Dr Fay Anderson, Monash University; Dr Janda Gooding, National Museum of Australia; with an introduction by Dr Mathew Trinca, Director of the National Museum of Australia, 7 August 2015
MAT TRINCA: Good morning everybody. Our special guests have arrived, beating the fog that apparently enclosed the airport this morning. It’s easy to believe. When I was coming down to work this morning I thought it seemed dense and thick. You always think, oh, it’s one of those days, when unless you’re on the first plane you don’t get out of Canberra and you don’t get in. Welcome to Fay Anderson, who has made her way to the National Museum.
My name is Mat Trinca. I am the Director of the National Museum of Australia. I am delighted to be able to welcome you all here today. Can I start, as we always start at the National Museum for any event, by acknowledging that we meet today on the lands of the Ngunnawal, Ngambri peoples. I, on behalf of all of us, would like to offer my respects, pay our respects to their elders, past and present.
Welcome to this symposium about life on the home front in Australia in the course of World War I. It’s very gratifying to see you all here for what I hope will be a thoughtful and provoking day of discussion about the experiences of Australians in this country in the course of that calamitous war. The battle fronts of the conflict are, of course, etched indelibly on the collective memory of this nation. I think we all know the statistics, the horrible statistics: more than 60,000 died in all the theatres of war in which Australia participated, and many, many more were grievously wounded in the course of that war. That terrible toll still affects the nation today, and certainly did affect the lives of subsequent generations after that time.
But, as I’ve said before in the course of this year, it’s an evident truth that most Australians experienced the war in this country far from those battlefields. We should never forget the impact of the war at home here. It happened so soon after we had achieved the considerable success of bringing the Australian colonies together in nationhood, so that in a sense very frequently our retrospect has brought those together in our national narrative; that moment of nationhood and also the moment of the nation’s presence on the international stage, sadly, at a time of war.
The National Museum’s Life on the Home Front exhibition takes us inside the biographies of Australians who experienced that war at home. I think it’s the case that almost everybody in the crowd would have seen the show this morning, if not before. I hope that you had a sense of what life must have been like for individuals, a very broad range of Australians’ histories that are present in that show, in the course of the 1914-18 war.
It really follows the Museum’s other great work in this area, the exhibition that we produced to show what the country was like on the eve of war in 1913, that we held a few years ago. It’s my expectation, once we get to the end of this, what is effectively a rolling commemoration of the First World War that this country is experiencing, that we will be looking to represent the nation’s experiences in the aftermath of war at some time in the near future.
But today you have a chance to think and discuss aspects of our home front history and to remember how subsequent generations have dealt, and continue to deal, with the trauma of this conflict. I thank you really for your time and interest, indeed the interest that you have in a whole range of events that we hold here at the National Museum.
I know I am leaving you in capable hands in passing the baton here on stage over to Dr Michael Pickering, who is going to be the MC for today, and who will introduce each of our speakers in the course of events. Thank you very much. [applause]
Dr MICHAEL PICKERING: Thank you, Mat. I am very conscious of time. I welcome everybody. We are very pleased to have you here. I hope you have all had a chance to go through the exhibition. I hope that after today’s session you have a chance to go through it again and see whether your opinions have changed or altered, or whether it’s become broader. We would be very interested in any feedback that you may have.
As the Master of Ceremonies - that really means housekeeping - I’d just point out the toilets - in 1918 terms the ‘dunnies’- are out the door, to your right and to your right again. Lunch and afternoon tea will be held in the Hall. Please allow suitable walking time so we can get back and get started on time when we are coming back.
Parking: if people are parked in the four-hour parking zones, please keep an eye on the time to make sure you don’t get caught. Finally, the mobile phone - standard mobile phone message - if you can’t turn it off, can you turn down the buzzers, ringers or cute little tunes your grandchildren or children may have put on them.
