Centenary Watch: March 2015

[Links checked 2 November 2017 and some were found to be broken, due to removal of material from websites or simply the passage of time. Honest History may be able to help users track down resources where a link is broken. Please contact admin@honesthistory.net.au. HH]

Update 27 March 2015: Anzac cash cows; sport and rorts

The New Daily looks at a number of Anzac money-spinners while a deal in the West is under examination and one in Magpieland might need a closer look. Would you pay for two dud games to get a ticket to the Anzac Day game? Angela Catterns talked about these issues to New Daily‘s George Lekakis and Honest History’s David Stephens. (More on 29 March in Fairfax.) Meanwhile, there will be running, jumping and standing still in the Dardanelles with the Gallipoli Games just after Anzac Day.

Update 25 March 2015: too much spirit? Fitz and Fitch

Prime Minister Abbott launched Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience, a tour. Lee Kernaghan is fronting Spirit of the Anzacs, a tour. Check out the websites: will there be confusion between the two tours?

Honest History sent this email to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Minister Ronaldson:

Honest History wondered whether there was any intention within government to make it clear that the Spirit of Anzac Experience announced today by government https://www.spiritofanzac.gov.au/ is a different thing altogether from the money-making Spirit of the Anzacs CD and Spectacular (tickets costing $89 with just $3 going to charity) https://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=SPIRITOF15 . [Another website is https://spiritoftheanzacs.com/ ]

Assuming that the Spirit of the Anzacs venture received permission to use the word “Anzac” we wondered whether any consideration was given in the approval process to the fact that the timing of the tours of the Experience and the Spectacular overlaps. Surely this is a recipe for public confusion?

DVA responded thus:

Thank you for your query regarding the similarities between the Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience and the arena tour for the Lee Kernaghan album “Spirit of the Anzacs”.

For your information, the Lee Kernaghan album and tour does have permission to use the word “Anzac”, which the Minister granted due to its charitable aspects and commemorative content.  The Australian War Memorial has also had significant involvement in the project.

Currently the Government does not have any intention of clarifying the differences between these two activities, as they are quite different events which will not occur in the same places at the same time.

I feel it is unlikely that the public will be confused by their somewhat similar names – the Anzac Spirit is a well known concept, and variations on the phrase “Spirit of Anzac” have been used for many different initiatives in the past.

Inside Story carries a review by HH’s David Stephens of the blockbuster book, Gallipoli, by Peter FitzSimons. Among other things, the review draws comparisons between Fitz and the patriotic author of 120 years ago WH Fitchett (Fitch).

Update 24 March 2015: commemoration fatigue?

Director Nelson of the Australian War Memorial and Professor Joan Beaumont of ANU have different views on the likelihood of ‘commemoration fatigue’ during the centenary of Anzac.

Update 23 March 2015: PM speaks; history in Turkey

Prime Minister Abbott has spoken at the official welcome home of troops from Afghanistan (Operation Slipper) using words similar to those he used at the actual welcome 12 months ago. ‘You are worthy heirs to the ANZAC legacy’, he said.

The prime minister concluded, though, that ‘some decades ago, Australians returned home from another war and were not properly acknowledged’. This remark was repeating received wisdom about attitudes to service contingents returning from Vietnam. The received view has been disputed in the recent book, The Nashos’ War, by Mark Dapin. Honest History will shortly be posting a note on our website about this book but, in the meantime, the review of the book in the Canberra Times makes clear that the Vietnam story was more complex: there were massively attended welcoming parades but there was also some mishandling of returning contingents.

The prime minister’s one liner was simplistic. (Disappointingly, the theme was picked up in ABC News reports.) He was right, however, to devote more than usual space to the needs of wounded and psychologically damaged returned service men and women. The Chief of the Defence Force spoke in similar vein.

Meanwhile, in Turkey, journalist Nuray Mert reports in Hurriyet Daily News on the efforts of the Erdogan government to make political capital from the Dardanelles centenary. Tropes of nationalism and ethnic reconciliation are being run but so are the ideas of the Dardanelles as an Islamic victory against the West and the Great War outcome as being unjust.

It’s a pity [Mert concludes] that we are drifting every day more away from the prospect of living in a freer society, as now we cannot even claim freedom from history. It may no longer mean much to those who live in Western liberal societies, but freedom from history is one of the basic conditions of individual freedoms in our societies.

