Museums Australia Western Australia

Festivals, Events & Exhibitions

Securing an Historic WW1 Red Cross Flag for Australia

This flag, stained with soil from Gallipoli, pays evocative tribute to our ANZAC history. It belongs in Australia, where its story of gallantry and sacrifice can be shared for generations to come.

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This flag is embedded with memory and tells a powerful story.
It bears the words –
FLAG OF
C SECTION
3rd FLD AMB
April 1915 AD Kemp

The WA 3rd Field Ambulance C Section was formed in 1914 as support for the 3rd Infantry Brigade, which included WA’s 11th Battalion. On 25th April 1915, the 11th was the first Battalion ashore at Anzac Cove. The stretcher bearers of C Section, led by Captain McWhae, followed immediately behind.

In Gallipoli: The Western Australian Story, W. Olson says that Major Jackson of the 7th Battalion saw the flag flying over C Section’s collection post as he and his men were making their way towards shore.

The Body Snatchers: the history of the 3rd Field Ambulance, by S. and R. Austin, records that the flag was kept by C Section’s A. D. Kemp until 1918, when he sent it to his former OC Douglas McWhae as a keepsake of the Gallipoli landing.

C section’s John Simpson Kirkpatrick, famously known as, “Simpson, the man with the donkey”, was one of many stretcher bearers associated with this flag who were killed whilst rescuing others.

After the war the flag returned to WA with Dr. McWhae. It disappeared from view for decades, but recently surfaced in Canada where it was purchased by Edmonton collector Doug Buhler for US $25,000. Mr Buhler understood the flag’s great significance to Australia and hoped it could be placed back in the hands of the Australian people in time for the centenary of the Gallipoli landing.

We are indebted to Canadian military historian Steven Clifford, whose posts about the flag on his blog https://doingourbit.wordpress.com/ alerted exhibition curator Wendy Lugg to the flag’s existence and Australian provenance, enabling her in turn to bring the flag to our attention.

A loan arrangement is in place for the flag to be shown in the Beyond the Battlefields exhibition curated by Mrs. Lugg, open from 20th April 2015 at the Royal WA Historical Society. Museums Australia WA (MAWA) plans to secure funding to ensure that the flag does not depart from Australian shores again.

MAWA plans to acquire the flag and place it in its reserve collection, for the Remembering Them exhibition project which runs until 2018. The project is being facilitated by MAWA in partnership with the WA Museum and the Royal WA Historical Society, assisting regional Western Australian communities to develop exhibitions exploring the impact of the First World War on their local communities.

Through this project, the flag and its story will reach some of the far-spread WA communities from which the ANZAC troops and men of the 3rd Field Ambulance C Section were drawn. We must raise at least $35,000 to acquire the flag and prepare it for safe display and travel.

After the completion of its Remembering Them tour, the flag will be placed in a public collection where its message about war’s impact can be shared for generations to come.

With your help, we can ensure that this precious and evocative part of our history is not lost.

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Museums Australia is the national organisation for the museums sector, a non-government non-profit body committed to the conservation, continuation and communication of Australia’s heritage.

Museums Australia Western Australia (MAWA) is part of the network of state branches of this national peak body. Its role is to support the museums, galleries and cultural centre sector in Western Australia.

MAWA provides services in the areas of professional development, collections management, mentoring, skills training, accreditation, governance, volunteer management, exhibition design and public programs. It also develops and implements projects which benefit the sector and the wider community.

MAWA is currently partnering with the WA Museum and the Royal Western Australian Historical Society to facilitate the “Remembering Them” project, assisting regional communities across Western Australia to develop exhibitions exploring the impact of the First World War on their communities.

The project, which runs to 2018, enables these communities to exhibit artefacts and text story panels that reflect and discover the many ways that war and service have shaped our society and values.

JA

Jane King

WA
JM

Jennifer Milligan

WA
GH

Geoff Hogbin

NSW
MM

Royal WA Historical Society

WA

Museums Australia Western Australia

WA
MG

Michael Gregg

WA
SF

Simon Foley

WA
FB

Fiona Bush

WA
RA

Royal Western Australian Historical Society

WA
JH

JM Hiller

State
PB

Peter Bryner

WA
GE

Grant Eldridge

SA
QA

Qatar Museums Authority

n/a
DA

Dave Brown

WA
MA

Museums Australia WA

WA
RM

Robert Mitchell

WA
MM

Marian Magee

WA
AS

ALISON SCHWABE

WA
SC

Steve Clifford

BC
DB

Doug Buhler

Ab
WL

Wendy Lugg

WA