The West

Signals to loved ones at home
Place in history: Daniel McCallum. Picture: AWM

The men of the 11th Battalion who gathered on Egypt's Cheops Pyramid in 1915 for what was to become an iconic image of World War I were proud of their role.

They adopted a range of ways of signalling to their loved ones where they could be seen in the photo.

Some used items including paper tucked into belts, or perhaps handkerchiefs, some tucked into breast pockets, and tin or metal held or attached to caps and hats.

Some had their arms folded, others linked arms or had their bayonets drawn.

James Murray Aitken wrote to his mother and said he was sending "a photo of the battalion on the side of the large pyramid (Cheops)", and explained where he and a few of his mates were in the image.

One of those mates is understood to be Daniel McCallum, the great-uncle of Ian McCallum, of Cottesloe.

Mr McCallum said that in his letter Aitken wrote "you'll see me, a disreputable object, about three quarters up and to the right with my right hand to my face with my hat off, Mac is on my right, Hilliard behind, Jack O'Neil and Alston are somewhere but where I don't know".

Men of the original WA-raised 11th Battalion had sailed from Fremantle on October 31, 1914, aboard the transport ships Medic and Ascanius, and disembarked in Egypt.

They gathered on January 10, 1915, to be photographed on the pyramid.

The West Australian is supporting a WA Genealogical Society project to name the 703 men in the famous image. WAGS has divided a digital copy of the photo into grids, so each man is numbered.

Aitken is believed to be soldier 207 on the grid and McCallum 205.

The reference to Hilliard may be James Clifford Hilliard, listed as soldier number 206.

John Patrick "Jack" O'Neil has been identified as number 616.

The 11th Battalion was part of the covering force for the Anzac landing at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, and among the first ashore about 4.30am.

Mr McCallum said his great-uncle Daniel had moved with his family from Victoria to Trayning in 1907.

He was working as a bank clerk in Kalgoorlie when he enlisted in September 1914 at age 21.

McCallum was quickly promoted up the ranks and after the Anzacs withdrew from Gallipoli in December 1915 the 11th Battalion was split to help form the 51st Battalion, and McCallum was among those who was transferred.

The 51st moved to the battlefields of the Western Front and in August 1916 McCallum was promoted to captain.

Just a few weeks later, on September 3, he was killed in action.

Aitken was also living in Kalgoorlie before he joined up at the age of 23. He was promoted to lieutenant, wounded in action in France and went on to win the Military Cross for gallantry.

But Aitken was killed in August 1918, just three months before the armistice brought hostilities to an end.

WAGS said this week that since late July when the society and The West Australian launched the campaign to name the soldiers, 15 names had been tentatively verified and 20 new names had been added to the list to be verified.

The West Australian

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