Friday, May 25, 2018

ANZAC  Veteran’s Landing.

Dressed in their own colours, red, green and blue the ships cast an enquiring eye towards Alexandra basking in the sun. The scale and activity beyond our view offered a sense of coming excitement. A march to Cairo perhaps remained a possibility, but Limnos and Gallipoli intervened and the fleet sailed steadily north. On arrival the ships hid behind islands, as anxious eyes viewed rope ladders swinging from iron rails waiting for the given time. Warships were to tow the boats to their correct destination. Butterflies danced in empty stomachs as the minutes ticked by.

All was quiet until a spark from the ship’s funnel like a conductor baton orchestrated Turkish fire. A shell went straight through the funnel, but strangely failed to explode. The order was given and one by one with packs held high we crept ashore. Edging through rowing boats we ran towards the hill. The landing turned out to be a mile east from the correct position.

Slowly step by step we edged up the hill, a hill so steep that many troops fell and rolled down again. Half way up we fell upon a Turkish trench whose occupants immediately put their hands up and were taken back down to the beach. Heavy fire at hill’s top drowned out all communication; casualties were high, shrapnel flying in every direction.

Moving around a small ridge we eventually came across a small gully that enabled us to dig ourselves in for the night. As the sun rose our position came under heavy enemy fire, but somehow we were able to hold off any Turkish advance. After two days of continuous fire the lack bandages forced us to evacuate the wounded back down to the beach. Causalities were heavy, having landed with seventy officers and one thousand men our force was reduced by seventy percent.

One morning after I set off to collect water and rations, but had only travelled thirty yards or so when an explosion behind me blew my companion who I had been talking to, to pieces. Slowly we were forced back down the hill and in order to avoid being driven into the sea continually had to dig new and deeper trenches. Turkish’s bodies piled up along with our own so an armistice was called to bury the dead. Only tall troops of at least six foot went out to bury their companions, after taking their wallets for identification they laid their sleeping mates in shallow graves.

Many men broke down among the mixed shrapnel of needle pellets and spasmodic fire and we would have to carry them back down to beach.

Winter was a problem; only sea water remained as we munched on stale weaveled biscuits and dreamed of home. Then there were flies in their millions, bluey-green in colour that came to claim the dead bodies. There were body lice and competitions were held to see who could remove the most from the seams of our grey flannel shirts.

Sickness was worse than casualties, but Elgar played on. Mistreatment was considered very wrong by both sides, Turks respected Australian soldiers there was no hatred from anyone. We would exchange bully beef for cigarettes much to our officers’ dislike.

Lone Pine was the fiercest battle you would ever see in your life. A lone pine stood guard over the hill. We were ordered to attack at 5.30am. Next morning the Turks counter attracted, we never saw much of the British; they just stood there and would not dig a deeper trench without orders from above. Over five days 2000 Australian troops were lost, while the Turks suffered 5000 dead .

December saw heavy snow; many of the men had not seen snow before so this was a treat. Lord Kitchener arrived to OK the withdrawal. All discussion was kept top secret, the men were in poor condition and were not told about the evacuation until the last moment.

Three weeks later the withdrawal started. We had received Christmas cake that was greatly enjoyed by all on the beach. The silence lasted two to three days, no shots were fired. These silence days were held every few days, two days, then three days, one day and so on to confuse the Turks. When the night came no one was allowed to talk, parties were taken down to the beach, socks worn over their boots. It was thought the casualties would be higher than the landing, no one had any experience in such an evacuation. Rifle fire continued with a water device so the Turks assumed we were still in trenches. From Anzac cove a pier was built from a barge covered with onion bags to deafen any noise as the blue water darken with rain.

Over 1000 killed every month, it took twenty four hours to become a veteran. It was an example of how a nation was able to look after itself. A glorious failure, we did what we needed to do, to support Britain.
These recollection were recorded by Australian veterans who were there.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

William Russell. War Correspondent

William Russell, war correspondent.

William Russell almost single-handed invented the art of the war correspondent. Born in Dublin in1820 Russell inherited the charm and way with words for which the Irish are renown. The emergence of mass public opinion during 19th cent Britain presented him with a readership for the major political events of his age. For the first time public opinion mattered and the British middle classes had a spokesman they could trust.

Writing for the Times, Russell covered such diverse subjects as the Crimean War, Indian Mutiny in 1857, the American Civil War, Franco Prussian War to the experience of travelling by train into the Wild West in 1881. His description of embarkation in Chicago displays his ability to engage readers reveal his writing strength places the reader into the story.

