Cake dishes, jam jars and salt ‘cellars’ aren’t objects usually associated with the Australian First World War official correspondent and historian, C.E.W. Bean – or, for that matter, with the sport of cricket. But thanks to the wonders of Trove, we know that they’re precisely the prizes Bean donated to the Tuggeranong Cricket Club in September 1926 for, respectively, the best batting average, best bowling average and most catches taken during the 1925-1926 season. Bean and the official history team had been residents of Tuggeranong Homestead in the Federal Capital Territory between 1919 and 1925, usually working ‘war hours’ with breaks only to eat, sleep and play tennis or cricket – the cricket with “neighbouring farmers”. Bean’s donation of the trophies continued his association with the club even after the official history team relocated to Sydney, mostly for Bean’s health. More particularly, given their very domestic nature, the trophies probably also continued the association of Bean’s wife, Effie, with the cricketers’ wives she had socialised with in the still frontier-like national capital. View images of the Federal Capital Territory in 1926 here.
Next week I’ll be attending the conference The British Empire and the Great War – Colonial Societies / Cultural Responses, which is being held at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, from 19-22 February 2014.
I’m excited to be presenting a paper titled “C.E.W. Bean’s Passchendaele”, which is drawn from a chapter of my forthcoming PhD thesis. When I responded to the call-for-papers in July last year I gave this abstract:
New traditions abound at the Australian War Memorial under the directorship of Dr Brendan Nelson.
Last February, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott participated, at Nelson’s urging, in what was assumed to be a new ritual: the laying of wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier to mark the beginning of the parliamentary year. In conversation on the ABC week-in-review program Insiders , photographers Mike Bowers and Andrew Meares reflected on some of the images captured during this “moment of unity” – in, what has to be said, was an especially hostile political climate. “It was a very powerful visual,” Bowers commented, “because it matched the metaphors of battleground, ceasefire, truce… before hostilities commenced during Question Time.” But symbolism aside, the ceremony was a relatively simple one, taking place before the Memorial opened for the day.
Not so this year.
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.
Last week many people around the world observed Remembrance Day, Remembrance Sunday and Veterans Day, marking the anniversary of the armistice that concluded the military conflict of the First World War. In Australia, Remembrance Day has long been a war commemoration of secondary significance to Anzac Day, the anniversary of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli. Anzac Day is observed with a public holiday, dawn services, morning marches, ‘pilgrimages’, and much rhetoric about the supposed ‘baptism of fire’ of a young nation on 25 April 1915. Remembrance Day is a much quieter affair, not least because its focus is a minute’s silence at the hour of 11 am, when the armistice came into effect.
But this year’s Remembrance Day in Australia was a bit different. For the first time, the eulogy for the Unknown Australian Soldier was performed.
During the last few months I’ve been spending a lot of time with the records of C.E.W. Bean, the Australian official correspondent and official historian of the First World War. Like his official history, Bean’s diaries, folders and notebooks (digitised and made freely available by the Australian War Memorial) teem with references to individual servicemen. A reference to two soldiers of the 10th Battalion, Private Clarence Tidswell and Private Hartley Oborn, took me on quite the adventure in the archives, which I’ll share with you in this post. The fate of Tidswell and Oborn is a fascinating story in its own right, and it also raised some interesting questions for me about the ways in which different family members remembered – and were allowed by the state to remember – the war dead.
The centenary of the First World War has not yet begun and already we’re seeing new and interesting forms of commemoration of the conflict.
This past weekend, the exterior of the Auckland Museum was – for the first time – not lit on the evening of Saturday 12 October “as a mark of respect to [New Zealand’s] Passchendaele losses”: during the First Battle of Passchendaele on 12 October 1917, 845 New Zealanders were killed and 2,700 wounded.