Update 19 March 2015: birth of a nation?

AAP article in Daily Mail (Australia) quoting Stanley, Beaumont, Keneally, Daley and others on the significance of Gallipoli. ‘The emphasis on Gallipoli has really been a part of our political culture. It’s not part of history’, says Beaumont. The article also addresses the point that the men who went to World War I were primarily bushmen, noting that ‘[o]f the almost 417,000 Australians who enlisted during WWI, only around 57,000 had addresses outside a capital city and 30 per cent of them had been born in Britain’.

Update 18 March 2015: mythbusting Brigadier; ‘war paint’; Anzac the last hurrah?

Chris Roberts, former Brigadier, author of the mythbusting The Landing at Anzac (new edition launching next week), spoke on 16 March with Alex Sloan on the ABC. Partial notes (by courtesy of Douglas Newton) cover what we commemorate, Anzackery and commemoration expenditure and the landing on 25 April. The audio also covers Roberts’ experience with PTSD.

On the landing, Peter Stanley tweeted after Roberts’ speech at the Gallipoli conference: ‘very sound analysis from Chris Roberts – no MGs [machine guns], no wrong landing place – blames Australian brigadiers – ace myth-busting, Chris!’ Similarly, after a speech by historian Robin Prior, Stanley tweeted: ‘Robin Prior says – rightly – that Anzac landing was not in the wrong spot. Well said. Let’s stop talking about wrong beach!’ More on this from Tom Frame.

Good comments from Michael D. Breen: ‘I had not heard of Anzackery, but thanks for it. I had coined “war paint” as repainting, reframing war for dubious purposes.’ We at Honest History support any neologism or linguistic application that underlines the vacuousness and vanity of overblown, jingoistic, agenda-driven commemoration-celebration.

Professor Joan Beaumont notes the view of some people that Anzac is the last hurrah of the White Australian male and that it lacks meaning for recent immigrants. She suggests Anzac Day be reinvented as a day for all victims of war, including those affected by recent wars.

Update 16 March 2015: Anzackery in Pearls and Irritations; changing conceptions of Anzac

Honest History’s David Stephens has an article in John Menadue’s blog on ‘Anzackery in the time of Anzac’, taking an etymological look at the egregious concept of Anzackery and concluding that the Anzackery bubble needs to be pricked.

Historian Rev Dr John A. Moses devotes part of a sermon to discuss how attitudes to Anzac have changed over the years. He notes ‘there is always a struggle in the mind of the historian about how to relate the past candidly on it own terms and how one would prefer it to have been’. The sermon goes on to describe the work of Canon DJ Garland in the early establishment of Anzac Day commemoration.

Update 14 March 2015: military anniversaries

Peter Stanley talks to Geraldine Doogue about anniversaries occurring this year.

Update 12 March 2015: Anzac Trojan Horse

Carolyn Holbrook, author of Anzac: The Unauthorised Biography and Honest History distinguished supporter, gave a speech the other day in Fremantle for the Medical Association for Prevention of War. Among other things, she looked at ‘Spirit of the Anzacs’, the recent song released by Lee Kernaghan and friends, noting how the song and accompanying video meld nostalgia about wars long past with references to more recent military adventures. Says Holbrook:

By singing about Afghanistan and Iraq in the same breath as Gallipoli, we risk shrouding them in the same nostalgic mist. Contemporary wars must be assessed in the cold, hard light of day. They must not be allowed to hide from proper scrutiny in the belly of the Anzac Trojan Horse.

Holbrook also reports audience reaction: ‘I had heaps of people come up to me after and say thank you and you are brave to speak out – I feel the same but I am scared to say anything about all this Anzac stuff because you get criticised!’ It would be nice to think that the freedom Australian soldiers have allegedly fought for extended to freedom to criticise Anzackery.

A long extract from Holbrook’s speech is here, along with a link to a speech on the same occasion from Melissa Parke, MP for Fremantle.

Update 9 March 2015: Gallipoli 1915 conference

The details, program and paper abstracts for Gallipoli 1915: a Century On, presented by the Australian War Memorial and the Australian National University in Canberra 19-20 March.

