The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914

This handbook explores a diverse range of artistic and cultural responses to modern conflict, from Mons in the First World War to Kabul in the twenty-first century. With over thirty chapters from an international range of contributors, ranging from the UK to the US and Australia, and working across history, art, literature, and media, it offers a significant interdisciplinary contribution to the study of modern war, and our artistic and cultural responses to it. The handbook is divided into three parts. The first part explores how communities and individuals responded to loss and grief by using art and culture to assimilate the experience as an act of survival and resilience. The second part explores how conflict exerts a powerful influence on the expression and formation of both individual, group, racial, cultural and national identities and the role played by art, literature, and education in this process. The third part moves beyond the actual experience of conflict and its connection with issues of identity to explore how individuals and society have made use of art and culture to commemorate the war. In this way, it offers a unique breadth of vision and perspective, to explore how conflicts have been both represented and remembered since the early twentieth century.

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The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914 The British Isles, the United States and Australasia Edited by  Martin Kerby Margaret Baguley · Janet McDonald

The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914

Martin Kerby  •  Margaret Baguley Janet McDonald Editors

The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914 The British Isles, the United States and Australasia

Editors Martin Kerby University of Southern Queensland Toowoomba, QLD, Australia

Margaret Baguley University of Southern Queensland Toowoomba, QLD, Australia

Janet McDonald University of Southern Queensland Toowoomba, QLD, Australia

ISBN 978-3-319-96985-5    ISBN 978-3-319-96986-2 (eBook) Library of Congress Control Number: 2018960999 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: C.R.W Nevinson’s ‘A Dawn, 1914’ © Tristan Fewings / Stringer This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

Dedicated to the Men of the 25th Battalion The Darling Downs Regiment Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum (Never a Backward Step)


We are very grateful to the following individuals and groups whose support and encouragement have been invaluable in the writing of this book: • the participants in the various research projects reported in this book, in addition to their respective organisations; • our fellow authors and researchers in the various chapters from so many different countries and also the ‘gatekeepers’ who have enabled the various research projects to take place; • the various ethics committees who approved the research projects; • the people who transcribed the numerous recorded interviews embedded within various chapters; • other researchers and artists and writers who have inspired us; • the reviewers who have undertaken double-blind peer reviews of each chapter and their invaluable feedback to the authors and editors; • the anonymous reviewers of the original book proposal; • Emily Russell, the History Publisher at Palgrave Macmillan, who has supported and encouraged us throughout this project; Eleanor Christie, the Commissioning Editor for Education, who discussed the initial proposal with us and provided invaluable feedback; and Carmel Kennedy, the Assistant Editor for History at Palgrave Macmillan, who has always responded promptly to our numerous queries and provided useful feedback throughout and their wonderful commitment to high-quality and scholarly publishing; • to the designers, copyeditors, and typesetters whose work is exemplary; • colleagues in our respective workplaces; • the University of Southern Queensland for their invaluable support for this project, and particularly our respective Heads of School; and • our families and friends for their patience, loyalty, understanding, and unfailing support as we brought this book to fruition.



1 Introduction: Artistic and Cultural Responses to War  1 Martin Kerby, Margaret Baguley, and Janet McDonald

Part I Loss, Grief and Resilience  21 2 No Agency: Iraq and Afghanistan at War—The Perspective of Commissioned War Artists 23 Charles Green and Lyndell Brown 3 Megan Leavey and the Popular Visual Culture of the War-on-­ Terror 45 Paul Duncum 4 Tommy Talk: War Hospital Magazines and the Literature of Resilience and Healing 63 Alice Brumby 5 Wirral and the Great War 81 Stephen Roberts 6 Touring the Battlefields of the Somme with the Michelin and Somme Tourisme Guidebooks 99 Caroline Winter 7 Pro patria mori: A Memorial in Music117 Phillip Gearing ix



8 The Stamps-Baxter GI School of Music131 Jeannette Fresne 9 Witnesses to Death: Soldiers on the Western Front147 Natasha Silk 10 The Soldier as Artist: Memories of War163 Michael Armstrong 11 Icons of Horror: Three Enduring Images from the Vietnam War181 John M. Harris

