A Hundred Years On From The Horror Of Gallipoli, A Flag From The Battlefield Returns Home

Right: Battle of Gallipoli Left: WWI Red Cross poster
Right: Battle of Gallipoli Left: WWI Red Cross poster

A Red Cross flag has taken over 100 years and thousands of kilometers to return home to Australia from Gallipoli, Turkey where it flew over the battlefield in 1915.

The flag had been owned by the 3rd Field Ambulance C-section, largely composed of West Australians, who were among the first ashore at Gallipoli, providing the 3rd Infantry Brigade with support. Douglas McWhae from the Maylands brought the flag back from Gallipoli, but it disappeared after his death.

Western Australia Historical Society Curator Wendy Legg serendipitously came across an online blog last year that revealed the flag’s location in Edmonton, Canada. It had been bought by a military collector and historian.

He had paid $25,000 to buy it since he realized the historical significance, she said. She was able to put together the flag’s mystery trip across the world.  It had wound up in a storage area in North Perth’s Beatty swimming pool frequented by McWhae then discovered by a young boy who had been tasked with removing boxes of rubbish at the building. Thirty years later he moved to Canada and sold the flag to a private trader, ABC News reported.

Wendy Legg, the Historical Society Curator, started a campaign to buy the flag from the collector, receiving funds from the WA Museum and community funds. One of the donors was George Roscoe, who had his own connection to the 3rd Infantry Brigade.  His father, William Roscoe, was the unit’s bugler. That instrument is a part of the current State collection and had been the in unit’s Field Ambulance C-Section.

He recently donated his father’s medals to the collection. They have 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren and wish to have the items available to them, so they appreciate what the soldiers did for them and understand the story, Roscoe explained.

The Red Cross flag, medals, and bugle are being considered as a part of the display in the new WA Museum due to open in just over three years.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE