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Anzac Remembrance « Previous | |Next »
April 25, 2005

'Tis Anzac day.

I planted trees in the public reserve outside the holiday shack at Victor Harbor early this morning. It was my way of countering the history of forgetting and the appropriation of the Anzac tradition by the culture industry.

Gallipoli is now well established in Australian nationalist mythology, but not as romantic success. Gallipoli is seen as a defeat in which Australian troops proved their valour and forged a new country. It is a foundation myth of the Australian nation: heroes who died for freedom.

Hence war is celebrated by the conservatives who say that it is sweet, proper and noble to die for your country. This kind of patriotism celebrates Australia as a warrior nation, whose sons are willing to sacrifice themselves for heroism. The diggers are the noble warriors, and the Legend pits the commitment to nation, duty and mateship against the effete, anti-war, inner city urban lefties.

Now we can think otherwise to this heroic narrative of the conservative keepers of the patriotic flame:


One can be opposed to bad wars and still celebrate Anzac Day: not by remembering it as a "legend of failure"; but by remembering all those innocent lives lost on both sides. One can, and should remember the horror and pain of this war. One should not forget this history.

These lives were wasted on behalf of the bad imperial strategy of the British, which was designed by Winston Churchill, when he was at Admirality. His strategy to knock off the Ottoman empire by capturing Instanbul (Constantinople) from the sea with some big battleships was an utter failure. The straits were mined and the Turkish forts that guarded the sea entrance to the Dardenelles. Hence the need to land some troops to capture the forts.

The lives of the young men were sacrificed by politicians, generals and sealords. It was not worth it. That is the history that should not be forgotten amidst all the mythmaking.

Update: 26th April
The editorial in The Australian says that Australians' interest and respect for our military heritage has changed over the last decade. This:

....was a change for the better, demonstrating how we had become a more reflective country, capable of remembering, and honouring, past achievements in an imperfect world. Anzac Day is truly the one day of the year, the date on which Australians assert their love of country and offer respect to all those who have answered the call to defend it.

So, as a more reflective nation at ease with our Anzac heritage, we can think in terms of strategic policy formation about national security. In the light of the invasion of Iraqi we can, and should be, asking ourselves a simple question: 'what stategic national interest was Australia defending at Gallipoli?'

After all, Gallipoli also stands for an invasion of a foreign country in the Middle East,even though Turkey did not threaten the national security interests of continental Australia.

Some commentary can be found at and John Quiggin

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:01 PM | | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)

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I read some of the material in the media written about the Anzacs, 1915 and the Anzac Legend over the weekend for my posts on Public Opinion and Junk for Code. Most of it was about the new generation of cosmsopolitan Australians discovering their histo... [Read More]



At least one dignitary on hand didn't join in with the myth-makers. Below is from Paul Mulvey of

Some bonds were reinforced, but New Zealand defence chief Air Marshall Bruce Ferguson revived the tension felt towards the British 90 years ago with several comments about the leadership which sent innocent Australians and New Zealanders to their deaths.

"It was joint warfare at its worst, at least on the British side," he said in his address, as Prince Charles sat three metres away.


I noticed that Peter Cosgrove, the Australian Defence Chief, said in relation to the significance of the Gallipoli commemoration for today:

"It is not to glorify war: it is to honour the memory of those men and women of all nations who fought here.We remember their essential humanity, for they were not unlike us. They struggled to live well, and if needs must, to die with as much dignity as war allowed. For us, that is example enough."

The NZer's went much further.

As you point Bruce Ferguson spoke about the failings of the generals. Helen Clarke, their PM, spoke about the killing fields of Gallipoli.