Part II Identity 199 12 The Weather in Our Souls: Curating a National Collection of Second World War Art at the Imperial War Museum201 Claire Brenard 13 Write Propaganda, Shut Up or Fight: Philip Gibbs and the Western Front219 Martin Kerby, Margaret Baguley, and Abbey MacDonald 14 A War on Two Fronts: British Morale, Cinema and Total War, 1914–1958237 Gerard Oram 15 (Re)Writing the Second World War: United States, Russian and German National History Textbooks in the Immediate Aftermath of 1989255 Susan Santoli 16 They Wandered Far and Wide: The Scottish Soldier in the Australian Imperial Force275 Fraser Brown 17 Scottish War Resisters and Conscientious Objectors, 1914–1919291 William Kenefick



18 Australian Not by Blood, but by Character: Soldiers and Refugees in Australian Children’s Picture Books309 Martin Kerby, Margaret Baguley, Nathan Lowien, and Kay Ayre

Part III Commemoration 327 19 War Began in Nineteen Sixty-Three: Poetic Responses to the 50th Anniversary329 Martin Malone 20 “Heroes and Their Consequences”: 9/11, the War on Terror, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe347 Inga Meier 21 ‘Re-membering’ the Past: Eyewitness and Post-­battle Artistic Accounts of the Falklands War371 Paul Gough 22 The Imagined Memorial Gallery: Britain’s Aspiration to Commemorate the Great War Through Art391 Alexandra Walton 23 Rectifying an Old Injustice: The Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC407 Christine Knauer 24 Lest They Forget: Exploring Commemoration and Remembrance Through Games and Digital Technologies427 Iain Donald 25 Combat Cinematography: Interpreting the Cinematographic Form of Combat Realism447 Daniel Maddock 26 Conflict and Compromise: Australia’s Official War Artists and the “War on Terror”467 Kit Messham-Muir



27 Angels, Tanks, and Minerva: Reading the Memorials to the Great War in Welsh Chapels485 Gethin Matthews 28 “The Nest Kept Warm”: Heaney and the Irish Soldier-Poets511 Martin Malone 29 The Theatre of War: Rememoration and the Horse535 Janet McDonald 30 Australian War Memorials: A Nation Reimagined553 Martin Kerby, Malcom Bywaters, and Margaret Baguley 31 Conclusion575 Martin Kerby, Margaret Baguley, and Janet McDonald Index577

Notes on Contributors

Michael  Armstrong attended the University of Ballarat, graduating with a bachelor of fine arts—painting in 1997, having studied predominately under the tuition of the painters Doug Wright and Iain Read. On graduation from university, Armstrong explored a range of short courses and part-time jobs before enlisting in the Australian Army in 1998. He completed four operational tours (Timor, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Tactical Assault Group East Counter Terrorism Unit). Armstrong continued to draw and paint throughout his military career, but in 2014, he recommenced formal art study, enrolling in the Master of Arts program at the University of Southern Queensland. On completion of his master’s training, he hopes to identify a gallery to represent him as an artist as well as undertaking a range of Artist in Residence programs in Australia and abroad to continue his development. Kay  Ayre  is Lecturer in Education (Special Education) at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia. She has worked extensively with disengaged and disruptive children, their teachers, and schools. Before joining the university, Ayre worked for the Queensland Education Department as a teacher in mainstream and special needs classrooms, a behaviour support specialist, deputy principal, and the team leader of a regional behaviour team. She has a passion for helping build the capacity of teachers, to develop and maintain positive, inclusive classrooms with a focus on supporting children with trauma who demonstrate serious, disruptive behaviour. Her research and her teaching focus on challenging behaviour of children with and without trauma, traumainformed positive behaviour support, functional behaviour assessment, and childhood well-being and resilience. Margaret Baguley  is Associate Professor in Arts Education, Curriculum, and Pedagogy at the University of Southern Queensland. In addition to her extensive teaching background across all facets of education, she has maintained her arts practice. An interest in collaborative practice and creativity underpins her teaching and research. She has received a number of significant awards throughout xiii


