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At the end of September 2012, I digitized an album of Photographs of World War 1, campaigns in France and Belgium from 1948-1918, attributed to Frank Hurley. The album was in great condition, with little wear to the pages or the photographic prints, and minimal discolouring or foxing. The album had been presented to the National Library of Australia by R.T. Hon S.M.Bruce on his retirement as Australian High Commissioner to the U.K. on the 14th of October 1946.
I captured the pages, images and accompanying labels, on the Kodak Creo IQ3 Flatbed Scanner, as the album could be opened fully to 180 degrees without damaging or affecting the spine. To support the album during capture, I used cardboard blocks made by staff in the Preservation department, custom designed for use with the Kodak Creo scanners. I captured the full pages at 600 dpi, and cropped a set of just the photographic images and one of the only the text section of the page. This higher dpi ratio allows for the smaller portions of the page to be captured and displayed at the same quality as the larger full page images. I then resized the images of the full album pages to 300 dpi, and uploaded the final three sets of images to our digital collections manager, D.C.M., from here the images are made accessible to staff and visitors on the NLA website.
Kodac Creo IQ3 scanner being used in Studio
There are 72 photographs in the album, and as you can imagine, the images are truly haunting, with the devastation of war obvious on the faces of the soldiers. Many had survived the battlefields of Gallipoli, only to head into an offensive with British, American and other allied troops against the Germans on these foreign French and Belgium fields. These fields just seem to be made of mud and barbed wire, with plenty of trenches and rabbit holes, and any standing structure looks suspiscious.
One particular image that caught my attention was “nla.pic-an10885587-s5-a1-m”, of Australian soldiers loading a 15 inch Howitzer. I was amazed by the size of the Howitzer, and its ammunition and could only imagine the sound of it firing, like some gigantic sonic boom. How the soldiers actually dismantled, transported and rebuilt these massive weapons, all amongst the debris of the battlefields is incredible.
Another image which stands out is one of the last images, nla.pic-an10885587-s63-a1-m, of the entrance to the St Quentin Tunnel, an important site where Australians helped to defeat the German position. The Action was part of an allied attack on the Hindenberg Line, which was a six kilometer wide land bridge between Bellicort and Vendhuille held by the Germans.
This was one of the last actions fought by Australians on the Western Front, as Armistice Day was declared on 11th November 1918. It is hard to fathom what these soldiers had to endure, but with over 46,000 dead and laying in the soil of France and Belgium, we realize their sacrifice and the dear price that Australia had to pay.