Captain William Frederick Longstaff, the distinguished Australian artist, was born in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia in 1879. In the early 1920's he established a popular reputation with allegorical wall paintings in the vein of the Angel of Mons, but he did more solid work both as an official war-artist to the Australian Government and as Officer in Charge of Camouflage with the Australian Forces during the Great War.
Longstaff, who studied art in Australia, the Slade Art School in London, and in Paris, began his military career in the South African Boer War where he served both as a soldier and an artist. After the Boer War he returned to Australia and established an art studio in Adelaide. Shortly before the onset of WWI he enlisted in the Australian Expeditionary Force in France and was then sent to Gallipoli on active service. He was wounded in this campaign and evacuated to an Australian Re-mount Unit in Weymouth, England. He was then claimed by his cousin, the famous portrait painter Sir John Longstaff, who had set up a studio in St John's Wood, London. Longstaff was appointed to join a group of specially selected artists called the War Records Section, working under Major Treloar, who later became Director of the Australian War Memorial. During the Great War Longstaff recorded numerous scenes in his sketch books covering many campaigns on the Western Front in France and Belgium. Captain Longstaff was twice Mentioned in Despatches for his work in camouflage techniques and won very high praise from Lt. Col. Durant. The claim was made that as a result of his work the Allied death toll was reduced by thousands.
After the Armistice he remained in the Services and returned to London with his colleagues to paint from their sketches and studies, made on the spot, a series of war pictures now in the Australian War Memorial. After leaving the Services he remained in England for the rest of his life. He settled in Sussex in the 1930's where he continued to paint until his death in 1953.
Acknowledgement: The BBJ Collection Ltd are most grateful to Mrs Diana Brooks, the daughter of Will Longstaff, for providing us with information from her personal archives and recollections.