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Friday, 13 February 2015

What Happens When There Are No Photographs of Typewriters

"Active as a young panther": Australian war correspondent Philip Schuler watches the movement of Allied ships in Mudros Harbour from Mount Elias on Lemnos, 1915.
On the shores of Gallipoli in August 1915, Philip 'Peter' Schuler was too busy dodging bullets and taking photographs to organise a shot of himself at a typewriter. And his mate, Charles Bean, flat strap recording the gruesome birth of an Australian nation, had no time to be snapped at his Corona 3 either. For all the same reasons, Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett was never pictured using his Empire. There may be no surviving visual evidence of these three typing at Gallipoli, but type there they did.
What does survive as evidence they used typewriters: Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett's typed if heavily censored, 209-remaining-words telegraphed report to the Daily Telegraph in London, sent on September 3, 1915, at a cost of a princely £20.
A shot from the upcoming TV series Deadline Gallipoli, showing Hugh Dancy as Ellis Bartlett-Ashmead typing a report on his Empire at Gallipoli.
Schuler did take some brilliant photographs in those trying circumstances; ultimately, however, he was not so good at dodging the shrapnel from shell fire. He survived Gallipoli, enlisted for the Western Front, but died of wounds in an army hospital at Steenwerck on June 23 1917, cut down at Armenti√®res near the front at Messines Ridge. Schuler was just 27. Yet, according to Bean, he had already shaped as one of the greatest war correspondents of them all. Bean wrote this moving tribute:
Coming as it did from the ever reliable typewriter of Bean, this glowing homage to Schuler appeared in newspapers across the land. Only the headline changed:
"Pen-men in arms" was a nice, succinct 24-point line from the night sub-editor at the Beulah Standard and Mallee and Wimmera Advertiser, short enough to fit neatly into the single column space allocated to the story. But Bean and Schuler were friends, not rivals, though "Typists in arms" might not have had the same ring. Still, it was on Corona 3 portable typewriters that Bean and Schuler wrote many of the most enduring words of World War I, the most brutally accurate and honest descriptions of the horrors of Gallipoli. Australia in Arms, the book Schuler typed between returning from Turkey and enlisting for France and Belgium, remains a classic of the genre. Least I be accused of exaggeration, read it here.
Looks like a typewriter case to me. Philip Schuler, left, arrives in Egypt in 1915
As Bean pointed out in his panegyric, Schuler had faced the severe added disadvantage of having to type his stories and mail them through Egypt, rather than having access to the Eastern Telegraph Company service in Alexandria, at a steep 10 pence a word. Ashmead-Bartlett had the open pockets of the Telegraph to cover such costs, Bean the backing of being official war correspondent for the Australian Associated Press. Schuler had been sent late by his editor father at The Age in Melbourne - in a show, perhaps, that the name Gottlieb Frederick Heinrich Schuler and a Heimerdingen birth didn't reflect the leanings his antagonists claimed. Young Schuler wasn't able to share the accreditations and the connections that had opened doors for Ashmead-Bartlett and Bean. Instead, he had had to leave a lasting favourable impression on Mediterranean Expeditionary Force commander Ian Hamilton to even get himself ashore at Gallipoli. 
In the face of these odds, Schuler filed, as Bean said, "fuller and truer" typed dispatches than the official accounts. Oddly enough, however, it wasn't what Schuler typed and mailed that archivists in Australia were so desperate to get their hands on during the war. It was what the Englishman, Ashmead-Bartlett, had typed about Gallipoli.
This is a letter written by William Herbert Ifould (1877-1969), principal librarian of the Mitchell Library in Sydney, while the war still raged. Among documents purchased from Ashmead-Bartlett by the library were his war diary, below, censored dispatches and a carbon copy of his original, damning letter to British Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith, the one which exposed the disaster that had been Gallipoli.
Schuler, Bean and Ashmead-Bartlett will be the main characters portrayed in the TV series Deadline Gallipoli, due to be screened in April. Last year the production team asked me what typewriter Schuler had used at Gallipoli. Without any photographic evidence, they were stymied. That's the way it is these days with propmasters. They lack a certain knowledge, or imagination, or a combination of both. Propping for a movie? Just go to Google Images, copy and paste. Thanks to Schuler, and World War I photographers like him, war scenes, uniforms and outfits, backpacks and armaments - even the features of the people themselves - can be made to appear quite close to the reality. But without war photos, there's a problem. I've just bought two World War  I picture books, one of images at Gallipoli, the other from the Western Front. There's not a typewriter anywhere to be seen in either of them*. Another book cashing in on the centenary of Gallipoli - 100 Objects from World War I - doesn't rate the typewriter worthy of a mention. Without the typewriter, what war correspondents like Schuler, Bean, Ashmead-Bartlett and Keith Murdoch exposed about the massacre at Gallipoli would have remained completely unknown to Australians. But without photographs of these men at typewriters, typewriters don't figure in books such as these. Or, more often than not, in movies and TV series made about Gallipoli.
