Gallipoli episode 1 reviewed by Peter Stanley

‘Good in parts at Gallipoli’, Honest History, 12 February 2015

Peter Stanley* reviews Gallipoli (Channel 9), Episode 1, ‘The First Day’. Episode 2 reviewed. Episode 3. Episodes 4 and 5. Episodes 6 and 7.

Channel 9’s mini-series Gallipoli is trumpeted as telling us ‘THE TRUTH!’ As it is apparently based on Les Carlyon’s idiosyncratic 2001 book Gallipoli the claim is at least debatable. Written by Christopher Lee (whose credits include the mini-series Paper Giants and Howzat!) and directed by relative novice Glendyn Ivin (who directed the telemovie Beaconsfield and episodes of the series Puberty Blues) this Gallipoli is, as Punch used to say, a curate’s egg: good in parts.

Gallipoli certainly deserves plaudits for portraying war honestly. In the drama’s opening minutes, the hero, Tolly, a 17-year-old (of which more presently) bayonets an Ottoman soldier who is attempting to surrender. Blood, cries and sudden violent death abound: the episode does not shirk depicting the horror of combat and for that the production team deserves credit. Likewise for depicting the ‘straggling’ that Charles Bean witnessed – men overcome by the shock of battle simply wandering off to congest the beach. And so far we have been shown no Hollywood heroics.

P03725.009Anzac troops practising their landing at Mudros, Greece, April 1915 (Australian War Memorial P03725.009)

Though the lacklustre to-ing and fro-ing on the hillsides soon becomes rather tedious, the episode imagines quite well the experience of the campaign’s first day, with men wondering what to do, officers unsure of exactly where they are and sudden clashes – usually at rifle range in actuality – with groups of Ottoman soldiers. This is all to the good, even if the experience of just one group of men of the 4th Battalion strains to stand for that of the first day as a whole. (This is odd, because the 4th Battalion gets only one passing reference in Carlyon’s book, and it was in the third wave to land, not the first, but presumably the producers needed a battalion that fought at Lone Pine: hence the somewhat fudged opening scene of a landing in darkness. As the production is supported by Film Victoria it is curious that the producers did not choose to depict the Victorian 2nd Brigade.)

Sadly, other aspects of episode 1 are less satisfying or justifiable. The glaring flaw at the heart of the production is that Tolly is supposed to be just 17. (Is this a magic number? The son of Russell Crowe’s character in The Water Diviner died at Lone Pine, also at 17.) In fact, the average age on enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force in 1914 was almost exactly 25. A few well-developed under-age volunteers were accepted by medical officers, but Tolly looks like a teenager – his uniform doesn’t even fit. Why, in a force that in 1914 took only grown men who were the tallest, strongest and fittest, a poorly-developed boy was accepted is unexplained, inexplicable and in fact unjustifiable. Why could Tolly and Bevan not have been, say, 19 and 22?

The answer is probably that the moody-but-handsome Kodi Smit-McPhee (himself about 17 at the time of filming) needed to be cast in the lead role. Perhaps though there is a somewhat sinister attempt to draw in a younger demographic, a disturbing feature also of Anzac commemoration. It just seems hackneyed that the production is also built upon the all-too-familiar Hollywood trope of a complex relationship between brothers (Tolly’s elder brother Bevan serves alongside him) with hints of competition for the affection of an unnamed young woman.

PAIU2013_029_09--1-‘A younger demographic’. Commemorative Cross Project. School children from Hartwell Primary School, Victoria, visiting the Australian War Memorial write messages on crosses that will then be placed in cemeteries and on memorials of Australian servicemen and women worldwide. (AWM PAIU2013/029.09) Other relevant material.

The drama itself is curiously bifurcated. One storyline follows the fictional Tolly and Bevan, their family and their mates – all made-up characters, as are ‘Sergeant Perceval’ and ‘Captain Taylor’. The sergeant and the captain are merely ciphers to represent the failure of the landing, held on the ridges above Anzac Cove by Ottoman reinforcements more swiftly assembled and more aggressively led than the invaders had expected.

