Where did Australia fight in World War II

The importance of commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the world war in Australia

In the collective memory of Australians, Australia became a nation on April 25, 1915 when the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) landed on the beaches of Gallipoli in the Dardanelles1 born. Neither the 60,000 years of settlement by the Aboriginees nor the colonization by the British from 1788 or the Federation of States in 1901 are considered to be a national founding act, but the battle on the side of the troops of King George V when they landed in a distant land , the Ottoman Empire, Germany's ally in World War I.

Even if the extraterritorial dimension of this national founding act may seem anachronistic today, it was nonetheless consistent with the contemporary conception of the Australian nation at the time2. Australia entered the ranks of nations where nations are born: On the battlefield! The fact that Australia had been one of the best countries to live in (at least as a white man) and in which a genuine, progressive democracy could blossom within a very short time, did not change anything; only the baptism of fire really mattered3. Australia of 1914, which was shaped by Edwardian militarism and culturally and demographically very close to Great Britain, expected a lot from this conflict4. The story was already written and, whatever the outcome of the Dardanelles operation (in this case a shameful defeat), the operation had to be a triumph. It was the first time Australians fought with Australians in a common cause, in a war in which the other parties with long military traditions participated5. Since 1916, ANZAC Day has been celebrated on April 25 as the anniversary of the battle with great pomp, not to be confused with the national holiday, Australia Day, which is celebrated on January 26 as the anniversary of the landing of the first British fleet in 1788. Still, ANZAC Day attracts the crowds more than the national holiday, especially since the mid-1990s6.

Since the beginning of the conflict, real myths have been woven around the Australian soldiers, which originally were primarily in the service of the recruitment policy and war propaganda common to the other warring parties7. It was not just about portraying a certain image of the Australian fighter in order to encourage the volunteers to join the army, but also about getting the population to support the war effort and to be proud of it. So the phenomenon was by and large commonplace, normal, one means among others that was supposed to contribute to the final victory. On the European continent, the myths woven around the soldiers of the First World War did not withstand the shock of the catastrophe caused by the fighting. Australia, which was actually protected from the conflict, had to adopt a completely different view of the First World War, according to which the war is the event on which the national character is based. A national myth has been created around this portrayal in which the Australian soldier is tall, strong, handsome, tanned, better than anyone else8. However, this myth has nothing to do with the reality of the soldiers who were not involved in creating this rhetoric. However, he sometimes caused difficulties for them when they wanted to talk about their own war experiences9.

In spite of the advancement of historical research, the numerous military historical works that are commercially available in masses still glorify the image of the Australian soldier, including the permanent exhibitions in the Australian War Museum, in contradiction to the reality in the trenches10. Nevertheless, the end of ANZAC Day was announced in the 1970s11. The 14-18 veterans gradually died, and popular participation in marches and parades declined sharply. Australia had changed ethnically, demographically, socially and culturally in a fairly short period of time. Hence, since the mid-1960s, Australian governments, liberals as well as Labor, sought to redefine Australian identity12.

The celebration of the landing of the first Australian Army, nearly one-fifth of the British-born men and an equal number of Australians of British parents, in a war that failed to keep its promise to be "the last of the last" lost their meaning13. And how could one integrate the “new Australians” into this Australian myth, all the Greeks, Italians and Asians? The nation had to find other points of reference and orient itself to other cultural references.

Nevertheless, it is safe to say today that the commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the First World War will be an event of the utmost importance for Australia in the 21st century. In the course of the development of the picture of history, the legend of the ANZAC regiments, holy cow and an integral part of the election recipe of John Howard faded. The conservative and patriotic - and some would say nationalist - Prime Minister from 1996 to 2007 with three re-elections14 defied on all counts the definition of the national identity of his predecessor from the Labor Party, Paul Keating, prime minister from 1991 to 1996. Keating had started a project called The Big Picture15, in which the priority was to recognize the injustice of white colonization against the black indigenous population of the continent, to bring Australia closer to its trading partners in the Asia-Pacific region, and above all to bring the country closer to the form of a republic16. For Keating, the real heroes were the soldiers of the Second Australian Army who fought to protect Australian territory in WWII, rather than the ANZAC soldiers under British command in a European war. This view of history suited his political and republican projects. Against this background of the Australian History Wars, Howard referred again and again to the legend of the ANZAC in order to upgrade Australia's past as a heroic one and not to let the country stand there as a colonial culprit17. In addition, the death of the last ANZAC fighter, Alec Campbell, in 2002 and the subsequent national sympathy acted as a catalyst for the enthusiasm of the population for the First World War as a fertile soil for genealogical research and the publication of numerous books.

After John Howard became Prime Minister, he made endless speeches about ANZAC, used its myth to promote the Iraq war, flew to Gallipoli and Villers-Bretonneux, and most importantly, did everything possible to bring this version of history to the younger generation18. The ANZAC story has never been as popular since the 1930s as it has been since the mid-1990s when it provided a foundation for a particular
(Re) definition of national identity, so that it seems difficult for the Labor Party, which has ruled since 2007, first with Kevin Rudd and later with Julia Gillard at the helm, to propose a different view of Australian identity without discrediting it devices.

