McGibbon, Ian: William Malone and the entrenched myth of insubordination at Gallipoli

Ian McGibbon

William Malone and the entrenched myth of insubordination at Gallipoli‘, Stuff, 22 April 2018

A distinguished New Zealand military historian unpicks a myth that Kiwi officer, William Malone, disobeyed orders from a British superior at Gallipoli, specifically at Chunuk Bair in August 1915. McGibbon notes the narrow evidence base of the Malone defiance story, but the perennial desire for rousing, sentimental myths. He concludes that the Malone story is apocryphal.

One Ray Hicks comments succinctly beneath the McGibbon article: ‘people prefer myths to the truth, particularly when dealing with Gallipoli’. The dichotomy is perhaps better put as ‘myths versus evidence’, but the desire for the former is ubiquitous among politicians playing the patriotic card (as McGibbon notes then New Zealand PM Key did), relatives seeking comfort, or members of the commemorative industry dealing in ’emotional connections’.

Despite a conspicuous absence of corroborative evidence [says McGibbon], a myth was created that quickly resonated with the public. Clark’s claim that a heroic, soon to be killed, New Zealand officer stood up to “British commanders” fitted well with the emerging nationalist narrative of New Zealand’s Gallipoli efforts.

McGibbon’s work shows that evidence-based history and the debunking of myths is in a healthy state across the Tasman. We saw recently that the Ataturk ‘Those heroes …’ alleged words are being reviewed in official circles  in New Zealand, though there is little sign of that happening at the Australian War Memorial, where a high value is placed on the words’ sentimental resonance. (Pleased to be corrected, AWM.)

David Stephens

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