The other storyline sees the historical generals act out Gallipoli’s traditional stations of the cross – Over-Confidence before the Landing; the Australian Brigadier-Generals’ Growing Doubts; the Argument about Withdrawing and the Dig, Dig, Dig Order. Historically, this aspect of the drama is weakest, partly because all the generals look alike – red-banded hat, moustache, red tabs, medals – and none of them are named. I had trouble keeping track of which general was which. Perhaps the writers dropped Ewen Sinclair-Maclagan to ensure that they had only one Scot (Bridges, suitably bullish but more corpulent than the prototype).

Sinclair-Maclagan may also have been dropped because he bore most responsibility for derailing the landing, though his being nominally an Australian fits ill with the Carlyon thesis. In Carlyon’s book Sinclair-Maclagan gets only four mentions and none of the blame. But it was Sinclair-Maclagan who persuaded his fellow Australian brigade commanders to not push on and therefore condemned the Anzac force to be hemmed into an untenable perimeter on the first day, from which the invaders never broke free. As an explanation for the invasion’s failure this Gallipoli is a dud.

Carlyon tips his nationalist hand and Lee and Ivin have dutifully followed, over-awed, perhaps by the supposed stature of Carlyon as historical story-teller. For the villains of Gallipoli the mini-series, like Gallipoli the book, are those dastardly, arrogant British generals, and especially the dilettante poetry-quoting Ian Hamilton, abetted by his sycophantic chief-of-staff Braithwaite and ineffectual subordinates. To those familiar with the originals the historical treatment is unsatisfying. Godley (commanding the New Zealand and Australian Division) is uncharacteristically genial but Birdwood’s appealing personality is absent. Hamilton, arguably the brightest general of his generation, let down only by his over-developed loyalty towards Kitchener, comes across as a silly old buffer. He was just 62 (er, six years younger than the writer, Lee), hardly superannuated. He should have been played as Lear, not the Fool.

H02768A small group of Australian Light Horsemen overlooking an Australian Army parade being reviewed by General Sir Ian Hamilton, Mena Camp, Eqypt, 29 March 1915 (Australian War Memorial H02768)

Besotted as Carlyon was by the Atatürk legend (Carlyon bears the blame for propagating the Australian acceptance of the Kemalist interpretation of Gallipoli) the historical Mustafa Kemal naturally makes an appearance. He mouths (in Turkish) the famous line, ‘I do not order you to fight; I order you to die!’ (As I have observed, if a British general had said this he would be accused of being a butcher or a bungler, or both, but Australians now adore Atatürk as much as – or, with the rise in Turkey of an Islamist reinterpretation of Gallipoli, perhaps more than – the Turks do.) A curiosity of this production is that none of the historical characters are introduced except in dialogue, so Kemal is, to those not in the know, just Some Turkish Officer Dude. Charles Bean also makes an appearance on the beach; presumably his moment will come in later episodes.

For much of the first episode the jumping from the real figures at headquarters to the fictional characters on the peninsula (or at home in flash-backs) occurs side-by-side, the two streams hardly impinging upon each other. In the final scenes the crux of the drama becomes clear, however. Hamilton and Braithwaite take a whiskey night-cap after a sumptuous dinner in scarlet mess-kit aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth. (This is in a ward-room that looks more like the private dining room of a good hotel: in fact wooden fittings were removed from warships for fear of them burning in battle.) Hamilton is reassured by his toady staff that all will be well and he retires in silk pyjamas. (Did they wear mess-dress that night? I’d like to see the evidence. I doubt it.) Meanwhile (and this is the point) poor traumatised Tolly lies out on the hillside ashore, covering his head against the rain. Those bastard English generals, we are supposed to think: they have ordered our boys (literally boys) to die and, unlike Atatürk, not in a good way.

