Lost Love Letters inspire Gallipoli Art Prize

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, yet the haunting images of  the Remember Me: the lost diggers of Vignacourt exhibition currently on at the Queensland Museum seem to be worth so many more.

These valiant men of the First World War may be lost, but their stories are living on through these photos and through the memories, mementoes and keepsakes that are being unearthed during this travelling exhibition.

Sergeant Idris Charles Pike is pictured in the Lost Diggers collection as part of a group of soldiers from the 17th Battalion, all survivors of Gallipoli.

Perhaps something of his character is revealed in the tenderness with which he holds a small puppy in his hands.

Certainly moments of tenderness amongst the brutality of war are described by him in the weekly love letters he wrote home to his sweetheart Violet.

A century later these love letters inspired the painting that recently won the 2014 Gallipoli Art Prize.

Gallipoli Evening 2013 was painted by his grandson, artist Idris Murphy, and depicts a solitary tree in a golden landscape of Gallipoli’s crumbling cliffs of rock and sand.

He conceived of the evocative image after visiting Gallipoli himself for the first time last year after the discovery of the 160 war-time letters from his grandfather that his grandmother had kept secret until her death.

While some of his letters depicted the more grisly side of war, they also show how the Anzac spirit of mateship was in play during that time.

In one letter he writes of only a few yards separating them from ‘the Turks’, describing how they threw some tinned bully and jam to the enemy, who in turn tossed back some tobacco and cigarette papers with a letter thanking them, ‘our friends, the enemy’ and asking for more souvenirs.

The stories and lives of Sergeant Idris Charles Pike and the thousands of other brave Anzac men and women live on through our Anzac Day commemorations every year.

Lest We Forget.

Read more about the inspirational story behind the 2014 Gallipoli Art Prize winner.

Remember Me: the lost diggers of Vignacourt is a travelling exhibition from the Australian War Memorial and will be on at the Queensland Museum until 20 July 2014.

Have you seen Remember Me: the lost diggers of Vignacourt and think you have identified a relative? If so please contact the Australian War Memorial awm.gov.au/rememberme or vignacourt@awm.gov.au

Group portrait of 17th Battalion NCO’s. Identified second row, fourth from left is 1276 Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) John William Raitt MM; front row, left is 421 Sergeant Idris Charles Pike (holding puppy). From the Thuillier collection of glass plate negatives. Taken by Louis and Antoinette Thuillier in Vignacourt, France during the period 1916 to 1918. Courtesy Kerry Stokes Collection, the Louis and Antoinette Thuillier Collection, The Australian War Memorial P10550.047