We have the themes for the day, of course, beginning with Censorship, Suffering and Shell Shock, followed by Interment during World War I. Then after lunch we have War and Peace on the Home Front, the Shattered ANZAC, then afternoon tea and finishing with the August Offensives on Gallipoli and the Echoes in Australia. People will be invited to ask questions, depending on how we are suited for time. I am sure there will also be the great opportunity to catch up with people during lunchtime and afternoon tea and at the end of the day to follow through any questions.
On that note, and close on my time, I shall now invite Dr Janda Gooding and Dr Fay Anderson to the stage to take on the first session of Censorship, Suffering and Shellshock.
Dr JANDA GOODING: Good morning everyone. As you can see, we haven’t had time to actually organise ourselves too much. I just want to remind everyone that on this day 100 years ago it was the second day of the battle for Lone Pine on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Australians and Turkish soldiers were fighting across a small saddle of land which the Australians had called The Nek. Early on the morning of 7th August four successive waves of Australians climbed out of their shallow trench and tried to make their way across 30 metres of land to get to the opposing Turkish trench lines. They were mowed down.
During the course of the four or five days around the battle of Lone Pine over 2000 Australians lost their lives. The Turkish estimate was approximately 6000 men who had died.
In April 1915 many Australians, of course, had landed on Gallipoli carrying small pocket cameras. But on that day, 7 August, there were no cameras to record the events that happened at The Nek. Australians would have to rely on the words sent home by both the soldiers themselves and the press correspondents.
The war correspondents, Charles Bean and Phillip Schuler, who were on Gallipoli on that day, faced a perennial problem with their reports. Bean and Schuler were indeed willing participants in reporting the war. They supported Australia’s involvement in the campaign and certainly didn’t want to jeopardise the strategic imperatives of the action, or in fact endanger the men. Yet, as professional journalists, they wanted also to tell the truth about what they saw for the Australian people. Caught in this very conflicted position they had to negotiate how to get through it.
The words they sent from Gallipoli appeared in the Australian press over two weeks later, and the achievements of the Australians taking and then holding the trenches at Lone Pine certainly overshadowed the tragic events at The Nek. Ultimately the Australians would have to find out for themselves the lasting impact the war had on the men who fought, their families and, indeed, Australian society.
The subject of how journalists negotiate this very complex environment and the relationship between truth and censorship is the subject of our first speaker’s presentation today. It gives me great pleasure to introduce Fay Anderson. Dr Anderson is Associate Professor of Journalism Studies in the School of Media, Film and Television at Monash University. I know Fay’s work particularly through this book, which I have had by my side for the last few years when I have been at the War Memorial, that she co-authored with Richard Trembath: Witnesses to War: The History of Australian Conflict Reporting. It’s essential reading for anyone interested in the complex, practical and ethical relationships between journalists, the military and the media.
I look forward especially to her new book on Australian press photography that she’s working on at the moment, I believe, as a result of her ARC grant. Please join with me in welcoming Fay Anderson to the floor. [applause]
Dr FAY ANDERSON: Thanks everyone. I will just give an overview. I am showing a lot of slides - a number of them - but I am not expecting you to read them. It’s actually to show you the coverage, both visual and also written, so you get an understanding as I am talking.
My work examines how Australian war correspondents reported on and also experienced trauma and psychological trauma in World War I. I have deliberately put that photograph up [image shown]. Many of you will know it. It is from that ill-fated campaign that Woolworths did. It actually is almost an art, if you want to think about it, how we like that sanitised vision of a man, a very beautiful man. He’s known as ‘the handsome man’ at the War Memorial. We don’t know his name or his fate. That’s, of course, part of that sort of mythology.
I am going to give you an overview and then we will be able to chat more specifically. The Australian reporting during World War I differed from the British and American press for several reasons. Very few Australian correspondents were accredited during the duration of the war. There were in total nine journalists and three photographers. Only one, and that was CEW Bean, remained for the duration of that period. He was the one that lasted by far the longest. All were male, given the rank of captain and, using common parlance, were embedded. Correspondents saw themselves as part of the war effort.
Charles Bean was noted by Keith Murdoch, the father of Rupert, that he was actually incredibly astute, he had prodigious output and no accounts of action could be more accurate or his sympathy for the suffering more evident. In a way Murdoch is true.