This might be described as honest history but it is honestly mistaken: adapting Carlyon inclines the writer and director toward an interpretation that advances an Australian nationalist and anti-British (but also pro-Turkish) agenda. Could this have been retrieved by more discerning historical advice? The publicity surrounding the series claims that Christopher Lee had ready recourse to the Australian War Memorial (which advertised during commercial breaks during transmission). What this means is also debatable. Since the Memorial’s entire collection is already freely available (despite the usurious reproduction fees it charges) this can surely mean that the production team had access (gratis or for a fee?) to the expertise of the Memorial’s staff. This ensures that the uniforms are pretty much right (except for the weird brown knee-boots worn by Australian officers, rather than the leggings familiar from photographs and, indeed, the Memorial’s own collection).

The script, partly based on Carlyon’s unwieldy book, struggles to convey the complexity of the reality. It is mostly unexceptional, though as usual these days script writers and editors have a cloth ear for military and period dialogue. Christopher Lee thinks that Australians in 1915 used the modern American phrase ‘we’re way forward’ rather than the contemporary British ‘we’re far ahead’; no one picked that up. Nor did anyone point out that in British armies subordinates address their superiors as ‘sir’, not ‘general’ – another Americanism. The line ‘utilise whatever communications we have’ is just awful. Curiously, actors were twice allowed to say ‘Euralus’ (supposedly the name of the British cruiser) rather than Euryalus (that’s ‘U-re-a-lus’); did the experts miss that or did the actors and director muck it up unsupervised on the set?

Given the mawkish, jingoistic slogan the Memorial has adopted for the Great War centenary – ‘Their Story, Our Pride’ – and particularly Carlyon’s standing within the institution (he is back on the Memorial’s Council after a break) Gallipoli’s tone could hardly be otherwise. For the time being, the Memorial as an institution exists to extol rather than enquire into Australia’s experience of war. It endorses not just the details Lee and Ivin got right, but also the debatable interpretations that suffuse their production. So much for episode 1. Six episodes remain. It’s going to be a long campaign.

* Professor Peter Stanley of UNSW Canberra is the author of 26 books, including several books dealing with the Gallipoli campaign, notably Lost Boys of Anzac, which deals with men killed on 25 April 1915. He has been associated with a number of television productions on war themes. His next book (and associated website) will deal, for the first time, with Indians on Gallipoli. He is the President of Honest History.

 

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21 comments on “Gallipoli episode 1 reviewed by Peter Stanley
  1. p.stanley@adfa.edu.au says:

    Reply to Andrew Garland
    It seems that I was wrong to think that the production featured the 4th Battalion (I took what are actually (fictional) light blue-over-green colour patches to be dirty white-over-green.) Dayton McCarthy advises that the battalion in which the main characters are serving is fictional – so the story can take in the landing, Quinn’s Post and (evidently) Lone Pine. What this means for the producers’ claim to be telling a ‘straight’ story is debatable.

  2. p.stanley@adfa.edu.au says:

    hello Robert
    Excuse me for not replying sooner to your question about mules – ironically I’ve been preoccupied these past few days finishing the first draft of my forthcoming website ‘Anzacs and Indians on Gallipoli’. It naturally deals with the large Indian Supply & Transport Corps contingent on Gallipoli – about 3000 men and at any one time as many mules (no donkeys, but). Overall at least 5000 and perhaps more mules woudl have served with these Indian units, in all sectors of Gallipoli (at Helles, Anzac and later Suvla) and they served all British empire forces, not just the Indian brigades (7th Mountain Artillery and 29th Infantry). casualties among the mules were heavy, from shelling especially, and hundreds of beats were killed and wounded (and therefore often put down). As the troops were ‘slimmed’ during the evacuation so the mule corps were withdrawn too (mules were valuable assets), but in the final day some animals were slaughtered rather than evacuated on the last boats – loading mules in the dark was not easy or even possible, so they were killed. I detail this in my forthcoming book, Die in Battle, Do not Despair: the Indians on Gallipoli, 1915; out in Australia by about August but available from the publisher, Helion UK from the end of May.

