‘Review essay: Bardia: Myth, Reality and the Heirs of Anzac‘, Australian Army Journal, VII, 2, Winter, 2010, pp. 139-44
The reviewer is a colonel in the Australian Army.
For the Australian Army, the Anzac legend has not been evidence that every Australian soldier is an invincible warrior, but rather it has offered an ideal to live up to. Anzac has provided both a benchmark for performance and a source of motivation, guiding inexperienced Australians who face combat for the first time. Gavin Long notes in his 1973 work, The Six Years War: Australia in the 1939–45 War, that ‘to many Australians, as diaries and letters revealed, this battle [Bardia] had been a test of their equality with the men of the old A.I.F. and they felt they had passed the test’. The former Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Peter Leahy acknowledged the importance of the Army’s Anzac heritage with his ‘I am an Australian Soldier’ initiative. The nine core behaviours were certainly not unique to Australian soldiers, but they tapped into an Anzac heritage that the Australian Army is proud to be a part of. It is easy to mock the Anzac legend and poke holes in the myths (for instance, few soldiers were true heroes at Gallipoli) but it continues to motivate Australian soldiers in Timor-Leste, Iraq and Afghanistan, just as it did for those at Bardia. Overstating the legend should be avoided, but so should an underestimation of both its import and value.
The ‘I’m an Australian Soldier’ values are here.