Image: Gould’s illustration, ‘Yesterday, two of our pigeons failed to return,’ drawn on 3 January 1917.
By Julia Gilchrist
Captain Charles Henry Gould, DSO, MM, MBE (1884-1968) is a fascinating figure from our past. A country boy from Bendigo, Victoria, Charles attended the Bendigo Church of Christ with his brother Hubert Valentine Gould, from their Sunday School years until they enlisted together at the start of World War One. Charles and Hubert are on the church’s Honour Roll at the Temperance Hall in View Street, Bendigo.
Enlisting on 16 December 1914, Charles joined the Australian 6th Battalion. A dashing Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) who made good, Gould (pictured right) was an excellent artist, illustrator and wit with a pen or pencil.
Gould created the satirical Ce Ne Faire Rien (translated ‘No Worries’) news sheet with Frank Noonan, fellow 6th Battalion member, distributed every Friday for the troops in the trenches, even though they had been fighting and lost men in battle.
Gould’s illustrations share his experiences as a Sergeant before his promotion to Sergeant-Major. The tone of his work is influenced by his time fighting in Gallipoli with his battalion on 25 April, where he and his group took casualties, including Charles himself in early May at Cape Helles. Following recuperation from injuries, Charles re-joined his battalion in France, distinguishing himself with the Military Medal and being promoted to Lieutenant. Charles’ unit then went on to Belgium. Mentioned in despatches, Charles was promoted to Captain in May 1918.
Each edition of Ce Ne Faire Rien is held by the Australian War Memorial, running to a total of 191 pages. These works are classics of Australian trench humour, but the pictures wryly show the resilient mindset of our soldiers fighting amid terrible conditions in a truly horrible conflict.
Pictured right is the front page of the first issue of Ce Ne Faire Rien, Vol 1, No.1, France 1917. Charles’ illustration shows an Australian soldier with two French ladies, captioned: ‘What we thought this town would be like’, followed by a drawing of a soldier in his greatcoat, bearing a heavy rainstorm ‘What we got.’
Charles’ 6th Battalion colleague, Frank Noonan’s editorial, similarly tickles the funny bones:
It is generally admitted that it is almost impossible to find out how the war is going from ordinary newspaper reports. It is the aim of this paper to give the dinkum oil about everything. We have secured the services of several batmen so readers may be rest assured they will get value for their oscar.
Contributions of any kind are welcomed and may be handed in to HQ Details Office. Information of a personal nature need not be signed.
All articles contributed will be well paid for by a little stout man in a brown boxer hat, who will be at the corner of Collins & Swanston Street at 1400 on the second Friday apres la guerre (after the war). Readers are requested to send portraits of their cherie (sweetheart) for reproduction. Don’t miss our up-to-date serial story.
WAR NEWS: AUN Frightfulness
Fritz is now using the magnet and hammer shell in large numbers. The magnet draws the tin hat off and the hammer hits you on the napper. The RSM told me this.
Official communiques now disclose the reason of the Italian retreat. It appears that General Icecreamo [Mussolini] was in charge of the army that melted during the heat of the attack. Our communique from Sir Douglas Haig has not yet come to hand but don’t suppose there is much doing.
A classic illustration by Gould is the picture ‘Yesterday, two of our pigeons failed to return,’ drawn on 3 January 1917. It shows two soldiers cooking two pigeons in a drum to supplement their meat ration.
In a similar light-hearted tone, but with undercurrents of how the Australian soldiers felt about their ‘enemy’, Charles’s ‘Sporting page, Extra Special Editshun’ depicts four officers kicking back with a smoke being served beer by a cranky looking bartender.
Underneath, two men dressed in pyjamas and dressing gowns are kicking goals, clearly recuperating in hospital grounds or clearing station away from the front. It was drawn on Charles’s period of leave in Paris.
Ce Ne Faire Rien was and is extraordinary. Regular columns include ‘Battalion Beauties’, which Gould faithfully illustrated, showing the current wives and girlfriends of the men of the 6th Battalion, some of which were strictly women from Belgium only!