Here Bean does try to communicate more truth. He becomes a bit critical of the Australians, but he discovers very quickly that the public don’t want that truth. They don’t want that candour. They want to actually have a more hagiographic view of what’s going on.
The other point, of course, is that his courage starts to dissipate as the war continues because the newspapers don’t like his more matter of fact, more accurate sort of reporting. They much prefer a hagiographic, an embellished record from some of the ‘hotel warriors’, as they are known, those that sitting in hotels - but were probably sitting in camps.
At the same time Murdoch is also a little inaccurate. Bean doesn’t have a great deal of sympathy, in a way, for the men’s suffering because it is not prominent in the dispatches. In a way you have to understand the way the press works and the culture of the time - so emotional vulnerability wasn’t a welcomed aspect. The societal and the cultural norms didn’t necessarily display this idea about psychological fragility.
It also, of course, was very difficult to convey the truth because the Australians had two censors; they had the British censorship system and then they had the Australian censorship system. The British censorship system was run by journalists, or those in the press. The Australians weren’t. For the Australians it was a double censorship. He can’t convey that sort of accuracy and truth.
Very quickly – Fromelles is probably the best example. The newspaper culture as well. We always assume that the journalists have autonomy and agency. Those that are actually doing the captions are the subeditors. They have the autonomy and they actually dictate what is said. So the idea, even a year later, that the anniversary of ANZAC legend landing is something to celebrate - and it was in a sense - but they also used language that is particularly pointed.
Fromelles, where over 5,533 Australians died in 27 hours, is such an example. This is described by the subeditors as ‘All is well on Somme Front’. Again the journalists are actually quite determined, or Bean particularly, to try and convey the truth, but he is not allowed to.
And in a way we also have to understand the lexicon of war, which is striking. Samuel Hynes claimed that when Ford Madox Hueffer lamented that there were no words for the reality of conflict, he was making a point about modern warfare, which might require a new language. The British, and by extension the Australians, went to war with the traditional rhetoric. Soldiers were not ‘killed’; they ‘had fallen’ or had ‘died gamely’. It was ‘a supreme sacrifice’ and the ‘price we must pay’.
The correspondents had little agency. And, as I said, that idea about honour, duty, sacrifice and manliness had clear meanings. ‘Empire’ meant the British Empire and a fine paternal thing. And God was an Anglican.
Traumatised soldiers threatened the telling of this warrior narrative and were completely removed from this sort of story. Self-control was both central to both soldierly and civilian constructions of manliness, and the forbearance of pain and stoic endurance was at the heart of ‘masculine Christianity’. Personal, confessional reporting also contravened the journalistic parameters at the time. So that idea about ‘I was there. I saw this suffering’ doesn’t occur in the reporting at the time.
As I said, Fromelles is a good example. You can see the images that aren’t published. I will talk about the visual representation in a moment.
When considering how soldiers kept their mental stability, Bean believed they severed ties with their ‘civilian self’ and acquired a ‘fixed and limited set of emotional responses’. This could also be applied to the correspondents and the photographers, where I have looked at their reporting, but also their diaries and their letters which convey far more candour.
Very briefly, photographers have a particularly close relationship with death because their industry demands and rewards an intimate closeness to violence. The First World War photographers fell into two main categories: amateur and official. Amateur, which we would now call citizen journalist, were the soldiers themselves who were actually given cameras to document Egypt and Gallipoli. Then once they realised it was actually spiraling into a bloodbath the cameras were confiscated.
We had three war photographers. If you think about the importance of visual now, it’s almost unbelievable. The first was Herbert Baldwin, who was actually withdrawn after six months. He was discharged due to ‘ill-health’ - which was always a euphemism for shell shock; and Frank Hurley and Hubert Wilkins. Hurley and Wilkins had both been trained in the Antarctic. They were both amazing photographers. Their work was never published in newspapers at the time. Their candour was not given expression but nor was their visual representation. Instead we had very staged and managed photographs.
