5th Division Memorial at Polygon Wood

This short silent film shows the recently completed Fifth Australian Division Memorial at Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke, c.1919.



General Rawlinson and staff (Australian Topical Events No.1)

Group photograph of General Sir Henry Rawlinson and staff. The General briefing his staff and scenes around Australian artillery lines. [AWM F00010]

Text description of video: 'General Rawlinson and staff'

[On a title card a swirly border featuring the Rising Sun Badge surrounds the words "Australian Topical Events No. 1."

Title card: General Sir Henry Rawlinson and Staff.

On a text card a plain border surrounds the words "The Commander and his Major Generals".

A dignified man with a neat moustache sits on a chair. Behind him, a line of five officers stand on or near a wooden walkway. Smiling for the camera, General Sir Henry Rawlinson and some of the officers hold sticks. They move away, revealing the train carriage behind them.

Text card: The Fourth Army Commander in his Office, informing his Staff of the recent advances.

General Sir Henry Rawlinson moves divider callipers across a wall map of Europe. He maintains the same distance between the callipers' two pointed legs. He glances at the camera, nods and smiles.

Title card: In and Around Australian Artillery Lines.

Text card: A typical Australian Shell Dump.

Soldiers move large metal artillery shells from neat piles. Another soldier tosses equipment from piled crates to another soldier.

Text card: Loading limbers with 18 pounders and rushing them up to the guns.

In a field, piled crates with open sides form improvised shelves. Soldiers take shells from the crates and pass them down a line to a cart. On the cart, the shells are placed in separate compartments in a rack. Standing by the team of four horses, a man taps a stick. Beyond the horses, vehicles stand in a line.

Text card: Brigade Artillery Wagon Lines.

A four-horse team stands hitched a loaded cart. Soldiers and equipment dot the field. A truck trundles along a distant road. Small carts stand in rows. Near a pup tent a soldier in his shirt sleeves wipes his hands. The pup tent is a canvas sheet over a long beam. On the edge of the field, houses are nestled in among trees.

Text card: Artillerymen lining up for dinner, the cookhouse being a little village house behind their guns.

Soldiers holding plates and tins queue outside a brick building. Food is doled out from a doorway and from a smoking metal drum outside the door. Cloth hangs over the entrance of a pup tent. Sitting out the front, soldiers eat.

Title card: Their dumb friends having a rest, and grazing in the lines.

Dark horses graze in a large grassy field. Beyond the field buildings stand among trees.

The Rising Sun badge appears in white on a black screen. A semicircle of sword and bayonet blades arches over a crown. Below, two curved scrolls read "Australian Commonwealth Military Forces".]

Prime Minister Rt Hon WM Hughes visits Western Front

The Right Honorable William Morris Hughes, Sir Joseph Cook (Australian High Commissioner to Great Britain) and General Sir [William] W R Birdwood visiting the 5th Divisional Headquarters at St Gratien on 2 July 1918 and later with the 2nd Division troops near Camon on 3 July 1918 during a tour of the Australian front. Sir Joseph Cook addressed the men of the 2nd Division AIF. Lieutenant General John Monash is seen with Prime Minister Hughes, shaking General Birdwood's hand, and saluting at 5th Division Headquarters and also with General Birdwood at 2nd Division Headquarters.

Text description of video: 'Prime Minister Rt Hon WM Hughes visits Western Front'

[Billy Hughes, a stocky man with a wizened face, steps from a car to the front steps of a building. He shakes hands with an officer. Hughes and officers stand talking on the steps, then head inside. A car stops at the stately front stairs of a building. Officers line the stairs. As he walks down the stairs, Hughes shakes hands with them. He enters the car. Soldiers salute as the car drives off.

Standing on a pile of crates, a bearded man in a suit and hat addresses the large group of soldiers sitting on the ground facing him. Billy Hughes lies on his stomach behind the box, reading and smoking. As the bearded man walks away, soldiers clap and Hughes gets up. A wider shot shows the bearded man addressing the soldiers standing and sitting in a large circle before him. Trees line the edge of the field.