  3. admin says:

    Hi all. Don’t miss Peter’s review of Episode 2 – link at the top of this one – and future ones; we hope to do one per episode. DS

  4. Andrew Garland says:

    Hi Dayton,

    In regards to the physical state of the 1st Div AIF. I did not say they were huge superhuman specimens. However, for their day they were bigger than average British troops from the home countries, and they had been hand picked along physicals standards.

    I did not make any comment about them all coming from the bush either. While they may well have in the main come from the city many had spent time in the country at stages of their lives and many had an association with the bush. (not that it was part of my point)

    While you have given age ranges for the ages found in the 1st AIF its not always accurate. In the 11% of 40 year olds some would have been 50 and older and in the 26-30 range many in their early 40 may have put their age down.

    But as I stated my main problem is the story, its not accurate. the 4th Battalion were not in the first wave during the landing. Fighting Mac was in the 4th Battalion a Salvation Army officer there as a Battalion chaplain and was in the thick of all the fighting with the men and one of the most respected men on the peninsular, hence my point about not doing justice to those that served there. For if a story on the 4th Battalion does not make any mention of that man , well its really just a waste of time. Is it really that hard to get it right?
    Regards Andrew

  5. Robert says:

    Thanks Peter and Vicken. After 100 years it makes me wonder whether or not some of the motives behind mobilisations of thought are altered or adjusted in any way.

    Another couple of brief questions if you don’t mind; I have read that there was about 25000 mules on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Do you have stats on how many were at Anzac Cove? Were the mules also a part of the evacuation or were they moved off prior? Were fresh water bores sunk at Anzac Cove and do you know of the locations? Robert.

  6. Vicken says:

    Hi Robert

    Like the British and French imperial forces, the Ottoman army reflected the multi-ethnic make up of the empire. Despite being commonly referred to as ‘Turks’, members of the Ottoman army included Arabs, Turks, Kurds, Armenians, Greeks, Circassians etc. According to Australian military historian Bill Sellars “Two thirds of the troops who made up Colonel Mustafa Kemal’s 19th Division that faced the first wave of the Allied invasion were Syrian Arabs, comprising the 72nd and 77th regiments of the Ottoman army”. Aubrey Herbert, the British interpreter with the Anzacs, recalled that it took a while to convince the Dominion troops that just because an Ottoman soldier spoke Turkish, it did not necessarily make him an ethnic Turk. It looks like the airbrushing from history also applies to both sides in the conflict.

    Regards
    Vicken

  7. p.stanley@adfa.edu.au says:

    hello Robert
    Thanks. Yes, my next book will be Die in Battle, Do not Despair: the Indians on Gallipoli 1915, to be published by Helion & Co., available in Britain from late May, and to be launched in Australia in the coming winter and in India later in 2015. I’m just working on a spin-off website, ‘Anzacs and Indians on Gallipoli’, which will, I hope reach folk in India and Pakistan who may never be able to get the book. [Excuse the plug, but you did ask …]

    The point is that this is – amazingly – the first book in a century that anyone’s written about the 16,000 Indians who served on Gallipoli. When you consider the hundreds of books on Australians and New Zealanders the discrepancy is astounding.

    Who else is missing? As you say, the Zionist Mule Corps deserve more attention, and there needs to be more work on the Ottoman force. I doubt that anyone will ever do much more than an article on the Egyptian and Maltese labourers recruited to work (mostly on Lemnos and Imbros). But beyond gallipoli there is now work underway or published on the Chinese labourers on the Western Front, and non-white troops and forces generally – e.g. the West Indians in Palestine, ‘askaris’ in East Africa, the Vietnamese labourers on the Western Front and (as I found when visiting India last year) on labourers recruited from Assam and north-east India. One problem common to all these groups (one they share with the Indians) is that there are virtually no sources in their language (or if there are they are opaque to monolingual historians like me). A good initial survey of this work can be found in Santanu Das (ed.), Race, Empire and First World war Writing, Cambridge, 2011. Last week I bought The World’s War by David Olusoga, supposedly a history of the ‘Forgotten Soldiers of the Empire’ (actually of several empires, French and British at least). But sadly there’s no mention of Indians on Gallipoli in it at all, so they’ve even been forgotten by the guy who’s supposed to be remembering them: but not by me.