This again is a photograph by Hurley. As you can see, this is an excerpt from his diary, but he wasn’t given that sort of expression. Instead, even after the war, staged and manipulated photographs became popular. Though they were not published at the time, they appeared in a lot of the exhibitions that appeared.
This is a photograph that was actually used all over the place in the Gallipoli commemoration recently in The Guardian, which is a fantastic newspaper. They had used it as a Getty image and they had removed the fact that it had been staged.
Hurley also was an infamous manipulator of images. This image acquired 12 composites - 12 different photographs were taken to create the one on the top on the left, which of course conveys something almost biblical.
If the reality of war was not written, the public also didn’t view the front line photographs. In Australia they have never been allowed to present a true account. The searing, brutal images of ‘our boys’ have rarely been published. They still don’t. We are still yet to see - I am not advocating graphic imagery –dead Australians. When we do see wounded soldiers they actually have to adhere to iconography that is almost biblical or Christian in its way.
In contrast, it was the unpublished photographs which provide a vivid tableau of unseen military life. Some captured the enormity of the battle and the nightmarish conditions. I want to consider two very briefly. So this is what the public would have seen - these portraits of these young men. As I have said, on the left many of them have been wounded or died. Instead these are the photographs that were not published. This one [image shown] because of the young man, probably, in the middle who is seen to have shell shock, or was certainly looking very damaged; and this one [image shown] which showed death and bodies.
More than 100,000 Australians have lost their lives as a result of war service, but graphic photographs of our dead have not been published and are still not. My work with photographers now, they have the same sort of pattern, which we will talk about.
While the issue of shell shock dominated modern psychiatry during World War I, the condition was not mentioned in the dispatches from the frontline. Publicly Bean avoided the issue of mental illness during the war and in his subsequent historiography.
As Marina Larsson says, and other historians have noted, there are no reliable statistics to indicate how many returned soldiers suffered from mental illness. Certainly we have cases of 60,000 were killed and about 150,000 were physically or psychologically wounded, in addition to 750 reported accounts of self-inflicted wounds. Between 10 and 40 per cent were said to have suffered battle fatigue or shell shock. Those who succumbed to mental illness did not have a place in the Australian journalists’ celebration of nationhood and masculinity. They were effectively, as Larsson argues, ‘failed ANZACs’.
The pictorial invisibility continues, as I said. So while the cultural representations of trauma or shell shock as it was referred to came from the work of poets and novelists in Britain, the main narrators in Australia were the journalists and the photographers - but it’s a very selective one. The journalists did not write about the suffering of others due to the censors and the press organisations and, in a way, self-censorship as well.
The coverage of World War I offers important clues about the Australian press and military culture. Bound by their ideological and cultural values, the militarisation of journalism and the impenetrable censorship, the correspondents were unable to acknowledge the soldiers’ psychological distress and their own. For the people at home they knew what was going on, but only when they realised their young men weren’t coming home or when they came home and they were utterly damaged. Thank you.
Dr JANDA GOODING: Thanks Fay. Thank you for that. We will start with a few questions and then open it up to the audience as well. Bean and Schuler, as you said, had quite a complicated process getting their report published in Australia. Can you outline some of the various stages of those approvals or manipulation?
Dr FAY ANDERSON: Bean and Schuler would have written the copy and then sent it to the censors on the frontline. It depended also if it was printed, because they were pooled. Does everyone know what ‘pooling’ is? No. There was only one official war correspondent, so all his work would have been pooled to other newspapers. He would have written, and then it would have been shared with all the other newspapers - which is sort of against the idea of competition and ‘the scoop’. If it was pooled and was going to the British newspapers it would have been censored by the British as well. Sometimes we know that the copy would take days and days.
Also for Bean and Schuler they weren’t accredited straight away. They were delayed for another month. They would have sent it to the Australians on the frontline, then they would have sent it to the British. Then it went back home. Then it went through that process and then the news editors - we all know that different news editors have a different political agenda - would have censored it as well. Right at the basic of it the correspondents might have censored it.
