An Aussie in Flanders

DAD ARTHUR BREEDEN - German plane canvas 1917 outer side

A strip of camouflaged canvas from a downed German plane.

DAD ARTHUR BREEDEN - German plane canvas 1917 inner side

And the lighter coloured underside of the same piece of fabric.  This is an example of the lozenge camouflage pattern that the Germans introduced during the last two years of the Great War.  Whether a four or five (see, I know my stuff) colour pattern who knows, but this is a fine example of a printed (as opposed to hand-painted – not so good from a weight point of view) lozenge pattern.  And what’s more, we know a bit about the story behind it.


This is Arthur Breeden.  And these are his words; “A piece of German plane I ripped off a wing of a plane I helped to bring down by Lewis gunfire, when flying low over the Yser Canal at Spoil Bank (sic) in Belgium about Feb or March 1917*.  The mud splashes on the coloured canvas is the mud of the Yser Canal.”

*always be careful with first-hand accounts.  Provided some fifty years after the event, Arthur probably meant 1918, and at some point I hope to confirm this.

Sidney Arthur Goody Breeden (known as Artie or Arthur) was born in Birmingham, England in December 1897.  His family emigrated to Australia in 1904, and in March 1916, at the age of eighteen, he enlisted in the Australian Army, training on the outskirts of Perth before the long voyage to Great Britain, where further training awaited him on the plains of Wiltshire.


I don’t know how long he’d been in action when the incident with the plane took place, but his war ended on 12th August 1918 when he was severely wounded at Sailly-Laurette on the Somme.

ARTHUR BREEDEN Letter King Geo V to Dad 1918

After a period in hospital in Bristol, he was repatriated to Australia, where he was  demobilized in June 1919.  He later served on the home front in World War II, and lived on into his eighties.


And this is Sid, long-time BigNote follower, pointing to his Dad’s name on the roll of those who served inscribed on the war memorial at Augusta in south western Australia.  And the man we have to thank for allowing me to show you these photos.  Thanks Sid.  You’re a cyber-star now.


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4 Responses to An Aussie in Flanders

  1. Chris from Belgium says:

    You sure know your stuff! (the lozenge camouflage pattern).
    Interesting story and many thanks to Sid for allowing you to post the photos!

    As for the letter from the King, I suppose that the King didn’t write such a letter to each and every wounded soldier, so what is the story behind this letter?

    • Magicfingers says:

      Cheers Chris! Yes, very kind of Sid to allow me to show you this item and relate the story. I have my own theory about the letter; I am sure we have some examples of similar where I work, so next week I shall check and get back to you. Oh, and there have been a few updates to this post, as you’ll see if you re-read.

  2. Sid from Down Under says:

    Well summarized MJS – and thank you for making me a cyber star. Some comment caused me to look back on records and I now think the German plane year I sent to you may be incorrect (my father wrote his notes some 50 years later so I don’t place any blame on his memory!) I’ll sift through the records again when I get some time – we’re in preliminary throes of getting ready for a move to a smaller (retirement village) home so are flat out throwing out or giving things away! The agony of years of hoarding and now having to be realistic and ruthless. The RAAF Museum has accepted some of my other memorabilia from WW2.

    Chris – I also wondered about the King’s letter – he could not possibly write a letter to every person injured. I’ve never seen any handwritten other document by the King so can’t compare hand writing but I suspect it would be one of the Courtiers.

    You’ll notice lines across the letter. In 1976 my mother placed much of my father’s WW1 memorabilia and records in one of those photo albums popular at the time. Lines of sticky substance on cardboard pages. The idea was the sticky stuff kept the photograph (or in this instance, letter) in place under a plastic protective cover. Unfortunately over years the sticky stuff migrated through the paper. I had to use solvent to unstick many precious items but have no idea how to safely eliminate the lines. Fortunately these style of albums were short lived and are no longer used.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Dreadful things, those albums. I lost dozens of them in the flood, but saved most of the photos. I have to deal with them constantly at work and the first job, having photocopied the whole album for provenance sake, is to remove the photos as carefully as possible. And then dispose of the album!

      Good luck with the move as and when, btw.

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