Ray Beattie – Image for a Dead Man

Death through absence. Vietnam veteran Ray Beattie’s controversial 1980 painting “Image for a Dead Man” expresses a soldier’s grief at the loss of comrades and a statement about the repercussions of war. Lest We Forget.

Originally from Belfast, Ray Beattie arrived in Australia in 1967. In 1969 he was called up for National Service and after training was posted to the 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR). He served with 8 Platoon, Charlie Company, 2 RAR in South Vietnam during its Second Tour in 1970-1971. His painting, Image for a Dead Man, was completed in 1980 whilst Ray was living in Fremantle. 

Image for a dead man
Ray Beattie. ‘Image for a dead man’ (1980).   Synthetic polymer paint, collage on canvas.  Framed: 220.5 cm x 147.4 cm x 10.6 cm.   AWM Accession Number:  ART40885

Image for a Dead Man is a large still-life painted in the photo-realist style and is part of series of three paintings by Beattie collectively titled Sentimentality Kills which comment on the repercussions of war on Australian society.  But, this is the most personal of the three (the other two being held in the collections of the  Art Gallery of NSW and the National Gallery of Victoria) and is a direct reflection of his own experience following his service as an infantryman in Vietnam.

All the elements in the composition are selected and arranged to show the tangible traces of somebody who is no longer there.  The uniform jacket hung across the back of the chair still holds the shape of the wearer.  The cord behind the chair and an empty telephone socket,  symbolising disconnect and that the person is forever out of reach. The cold white wall behind the chair signifies the nothingness that is death. 

The Australian War Memorial, which holds the painting in it’s art collection provides the following description

Beattie places a wooden chair against a cold grey wall; over it, draped the army jacket he wore in Vietnam. Painted on the left breast are his [Ray Beattie’s] service medals and an actual infantry Combat Badge is pinned on the right side. Beattie paints his slouch hat and identity discs hanging from the back of the chair and a folded flag on the seat. An unplugged telephone socket and line are shown at the bottom of the painting. There is no person present but the jacket holds the shape of a wearer and the discs indicate an individual personality once existed. The painting addresses the impossibility of communication with the dead by the inclusion of the symbolic disconnected telephone line. Although Beattie survived the war, he has said that whenever he heard of another soldier’s death he felt a part of himself also died. This feeling of loss is reinforced by the fact that the empty uniform is the artist’s. A curious inscription on the back of the painting shows a completed game of ‘hangman’. The words to be discovered would have spelt Beattie’s name but the figure on the gallows has been finished before more than a few letters have been guessed: ‘game over’.

When it was acquired by the Australian War Memorial, the painting generated some controversy with protests that the work was seen as derogatory towards the Australians who served. One protestor wrote to the AWM  stating ‘…artistic licence and abstract interpretation are completely out of place in a Memorial where the established forte is stark realism and accuracy of presentation’ (1).  In pushing for a flag waving, heroic and jingoistic representation of the war  the protests often ignored that the work was made by a veteran, reflective of his personal experience and a comment on war, not those who are sent out to fight, but those who do the sending. Lest We Forget.

Ray Beattie 2RAR 1971 1
Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam. May 1971.  Private Ray Beattie carrying the section’s M60 machine gun during C Company, 2RAR /NZ (ANZAC)’s final operation in Vietnam before returning to Australia later in the month. Other members of the section are spread out to his left. The soldier closest to Pte Beattie is carrying a 7.62 mm Self Loading Rifle (SLR) and also a belt of ammunition for the M60 machine gun. Photo: John Alfred Ford.  AWM Accession Number: FOD/71/0258A/VN

2 RAR’s second tour of Vietnam 1970 – 1971.

This overview of the battalion’s second tour of Vietnam is an excerpt reproduced from the 2 RAR Association page. 

On 15 May 70, 2RAR relieved 6RAR in South Vietnam and resumed the title of ANZAC Battalion. Three Australian rifle companies plus V and W Companies, additional Support Company elements and a Bn 2IC from New Zealand completed the Battalion. A significant percentage of those on the Manning Chart had been there before.

During the Tour, the Battalion embarked on seven operations. Except for a two-week break in September all of the operations were back to back so the pace throughout was intense. Their enemy was primarily LF. Both Battalions D440 and D445 were encountered as well as D65 Engineers NVA and the Chau Duc District HQ and LF Company. An additional task of training and operating with Regional forces and a neighboring Thai Battalion was successful but too short lived to influence events long term. The support for those activities had to come from largely within the Battalion and was conducted in tandem with the Battalion’s normal operations.

