Young soldier also a keen photographer

Name: Gordon Burden
Date: 1918
Unit: 10th Battalion AIF
Location: South Africa, Europe

When thousands of young Australians left for World War I, most of them were travelling overseas for the first time.

Whilst the long voyages to the Middle East and Europe were mostly fairly boring, when they approached land it was a different story.

Gordon Burden set off by boat, travelling via South Africa. He wrote regular letters home to his mother giving great detail of the sights he had seen and the people he had met. He was a keen photographer who developed all his own films and prints.

By the time he reached Cape Town he had quite a collection of photographs and was bent on getting as many more as he could. But he had lost the viewfinder for his camera and searched Cape Town for a new one.

"We walked around Cape Town for a while looking for the Kodak place so that I could get some printing paper and some films," he wrote to his mother. "I also tried to get a viewfinder for my camera as I dropped mine overboard. I was going to take a photo and it dropped off through it coming unscrewed or something and I did not notice it. I could not get a good one anywhere so I had to go without except that I got one without any screw so I have to hold it on.

"We just came out of the chemist's when a gentleman came up to us and asked us if we were doing anything special and if not to go to his place for dinner. We accepted his invitation so he took us around town and showed us some of the soldiers' rest homes. So far I have not found a place to come up to the Club House at Henley.

He wanted us to stand at the corner of the post office at 12 o'clock and we would hear something strange. He was not wrong for as the clock struck twelve there was a bang and everything and everybody stopped still, then a bugle rang out sounding the Last Post. After that there was a pause of two minutes. Every day this takes place at 12 o'clock, Saturdays and Sundays as well. The gun is fired then the bugler plays the Last Post & then two minutes pause for prayer. It is one of the most impressing things that I have seen & heard. It is in memory of the fallen heroes of S. Africa who have died for King & Country.

This is the first city that I have been in that takes such interest in their fallen heroes & it struck me forceably & thought that every city should do something of this sort in memory of the fallen.

After that we went to see St George's Cathedral. We then went to the City Club, of which he is the manager, for dinner. Mr H.T. Watson is his name and he was very kind to us. Every time a boat calls in with Aussies on board he has two or three at his place for dinner and tea, also shows them all over the place. He showed us the book with the names and addresses of Aussies who had been there before us, and there were a good many of them.

When dinner was over he took us over the museums and through the gardens of which I got some fine snaps. We also went over the Town Hall and some other places, then went up on top of one of the highest business places from which we had a fine view of the town. I took several lovely snaps from here, showing the pier, Town Hall and many of the places that were near. We had a lovely view of the Table Mountain and the hills behind the city which made the place more picturesque though it is not such a pretty place as Durban.

I will send you some of the snaps that I have taken at various times and I am sure you will be interested in them especially as I have seen the actual things and taken most of the snaps. I am exchanging with some of the boys so that I can get extra snaps to enlarge my collection. I have many fine snaps that are worth keeping.

For the last week I have been gone on photography and I have been printing a tremendous lot and I must have nearly a hundred and fifty different prints. There are many real good ones in my collection now making it about the best on board. At any rate Mr Arnold's and my collections are the same as I get a copy of every one that he has and borrows. We do all of our work together and I do most of his printing for him. Between us we have a real good collection and hope to get more before the voyage is finished."

The material for this article was supplied by Mr Frank Burden of the Australian Capital Territory


Last updated: 31 May 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), Young soldier also a keen photographer, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 14 August 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories-service/australians-war-stories/young-soldier-also-keen-photographer
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