Today marks the one hundredth anniversary of the withdrawal of Australian and New Zealand troops from the coast of Ottoman Turkey on 19-20 December 1915. British troops were to follow suit on 8-9 January 1916.
As a resource on WW1, and certainly in terms of suggestions for further reading, I have found the Independent/the i's "A History of the Great War in 100 Moments" - easily the best series I have seen in a British newspaper in years. I have the book version, and the small section on Gallipoli - number 27, pp.80-83, is evocatively written by Kathy Marks. The sheer numbers killed still shakes you - 80,000 defending Turks, 44,000 Allied forces, including 9000 Australians. All in a little over six months. The debacle perhaps feels less distant in terms of time than other WW1 battles when you read that the last veteran died in 2002 (when I was 33) or that the failings of the Allied military were exposed by journalist Keith Murdoch, father of Rupert.
Gallipoli became central to concepts of identity for an Australia emerging from being a British colony, and Marks explains how Australian war correspondent Charles Bean situated Gallipoli in terms of its demonstration of key aspects of Australian character - courage, sacrifice, irreverence and 'mateship'. In the modern era however, such concepts could not be allowed to pass without criticism. Marks observes:
"In a 2010 book, What’s Wrong with Anzac?, the historian Marilyn Lake called it “white Australia’s creation myth”, while another academic, Martin Ball, has written that the myth “suppresses parts of Australian history that are difficult to deal with. Anzac is a means of forgetting the origins of Australia. The Aboriginal population is conveniently absent. The convict stain is wiped clean. Post-war immigration is yet to broaden the cultural identity of the population."
I wonder if those quotes tell us more about the approach and world view of the academics concerned, than they illustrate about contemporary, or past Australia. How strange it would have seemed to the men who fought at Gallipoli, and their families, that they were part of a 'white creation myth' or that they would have to wait for post war immigration before their cultural identity would be 'broadened'.
If men are from Mars, some academics truly are from Venus.