I have opinions, possibly less well informed than those others, but I suspect better informed than those of many. Strategically, the decision to land at Gallipoli wasn't as flawed as some suggest. At the grand tactical and tactical levels implementation was at best flawed and riddled with incompetence.
Much has also been said about the events of that day, and the succeeding campaign, defining nation-hood for both Australia and New Zealand. Again I feel that I have nothing of any substance to add to that debate, but one can certainly observe a significant increase in support for remembrance of those who were injured, or lost their lives, during what was without doubt an horrific experience. I have some concerns about this which I expressed in a previous blog post titled 'Secular Sainthood.
The suggestion that this was in some way more abhorrent than other wartime experiences is one area in which I might part company with others. I would have thought that ANY experience of war is horrific for its participants.
I am also always fascinated by the propensity of english speaking peoples in particular to perpetuate myths of the first world war. Here re a few:
- English and Empire soldiers were 'Lions lead by donkeys'
- All battles were fought in knee deep mud or worse
- All attacks saw infantry walking across open ground against machine guns
- The German army invented storm trooper tactics
I could go on. There has been a reluctance by so many to look at the evidence, yet when they do the story is often very different.
Now don't get me wrong, this was a war riddled with error and misjudgement (as they all were). But the suggestion that it was more so than any other is in my opinion unfounded.
In war, men and women die. In war, men and women die needlessly. My fear is that as we recognise the 100th anniversary of this failed campaign we perpetuate these myths.
Having said all of that, in New Zealand we are seeing some wonderful memorials to the sacrifice of those New Zealand and Australian men and women 100 years ago. Sir Peter Jackson has made an enormous contribution as has Weta Workshops. Look at the wonderful exhibitions opening at Te Papa (the NZ National Museum).