‘Mourning and commemoration in Australia: the case of Sir W. T. Bridges and the Unknown Australian Soldier’, History Australia, 4, 2, December 2007, pp. 40.1-40.17
The article discusses the significance of the return to Australia of the only two repatriated bodies from World War I and what these two stories tell about our approach to grief and commemoration. Major-General WT Bridges was seen ‘to personify, if only for a time, Australia’s baptism in blood and the achievement of the landing at Gallipoli’ (p. 40.3). Many thousands watched his funeral procession. As the numbers of dead grew, however, Bridges’s death became an inadequate symbol.
Repatriation of the body of an unknown soldier was long talked about and finally occurred in 1993, although not without controversy.
Clamouring for an unknown soldier to be returned to Australia expressed a new need and direction in acknowledging the sacrifices of the war. An evolving culture of commemoration in the Great War had made the public celebration of the one, known, man largely incompatible with the private grief of thousands. (p. 40.14)