Lawrence Hargrave, aeronautical inventor, was one of thousands of Australians who lost a son in World War 1. Among the Hargrave artefacts and papers in the Museum’s collection, there are six photos that tell the story of his son, Geoffrey Lewis Hargrave. In the first, he is a baby posed with his hopeful parents, Margaret and Lawrence.
In the second photo we see that Geoffrey was the only son and the second youngest of five children. To a father who loved to design and make mechanical things, in an age when girls were not generally encouraged to share such interests, we can guess that a son was greatly valued. The lad looks bemused; perhaps he felt uncomfortable posing dutifully in a fancy astrakhan-trimmed jacket.
Here we see Geoffrey as a promising young engineer, following in his father’s footsteps. The Museum owns the model rotary aero engine that he’s working on in the photo. In making the engine and propeller, he displayed a high level of skill and application.
In this studio portrait, the young man’s direct gaze is arresting. Having worked hard at technical college, he can look forward to a challenging and interesting career, to sailing his eighteen-footer on Sydney Harbour, and perhaps to becoming a father in his turn.
Comparing this portrait with the last one, we reflect on the change from civilian to soldier, from hope to grim acceptance. Like the little boy in the fancy jacket, he looks bemused but dutiful.
The last photo was taken at Gallipoli, where Geoffrey died in battle in May 1915. On the Lone Pine Memorial, dedicated to almost 5000 men whose gravesites are unknown, we read the name HARGRAVE G L carved with neat finality in stone. All that hope, promise, skill and application had come to nought except service and sacrifice, duty and death, on a foreign battlefield. One man’s story, one family’s story, exemplify the hopes and losses of many individuals and families in the war that changed Australia and the world.
Written by Debbie Rudder, Curator