WW1 Centenary

Great War Centenary 2014-2018 website by Paul Reed

WW1 Centenary: ANZACS – Remembering We Forget?


The ‘battle of the Great War’ continues this week with the news that the British government intend to snub the sacrifice of Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) troops in the First World War by focussing UK based efforts on so-called ‘New Commonwealth Nations’. An Australian newspaper reported:

“British government sources have confirmed internal briefings on WWI commemorations have not mentioned Australia or New Zealand once, instead staff from departments and cabinet offices have been briefed to concentrate on other British Empire contributions by soldiers from countries such as Nigeria and other dominions in West Africa, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The  ‘new Commonwealth’ is a British term to describe predominantly non-white and developing decolonised countries and is often used in debates on immigration.”

Curiously the same article ended with the statement:

“Australia’s Department of Veterans Affairs and the Australian High Commission in London are planning a series of Australian-specific events in the UK this year and next year, the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli.”

So is Britain intending to forget the ANZAC and indeed Canadian and South African, contribution to the conflict? Of course not. The article presumes the WW1 Centenary is entirely led by the British Government, which it is not, and forgets that there are many thousands of families in Britain whose WW1 ancestors fought in these Commonwealth armies, often from the very beginning: some 70% of the Canadian Expeditionary Force who enlisted in 1914 were born in Britain, for example. It also forgets that a large proportion of UK citizens trace their own ancestry to the ‘New Commonwealth’ nations so a focus on them is directly relevant to people who live here.

Rightly, the British government is putting British taxpayers money into British led WW1 Centenary projects. It probably presumes, as the end quote of the above article confirms, that individual Commonwealth nations will fund and organise their own commemoration; which is clearly the case. I doubt I am alone in thinking that the Australian government is unlikely to run a series of events in Australia relating to the Old Contemptibles this August. They may honour them in Mons with commemorations there by the presence of an ambassador or military attaché (as indeed a number of Australians were in the original BEF), but that is as it should be. No-one is expecting more and I very much doubt the average Commonwealth citizen believes Britain should bankroll a whole series of ANZAC events.

One hopes this article is not a sign of things to come: a non-story written to tug on the heart strings of patriotism and whip up a frenzy, when in reality battlefields like the Western Front are very much dominated by memorials to Commonwealth sacrifice and anyone who studies the Great War for more than five minutes will realise what a crucial part of the British Armies on the Western Front, and indeed elsewhere, they were.


Author: ww1centenary

Military Historian & author who works in Television: visiting & interpreting battlefields all over the world. Currently working on WW1 projects for 2014-18.

5 thoughts on “WW1 Centenary: ANZACS – Remembering We Forget?

  1. Paul, possibly, if not probably, the most sensible lines written on this subject thus far. It beggars belief the complete nonsense that has been written over the past few days on this topic and other Centenary based issues; usually, each mis-informed journalist wanting to have a dig here or make some non-existent point there.

    It’s so clear, as we both know, (as do many others as well, of course) that the main Commonwealth nations have been planning their own commemorative events for some time now. It’s also very clear that in the immediate post war period, the specific nations were adamant that their countrymen’s sacrifice should be remembered properly. Hence, we have some superb pieces of architectural splendour at St Julien, Vimy and Villers-Bretonneux, to name but a few which have been doing this and acting as a magnet for subsequent visitors since the 1920’s and 30’s.

    You and I know that the first time Aussie or Canadian visitor is completely and utterly overwhelmed by what they see and experience on a battlefield visit. Until narrow minded journalists like this one come out and see things properly, I fear your final comment about this being a sign of things to come is likely to be the case.

  2. I can’t help but reflect on the ownership of the paper that started this, and the identity of the person whose reporting on Gallipoli first helped set up the narrative of brave Aussies sent to their deaths by bumbling Brits.

  3. Reblogged this on The Mad Game – Love and War and commented:
    ANZACS – Definitely not forgotten

  4. Pingback: Death Of A World War One Historian | Third News

  5. muaeum@collingwoodlegion.ca Don Wilcox — I have in my hand the ANZAC WW1 Series of pins honouring all who dies in the Great Was of 1914-18. We are attempting to identify each of the six included in the set. Can anyone help?

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