The Rising Sun badge appears in white on a black screen. A semicircle of sword and bayonet blades arches over a crown. Below, two curved scrolls read "Australian Commonwealth Military Forces".]


Unveiling of the memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, the Somme, France, by King George VI, accompanied by Queen Elizabeth and the President of France, Albert Lebrun [on 22 July 1938]. Photographed for the Commonwealth Government by Movietone News. [AWM F00175]

Video transcript

The movie begins with the dignitaries on the official dais as King George VI's unveiling speech begins. Queen Elizabeth stands to his left on the right of screen, the chaplain to his right.

King George's halting speech:

This ridge on which we stand surveyed those hard-fought actions. And the monument that crowns it will commemorate them for all time. Its very surroundings are emblematic of that comradeship which is what works of our British Empire. For it looks down on a hallowed field beneath whose soil consecrated by the God and of our glorious memory, lie the men who came from every corner of the earth to fight for ideals that are common to the whole Empire. They rest in peace. While over them all, Australia's Tower keeps watch and ward. It is fitting that it should do so and as your king I feel a great pride in unveiling it. Pride and a deeper sense of reverence and gratitude towards those whose last resting place it guards.

As King's speech concludes, the movie cuts to the unveiling as the Australian flags that have been covering the main entry to the Memorial building are dropped down. The crowd applauds and heraldic trumpets begin to play as the movie cuts to a wide shot of the official dais, then to crowds in front of the left wing of the memorial, then to a close up of the sculptural detail above the entrance that has been revealed.

Heraldic trumpets continue …
The movie cuts to a wide shot of the official dais now seen to be located in front of the memorial entry. The dignitaries have now turned back to face the entry.

The movie cuts to a closer view of the English King and Queen with their backs turned to face the memorial.

As the trumpets conclude, the movie cuts to a long shot of the memorial scene in which rows of soldiers can now be seen in the foreground facing back to the memorial in the background.

The movie cuts to a view of the dais, with the Memorial tower and entry behind it, as the 'Lord's Prayer' is recited by the chaplain.

… this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them who trespasses against us and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom the power and the glory forever and ever amen.

The movie cuts to a view of the memorial bell tower … as the movie's narrator begins …

[Narrator]: The Buglers of His Majesty's Grenadier Guards …

Buglers in the bell tower play the 'Last Post' as the movie cuts to a wide view of the dais and memorial entry with a crowd of soldiers in the foreground, some saluting. As the 'Last Post' concludes, the movie cuts back to the view of the centre dais and the main group of dignitaries.

With a wide shot of the dais, the narrator speaks …

[Narrator]: One minute of silent prayer is broken only by the roll of drums.

[Sound of military snare drums.]

With a high shot of the memorial tower against the sky, the narrator continues …

[Narrator]: … then the triumphant notes of the Reveille.

[Buglers sound the Reveille]

During the Reveille the movie cuts back to the dais, to the bell tower and to a section of crowd.

The movie cuts to a view of the choir with soldiers in regimental uniform in the foreground.

[Narrator]: The 'Hymn of Valiant Hearts' led by the chaplain echoes far away down the ranks.

The choir sings 'Hymn of Valiant Hearts' during which, the movie cuts back to the main dignitaries who also stand and sing holding their programmes.

O valiant hearts who to your glory came
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame;
Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

[Narrator]: In honor of President Lebrun, the French Republic, there follows The Marseillaise …

[Band plays portion of the French National Anthem.]

[Narrator]: … and finally our own national anthem.

[Band plays as the choir sings 'God Save our King']

[Narrator]: The ceremony of dedication over, the royal party moves from dais to lay their tributes on the steps of the memorial.

The movie cuts to various shots as the dignitaries as they walk down from the front of the dais and slowly around towards the memorial entry. Solemn orchestral music is heard to play.

[Narrator]: On the way there is a brief halt while the President presents to His Majesty, General Castelnau, whose memorable part in the heroic resistance at Verdun is already recorded in history.

Solemn music continues to play throughout with various shots of dignitaries and the crowd at the memorial.

