Australia increases funding to honor the ANZAC legend centenary

Australia increases funding to honor the ANZAC legend centenary

Photo story (Clockwise from top left): (1) Australian Lt General Sir Leslie Morshead (first from right) in a trench at the Lone pine battleground, Turkey, looking at the Ottoman and Australian dead soldiers on the parapet. (2) Just before the evacuation at Anzac cove, Australian forces charging Ottoman trench in August, 1915 (3) Campsite of New Zealand troops at Anzac Cove, 1915 (4) Royal Navy’s Dardanelles fleet on its way to attack the Gallipoli peninsula in February 1915. (5) Epitaph of Australian soldier Private John Edward Barclay killed in the Gallipoli campaign at the age of 22; At Lone pine war cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey (6) Ottoman commander Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, commander of 19th Turkish division during Gallipoli campaign in 1915.

The WWI army corps of Mediterranean Allied forces consisting of Australian & New Zealand Army Corps is known as the Anzac. The Anzac legend is a perception that New Zealand and Australian soldiers bear shared attributes that they had displayed on the WWI battlefields. Some of the attributes are believed to be courage, endurance, mate-ship, ingenuity and being contemptuous of British class differences. The Gallipoli campaign is generally considered as the birth of Nationalism in both Australia and New Zealand. Though some portion of politicians and historians terms the Anzac spirit as obsession with myths & legends of Gallipoli campaign, the Australian Government is honoring the WWI centenary with slightly increased funds. The reports:

The $ 140 million Anzac centenary federal fund is planned to be strengthened by corporate donated public fund. On the other hand, Britain has allocated a modest £ 55 million or $ 94 million for the centenary commemoration from Government treasury and National lottery fund. The centenary begins on 4th August, 2014, exactly 100 years after the inception of WWI. This disparity indicates Austria’s strengthening political and cultural attachment to Anzac and also the vastness of Great Britain’s historical recollection extending far beyond WWI, from the Norman Invasion in the year 1066 to Battle in Afghanistan today.

The lessons taught by the Australia’s involvement in the war behind the imperial allies have to be taken into consideration while spending $140 million to reinforce the growing culture of Anzac legend. In the Gallipoli campaign the Ottoman Casualties were 174,828 with 56,643 dead, the Allied casualties were 187,409 with 56,707 dead. Among the Allied forces, Australia had 28,150 casualties with 8,709 dead and New Zealand had 7,473 casualties with 2,721 dead. 100 years after entering war behind the British Empire, Australia is formally going to exit another war in Afghanistan that killed 40 Australians along with thousands of Allied forces, enemies and civilians; in both campaigns without meeting a clear objective or manifest victory.

A close analysis of the battlefield before and after the WWI in Australia shows that the nation was bitterly divided about going to war. The Australian Government was twice denied the right to recruit for war. More than 416,000 Australian men out of the total population of 5 million were enlisted for going to WWI battlefields. 331,000 were deployed and 60,000 of which were killed and 155,000 wounded with tens of thousands with crippling afflictions. Such shell-shocking tragedy brought changes to Australia’s point of view on war.

Nevertheless the Gallipoli campaign was the first international incident where the Australians took part as Australians after establishment of self governed British colony Federation of Australia in 1901. Thus it created the sense of national identity in Australia and also in New Zealand. According to the plan of Winston Churchill, New Zealand and Australian soldiers along with the Allied troops set out to capture Gallipoli, Turkey, to make way for the Allied Navy. Their main objective was to capture Constantinople, the German ally and capital of Ottoman Empire. The landing of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli on the 25th April, 1915 is remembered as the Anzac day. The campaign continued for eight months with heavy casualties on both sides and resulted in almost a stalemate situation. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Commander of 19th Turkish division, accurately anticipated the attacking positions of the Allied forces and held his position until the Allied troops retreated on 9th January 1916. But these continued Allied offensive finally resulted in the Ottoman surrender on 30th October, 1918. Since 1920s, the Anzac day has become the commemoration day in New Zealand and in Australia for the 18,000 New Zealanders and the 60,000 Australian soldiers who died in the battle.

Centenary budget allocation by Australia is supposed to include: $6.1 million on Anzac analytical center, $8.1 million on refurbishment of graves and memorials, $3.4 million on Anzac story sharing community portal, $4.7 million on Anzac cultural and arts fund, $14.4 million on overseas ceremony services, $2.8 million on televised re-creation of Anzac troop’s sea voyage, $10 million on traveling exhibition on Anzac centenary, $10.4 million to subsidize the Anzac centenary board’s work and more. It’s a huge amount of money, but then again it’s a very perplexing historical event.

The Commonwealth War Cemetery at Shrapnel Valley, Gallipoli, Turkey got 527 Australian soldiers’ graves, 56 New Zealander soldiers’ graves and 28 British soldiers’ graves. One of which is the grave of Australian soldier Private John Edward Barclay, died on 21st June, 1915 at the age of 22. The touchy epitaph inscription says ‘I have no darling now. I am weeping, Baby. & I you left alone.’

Mohammad Rafi Saad

Mohammad Rafi Saad is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE