Ashmead-Bartlett places the camera in the middle of a partially roofed trench, as men in long shorts and braces come and go.
In one shot, a soldier hands a dispatch to an officer and offers a faint salute. An inter-title preceding this shot says "Note the thinness of the men. Also the Anzac uniform - shorts and sometimes a singlet. A runner hands in a message at headquarters."
The next shot is another trench, also partially roofed. In a line, five soldiers walk self-consciously towards the camera and then turn right, out of frame. The first wears a topi, a British colonial hat, the next a flat-topped officer's cap with shade cloth and the third a wide-brimmed slouch hat. The fifth is very curious - he has on a topi (hat) and tie.
The footage - now grainy, scratched and wobbling - is priceless, as Charles Bean, the official Australian war historian, knew in 1919 when he added the inter-titles. Bean had secured a print for his soon-to-be-realised Australian war museum - which is what saved the film.
The 20-minute cine-film, now called Heroes of Gallipoli, features the only footage taken during the Gallipoli campaign, digitally restored by New Zealand director Peter Jackson. It includes scenes of British troops at Suvla and Cape Helles, soldiers at Anzac Cove, Turkish bombardments and troops embarking at Imbros Island. Unfortunately, Bean’s titles are wrong in several places, which has led to continuing debate about what the film actually shows.
A World War I buff, Jackson approached the Australian War Memorial with the idea of applying computer technology developed at Weta Digital. “He wanted to see how the technology could be applied to archival film,” says Madeleine Chaleyer, the senior curator of film and sound at the Australian War Memorial
The War Memorial had destroyed its original nitrate source material in 1967, after copying it to safety film. The best print available was scratched, fuzzy and low in contrast. Weta has removed most of the scratches, white spots and some of the shudder caused by shrinkage and sprocket damage.
The result is that the film has not looked better since it was first screened to rapt audiences at the Empire Theatre in London on January 17, 1916, under the title With the Dardanelles Expedition.
Chaleyer believes there are dangers with digital restoration. "With advanced software you can now make a film look better and cleaner than the original ever did. Peter has done a great job because it still has the feeling of authenticity. The aesthetics have been maintained."
Peter Stanley, principal historian at the War Memorial, argues that the "topi and tie" footage is more significant now because it documents a place that no longer exists. "Gallipoli has changed immensely over the years. Quinn's is now gone. It was built on the side of a cliff, with a network of trenches and earthworks and saps. The winter rains have basically eroded the whole position away so that the side that the Anzacs were on is now scattered down Monash Valley as silt."
Part of the attraction for Jackson may have been that the men in the footage now thought to show Quinn's Post may have been New Zealanders - specifically, the Wellington Battalion commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone.
"The topis and the tie are a clue, because Malone was a stickler for standards," says Stanley, whose book on Quinn's Post has just been published. "I have not seen anyone else wearing ties in trenches at Gallipoli, but Malone insisted on proper dress. He was a real martinet."
Malone's diary records Ashmead-Bartlett's visit on July 22 with a certain disdain. "He seemed a bit swollen-headed and full of his own importance," he wrote. Stanley writes in Quinn's Post that Malone took the correspondent to a section subject to Turkish rifle fire - "perhaps to teach Bartlett a thing or two".