It’s the 25th of March meaning only one month to Anzac Day 2014 and the 99th Anniversary Commemorations of the Gallipoli Campaign.
While I have been lapping up the rays and waves of Piha Beach in Auckland over the summer (but conspicuously under the shadow of Lion Rock and the site of a special Anzac Day service), there has been considerable Anzac-related news with Gallipoli 100 now just 13 months away! Top of the list was the Gallipoli Ballot in order to gain access to the official commemorations at Gallipoli, Turkey on 25 April 2015. The demand by 45,000 Australians and 10,000 New Zealanders for 8,000 and 2,000 passes respectively not only confirmed that there is large interest in getting to Gallipoli but that Aussies and Kiwis proportionately are equally interested in getting themselves to the big 100. In the coming days applicants will receive news whether they’ve got a ‘Gallipoli pass’ (and an Anzac knowledge test component would have been instructive for researchers!). For those rejected the Australian Minister of Veterans’ Affairs has already announced that there will be a second round of Gallipoli commemorations in early August 2015 (Battle of Lone Pine) and the New Zealand government is due to make an announcement shortly. The travel industry is certainly working on how to get this army of ‘new Anzacs’ to the beachheads of Gallipoli and, no pressure, providing an experience equal to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
For those keeping the home commemoration fires burning, Australian and New Zealand government agencies are well into the big business of funding and shaping their First World War Centenary programs, see the Commonwealth of Australia’s Anzac Centenary and individual State programs in Queensland and Victoria, and New Zealand’s WW100.
In response a new organisation has arisen in Australia, Honest History on Centenary Watch to challenge any misuse of history, presided over by renowned military historian Professor Peter Stanley and energetic secretary David Stephens (Twitter: @honesthistory1). There has also been a timely critique of the Anzac legend by former Australian army officer and now defence analyst James Brown in Anzac’s Long Shadow: The Cost of our National Obsession. Brown has certainly attracted the attention of media for his thesis that successive Australian governments, the Australian Defence Force and the Returned & Service League have been captured by the Anzac legend and consequently been found wanting in addressing the present and future concerns of defence as well as the care of recent veterans. Read a review by Peter Stanley.
The lure of the Centenary is certainly seeing NGOs, mainly veterans’ organisations, launching into new cause marketing programs, e.g. Anzac Run, Camp Gallipoli and even V8 Super Cars, and on the issue of ‘Brand Anzac’ are these thought-provoking blogs by Ashleigh Gilbertson and Jo Hawkins. It will be fascinating viewing the precarious tango of commercialisation and commemoration over the next five years.
This will all be fodder for The Centenary History of Anzac Day project led by Professor Bruce Scates at Monash University.
Finally, and on a lighter note, each year it has been a perennial for media to kick off the Anzac Season in ‘slow-news January’ with a Trans-Tasman rivalry story (past years subjects have included the singing of each other’s anthems, the flying of each other’s flags, and the order of each other’s veterans in parades) but this year in the tradition of Pavlova Battles it was a story on first Anzac Biscuit bragging rights! Trove and Papers Past undoubtedly will be the training ground for many more Anzac games.
On that note it’s time for a coffee (sans rum it’s too early!) and a centenary-inspired Anzac Biscuit … ‘Crunch for the Centenary’!