Join me, photo journalist Louise Grayson as I enter the surprising community of Australians, French and Belgians dedicated to gatekeeping the World War I (WWI) Anzac legend.
As we commemorate the Centenary of the end of WWI 2018, this is an ideal companion for those embarking on battlefield tours in person, or via my stories and images from the front lines.
I share photographs, stories and interviews from my travels between the Queensland Pikedale WWI solder settlement community, which was established around towns named after Western Front (WF) battlefields (Pozières, Amiens, Fleurbaix, Bullecourt, Passchendaele, Bapaume and Messines), to the same places in France and Belgium.
This project is proudly supported by the Queensland Government.
For more than ten years I have been exploring how the Australian, French and Belgian communities share a dedication to commemorating those who fell in battle or fought to build a new life post WWI.
I share stories and photos from my recurring trips to the sites of WF battlefields in France and Belgium, and the Pikedale resettlement in Queensland as I uncover the story behind the remarkable growth in what has become known as battlefield tourism.
I write about the monuments I visit, the commemorative rituals I attend and, above all, those self-proclaimed keepers of the Anzac legend I meet – whom I call ‘The Guardians’.
I interview a Queenslander still working the resettlement farm allocated to his grandfather; a Belgian police officer who grew up around the memorials spread throughout the farmlands around his village and who today still has to deal with dangerous devices being found in those farmlands; an elderly French woman who has donated some of her farmland to allow the recovery of the bodies of Diggers; European tour guides amazed at the number of Australians arriving in their villages; everyday Australians battling to establish memorials around the Queensland suburbs named after WF battlefields; the daughter of the headmaster who built that rather famous ‘Do not forget Australia’ school sign after the war; and many more.
These are my photographs, interviews and memoirs as I seek to understand the phenomenon of battlefield tourism and the deeply emotional connection these communities feel to the memory of the Diggers of WWI.
The Guardians gathers and presents photographs and stories from a perspective that is far removed from mainstream ‘Digger’ history. While the Western Front generally evokes images of appalling slaughter, The Guardians is aimed at a market eager for a respectfully compiled project that looks past the shocking statistics. It is an ideal companion to the explosion in WWI commemorative events and battlefield tourism that is set to continue past the centenary of the end of the war 2018.
Those who have already begun a personal search into their ancestors’ involvement in WWI, and those still to go exploring, I hope will be interested by the insights into this community of Guardians that I share.
These blog posts not only share my exploration into the concept of battlefield tourism, but also how communities on both side of the world feel compelled to commemorate the shocking events of WWI through the concepts of:
Colour photographs document the journey on both sides of the world and provide a comparison between cultures commemorating the Great War. These are combined with more traditional black and white, documentary-style photographs and portraits of people met along the way