Review note: more Great War miscellany

‘Review note: more Great War miscellany’, Honest History, 7 September 2014

This is a further round-up of recent (and recently discovered) writing on Anzac and World War I. Earlier ones are accessible here. We are trying to do no more than link to the items and give a quick impression of what is contained in them. It is for readers to venture more deeply into this territory.

First, a blockbuster resource of out-of-copyright books relevant to the Great War. Project Gutenberg World War I (Bookshelf) links to full text of hundreds of books, fiction and non-fiction, under dozens of headings, from a number of countries, mostly in English. Among many, we noticed The Outdoor Girls in Army Service or Doing their Bit for the Soldier Boys (juvenile fiction), and JL Beeston’s Five Months at Anzac: A Narrative of Personal Experiences of the Officer Commanding the 4th Field Ambulance, Australian Imperial Force.

Once readers have worked their way through World War I, there is Project Gutenberg World War II (Bookshelf), which is tiny by comparison, due to copyright exigencies. Much larger, but confined to the Great War, is the Zotero First World War Studies Bibliography, which has basic bibliographical information on more than 4000 (at time of our writing) books and articles, compiled by members of the First World War Studies Society. Again, many categories, many languages, and some, like Nathan Wise’s forthcoming book  Anzac Labour: Workplace Cultures in the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War (2014) including an abstract. Australian-published works are at section 15.

Zotero readers might find an initial mention of a book in that database and then look for it on our Honest History site. (We are nowhere near as big as Zotero but we tell you more.) If they can’t find the book on our site, they could let us know.

While readers were reading, there were commemorations happening, exhibitions opening and memories being revived. Victorians who went to the early skirmish in German New Guinea were commemorated with a parade (this page has links to other ABC material) while the Melbourne Museum opened a display of family memorabilia and Ross McMullin wrote about the letters of ‘Pompey’ Elliott, who featured in the ABC’s The War that Changed Us. An article about sock-knitting in wartime produced reminiscences from readers.

One of the highlights of The War that Changed Us has been the music. Music features also in Joan Littlewood’s Oh What a Lovely War! (1964), the lyrics of which are online, and World War I trench songs. Poet Siegfried Sassoon’s illustrated diaries are now online, then, presenting a different perspective, there is a gallery of patriotic propaganda, mostly covers of The War Budget. And the World Socialist Web Site reviews some World War I art in London, with some great illustrations.

A number of articles expressed concern at the trend of commemoration world-wide. David Olusoga called for more recognition for non-Anglo-Celtic Empire soldiers, as did Andrew Mycock and Santanu Das. John Menadue analysed the Anzac myth and the ABC’s Factcheck put five myths to the test while Robert Fisk asked ‘[w]hy do we pay homage to the dead but ignore the lessons of their war?’ Joan Beaumont, speaking to the Gallipoli Centenary Peace Campaign, asked why Anzac has lasted as a trope in our national story.

Carolyn Holbrook looked at Anzac centenary expenditure and concluded that politicians and commercial shysters are responding to, as much as creating the current mood. ‘If we really want to explain our Anzacophilia, we need to look in the mirror.’ ABC News provided a convenient and mostly unquestioning portal for Anzac fans, though one program broadcast in July argued that an anti-war perspective is illuminating.

Finally, views of war fever in Germany in 1914 and of how war remembrance in Europe is being turned to current political purposes come from the World Socialist Web Site. The same site reports on Australia’s commemoration of the 1914 expedition to German New Guinea, taking a rather different view from this piece in the Daily Telegraph. The World Socialist site also looked at the story of the New Zealand expedition to German Samoa in 1914, the official version of which is here.



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