Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Vasco

My Vasco comes to me courtesy of my grandfather, Sgt. Samuel John Drew, of the 29th Battery, 8th Field Artillery and later the 42nd, 44th and 43rd Infantry Batallions. Unike other Vasco caricatures, mine is reproduced in negative on a glass plate. I do not know whether this photographic work was done by my grandfather - he certainly knew how to do it - or by someone else and grandfather acquired the plate later.

It depicts someone called Les, other details lost in time, and was created at Fraser's Paddock, one of the camps that made up Enoggera Army Camp. It was at Fraser's, in 1916, that Vasco's company of Engineers was camped while in training. Grandfather was also at Enoggera Camp at that time. The Australian War Museum has some photographs of the Engineers' encampment at Fraser's. One such photograph shows the 'tent city'. Another shows men marching near another style of tent. Patient searching of the Australian War Memorial's photograph collection will reveal other photos of Enoggera Camp and the Field Companies, Engineers, in action. Unfortunately, these do not include a photograph of Vasco himself.

The New South Wales State Library has another Vasco sketch of a "Les":
69. `Les' from Ashfield, 1916 but whether it is the same Les is something that needs to be checked out. The library also has another sketch using the C J Dennis quote "Could you keep one down?":
136. Our boatswain's mate - `Could you keep one down?' 1917 [caricature]
so it is obvious that Vasco would re-work a theme when it suited the subject.

The quote "Could you keep one down" is, of course, from the pen of C.J.Dennis and applied to Australian Soldiers in his work Digger Smith, specifically VII. A Digger's Tale. A similar quote appears in The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke. However, the Digger Smith quote was not published until 1918, whereas The Sentimental Bloke was published in 1915. Or maybe the saying was just in general circulation.

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