A New Zealand Soldier with two little children on Lemnos
An official photograph depicting a New Zealand soldier with two small children on Lemnos.
During the Gallipoli Campaign, from April 1915 until January 1916, soldiers from throughout the British Empire were stationed around the former Ottoman Empire and Greece. Although they were there to fight, the soldiers took the time to explore these new countries - their landscapes, social life, and people; tourists through the process of war.
Taken by official British photographer Ernest Brooks as part of the Ministry of Information collection, this photograph shows a member of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force on the island of Lemnos with two small local children and a donkey. He holds the children up to the camera, one in each arm; it could be a family portrait. He has a cigarette in his mouth and a gun slung over his shoulder, appearing every inch the soldier coming home, still carrying the remnants of war, as he stands proudly holding these children.
National and ethnic difference was not acknowledged: the New Zealander maintains the white paternalism of empire for these still European children. The image belies certain details about the encounter that are realised when the series of photographs is taken as a whole. There are two men involved, one an Australian, and they have only just encountered these children. The children’s mother was also present in another image, in the periphery of the photograph and unnamed in the caption, effectively negating her presence. What the image encapsulates is the emotional bond that could be formed between soldiers and children, one that shows genuine affection and a wish to be ‘fathers’ if only very briefly.