'Courtney’s Post, Gallipoli', by Horace Millichamp Moore-JonesMay 6th, 2016 By Oliver Stead
Only days before Anzac Day 2016 the Alexander Turnbull Library was fortunate to acquire a rare watercolour by the New Zealand war artist, Horace Moore-Jones, Courtney’s Post, Gallipoli.
Horace Millichamp Moore-Jones (1868-1922) is among the most acclaimed and revered war artists associated with the contribution of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force to the Gallipoli Campaign during WWI. Born in Worcestershire, England, Moore-Jones emigrated to New Zealand with his parents around 1885, settling in Auckland, where his father worked as an engineer and his mother as Principal of the Ladies’ College, Remuera, a posh private school for girls. Horace studied art in Auckland under Auckland painter and sculptor Anne Dobson, and married her in 1891, moving with her to Sydney where he established himself as a professional artist. Tragically, two of the couple’s children died in infancy and Anne herself died in 1901, leaving a third child, Norma, in Moore-Jones’s sole care.
Moore-Jones exhibited with the Art Society of New South Wales 1899-1902. In 1905 he was re-married, to Florence Mitchell, at Bellambi in New South Wales. The couple were to have three children, the last born in 1919. In 1908 the family moved to Auckland, where Moore-Jones began teaching art at his mother’s school. In 1912 he travelled to London, leaving his family in Auckland, and enrolled at the Slade School of Art, studying under English masters Frank Brangwyn and William Orpen.
At the outbreak of war in 1914, while still in London, Moore-Jones enlisted with the British Section of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, training as a sapper before being shipped to Cairo as part of the 1st Field Company of Engineers. In order to be accepted for active service Moore-Jones resorted to falsifying his age and shaving off his moustache to make himself appear younger. He was present at the first landing of ANZAC troops at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, on 25 April 1915. Soon after the landing he was noticed sketching in the field and his artistic competence and training were discovered by the military command. As a result he was swiftly assigned to the staff of Lieutenant General Sir William Birdwood (1865-1951) to make accurate topographical sketches of enemy territory. He was attached to Birdwood’s ANZAC Printing Section where his topographical details were highly valued for their accuracy and usefulness in planning operations and illustrating official dispatches. Never an official war artist, and apparently refusing a commission, Moore-Jones preferred to remain in the ranks, signing his work ‘Sapper H. Moore-Jones’, and offering much kindness and help to wounded comrades.
In November 1915 Moore-Jones was wounded in the right hand and invalided to 1st Southern General Hospital, Birmingham, suffering also from exhaustion. While recuperating he prepared a remarkable group of over 70 watercolours depicting aspects of the Gallipoli campaign, including detailed topographical works documenting military positions. The sequence of Gallipoli images was exhibited at New Zealand House in London in April 1916, gaining much favourable notice, and then at Buckingham Palace by royal command. Returning to New Zealand after being demobilised in 1916, Moore-Jones exhibited his Gallipoli watercolours in New Zealand centres, to great acclaim at each exhibiting venue. As part of the promotional material for the exhibition tour of New Zealand the artist had souvenir postcards printed, featuring a photograph of himself in his sapper’s uniform. The Alexander Turnbull Library acquired one of these cards in 2015, which Moore-Jones had given to a visitor to his exhibition in New Plymouth – it is autographed by the artist with an inscription reading ‘Just out of Hospital – and Better Fed. Sapper H Moore-Jones N.Z.E. 4/26A’, together with a humorous, self-deprecating, hand-drawn caricature of the artist as he would have appeared in the field at Gallipoli – a tall, emaciated figure seen from the rear, standing with a rifle in one hand, a sheet of paper before him, and a smoking pipe emerging from beneath a floppy hat.
