Rare WWI photograph gifted to Nelson Bay RSL sub-branch and hung in West Diggers

ON DISPLAY: Pictured with the framed photo hanging at the Diggers club in Nelson Bay are Meagan Harding, Mayor Ryan Palmer and RSL Sub-Branch vice-president Tom Lupton. Picture: Supplied
ON DISPLAY: Pictured with the framed photo hanging at the Diggers club in Nelson Bay are Meagan Harding, Mayor Ryan Palmer and RSL Sub-Branch vice-president Tom Lupton. Picture: Supplied

A photograph depicting a World War I scene that has been described as a "conversation starter" has been donated to the Nelson Bay RSL Sub-Branch to feature in its memorabilia collection located just inside the Wests Diggers club.

The rare photo of the Australian 11th Battalion (1st Division) was taken on January 10, 1915, on the Pyramid steps in Egypt by an unknown photographer.

According to researchers who provided the notes that came with the original, approximately 80 per cent of the 200-plus Diggers depicted in the photograph died at the infamous Anzac Cove in Gallipoli.

"Many of the men depicted in the photo were teenagers, some as young as 14 who had put their ages up to go to war. Included are a father and his three sons who all perished on the beaches of Gallipoli," said Nelson Bay RSL Sub-Branch vice-president Tom Lupton.

Mr Lupton said that only 1500 prints of the famous picture were made, with one of them landing in the home of Port Stephens mayor Ryan Palmer.

"It had been in our family for some 15 years ... my stepfather had purchased it at an auction for a charity fundraiser for cancer research and it had sat on our wall for years," Cr Palmer said.

"It was a real conversation starter ... invariably visitors to our home would be struck by the image, invariably starting a conversation that sometimes would go on for a while. I am pleased it is staying in Port Stephens."

Cr Palmer donated the framed print for auction to the recent bushfire fundraising appeal and golf day held in his name, where it was purchased for $3000 by Meagan Harding, director of Care For You at Home and affiliate member of the Nelson Bay RSL Club.

Ms Harding said that her silent bid to secure the artwork had just beat that of the Coffs Harbour Ex Serviceman's Club.

"I purchased it so I could donate it to the Nelson Bay RSL Sub Branch memorabilia collection in perpetuity," she said.

"The information that comes with the photo is still being researched. It is rumoured that the four men interlocking arms are indeed a father and his three sons, in another scene there seems to be a dead soldier being propped up by his mates, and there is an identified 14-year-old boy in uniform."

On March 15, Cr Palmer was invited to the Nelson Bay RSL Sub Branch meeting to present the framed artwork and share his personal association with the photo.

Mr Lupton said the photograph would hang in the Diggers club memorabilia collection for all to see.