ELIZABETH MCCARTHY (NEE JESS)
Tending the Graves, Shrapnel Gully 1915
57 x 77cm
This drawing is of the Australian soldiers’ paying respects to their mates at one of the Australian grave sites at Gallipoli. Evacuation was planned to occur December 1915.
Upon hearing of their imminent evacuation; “the consideration which did go straight to every man’s heart was the tragedy of confessing the failure after so many and well-loved comrades had given their lives in the effort.”
Charles Bean also noted from then on, the activity at the cemeteries;
“For days after the breaking of the news there was never absent from the cemeteries, men by themselves, or in two’s or threes, erecting new crosses or tenderly “tidying up” the grave of a friend.” My drawing is about this tending of the graves. On the right, at the entrance to the grave site, some of the soldiers are moving off. One turns back and hesitates to leave; he may have felt as Sergeant Alfred Guppy did when he wrote in his Gallipoli diary; “sleep sound old friends, the keenest smart, which more than failure wounds the heart, is thus to leave you, thus to part.”
This parting with the diggers has remained in the Australian consciousness, and we share it with the men who returned. It is the heart of our Anzac tradition, and why, on that day, we march with them, why we stand and honour them. We are with them, and we must remember them always, we must never forget.