[Narrator]: Standing in respectful silence, guests await the climax of the ceremony. Notice the young Australian blue gums planted in the forecourt.

[The King and Queen are shown laying wreaths at the steps of the memorial entry, then looking upward at the tower above them with the other dignitaries.]

[Narrator]: The wreath barriers, ex soldiers whose vocation now is to tend the graves of their comrades … are wearing for this occasion their AIF uniform. His Majesty and President Lebrun lay their wreathes simultaneously. Then Sir Earl Page, in laying a wreath on behalf of the Commonwealth government, acknowledges the tributes of Great Britain and France and pays homage for the people of Australia. Unforeseen [to] all-present—there follows the kindliest of all, pictured now and never to be forgotten the Queen, every eye upon her, and every heart instantly attune, lays on the King's wreath the Flanders Poppy, which the child held [for] her. Hearts are overflowing at this dramatic moment as eyes are lifted to the great memorial towering above.

At the conclusion, the music ends and the movie cuts to a wide shot of the waiting crowd and the sound of cheering who begin to mill around the dignitaries as they walk through.

[Narrator]: Leaving the inner sanctuary, the King and Queen and President are greeted with an outburst of cheering, for the rank of guests can keep their emotions pent up no longer. It is a triumphant and completely informal progress back to the meeting point. Eager, friendly crowds pressing in on every side.

The King and Queen are shown moving along the front of the memorial area away from the building with the crowd on both sides, the crowd is heard giving three cheers.

As the movie concludes, vibrant music and the sound of cheering continues with various views of the dignitaries as they begin to leave through the crowds led by two Australian soldiers. The crowd raise their hats in salute and wave as they pass.

Kanit Wanachote speaking about his reasons for creating a memorial park for ‘Weary’ Dunlop.

Transcript of interview with Kanit Wanachote

He was very brave, he was really. ... He cared for the others, and he thought of the others' trouble. He didn't want anything back, and very brave ... [and] sacrificed himself for all the prisoners of war. ... And all the prisoners of war love him very much. From them, I know about the legendry. ... So, when he died, I made up my mind to have Weary Dunlop Park in memory of him.

Footage taken by the Australian War Graves Commission survey party as it travelled up the Thai–Burma railway shortly after the war. Here, a truck fitted with rail wheels travels over Three-tier Bridge near Hellfire Pass (Konyu Cutting) and Wampo viaduct. At this time the railway was still relatively intact, but the section near Hellfire Pass was removed after the war. The current railway still uses the Wampo viaduct, which has been repaired over the years. [AWM F07346]

Text description of archival video of Three-tier Bridge and Wampo viaduct

The 24 seconds of black and white film footage is part of that taken by the Australian War Graves Commission survey party as it travelled up the Thai–Burma railway shortly after the war.
In the first scene, a truck, open on three sides and fitted with rail wheels travels from left to right over the Three-tier Bridge near Hellfire Pass (Konyu Cutting) and Wampo viaduct. From the camera's low angle perspective at the base of the viaduct, the characteristic criss-cross patterns of the wooden trestle construction is clearly evident.
In the second scene, the truck travels away from the camera, cutting to a wide view of the viaduct - with the sheer limestone cliff face above. Finally, in the last scene, the camera shifts position and captures the truck travelling right to left across another more open section of the bridge.

Bert Beecham talks about the terrible treatment of the POWs by the Japanese on the Thai–Burma railway and the awful conditions of the camp.

Read more about the treatment of prisoners on the Thai–Burma railway.

“The treatment of the POWs working on the railway line was absolutely horrendous. Not only in the way they were treated, the way they were fed, the way they were beaten, they way they were abused, the way they had no clothing. Some of ’em were working in bare feet and a piece of rag tied ‘round their waist ... The food was disgusting if you got it at all, sometimes twice a day, at one stage there we got it once a day and people were dying like flies. We had cholera, we had malaria, we had dysentery, we had scrub typhus, we had beri beri.”

Tom Uren speaks here of his mate, Bill Halliday, on the Thai–Burma railway, and how mateship changed them both.

