‘Honest History miscellany: yet more angles on Anzac 100’, Honest History, 17 May 2015
This is our third and final round-up of centenary-related items that came to our attention around Anzac Day 2015, although some of them have been around for longer than that. We want to move on so this is our last word – for now.
Five major myths of Gallipoli exercised John Tognolini on Foxtel’s The History Channel. He identified myths about the purpose of the war, ‘the wrong beach’, the soldierly qualities of the Turks, the generalship qualities of the British compared with those of some Australians, and who knew about the evacuation and when.
Switching channels to the BBC, we had Dan Snow in 2014 finding ten myths about the whole of the Great War, with ‘lions led by donkeys’ and ‘only ANZACs at Gallipoli’ being two notable casualties. Peter Hart told Turkish interlocutors that the whole Gallipoli campaign was a disaster from start to finish, while Harvey Broadbent drew upon his recent books to explain the Turkish side to Natasha Mitchell and Marina Larsson talked with Fran Kelly about the impacts of the war on those who came home.
For Meanjin’s 75th anniversary it republished notable past articles, and one such was a piece by Paul Daley from 2010, called ‘Anzac: endurance, truth, courage and mythology’. Daley recounts experiences of writing about war, some cover-ups and some contrasts between myth and reality and concludes thus:
We should take the Anzacs for what they were, not what we want them to be. Not least, in the words of Neil McDonald, because “above all survivors believe their fallen comrades are entitled to the truth”. We all deserve nothing less.
More recently, down in Gippsland, Phil Cashen’s excellent blog, Shire at War, continues to produce memorable material on the impact of the war on the Yarram area. Recently, he has written about religious influences on commemorative art work and Charles Bean ‘spinning’ the image of the AIF from Egypt. Another form of ‘official’ Anzac material can be found in the Anzac ‘kit’ prepared for members and senators by the Parliamentary Library. It includes speeches (by, for example, the governor-general and the prime minister), statistics and links to further reading, as well as material on the relevance of Anzac, theatres of war and aspects of commemoration.
Other material collected here has an artistic and literary bent. There is:
- a September 2014 set of You Tube clips of actors and others reading Great War poetry and prose;
- a discussion of Western Australian Lev Vykopal’s Gallipoli-themed art;
- the story of how Bean’s Anzac Book shaped Australian attitudes to Gallipoli;
- a more general discussion of how literature influences the remembering of war;
- an ABC program from 2014 on the singers and song-writers of the Great War; and
- a review of a book of photographs of the deserted bedrooms of dead soldiers. ‘The fallen’ that Ashley Gilbertson focuses on are from wars more recent than the Great War but the resonance is timeless.