So Bean, after his Egyptian incident, where he does talk about the men behaving badly, becomes very reticent. He quickly realises that actually he can’t always convey the truth, so he is very careful in what he is reporting.
Also he is reporting to people who were waiting at home and are very worried. You don’t want to necessarily traumatise people back at home. Then, of course, you’ve got enlistment issues as well. It’s so complicated. There’s so many different chains and levels it’s going through.
Dr JANDA GOODING: The situation on Gallipoli is quite different to what the Australian correspondents would encounter on the Western Front. On the Western Front Bean and others were very reliant on the British authorities for access to information, access to the battlefield, even getting transport out to various sites. How much do you think that reliance on the military hierarchy compromised their position?
Dr FAY ANDERSON: Look, everyone is very critical of Bean - and I am in some ways - but actually he still manages to go onto the frontline. After Fromelles he gets there the next day. He is still managing it. He becomes very unpopular because he is trying to report and stay with the troops. He’s injured three or four times.
But then you have got a group who are actually what we would now say are ‘hotel warriors’, they were sitting there waiting for the copy to come in from the generals and the political players. That certainly happened. That was very popular in Australia, as it was in Britain, because of course you could then distort it and you can make it very colourful.
Bean was known to be a little bit boring in his reporting because he did try to convey ‘the unit went here and the unit went there’. He didn’t indulge in that sort of flowery rhetoric. But the British correspondents actually became more popular in the Australian newspapers than the Australians, (a) because we have very few; but also (b) they were willing to use a lot more of the copy.
Dr JANDA GOODING: The war correspondents witnessed horrendous scenes. Bean, in particular, was at the frontline often, was under fire and was running from hole to hole for protection. How do you think it affected them?
Dr FAY ANDERSON: This is a project that I’m probably looking at after this. I have interviewed probably over 140 war correspondents and then photographers. What we would now know as post-traumatic stress disorder culminates in very complicated ways. I think Bean managed it. Certainly Baldwin didn’t. He was the first photographer and he was withdrawn. He died a couple of years later.
They used euphemisms like ‘ill-health’ or ‘alcohol was very popular’. Bean isn’t according to type. He’s really interesting because he doesn’t fall into that sort of mythical journalist, the hard-drinking, the hard-boozing, bit of a shagger - all of those sorts of things that we think about correspondents. He warned his family - he warned his parents in a letter that he’d aged in 20 or 30 years, I think he said, that they wouldn’t recognise him. I think he managed it. Hurley, he then went into the Second World War, so he managed it as well.
Also it’s that time where they didn’t talk about personal suffering. So when you read the diaries there is a betrayal. You can see Hurley wondering if it’s all worth it. But the camera in a way - it’s very interesting - provides a really interesting barrier in terms of trauma. It mediates it, in a way.
When I have spoken to photographers now, they say the trauma often comes later when they are looking at the images rather than the process at the time. When they are reporting - and it’s the same with journalists - they know it’s just part of the job and they just do it. The trauma comes later - if they acknowledge it at all. Some don’t; some do.
I think this latest round, they will talk very openly about post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s not seen as ‘feminine’ or ‘not macho’. Certainly in those early years I don’t think they would have acknowledged it in the same way.
Dr JANDA GOODING: One of the really interesting questions is whether the model that was set up in the First World War actually has informed the way that current journalists are dealt with by the military in conflict reporting. What do you think about that?
Dr FAY ANDERSON: I think the Australian system in the western media and - as I said, this comes from the interviews - our Australian military is the most secretive and the most inaccessible. It is very interesting, even with the Vietnam War, which we see as the uncensored war, Neil Davis famously said ‘you are often told to F-off if you even ask for the temperature’. I think the Australians found a way of actually controlling it.
We think about embedding as a contemporary parlance, but actually the Australians have always done it. They did it in the Second World War. Vietnam was a little less censored. In fact, they could have access. But if you think about what we know 100 years after Gallipoli, what we know about Afghanistan, what we know about our soldiers - it’s very controlled.