Humour was a vital aspect of the ordinary soldier’s experience of war. Noonan brought the words and Gould delivered poignant, humorous, black and white and colour illustrations.
The quality of each news sheet varied according to the month and period of fighting undergone – sometimes just one page is produced, owing to exhaustion and, possibly, the deaths of contributors, whilst other times there are four or five pages per issue, including double-page spreads.
There were also meaningful updates on ‘War News’ with blunt talk on what was happening at various fronts, without the censor’s input.
Overheard conversations and jokes were reproduced for the benefit of all readers, and the circulation numbers rose alarmingly (and satirically) to 5 million by the Armistice in 1918.
Ce Ne Faire Rien achieved a (satirical) circulation of over 4 million by 15 February 1918, the editorial commentary saying of Gould’s leave in Paris:
Last week, our artist was on leave in gay Paree, where he spent most of his time sketching the famous old churches for the benefit of our readers (pout etre, wee pout etre, no).
For several days he was shadowed by a mysterious individual until his suspicions being aroused, he pulled off the man’s false whisker, disclosing a notorious Hun spy, who had been detailed by the All Highest to watch him. Our artist stabbed him in the heart with a loaf of French bread.
His work was interrupted by the air raids during which he devoted himself to the care of distressed and frightened inhabitants (meaning the local women!)
He met a number of our Allies from USA. The Sammies were greatly interested in his stories of the part he had played in the Great War, they said the American papers had given the credit for most of his work to Dug Haig (General Sir Douglas Haig). He is convinced that he will be able to visit Paris again in about 5 years.
Ce Ne Faire Rien continued after the cessation of hostilities, as some troops weren’t on the ships home to Australia until well into 1919. The last edition of Ce Ne Faire Rien appears to have been published on 7 February 1919.
In between producing the regular newspaper (or ‘news sheet’ as Noonan and Gould referred to it), Gould created watercolours with ink and paper depicting the villages, towns and fields the 6th Battalion fought in.
In his illustrations, Charles drew German trenches, supply dumps, armaments, destroyed villages, rest places and landscapes of France and Belgium, chiefly from 1917-1918.
He painted the bombed village of Bazuel in northern France in 1918 (pictured below).
On 25 February 1919, Gould drew an evocative picture of surrendering German soldiers being led across a cornfield by a member of the 6th Battalion.
Smoke from fighting and destruction is in the background, a destroyed farmhouse building and the trenches in the foreground adding to the mood. The individual faces of the German soldiers depicted indicates Gould’s ability to distinguish and depict German soldiers as individuals, not as a mass soldiery.
The ordinary soldiers’ view on the generals’ grand defence of France includes a caricature of the French General Hindenburg fishing by a stream, a bullet cleanly passing through his fishing line, with the comment “Some break in the Hindenburg line.”
Some of his works were illustrated or painted in 1919, and the Australian War Memorial believes these post-war productions were based on earlier, possibly lost, illustrations Gould had made.
This includes other images, illustrations and drawings made by Gould held in the Australian War Memorial collection, including Harleville Wood, which depicts a battle scene in near Proyart, France. The sketch captures the moment when a tank crashed into a tree on a steep bank near the main road. In the right foreground are two German soldiers half hidden in a dugout, one is pictured with his rifle in hand.
Off to the left of the road is a soldier hidden behind a tree, likely to be a German soldier because of the colour of his uniform. Another can be seen in the far distance fleeing from the action on the main road, while a German lies wounded, possibly fatally, on the side of the road in the middle distance. Explosions and smoke can be seen in the background suggesting that the sketch captures a moment in the middle of the action.
Gould’s account of what happened at Harleville Wood is matter-of-fact:
“On the morning of August 23rd when the 1st Division attacked near Proyart, a number of tanks went ahead with the infantry. On the 6th Battalion sector one tank worked up on the right of the road, attacking the machine gun positions there.
On reaching the ravine the tank attempted to get down a steep bank onto the main road, in its descent it crashed over a shallow enemy dugout and squashed the occupants but hit up against a large tree, from which position it was unable to extricate itself.
