I’ve been working away on Sand in the Apricot Jam

Panel 1 – Evacuation of the wounded from Gallipoli to the desert of Sinai

“…some of the men as soon as they dropped asleep woke screaming through shock; none were undressed – at least very few by that time. They were so dead beat we wrapped them in blankets in their filthy clothes poor fellows and let them rest. Faces shot away, arms, legs shots everywhere…” – Sister A M Cameron describing her encounters with the seriously wounded days after the first landing on the 25th April 1915 at Gallipoli

I didn’t want to concentrate a lot of attention on Gallipoli in this project as I feel it is a campaign well addressed, but I wanted to acknowledge the New Zealand Mounted Rifles (NZMR) contribution (or should I say sacrifice) there. Technically it wasn’t part of the Middle East campaign but many of the soldiers of the NZMR Expeditionary Force who survived that dreadful campaign went on to fight in Sinai and Palestine.

For many New Zealander Gallipoli is held as an historical event that has cemented New Zealand as a nation. Strangely so, in some respects, as it was such a disastrous campaign of the Great War and because it was on the shores of Turkey so far from home. But I understand how from reading Terry Kinloch’s book ‘Echoes of Gallipoli’ that it was this distance from home and these conditions endured that led to the New Zealanders identifying themselves as being somewhat different to their Australian and British counterparts.

The conditions at Gallipoli were horrendous. Not only did the men endure the constant sniper attacks their time there was so dramatically contrasted by moments of shear boredom with the fear and exhilaration of close range fighting. They had to deal with difficult terrain and squalid trench conditions, and poor food – but the flies! Attracted by the multitude of dead bodies the flies came bringing with them disease as they flew from the decomposing bodies to the food the men were trying to eat. Many men succumbed to disease.

“They lived with the dead and dined with disease” – anonymous from a poem about Gallipoli.

The August Offensive was an attempt to end this dreadful campaign, according to the Australian War Memorial website:

“The August Offensive was the last major attempt made by the Allied forces at Gallipoli to break the stalemate that had persisted since the landings on 25 April 1915. The plan involved a series of thrusts being made out of the ANZAC position to seize high points along the Sari Bair range, which dominated the Gallipoli peninsula. These operations would be supported by several diversionary attacks along the existing ANZAC frontline.”

The offensive ended in many casualties being sustained. Jack was shot in the left thigh during this offensive on the 6th or 7th of August 1915. I wondered how on earth they got the wounded off the peninsula to the care they needed and the extra suffering the men had to go through as they were manhandled off the slopes of Gallipoli to the shores and on to the hospital boats. Eventually ending up in hospitals in Egypt, Malta, and Lemos as well as England and Australia. Great distances to be traveled for the sick and wounded.

The 1st panel starts to take shape

I like to build up my artwork with many layers of paint, some of the features you may see in these initial photos of the development may only just be evident under future layers of paint. I enjoy the idea that the work will have history under the layers, to me that adds to the visual narrative.

Gallipoli starts to take form
Gallipoli starts to take form
Evacuating the wounded from Gallipoli takes shape
Evacuating the wounded from Gallipoli takes shape

It was after my grandfather recovered from his injuries sustained at Gallipoli that he rejoined his squadron, and his horse, in the Sinai to go on to fight in this and the Palestine campaign. For this reason I decided to have this panel representing a transition from Galipoli to the desert as it seeks to acknowledge the differences in the two.

Detail of panel one showing soldiers charging over the parapet
Detail of panel one showing soldiers charging over the parapet

It’s been a busy week in the studio this week as the evacuation of the wounded takes shape on the first if the four panels.

I spend a lot of time pouring over historic photos and composing poses from images acquired from the internet. I was lucky enough to find some film footage of Gallipoli that we’d recorded off the TV years ago. Moving images offer just that little bit more than stills can, especially as photos can tend to be more posed than action shots. With the film footage I freeze the image and paint from that, I’ve even been known to take pictures of this stills on television set to make this process a little easier!

This trawling over the images does come at a price as I’ve been moved to tears on a number of occasions, feeling like a witness to the slaughter of these young, and in the case of Gallipoli often inexperienced men. It’s strange I guess tears falling for those killed so long ago but you can’t help but imagine your own brothers, sons, in the figures you see fall before you. Lets hope lads I can do you a good service.

The worn out medic starts to take his weary form
The worn out medic starts to take his weary form


Panel 1 development
Panel 1 development
Panel 1 develops
Panel 1 develops

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