Read more about illness and death on the Thai–Burma railway.

“In the sick bay, when he was back in the camp, I would go over to see him. And in the early days when I’d go over to see him and take him something, if I could scrounge something to take to him, he was never really grateful, there was no mateship. He was always kind of whingeing. But, as the time went on, his hope grew in him and he used to look forward to seeing me and I used to look forward to seeing him. And I’ll never forget, he was so skinny that you could see his backbone through his stomach, lying on that bed. And he had this awful leg. And the stench of the ulcer wards - it’s like death itself. ... But the thing about Bill Halliday, was that even though he was a whinger and a whiner in those early days, in the end, you know, he used to look forward to seeing me and I would look forward - but his eyes, they shone - beautiful eyes. I can just see them. They shone like beacons in the night. Just, it was so beautiful - you couldn’t help but love the guy for it.”

Dr Rowley Richards remembers how some prisoners, while being cared for by their mates, would often appear to recover, but then seem to lose the will to live.

Read more about illness and death on the Thai–Burma railway.

“I had always believed that there was a will to live and if that will to live disappeared, well, you died. There’s much more to it than that, I’m sure of that. It’s a bit like bone pointing. You point the bone at yourself I guess. I’ve seen many cases of fellows who have been nigh unto death for maybe a couple of weeks, semiconscious most of the time, being handfed by their mates, amazing to still stay alive. And then when they recover from that and they’re starting to be getting better, or think they’re getting better, they just up and die on you. And I think what happened to them was that they would look around and see fellows dying around them and think, ‘Oh, it’s too hard, no, let me go.’”

Ray Parkin speaks about how, through his drawing and painting, he could share the beauty of nature with other prisoners in the jungles of Thailand.

Read more about how prisoners stayed sane on the Thai–Burma railway.

“Well I drew a lot of insects, butterflies, all sorts of things like that. Flowers, anything; but also, I had plenty of blokes to help me because as we went out we used to find things to discuss and we would discuss the new flowers that were out or what was happening, you know, the general state of nature as we went out. And I had, all the blokes around me were collecting butterflies and insects, ‘Have you got this, have you got that?’ ‘Course, I didn’t have time to paint it all. But still, with the butterflies, course, there were millions of them up there, beautiful, in flocks. And, I couldn't paint them but all the blokes were still bringing them back, so what we did we got little slivers of bamboo and made pins out of them and on the inside of the atap hut we’d pin these things on the ceiling and we had a ceiling covered with these beautiful butterflies and everything and I thought, ‘Well this is better than the Sistine Chapel ever could be!’”

Bill Coventry describes the Australian prisoners' experience of learning to cook rice, which was the main food supplied by the Japanese.

Read more about food on the Thai–Burma railway.

“Australia didn’t know how to cook rice in the thirties and forties, not like we do today. So they asked all the fellows to supply their dixies, which is our eating dixie, and we dug a long trench, several long trenches, gathered up burnable material and made long fires and put the rice - I mean, they knew that you boiled rice. So you put a dixie of rice, and you put some water in it and put it in the fires and, of course, as the water boiled, the rice came over the top of the dixies and put the fire out and then it didn’t cook and everything. Oh. But slowly, as time went by, we learned how to cook rice didn’t we?”

Pat Darling recalls her experience of the plane that came to release them from their prison camp and take them home after the war had ended.

Read more about the experience of the nurses as prisoners of the Japanese.

“Eventually we saw a plane arriving and it landed and the first person off was Dr Harry Windsor ... and he looked at us, we were the only standing people, and he said, ‘Where are the Australian nurses?’ and we laughed and said, ‘We're here!’ ‘Cause we were dressed as best as we could be ... Matron looked at us. Somebody said, ‘But who are you?’ and she said, ‘I'm the mother of all of you and ever since I’ve had this position I’ve wanted to find out where – I was determined to find you.’ And she said, ‘Where are the rest of you?’ and of course there was silence for a moment then a voice, I don't know whose it was, just said, ‘They’re all dead.’”