In addition to collections held by dedicated military museums such as the army museums at Fremantle and Kapooka, and memorial collections such as the one at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, there are other collections, large and small, scattered throughout Australia. These include substantial collections of Great War materials held in state and territory libraries, which steadily increase in size as families and private collectors make donations.
The State Library of NSW (SLNSW) holds an important collection of soldiers’ diaries and other memorabilia. In 2008 the library purchased at auction four watercolours possibly painted at Anzac Cove on or about 24 May 1915 by Private Gil Hoskins.
These watercolour and ink sketches are bright and well preserved. One shows the British warship HMS Albion, stuck on a shoal but returning fire on Turkish guns hidden in a sheltered spot called the Olive Grove. Another British warship, HMS Canopus, has attached lines to drag the Albion off the bank.
This artwork, of which there are at least two copies extant, was probably not painted as the incident occurred, and the two known copies are slightly different in some details.
Hoskins, who was born in New Zealand, gave his occupation as ‘theatre manager’ in his attestation papers. He worked in theatre on both sides of the Tasman, in his early employment as a painter of stage sets.
He joined the 9th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, on 21 August 1914, and was wounded at Gallipoli in September 1915. The injury became septic and eventually he was invalided home. By his own report, he suffered ‘shattered nerves occasioned by the severe strain of shrapnel wounds and mine explosions’.
Once in Australia he returned to the theatre and might have used his wartime experience to manufacture watercolour sketches of Gallipoli. He also improved his rank when he appeared in advertisements endorsing ‘Hean’s Tonic Nerve Nuts’, styling himself ‘GP Hoskins Lieutenant’, a rank he never attained.
The Triad, 10 March 1918, p. 28
Auction record with illustration, for Lawson Auctioneers, Sydney, 30 April 2007: http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/3580657
Catalogue record with illustrations, SLNSW: http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemdetailpaged.aspx?itemid=825985