  8. Robert says:

    Morning Peter, interesting evaluation of the show; I deliberately did not watch it and won’t until the hype of the anniversary celebrations quieten down. Having written that though, the ongoing education about aspects of the WW1 scenario continues to culture my interests.

    After having read your comments, the article mentioned you are writing another book on the subject, this time including the Indian Army factor. (I will look forward to reading it.) My ongoing education has exposed to me the inclusion of other military units that were involved in the Gallipoli campaign, namely the “Zionist Mule Corps”, and the “Connaught Rangers”. Combined with the knowledge that about 140.000 Chinese served as “Coolies” in support of the efforts on the Western Front, I was wondering if you have further knowledge and factual information on the subject of those who have effectively been somewhat airbrushed, and, or erased from the mainstream official versions of not only the Gallipoli Campaign, but WW1 in general? All the best.

  9. mccarthyd says:

    Hello David,

    As far as I am concerned, that statement requires justification. In terms of ‘blaming the British’ besides the lack of immediate culpability for the failure of the 1st Div AIF to achieve its tactical objectives on day 1, it was an operation conceived by British from the ‘indirect approach/Eastern’ school, under-resourced by the British, with over-ambitious objectives planned by the British. We shouldn’t let the pendulum swing too far back in the other direction. Gallipoli was not an Australian tragedy but a British Empire one, and largely one unfortunately of its own making. As I said, most British officers are portrayed in a very good light- although the advertising attached to the series shows a very different slant! My next book in fact will deal with the insurmountable contribution British officers made to the nascent Army from Federation to the 2nd World war.

    As far as I am concerned the jury is still out as to whether they landed in the exact spot. To be sure, the MEF-level OPORD tells them to land somewhere between Fisherman’s Hut and Gaba Tepe. But the immediate tactical objectives of the 3rd Bde were largely in the vicinity of Brighton Beach to enable a passage of lines for the 2nd Bde to push and secure the heights on the left flank. For me the evidence supports that they landed by mistake at Anzac Cove. Clausewitz’s friction -and not currents or mysterious last minute changes to the OPORD-will always kick in!

    But more to the point, it did not really matter as there was a scattered screen of Turkish sentries that were rapidly outnumbered by the build-up of troops in the largely unopposed landing. We show this (and were criticised by some bloggers for the lack of violence and explosions on the beach!)

    I would say also that the photos were handy in the planning phase, but like the maps, which were ostensibly detailed, not very good in the execution phase. The lack of detail in micro-terrain (most famously the Razors Edge at the end of Plugge’s Plateau) made life difficult for the Pl and Coy Comds trying to do their map to ground on day 1.

    cheers

  10. David Turner says:

    Did not see the program. Would have been turned off by the broken record that is “blame the British”. No County is above beating their own drum, when it comes to military success or successful failures. I wonder if the program highlights the fact that the Australians landed exactly where planned, Face sod all opposition and for some odd reason stopped short of overcoming a small Turkish garrison. The British also did the same further south. The Australians also had the advantage of aerial photos (or more accurately did not take advantage of what they showed).

  11. p.stanley@adfa.edu.au says:

    Hello again Dayton (this time with your name right – obviously confusing your spelling with Craig Deayton’s: apologies), and thank you for your frankness. I think that your explanations are very helpful indeed, and the tone is nothing like ‘sour grapes’. I suggest that it would interest the HH community to hear more from you as the series develops. I’ll be writing another review after Episode 3 (so I don’t have to write one a week). I’d certainly be glad to hear more from you, both in responding to any views I express or, indeed, commenting on other reviews that you’ve seen. (As I said, I’m very interested to hear that you’ve had criticisms of the ‘straggling’ scene.) I’m sure that the HH moderators and editors would be glad to hear from you, either in comments ‘below the line’ or in your own right. HH is keen to encourage dialogue, and hearing directly from those involved in presenting history on screen can only enhance our understanding.

