Soldier's Gallipoli photo album opened for all

By Rowena Orejana

Arthur Aubrey Perry was a very outgoing sort of a guy, a bit cheeky and always regaled his grandchildren with outlandish stories.

"He was bald. He told us when he was a boy he put his head out of a train window and all his hair fell off and never grew back. Because we were kids, we never thought to question it. We just believed him," says Lisa Perry.

One thing he never spoke of, though, was the horrors of the war. Mr Perry survived, but many of his mates did not. He took photos of life in the trenches at Gallipoli, compiled them in an album and left his memories stored in the book.

It was much later, and after a lot of family friction, that his grandchildren, Lisa and Anna Washer, got their hands on the album and other war memorabilia. They have loaned his album, containing more tan 100 pictures to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. They've also loaned the original negatives, his camera and medals he received for his heroic efforts during the war.

"We always say 'lest we forget'," says Mrs Washer."We thought unless the album is shared, it could be forgotten. It is a pictorial memorial to those who gave up their life during the wars."

Mr Perry joined the Territorial Force as a bugler in 1906 and later transferred to the 4th Otago Regiment in 1911.

On August 15, 1914, he received a 'Notice to Mobilise'. He left with Anzac forces on October 14 on the troop ship Ruapehu, with 31 officers, 785 fighting men and 244 horses. Mr Perry landed in Gallipoli five hours after the initial landing on April 25, 1916.

"We have a lot of interesting albums here in the museum. This one offers some fresh images and interesting shots of soldiers' life in the trenches. What is interesting is he had put full captions in the photographs. All images have been identified," says Gordon Maitland, pictorial curator.

There are shots of Mr Perry with a machine gun, the men at lunch, in the trenches and of Anzac Cove.

"I don't think they were allowed to bring cameras but most soldiers found a way to bring them," says Mr Maitland.

He described the loan as "a great example of the Museum's connection to the community and the part individuals play in helping us to share the stories of our identity."

Mr Perry attained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant during World War I and received the Gallipoli medal, 1914-15 NZEF medal, 1914-18 Victory Medal, Efficient Service Medal and 12 years Territorial Long Service medal.

After the war, he lived a long and full life. He worked for Briscoes as a manager in Christchurch and retired in 1958. He was also the head of the Freemasons in the area for many years.

"We have very fond memories of him. But he never did talk about the war. A lot of them never did. I think it was just too awful for him," says Ms Perry. "My father, though, Graeme Lewis, was so into it."

Anzac CoveMr Perry's granddaughters describe him as a humanitarian and a lover of people. Apparently, he was a romantic, too.

"At 81, he rekindled an old flame, years after my grandmother died. Her name was Rowie. He was at Arrowtown and there was a row of trees and he was giving her a kiss under every tree. He was proposing to her,"says Ms Perry.

However, the excitement was apparently too much. Mr Perry died shortly after the proposal was accepted. They never got married.

Ms Perry and Mrs Washer says they have loaned the album to the Museum so that people would not forget his contribution to the country.

"Most of those people are gone now," says Mrs Washer. "This is for all the people who sacrificed their lives."

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- The Aucklander

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