‘Vigilans’ a look at the iconic photograph featuring the men of the 11th Battalion


On the 10th of January 1915 Officers and men of the 11th Battalion, Australian Imperial Forces posed on the Great Pyramid of Giza for what would become an iconic photograph. The 11th Battalion did much of their war training in Egypt and would be amongst the first to land at Anzac Cove on April 25, 1915. In the five days following the landing, the battalion suffered 378 casualties, over one third of its strength in totality. Following the withdrawal from Gallipoli, the battalion returned to Egypt where it was split to help form the 51st Battalion and redeployed to the Western Front until 1918.

On Sunday, January 10, 1915, Captain Charles Barnes recorded in a letter to his mother:

‘After Church this morning the whole Battalion was marched up to the Pyramid (Old Cheops) and we had a photo took or at least several of them.’

Most of the 703 men who posed for this iconic image have never been identified and it is likely that this is the last photograph of many of them, Captain Barnes included. He was killed in the Dardanelles on 28th April, 1915 and is commemorated on Panel No 33 of the memorial at Lone Pine.

Various urban myths surround the photo which have been perpetuated over time – the popular ‘dead man’ myth being one notable example. It’s worth taking a moment to review the excellent work on debunking the myths completed to date by the WAGS Project.


Credit: ‘Cheops Image in a shop in Queensland, Australia’ http://11btn.wags.org.au/

Work on the image is still ongoing in an effort to try and identify as many of the men as possible. Please see http://11btn.wags.org.au/ for further details.