  12. mccarthyd says:

    Hello Andrew, I won’t comment on the storyline as I will stay in my lane. No matter what was covered someone (everyone!) will be displeased.

    I will note however in the pursuit of ‘honest history’ 22% of the AIF were under 21, 35% were between 21-25 and 21% were between 26-30. Men over 40 were only 11%.(Australian Defence:Sources and Statistics, OUP)

    These were the ages of the extras and the actors. As I noted above, they may have been the best of their generation but that would have nothing to do with their physicality. The vast majority came from cities, not the countryside and a simple perusal of enlistment records will illustrate their physical dimensions. As I said, many of the original uniforms were way too small. The lead actor is in fact over six feet tall. The stuntmen were all modern physical types so there is plenty of Australian soldiers shown in more physical manner.

    Peter- for you comment. I am happy to keep responding but I do not want it to look like ‘sour grapes’ and justification and apologies on my behalf. Is it better for me to respond to queries via email? Up to you!

    I take this discussion seriously; I have not responded to any other social media or commentary. I believe in honest history. One of my aims in joining the mini-series was to right a few historical wrongs and help tell a different story of Gallipoli. Many HH readers will assert that we (me) have not done that. If HH readers can take any solace in this mini series, many criticisms have been about not showing the ‘true’ slaughter at the dawn landing and so forth!

    Cheers!

  13. Andrew Garland says:

    The mini series does bother me in the way it potray’s the 1st Div 1st AIF. As Peter has pointed out, they were not under developed boys. There were also men well over 40 who landed at Gallipoli and who served in the 1st AIF in general during 1914-1918. The 1st Divison was the best of a generation.
    Why did they not follow and construct a story around the likes of Fighting Mac, Albert Jacka, Simpson or Archie Barwick the list goes on? The current story is fiction and not really good fiction. I find it very hard to watch. I dont think they have done any real justice to those that served at Gallipoli.

  14. mccarthyd says:

    Hello again Peter, I cannot remember the exact phraseology but it was ‘ I just saw Australian soldiers shooting surrendering Turks. What evidence do the film-makers have to show that.’
    It was something that I was acutely aware of when I came onto the project. Being an ex Army officer, I knew that I would have to find the balance between accuracy but also respectfulness; as a Ph.D I had a professional credibility to maintain with my peers to ensure the facts as much as possible were maintained; but I also knew that it would be a battleground for ideas and worldviews from the Left as well as the Right! I knew we were not making a documentary but a drama. I remember the first meeting I had with Glendyn, the director. He said he was seeking an ‘experiential truth’ and I understood that he was not using sophistry or relativism. This was made even more clearer when the decision to go with a fictional battalion was made. It gave the story the freedom to move the characters around BUT it meant that everything else had to right. In other words, it may not have happened to Tolly et al but it did happen at some time. Let me say also that all the creative team had the same vision right from the get go- a drama that was as truthful as possible…and everyone was acutely aware that tackling Gallipoli in this way may not be universally popular!

  15. pete hill says:

