Stephens, David: Dam Busters and ‘Anzackery’ at the War Memorial

David Stephens

Dam Busters and “Anzackery” at the War Memorial‘, Pearls and Irritations, 6 July 2023 updated

The old phrase ‘once more with feeling’ could apply to much of what the Australian War Memorial does. Or perhaps not 80 years of commemoration but one year repeated 80 times.

The Memorial’s recent publicity for an artefact from the Dam Busters raid of 1943 was a good example, but there have been plenty of others: the Anzac Centenary, the Monash Centre in France, the nostalgic hero worship of Ben Roberts-Smith.

Hankerings for the old stories and the old ways of doing things, free of disloyal critiques about ‘Anzackery’, might be part of the reason for the Memorial’s reluctance to properly recognise and commemorate the Australian Frontier Wars. That surely is an idea whose time has come but then the Memorial has always been slow to take up new ideas – except, of course, when there is hectares of new space to be built.


Update 11 July 2023

Sue Wareham in Pearls and Irritations:

So, what will the redeveloped AWM hold in terms of children’s education? Judging by past performance, and the overall plans for the huge new space with plenty of gee-whizz weaponry on display, our children will be none the wiser about why wars occur, why they must be prevented and the steps that would help achieve this.

The article looks at the Memorial’s track record in encouraging children to become comfortable with warfare, including busting dams. Also in Canberra Times 15 July 2023.

Update 9 July 2023

An op ed in the Canberra Times 5 July from Denis Moriarty:

Australia has had heroes, lots of them, and we are proud of them. The risk, though, is that after a day’s spectating through an enormous semi-ecclesiastical building devoted to ennobling fighters in war, we may lose touch with what war is really about.

A letter in the Canberra Times 8 July from Simon Cobcroft:

I visited the $100 million Sir John Monash Centre in Villers-Bretonneux which the Australian government built, in Tony Abbott’s words, “to pay tribute to the great men who saved France” and to recognise Australian “ideals of duty and service”. The Australians visiting on the day were a combination of armchair generals and would-be boy soldiers.

The centrepiece of the centre was an “immersive multimedia experience” where I was able to “experience life on the battlefield” as explosions fired around me on a huge wrap-around screen. Laser-beams of bullets whizzed past my head amidst plumes of smoke and sub-woofers pounded my eardrums. “Oh yeah!” yelled an exuberant Australian next to me.

As I walked out of the centre, past a wall of larrikin Aussie war lingo, I felt a great sense of unease. As Denis [Moriarty above] so lucidly wrote, the takeaway seemed to be less about the true, depressing and dirty, nature of war and more about what a great adventure it was.

Honest History followed the early history of the Monash Centre. Use our Search engine.

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