Attachment to place · cafes · Campbelltown · Colonialism · community identity · Farming · festivals · First World War · Governor Macquarie · Heritage · Historical consciousness · Historical Research · Historical thinking · history · Interwar · Local History · Macarthur · Monuments · myths · Newspapers · Place making · Second World War · sense of place · Theatre · war

Local historian takes a fresh look at the Campbelltown story

Review: Pictorial History Campbelltown & District. By Jeff McGill. Sydney: Kingsclear Books, 2017. Pp. iv + 139. Illustrations, index, select bibliography, paper. 978-0-99444456-2-9.

Pictorial History Campbelltown and District sets out to break the stereotypes that have plagued Campbelltown for decades. Local author and photographer Jeff McGill illustrates in his new publication how the city is mulit-dimensional and has many facets to its character.

The book is a fresh look at a community through local eyes and shows the community’s vibrancy, enthusiasm and strength. It illustrates how the community has endured many challenges from the dreamtime to the present.

 

Campbelltown Pictorial History McGill 2017 Cover

 

McGill’s use of images peels back the layers of meaning and reveals the heart of the city. Photographs demonstrate the dynamic nature of the community and how it has changed over time.

Historical photographs are a window into the past and provide a form of expression materially different from the written or oral record. Photographs are accessible and immediate to the viewer. They are unfiltered and provide a meaning to the setting of the subject.

Historical photographs show an immense amount of detail and are an archive of meaning about the past. Quite often the viewer feels that they are intruding on a private event or function.

 

Campbelltown Pictorial History[2] McGill Launch 2017
Author Jeff McGill signing copies of his book standing next to the publisher Catherine Warne from Kingsclear Books at the Glenalvon launch of Pictorial History Campbelltown & District on Saturday 9 December 2017 (I Willis)

While photographic images capture a moment in time they also have deeper meanings. Just like the writer the photographer is trying to say something in their formatting, structure and composition of the image.  What is the message that the photographer is trying to the tell the viewer?

Sometimes the photograph poses a host of other questions. Why is the street not paved? Why is the women’s dress that long? Why are people wearing those funny clothes? Why are there cows in the paddock? Why are their no electricity poles?  These are all part of the composition of the photographs in this pictorial history.

 

Campbelltown Pictorial History[2] McGill 2017
Campbelltown Railway Station which opened in 1858. What is little understood is the  importance of the rail link to people living in the Illawarra until the opening of Wollongong Railway Station in 1887. There was a daily coach service running between the station and Wollongong which still persists today. (CAHS)

Jeff McGill provides a  perspective of the lived local experience of Campbelltonian and a journalist’s nose for a good story. McGill has published a number of local histories that show the hand of someone who understands the nuances of small communities.

After growing up in Campbelltown, going to school in the city McGill worked for the large metropolitan dailies. He then returned to Campbelltown so he could write stories about interesting people rather than those based on hard bitten sensationalist attitude to journalism in the big smoke.

It is this attitude that shone when the Macarthur Advertiser, under McGill’s editorship,  took out two national awards for the best local newspaper in Australia. He has been praised for being a passionate Campbelltonian and it shows in  Pictorial History Campbelltown & District.

The images that McGill has chosen for the book show the same characteristics that are part of successful journalism in the provincial press. Each image tells a story about local characters and identities and capture a snapshot of a time long past.  McGill’s deft eye for composition and impact as a photographer is clearly demonstrated in his layout work in the book.

Campbelltown Pictorial History[1] McGill 2017
A procession in Queen Street in 1910 was organised by the local Waratah and Wallaby Football Club.  (CAHS)
The images are drawn from a range of archives – Campbelltown City Library, the Campbelltown & Airds Historical Society, many private collections, individual photographers and the author. Many of these images are not accessible to the general public in any form and this publication breaks ground in this area.  The book is complemented by a select bibliography and index.

Some of the images  show important events which had repercussions on the national stage  like the election of the Whitlam government (p. 123),  and the First (pp. 54-61) and Second World Wars (pp. 81-87).

The Pictorial History Campbelltown & District provides a new perspective on the history of Campbelltown from earlier histories.  Carol Liston’s Campbelltown The Bicentennial History and William A Bayley’s History of Campbelltown New South Wales are narrative histories of the city and surrounding suburbs. Bayley’s history was published at the time of one of the greatest changes in the history of Campbelltown. In 1973 the state government the announcement of The New Cities of Campbelltown Camden Appin Structure Plan and the establishment of the Macarthur Growth Centre. Liston’s history was published during the nationalist frenzy linked to the Australian Bicentenary Celebrations of 1988.