There were 14 names added to the Battalion’s Honour Roll by the end of the tour. They comprised eight Australians and six New Zealanders. Booby traps and mines accounted for most of these as well as several accidental deaths.

4RAR/NZ (ANZAC) took over operational responsibility from 2RAR in May 71.

Ray Beattie 2 RAR Historical Collection
July 2022. Artist Ray Beattie standing next to a display that replicates his painting at the 2 RAR Historical Collection. After being discharged from the Army to Perth in 1971, Ray studied at Claremont Technical School from 1971 to 1973 and printmaking at Perth Technical College in 1974. He was appointed tutor in printmaking at Western Australian Institute of Technology 1975. In 1978 he studied at the Victorian College of the Arts where he later became artist-in-residence. In 1981 he was tutor in printmaking at the Western Australian Institute of Technology and later in that year was artist-in-residence at Griffith University, Queensland. He continues to maintain his arts practice and works in colour etching, aquatint and screen-prints. He also exhibits paintings and sculpture. Ray has items in most state gallery collections around Australia  Photo: 2 RAR Historical Collection Facebook Page

A Bridge Too Far – Arnhem September 1944

On 17 September 1944, the Allies launched Operation MARKET GARDEN, the ill-fated attempt to create a 103km corridor through German occupied Netherlands, capturing a series of bridges which would allow Allied forces to cross the Rhine. The farthest north bridge lay at Arnhem and in other reviews I covered the principle museums in the area, notably the Airborne Museum ‘Hartenstein’, Glider Collection Wolfheze, Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45 and its offshoot, the recently opened Out of Ammo Museum. So, for this, the 78th anniversary, below is a link to the classic 1977 film of the battle, A Bridge Too Far in its entirety. Enjoy.

 

The Mysterious Vietnam War Mary Poppins Platoon HAHO Parachutist Badge

61037528_2418529928198396_3156671602440011776_nMary Poppins Platoon Combat Qualification Gold Wing with the ARVN Jump Status Indicator for comparison. Collection: Julian Tennant

This “Mary Poppins Platoon Combat Qualification” parachutist badge (left) is one of the more interesting unofficial/novelty airborne badges in my collection.

Two variations of the badge are known to exist. A silver badge, described as the ‘basic’ wing and a second type with a point at the apex of the umbrella plus a gold wing which is referred to as the MPP Combat Qualification Gold Wing. As can be seen in the picture it’s design draws heavily on the ARVN Jump Status Indicator insignia which was worn by members Vietnamese Airborne personnel who were on jump status. The umbrella canopy may reference the pocket badge worn by the French Indochina period 1st Indochinese Parachute Company (1er Compagnie Indochinoise Parachutiste – 1 CIP) or it may be a reference to the…

View original post 628 more words

An unidentified French Indochina or 1950’s period Airborne unit badge.

ARVN unidentified Airborne SSI 2-2The unidentified French Indochina period French or Vietnamese Airborne unit badge which  formerly belonged to a Nung soldier who fought in both the first and second Indochina Wars. Collection: Julian Tennant

This is an unusual and as yet unidentified early Vietnamese Airborne patch that I have in my collection. It is the actual badge shown on page 81 of Harry Pugh’s book Insignia of the Republic of Vietnam Army Airborne Division, where it is described as an Unknown Airborne Insignia obtained in Saigon in 1967.

When I bought the badge from Harry, he elaborated a little further in an accompanying note regarding its provenance.

“When I was in Vietnam, 67 & 68, the chief of my Nung Security was an older Nung, “Song”. He had served with the French during the French Indochina war but I never asked him which unit. After the war he served with the Nung…

View original post 528 more words

Airborne Assault Museum – IWM Duxford, United Kingdom

The Airborne Assault Museum traces the history of British Airborne Forces since their beginning in 1940 to the present day. The museum was originally established by the Committee of the Parachute Regiment Association in October 1946 and relocated from its former home in Browning Barracks, Aldershot to Hangar no.1 (Building 213) of the Imperial War Museum at Duxford in 2008.

