This flag is embedded with memory and tells a powerful story.
It bears the words –
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.