 

Campbelltown Pictorial History[3] McGill Launch 2017
Author and photographer Jeff McGill showing off his latest publication at the Glenalvon launch on Saturday 9 December 2017 (I Willis)

More that just a narrative Pictorial History Campbelltown & District is an entry point to the daily lives of those living in Campbelltown. The images are accompanied by a lively story about the characters and events from Campbelltown’s past.

The city has not always received a good press in the Sydney metropolitan dailies and this publication challenges these stereotypes. This collection of images provides a human side to the local story about real people with real lives who create a vibrant  community.

The Campbelltown community has many community organisations that are the basis of the city’s resilience and one of these is the Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society which contributed a number of images to the book. The society also provided the venue for the book launch in the wonderful atmospherics provided by Campbelltown’s historic house Glenalvon.

 

Campbelltown Pictorial History[1] McGill Launch Hayes 2017
Past president of the Campbelltown & Airds Historical Society introducing proceedings at the Glenalvon launch of Pictorial History Campbelltown & District on Saturday 9 December 2017 (I Willis)

The gathering was introduced by past president Kay Hayes, followed by publisher Catherine Warne from Kingsclear Books. Catherine outlined the history of her firm over  30 years of publishing. She said that Campbelltown pictorial history was one of the last pieces of the jigsaw of the Sydney area for her firm. She had been trying to complete her coverage of the metropolitan area for many years and this book was the first time that she has had an author take over the design work.

 

Campbelltown Pictorial History[1] McGill Launch Warne 2017
Publisher Catherine Warne from Kingsclear Books introducing author Jeff McGill’s Pictorial History Campbelltown & District at the Glenalvon launch on Saturday 9 December 2017 (I Willis)

Jeff McGill then spoke about the gestation of the book, its development and fruition with the support of many people and organisations. Jeff outlined how there were lots of images that were considered for the book and a culling process narrowed down the selection. The chosen were those which told a story or provided the greatest meaning to the Campbelltown story.

McGill made the point that quite a number of the images came from family photograph albums that he had been given access to over many years. This was  the first time that they have been published. Jeff would visit local families be given afternoon tea and he would copy the images from the family album.

 

Campbelltown Pictorial History[1] McGill Launch 2017
Raconteur, author and photographer Jeff McGill on the launch of his Pictorial History Campbelltown & District at Glenalvon on Saturday 9 December 2017 (I Willis)

Jeff McGill’s Pictorial History Campbelltown & District  provides a human side to the local story about real people with real lives who create a vibrant and wonderful community. The city has broken free of many of its stereotypes and ghosts, yet it still continues to face many challenges with a positive outlook to the future.

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Attachment to place · Camden · community identity · festivals · First World War · Food · Heritage · Local History · Macarthur · Place making · Red Cross · sense of place

A local treat at The Argyle Affair

The CHN was out and about in the local area as you do on a recent overcast day at the Camden Showground.

The occasion was the The Argyle Affair Christmas Market for 2017. The market attracts visitors far and wide. One pair who spoke to this blogger came from the New South Wales South Coast and were particularly taken with the local music talent.

 

Camden Argyle Affair Promo 2017 AA

 

The grand old showground dusted off its cobwebs and hosted this great community event for all and sundry.

 

Camden Argyle Affair stalls outside 2017 MWillis
The grand old showground scrubs-up pretty-well with a range of pop-up stalls outside the AH&I Hall at the 2017 The Argyle Affair Christmas Market (MWillis)

 

The ground came alive with the sound of fresh talent in the music tent, while around 50 pop-up stallholders were scattered on the grass while others took up residence in the AH&I Hall.

 

Camden Argyle Affair StallinHall 2017 IWillis
The AH&I Hall which was built in the 1890s was decked out for the 2017 The Argyle Affair Christmas Market by a host of creative stallholders displaying their wares and crafts. (IWillis)

 

The Argyle Affair organisers Peta Borg and Brooke Murphy excelled themselves yet again from their last effort in June which attracted a large crowd of enthusiastic patrons.

 

Camden Argyle Affair 2017 Brooke&Peta IWillis
The Argyle Affair organisers Brooke Murphy and Peta Borg captured at the 2017 Christmas Market (IWillis)

 

Brooke Murphy said that her aim was to

‘showcase local talent and giving Mums a platform to show their wares and creations’.

The Argyle Affair sponsors a local charity and this year it was ‘Turning Point’ who are a Camden based-community welfare centre in John Street. Turning Point state on their website:

‘We aim to provide a safe and confidential environment where we can offer assistance, providing welfare services such as emergency food relief, advocacy, document assistance, phone access, and computer availability with free Wi-Fi’.