In preparation for the 100th anniversary, the Gillard government conducted an opinion poll to meet the expectations of the Howard-era Australians as much as possible. According to the national daily The Age, the report commissioned by the Department of War Veterans Affairs cost nearly $ 370,000.19. For the 100th anniversary, the Gillard government has an initial budget of 83.5 million dollars (approx. 65 million euros)20 planned. To understand the importance of these amounts, it must be remembered that Australia has only about a third of the population of France. So it is definitely a significant commitment. This budget is split between a dozen projects, one of the most important of which is the Government’s ANZAC Centenary Local Grants Program, which gives a budget of $ 100,000 to each of the country's 150 constituencies21 forgives. It is about organizing commemorative projects at a local level to involve the population and arouse their enthusiasm. However, these sums do not even take into account the large amounts already spent by the Australian government in the Somme and Picardy regions. In 2010 a budget of ten million was passed to set up an Australian memorial circuit and several million were spent on renovating Monsieur Letaille's museum in Bullecourt. In addition, a new museum will be opened in Fromelles in summer 201322.


1 Martin Crotty, "April 25, 1915: Australian troops land at Gallipoli: trial, trauma and the" birth of the Nation "", Turning Points in Australian History, Sydney, University of NSW Press, 2009, p.113. Here the Australian World War II soldiers are commonly referred to as ANZACs or Diggers.

2 On the question of the extraterritoriality of Australian national memorials, see: Elizabeth Rechniewsky, “Quand l’Australie invente et réinvente une tradition. L’exemple du débarquement de Gallipoli (April 1915) ”, Vingtième siècle. Revue d’histoire, 101, January-March 2009, pp. 123-132.

3The Oxford companion to Australian history, South Melbourne, Vic, Oxford University Press, 2001. See Introduction Democracy and 'Economic history as well as Gold rush.

4 Henry Reynolds, “Are Nations really made at war?”, Marilyn Lake, What's wrong with ANZAC? The militarization of Australian history, Sydney: University of NSW Press, 2010, p. 41 and passim.

5 In the final months of the Boer War, the Australians were already fighting under the Federation flag. The First World War is still seen as the first truly national war. Robert L. Wallace, The Australians at the Boer War, Canberra, Australian War Memorial, 1976, p.3.

6 Kenneth Stanley Inglis and Jan Brazier, Sacred places: war memorials in the Australian landscape, 3rd ed. Carlton, Vic .: Melbourne University Publishing, 2008, p. 547 and Passim.

7 John F. Williams, ANZACS, the media and the Great War, Kensington, N.S.W, UNSW Press, 1999, p. 59.

8 The canon par excellence is the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 by the official historian C. E. W. Bean.

9 Among others there are: Dale James Blair, Dinkum diggers: an Australian battalion at was, Carlton, Vic., Melbourne University Press, 2001. Likewise, Thomson Alistair, "A past you can live with: digger memories and the ANZAC Legend", ANZAC: Meaning, Memory and Myth, London; Alan Seymour & Richard Nile (eds), University of London, Sir Robert Menzies Center for Australian Studies, 1991), pp. 21-31.

10 Romain Fathi, Representations museales du corps combattant 14-18: L'Australian War Memorial de Canberra au prisme de l'Historial de la Grande Guerre de Péronne, Paris, L'Harmattan, 2013, 210 pp.

11 Jenny Macleod, “The Fall and Rise of ANZAC Day: 1965 and 1990 Compared,” War & Society, Volume 20, Number 1, pp. 149-168.

12 Subject of the study by James Curran and Stuart Ward, The unknown nation: Australia after empire, Carlton, Vic., Melbourne University Press, 2010.

13 These numbers can be found in Elizabeth Greenhalgh, "Australians broke the Hindenburg line", Craig Stockings, Zombie myths of Australian military history, Sydney, University of New South Wales Press, 2010, p.71. Also: Joan Beaumont, Australia's was 1914-18, St. Leonards, N.S.W, Allen & Unwin, 1995, p.7.

14 James Jupp, "immigration and multiculturalism", Howard's second and third governments: Australian Commonwealth administration 1998-2004, Sydney, NSW Press, 2005, pp.173-188. See also: Chapter 6, James Curran, The power of speech: Australian Prime Ministers defining the national image, Carlton, Vic., Melbourne University Press, 2004, pp. 316-356.

15 The details of the program are listed in: Advancing Australia: the speeches of Paul Keating, Prime Minister, Sydney, N.S.W, Big Picture Publications, 1995.

16 The official Australian Head of State is Queen Elizabeth II. In her absence, she is represented by a Governor General, whom she appoints on a proposal from the Prime Minister; this in turn is elected by the electorate.

17 There is an extensive work on this topic: The history wars, Carlton, Vic, Melbourne University Press, 2004.

18 Marilyn Lake, “How do schoolchildren learn about the spirit of ANZAC?”, What's wrong with ANZAC ?: the militarization of Australian history, 1st edition., Sydney, University of New South Wales Press, 2010, pp. 135-167. See also: M. McDonald, "Read We Forget," The Politics of Memory and Australian Military Intervention, " International Political Sociology 4, No. 3, 2010, pp. 287-302.

19 “ANZAC Day‘ just a party for drunk yobbos ’- Aussie attitude study”, The Age, March 26, 2012.

20 Press release. Prime Minister Assessing The Centenary of ANZAC, April 24, 2012. Department of Veterans Affairs: http://minister.dva.gov.au/media_releases/2012/apr/jointcentenary.htm accessed March 10, 2013.

21 Press release. “ANZAC Centenary Local Grants Program. Guidelines ”, May 31, 2013, Site australien officiel de la commission du centenaire: http://www.anzaccentenary.gov.au/grants.htm, accessed on March 10, 2013.

22 See: http://nord-pas-de-calais.france3.fr/info/musee-de-fromelles--ouverture-en-juillet-2013-75618870.html