airborne assault duxford-73Service Dress Jacket based on a WW1 Royal Flying Corps “maternity” tunic, worn by Lt-Gen Frederick Browning GCVO KBE CB DSO, the father of the British Airborne Forces. This uniform, designed by Browning was made of barathea with a false Uhlan-style front, incorporating a zip opening at the neck to reveal regulation shirt and tie. It was worn with medal ribbons, collar patches and rank badges, capped off with grey kid gloves, a Guards Sam Browne belt and swagger stick. Above the medal ribbons you can also see the Army…

View original post 360 more words

EDITORIAL: Australian Chief of Army’s directive re use of ‘death’ symbols

In early April 2018, the Chief of Army, Lt. Gen. Angus Campbell, a former Australian SAS officer, released a memo requesting that the RSM of Army incorporate an instruction into the Army Dress Manual that banned the use of emblems that incorporated “death” symbols or iconography. These include Punisher skull or pirate Jolly Roger symbols both of which feature in the range of emblems and patches used by sub-units within the Australian Special Operations community… and no doubt are also features of various other Australian Army sub-unit logos.
angus campbell minute
As can be expected there has been a backlash and ridicule from various interested parties. Many cite the unique task that society assigns to the military, the creep of political correctness and the role unit emblems play in fostering a sense of identity with its associated importance in team cohesion/bonding.
Personally, I agree with these arguments and am in favour of maintaining the existing traditions through the symbols that have already been adopted by the various sub-units.
However… and despite being an insignia collector with a particular interest in Australian Special Operations units, I have long held the belief that widespread use of troop, platoon, company and squadron patches within the Australian Special Operations community has gone too far and may not be a good thing for OpSec reasons.
The days of these logos being confined to beer stubby holders and PT shirts sold ‘in-house’ to raise funds for unit ‘pissups’ seems long gone… Back then, most people outside of the units had no idea who the sub-unit symbols represented and they were rarely, if ever seen in the public domain. So, maybe this directive will have some positive spin-offs, making the activities of our operators less visible through the identification of units through their patches and bring them back into the shadows where they belong.
From a collectors perspective, I wonder what effect the ruling will have? The Australian Army insignia collector market is already saturated with fakes and fantasy items. Since the early 2000’s collector/dealers have been capitalising on the wants of Australian collectors manufacturing ‘local made’ copies of known insignia plus, not infrequently, completely making shit up to sell to an eager and unsuspecting market. Will this move curtail their activities? Maybe… or maybe it is already too late and the genie is out of the bottle…. maybe it will just lead to new batches of ‘rare unofficial’ patches for units that have no knowledge of these patches existence and collectors who have few points of reference to determine what is real and what is bullshit. Time will tell I guess.

fantasy miltrader Aussie CDO fakes
FAKE/FANTASY Australian Special Operations unit insignia made to fool unsuspecting collectors. Not sure what drugs the manufacturer has been taking to come up with these designs, but they are figments of his imagination. Unfortunately, some collectors continue to be fooled by this bullshit.

Directory of US Army Museums

World War II CG-4A Glider Exhibit at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum, Fayetteville, North Carolina.
CG-4A Glider Exhibit at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum, Fayetteville, North Carolina.

If you’re living in, or planning a trip to, the USA you should bookmark this link (also shown below). Compiled by the US Army Center of Military History, which is responsible for recording the history of the US Army, it is a state by state listing of all the US Army museums in the country.

https://history.army.mil/museums/directory.html

The Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience. Perth 29 November – 11 December 2016

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016
The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016
The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016

The Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience is a traveling exhibition that mainly tells the story of Australia’s involvement in the First World War, but also has some additional information about the Australian armed forces involvement in subsequent operations. The latter is restricted to information panels, videos and here in Perth, a Bushmaster provided by one of the local Army Reserve units, the 10th Light Horse.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016
The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. 10 Light Horse Regiment Bushmaster and the Cottesloe Surf Life Saving Club rowboat which was used in by the club as part of the centenary commemoration at Gallipoli on Anzac day in 2015.

