"Remember me : the lost diggers of Vignacourt" [en]
Friday 2 November at the Australian War Memorial Mr Kerry Stokes AC opened the new exhibition ’Remember me : the lost diggers of Vignacourt’. Through an exceptional collection of First World War photographs, this exhibition presents a unique portrait of Australian soldiers on the Western Front.
“These are extraordinary Australians. Their lives and their bravery are part of the fabric of our country. This collection provides an extraordinary snapshot of a moment in time, in our country’s life, and in the lives of those who served our country in a distant land. The discovery of these plates by the team at Seven’s Sunday Night program has struck a chord with Australians, and we are pleased that the stories behind these historic images can be told and those who served are country honoured. They may have been lost but they will never be forgotten. Let’s now try as a national objective to put a name to as many of these brave men as possible - to reunite them with their families and resurrect their legacy”, said Mr Kerry Stokes AC.
“These photographs represent one of the most important recent discoveries of material from the First World War,” said Nola Anderson, Acting Director, Australian War Memorial. “Drawing on them and the Memorial’s collection, this exhibition presents a rich and personal insight into the lives of our soldiers in France.”
“This exhibition would not have been possible without Mr Stokes’s generous donation of this collection to the Memorial earlier this year,” said Anderson. “We are very grateful to him for his ongoing support in helping us to preserve our nation’s military heritage.”
The 75 photographs in the exhibition are part of The Louis and Antoinette Thuillier Collection, re-discovered in 2011 after sitting undisturbed for nearly a century in the attic of a farmhouse in the French village of Vignacourt. They were taken by an enterprising husband-and-wife team, Louis and Antoinette Thuillier, who had set up a makeshift studio in their stable yard, just off the main street of Vignacourt.
“The enduring appeal of photographic portraits is that they enable us to imagine the character and life story of another person,” said Dr Janda Gooding, the exhibition curator. “For this exhibition, we have uncovered who some of these men were, and their stories are truly remarkable.”
“The exhibition presents a very insightful account of life behind the front lines in the village of Vignacourt, but it also speaks universally about the wartime experience of soldiers. The exhibition will be an opportunity for Australians to connect with these remarkable photographs and with the personal stories behind many of the faces,” said Gooding.
The photographs have been specially hand-printed in the Memorial’s darkrooms from the original glass-plate negatives. Objects from the battlefields reveal what the Australians experienced and endured, while the personal letters and diaries that have been included let these soldiers speak to us in their own words.
Remember me : the lost diggers of Vignacourt will be on display from 2 November 2012 until 31 July 2013.
Images in this exhibition are courtesy of the Kerry Stokes Collection, The Louis and Antoinette Thuillier Collection. Principal sponsor : Seven Group Holdings
Group portrait of unidentified members of the 2nd Division holding a sign that reads ’We want our Mumie’ [sic]. Several of the soldiers wear identity bracelets in the shape of Australia. (See also P10550.140) From the Thuillier collection of glass plate negatives. Taken by Louis and Antoinette Thuillier in Vignacourt, France during the period 1916 to 1918. Courtesy of Kerry Stokes collection, the Louis and Antoinette Thuillier Collection.
Group portrait of unidentified members of a 1st Division band. A puppy sits on the lap of the soldier front row, centre. (See also P10550.112) From the Thuillier collection of glass plate negatives. Taken by Louis and Antoinette Thuillier in Vignacourt, France during the period 1916 to 1918. Courtesy of Kerry Stokes collection, the Louis and Antoinette Thuillier Collection.
Caption of the first picture : Portrait of 27 Sergeant Edward John Falloon MM, 2nd Field Company Australian Engineers. From the Thuillier collection of glass plate negatives. Taken by Louis and Antoinette Thuillier in Vignacourt, France during the period 1916 to 1918. Courtesy of Kerry Stokes collection, the Louis and Antoinette Thuillier Collection.