Notes on Contributors

her career, including the Australia Council’s New Media Residency to Banff, Canada, the Martin Hanson Memorial Art Award, and the National Dame Mary Durack Outback Award. Her work is held in a number of collections, including the Bundanon Trust Art Collection, the Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery, and the Wesley Hospital Art Collection. Baguley has been a recipient of grants from the Ian Potter Foundation, Craft Queensland, Pat Corrigan, Arts Queensland, and her work has been selected to tour regional Queensland through the Queensland Arts Council. She has recently co-edited The Palgrave International Handbook of Global Arts Education with Dr Georgina Barton (2017). Baguley is the president of Art Education Australia (AEA). Claire Brenard  has worked as an art curator at Imperial War Museums (IWM) since 2012. She has curated art exhibitions at the museum, including Visions of War Above and Below (2015) and Architecture of War (2013) and assisted on IWM’s major new group show of contemporary art, Age of Terror: Art since 9/11 (2017–2018). Brenard has extensively researched IWM’s ‘unofficial’ Second World War art collection: artworks collected since the conflict which offer personal insights into the period, including those by émigré artists. Building on this, she is developing an exhibition proposal on the impact on British culture following the mass arrival from Europe of artists and intellectuals fleeing persecution in the 1930s, with a particular focus on visual art and film in IWM’s collections. Prior to joining IWM, she worked for the Curator’s Office at the Houses of Parliament, the team responsible for care and interpretation of the Parliamentary Art Collection. She has a BA (Hons) in Fine Art from Falmouth College of Art and is an associate member of the UK’s Museums Association (AMA). Fraser Brown  is a retired Scottish secondary schoolteacher. He completed his PhD in 2016 on the topic of child mobilization during the Great War, submitting a thesis entitled “‘Fall in the Children’: A Regional Study of the Mobilization of Children of the 42nd Regimental Area During the Great War.” In addition to the general topic of child mobilization in wartime, Brown’s main areas of interest centre on Scotland during the Great War, especially the return military migration of Scots from the Empire and beyond to fight in that conflict. Other interests include the impact of the Great War on the British, and particularly those Scottish communities resident in South America at that time. He has contributed various articles on aspects of the Great War to provincial newspapers in Scotland and regimental journals. Alice Brumby  is a member of the Centre of Health Histories at the University of Huddersfield. Her recent research has focused upon nineteenth- and twentieth-­ century mental healthcare and patient welfare in England. Brumby’s work examines the role of the community, families, and patients with regard to accessing care and treatment. Her work on the institutionalised ex-servicemen has been published, and she is working on a project linked to the Mental Treatment Act of 1930. Her PhD, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council

  Notes on Contributors 


(AHRC), examined attempts to reform asylum treatment and to eradicate the stigma attached to mental healthcare. This work has contributed to a programme of public engagement and co-­production, including co-curating an exhibition on the medical impact of war and shell shock to coincide with the Centenary of the First World War, in connection with the Thackray Medical Museum. Malcom Bywaters  is a Senior Lecturer and Director of the Academy Gallery, Tasmanian College of the Arts, University of Tasmania, Launceston, Tasmania. He has a diploma in fine art, Ballarat University; a graduate diploma, Victorian College of the Arts; a master’s degree from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), and a PhD from the University of Melbourne. For the past 30 years, Bywaters has worked as an artist, exhibition curator, and gallery director. Malcom has curated over 60 exhibitions for venues such as the Westspace, Gertrude Contemporary, Monash University Museum of Art, Geelong Art Gallery and the VCA Margaret Lawrence Gallery, The University of Melbourne, Victoria and the Academy Gallery, Plimsoll Gallery, Devonport Regional Art Gallery, Burnie Regional Art Gallery, and Arts Tasmania Gallery, Tasmania. Bywaters has displayed solo exhibitions of his sculpture and artwork at Geelong Gallery, Gertrude Contemporary, Linden Centre for Contemporary Art, Victoria and Burnie Regional Art Gallery, and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Tasmania. Bywaters artworks are represented in the collections of Artbank, Bundanon Trust, Federation University, Scotch Oakburn College, Wesley College, Camberwell Grammar and the Artist Book Collection, and National Gallery of Victoria. Bywaters has been awarded a Project Development Grant (Australia Council) 1989 and the Desiderius Orban Youth Art Award (Australia Council) 1986. Before joining the University of Tasmania, Bywaters was the Founding Gallery Manager in the Faculty of Art and Design at Monash University. Iain Donald  is a lecturer at Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland. He holds a PhD in the field of history and an MSc in information systems and enjoyed a career in information technology (IT) and game development before coming back to academia in 2010. Donald’s principal research interests explore the intersection of game, digital media, and history. His recent work focuses on commemoration and memorialisation in videogames and includes the interactive visualisation and board game Loos: The Fallen Fourth and the digital comic 5:47, which recounts the story of a young deserter shot at dawn. He is working on the AHRC-funded Living Legacies Project ‘Visualising the Iolaire’, and the AHRC-funded Next Generation of Immersive Experiences Project ‘Their Memory’. These projects explore the impact of conflict upon individuals and communities and how digital media shape collective and communal memories. Paul Duncum  is an adjunct professor at the University of Tasmania and emeritus professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Initially trained as a graphic designer, and receiving his doctorate from the Flinders University of South Australia, he was for a time a high school art and design teacher. He