    I must admit I approached this series with some caution. I remember thinking prior to watching it that ‘if the opening shot is of a young man riding his horse across a picturesquely sunlit farm or outback station accompanied by a Man-from-Snowy-River-type score, I am switching off immediately’.
    But I was genuinely impressed by the first episode and one of the most admirable traits of it was its restraint. It would have been so easy (and perhaps very tempting) to unleash bloody hyperbole and have the April 25 landings resemble the Omaha Beach scenes in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ complete with wobbling camera-shots for the obligatory neo-realism and lots of flying dirt and revved up sound-effects. The sporadic resistance by the relatively small force of Turkish riflemen during the opening hours of the landing, unsupported by machine guns or artillery, is well-conveyed. The dazed confusion which afflicted many of the attackers is also well-depicted. Any young men who received such scanty training & preparation would have been prone to terror and confusion when thrown into such circumstances. The Australian infantrymen are portrayed as brave and disciplined without resorting to the over-familiar stereotypes. There are no natural-born super warriors, no smart-alec comedians, no gravelly-voiced veterans with roll-your-owns glued to their bottom lips. The scene where a pair of Turks attempting to surrender are both shot was entirely justified and its inclusion helps to challenge the still-prevailing conceit that Australians in war never get their fingernails dirty.
    The limited budget of the production is sometimes all-too-obvious. At one point, some viewers could be forgiven for thinking that the staff officers of both sides outnumbered the actual infantry. However, the production avoids the over-use of CGI which is another plus.
    The portrayal of the senior officers left me with mixed feelings, especially the silver-service meal held on board HMS Queen Elizabeth on the evening of the first day. At this point, I thought the production was going to conform to the Blackadder-school of how to depict WW1 Generals. However the series has only begun so I will reserve final judgement.
    I was disappointed with some of the criticisms of the episode I noticed on the media with one critic saying ‘for the first half of the episode, there was just men going up and down the gullies and getting shot. When was the story going to start?’ Did the critic prefer if ‘Gallipoli’ went down the same route as ‘Titanic’ or ‘Pearl Harbor’ and have a central love story with the event a mere backdrop?

  16. p.stanley@adfa.edu.au says:

    Deayton: many thanks. I’m interested in your comment: “I have already copped criticism on social media about the depiction of ‘straggling’ and the failure to take prisoners (although oddly enough no complaints about the depiction of the Turks bayonetting those attempting to surrender)- both of which Bean records.”
    Could you give us a flavour – perhaps some quotes – of this sort of comment? I am amazed that even one-eyed ockers would imagine that Australians new to battle would be immune from its psychological impact. As you and David Stephens have said, in Bean’s on-the-spot diary he describes unwounded men heading from the ridges to the beach. Very much appreciate your willingness to discuss the issues involved in translating history to drama.

  17. admin says:

    On ‘stragglinlg’ there is a great picture at http://honesthistory.net.au/wp/anzac-treasures-follows-a-well-worn-track/ (scroll down a bit) taken from Peter Pedersen’s Anzac Treasures book, plus a paraphrase of Dr Pedersen’s comment.

  18. mccarthyd says:

    Hello Peter,
    The production and the subsequent advertising by Nine were separate entities and I must admit I was a little uneasy with the anti-British tone, which believe it or not, was something that we tried hard to remove from the story.
    I was not too fussed about the whole 17 y/o thing as it was also an allegory for a young nation going to war. In terms of physique, we actually had to make uniforms from the patterns in a much larger size as most, if not all were too small for the modern actor. The leggings and boots were the worst; no modern calves are small enough!
    I accept that the failure of the 3rd Bde and the diversion of the 2nd Bde was not made clearer. Hopefully on subsequent watchings, the hinting at it will be clearer. But I can assure you that besides Bean, my two bibles when helping put together Ep 1 was ‘Lost Boys’ and Chris Roberts’ excellent tactical history ‘The Landing at Anzac’. I have already copped criticism on social media about the depiction of ‘straggling’ and the failure to take prisoners (although oddly enough no complaints about the depiction of the Turks bayonetting those attempting to surrender)- both of which Bean records. So no one will be happy!
    …and unfortunately Bridges, Birdie, Hooky, Godley and CBB White all had moustaches!! I am happy to respond if anyone wants to discuss the mini-series. You know me and my background- I won’t be offended!

  19. p.stanley@adfa.edu.au says:

    Thank you Deayton! I taped the show and did not see the credits, so did not know that you were involved – if I’d known I would have named you. I really appreciate your willingness to explain and your clear, ‘un-defensive’ tone, and for explaining aspects (eg the colour patch – I thought it could be light blue, but decided that the producers must have meant it to be white) I did not fully grasp.

    I understand your point that the producers were making a dram – hence the compromises over senior officers’ personalities and simplifying the arguments at the beach headquarters – but sadly no one told the people writing the promos, who told the audience that they were getting THE TRUTH! I presume that no one asked you whether there were many 17-year-olds at the landing, or if they did your advice was ignored.