He writes, ‘the special train scrambled into the Chicago terminus… at some unpleasantly early hour. We wandered on through the crowds of early workman and people going to their various places of business in straight lines, and saw street life in the morning – coffee – stands, crowds round the barbers’ door and saloons, and coloured men and women – a large element – shuffling to and fro along to the scene of their labour.’ Russell’s ability to transfer such exact observations of participants while presenting two sides of a story are his trademark.

His dispatches on the Zulu War are honest and exact.

Sept. 28 Zulu War. About the Battle of Isandlwana he writes,…’I am bound to say… established beyond doubt that the Zulus had no intention of making an attack on that occasion, because it was the day of the new moon, on which they never transact any important business.’ However they were ‘fired upon by the volunteers and mounted police.’ Later when talking to Methlegazulu a Zulu Chief,  showed indifference to his fate remarked, ‘How,’ he said, ‘can I be worse off than I am? You have taken away my cattle, my wives have deserted me, and I cannot get any more; if you hang me I could hardly be worse off! ‘

Russell mentions that Natal settlers had praised ‘heroic methods of the Anglo-Saxon doctors who have “polished off” the patients in Tasmania, Australia,’ suggesting a possible solution to the Zulu problem in Natal.

Some of Russell’s most descriptive observation concerned the Crimean War. His covering of the campaign was such that it was widely read by the British  Cabinet as well as the general public. His relentless descriptions of misery and military incompetence made their mark. The lack of proper food, water filtration and even basic sanitary discipline, the lack of suitable clothing provided the detailed for fluent, angry, brilliant despatches. For the first time a reporter was telling the public the tale of their fighting men at war.
The British Army was not impressed, they refused him a mount, or rations, or any quarters to sleep or any recognition of his status. Russell’s despatches however for the first time brought home to the War Office that the public had a right to say something about the conduct of wars in their name. His dispatches forced the Government to improve their responsibilities towards their troops. These seething articles were directly responsible for Florence Nightingale going to the Crimea. Russell’s achievement speak for themselves and have never been equalled since

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Amedeo Modigliani

Reclining Nude with Necklace

One of the more romantic artists of the School of Paris although it should be known as the School of Montmartre and Montparnasse was Amedeo Modigliani. A group of artists intent on searching for an alternative direction to Cubism and Abstraction  that were  occupying central stage in Paris' artistic direction at the time.
Their life style promoted the idea of an artistic Bohemia on both the right and left banks of the Seine. Modigliani although of modest means presented himself according to Ossip Zadkine as ' a young god masquerading as a workman in his Sunday best'. Charming and generous without fault, but intent on self destruction. A fine draftsman but his lack of money forced him to spend hours sitting in bars and cafes creating portraits in exchange for drinks or a meal.
Like many artists at the time Modigliani was greatly influenced by African sculpture, features he incorporated into his sculptures and painting. Poverty forced him to abandon sculpture in favour of painting as it was always difficulty to move heavy pieces of marble in the middle of the night in order to avoid paying rent.
Since my youth I have always admired his work, due no doubt to my art studies at Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney were an academic approach to art education was the order of the day. Modigliani's paintings  revolve around the human face and female figure were he freely used African artistic features  His search for new ways to portray reality within a traditional format offered both a dramatic and engaging new language to the viewer. As a painter he seems to have discarded much of the subject matter of many artists. There are no landscapes, still-life and little supporting structural interiors.


Madam Pompadour
Lunia Czechoxska

Paintings such as "Antonio" and Madam Pompadour illustrate his desire to incorporate cubist observation of Cezanne as well as expressionistic treatment within a realistic tradition. Both portraits and figure paintings exemplify an almost formulaic treatment of heads and necks that disregard realistic proportions. Not the drawing of noses, eyes and mouths. The elongated necks and simplified almost abstracted backgrounds. There is little attempt to place sitters in any realistic setting. Whether Modigliani if he had lived longer would have arrived at abstraction is debateable.

This approach is carried over into his figure paintings such as "Reclining Nude and "Lunia Czechowska". No use of tone rather space has been created by the juxtaposition of shapes and colour. While his paintings appear realistic they are distortions that border on the expressionistic nudes of Otto Mueller.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Visit to Lone Pine. ANZAC COVE

Hillside of the Dead.

Contemplate the fallen,
resting body spent
night sky drifts across
the sloping hillside of the Dead.

Cast a gaze at tottering stones
darkened by natures' stains.

Mother, the night sky dances
on the sloping hillside of the Dead.
To bruise death's markers
at sleep's yawning birth.

While the lone pine stands
on the sloping hillside of the Dead.
On lookers stare
with clouded eyes upon the fallen.

Is it  a mirage? Is it a mirage?
On the sloping hillside of the Dead.

