Presentation: Bearing the “dreadful ordeal with patience and gallantry”: Australians and the Great War: 29/04/2021

Thursday 29 April, 2021 from 19:15 to 21:15

Great Britain’s declaration of war against Germany after the latter’s invasion of Belgium in August 1914 elicited an enthusiastic response in Australia. Without any official request from the British government, the dominion eagerly committed twenty thousand young men to the war effort. Across the country, young men rushed to recruiting stations while community groups organised fundraising events to collect money for schemes in support of the war effort, including Belgian relief. Four years later, Australia had lost some sixty thousand soldiers and another one hundred and fifty thousand had been wounded on distant battlefields. Closer to home, the commonwealth had witnessed two bitterly contested conscription referendums and mass strikes. The Great War left Australia a deeply divided nation and yet the conflict also gave birth to one of the nation’s most powerful narratives: the Anzac legend.

The aim of this presentation is to outline Australia’s involvement in the First World War as well as consider the enduring appeal of the Anzac legend, which portrays 1914–18 in a far more romantic light than the dominant European narratives with which we are familiar today. It will also highlight the links that formed between Australia and Belgium during and after the conflict, paying particular attention to how the Australian Imperial Force’s major engagements in the Ypres salient– the battles of Messines Ridge and Third Ypres – have been commemorated over the last century.

Matthew Haultain-Gall holds a PhD from the University of New South Wales, Australia and is currently a scientific collaborator at the Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium. His research focuses on the cultural and social impacts of the First World War. His first book, The Battlefield of Imperishable Memory: Passchendaele and the Anzac Legend, has been published by Monash University Publishing this year. Tracing how Australians have remembered and commemorated the battles of Messines and Third Ypres, it explores why these engagements occupy an ambiguous place in Australian collective memory today. 

lezingPractical info

  • Starts at 7.15 p.m.
  • Online presentation
  • free of charge
  • Register
  • English presentation

Foto: Australian infantry attack in Polygon Wood, Fred Leist (Australian War Museum, ART02927)