Edward Willis

75 YEARS ON - ART AND PHOTOGRAPHS IN THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL COLLECTION RELATED TO THE CAMPAIGN IN PORTUGUESE TIMOR – CHARLES BUSH AND KEITH DAVIS

75 YEARS ON

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ART AND PHOTOGRAPHS IN THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL COLLECTION RELATED TO THE CAMPAIGN IN PORTUGUESE TIMOR – CHARLES BUSH AND KEITH DAVIS

A major part of the art and photographs in the Australian War Memorial collection related to the 2nd Independent Company campaign in Portuguese Timor were created by two men who were members of the Australian Military History Section mission that went there in late 1945 and early 1946, namely war artist Charles Bush and photographer Keith Davis.  The artistic and photographic contributions of these two men significantly add to the historical archive of the campaign not only by providing visual records of the places where the Doublereds lived and fought but also of some of the Timorese criados and Portuguese deportados who provided such essential support.  The mission was guided by Sergeant George Milsom, originally of the 2/40 Battalion, who joined the 2nd Independent Company after escaping from Dutch Timor.

THE AUSTRALIAN MILITARY HISTORY SECTION TIMOR MISSION

Historian William Bradley Horton has recorded the background to the origin of much of the art and photographs in the Australian War Memorial collection related to the 2nd Independent Company campaign in Portuguese Timor.  These invaluable resources were created by two men who were members of the Military History Section who went there in late 1945, namely war artist Charles Bush and photographer Keith Davis [1]:

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CHARLES BUSH – THE ARTIST

The Australian War Memorial provides this biography of Charles Bush [2]

 

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CASE STUDY OF CHARLES BUSH’S TIMOR ART WORK - HMAS Voyager wrecked and burning at Betano Bay

Professional artist, Michael Grant, prepared the following case study of one of Charles Bush’s Timor art works that usefully demonstrates his approach and technique [3]:

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VALUE OF THE BUSH TIMOR ART WORKS AND DAVIS PHOTOGRAPHS

Emily Wubben, in a recent blog post on the AWM website tilted Art of Nation: Insightful 'then and now' comparisons made the following opening statement:

‘The Memorial’s online, interactive exhibition Art of Nation will enable users to compare field sketches by Australia’s First World War official war artists with contemporary digital imagery of the same locations in Google street view.  Comparing ‘then and now’ images encourages a ‘spot the difference’ method of analysis, reminiscent of puzzle books in which images are replicated with minor changes to be discovered.  These comparisons invite us to delve beyond surface level visual analysis and consider the history of these places’. [4]

For the descendants of 2nd Independent Company veterans like myself, the history of the places in Timor depicted by Bush and photographed by Davis is put in a more personal context, in that they portray locations that were familiar to the men of the unit and mentioned in historical accounts.  The paintings, drawings and photographs also help present day visitors to Timor-Leste to find and relate to these locations, including particular buildings (where they still exist).  Photographic comparisons can be made to assess how much they have changed over 75 years.

Bush depicted and Davis photographed a number of these locations including Dili, Same, Hatu-Udo, Fatu-Bessi, Ossu, Mape, Taibessi, Maubisse and Bobonaro.

There are 66 art works by Charles Bush in the AWM collection related to the Timor campaign.  A small number of them have been digitised and are available for download from the AWM website.  None of his paintings are on public display in the Timor component of the Second World War galleries.  Access to works of art not on display in the galleries is available by appointment.

REFERENCES

[1] William Bradley Horton ‘Through the eyes of Australians: the Timor Area in the early postwar period’ Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies (Waseda University) No. 12 (March 2009), pp.268-269. https://waseda.repo.nii.ac.jp/?action=repository_action_common...
[2] https://www.awm.gov.au/people/P65029/; See also David Keys ‘Bush, Charles William (1919–1989)’ Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007 http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bush-charles-william-12272
[3] https://www.awm.gov.au/blog/2016/02/05/hmas-voyager-wrecked-and-burning-betano-bay/; http://www.michaelgrant.com.au/index.html.
[4] https://www.awm.gov.au/blog/2017/02/23/art-nation-insightful-then-and-now-comparisons/

 


121466 - Hatu Udo, Portuguese Timor.  1945-12-15.  Lieutenant C. Bush, Official War Artist attached to the Military History Section Field Team in Timor, making a preliminary sketch in Hatu Udo. (Photographer Sgt K. Davis).jpg

125263 - Dili, Portuguese Timor.  1946-01-12.  Sergeant (Sgt) Milsom, Military History Section Field Team, talking to Manuberi who was his creado.jpg

ART26154 – Charles Bush Manuberi from Ainaro.jpg

P02325.007 – c. September 1945 - Arafura sea.  Informal outdoor portrait of Sergeant Keith B. Davis, Military History Section (MHS) official photographer, sitting on the deck of HMAS Parkes.png

ART26319 – Charles Bush Panorama of the Dili area 1945.jpg

Recent photo taken from approximately the same location as Bush’s panorama of Dili.jpg

125284 Ainaro, Portuguese Timor, October 1945 - Photographer Sgt K.B. Davis. .jpg

ART26328 Charles Bush Church at Ainaro October 1945.jpg

Church at Ainaro – photographed 27 April 2014.jpg

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