The Australians, they actually stopped all access and then they introduced embedding, trial embedding, when the Americans have done it from 2003. The Australians implemented it in about 2005. Again ‘bus tours’ as the correspondents said.
I have to acknowledge, of course, the media and the military have two very different roles. The military’s role is secrecy. The media’s role is actually communication. You can see why it’s at odds. But I would say 100 years later - I could be wrong - we probably don’t know much at all about our soldiers. I think the problem with that is that we don’t know when they come back, and they are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. We don’t have any context, which I think is a great pity.
Dr JANDA GOODING: Do we have some questions from the audience?
QUESTION: Bonny from Queanbeyan. I read recently of the very different home front experience and response in New Zealand to what occurred in Australia in response to the Gallipoli campaign, the lack of information coming through. In fact the New Zealand government was almost unseated by the demands of the mothers of New Zealand who were saying they had a right to know where their sons were, whether they were dead, buried, wounded, and they wanted to know now, not in six months’ time.
I wonder why there is a substantive different feel between Australia and New Zealand in that respect. Have you looked at that at all?
Dr FAY ANDERSON: I know a colleague of mine was working on the history of New Zealand war reporting. Her argument was there was a smaller industry, and they mainly had Ross, I think, who was a New Zealander. I actually don’t know. It’s an interesting parallel and it’s an interesting paradox. I am sorry, I am not much help. I don’t know.
Maybe Australians are more obedient. I know that’s going against those myths about we are supposed to be egalitarian and anti-authoritarian, but I actually think that sometimes the Australians do tend to be a little bit more obedient. We don’t question these rules. I don’t think we still question these rules. That’s me speculating more than anything else.
Of course with newspapers it’s quite bizarre. Of course they do know what’s going on, in a sense, because they can see the long casualty lists and those images, those beautiful images of all those young men who have died. They know what’s going on coming home. There was a great suspicion though, and some of the public were very critical, that they weren’t getting the truth.
You can just see the way enlistment worked. Enlistment rates dropped substantially. They knew, even though the newspapers were saying ‘all is well on the home front’ or ‘all is well on the Somme’, that actually it wasn’t going well. So it’s an interesting paradox. Yes, I’m not quite sure. That was me speculating.
Dr Janda Gooding: Other questions? Just put up your hand and the mike will come to you.
QUESTION: Anne-Marie Condé from the War Memorial. Thanks. Can you comment on Bean’s selection - if it was Bean’s selection - of photographs for the photographic volume of the official history?
Dr FAY ANDERSON: How he selected them?
ANNE-MARIE CONDE: Yes. I’m sorry, I can’t remember when it came out - somebody else might know.
Dr FAY ANDERSON: ’24.
QUESTION: (Anne-Marie Conde) Right, yes.
Dr FAY ANDERSON: Bean was a relentless archivist. Even when he was on the war front he was going out with his assistant - who remained actually his assistant for much of his career. Bean took photographs. Schuler took photographs. Then he used Hurley and Wilkins. He actually was very critical of Hurley’s composite images, which we would now call manipulation. He collected everything.
All the photographs actually were filed at the Home Office, so they weren’t published, as I said. Some were, but none of the more graphic ones or the ones even on the frontline of Australians. Then all those photographs were released. Does that answer your question?
QUESTION: (Anne-Marie Conde) Well, I’m thinking if it’s 1924, if there is a selection of photographs for a volume of the official history for sale to the public, what’s the process then of selecting images to make it acceptable for a still grieving nation?
Dr FAY ANDERSON: Even with the exhibitions, the newspapers were saying they are not showing anything of any graphic or upsetting nature. They were still very selective. Even with Bean’s histories - Alec Raws, who is a fantastic journalist, who was actually killed, he joined up, he enlisted - they were very reluctant. The Australian authorities were very critical of Bean using Raw’s diaries or letters because he was talking about shell shock.
There was still a great deal of censorship; more so in Australia than probably Britain at the time. The Europeans always show much more graphic imagery. They always actually have. Culturally they tend to show more violence than we do.