The latest of these, imaginatively called Gallipoli, opened on Australian TV screens last weekend. It is based on Les Carlyon's award-winning 2002 book, also titled just Gallipoli, which in turn was largely inspired by Schuler's 1916 work Australia in Arms. Carlyon, himself a former editor of The Age, felt guided toward Schuler's descriptions of Gallipoli because he was "a much better writer from a newspaper point of view than Bean, who was often very stodgy."
Sadly, the early evidence is that Christopher Lee's script for this TV series doesn't do Carlyon or Schuler any justice at all. Last year's two World War I centenary TV series, ANZAC Girls and The War That Changed Us, were both, in their own ways, quite insightful - the first about the life of nurses in places like Lemnos, the second for its emphasis on opposition at home to Australia's involvement in the war. Gallipoli is shaping as being much more predictable and heavy-handed. Episode one showed a scene aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Dardanelles on the evening of the April 25, 1915, landings - British military officers in full, glorious braid in a beautifully-appointed dining hall being served a sumptuous three-course dinner with fine wine by white-gloved, tuxedoed servants. Cut to next scene: muddied, bloodied Australian soldiers biting the dirty Turkish dust while having the shit shot out of them on the ridges of Gallipoli. Subtle, no? Poms as pompous prigs, Aussies as hero pigs to the slaughter. Git it?
James Callis, centre, as Ashmead-Bartlett in Gallipoli
Fancy Hugh Dancy, left, as an even more dandy Ashmead-Bartlett in Deadline Gallipoli. I don't think the Real McCoy (below) had a moustache.
But back to typewriters. Episode one had Bean arriving ashore carrying what looked suspiciously like a typewriter case, but quickly disappearing. Ashmead-Bartlett followed, empty-handed. He gets a handwritten letter from Field Marshal Bill Birdwood, suggesting the immediate evacuation of the ANZACs, to Hamilton, who eventually dictates a reply along the lines of, "Dig in and die". This soon materialises as a typewritten missive. Sorry, I must have blinked and missed the typewriter!
Is that a typewriter, or are you just pleased to see me? Nicole Kidman as Gertrude Bell in the upcoming movie Queen of the Desert (no, not Priscilla)
My point about "no photographs of people at typewriters, no typewriters in the movie" is further emphasised by a new Nicole Kidman film, set in the period just after World War I. In the Werner Herzog production Queen of the Desert, in which Kidman plays the remarkable Gertrude Bell, there doesn't appear to be a single typewriter. And sure enough, there isn't a single image available online of Bell at a typewriter.
And yet ... this was a woman who so frequently and so fervently hammered away at typewriters that she wore them out! Bell once wrote to her mother, "I am to have a second typewriter - mine is dying of exhaustion." 
"Dearest Mother. This is the Russian
pilgrim paper - there is a regular
commerce apart from all others here
to supply the Russian pilgrims with
relics, souvenirs and the necessities
of Russian peasant life.
I bless the typewriter.
It is such a joy to open an envelope
of yours and find long sheets
from the typewriter.
He does write such nice letters.
I hope he has accompanied you on your travels.'
- written by Bell from Jerusalem on February 18, 1900
To give an idea of Bell's typewriter use, on July 6, 1917, she typed: "I've been very unsociable this week for I've been writing - I have written my five articles on Turkey after dinner. I can't well get the time by day for these things in the press of other work. I've been arranging and getting out the mass of tribal stuff collected since I've been here and have now got all the tribes to the [north] and [north-east] alphabetically tabled and beautifully typed in many copies for members and all generals with whom I'm friends."
Bell, by the way, lost a lover at Gallipoli.
 Bell with Lawrence
 Kidman as Bell with Robert Pattinson as Lawrence
 Above, Kidman on camel. Below, Bell with Winston Churchill and Lawrence on camels.
She was an English spy, archaeologist and traveller, administrator, adventurer and explorer, writer, cartographer and political officer. All of which means Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell (1868-1926) has been described as the female Lawrence of Arabia. Bell indeed knew T.E. Lawrence very well. Kidman says Bell "basically defined the borders between Iraq and Jordan that exist today, borders that she negotiated between Churchill and different Arab leaders. She went out to the desert with the Bedouin and all the different tribes that were feuding at the turn of the 19th century." Bell travelled extensively in Greater Syria, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor and Arabia. 
One day they might make a movie about Australia's Desert Queen - not Priscilla, but Dame Daisy Bates. It was Bates who in 1912 moved to South Australia, pitching a tent at Ooldea, on the edge of the remote and arid Nullarbor (Latin for "no trees") Plain. For the next 16 years Bates lived in that spot, with only an Empire typewriter for company.
But wait ... there's no photograph of Bates at a typewriter.
Ah ... forget it!
*Admittedly, Peter Weil's Ephemera column in the soon-to-be-issued edition of ETCetera features many typewriters in military situations.

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