To perish under a blazing sun
beneath a carpet of golden flowers.
Mother, the mirage is dancing
on the sloping hillside of the Dead.

Yes, children the storming wind
turns the sloping hillside white.
It is the mirage! It is the mirage!
On the sloping hillside of the Dead.

Like an enraged bull.
It is the mirage! It is the mirage!
On the sloping hillside of the Dead.

Yes, the mirage, the mirage
Crown's our grief
as it dances, dance through
the sloping hillside of the Dead.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Australian Heart Foundation

Australian Heart Foundation.


Living in  latitude 43degrees south, you become used to the piecing winds that inhabit this part of the world. Winds that wander around the world due no doubt to the lack of any major landmass to impede their journey. Other than South America it is plain sailing. A fact much appreciated in the age of sail when sailing vessels followed the forties latitude. It is little wonder that this region became known as the roaring forties.

Local walking groups, sponsored the Australian Heart Foundation in Southern Tasmania have in recent years been encouraging people to undertake regular daily exercise in an attempt to enable everyone to seriously take their physical and dietary responsibility to healthy living seriously. The never ending march of inactivity in the modern world needs to be countered. The Kettering Walkers as our local group is called is one such group, ex-heart attack victims among others who confront the roaring forties on their twice weekly walk. Not that the wind presents a daily problem, but on occasions the members have learnt to put their heads down and plod into the occasional wall of hail and rain.

Some found their way into the group from the Royal Hobart Hospital heart rehab programme, where valiant nursing staff attempt to correct a life time of bad habits. Others join simply for the disciplined walking programme that takes them to more distant corners of our island. New comers to the district also have the opportunity to make new friends.

My own introduction occurred after a minor heart attack on a steep local mountain caused by a blocked artery. This required the insert of a u shaped hoop to hopefully hold it open.

I would highly recommend that anyone wishing to join such a group do so, after all we only live once.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Routine and Ritual and a better World.

We have all been exposed to various forms routine or ritual at some point in our lives, and I have often wondered whether such forced discipline hinders creative thinking. At a personal level the outcome only really effects ourselves and our relationship  to the world. But authorities of every hue love discipline whether they be Governments, Religions or Employers. After all it is the bedfellow of control. Conservatives would claim that this is the only way to run the world. But recent political actions around the suggest otherwise. We seem to be living in an age of extreme individualism.
Of course there are circumstances  when such a ritual or routine are desirable, even advantageous. Waiting to catch a bus or to be served in a shop are generally actions that run far more smoothly if some sort of agreed procedure is applied, not to mention the necessity for rules in driving your car. Likewise learning to dance or eating with chopsticks could not satisfactory  be undertaken without a predetermined teaching structure.
In today's world however it often seems everyone  may claim the right to interpret their actions souly in terms of self. They claim that defined action and response to new  ideas and actions by the application rules are undemocratic, anti-free will. Catholicism relies heavily on ritual and discipline, theatrical repetition of religious service is justified on the grounds that all worshipers are able to  understand and engage in religious service no matter where they live. A structure that has stood the test of generations, claiming to have a calming effect on participants.

In contrast thinking independently, exercising free will are activities frowned upon in most controlled societies, the control of daily task and thought are considered essential if anarchy is not to prevail.

In recent years Western societies have moved increasingly towards individualism, life styles that do not necessarily produce the best outcomes for its citizens. Should the desire for complete freedom of action in all aspects of life remain central to harmonious living? I am not suggesting we need a dictatorial form of government, but rather more self-control over our desires and actions, but a better understanding of the resulting consequences. Fundamentalists are trying to impose their will, while libertines are advocating the opposite. I have no idea where the correct balance lies, but excessive ritual and routine or freedom of action both seem detrimental to a peaceful world. .But the continual focus of minority groups on their personal problems and determination to impose them on everyone will not necessarily  create a better world.     

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Long Road Home.

Home is where your heart may be found. A village, some distant valley or enchanting location, this is where past memories abound and as the distance lengthens from then to now soul searching often tarnishes such memories.
Memories of past events take on their own aurora, both good and bad. To examine the past in this way has many positive benefits, no longer are your personal interpretations distorted by outside influences. Such a journey down this road from childhood offers all sorts of possibilities, new interpretations, why such and such happened or didn't. How successfully do you view your life from then to now.
Travelling down this road is not unlike travelling down a long dark tunnel, never knowing what lies around the next corner. The revival of experiences now seen in hindsight and with a clarity of experience accumulated over the years can be refreshing.
Home always has that heart warming love of childhood. Yearly birthdays and the joy and excitement of Christmas with its innocence of true belief. This can never be recreated and for many remains the happiest years of their life.