Art of War

Posted on August 31, 2013


According to the Australian War Memorial, this photo was taken on the 7th of June 1945, in the Soraken Area of Bougainville.

As I look at this scene, I wonder about the young soldiers watching the artist. Maybe they are taking a moment of calm reflection, as they consider the contrast of this moment to the horrors they have witnessed. Maybe they are envying the artists skill and thinking how much they would prefer the business of Art to the business of War. I think of one soldier in particular … he is standing, second in from the top left … my Grandfather.

Private Gordon Waterson was Forward Scout for his team in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. After some years, he contracted malaria and was eventually sent home for recuperation. The soldier that took his place was soon after killed in action. Even though malaria most likely saved his life, my Grandmother recalls, “… for the rest of his life he suffered bouts every August. He shivered all the time and he couldn’t stop no matter how many blankets I would put on him.”

This is the only photo of him in the Australian War Memorial collection and I believe there could be no better image to portray this young man (soon to be a father, grandfather, farmer and artist), caught up at the age of 19 into a World War.

Here is a photo of my sketch of him, beside a charcoal drawing he sketched of me (I mentioned it previously in my post “Me by Grand Me“).


“Well Mum, I will close now, so as to get this letter away as soon as possible. They tell us there is only a few small shells left, so there is no need to worry. I remain your ever fond and loving son, ‘Gordon!'”

~ The closing words of a letter home from the war by Pvt G.R. Waterson

Posted in: Nature, Objects, People