The story behind the cover: Furphies and Whizz-bangs

One hundred years on, the slang of soldiers of the First World War continues to fascinate. In Furphies and Whizz-bangs: Anzac Slang from the Great War Dr Amanda Laugesen draws on primary source material taken from soldiers’ letters, diaries and trench publications, along with contemporary newspapers and books, to bring the language of the Australian soldier to life.

As the Anzac Day centenary approaches, we thought we’d share the story behind the photograph and letters of Furphies and Whizz-bangs. We spoke to designer Kim Ferguson about her experience creating the book’s cover:

  1. What was the brief you were given?
    The brief was for the cover to standout amongst all the other books being published for the centenary of World War One and have a trade feel. It needed to appeal not just people to interested in war, but also the general public, so an appealing, attractive design was needed.
  1. How did you come up with the concept for this cover?
    Usually during the briefing, an idea for a cover direction usually starts to form and after doing lots of research (on war, trade and just general book design) I put together three mood boards (see my mood board presentation below) that showed what I had in mind. Basically three different design themes; Historic writing and storytelling; hand drawn notes done in the field and bold graphic images combined with modern type;

ANZAC mood board 1

ANZAC mood board 2

ANZAC mood board 3

Source: Mood boards from Kim Ferguson Design

  1. What made you choose the photograph on the cover?
    I found the cover image on the Australian War Memorial website after spending hours getting lost in the many amazing historical photos. The cover image stood out as it seemed to give the right feelings about the laconic digger, the sense of mateship and the right war atmosphere that reflected the books contents.
  1. What is your favourite thing about the cover?
    I think my favourite aspect of the cover is the way the soft blue background contrasts so beautifully with the old, faded letters and the lovely textural handwriting.
  1. What did you enjoy most about working on this cover?
    I loved delving into the language the diggers used and reading some of the amazing letters they wrote back to their friends and family at home.
  1. What was the most challenging aspect?
    The most challenging aspect was to design the cover so it had a historical feel but also looked contemporary!
  1. What is something about this cover we might not know?
    That the handwritten letters underneath the photos are actual letters written by diggers from the front lines. And that on the reverse of the actual hard-copy of the photo there is a lovely handwritten letter by Pte Oliver Arnold Harris (the brother of the man on the left of the photo).

You can view the photo used on the cover of Furphies and Whizz-bangs (and read the message written on the back) in the Australian War Memorial collection. The portrait depicts Private Edgar Henry Harris of the 33rd Battalion and two unnamed men of the 33rd and 36th Battalions.

The letters featured on the cover were written by Sergeant Wilbert Berg of the 18th Infantry Battalion and can also be read on the Australian War Memorial website. Spanning 1915-18, this correspondence tells of Berg’s departure on the HMAT Ceramic, training in Egypt and experience landing at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli.

9780195597356Furphies and Whizz-bangs: Anzac Slang from the Great War

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