they really need to take a long hard look at how their lives are going….

            P.S. I can’t imagine there being too much gain from the US sending drones from Australia, there is a long way to go before you find anyone worth spying on!

          • I agree with the first part of this post – although I have been on various social networks for some years – both Facebook (bored after a few months) and internal university versions.
            With regard to the drones – I thought that, but the Pacific area is due for plenty of militarization in the coming decades. Oz has increased arms spending to be 13th globally.
            “The United States flew highly classified Global Hawk spy drone missions from the Royal Australian Air Force base at Edinburgh in South Australia from late 2001 until at least 2006.

            The operations were detected by a group of Adelaide aviation historians who had a member monitoring aircraft radio frequencies 20 hours a day.

            With a wingspan greater than a 737 airliner and a $200 million price tag, the RQ-4 Global Hawk is the biggest, most expensive unmanned aerial vehicle to ever take to the skies.”

            And “In the latest indicator of the regional push, Australian and US officials have said the Cocos Islands could be an ideal site for US surveillance aircraft, including unmanned, high-altitude Global Hawk drones that could conduct spy flights over the South China Sea.”

          • Ah well, nothing would surprise me when there is the possibility of the government doing its best to impress foreign powers.

  3. I collect WWI photos and postcards. More than one will have a stalwart young soldier posing for the camera, while on the back someone will have written the year of his death.

    For a year – maybe two – I had a pen pal: a soldier who fought in a New Zealand artillery regiment in 1917-1918. He fought in the mud, in Passchendaele. I once asked him what a ‘lemon-squeezer hat’ looked like, and he sent me a postcard of his friends in uniform, wearing those very hats. He passed away just a few months before his 99th birthday – Bertie, his name was.

    • I can imagine that you have some very haunting images in your collection. War is such a waste of lives, we are lucky that trench warfare is not something that is practiced these days. Every death in combat that we hear of now is a tragedy but I can’t imagine how people would feel if the level of casualties back then was something that still went on today.

      What an amazing thing to be sent those postcards by your pen pal. I expect that he would have been very pleased to pass on some memories to a person who was truly interested and really appreciated them.

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