Centenary Watch June-July 2018

Update 4 August 2018: War Memorial consultations on its proposed extensions: ‘Look on my Works’

The Memorial announces consultations; Honest History puts some questions. Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’, a pithy comment on the urge to leave a legacy in stone.

Update 28 June 2018: Old wine in new bottles?

The Australian War Memorial’s Hamel virtual reality show applies new techniques to try to explain the Battle of Hamel, 100 years on. Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Armistice grants deliver small amounts of money for mostly traditional forms of sentimental commemoration.

Update 12 June 2018: Minister Chester’s recent pressers, including War Memorial Council appointments. Centenary of Great War recruitment nadir. ACT electoral redistribution: does Bean count?

Minister Chester’s recent pressers, including War Memorial Council appointments

The Hon. Darren Chester MP has made a couple of useful contributions to the Barnaby Joyce issue. In his official capacity, meanwhile, the Minister has put out material recently on veterans’ health and mental health, veterans’ families, veterans’ employment and transition. He spoke at length on Brisbane radio on these issues. (Update 14 June 2018: National Press Club speech on similar lines.)

On the commemoration side – Mr Chester is also Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of Anzac – there were speeches on Vietnam and the Battle of the Atlantic and a media release on appointments to the Council of the Australian War Memorial. General Greg Melick was reappointed and retired Colonel Susan Neuhaus appointed.

Colonel Neuhaus has been an army medic (Regular and Reserve) and has published a ‘highly readable’ book with Sharon Mascall-Dare (reviewed on Honest History by Carolyn Holbrook). Brigadier Alison Creagh leaves the Council. (The Minister’s presser does not mention her.)

There will be further changes to the Council soon, as new heads of Army, Navy and Air Force commence their terms and take ex officio places on the Council. The May changes to the Council do little to make it younger or less male or less military. The Council’s composition is discussed here and this is a paragraph.

Indeed, a detached observer looking at the current Council membership (or, for that matter, its membership over the last 75 years), without knowing who it belonged to, might take it to be the Board of a Naval, Army and Air Force Club rather than of a national war memorial, albeit a club that was doing its best to be welcoming to female members and the younger generation and to keep up its links with military history buffs, particularly philanthropic ones.

Centenary of Great War recruitment nadir

We have kept track of recruitment during World War I, thanks to information in Joan Beaumont’s Broken Nation (based on Ernest Scott’s volume in the Official History) and a graph used with Professor Beaumont’s permission. Here is the graph again, showing that June 1918 was almost the worst month of all for new enlistments – 2540 in June then down to 2451 in September and up to 3619 in October – and to remind us that Australia during the Great War harboured a wide range of attitudes towards service for King and Country.


Beaumont says this in her preface:

Even though a remarkable number of Australians enlisted and served overseas— nearly 417,000 and 330,000 respectively from a population of fewer than five million— most Australians stayed at home. Among men aged 18 to 60, nearly 70 per cent did not enlist.

This is worth remembering in the face of Anzackery, the extreme form of the Anzac legend, which tends to steer us away from complexity and questioning. Meanwhile, Phil Cashen (Shire at War blog) presents a detailed microcosm of the difficulties of recruitment in South Gippsland.

ACT electoral redistribution: does Bean count?

We have followed this, including attitudes to ‘Bean’ (as in Charles Edwin Woodrow) as the name for the new southern ACT electorate. The final redistribution report will be available on 13 July. We mention it here under the ‘Centenary Watch’ heading because, if Bean gets up, we are sure the commemorative link will be drawn. If the name gets up, too, there will be comments about ‘Anglo-Celtic blokes’ receiving recognition yet again – which has also been a centenary theme.

David Stephens

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