In 2014 the First World War centenary – or, as it’s officially being called in Australia, the Anzac centenary – really is everywhere.
Lately I’ve been seeing ads for “ANZAC Runs” to take place on either side of Anzac Day this year, in Melbourne on 21 April 2014 and Brisbane on 27 April 2014.
Organised by the company Tour of Duty Pty Ltd, which also organised the 9/11 Tour of Duty Run in the United States in 2010, the runs will apparently “raise community awareness” – though not necessarily funds – for ex-service organisations such as the Returned and Services League of Australia, Legacy, Stand Tall 4 PTS and Mates4Mates. (Information on the use of entrants’ $35 to $55 fees for Tour of Duty’s “reasonable return on its capital” and “financial wellbeing”, rather than the ex-service organisations’ work, seems rather hidden away in the Contact Us section of the website.)
So, how is Tour of Duty selling their Anzac Runs? With many of the tropes of Australian remembrance of war. The Anzac Run logo features one First World War-era Australian soldier carrying his wounded ‘mate’, strongly recalling Peter Corlett’s sculptures Cobbers 1 and Cobbers 2 at Australian Memorial Park, Fromelles, France and the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne. The website flashes familiar images of Australians at war: Frank Hurley’s photographs from Hooge and Chateau Wood during the 1917 Passchendaele campaign, and another image, from a later conflict, of an Australian soldier carrying his wounded mate (can anyone help identity this photograph?). Then there’s the wording. A proclamation of the Anzac spirit of “resilience, mateship, courage and sacrifice”, the invocation of the Ode, and the invitation to make a personal connection: “Run for your Anzac” (emphasis added).
The Anzac Runs also seem like a particularly Australian remembrance of war. (Presumed) bronzed, athletic soldiers “[storming] the heights as Australians should” remembered with an athletic event. I’m not sure that the British First World War centenary, for example, already in a no man’s land of Lions Led By Donkeys and What The War Poets Told Us, will ever see such an event.
Edit: My thanks to Aaron Pegram (@PegramAaron) for identifying the third rotating photograph on the Anzac Run website. The image shows Corporal Leslie “Bull” Allen, 2/5th Battalion, carrying an unconscious American soldier to safety in New Guinea in July 1943. The soldier was one of twelve wounded Americans that Allen carried to safety, an action for which he was awarded the United States Silver Star. Aaron also points out that there have been recent calls for Allen to receive a posthumous, retrospective Victoria Cross for this action.