Market goers were asked for a gold coin admission or hand in an item of food that went to Turning Point.

 

Camden Argyle Affair 2017 Turning Point IWillis
A Turning Point volunteer and an enthusiastic supporter buying a raffle ticket at the 2017 The Argyle Affair Christmas Market (IWillis)

 

The Argyle Affair organisers are continuing a strong community tradition of local festivals going back well over a century where local folk came together to support worthy causes of one sort or another.

Camden Community festivals have come in a range of sizes, types and causes from small street stalls, to large events like the Camden Show. Other examples have been the week long celebrations for the 1960s Festival of the Golden Fleece and the annual Rose Festival.

Festivals are an important part of all communities in the city and bush. Festivals are especially important for small rural communities  and they are run with a lot of team spirit. Festivals have even become of an interest to university types.

In this centenary period of the First World War it is timely to remember the effort put in by the organisers of these community festivals to fund the war at home. Local women from the Red Cross branches across the area fitted this bill. These women were the subject of a display at the Camden Museum. Their story has been told in book called the Ministering Angels

 

Red-Cross-Stall-outside-Whitemans-General-Store-c19201-693x221
The women of the Camden Red Cross at their weekly street stall in Argyle Street Camden in the 1920s outside the Whiteman’s General Store. The women ran the stall for decades and raised thousands of pounds for local and national charities. (Camden Images)

 

The grandest local festival is the annual Camden Show which has been going for 131 years.  It is a celebration of the town’s rural heritage and over 30,000 people cannot be wrong. The annual rural festival even has Miss Camden Showgirl, one of the few still remaining.

Fittingly The Argyle Affair and its display of traditional crafts by local women carries on the rural traditions of the Camden Show festivals  and a celebration of  local arts and crafts.

 

Camden Argyle Affair Stall 2017 IWillis
A pop-up stall serving a patron in the outside area of the showground at the 2017 The Argyle Affair Christmas Market (IWillis)

 

Meanwhile back at The Argyle Affair the weather was kind for a while and then promptly at 2.30pm on the dot the heavens opened up as a rain front moved overhead.

Liked drowned rats outside stallholders packed up while the assembled rushed for the AH&I Hall out of the wet where there were a host of other stalls.

But Camden festival goers are a hardy lot and the show went on.

 

Camden Argyle Affair wet 2017 IWillis
A water-logged and lonely deserted pop-up performance space after the big wet in the afternoon at the 2017 The Argyle Affair Christmas Market. All performers moved into the hall for the assembled throngs and provided great entertainment in dry. (IWillis)

 

The Christmas Argyle Affair organisers sponsored a line up of fresh music talent from the local area.

 

Camden Argyle Affair StephanieSullivan 2017 IWillis
The fresh young talent of the Camden area takes to the stage in the performance space. Here is Stephanie Sullivan entertaining the keen band of supporters made up of family and friends. (IWillis)

 

The running sheet of musos was as follows:

9:50 – 10:30 Stephanie Sullivan
10:40 – 11:20 The Honey Sippers
11:30 – 12:10 Isaac Lewis
12:20 – 1:00 Alicia Moses
1:10 –  1:50 Grace & Alley
2:00 – 2:50 The Bells
3:00 – 3:40 Lucy Gallant
3:50 – 4:20 Spencer Jones
4:30 – 5:10 Michelle James
5:20 – 6:00 Mollie Collins
6:00 – 8:00 Spencer Jones ft. Bryan Browne

Be adventurous and have a listen to some of this talent using these links. You will surprise your ears.

 

Camden Argyle Affair 2017 HoneySippers MWillis
The young-at-heart hot talent of the Camden area in the form of the Honey Sippers who performed in the outside tent in the morning at the 2017 The Argyle Affair Christmas Market (MWillis)

 

Camden had yet again excelled itself and has been the location of a successful festival of music, food and crafts.

In 2018 treat yourself and your friends to a great and memorable experience just like the folk did at the 2017 Argyle Affair Christmas market.

 

Camden Argyle Affair 2017 AA
Business with a heart is the guiding principle for the organisers of the 2017 The Argyle Affair Christmas Market. In this situation Turning Point are the beneficiaries. (The Argyle Affair)

 

For the complete listing of 2018 events, and lots of other great stuff, see the In Macarthur lifestyle magazine or the Macarthur tourism website with lots of helpful bits and pieces.

First World War · history · Local History · Menangle · Menangle Army Camp · Red Cross

Menangle Australian Light Horse Camp

A little known military facility in the local area during the First World War was the Australian Light Horse Camp based on the Menangle Park racecourse in 1916.

Drunken riots at Liverpool

The establishment of the camp was the result of drunken unrest amongst the troops at the Casula and Liverpool military camps in February 1916 that was later called the Battle of Central Station. These events also contributed to the success of the campaign for 6.00pm closing in New South Wales that was not repealed until 1955.

After the soldier riots the Casula camp was closed and the ‘troops in training’ were distributed to other camps, including one at Menangle Park in February 1916.

Menangle race track

Military authorities leased the race track off the Menangle Racing Club.

The racetrack was first surveyed by military authorities in January 1916, although Campbelltown Showground had been inspected in September 1915.

Poor conditions in camp

The conditions of the Menangle camp in March 1916 were less than adequate. One correspondent to the Sydney press complained the camp was unprepared  and the men had to grub out stumps and  prepare the site for a permanent camp.

The writer complained that the men were busy on labouring duties when they could have been busy doing military training.

It would have been more effective, the correspondent felt, for a private contractor to clear the camp site.

The ‘discontentment’ amongst volunteers was caused by  ‘wasters’ who, apparently, were quite happy for labouring duties to continue for up to 6 months.

Manoeuvres

Training involved forced marches in the local area. In mid-1916 over 1000 men, accompanied by over 100 horses, marched to Camden through Campbelltown on manoeuvres headed by a military band.

They were marched to  Camden showground where they were dismissed for an hour where they had lunch.

Menangle Army Camp men on manoeuvres marching through Camden 1916 CIPP
Soldiers in training from the Menangle Army Camp on a forced march passing along Argyle Street Camden 1916 (CIPP)

The Camden press reported that it was an imposing spectacle having such a large number of troops marching through the town area. The mayor, GF Furner, welcomed the troops to Camden and he then hosted the officers at lunch.

1917 Officers of Light Horse Camp, Menangle. European War CIPP lowres
Officers of the Light Horse Camp, Menangle. European War, November, 1917. Back Row: Lt J Kemp-Bruce, Lt F A Jacobs, Lt R T Williams, Lt H W Veness, Lt R L Gates, Lt R V Moore, Lt N Cope. Second Row: Lt C H Bate, Lt M C Bowley, Lt D Drummond, Lt G D Donkin, Lt S L Molesworth, Lt R E McClelland, Lt J Bailey, Lt C Hely, Chaplain Capt Cock. Front Row: Lt M D Russell, Capt S F Betts, Capt RH Monro, Brig-Gen G L Lee, C M G, D S O, Lt-Col R W Lenehan, V D, Lt C A Mayes, Capt R A Lovejoy, Chaplain Capt Black. (Camden Museum)

 

According to the notes on the photograph:

Officers of the Light Horse Camp, Menangle. European War, November, 1917.
This photo was donated from “Camelot”. The Lt Clem Bate on the left end of the middle row was a friend of the Anderson Family and he probably gave them a copy. He was the uncle of Mr Jeff Bates who was an MHR for the Camden area for many years (as well as previously an MLA). The Lt R.V. Moore in the back row is Mr Val Moore of Glenmore, Camden. The Lt Veness in the back row is the other local in the photo. He came from Menangle.

Camel Corps

In June 1916 reinforcements for the Camel Corps were posted to Menangle camp  for training and exercises. The Sydney press stated the Abdul Wade of Bourke had lent 6 camels to the army for training exercises at the camp for members of the Camel Corps. Four of the animals were for riding, while the other two were pack animals. They were sent to Menangle camp by rail from Bourke under the care of an Afghan camel driver.

The Australian War Memorial states that the Imperial Camel Corps (ICC) was formed in January 1916 in order to deal with the revolt of pro-Turkish Senussi tribesmen in Egypt’s Western Desert. The first four companies were recruited from Australian infantry battalions recuperating after Gallipoli. Four battalions were eventually formed up and units saw action in Palestine in 1917 and 1918. Units were disbanded in mid-1918.

Menangle Army Camp Camel Corps 1917 [2] AWM
Camel Corps at Menangle Army Camp 1917 (AWM)
In July 1916 a further 1000 men from the Australian Light Horse and Trench Mortar Batteries at Menangle Camp did a route march through Camden. They stopped for lunch, after which they gave a demonstration of high explosives, grenades and bomb throwing for the amusement of the local community.

In July 1916 Colonel Lenohan, the officer in charge, stated the military band played at the camp every Sunday afternoon. He reported in the Camden press that he would welcome visitors and he offered to show them around the camp.

Red Cross

In early 1916 the Menangle Red Cross decided to donate a badly needed hospital tent to the Australian Light Horse at a of cost £34. It  measured 20 x 30 feet (6×10 metres) and  could be partitioned off and used for several purposes, or used as a whole for a camp hospital with a capacity of 14 beds.

The press report noted that it would ‘prove a boon to those recovering from sickness, or to any one ‘off colour’ and in need of a quiet rest and medical attention’. The cost of the tent ‘considerably diminish[ed]’ the cash reserves of the small Menangle Red Cross branch but was felt that it was greatly needed by the men.

In May 1916 Brigadier General Ramaciotti inspected the camp and stated that there was a fine billiard room for 10 tables under construction and a well-appointed canteen.

The Camden and Menangle  Red Cross branches supplied the camp hospital with eggs, cakes, scones, pyjamas, hand towels, pillow slips, sheets, towels, and cakes of soap in 1916 and 1917.

The men’s Red Cross branches at Menangle and Camden sent across trays and bed rests that they constructed at their carpentry workshops.

Closure

As the hostilities on the Western Front wound down there was less need for training facilities and  Menangle camp closed in May 1918.

Convalescent hospital · Edwardian · First World War · Historical consciousness · history · Interwar · Local History · Medical history · Red Cross · Second World War

Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital Concord NSW

Out at Concord, located in Sydney’s inner west, is the magnificent building of the former Thomas Walker Memorial Hospital for Convalescents, that is now the school Rivendell. It was recently open for inspection by the City of Canada Bay Heritage Society.

Imposing entrance at the main building of the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital Concord facing the Parramatta River 2017 Open Day(I Willis)

The heritage society organises regular open days to continually raise public awareness of this heritage icon.

The Heritage Council of NSW states:

The Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital is situated in the Municipality of Concord on the Parramatta River bounded by Brays Bay and Yaralla Bay. It is a large complex on a large park-like riverside estate, with extensive and prominent landscape plantings, making it a landmark along the river.

Opened in 1893 patients were taken from Circular Quay to the Watergate at the front of the complex on the Parramatta River. The landing stage was a pontoon that went up and down with the tide. A bridge connected the pontoon to the Watergate.

 

Watergate at the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital Concord 2017 Open Day (I Willis)

 

The convalescent hospital was constructed from a bequest of 100,000 pounds from the will of businessman and politician Thomas Walker who died in 1886. Walker was a philanthropist, member of the legislative council and director of the Bank of New South Wales.

The executors of Walker’s will announced a design competition in 1888 for a convalescent hospital. Architect John Kirkpatrick won the design competition although criticized for being overly expensive.

In 1889 architectural commission was given to Sydney architects Sulman and Power. The building cost 150,000 pounds with additional funds coming from other family members and supporters.

Between 1943 and 1946 the hospital was managed by the Red Cross with control then passing to Perpetual Trustees.

The hospital complex

The main hospital building is Queen Anne Federation style  with a four-storey clock tower at the centre. There is classical ornamentation. On either side of the main building are two wings containing cloisters.

The hospital complex is based on a pavilion basis, with each pavilion to retain its functional integrity with the central block for administration and service blocks either side. There are 8 buildings in the complex.

 

Impressive entry vestibule in the main building at the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital Concord 2017 Open Day (I Willis)

 

The main building is two storey with a three storey tower over the main entrance, an impressive vestibule, and an entertainment hall for 300 people. There is sandstone detail throughout inside and out.

The Sulman buildings have elaborately shaped exposed rafter ends, Marseilles pattern terracotta roof tiles and crafted brickwork.

 

Covered walkway from main building at the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital Concord 2017 Open Day (I Willis)

 

The History of Sydney website states:

The building’s symmetrical design originally divided it into male and female sides. It includes two enclosed courtyards, a concert hall and a recreation hall which is supposed to be highly decorated. It is of the first known buildings to make use of “cavity walls” for insulation and protection against Sydney’s hot climate.

 

Complex roof line showing Marseilles pattern terracotta roof tiles of main building Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital 2017 Open Day (I Willis)

Significance of hospital complex

The NSW heritage inventory states:

The hospital is important because it reflects Florence Nightingale’s influence on 19th century convalescent hospital design principles and their adoption into Australian architecture.

The Estate is a rare surviving late 19th century major institution of a private architect’s design in Australia and is John Sulman’s finest work in this country.

The grounds of the hospital are of national heritage signficance as an intact example of Victorian/Edwardian institutional gardens which have maintained an institution throughout their whole existence.

Some of the crowd in the reception entertainment hall at Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital Concord 2017 Open Day (I Willis)

 

Look out for the next visitor open day in mid 2018 (July) run by the Canada Bay Heritage Society as well as the associated house of Yaralla at Concord in April and October.

Learn more 

Canada Bay Heritage Society

Anzac · Australia · Canada · First World War · myths

Anzackery and Vimyism, national military myths

I recently came across a post by Canadian blogger Andrea Eidinger in her Unwritten Histories  that mentioned the battle of Vimy Ridge from the First World War. The author was reviewing a recently published book The Vimy Trap: or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Great War by Canadian historians Ian McKay and Jamie Swift as part of CHA Reads 2017.

Book Vimy Trap Cover (Amazon)

Publicity from Amazon states that

The story of the bloody 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge is, according to many of today’s tellings, a heroic founding moment for Canada. This noble, birth-of-a-nation narrative is regularly applied to the Great War in general.

This heroic story has launched a mythical tale labelled as “Vimyism”.

I was reminded of Anzackery discussed by David Stephens in The Honest History Book (pp.120-133) that is described as excessively promoting the Anzac legend – the heroic nation-founding story which emerged from the 1915 Gallipoli landing by the Anzacs.

2017 Anzac Day Commemorations in Camden NSW (I Willis)

I felt that it was worthwhile to re-published Andrea Eidinger’s blog post in full here.

CHA Reads: Mary-Ellen Kelm on The Vimy Trap, or, How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Great War

May 23, 2017 / Andrea Eidinger

What is CHA Reads? Find out here!

Mary-Ellen Kelm defending The Vimy Trap, or, How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Great War.

The Vimy memorial was on TV when Andrea Eidinger’s call for participants in #CHAreads went out on Twitter. Though the First World War is not my field, I have long been interested in how the past gets used to make or break community. So I signed up to participate in #CHAreads and to investigate the merits of The Vimy Trap: or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Great War by Ian McKay and Jamie Swift – a nominee for the CHA’s Sir John A. Macdonald prize. The Vimy Trap is a book that all Canadian historians, whatever their interests, should read.

The reason is simple. Historians care about history. We care about people in the past and we want to represent their experience faithfully. We care about how history is written and used. What McKay and Swift are arguing is that Vimyism – “a network of ideas and symbols that centre on how Canada’s Great War experience somehow represents the country’s supreme triumph [and]… marked the country’s birth,” has flattened the complex, contradictory and terrifying reality of the First World War into a simplistic, militaristic ‘big bang theory’ of Canadian history.(p. 9)

Article on Vimy Ridge from The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) Wed 11 Apr 1917 Page 1 Trove NLA nla.news-article15706380.3

What is lost in the process is astounding and much of the Vimy Trap explores the horror and ambiguity of modernized warfare and Canadians’ varied reactions to it. McKay and Swift eschew black-and-white portrayals. Canadian soldiers were neither heroes or villains: they used poison gas, killed prisoners and were torn apart by artillery fire while marching with fixed bayonet wearing kilts. They came to view the war and to write about it in ironic, scathing terms. At home, disunity turned to violence as conscription split the nation. The War was hardly a unifying, glorifying force.

McKay and Swift give voice to a spectrum of Canadian reactions to the War. Early enthusiasm waned quickly. From Arthur Meighan to William Lyon Mackenzie King to Walter Allward, the sculptor of the Vimy Memorial, and Charlotte Susan Wood, Canada’s first Silver Cross Mother, all called upon Canadians to remember the War not a righteous cause but as reminder of war’s futility. They grieved their dead and honoured them but not the war that caused their deaths. Canadians dreamed of peace and their leaders sought it too but failed to remake the social order into one that would recoil from war.

A culture of martial nationalism remains. Late twentieth century popular and scholarly histories recognize the contradictions and the complexities but have concluded that, in war, nations are strengthened, dreams realized, heroes made. Historians are responsible for Vimyism. It is a trap because it reflects none of the nuance and little of the stark horror of modern warfare that soldiers and civilians experienced and that contemporary writers expressed. And this is why Canadian historians must read The Vimy Trap. McKay and Swift remind us all that we have not always glorified war and ask us, as historians, to consider our part in honouring, or ignoring, that past.

Mary-Ellen Kelm is a professor of history at Simon Fraser University specializing in settler colonial and medical histories of North America.

Re-published from Andrea Eidinger’s original blog post with permission

Camden Anzac Day 2017 cenotaph in Macarthur Park Camden NSW erected in 1922 by public subscription (I Willis)
Anzac · Camden · community identity · First World War · Historical consciousness · history · Memorials · Monuments · Second World War

Camden Reflects on Anzac Day 2017

Photo Essay of Camden Anzac Day 2017

IMG_7272[1]
Camden Anzac Day 2017 with sign of knitted poppies made by local folk (I Willis)
Camden Anzac Day 2017 window shopfront display in Argyle Street Camden (I Willis)

 

Camden Anzac Day 2017 cenotaph in Camden Bicentennial Park with wreaths (I Willis)

 

Camden Anzac Day 2017 wall of poppies at Camden RSL Memorial Rose Garden in Cawdor Road (I Willis)

 

Camden Anzac Day 2017 cenotaph in Camden RSL Memorial Rose Garden in Cawdor Road (I Willis)

 

Camden Anzac Day 2017 cenotaph in Macarthur Park Camden erected in 1922 by public subscription (I Willis)
Anzac · First World War · history · Interwar · Local History · Memorials · Modernism · Second World War · war

Anzac contradictions

Boer War Memorial in Belmore Park Goulburn 2017 (I Willis)

Public Lecture: UOW historian grapples with the meaning of Anzac?

 

Men, myth and memory | Dr Jen Roberts

UOW Alumni Knowledge Series | UOW | 20 April 2017

The Anzac story has been a central part of the Australian cultural identity for over a century and the contradictions that emerged around it have shown no sign of going away. Historians have been unpacking the meaning of Anzac for decades and seem to no closer to any definitive meaning.

 

Yet for one old gentlemen at the inaugural lecture in Knowledge Series of the University of Wollongong Alumni Dr Jen Roberts was ‘a brave lady’ to ‘present the truth’ about the Anzac story in her evocative lecture ‘Men, myth and memory’.  The Alumni audience was a mix of ages, and interests and included past military personnel.

The camp administration block  at the Narellan Military Camp in 1942 A Bailey

Robert’s powerful presentation left none of the alumnus present in any doubt about the contested nature of  Anzac and that there is far from just one truth.  Anzac is a fusion of cultural processes over many decades and it has been grown into something bigger than itself.

 

The Anzac acronym, meaning Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, was first used by General Sir William Birdwood and its legal status was confirmed by the Australian Government in 1916. Anzac has survived its 1914 imperial connotations, the 1960s social movements and its supporters have successfully broadened its meaning  to embrace all Australian conflicts, including peace missions. Some argue that this has created a dark legacy for current serving military personnel, while others choose to take cheap pot shots at those who question the orthodoxy. The Anzac story needs to be inclusive and not exclusive, and while the current service personnel are the custodians of the Anzac story it can sometimes be a heavy responsibility.

The tented lines at the  Narellan Military Camp in 1941 (AB)

The Anzac story is ubiquitous across Australia  and is embedded in the heart and soul of every community in the country, especially in the first half of the 20th century. Yet within this narrative there are contradictions and tensions and one of those is related to modernism. The war that spawned Anzac was a product on industrial modernism, yet at the same time causing the catastrophic destruction. Anzac shrines of commemoration and remembrance are a product of Interwar modernism, particularly the work of Rayner Hoff. Yet these same artists were supporters of  Sydney bohemianism with its anti-war sentiments, complicated by tensions created by other forms of global modernism particularly in Europe. Other contradictions range across issues related to gender, militarism, nationalism, racism, homophobia, and a host of other areas.

 

Roberts makes the point that the Anzac mythology and iconography points to Australian exceptionalism and then neatly outlined how this is not the situation. She analysed the horrors of war and how this is played out within the Anzac story.

WW1 Memorial Gates at Macarthur Park erected in 1922 and funded by public subscription with the cenotaph in the rear (Camden Remembers)

The tension within the meaning of Anzac, according to Roberts, is represented by the official state driven narrative stressing the honour, duty and sacrifice through commemoration, remembrance and solemnity, while on the hand there is the unofficial story of the digger mythology. The digger is not a professional soldier, he is egalitarian, loyal to mates and a larrikin – a good all-round Aussie bloke.

 

The official/digger binary highlights the contradictions with the Anzac tradition and its meaning for the military personnel, past and present. In 1941 an 18 year old country lad called Bruce Guppy from the New South Wales South Coast volunteered for service with the 7th Australian Light Horse. Guppy volunteered because his brothers had joined up and the military looked to have better prospects than working as a dairy hand. Gunner BW Guppy had little time for jingoism or nationalism as a laconic sort of fellow and stated ‘life is what you make it’. He was a yarn-spinning non-drinking, non-smoking, non-gambling larrikin, who saw action in the 1942 Gona-Buna Campaign in New Guinea and later trained as a paratrooper. His anti-war views in later years never stopped him from attending every Sydney Anzac Day March with his unit, 2/1 Mountain Battery, and the camaraderie they provided. A lifetime member of the RSL he never discussed his wartime service with his family, until I married his daughter.

