The Lost Diggers of Weston project is a collaborative initiative of the Coalfields Heritage Group and Town with Hearts which involves the reprinting (from the original plate images)and public exhibition of photographs taken by Alexander Galloway of soldiers of the 33rd and 34th battalions of the AIF at  Rutherford Training Grounds prior to their departure for France in 1916.

Historical overview

Alexander Galloway was a prominent coalfields identity, who left as a legacy thousands of photographs of the coalfields and hunter region taken between 1908 and 1930. During the First World War he operated Photographic Studios at Kurri Kurri, Cessnock, and the Rutherford Training Camp, taking haunting images of hundreds of soldiers prior to their disembarkation to fates unknown. Alexanders contribution is celebrated in a large mural which is located in Kurri Kurri.

The 34th Battalion was part of the 9th Brigade which in turn formed part of the 3rd Australian Division of the AIF. The battalion took part in some of the most decisive battles of the Western Front such as:

  • Messines
  • Passchendaele
  • Villiers Bretonneux
  • Amiens
  • Polygon Wood
  • Mount St Quentin

During those battles the battalion distinguished itself well with many of its numbers receiving bravery awards. Unfortunately the battalion would be also incur one of the highest casualty lists of the entire war. A film commemorating the contribution of the 34th Battalion is due for release this year starring Luke Hemsworth and Vince Colisimo.

The original photographic plates were found under a house in Weston in 2010 where (Due to the significant damage) they had lain undiscovered for up to 90 years. The plates contain haunting images of soldiers taken at the Rutherford Training Camp, many of which are unknown as is their fate during the course of the War.

The Exhibition and the Project.

The images will be on public display ( for the first time in over 100 years) on 25, 26, 27 and 28 April 2019 in the Anglican Church Hall, Lang Street, Kurri Kurri.

The exhibition will consist of 60 plus images printed in A2 size and which will be framed. Each image of a known soldier will be accompanied by a written overview of the facts known about them including not only their military record but as much of their known life before and after the war that is available. We hope that many of the lost soldiers will be recognised by family members as a result of the exhibition and consequently the project will continue to upgrade the content of the relating to each individual as it becomes available.

The project team is also looking at the collection becoming a travelling exhibition for schools and communities after the initial exhibition is complete.