Behind the front lines of the Somme, Vignacourt was a staging point, casualty clearing station and recreation area for troops of all nationalities moving up to and then back from the battlefields on the Somme.
Remember me: the lost diggers of Vignacourt tells the story of how one enterprising local family took the opportunity of this passing traffic to establish a business taking portrait photographs.
The Thuilliers, a husband-and-wife team established a business taking portrait photographs in a makeshift studio in their stable yard, just off the main street of Vignacourt.
These photographs enabled soldiers to maintain a fragile link with loved ones at home. Captured on glass, printed into postcards and posted home, the photographs have endured to tell the story of Australian Diggers in their own voices.
“The enduring appeal of photographic portraits is that they enable us to imagine the characters and their life stories,” said Dr Janda Gooding, Australian War Memorial exhibition curator.
“For this exhibition, we have uncovered the identities of some of these soldiers, and their personal stories are truly remarkable.”
The Thuillier collection covers many of the significant aspects of Australian involvement on the Western Front, from military life to the friendships and bonds formed between the soldiers and civilians.
The exhibition features prints of 74 of the over 800 glass-plate negatives which were generously donated to the Memorial by Mr Kerry Stokes AC in 2012.
Remember Me: the lost diggers of Vignacourt will be on exhibition at the Queensland Museum until 20 July 2014, and then will visit 22 locations around Australia over the next four years of ANZAC commemorations.
For more information and touring locations, visit the Australian War Memorial website for details.
Image: Group portrait of members of the 2nd Pioneer Battalion Band. From the Thuillier collection of glass plate negatives. Taken by Louis and Antoinette Thuillier in Vignacourt, France during the period 1916 to 1918.