Digger's view of life in trenches

Written By miftah nugraha on Minggu, 04 Agustus 2013 | 19.55

A REMARKABLE collection of 180 photographs depicting a Digger's eye view of life in the trenches during World War I has surfaced almost 100 years later.

The pictures were taken on a Kodak vest pocket camera and vividly illustrate conditions at Gallipoli in 1915 and the stark contrast with more relaxing times for soldiers in Egypt between campaigns.

In one photograph, a group of six soldiers poses on the beach at Anzac Cove in front of a barge with a large shell hole in it.

In another, a rum flask washes up on the rocky shore behind them as several Diggers bathe naked in the clear water of the Mediterranean Sea, oblivious to the camera and seemingly to the death and destruction on the hills above.

Yet another shows dozens of troops relaxing on the hillside above the cove away from the hell of the trenches.

A striking image features two soldiers relaxing on sleeping platforms cut into the side of a trench. Their faces show the strain of war as a book lies closed in the trench.

Digger's view of life in trenches

Private George (Eric) Cherry served with the 6th Field Ambulance at Gallipoli from August 1915 until the Australians retreated in December of that year.

When he returned to Melbourne to resume studying for a medical degree, the collection of films from his camera that survived five months in the trenches was in his kit.

The collection remained in the possession of his older daughter Lois until the mid-1980s when she handed them to Michael Lean, a photographic expert at Queensland University of Technology.

Lean produced some proof sheets for her, but she never returned to collect the negatives and they remained with him until this year when he gave them to the Maroochy RSL Museum at Maroochydore, on the Sunshine Coast.

Museum volunteer Drew Wall couldn't believe his eyes when he examined the negatives and the powerful, grainy images depicting life on the frontline and the tourist spots of Egypt, including the sphinx.

"When I first saw them I was quite emotional, they reflected a soldier's view of the world," the ex-CMF artilleryman said.

One person who was as surprised as anyone about the collection's existence was Dr Cherry's second daughter, Elizabeth Skerman, who lives in Brisbane.

"I never saw the photos until Drew Wall printed them out," she said.

"They are amazing but my father never spoke about them or about the war."

Mrs Skerman, whose husband Douglas was a member of bomber command during World War II and died in a plane crash in South America in the 1970s, said her father was a quiet man.

Dr Cherry joined the Repatriation Department in the late 1930s and he died in his mid-70s, taking the story of his photographs to his grave.

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