“It’s a treasure trove. It’s previously unknown, candid images of troops just out of the line. Men with the fear and experiences of battle written on their faces.” – General Peter Cosgrove, AC MC, Former Chief of the Defence Force
During the First World War, thousands of Aussie diggers and other Allied troops passed through the small French town of Vignacourt, two hours north of Paris. Many of them had their photographs taken by Louis and Antoinette Thuillier as souvenirs while they enjoyed a brief respite from the carnage of the Western Front.
For all too many of those soldiers, this was their last moment away from the lines before being sent to their deaths in battles that are now part of the mythology of Australian nationhood – Pozieres, Bullecourt, the mud and blood of the Somme. The weariness and horror of battle is reflected in their eyes, but the photos also capture a sense of camaraderie, high spirits and even a soupçon of romance.
The Lost Diggers is the riveting detective story of the hunt across northern France for a rumoured treasure trove of antique glass photographic plates that led investigative journalist Ross Coulthart to an ancient metal chest in a dusty attic in a small farmhouse.
The nearly 4000 glass plates he and his team from Channel 7’s Sunday Night discovered are being hailed by experts as one of the most important First World War discoveries ever made.
But that was just the beginning. With meticulous research and the help of descendants, Ross Coulthart has been able to discover the stories behind many of the photos, of which more than 330 appear in the book.
Part thriller, part family history and part national archive, The Lost Diggers brings together these wonderful images and the amazing stories behind them.
“I think these photographs rank up there with one of the most important discoveries from the First World War.” Ashley Ekins, head of Military History, Australian War Memorial, Canberra
Part of the team on Channel 7’s Sunday Night, Ross Coulhart is one of Australia’s foremost investigative journalists. He’s won a Logie and five Walkley journalism awards including the Gold Walkley. Ross has previously reported for Four Corners, Sixty Minutes and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is the author of two previous bestsellers