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Foto's gevonden van Australische soldaat in Midden-oosten

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Auteur Bericht

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BerichtGeplaatst: 20 Apr 2013 20:10    Onderwerp: Foto's gevonden van Australische soldaat in Midden-oosten Reageer met quote

Forgotten stories emerge in black and white

Newly uncovered images taken by an Australian soldier in World War I offer a fresh insight into what life was like in the frontline.

There weren't many cameras in the World War I trenches. Most images of life on the front line were recorded by war artists.

There was, however, a camera in the kitbag of Donald McBean. The blacksmith enlisted in 1st Light Horse Regiment in 1916, aged 35. He saw active service in the Middle East, including at Suez, Gaza and Beersheba. He was present for the liberation of Jerusalem and his photographs captured the 1918 surrender of Turkish troops.

Among his pictures, published here for the first time after being kept for years in an old cardboard box, are images of an extended line of horses stretching into the distance. There are under-nourished horses and comrades awaiting medical help.

As well as taking photographs, it seems McBean collected images. It isn't known how they were obtained, but there are images of Turkish soldiers engaged in routine activities behind the Turkish line.

McBean's great-grandchildren, Judith and Glenda, once used the photos as playing cards, not really appreciating how precious they were. Now, one of them, Glenda Miskelly, 60, is cataloguing them for the rest of the family.

"He [McBean] had a wife, Maud, and two daughters and was living on a rural property in Mittagong," Miskelly says. "The eldest was my grandmother and she would have been 12 when he signed up. It is difficult to know why he would leave them, unless he was answering the call put out because Australia was running out of men. Either that or he was feeling he should do something, having had his brother, George, killed at Gallipoli a week after the Anzac landings."

She notes that in the pictures her great-grandfather looks quite even-tempered, almost cheerful, but that towards the end of his life he became a little short-tempered.

"There was a story that a favoured cat went up a sapling tree where they were living and everyone was saying how are we going to get this cat down and grandfather said, 'I'll get it down,' " she recalls. "He lassoed the tree, pulled it over and let it go; the tree righted itself and the cat sailed out. The cat was fine, but that was his answer to getting the cat out of the tree. Lateral thinking or short on patience, one of the two."

McBean's regiment returned to Australia in March 1919, but without their horses. They were either shot, or transferred to Indian cavalry units.

McBean's blacksmithing skills stood him in good stead after the war. During the Depression he worked on Sydney Harbour Bridge as a riveter and his photograph appeared in the paper marking the start of work on the north side. He died in 1953.

"As a child you don't soak up enough Ė he died six days before I was born, so Maud was a widow for 15 years," Miskelly says. "I wish she was here now Ė it wasn't until 2005 that we discovered that Maud was descended from [people on] the First Fleet and we could have asked her a lot."

Berrima District Historical and Family History Society is trying to track down others who enlisted for the First World War from the southern highlands; there were 1200.

So far, they have details of about 900 with 300 to discover in time for the centenary in 2015.

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