A German anti-tank gun opened fire on the machine and a hit caused it to catch fire, The crew and a 6th Battalion digger who was inside with them, jumped out and climbed up the bank where they concealed themselves in a shell hole. They had left too hurriedly to take arms with them. Hearing men coming up the bank the “Aussie” picked up a Hun steel helmet and looked over the edge. A number of the enemy were approaching but on seeing the man in the steel helmet they turned and went away again.”
Gould’s illustration, Near Hargicourt [field kitchen], depicts a travelling kitchen behind the front line, concealed beneath a ridge. A glow from the cook’s fires warms the soldiers nearby. In the middle distance, three more soldiers approach from around the back of the ridge. The sky is a burning red colour from the fighting beyond the hills in the distance.
Gould describes what it was like in the middle of things:
“One of the battalion travelling kitchens waiting behind the line with meat cakes and hot cocoa for the troops as they are relieved in the front line. The men usually have several miles to march to the reserve or perhaps a rest area; they are tired and hungry, and the sight of the waiting cooker is always welcome. There is also a big, hot meal waiting for them when they reach the camp. A fitful light is thrown out by the star shells and gun flashes and at times the red glare of bursting shells. The men come along in small parties so as not to attract the attention of night flying aeroplanes…The work of the cooks of the battalion has always deserved praise.”
Bazuel, France. Depicts the village of Bazuel, in northern France. It is 4km south-east of Le Cateau-Cambrésis, and 25km south-east of Cambrai. The village pictured here has been severely bomb damaged. A German helmet lays abandoned in the foreground near a bomb crater.
Gould commented on the scene:
“The day the Armistice was signed the 6th Battalion were in the French village of Bazuel. The place had been damaged during the fighting of 1914 and during the German retreat in 1918 they made a stand here and the village suffered very much from the shell fire. However, much the houses were damaged they still possessed better shelter than we had in the trench fighting and it wasn’t many hours after their arrival before the troops had made themselves comfortable. The sketch was made from the rear of the 6th Bn headquarters. The refugees began to arrive before the battalion moved on and the ‘diggers’ helped them with food and in repairing some of the damage. In one instance a number of the boys pulled an old wagon loaded with bedding, for about 5 miles to make a destitute family more comfortable.”
Mazinghein, France. Depicts the village ruins of Mazinghien in northern France. It was after the Armistice when the artist’s battalion, the 6th, marched toward Belgium and arrived at this village on 22 November 1918. What houses hadn’t been destroyed by the fighting were badly bomb-damaged. The steeple was all that remained standing of the church. Most of the villagers had fled from the fighting, escaping the Germans. Gould recounts in the sketchbook that some villagers returned after Armistice. Despite having lost almost everything, the Battalion received a warm welcome. While the Battalion faced little by way of suitable billets, they helped the locals rebuild and weatherproof their houses as much as possible before moving on.
Foret de Mormal [where we might have fought]. Depicts soldiers at ease along a road through the Mormal Forest. One leans against a bank, his rifle on the ground, smoking a pipe. Another sits on the edge of road reading – a letter, perhaps. Pictured in the middle distance are a couple of horses and more soldiers trailing round the bend of the road.
Gould describes his illustration:
“A ten minute halt on the outskirts of Mormal Forest. This place was extremely difficult to attack and in the effort to dislodge the enemy the forest was drenched with gas shells. It was towards this place the 1st Australian Division was moving when the Armistice was signed and we expected that it would be our task to drive the enemy out. Later we moved forward to take up reserve positions in Belgium and we had a short rest in the place we might have fought over. When on the move all troops are halted at 10 minutes to the clock hour, to enable the men to have a short rest. They fall in and move off again on the hour.”
Tailor’s and Hatter’s shop of the 6th Battalion. Depicts interior of Tailor’s and Hatter’s shop with three men in uniform sitting on boxes waiting, while two men stand over a workbench near the window. A sewing table is partially seen in the bottom left corner and there are three stacks of felt hats on a shelf along the back wall. A pot belly stove with its door half open, emanates a red-hot heat.
