The Hero of the Dardanelles is the first surviving feature film depiction of Australian troops of the First World War and includes images of a real army camp and real soldiers, in training at Liverpool, NSW.
The 1915 Australian film directed by Alfred Rolfe, was made as a patriotic war recruiting film.
The film follows Will Brown (Guy Hastings) as he enlists in the Australian Army, soon after the outbreak of the First World War. He puts away his sporting equipment, in favor of more serious duties. He joins hundreds of other men in a training camp at Liverpool, near Sydney.
He urges his friends to join up and he manhandles a pacifist who disagrees with his display of a recruiting poster. Before embarking, he wins the promise of marriage from his sweetheart, Lily Branton (Loma Rossmore). Arriving in Egypt, he prepares for action, in the first wave ashore at Gallipoli.
The film was lost from this point until recently when Dr Daniel Reynaud, an Australian historian, discovered more footage. This shows the troops landing at Gallipoli on the morning of 25 April 1915, storming the cliffs and Turkish troops firing down from a machine gun emplacement.
This was all reconstruction, restaged with real troops at Tamarama Bay, shortly after word reached Australia about the landings.
Working with the National Film and Sound Archive, Dr Reynaud has done a partial reconstruction which shows the latter part of the film, in which Will falls into barehanded combat with a Turkish sniper. He drowns the Turk, is repatriated home wounded and eventually marries Lily. The film ended with a call to Australian men to do their duty and join up.
This movie was the first feature from Australasian Films since 1912, although they had made newsreels and short films during that time. It was a sequel to Will they Never Come? (1915), using many of the same cast and crew. It too was made with the co-operation of the Department of Defence.
Some commentators believe Australasian Films were partly motivated to make the movie to ensure government protection of the film industry during the war.
The original film ran for approximately 4,000 feet (59 minutes at 18 frames per second), but only 21 minutes survives.
The film was very popular at the box office and was screened to the Prime Minister and Premier of Victoria.
A copy was placed in the archives of Federal Parliament. It was used as a recruiting tool, taken around the country by members of the armed forces for special screenings.
Footage from the film was later used in the movie The Spirit of Gallipoli (1928).
The Hero of the Dardanelles will be screened at regular intervals at the Roxy theatre as part of this year’s Bingara Orange Festival on Saturday 27 June 2015.
The theme of this year’s Orange Festival is 100 years of ANZAC and the Gallipoli landing.
Also showing at the Roxy that day will be the With the Dardanelles Expedition which is the only known moving images of the 1915 campaign at Gallipoli, shot mostly by English war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett.