As Jenny Macleod noted in her Introduction, there is little doubt that the historiography of Anzac overshadows the role the Australians played in the Gallipoli Campaign.1 There is also little doubt that Gallipoli overshadows Australian military history. Les Carlyon’s book on the campaign, for example, headed the best seller lists in Australia after its publication in 2001.2 More significantly, Gallipoli is still a major touchstone when it comes to notions of national identity in Australia. Although both New Zealand and Turkey also see the campaign as pivotal events in the emergence of their modern nation-states, the emphasis in Australia is far more marked.3 Parochial it may well be, but its power remains. Why Gallipoli rather than other campaigns in which the Australians
fought during the First World War? It certainly matches the more traditional nation-building myths where war, death and sacrifice are seen as key elements in the creation of a national identity.4 But other reasons lie behind its persistence. Gallipoli marked the first time Australians fought as a recognisable military unit in their own right. The exploits of the digger earned extravagant praise from many British observers, including the journalist Ashmead-Bartlett. Unlike the campaigns that were to follow on the Western Front, Gallipoli has a strong sense of closure. It had a beginning, a middle and an end located in a specific geographical location. To the lay mind, it was easier to comprehend when set beside the enormity of loss and the complexity of the Western Front. The official war historian, C.E.W. Bean, ensured that Gallipoli would remain at the forefront of Australian military history. The importance he placed on Gallipoli is clearly reflected in the fact that two volumes of the official history were devoted to the peninsula, and also in his later work, Gallipoli Mission.5 And there remains that indefinable emotional element surrounding the delivery of the first telegrams with their terse indication of place, date and time which became a form of collective memory.