Sars-Poteries, France. Depicts a railway yard with piles of ammunition in Sars-Poteries, France. A lone Australian soldier stands with his back turned looking across the yard, his hands in his pockets, wearing a slouch hat. Train carriages on railway tracks are situated on both sides of the yard; wagons are pictured in the middle distance and buildings in the background suggest the yard is on the outskirts of town.
Gould wrote that the yard had previously been used by the Germans as an ammunitions dump:
“All the fields around the station were covered with piles of shells of all kinds. These piles are kept as far apart as possible owing to the danger of bombing by aircraft. The enemy had evidently meant to put up a very strong resistance on a line a few miles in advance of this place as there is sufficient ammunition on this dump alone to last for some time. The dump had evidently only been established a few days prior to its capture by the British forces and the enemy left so hurriedly that he had been unable to destroy it.”
Solre-le-Chateau, France. Depicts a desolate landscape in Solre-le-Chateau with a large bomb crater traversing diagonally across the centre of the image. Solre-le-Chateau is a village in the north of France. Pictured is a German ammunition train, having been blown off its rails. In the foreground are unexploded shells. In the distance is the purple haze of an indistinguishable landscape against a clear blue sky.
Sars-Poteries, France [Ration dump for the 2nd Infantry Brigade]. Depicts a ration dump for the 2nd Infantry Brigade at Sars-Poteries, in the north of France. Five Australian soldiers are pictured wearing heavy coats, suggestive of the cold weather in December; amongst them are children from the local village. The scene is friendly and relaxed. One soldier stands cradling a small child in his right arm with young boy standing alongside; another soldier sits in the ration wagon holding the reins in one hand while smoking a cigarette; and three other soldiers are depicted in various poses with two other local children among them.
Sars-Poteries [The Quartermaster’s store]. Depicts two soldiers dividing up rations for the 6th Battalion in the Quartermaster’s store, which was situated in a few rooms of a deserted French chateau in Sars-Poteries. Pictured is a German machine gun, which was captured by the battalion on 23 August 1918. Leaning up against the back wall is a large wicker shell carrier, which is mentioned in the caption as being intended for the Australian War Memorial. The French word “boche” is often used to refer to someone who is a rascal; stubborn, hard-headed. At the beginning of the First World War, it was identified as a disparaging term applied to German soldiers. During the course of the war, it was adopted by British and Australian troops in a similar to the term Hun.
Sars-Potieries, France [Park of German wagons near the railway station]. Depicts a large park near the railway station in Sars-Poteries with a range of German wagons. Pictured are ammunition wagons, supply wagons, travelling kitchens, observation wagons and repair vehicles. The railway station can be seen in the background against an indistinguishable landscape. Gould said there were also piles of steel helmets, bomb and flare throwers, respirators and other Hun equipment.
Lining up for tea during the noon halt; getting ready to move, the quarter call. Illustration on the left is titled ‘Lining up for tea during the noon halt’ and depicts soldiers lining up holding their mugs, some smoke a pipe, while one looks directly at the viewer. The landscape bleeds into the illustration on the right, titled ‘Getting ready to move, the quarter call’ and pictures soldiers getting ready to move on as they hoist their packs on their backs. The 6th Battalion colour patch is visible on the left arm of several of the soldiers.
Gould described his battalion’s routine:
“The Battalion crossed the French Frontier and marches into Belgium on the 16th December. During such marches a halt is usually made daily about noon, for a rest and a meal. The evening before the cooks prepare meat cakes, sandwiches, cold meat and pickles or some other suitable meal. At 11 o’clock next day while on the march the fires are lit in the travelling kitchens. Then, when the halt is made at noon, tea is prepared in a few minutes and before 10 minutes have passed, the troops who have piled their arms and discarded their kits, are all busy eating. Afterwards they rest and smoke until the bugle blows the quarter call, when everyone replaces their equipment, cookers are made ready to move and the officers see that the ground has been left clean.”
