Souvenirs an insight into war horrors
When Mark Turton approached the Museum of Perth last year, he thought it might be interested in a few of his grandfather’s souvenirs from World War I.
Perhaps they would want to incorporate his diary or one of his chalkboard designs into a future exhibition. Perhaps not.
Curator Shannon Lovelady wanted the entire collection — and now she wants the world to see it. An Artist at War tells the story of Reg Walters, a WA signwriter by trade who served in the Middle East with the 10th Light Horse Regiment.
It gives fresh insight into the life of Diggers abroad, particularly what they did for fun.
Mr Walters joined the war in Egypt shortly after the evacuation from Gallipoli.
He came home as a corporal nearly four years later and lived to the age of 81 in Trigg.
A talented artist and writer, his observations add colour to the history of his regiment in and out of battle. He drew chalkboard signs to amuse his fellow soldiers or let them know what was happening, be it recreation or remembrance.
Live music, games, drawing competitions and services — his signs could be the only evidence these events took place.
“The men were stranded there for a while so they had these activities to boost morale,” Mr Turton said.
“He didn’t talk about the war much but I feel that they were in this terrible situation and he was going to do what he could to boost morale. He was that sort of person in a quiet way.”
Mr Walters’ diary reinforces a much better known aspect of war — the horror. Long periods of training and waiting made him eager for action, but the tone of his writing changed once the waiting was over.
“It was considered a great win for us,” Mr Walters said on August 7, 1916.
“But after being in action for the first time and seeing a mate killed alongside me it makes one wonder how ever such a mad and horrid state of affairs can exist.
“But one must not be sentimental here. The other man is out to kill you, so it is best to get him first.”
Mr Turton said his grandfather, a man of “quiet morality”, would be shocked people were so interested in his work.
An Artist at War opens on Thursday.
Mark Turton with his grandfather Reg Walters’ diary, satchel and photograph from World War I and replicas of chalk board posters.