Story By Terri Cowley

From the weathered face of trooper Phillip Gentry peering from the top of a tank during the Vietnam War to Sergeant RE Taylor chewing the fat over the “Korean Ashes”, played in honour of the first English Test in 1954, these are the faces of Australia at war. This collection from the Australian War Memorial (AWM) reflects the particular contribution made by men from rural and regional Australia to both World Wars, Vietnam and Korea.

The AWM’s senior historian Peter Burness says many men left small places where the local store, school, tennis courts and sports field were the community’s hub. “After the war a war memorial or public roll of honour was added and the annual ANZAC Day service took a place,” he says. “Every country war memorial can tell many stories. More than in the cities, the monuments are likely to bear names of families who are still in the district. Each country war memorial is worthy of a moment’s reflection.”

Unlike earlier wars, such as the Boer War, in which special bushmen’s regiments were formed, country recruits fought alongside their city comrades, utilising their special skills with animals and equipment and a self-sufficiency typical of those who lived in remote areas.

Life as a soldier was not always difficult, as these images show, but many of the brave boys from the bush never returned.

This story excerpt is from Issue #64

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2009