Couillet, near Charleroi, Belgium. Depicts Australian officers and Belgian councillors entertaining themselves with song after the New Year dinner given by the officers of the 6th Battalion to the Burgomaster (town mayor) and councillors of Couillet. One councillor stands on a dais at the front, holding a song sheet in one hand and gazing out across the room with his mouth open wide in song. In front of him are four Australian officers (visible is the 6th Battalion colour patch on the left arm of the officer’s uniforms), and four other Couillet councillors; one raises his glass toward the performance, another has a cigar in his mouth, two of the officers sing along and the others stand by and watch on. The councillors are characterised by their dark green suits, white shirts and green tie. Each sports a moustache and two wear round spectacles.
Gould said of the evening:
“The relations existing between the Australian troops and the Belgians in the towns and villages in which the units are billeted, from time to time, are of the most cordial description. The inhabitants are genuinely pleased to see us and the easy-going nature of the Australians make them particularly welcome after 4 years of German rule. Dances and other public entertainments are frequently given in our honour and we in return give some similar fete, which is always a success. The illustration refers to a dinner given by the officers of the 6th Bn. to the Burgomaster and councillors of Couillet on New Year’s night. After dinner, speeches and songs made the evening pass pleasantly. The troops also make a home in the houses of the people to the great enjoyment of all concerned and a Belgian family on the way to church or on a visit to friends is usually accompanied by one or more diggers.”
Couillet is a relatively small village south of Charleroi, the third largest city in Belgium, which is situated in Wallonië, the French-speaking part of Belgium.
Couillet, Belgium. Depicts destroyed German munitions train carriages in the railway yard at Couillet. In the foreground is a mass of twisted metal, only the wheels suggestive of their previous purpose. In the distance are hills, below which are some factory-like buildings and a spherical structure that could possibly be the town incinerator.
Gould’s caption reads:
“German munition trains destroyed in the railway yard at Couillet. Our bombing machine attacked this place up to the last day of hostilities and a bomb killed several Germans, at the entrance to the yard on the 16th November. Several train loads of shells were blown up and the explosion set fire to other trucks containing stores and aeroplanes. The fire did not spread to all the trains in the yard and when our troops arrived here there were train loads of German Army equipment, rifles, bayonets, clothing, guns, aeroplanes and engines, dynamos and electric stores of all kinds, also coal and timber, which was used in making troops more comfortable in their billets. We also got Boche beds, mattresses and stoves, all of which came in very handy as the weather at this time is pretty cold.”
Couillet, Belgium [Some of the German guns found in the railway station yard at Couillet]. The guns are painted in camouflage, exhibiting the German techniques of the time. Buildings are visible in the background.
Couillet, Belgium [Depicts German guns found on one of the trains at Couillet]. Abandoned by the Germans, many were in perfect working order. In the foreground is depicted a 5.9 howitzer.
Couillet, France [Aerial bomb damage on an ammunition train]. Depicts aerial bomb damage on ammunition train. Pictured is a mass of twisted and melted metal, carriages made indecipherable, and ammunition rendered indistinguishable. A crater has formed down the middle and in the sky in the distance is a grey and bleak.
Gould describes it as such:
“This sketch will give some idea of the effect caused when an ammunition train is hit by an aerial bomb but strange freaks occur and sometimes one truck will be found twisted, torn and burnt but none of the shells exploded, while in the trucks around it every one has burst.”
Not titled [self-portrait]. Portrait of a soldier [possibly a self-portrait] in uniform smoking a pipe; his Rising Sun collar badge and ribbon bar are depicted; he looks directly at the viewer.
Merris [German prisoners]. Depicts eight German prisoners, their hands up in surrender, being led across a corn field by a member of the 6th Battalion. Two other members of the Battalion poke out of the trench in the foreground, two bomb craters nearby suggest they were in the line of fire. One leans over the edge with his rifle pointed at the approaching prisoners (the 6th Bn patch visible on his right arm); while the other looks away, his rifle at ease as he beckons the rest of the battalion. In the background is a bomb-damaged farmhouse and plumes of smoke still lingering above from the recent fighting.
