West­ern Front comes to the fore of mod­ern day


The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - News - JUSTIN LEES

AS the world pre­pares to mark the cen­te­nary of the close of World War I, we take you to the heart of the Aus­tralian ex­pe­ri­ence on the West­ern Front as never be­fore.

In the ground­break­ing AN­ZAC 360 project, any Aus­tralian can travel to the bat­tle­fields of France and Bel­gium in im­mer­sive vir­tual re­al­ity 360-de­gree vi­sion sim­ply by us­ing their phone or tablet — it’s free, sim­ple and stun­ning.

Full sur­round vi­sion us­ing drone and ground-level footage lets view­ers soar over the fields and ex­plore trenches, bunkers and memo­ri­als, while pe­riod im­agery and video, graph­ics and sound ef­fects trans­port you back a cen­tury.

Brought to you by the team be­hind the award-win­ning An­za­cLive, AN­ZAC 360 is a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween News Corp Aus­tralia and the Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs, pro­duced by Grainger Films.

The best way to ex­pe­ri­ence it is to down­load the free AN­ZAC 360 app from your app store. Clips will also be re­leased on An­za­cLive’s Face­book page and The Daily Tele­graph Face­book page. The app fea­tures key sites and events along the Aus­tralian Trail of Re­mem­brance, the epi­cen­tre of our strug­gle in north­west Eu­rope where 295,000 Aussies served be­tween 1916-18.

View­ers will be taken from the shock­ing en­coun­ters at Fromelles and Pozieres in the 1916 Somme of­fen­sive, through to the push to vic­tory be­gun at Le Hamel in 1918.

Thirty me­tres un­der­ground, Arthur James Adams stretches up. Slowly, care­fully, and in ex­traor­di­nar­ily neat hand, he carves his nick­name into the cave’s stone wall: Chips.

Along­side he tags his best mate, “Kala”; their unit and the date: July 18, 1916.

The graf­fiti will be­come an un­in­tended epi­taph.

Three weeks later, the Gal­lipoli vet­eran and friend of the leg­endary don­key-lead­ing Jack Simp­son will die in the car­nage of Pozieres — one of 23,000 Aus­tralian ca­su­al­ties in just 42 days — his story lost to his own fam­ily, his grave un­vis­ited and even the in­scrip­tion un­de­ci­phered for a cen­tury.

A cen­tury and more af­ter Arthur, we visit the Naours caves: a net­work of tun­nels used for cen­turies by lo­cal French com­mu­ni­ties first as a refuge, then by smug­glers and by the 1900s as a tourist at­trac­tion. Dur­ing the war it be­came a haven for Dig­gers and Tom­mies on leave be­hind the lines, where thou­sands left their mark — the world’s largest col­lec­tion of WW1 graf­fiti. By us­ing only his and Kala’s (real name Herbert Baker) nick­names, Arthur had foxed re­searchers try­ing to doc­u­ment all the sig­na­tures, un­til we spot­ted it — on a hunch and af­ter hours of search­ing with bat­terydrain­ing iPhone torches.

And dis­cov­er­ing that scrawl — bal­anc­ing in the ex­act same spot as he did, breath­ing the same cool subter­ranean air — we feel an ex­tra­or­di­nary sen­sa­tion. Find­ing his sig­na­ture has been the cul­mi­na­tion of a jour­ney through time: a jour­ney that let us walk in the foot­steps of heroes and stand in the shadow of evil; spawned friend­ships, cre­ated an on­line com­mu­nity of thou­sands and sparked at least one real-life ro­mance.

And it brought home, run­ning deeply un­der­neath it all, a bond be­tween Aus­tralia and France that does not just leap 100 years from 1918 to now, but flows through the dark days of WWII and still res­onates in the very at­mos­phere here, in this for­eign land so im­por­tant to the Aus­tralian na­tional char­ac­ter, where ev­ery cor­ner seems to carry a story.

We first came to know Arthur four years ago, as we be­gan the award­win­ning An­za­cLive project: telling the sto­ries of 10 real peo­ple from a cen­tury ago, in real time on Face­book, as if they were post­ing across the cen­tury. Peo­ple like lar­rikin dig­ger Archie Bar­wick; nurse Alice RossKing; the in­ge­nious Sir John Monash.

Com­pared to them, Bri­tish-born field medic Arthur was some­thing of an enigma. While his di­ary was archived by the Aus­tralian War Memo­rial (the note­book handed, in the 28-year-old’s dy­ing mo­ments, to his com­mand­ing of­fi­cer — an act that made all the rest pos­si­ble) his fam­ily in the UK for­got all about him. It was only as we be­gan to delve into the tale of this quiet, up­right man, who loved car­pen­try (hence the nick­name), paint­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy, that we were able to share it back with those rel­a­tives to­day, among them best-sell­ing crime nov­el­ist Sarah Hi­lary, and with the Aus­tralian pub­lic.

