Today's Honour Roll

Today's Honour Roll recognizes 177 Australians who fell on this day in history.
See Full List
Name Date of Death Conflict
KIRBY, John William (DCM ) 6 Feb 1967 Non Warlike
ARMSTRONG, Norman 6 Feb 1943 World War 2
NICOLAI, Martin Kurte 6 Feb 1943 World War 2
WINTER, Ernest Clifton 6 Feb 1917 World War 1
WILLS, Richard Lavalette 6 Feb 1944 World War 2

Frank Hurley O.B.E. Remembered (1885-1962)

Frank Hurley O.B.E. Remembered (1885-1962)

Frank Hurley self-portrait, on board the Discovery, about 1929

The 16th of January marks the anniversary of the death of celebrated Australian war photographer James Francis "Frank" Hurley in 1962.

Hurley was born in Sydney on 15 October 1885. He ran away from home when he was 13 and worked in a steel mill at Lithgow. When he returned he bought a Kodak box camera and taught himself photography. At the age of 20, he joined a postcard business in Sydney and earned a reputation for both high-quality photographs and the risks he took to secure them. From 1911 until 1914 Hurley travelled to Antartica with Douglas Mawson's famous Australaisian expedition as the official photographer.

Mawson main base, 1911, Frank Hurley

Hurley was also the official photographer on Sir Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition which set out in 1914 and was marooned until August 1916; Hurley's photographic kit for the expedition had to be abandoned but he was able to keep a hand-held Vest Pocket Kodak camera and three rolls of film and for the rest of the expedition, he shot a total of just 38 images. Hurley also produced many pioneering colour images of the expedition.

HMS Endurance trapped in Antarctic pack ice, 1915, Frank Hurley

In 1917, Hurley joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) as an honorary captain, and captured many battlefield photos during the Third Battle of Ypres. In keeping with his adventurous spirit, he took considerable risks to take his photographs, also producing many rare panoramic and colour photographs of the conflict. Hurley kept a diary, chronicling his time as a war photographer. In it, he described his commitment "to illustrate to the public the things our fellows do and how war is conducted", and his short-lived resignation in October 1917 when he was ordered not to produce composite images, a practice that was especially popular among professional photographers at the time and one that he believed could portray the disgust and horror that he felt during the war in such a way that his audience would feel it too.[1] His period with the AIF ended in March 1918. 

During the war, he was recommended the award of a Military Cross in recognition of the bravery he displayed in putting himself in danger to take his photographs but was "Mentioned in Dispatches" instead.[2][3]

1st Australian Division near Ypres, 1917, Frank Hurley


An Australian Light Horseman, 2601 Trooper George "Pop" Redding, collecting anemones near Belah in Palestine, 1918, Frank Hurley

Southern Cross Flying over Sydney Harbour Bridge, June 1930, Frank Hurley
https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/36466925396

Hurley again worked as an official photographer during the Second World War, employed by the Australian Department of Information as head of the Photographic Unit from September 1940 until early 1943, based in Cairo. He took the only film of the initial victory against the Italians at Sidi Barrani in December 1940. He also covered the battle of Bardia and the Siege of Tobruk in 1941, and both of the battles at El Alamein in 1942.

In 1941, he was awarded the Polar Medal and two bars and was appointed O.B.E.[4]

Captured Italian Armato M13/40 (far left) and M11/39 (middle and right) tanks being used by the Australian 6th Division Cavalry Regiment during the capture of Tobruk, 1941, Frank Hurley

Members of C Company (mostly from 14 Platoon), Australian 2/11th Infantry Battalion, part of the 6th Division having penetrated the outer defences of Tobruk, assemble again on the escarpment on the south side of the harbour after attacking anti-aircraft gun positions, 1941, Frank Hurley

In early 1943, the AIF 9th Division was recalled to Australia to fight the Japanese forces in the Pacific theatre. Hurley resigned his position, but remained in the Middle East, and accepted the position of Middle East Director of Army Features and Propaganda Films with the British Ministry of Information, returning to Australia in 1946.

He also produced a number of early documentaries and dramatic feature films.

Hurley married Antoinette Rosalind Leighton in 1918. The couple had four children: identical twin daughters, Adelie and Toni, one son, Frank, and youngest daughter Yvonne.

The Virtual War Memorial has many other Frank Hurley photographs featured throughout our website.



[1] "Frank Hurley war diary, 21 August – 28 October 1917", http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/_transcript/2012/D14653/a2826.htm
[2] "Recomendation for Military Cross", https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/awm-media/collection/RCDIG1068186/document/5493981.PDF
[3] "HONOURS AND AWARDS - James Francis Hurley - Mentioned in Dispatches" https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/R1521892
[4] "Hurley, James Francis (Frank) (1885–1962) - Australian Dicrtionary of Biography", https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hurley-james-francis-frank-6774