Bruce Guppy and his unit at the 2003 Sydney Anzac Day March (I Willis)

Guppy had five brothers who saw active service in the Pacific conflict, with one brother’s service in BCOF in Japan cited in Gerster’s Travels in Atomic Sunshine. Guppy would not call himself a hero, yet willing participated in Huskisson’s Community Heroes History Project in 2007. Guppy was something of a bush poet and in 1995  wrote in a poem called ‘An Old Soldier Remembers’, which in part says:

 

‘Memories of those dark days

Come floating back through the haze.

My memory goes back to my mother’s face

Saddened, yes – but filled with grace.

The heartache for mothers – we will never know

For it was for them we had to go.’

 

So it surprised no-one when Bruce Guppy made the national media in 2013 when he handed Alice Guppy’s Mother’s Badge and Bar to the Australian War Memorial.  Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson was moved on his death in 2014 and personally thanked the family for his ‘wonderful’ contribution to the nation.

 

For Guppy Anzac Day embraced both meanings expressed by Roberts: The official commemorative remembering; and the larrikin enjoying the company of his mates. The meaning of the Anzac story has changed during Bruce Guppy’s lifetime and the experiences of his digger mates who served in the Second World War.

Red Cross poster used for fundraising purposes in 1918 (ARCS)

While many lay claim ownership of the cultural meaning of Anzac, Roberts contends that the organic growth of the Dawn Service is an example of the natural growth of Anzac and its sensibilities for different parts of Australian society.

 

Roberts examined the two aspects of the Anzac mythology – the site and the myth. She maintained that many lay claim ownership of the cultural meaning of Anzac and pondered the meaning of the slaughter on the Western Front. She asked the audience to reflect on the words of Eric Bogles song And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda covered by an American Celtic band the Dropkick Murphys. This contrasted with the opening statement by an Alumni organiser, who was ex-military, that the  outstanding achievements of the 1/AIF which are celebrated in military training in Australia are: the withdrawl at Gallipoli; and the last mounted cavalry charge at Beersheba. While recent research about Gallipoli POWs from Turkish sources has shown a different side of the story of the conflict.

Camden Airfield was used a training ground for the early years of the Empire Training Scheme and used  Tiger Moth aircraft  1942 LG Fromm

The Gallipoli peninsula is a site of pilgrimages from Australia, while  being the only locality in modern Turkey with an English name.  Roberts compared the small group who went to the 1965 50th anniversary with the lavish all expenses tour of the 1990 75th anniversary sponsored by the Hawke Labor Federal Government. She maintains this was the start of the contemporary pilgrimage industry. Roberts drew on personal experience and related anecdotes from her five visits to Gallipoli peninsular with UOW students who took the UOW Gallipoli Study Tour, with her mentor, friend and sage UOW Associate-Professor John McQuilton (recently retired).

 

Gallipoli pilgrimages have grown as popular interest in the First World War increased as family historians started searching for own digger-relative, hopefully finding the cache derived from finding a connection with the Gallipoli campaign.  The Howard Government promoted soft patriotism, and this was followed by later conservative governments which promoted official celebrations of the Centenary of Anzac. The official involvement of government has increased the jingoism of these anniversaries and the noise around the desire for the cultural ownership of the Gallipoli site, to the point where the Howard Government attempted to direct the Turkish Government how to do civil engineering roadworks at Gallipoli.

Brand Anzac, which Roberts dislikes, has been used to solidify national identity and spawned Anzacary and the commodification of the Anzac spirit, with souvenirs and other ephemera, as well as jingoism and Australian exceptionalism from the national to the local community level. Anzac mythology and memory tends to forget the grotesque side of war and its effects. First World War servicemen suffered shell shock (PTSD), and took to alcohol, gambling, domestic violence, divorce and suicide, and became the responsibility of those on the homefront.

 

The Anzac mythology disempowers and marginalises people, it is about nationalism, jingoism, racism, and stereotypes, while offering hope, glory and answers for others. The Guppy brothers and their comrades felt they understood the meaning of Anzac. Roberts maintains that the ideas around the Anzac story belong to everyone and, while offering contradictions for some and realities for others, it is these members of the Australian community who  need to make a choice about the meaning of Anzac.