The majority of the original 1916 sequence of Moore-Jones’s Gallipoli images was eventually acquired from the artist by the Australian Commonwealth, evidently after a plan for their acquisition by the Dominion Museum in Wellington fell through. Meanwhile, the London publisher Hugh Rees Ltd issued a luxury edition of a set of ten photolithographic prints from panoramic watercolour images of Gallipoli by Moore-Jones. The depicted scenes were:
- No. 1: The Coast of Anzac: a Sketch from H.M.S. Manica, May 5th, 1915;
- No. 2: Anzac Cove: The Historic Landing Place of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, April 25th 1915;
- No. 3: The Coast North of Anzac Cove: Showing Plugge’s Plateau, The Sphinx, Walker’s Ridge, and Russell’s Top;
- No. 4: The Historic Positions: Pope’s, Quinn’s, Courtney’s, etc., Sketched from the Inner Lines on the Heights above Anzac Cove;
- No. 5: Turk Entrenched Positions: Sketch Looking North-East, description of the country immediately in front of our Firing Line;
- No. 6: The Australian Positions. Extreme Right: Showing Bolton’s Hill and the Turkish positions at Gaba Tepe, the Olive Grove, and Achi Baba;
- No. 7: Outposts No.s 1, 2, and 3: Showing the Trenches winding through the country by which communication was maintained between Walker’s Ridge, the Outposts, and Suvla, via Fisherman’s Hut;
- No. 8: The Sphinx: One of the many Wings of Sairi Bair, honeycombed with dug-outs. A Rest Camp, called by the New Zealand Boys, Wellington Street;
- No. 9: Looking North over Shrapnel Gully: Showing the Inner and Outer Lines, Deadman’s Ridge, etc., and further North the Trenches on the Sairi Bair Range. Sketched from Indian Mountain Battery;_ - No. 10: The terrible country towards Suvla: Sketched looking North and down from the Heights of Walker’s Ridge and Russell’s Top, showing the Suvla Bay Landing Places – B & C Beaches, – Salt Lake, Chocolate Hill, Table Top, and the Village of Biyuk Anafarta, etc.
In 1917 Moore-Jones painted the first of his popular series of watercolour paintings, now often called ‘The Man with the Donkey’, depicting an Anzac trooper leading a donkey which carries a badly wounded comrade in a prostrate position. These works were formerly thought to depict the Australian John Simpson Kirkpatrick (1892-1915), famous for his rescue work using donkeys at Gallipoli, but they are now known to depict New Zealander Dick Henderson (1895-1958). The image was based on a photograph given to Moore-Jones by a fellow New Zealand soldier.
In 1918 Moore-Jones began teaching art at Hamilton High School, a job to which he travelled weekly from Auckland by train. On 3 April 1922 Horace Millichamp Moore-Jones died of shock and burns sustained while demonstrating conspicuous bravery in rescuing guests from a fire at the Hamilton Hotel where he stayed during the week. Only months earlier his remaining daughter from his first marriage, Norma, had died aged 22.
Courtney’s Post, Gallipoli, depicts a front line position under New Zealand command, although named after an Australian military engineer who supervised its construction. Courtney’s Post was located at the head of Monash Gully, near Quinn’s Post where New Zealand and Australian troops suffered many casualties. The work is similar but not identical to another watercolour of the same subject in the collection of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, ART03261. The accuracy of Moore-Jones’s draughtsmanship can be gauged by comparison with a 1915 photograph of the position by James Cornelius Read (1871-1968), also in the Alexander Turnbull Library’s collection.
The level of precise detail in Moore-Jones’s watercolour image, recording topographical, military engineering and personnel deployment data is extraordinary and exemplary of the artist’s best work. Vividly evoking the extremely steep and rugged terrain, the enormous scale of the near vertical approach to the top of the ridge is precisely calibrated by the figure of the soldier standing at the lower left of the image, above Moore-Jones’s signature, and reiterated by the ever-diminishing sizes of other tiny, deftly executed figures, dotted at intervals further up the slope. At the crest of the ridge, the fortified position of Courtney’s Post was faced by a Turkish trench only metres away, making this one of the most perilous positions at Gallipoli.