Dr JANDA GOODING: Anne-Marie, I can add a couple of things about that process as well. I know that he ran selections past Wilkins to get his opinion on it. I know that some images were still censored, were still locked away at that particular point. Particularly captions were censored. It was quite a complicated mix. As you probably know, most of those photos, the ones that had been deemed acceptable by the censor, had already been for sale for some years to the public. So I daresay he would have mixed both the public reaction to the images, what he had available, some colleagues’ comments and balanced all of that into the final selection.
QUESTION: (Anne-Marie Conde) Thanks.
QUESTION: With regard to Bean’s history of the First World War, the last volume contains nothing but photographs. Are these any graphic photographs, or are there any graphic photographs included in that publication?
Dr FAY ANDERSON: It depends on what you call ‘graphic’.
QUESTION: You were talking earlier about graphic photographs not being published.
Dr FAY ANDERSON: I wouldn’t have called them particularly graphic. They were still within - in a way you can’t see people’s faces. The Australian soldiers, their faces have always been obscured. The Americans started to publish in newspapers graphic photographs of their dead from 1944, in the Second World War - 1943-44. So there is a pattern.
The more graphic photographs are more acceptable after the war, but still they are very carefully selected. As I said, they accord with dignified iconography, in a way. They are very well – they’re framed.
The other point is, with some of the images it wasn’t unusual for photographers to move bodies so they looked better. I know that sounds terrible. Matthew Brady did it during the Civil War, where he’d go on the frontline and they’d move bodies to make it look beautifully composed, which I know sounds very odd. They did sometimes show bodies, but they were always obscured. We were much more comfortable with the bodies of others than we were of our own. German bodies were fine. Turkish bodies were actually okay too. Australian bodies, not so good.
QUESTION: Thank you.
Dr JANDA GOODING: Last question, if we can.
QUESTION: Good morning. My name is Lindsay Ferguson and I live here in Canberra. Thank you for your address, Fay. My question relates to the photo - you talked about this censorship process, so that suggests there were many photos taken that nobody saw. Where are they now? Are they accessible?
Dr FAY ANDERSON: A lot of them are at the Australian War Memorial. The two that I showed that hadn’t been published, they’re both at the Australian War Memorial. That goes with any archives or any memorial. The Imperial War Museum has the most amazing photographs as well.
I would argue often it’s the unpublished photographs that actually convey so much more than what is published; what is unacceptable in terms of the censors or even the photographers and what is deemed acceptable? I think in many ways it’s a clue to the military, the politics, the public and also the photographers themselves.
Dr JANDA GOODING: I managed that collection. The photographs, although censored by the authorities, were not destroyed. There are cases where Bean fought tooth and nail to make sure that those images were retained for the future record. So they weren’t destroyed. They were just classified, in effect.
Dr FAY ANDERSON: The Australian War Memorial online and the National Library, they do have a lot of those photographs. Unfortunately, even now, they are used badly. So the photograph of the Gallipoli running, I couldn’t believe that The Guardian actually hadn’t said it was staged. It was about ‘Share your memories about Gallipoli’. That was the caption. I’m thinking: Share your false memories! If you’re going to use that photograph please caption it. It is that Getty. It is a problem when we have agencies using these photographs and having control of them.
Dr JANDA GOODING: It is. I think we are running out of time. One more question and then we will need to move on to the next presentation.
QUESTION: Thanks for your presentation, Fay. My name is Peter and I am a guide up at the War Memorial. I’m interested in a couple of things. You touched on a bit just then, the myths that are created by journalism and so on, particularly the myth around the landings at Gallipoli that were created by Bartlett and so on. The problem is that people still believe those. It’s a real difficulty at the Memorial. I have to keep on telling people we have to dispel the myths and so on.
