Ashley Naylor Visual Art and Reflection
Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery, in which 2,758 Commonwealth servicemen are either buried or commemorated. Approximately half the graves are those of unidentified bodies: of those identified, the majority belong to Australian soldiers. The cemetery is enclosed within The Pozieres Memorial, near the commune of Pozieres, in the Somme department of France.
Image source: Lauren Berwick 2016 PAMS photos
Premier's Anzac Memorial Scholarship 2016
“Fromelles was arguably the worst night in Australian history... But who remembers it? Who goes there? Not many, if you look in the visitors’ book at the Fromelles cemetery.”-excerpt from Les Carlyon’s 2005 Anzac Day Oration.
This disheartening question and answer featured in Les Carlyons Anzac Day oration was part of the inspiration for my major work - I wanted to prove him wrong, if only in the slightest. Who remembers it - one of the bloodiest nights of war we have participated in? We all should. The aim of my major work, in the form of two portraits, is to extend that necessity to remember connections to World War One as much as I can and to present the thesis that remembrance should be everyday via presentations and speeches in my local area- possibly further if given the chance.
These two images were chosen as my personal connection to this soldier is quite strong as I had to research him thoroughly before the tour. In the first sketch, titled “Never Forgotten”, Captain Elwyn Roy King (DSO, DFC) is featured, and in the second is a self-portrait, titled “Always Remembered”.
Soldier Research: Captain Elwyn Roy King (DSO, DFC)
Elwyn Roy King was born to Elizabeth King and Richard King on the 13th May 1894 in Bathurst, NSW.
He worked in Forbes as a motor mechanic before enlisting into the AIF under the name Roy King on the 20th of July 1915 at the age of 21.
He embarked for Egypt aboard the HMAT Themistocles as reinforcement for the 12th regiment Light Horse Brigade. He joined the 12th Light Horse Brigade in February 1916. In May that year he was involved in the defence of the Suez Canal and patrols in the Sinai Desert.
In January 1917 he transferred to the Australian Flying Corps and was later posted to Britain to join 4th Squadron as an air mechanic. In August he was assigned to a training squadron and gained his wings and officers commission in October. He initially had trouble landing as his burly frame couldn’t fit in the Sopwith Camel cockpits easily- this problem was later resolved when the squadron moved onto Sopwith Snipes. In November he joined the 4th squadron as a pilot.
In March 1918 his squadron was posted to France on active duty- coincidently on the same day as the German Operation Michael and hence the start of the Spring Offensive. He was promoted to rank of Lieutenant on the 1st of June.
Over the duration of the war, he clocked up 26 confirmed air victories- the second highest in Australia. These helped him be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and a Distinguished Service Order, as well as a mention in despatches.
His squadron was involved in the Battle of Amiens. After a successful raid of Harbourdins airfield he reportedly waved at the girls in the street because they were probably quite scared, which I feel is a great indication of his character and genuine Aussie spirit and kind heartedness.
After the war he became a civilian pilot and also enlisted and served in WW2. He died of cerebral oedema at a base in Point Cook on the 28th November 1941 at the age of 47. He was survived by his wife and children, whose names are unknown.
By researching King, I feel like I have come to know him as a person, not just a tiny speck amongst the masses that fought, just like him. This connection to him and understanding of his character is apparent in my artwork, where I feel I have conveyed his good-natured and friendly inner spirit. The use of plain graphite pencils is an indication of what would have been used for sketches in that time period - also a metaphorical nod towards the bleakness of that era.
In comparison to “Never Forgotten”, I composed “Always Remembered” from an image taken in Passchendaele, where we dressed as a soldier for a day. I drew this image much the same as I drew Kings portrait - same pencils, sizing and composition - to try simulate a further connection and represent the links from the Great War to now. The only differences between the two images are the subjects, and the tone of paper. For King, I used a slightly warmer white to indicate age, whereas for my self-portrait I utilised a crisper sheet to show modernity.
My intention for these artworks are for people to draw connections and reflect on their personal experiences and links to the Great War. These connections need to be established and maintained throughout our lifetimes for generations to come to reflect on the blood bath we call world war one. Remembrance is a key factor of life today and so every year we hold ceremonies to glorify the Anzac Spirit, we visit war memorials and research battles and soldiers. We sit around with grandparents and listen eagerly as they regale us with tales of lost relatives. These artworks were created to serve as a reminder that these sorts of connections to World War One do exist and should be sombrely celebrated, as exemplified by my recent personal experiences.
The audience for these images is intended to be school children between the ages of 12-18 years as this is the age where they are easily influenced and can start habits of a lifetime - remembrance and respect for our soldiers, past and present.
These two artworks were created to portray the connections that we, as the next generation to carry on the remnants of the Anzac spirit in some aspect of our lives, have to World War One and the fallen soldiers involved. Remembrance should not be once a year, where we recite the Ode and listen to renditions of In Flanders Fields. Remembrance should be every day, and we should no longer have to ask ourselves who remembers Australia’s contribution to the war, but who doesn’t.
Ashley Naylor's Facebook page documenting the Tour