Monday, November 10, 2014

Remembrance Day - The 100 Year Anniversary of World War I.

Reinforcements. The Queenslander. 22 June 1918. 

On the 11th November nations across the world will commemorate and remember those who sacrificed their lives during 1914 – 1918.

This is a special Remembrance Day Post by Tiffany Mitchell – Librarian at Bond University and State Library Queensland digital volunteer.

2014 marks the one hundred year anniversary period when the first Australian Expeditionary forces were sent to Egypt in September 1914. This commemorative initiative has been embraced by the National and State Libraries Australasia, as the First World War touched the lives of nearly every Australian at this time. The State Library of Queensland has engaged with communities and libraries across regional Queensland, in digitising photos, letters and ephemera, in helping Queenslanders learn more of the WWI Queensland story.

One stage of this digitisation project by the SLQ was to produce high quality scans of all issues of The Queenslander Pictorial, starting with the WWI period.  The supplements from this period contained portrait pages – packed with up to 90 individual portraits per page. An existing index to WWI soldiers is currently being prepared for incorporation into the SLQ online catalogue. The searchable name index will be enhanced with links to the individual portrait of each soldier - putting the image into its context and also a link to the digitised issue of The Queenslander in Trove.

Twenty eight thousand individual portraits were extracted from The Queenslander Pictorial over four months representing the total Queensland contingent fighting in the First World War.  Each miniature portrait found within the pages of this broadsheet, had their surnames listed in raw handwritten font and every single portrait page from 1914 to 1918 are listed with the same title: Reinforcements - an unfortunate military description of fresh faced boys and family men. 
This is the reason for reflection.

As one of three volunteers working with the manager of Collection Preservation and the Visual Media Coordinator at SLQ, we extracted thousands of these discerning faces from the digitised pages of The Queenslander, a legacy initiative by the Re-imagining Libraries program.  This legacy program - QANZAC 100: Memories for a New Generation, is a five-year program that will commemorate 100 years of World War I and Anzac history. By digitising this cultural content, we create ease of access in making content available to a bigger audience, most importantly creating a lasting visual legacy. 

The volunteer work at SLQ merged with a World War I project that was given to me whilst working at the Gold Coast Local Studies library. Donated photographs placed in the filing cabinet titled ‘Portraits’ have recently been researched, catalogued and uploaded to Picture Gold Coast creating a descriptive account of the pioneering Gold Coast family involvement in World War I. The Gold Coast region at this time was a burgeoning farming region of pioneering family communities. Over 100 men enlisted from here. One local family that paid the ultimate price was the Fulton family from Mudgeeraba, six of their sons enlisted and only three returned.

Bond Library staff member Angela Keena Bahrij has recently undertaken her own research on her family’s involvement in the First World War. By searching Australian War Memorial records she found digitised military information not previously known to her family.

From the National Library, Australian War Memorial and State Library Queensland to the Local Studies Library, and by Angela who followed these useful links – they all have gathered, nurtured and digitised portraits and personal material, creating a lasting legacy of the soldiers who went off on a brief adventure now to be a part of a much bigger story.

*Thank you to Angela Keena Bahrij in allowing us to display her father's family war photographs and letters.  Her Great Uncle, John Rowe died in the final battle of Pozieres, France, 1916.

John H C Rowe
Postcard: "At while you wait. Photo taken at St Kilda... we had a fine time, they are all decent fellows and like a bit of fun."

Angela Keena Bahrij:  

"John Rowe in his twenty somethings, joined up to do for King and country…. as most young Australians were doing… John Rowe was my Fathers Uncle, who lived in Knichela on the Macleay River NSW - a small village outside of an equally small town of Kempsey, NSW.  Nothing much happened in Kempsey, then or now.  Perhaps a chance to see the world…."

"Private John Hastings Carlyle Rowe enlisted, with the embarkation date of 11th of March 1916 as part of the 4261, 20th Battalion, Australian Infantry Forces, and were shipped out on the HMAT Orsova A67, to a place called Gallipoli…. little did he know that Gallipoli would mean a lot to Australians for 100 years there after..."

"From Gallipoli, then onto Egypt for further training before being shipped to France and the battle of Pozieres, where by attrition was ranked Sargent, only to die in the final battle of Pozieres. John’s body to date has yet to be found."

"All of John Hastings Carlyle Rowe is a small plaque….. Remembered with Honour… Viller-Bretonneux Memorial. He didn’t get to have a family like his sister did…his sister Dora named her first son John and the second son Lyal (Carlyle) my father."

"How many lives are affected by war past and present… just like the Rowe family… we all should Remember them… Living and past..."

"Tiff,  thanks to you and your seed, that got me started to follow the trail to the Australian Archives and the War Memorial and the National Library and State Libraries… I am so deeply grateful."

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