    While I have you, I should reiterate my praise that you helped them show the distinctly ugly side of war on the hillsides of Gaba Tepe. as usual, it’s far easier to criticise what they got wrong than what you helped them get right.

    I appreciate your explanation. As you say, you advised: you were not in charge. I stand by my criticism of the intent and tone of the show. For example, I do not think that it was remotely clear that Australian brigadiers de-railed the advance, and this I attribute to the fundamental interpretation of Carlyon’s book. Viewers will be left with the impression of Hamilton in his scarlet mess jacket dithering between cheese and nuts while poor Tolly lies in the rain. No amount of accurate historical advice could have saved Gallipoli (the mini-series) from conveying that impression.
    Peter Stanley
    HH

  20. mccarthyd says:

    Hello everyone at HH! By way of introduction, I was the much-maligned (it seems!) military and historical adviser to the mini-series Gallipoli. This is not an apologia but it might provide some context to Peter’s review.

    Firstly, an adviser ‘advises’ just like a staff officer acts in relation to a general. He gives advice but that advice may or may not be heeded. Sometimes there is a good reason which the adviser/staff officer may not be aware of. So much of the stuff Peter talks about was raised. For example, the whole ‘sir’ vs ‘general’ thing was changed so that 99% of the viewing audience who has no idea of rank will get an understanding of ‘who is who.’ As a former infantry officer, I was and am acutely aware that superiors are addressed as ‘sir’. I thought that the officers would not be in mess kit in the middle of an amphibious operation but a decision was made for visual reasons ( I suspect to capture some of Downton Abbey vibe but I might be wrong). At any rate, the generals would have had dinner in the wardroom and the surrounds were in contrast to the soldiers on the front. I actually thought the scene sipping whisky was sympathetic and showed the ‘burden of command’- I am sorry it was not emphatic enough! Same goes with certain language used-military options were put forward but in the interests of clarity for the vast amount of viewers, other language was used. I ask whether this is such a sin?

    In terms of the battalion in question, it is not the 4th (white over green) but ‘a fictional’ battalion (light blue over green). As the producer, John Edwards has written elsewhere in the media, when I battle-tracked the script, it soon became obvious that no single Bn was at all the story points required. The best, I advised was the 2nd as elements were involved in the composite force at Baby 700, was at Lone Pine and provided ‘C’ Group men for the final night of the evacuation. However as the 2nd Bn landed between 0730 and 0930 and they really wanted to show the dawn landing, the decision was made -with all the pros and cons discussed ad infinitum-to go with a fictional battalion. As the script at that point had the characters from NSW, it had to be ‘a’ Bn from the 1st Brigade (hence the green base colour on the colour patch).

    As anyone who knows me can attest, I have never been a ‘Brit-basher’- in fact the opposite. I hope as the series unfolds a real empathy for Hamilton will be revealed but everyone will read into it what they want. Viewers will see British officers such Hooky Walker and Birdie in a very good light. The story of the diversion of the main effort to the 3rd Bde and then the 2nd Bde on the right flank is hinted at in conversation but the emphasis was on the drama unfolding on the ebb and flow of the battle for Baby 700/Battleship Hill (Taylor being a composite of Tulloch and Lalor and Perceval based on the herculean efforts of Margetts). All this was considered and everyone aware of it but they were making a drama not a documentary. Again the characters of Sinclair-Maclagen and M’Cay were rolled into one for economy’s sake but no one should be in any doubt that it was lack of Australian efforts on the right and the failure to gain even intermediate Day 1 objectives on the left which precipitated the call for evacuation.

    I am surprised that the pronunciation of ‘Euryalus’ was considered awry as that is how it was recorded-with the ‘y’ emphasised. I’ll wear the blame for not picking up the ‘we are way forward’ anachronism, mea culpa- but I hope buffs will recognise the 1914 era infantry whistle blasts, hand signals and fire control orders, semaphore flag signalling amongst others. Oh and knee-length boots were worn in addition leggings- as many photos at the AWM show.

    Thanks for the opportunity to respond!

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