Stephens, David: A century since we stole quietly away

Stephens, David

A century since we stole quietly away‘, Honest History, 23 December 2015 updated

Marks the centenary of the evacuation of ANZAC troops from Gallipoli and describes the commemorative ceremony at the Australian War Memorial.

Anzac remains, according to Minister Robert in his speech, “an indelible source of national pride and expression of national character for both our nations” (emphasis added). For many bereaved families a century ago and now that official and corporate version must seem far-removed from what they feel. Is it possible for families to commemorate loved ones without having to swallow the myth whole? Why cannot politicians spruik their preferred Anzac legend without lumbering all of us – the whole nation – with it?

A couple of days after the War Memorial ceremony Fairfax’s Nic Stuart wrote a piece about a war that achieved nothing. It turned out to be on the Afghanistan war but it could just as easily have been about the Great War. One of his main points – that wars end for political rather than military reasons – is certainly widely applicable.

Another interesting piece is Julia Horne’s in The Conversation, looking at Anzac soldiers’ letters home at around the time of the evacuation. Captain Francis Coen said:

I understand I shall be one of the last to withdraw. I do, honestly speaking, sincerely hope so, as I wish to see the last of the affair. Let us hope we shall be successful. Many brave lives have already been sacrificed in this blunder.

Horne concludes ‘that Gallipoli was a symbol of war; not in the ways usually celebrated in Australia on April 25, but of the human vulnerabilities and frailties of soldiers’.

Ann Moyal wrote about the evacuation in The Strategist.

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