The bulk of the displays follow a chronological timeline spanning the period just before the outbreak of World War 1 until armistice in 1918, with visitors using an audio guide, which provides contextual information to supplement the items on display.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016
The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016
The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016

As can be expected with a traveling exhibition aimed at a general audience, the bulk of the stuff being presented consists of photographs, ephemera and didactic information panels along with (mostly) smaller items that are easy to transport and display. The exhibits are well displayed though and visitors pass through trench-like passageways as they move from one section to the next.  For Western Australian leg of the tour most of the items originate from the Australian War Memorial collection but also include artifacts from the Army Museum of Western Australia as each stage of the tour includes a local ‘flavour’ curating stories from the area visited.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016
The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Australian uniform from the Dardanelles campaign

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016
The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Turkish soldier’s uniform from the Dardanelles campaign.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016
The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016

Entry is free, although bookings have to be made prior to visiting and entry is controlled to ensure that all attendees have an audio guide. The audio is quite good providing context and automatically updating to reflect where ever the visitor is standing at any given point during their visit. It also provides for an option to have additional information about certain exhibits sent via email should something be of interest.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016
The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Australian Flying Corps pilot in the Middle East. Most of the mannequin displays feature reproduction uniforms, which is understandable given the nature of the exhibition and display. Unfortunately this particular jacket features a really bad reproduction of the AFC pilot’s wing which is also sold as a souvenir in the AWM and RAAF Museum shops.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016
The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Brass grave plaque and portrait of the Red Baron’s only Australian victim. Second Lieutenant Jack Hay was flying an outdated FE8 pusher biplane with No. 40 Squadron, RFC when he encountered Baron Von Richthofen’s squadron on 23 January 1917. Hay’s aircraft burst into flames and rather than burn, Hay jumped to his death. His mates made this plaque for his grave.

Overall, whilst I was slightly disappointed by the lack of post WW1 display items, it was quite an enjoyable visit and I think that I will drop by again for another look before the show moves to its next location.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016
The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. German 170mm Minenwerfer trench mortar.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016
The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Ouch!

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016
The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016
The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Anti-conscription badge from the 1916 and 1917 conscription referendums. Australians rejected the notion of conscription and the AIF remained an all volunteer fighting force.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016
The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016
The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Reproduction of a British MkIV ‘Male’ tank.

The Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience is on display at the Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre until 11 December 2016.

Touring dates and visitor information for the exhibition can be found at http://www.anzaccentenary.gov.au/events/spirit-anzac-centenary-experience

Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance galleries

shrine-of-remembrance-01
1 Commando Regiment beret belonging to Private Greg Sher, KIA during a rocket attack in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan 04 January 2009.

I’ve just returned from a weekend trip to Melbourne and on Sunday afternoon, just before heading to the airport I found that I had a couple of hours to kill whilst ‘she who must be obeyed’ spent some time with her sister. I was at Flinders street station so decided to take a walk down St Kilda Road to the Shrine of Remembrance. The walk takes about 10 to 15 minutes and is quite a pleasant stroll, but in retrospect I should have taken the 5 minute tram ride (‘Stop 19 – Shrine of Remembrance’) as it would have given me more time to explore the new Galleries of Remembrance which were still under development last time I visited, back in mid 2014. But, it was a spur of the moment decision and whilst I regret not having more time to look at the exhibits it gave me a taster for my next visit.

The Eternal Flame near the footsteps of Victoria's Shrine of Remembrance.
The Eternal Flame near the footsteps of Victoria’s Shrine of Remembrance.

Built in 1934, the Shrine is the Victorian state war memorial. It was built to help a grieving Victorian community which lost 19,000 of it’s 114,000 enlistees killed in the First World War. They were buried in distant graves at a time when most Australians did not travel abroad. The Shrine provided a place where Victorians could share their individual and collective grief for the lives that they had lost. Designed by architects Phillip Hudson and James Wardrop, both World War 1 veterans, it is located in Kings Domain on St Kilda Road and was opened on the 11th of November 1934.
The Galleries of Remembrance were opened to the public on 11 November 2014. It utilizes 1600 square meters in a cathedral-like chamber beneath the Shrine and exhibits over 800 items illustrating the Australian experience of war from the 1850’s until the present day. Because of the time limitations I had, I did not go into the Shrine itself this time, but instead opted to check out these displays. Unfortunately the picture quality isn’t the greatest as they were just snapped on my iphone, but they will give you an idea of what is on the display.

Ballarat Rangers Helmet c.1880 in the Pre-Federation Gallery.
Ballarat Rangers Helmet c.1880 in the Pre-Federation Gallery. This helmet is a rare example of the type worn with the distinctive green uniform of the Ballarat Rangers. Formed on 26th July 1858, the unit was originally known as the Ballarat Volunteer Rifle Regiment but changed its name a month later.

