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The ANZAC Legend

Legends Year 9 Integrated Studies 2013
by

Sarah Merat

on 15 November 2013

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Transcript of The ANZAC Legend

The ANZAC Legend The story of the Gallipoli landing inspired the legend of ANZAC, which since then has been developed, expanded, embellished, confirmed, and sometimes challenged. It still remains central to many Australians’ self-image. What is the ANZAC Legend? Before the war a largely urbanised and newly federated nation had looked to its rural environment for its national character. The “bushmen”, and their women, were seen to possess hardiness, democratic spirit, mateship, and resourcefulness. In 1914, most Australians had high hopes that their soldiers would prove the nation’s worth. These hopes were realised in the colourful descriptions of their men in action following the landing at Gallipoli. The bushmen’s perceived characteristics were now applied, along with dash and courage in battle, to the ANZAC stereotype. These were soon extended to those who served on the Western front, where the term “digger” was also used to describe the Australian soldier. The legend of ANZAC was born on 25 April 1915, and was reaffirmed in eight months’ fighting on Gallipoli. Although there was no military victory, the Australians displayed great courage, endurance, initiative, discipline, and mateship. Such qualities came to be seen as the ANZAC spirit.

Many saw the ANZAC spirit as having been born of egalitarianism and mutual support. According to the stereotype, the ANZAC rejected unnecessary restrictions, possessed a sardonic sense of humour, was contemptuous of danger, and proved himself the equal of anyone on the battlefield. Consider the following statements: The Anzac Legend has become a major part of Australian life. Any politician who seeks office must pay homage to the legend, football players sometimes claim the Anzac spirit gets them through a game and thousands of Australians journey to Gallipoli each 25 April to take part in the dawn service at Anzac Cove. "It is a story of great valour under fire, unity of purpose and a willingness to fight against the odds that has helped to define what it means to be an Australian." Following the death of Alec Campbell, the last Anzac soldier to die, Prime Minister John Howard said on 17 May 2002: "Today is about compassion, about endurance against overwhelming odds, about mateship, it is about a ‘fair go’ – these are the values that were lived by our Anzacs and our Aussie boys on the Western Front and at Gallipoli." On Anzac Day 2002, the NSW Veterans Affairs Minister, Danna Vale, said: The Unknown Australian Soldier whom we are interring today was one of those who, by his deeds, proved that real nobility and grandeur belongs, not to empires and nations, but to the people on whom they, in the last resort, always depend.

That is surely at the heart of the ANZAC story, the Australian legend which emerged from the war. It is a legend not of sweeping military victories so much as triumphs against the odds, of courage and ingenuity in adversity. It is a legend of free and independent spirits whose discipline derived less from military formalities and customs than from the bonds of mateship and the demands of necessity. It is a democratic tradition, the tradition in which Australians have gone to war ever since. On 11 November 1993, at the ‘Funeral Service of the Unknown Australian Soldier’, Prime Minister Paul Keating spoke as follows: These stories which have been passed been passed down about Gallipoli and the Western Front have coalesced to produce the Anzac Legend. It is argued that the elements of the legends have combined to produce the ‘true Australian spirit’.What are the elements of the legend?

Questions
1. Identify the three key elements John Howard sees as part of the Anzac Legend in Statement 1.
2. What does Danna Vale add to the list in Statement 2?
3. In Statement 3, Paul Keating refers to similar things, but he also emphasises other elements of the Anzac Legend. Identify them. Elements of the ANZAC Legend Australian-born, though raised in Britain, Charles Bean returned home in 1904, aged 25. He became a newspaper writer and in 1909 he was sent to western New South Wales to write about the wool industry. Rural Australia inspired him, for here he believed were the distinctive virtues and values of the ideal Australian: Bushmen, Mateship, Bravery and a Spirit of independence (sound familiar?)

In 1914 Bean was selected to accompany the AIF as official war correspondent. He joined the troops in Egypt and on Gallipoli, and later on the Western Front. Bean landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, carried towards the shore in HMS Ribble. But his account of the landing was not the first to reach Australia: he had to wait until he was accredited before he could submit his stories to the home newspapers. Eventually, he would become the only correspondent to cover the campaign to its end. He was later appointed to write the official history of Australia in the war.

Bean was a close observer of the Australian soldiers. He cannot be credited with creating the ANZAC legend for the troops did that, but he verbalised it and enshrined it for a receptive public in his volumes of the Official history of Australia in the war of 1914–18. Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean (CEW Bean) How Important, and True, is the Legend?
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