With An­za­cLive we brought the peo­ple of Gal­lipoli and the Somme to 2015 and 2016. This year, as the cen­te­nary of WWI comes to a

(At Pozieres af­ter a heavy Ger­man bar­rage) Men driven stark star­ing mad — cry­ing and sob­bing like chil­dren Dig­ger Archie Bar­wick

close, we wanted to do some­thing equally bold: bring those ex­tra­or­di­nary bat­tle­fields — the places and the peo­ple — to 2018 and be­yond.

It was this AN­ZAC 360 project that let us fin­ish the story of Arthur and learn so much more.

In col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs and Grainger Films we have cre­ated 360-de­gree, vir­tual re­al­ity films at key sites along Aus­tralia’s Trail of Re­mem­brance. Us­ing drone and ground-level sur­round footage, pe­riod im­agery, graph­ics and more, th­ese place you right at the heart of the Aussie ex­pe­ri­ence on the West­ern Front. All you need is your mo­bile or tablet, the AN­ZAC 360 app and away you go to France and Bel­gium. Which­ever way you turn, you will be im­mersed in the sights and sounds of north­west Eu­rope.

It was while film­ing that we found Arthur’s sig­na­ture — not­ing that in his typ­i­cal un­der­stated style, un­like many of the lar­rikins scrawl­ing across the caves, he’d place his moniker al­most out of sight.

That same day we found the over­grown chateau where he was bil­leted. We were wel­comed in by the for­mi­da­ble Madame de Franc­queville, who showed us a por­trait of the fam­ily pa­tri­arch who 100 years ear­lier had hosted Arthur. He even sketched with our man in AJA’s last days be­fore head­ing back to Pozieres … and a shell with his name on it.

It was Mme de Franc­queville who opened the door to this An­zac con­nec­tion run­ning through WW2. She told us that Ger­mans had been her fam­ily’s un­in­vited guests two decades later, bil­leted in the same build­ings that Arthur and his mates had used as a base.

They had carved their names on the walls, just as other Ger­mans had at Naours, which they used as an un­der­ground ar­moury.

And it was from there that we dis­cov­ered a tragic foot­note. A woman who Arthur be­friended in Wargnies, and her hus­band, were slain by the Nazis as mem­bers of the re­sis­tance.

Film­ing at Pozieres we stood where Archie had watched men “driven stark star­ing mad — cry­ing and sob­bing like chil­dren” in one of the great­est Ger­man bar­rages of the war. At Fromelles we take view­ers to the killing ground where Alice lost her beloved, brave, Harry Mof­fitt. Also at Fromelles we stum­bled across a Ger­man bunker where a young Adolf Hitler is be­lieved to have been on duty dur­ing that ter­ri­ble slaugh­ter, when 5533 Aus­tralians were killed or maimed in one calami­tous night — our coun­try’s worst mil­i­tary dis­as­ter. Grainy images from 1940, when he vis­ited his WW1 haunts as a con­quer­ing dic­ta­tor, show him por­ing fa­mil­iarly over the com­mand strong­point that over­looks the old Al­lied lines. The act of stand­ing where he had stood was to be as chill­ing as stand­ing in Arthur’s space was thrilling.

And so it went. Con­nec­tions to Aussies, known and un­known, ev­ery­where. Ran­dom dis­cov­er­ies and chance meet­ings, like Bel­gian Jo­han Regheere, who be­came our un­of­fi­cial guide at Poly­gon Wood, telling us of his grand­mother’s eight years un­der Ger­man oc­cu­pa­tion — four in each war, 10 per cent of her life; phys­i­cal traces like bul­let holes, shell cas­ings and shrap­nel still vis­i­ble to the naked eye at bat­tle­fields and towns alike.

Then there were all the Aus­tralians we met. With 295,000 Aussies serv­ing in France and Bel­gium dur­ing WWI, there are many, many pil­grims to the past and the num­bers are grow­ing. Each had a true fam­ily story to ri­val the last and each was gripped by the elec­tric at­mos­phere. Per­haps that is why dis­cov­er­ing the places where Arthur — who has be­come to us like fam­ily, or even a friend — lived and laughed was even more poignant than when we found his grave: be­cause the Aus­tralian Trail of Re­mem­brance is a place not of ghosts, but where our peo­ple’s sto­ries live on.

As Cap­tain James Sprent, the of­fi­cer to whom the dy­ing Arthur handed his di­ary, wrote later: “Such men never re­ally die.”

Arthur James Adams (far left with his fam­ily) is one of the sol­diers fea­tured in AN­ZAC 360. John Simp­son and his don­key with a wounded sol­dier; (right) Madame de Franc­queville and grand­kids.

Adolf Hitler in­spects the bunker in which he served in WWI at Fromelles; (inset left) Justin Lees, and Herbert Baker, aka “Kala”,

To ex­pe­ri­ence AN­ZAC 360 go to your app store and search AN­ZAC 360. Or you can try the videos on Face­book at An­za­cLive or The Daily Tele­graph

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