Gould recounted the events depicted in this illustration:
“On the night of 9th July, 1918, ‘C’ Company, 6th Battalion, in conjunction with the flanking Company of the 4th Battalion, carried out a small attack on the outskirts of MERRIS; a salient in our line was ‘squeezed out’, and the line pushed forward over a slight crest. We thus denied the Boche observation of our rear, whilst we obtained command of all his country right back to the Outtersteene Ridge. Next day a very daring little enterprise was carried out by the N.C.Os in ‘C’ Company., Sergeant Lockhart / and Lance Corporal (‘Blue’) Farrell. Moving out at about 3pm. from their newly established post, a stone’s throw from the mass of crumbled wicks – all that remains of the once smiling village of Merris – they pushed out through the tall standing crops of corn, looking for signs of the enemy. After some time, they located a post, and in Red-Indian style stalked it, rushed it, overpowered the N.C.O. who rushed to his M.G., and brought in all the occupants of the post – 8 startled men – with their two machine guns. This episode illustrates the spirit of the Battalion at this time – all were out for adventure, and all day long, platoons had men out in search of unwary Boche. In this way a few more prisoners were brought in, besides a number of [machine guns], whose owners considered discretion to be the better part of valour.”
Outtersteen is a village in northern France, about 8km from the Belgian border. It is significant because the 1st, 2nd and 53rd Australian Clearing Stations were established there with the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) in August 1917, the first two of these remaining until March 1918.
Harleyville Wood, near Proyart, France [chalk quarry]. Depicts the chalk quarry in the ravine, which was 150 yards from the front line in the Harleyville Wood, near Proyart, France. The quarry was used by the Medical Officer (MO) as a regimental aid post, and by the Quartermaster (QM) as a ration dump.
Subsequently, it was a target for enemy attack, as Gould recorded:
“On the morning of August 23rd,” Gould reports in his sketchbook, “the 2nd Brigade attacked the well-prepared German positions in the woods and along the ravine here. The 6th Battalion advanced on each side of the road and although their strength (including transport personnel) was only about 400, they took all their objectives and captured 800 Germans with 4 x 77cm guns, 1 x 9″ trench mortar and two about 8 inch, 11 x 75cm mortars and an anti-tank gun also 57 machine guns and German war material of all kinds; after capturing the positions we were subjected to heavy HE and gas shelling for 3 days and had heavy casualties from the gas. The sketch shows a chalk quarry in the ravine and about 150 yards behind the front line. This was used by the M.O. as the regimental aid port and by the Q.M. as the ration dump. It received constant attention from the enemy guns. In this action the medical officer was gassed and of 5 company quartermaster sergeants, 4 became casualties, one was killed, 2 gassed and one wounded. A shell hole can be seen in the roof of one of the huts.”
In the illustration, smoke still billows from a crater at the bottom of the quarry, a soldier crouches at the entrance of one of the huts, the roof of which still bears evidence of a shell hole.
Sambreton, France. Depicts a member of the 6th battalion standing behind an overturned German gun that has been severely bomb-damaged. The dead bodies of two Germans can be partially seen; and a German dugout is depicted in the bank behind the gun.
Whilst the sketch is dated 13 November 1919, Gould describes surrounding events, which indicate that the timeframe was of the Armistice on 11 November 1918, saying:
“The day after the Armistice was signed the 6th Battalion marched to the little village of Sambreton. Fighting had been heavy here and most of the houses were damaged, but the farmhouse occupied by headquarters had only been hit at one corner. The family returned while we were there and were evidently delighted to have us in the place. Behind the farm were a number of German guns, some of which had been hit by our shell fire. The sketch shows the damage caused to gun and crew when a HE shell makes a direct hit. The Huns had not had much time to prepare their positions, but they had not failed to dig dugouts or funk holes, one of which is shown in the bank behind the overturned gun. The Battalion reached here on the 12th and left again 13th November.”
NB. Descriptions of Charles Gould’s war artistry were documented by the Australian War Memorial – reproduced with deep gratitude.
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