Fortunately there are historians around trying to do that; Ashley Higgins in particular and so on. Hugh Dolan is another one who has come out recently with a lot of things. My concern is how much of this continues to go on - the stories we’re actually told and coming through the journalists and so on - how much of it is genuinely honest or how much of this is coming from their own mind? For argument’s sake, and I will go back 100 years - and you’d think we’d get rid of it after a hundred years - Bartlett was sitting on the boat. He didn’t get onto the shore until 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and yet he’d written this wonderful story about Australians being killed left and right and so on charging up the beaches. One soldier died on the beach in the landings at 4 o’clock in the morning. It’s crazy.
Dr FAY ANDERSON: It’s a hard one. It’s very interesting because the correspondents - when I interview journalists, even now, they will tell me who’s a hotel warrior, who sits there and just smashes out official stuff and makes stuff up. It’s very difficult to actually expose that.
It’s also now. Because of the change in the media we have far fewer journalists at the moment - and photographers. The only ones that are actually going out are the photographers. You can think about this domestically. Journalists are actually sitting in their office. Because they have to cover five or six stories they are getting things offline.
A number of journalists that I interviewed who have been into Iraq and Afghanistan were very frustrated because they were getting their editors saying, ‘You’ve got to file four stories in a day’, and ‘Look what the BBC are saying because you have to update that. The BBC is saying it so we have to say it.’ They are not even allowed to get the sort of confirmation that they used to get - three sources as confirmation. So it’s an historian’s job.
There are amazing photographers and journalists that try and impart that. My concern is not just about the mythology and what is safe and secure but it’s also about a changing media that actually have got less time to verify. They don’t disappear the way they used to. They are online all the time, and they are actually feeding the 24-hour beast and constantly updating, even if they can’t verify what’s going on. Don’t even get me on Twitter and Facebook - which I love - but where is the verification?
It’s a very good question. The mythology is—
QUESTION: It’s a huge problem.
Dr FAY ANDERSON: It is massive. The journalists that I know would say the same thing. They’re very frustrated. It’s the nature of it. Also there are some wars where it’s too dangerous for our Australian journalists to go into. Who is going to go into Syria at the moment?
QUESTION: Hi. Deb Jackson. I was just wondering, is it accurate to say that the censorship continued into the dioramas that were created after the First World War? There was only one diorama that actually depicted blood, and the faces of the men in the dioramas, I’ve been told, were deliberately bland so that they couldn’t be identified.
Dr FAY ANDERSON: It’s not my area. Would you know?
Dr JANDA GOODING: I haven’t heard that before. I know Anne-Marie Condé has done a lot of work on the dioramas.
Dr FAY ANDERSON: This is the thing about when you speak in Canberra, you know everybody knows all sorts of things when you don’t know it.
Dr JANDA GOODING: Anne-Marie, do you have a comment on that?
ANNE-MARIE CONDÉ: Oh, not really. Only that what we see in dioramas is probably a manifestation of the intent you see in official histories as well. It’s already been through a process of strict research and verification of details, and yet still a kind of manipulation of result so that, as Fay said, it will be acceptable to a grieving community in Australia in the 1920s. That’s all I can really say.
I haven’t heard the thing about the faces being deliberately bland. We do know that one was based on an individual, David Twining. But you are probably right. They are faces where you couldn’t really pinpoint an individual. I suppose that’s probably true. They have to transcend the moment as well as be specific. It’s very complex.
Dr JANDA GOODING: It’s been a really interesting discussion. I hope we can continue some of it over lunch.
Dr FAY ANDERSON: Of course.
Dr JANDA GOODING: Would you like to thank Fay again?
Dr FAY ANDERSON: Thank you everyone. [applause]
Disclaimer and copyright notice
This is an edited transcript typed from an audio recording.
The National Museum of Australia cannot guarantee its complete accuracy. Some older pages on the Museum website contain images and terms now considered outdated and inappropriate. They are a reflection of the time when the material was created and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Museum.
© National Museum of Australia 2007–23. This transcript is copyright and is intended for your general use and information. You may download, display, print and reproduce it in unaltered form only for your personal, non-commercial use or for use within your organisation. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) all other rights are reserved.
Date published: 01 January 2018