Update 8 March 2015: Raimond Gaita on security, liberty and the Anzac centenary

Melbourne University philosopher Raimond Gaita drew some important links between the Anzac centenary and current concerns about national security. He warned us to be careful about what we say on Anzac Day.

Update 3 March 2015: Anzac Centenary Arts Fund; Anzacunbadgery; Premier State; DVA grant for peace; Australian War Memorial Shop, parties and gargoyles; conscientious objectors in London; peace chorus in April; Gippsland stories

Anzac Centenary Arts Fund

Ministers Brandis and Ronaldson announced public grants for about 30 projects worth $1.5 million. The winning projects cover a wide range of subjects on the home and war fronts. Honest History and Manning Clark House had proposed an innovative project involving historians, artists and poets but we were unsuccessful.

Anzacunbadgery (updated)

The Aotearoa New Zealand prime minister, John Key, seemed to jump the gun on his Australian counterpart by announcing that the Kiwis would be sending 143 military personnel to Iraq, ‘likely to be a joint training mission with Australia, although it will not be badged as an Anzac force’. An article in the Murdoch press early in December had referred to cross-Tasman discussions and emphasised the Anzac connection, including the centenary. (See also.) Perhaps this piece was kite-flying by the government.

When Prime Minister Abbott visited New Zealand on 27-28 February his joint statement with Prime Minister Key mentioned the Anzac centenary and the prime ministers’ wish to ensure that the ‘Anzac legacy is used as a catalyst for further cooperation, peace-building and the promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law into the future’. The statement hedged its bets, however, on the nature of the Iraq force.

Prime Minister Abbott welcomed the New Zealand Government’s decision to commit Defence Force personnel to a Coalition Building Partner Capacity mission to train the Iraqi Security Forces at the Taji Military Complex near Baghdad. He said discussion with Prime Minister Key had informed Australia’s consideration of what further assistance it would provide Iraq.

It is still (2 March) unclear whether or not the force will have an ‘Anzac’ designation (though clearly Mr Key is against this) and what would be the significance of such a designation. Perhaps te iwi o Aotearoa, having had a century of being forgotten by Australians in Anzac-related matters, don’t want to run the risk again. Watch this space, presumably.

Update: 4 March 2015: still Anzacunbadgery but maybe just a little wistful

The prime minister said this at the press conference yesterday after announcing the expected Australian training commitment to Iraq.


Prime Minister, this is a joint Australian-New Zealand operation, why is it not officially badged an ANZAC operation and does that suggest New Zealand may leave earlier than we do?


I should point out that even in the ANZAC operation at Gallipoli, the New Zealanders were in their units and the Australians were in our units and so that’s a perfectly normal thing for the nationals of particular countries to serve in their national units. Look, I’m very pleased and proud that in this Centenary of ANZAC year that Australia and New Zealand will be contributing to this important mission. I know that it’s not strictly speaking an ANZAC mission, because there is not one Australia and New Zealand army corps in this particular case, but it certainly is an Australia and New Zealand military contribution, a joint military contribution to an important mission and I think there are obviously historical parallels.

Update 6 March 2015: More wistfulness

We picked this up a little late but it is worth noting. Peter Jennings of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said this on AM on 27 February as Prime Minister Abbott departed for New Zealand.

I think it’s a good thing that Australians and New Zealanders are once again deploying together … We’ve done this for well over 100 years so there’s a nice symbolism and it shows that, you know, two like minded countries are prepared to put forces into harm’s way to pursue an important strategic goal.

2015 is also the year of other anniversaries that are relevant to Australian and New Zealand deployments overseas in alliance with the United States. It is the 50th anniversary of the amendments to the Australian Defence Act which allowed conscripts to serve overseas, including in Vietnam. It is the 50th anniversary of the New Zealand decision to send troops to Vietnam. Finally, given the concerns in Australia about the lack of parliamentary discussion of decisions about expeditionary forces, it is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.

Premier State

A memorial was unveiled in Sydney, including the words said to have been used by Kemal Ataturk ‘during a speech in 1934’ to Anzac mothers. In fact, while it is likely that Ataturk wrote the words, it is unlikely that he delivered them, or indeed that the words were explicitly addressed to ‘Anzac mothers’. Myths persist.

Elsewhere in the Premier State, there is an exhibition on the role played by New South Wales parliamentarians and staff during the Great War, 100 students and 28 teachers will be visiting Gallipoli and other sites in April, and there is a facility for searching NSW war memorials for names of service people. There is also a list of 17 NSW-specific commemorative dates 2014-18. There are 12 to go.

Finally, the State Library of NSW has a rather nice line in leather-bound journals carrying a quote from soldier diarist Archie Barwick. There are also various knick-knacks with poppies. We would love to hear from anyone who buys such items.

DVA grant for peace

Honest History has been tracking the progress of the Anzac Centenary Local Grants from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. One notable grant to the electorate of Melbourne, held by Adam Bandt for the Greens, is $5086 for the Medical Association for Prevention of War’s traditional Anzac Eve event. This year’s event, at Federation Square, is being addressed by Peter Cundall (ABC gardening guru, veteran of three wars and peace activist), Kellie Merritt (social worker and widow of Paul Pardoel, who was killed in Iraq) and Adam Bandt. Choirs Melbourne Singers of Gospel and Shaking the Tree and students from Brunswick Secondary College will also be performing.

The event is supported by the Anzac Centenary Peace Coalition as well as by DVA. The DVA grant on this occasion is against the run of local grants from the department, which are mostly for fairly traditional, backward-looking commemorative purposes. This focus is not surprising, given the narrowness of the grant criteria.

This event [MAPW’s application to DVA said] is to commemorate the centenary of WW1. It also will draw in themes from the wars Australia has participated in since then. The focus is on peaceful and respectful commemoration, with hope for a more peaceful future.

It is encouraging to see official support for visions of the future; more please. Bookings for the event are preferred: here.

Australian War Memorial Shop, parties and gargoyles


In our 3 February update we noted the Memorial Shop in 2013-14 made $1 783 496, of which net profit was $288 149 before notional overhead costs. The Memorial has confirmed for us that all of the profit figure goes into the work of the Memorial – the notional costs are really notional – and that the revenue figure goes towards paying for salaries and wages, payments to suppliers, stationery, packaging, display requirements, credit card surcharges, etc. We were told there is no detailed breakdown available.

Among the items available in the Shop (apart from those we mentioned last time) there are ‘Soldier pyjamas’ in camouflage print. ‘Fun and educational, these boy’s pyjamas represent the uniform worn in the field…’ There is a full catalogue online; do not expect the acme of good taste and it would be really interesting to know just how many, say, ‘Australian War Memorial night and day stubby coolers’ at $9.99 get sold, how much the manufacturer makes on them and what happens to the units that are not sold. Perhaps that is something for Senate Estimates to ask. The Memorial Shop also has, of course, probably the widest range of Australian military history books available anywhere.


Meanwhile, speaking of Senate Estimates, Minister Ronaldson and Director Nelson received questions from Senator Whish-Wilson (Greens, Tasmania) about the use of the Anzac Hall at the Memorial for a party thrown by the world’s fifth largest arms manufacturer, Northrop Grumman. (The party was on 2 December 2014 to celebrate Northrop Grumman’s expansion into Australia and the main guest was the then Defence Minister.) During questioning at Estimates Director Nelson revealed that Boeing and Lockheed Martin, as well as Northrop Grumman and others, had also held functions in the Anzac Hall. The following exchange then took place between the Minister and Senator Whish-Wilson:

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Three of the biggest weapons manufacturers in the world have used the War Memorial.

Senator Ronaldson: I take it from this that you are suggesting that the Australia Defence Force should not be using this area either.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I beg your pardon.

Senator Ronaldson: I assume you are saying that the Australia Defence Force should be banned from using this area as well, because they indeed carry and use weapons. So the logical extension is that the Australian Defence Force should be banned from using this space as well. Is that what you are saying?

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I think there is a very important distinction here, Senator Ronaldson, and I am trying to be very sensitive about it. The difference is that these companies profit from selling weapons. The difference is that Australian defence personnel do not. That is a very simple distinction. This is a very important issue to a lot of Australians. You can shake your head, Senator Ronaldson. The War Memorial is important to a lot of Australians. I think a lot of them would be very surprised and upset to know that some of the biggest weapons companies in the world were using our Australian War Memorial, our shrine, to promote their businesses. I am just suggesting that, for sensitivity’s sake, perhaps you do it somewhere else. That is what I am getting on the record here tonight.

Memorial watchers will know such events are only the tip of the iceberg in an institution whose theatre for years has carried the name of BAE Systems, the world’s third largest arms manufacturer, and which numbers among its benefactors, besides BAE, ASC, Lockheed Martin (largest arms manufacturer in the world), Boeing (second largest), Raytheon (fourth largest), General Dynamics (sixth largest), Thales (tenth largest) and Tenix. According to Director Nelson, Boeing gave $500 000 to support the Afghanistan exhibition and Lockheed Martin $500 000 ‘which is enabling us to run a whole lot of educational programs’. To sum up, five of the six largest arms manufacturers in the world by sales figures, plus the tenth largest, are current benefactors of the Memorial, with Northrop Grumman (fifth largest) presumably about to drop something in the bucket.

The lock-step that necessarily exists between armed services and arms suppliers seems to apply also between the commemoration industry and these suppliers. It is difficult to see why it should. The idea that donations for commemoration are in some sense reparation payments for the effects of armaments seems far-fetched for such a hard-nosed industry. Perhaps such donations are more in the nature of investments in ‘defence’, broadly defined, in the expectation of future sales. The Memorial apparently needs the donations to top up payments from government but at what cost? (This article from 2011 has some information about the arms industry, including successful legal proceedings in the United States against BAE. The memorials referred to in the article – potential rivals to the Australian War Memorial – have never been built but the general points made in the article, particularly about charitable giving by arms manufacturers, are still relevant.)


Finally, the Memorial called for tenders for the replacement of 24 of its 26 gargoyles. The discrepancy is because the two gargoyles of an Indigenous man and woman may not be replaced, subject to the outcome of consultations with Indigenous representatives.

Conscientious objectors in London

The Peace Pledge Union, the oldest secular pacifist organisation in Britain, is planning a major event in London on 15 May, the International Day of Conscientious Objection. This will include an unveiling of a new exhibition, videos and a launch of Remembering the Men who said No, a website dedicated to remembering as many World War I conscientious objectors as can be traced, together with biographical information and photographs of the men, where possible.

The PPU produced a booklet to mark last year’s day, including biographies of a number of objectors, and there is a video of the event, as well. There were 20 000 conscientious objectors in Britain during the Great War and here is a group photograph of some of them courtesy of the PPU. Honest History would love to be advised of research on Great War conscientious objectors in Australia.

Peace chorus in April

Canberra’s community women’s chorus, A Chorus of Women, plans a number of events in Canberra around Anzac Day. The Festival for Peace will include music, forums, workshops, displays and events for children.

The festival is inspired by over 1200 women from 12 warring and neutral nations who met in The Hague for the only peace conference of World War I. This International Congress of Women – held during the same week as the Anzacs’ Gallipoli landings in April 1915 – passed visionary resolutions aimed at ending the war and establishing permanent peace. Their resolutions subsequently informed the establishment of the League of Nations and the International Court of Justice, as well as heralding other advances in international human rights law.

The centrepiece of the festival will be premiere performances of A Passion for Peace, a community choral and dramatic work in oratorio style by Canberra composer Glenda Cloughley. The work is inspired by the moral courage, love and creative action of the women 100 years ago, as well as present day hopes for the future of our children and grandchildren. Musical direction will be by Johanna McBride and performers will include A Chorus of Women, Arawang Primary School choir and a number of Canberra’s well-known soloists and instrumentalists. The oratorio performances are supported by the ACT Government through an artsACT grant. Program and tickets.

Gippsland stories

We have previously featured Shireatwar.com, the website wrangled by Phil Cashen on the impact of the Great War on the Shire of Alberton in Gippsland, Victoria. Phil’s work continues and his most recent major post looks in detail at the 136 men from the Shire who enlisted in the AIF before the end of 1914. ‘With local history studies of communities in WWI’, Phil says, ‘the focus can sometimes drift towards the “known locals”, those men who were long-established and well-known in the community at the time. Often, the memories of these men are still strong in the community because of family links that continue down to the present.’

Phil is particularly interested in tracking the rural working class, the men who enlisted in Yarram, the main town of the Shire, but who may have come from further afield. His website already has 23 posts, covering topics as diverse as British immigrant farm workers prior to 1914 to whether it was possible by the end of 1914 to comprehend the scale of the war in Europe, as well as detailed demographics on the men of Alberton who went to war.