Gallipoli landing lifeboat in the First World War Gallery.
Gallipoli landing lifeboat in the First World War Gallery. Lifeboat No. 5 landed on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 at around 4.10 am. The lifeboat carried men of the 12th Battalion, the 3rd Field Ambulance and the 3rd Infantry Brigade Headquarters

shrine-of-remembrance-04
Australian Flying Corps pilot’s brevet with officers pips and farriers trade badge in the AFC and 4th Light Horse display in the First World War Gallery.

WW1 Aviators helmet, goggles and jacket in the First World War G
WW1 Aviators helmet, goggles and jacket in the First World War Gallery.

Australian uniform as worn on the Western Front circa 1917.
Australian uniform as worn on the Western Front circa 1917.

First Word War Gallery display.
First Word War Gallery display.

Italian, German and French uniforms in the Second World War Gall
Italian, German and French uniforms in the Second World War Gallery

Australian Kokoda / New Guinea display in the Second World War G
Australian Kokoda / New Guinea display in the Second World War Gallery.

shrine-of-remembrance-10
Shirt worn by Alf Argent (3RAR) as part of the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade, Malaya c. 1960.

shrine-of-remembrance-11
Viet Cong embroidered propaganda pendant of Ho Chi Minh in the “1966 The year that changed the world” temporary exhibition.

'Khats' by George Gittoes (March 1993)
‘Khats’ by George Gittoes (March 1993). Australian artist George Gittoes spent time in Somalia with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR). He accompanied soldiers from 1RAR on night patrols in Baidoa and was fascinated by their electronic night vision goggles. He observed that; “People through their goggles lose their humanity… it is like playing a virtual reality game…” Meanwhile a local man experiences his own state of altered reality by chewing the stimulant plant, khat.

shrine-of-remembrance-13
Plaque from Rwanda c. 1995 presented to WO2 Robert Burgess (UNAMIR II) and UNTAC (Cambodia) patches collected by Private David Jess in 1993.

Australian patches related to Iraq 2003 - 2008.
Australian patches related to the Iraq deployments 2003 – 2008.

Afghanistan & Iraq gallery.
Afghanistan & Iraq gallery.

shrine-of-remembrance-16
Disruptive Pattern Desert Uniform (DPDU) shirt worn by Sgt Ricky Morris whilst serving as an engineer in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009.

The Shrine of Remembrance is located on Birdwood Avenue and St Kilda Road, 1.3km from Flinders Street Railway Station. It can be reached by a nice 10 minute walk or by any St Kilda road south bound tram except route number 1. Disembark at tram stop 19 or the Domain Road interchange. If you are using the Melbourne Visitor Shuttle bus, disembark at Stop 13.

Admission is free and it is open from 10:00 until 17:00 (last entry 16:30) everyday except Good Friday and Christmas Day.  For more information visit the Shrine of Remembrance website here.

 

Tirailleurs Tonkinois (Lintap) circa 1885.

No.16 Tirailleurs Tonkinois (Lintap) circa 1885
This photograph, showing indigenous Indochinese infantrymen is number 16 in a series that was taken by one Dr Hocquard who was a medical officer stationed in French Indochina in the late 19th century. It was first published in Paris in 1886 as part of a series of works in “Le Tonkin, Vues Photographiques Prises Par Mr le Dr Hocquard, Médecin-Major” which was edited by Henri Cremnitz.

It is a Woodburytype (French: Photoglyptie) print which is a photo-mechanical process developed by Walter B. Woodbury in 1864. The process produces continuous tone images in slight relief. A chromated gelatin film is exposed under a photographic negative, which hardens in proportion to the amount of light. This is then developed in hot water to soften and remove all the unexposed gelatin, then dried. The remaining relief is pressed into a sheet of lead using a press that exerts 5000 psi resulting in an intaglio plate which is used as a mold and is filled with pigmented gelatin. The gelatin layer is then pressed onto a paper support.

The series of images that comprise “Le Tonkin, Vues Photographiques Prises Par Mr le Dr Hocquard, Médecin-Major” is held by the French national military museum, the Musée de l’Armée in Paris.

 

%d bloggers like this: