Honest History E-newsletter No. 44, 13 June 2017

ISSN: 2202-5561 ©

The Honest History Book

New on the Honest History website

Democratic opposition to war: the 1916-17 anti-conscription campaigns: Barry Jones’ keynote speech to the Brunswick-Coburg conscription conference, 20 May

Honest History’s Alternative Guide to the Australian War Memorial: second edition (the first edition has been downloaded more than 2000 times)

Britain, Australia, New Zealand, SEATO, the secret war in Laos, and counter insurgency expert Colonel ‘Ted’ Serong: extracts from Willy Bach’s thesis

Teaching Indigenous archaelogy: Darwin schoolteacher Kate Leadbeater writes about finding the evidence right next door

Griffith Review 57: Millennials Strike Back: reviewed by Emily Gallagher, millennial and ANU PhD candidate

Is He Coming? Derek Abbott reviews Scorched Earth by Sue Rosen, about plans for total war 1942

How rabbits shaped Australia: Bruce Munday’s Those Wild Rabbits is reviewed by John Myrtle

Recently on the Honest History website

Centenary Watch

Senate Estimates; the War Memorial and Dr Chau Chak Wing; a memorial to when the Empire attacked the Boers; ministerials; the Darwin Anzac tourist bureau; the War Memorial website – ‘young and free’; elsewhere


Dead wringer. ‘The way we discuss dying in this country is strange. We apply metaphors of war and sport and, having transposed a patient into a soldier or Olympian, assume mortal illness to be an enemy that can be vanquished with courage and fortitude. One must always rage against the dying of the light, however futilely; to do otherwise is cowardly or perverse.’ Martin McKenzie-Murray. ‘Charlie’s sheen’, The Saturday Paper, 22-28 April 2017

Creeping up. ‘Death, for most people, is a rumour; something that happens to others, far away. But it is the last thing you will ‘do”– or which will happen to you – and the likelihood is that it will take place in an acute hospital or a care home, orchestrated by strangers. You will have little say in its pace or its manner. There is a risk that, during the course of your dying, you will be subjected to procedures and treatments that are painful, degrading and ultimately futile. If you are old, your children may make all the major decisions for you. Death may creep up on you without warning, without a chance for you to prepare yourself and settle your affairs.’ Seamus O’Mahony, The Way We Die Now (2016)

Carked it. ‘People mainly said they used euphemisms because the words “dead” or “dying” could upset people or were too harsh. Some participants said they had heard many euphemisms, but wouldn’t dream of using some, for instance “kicked the bucket”, for fear of causing offence. Most participants said they speak openly about death and dying but could understand why others don’t. Over two-thirds of participants were health professionals, and while many of them are comfortable talking in plain language, they often use the phrase “passed away” in some situations rather than “died”.’ Deb Rawlings, et al ‘Passed away, kicked the bucket, pushing up daisies – the many ways we don’t talk about death’, The Conversation, 23 May 2017, reporting an international survey

Pulling punches. ‘When talking about past wars, we have well-honed rhetoric about “the fallen”, “the supreme sacrifice”, “dying for freedom and honour” … Anzac – the honest approach – would say “dead” or “killed” rather than “fallen”. If it used the word “sacrifice” at all it would say “they were sacrificed” … Euphemisms and dishonest terminology are the essence of Anzackery. An honest approach would not say “they died for our freedom”, as if there was some direct link between squalid death a century or 70 years ago and such liberty as we have today or had then. An honest approach would simply say “they died serving a government policy” and then it would go on to question whether that policy made sense then or makes sense now. When we hear that mantra, “They died for our freedom”, it is usually a sign that someone is trying to stop us asking difficult questions about what they really died for.’ David Stephens, The Honest History Book (2017)

Annie. ‘A few hundred yards further on they stopped to rest in a shell hole, where they found a man almost blown to pieces, but somehow still alive. He was gasping for air, sobbing and calling out for someone called Annie. Payne could see at a glance that there was no hope for the man: he was bound to die after hours of lonely agony. Payne took up the rifle Brock was using as a crutch and shot the soldier. Then he and Brock moved on in silence. He deserved a VC, Payne thought, for the courage that spared a man such a horrible death.’ Emily Mayhew, Wounded: From Battlefield to Blighty, 1914-1918 (2014)

Speak my language? ‘Louis Simpson speculates about the reason infantry soldiers so seldom render their experiences in language: “To a foot-soldier, war is almost entirely physical. That is why some men, when they think about war, fall silent. Language seems to falsify physical life and to betray those who have experienced it absolutely – the dead.” But that can’t be right. The real reason is that soldiers have discovered that no one is very interested in the bad news they have to report. What listener wants to be torn and shaken when he doesn’t have to be?’ Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (1975), quoting Louis Simpson, The Poetry of War (1965)

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