Notes on Contributors

is a leading advocate of the visual culture orientation in art education. His work has been published widely in all the art education journals in the areas of his interest, which include children’s drawing, images of children, and popular visual culture, each of which is informed by the critical theory of cultural studies, and his work has been translated into nine languages. He is a recipient of the Manual Barkan Award for scholarship in art education and a member of the US Council for Policy in Art Education. Jeannette  Fresne  is a graduate coordinator of music at the University of South Alabama, specializing in the pedagogy of early childhood and elementary music, American folk music (children’s songs and seven-shape, shape-note gospel music), and integrating the arts throughout the learning process. While completing graduate coursework at Arizona State University and Texas State University, she taught courses in music education, piano, and music theory and served as Editorial Assistant of the Journal of Historical Research in Music Education. Since 2004, Fresne has been awarded in excess of $2 million for the implementation of the arts integration programs Arts in Education, which provides professional training in arts integration for elementary teachers and middle school math, English, and social studies teachers, and Literacy, Numeracy, Si!, which trains early childhood teachers the pedagogy of using music to teach reading literacy, math, and introductory Spanish. Fresne has led numerous workshops and clinics throughout the United States. Her publications include numerous seven-shape, shape-note gospel hymns published with Thurman Coffey and additional articles related to music education in Saxophone Journal and Music Educators Journal. Publications include her research in arts integration are Public Libraries, Early Years, Children Our Concern, International Journal of Pedagogies, and Learning and Education Update: Association for Supervisors and Curriculum Development. Integrative Strategies for the K-12 Social Studies Classroom, a book in the Teaching and Learning Social Studies Series, includes a chapter on music and social studies integration titled “Traveling the World through the Vehicle of Music,” co-written with Dr Donna Louk. Phillip  Gearing  has given organ recitals throughout Australia as well as in Britain and in Scandinavia. Involved in church music since the age of 13, Phillip has been organist of St George-the-Martyr, Queens Square London (1985); Director of Music, St Luke’s Toowoomba (2007–2012); and, most recently, acting organist, St John’s Cathedral Brisbane (2013–2014). He was Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Southern Queensland from 1992 to 2014. Phillip is also a director of the Organ Historical Trust of Australia, continuo player with the leading chamber orchestra Camerata of St John’s, and performs regularly as a pianist in chamber music and Lieder. In 2007, he released his CD Celebrate to mark the centenary of the organ at St Luke’s Toowoomba—the only solo recording of a Queensland organ. Phillip has composed a number of choral works; his most recent, Pro patria mori (a 25-minute setting of 7 poems by World War I soldier poets for choir and piano), is the subject of his chapter.

  Notes on Contributors 


Paul Gough  is Pro Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President at RMIT University, Melbourne. A painter, broadcaster, and author, he has exhibited globally and is represented in the IWM, London; Canadian War Museum, Ottawa; and the National War Memorial, New Zealand. In addition to three books on the British painter Stanley Spencer, his publications include ‘A Terrible Beauty’: British Artists and the First World War (2010) and ‘Brothers in Arms’, John and Paul Nash (2014). He curated ‘Back from the Front’: Art, Memory and the Aftermath of War (2014–2015) and has written extensively about the street artist Banksy. Charles Green and Lyndell Brown  have worked together as one artist since 1989. Working across mixed media on paper, oil on linen, photography, and transparent digital prints overpainted in oil, they have built a unique vocabulary that speaks both to the aftermath of conflict and to the contemporary condition of continuous wars across the globe. They were Australia’s Official War Artists in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007–2008. Their works have been acquired by most major Australian public art museums and private collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and the Australian War Memorial (AWM). Charles Green is Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Melbourne in the Art History Department, within the School of Culture and Communication. He has written Peripheral Vision: Contemporary Australian Art 1970–1994 (1995), The Third Hand: Artist Collaborations from Conceptualism to Postmodernism (2001), and (with Anthony Gardner) Biennials, Triennials, and documenta (2016). He was the Australian correspondent for Artforum for many years. As Adjunct Senior Curator in Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Victoria, he worked as a curator on Fieldwork: Australian Art 1968–2002 (2002), world rush_4 artists (2003), 2004: Australian Visual Culture Now (ACMI/NGVA, 2004), and 2006 Contemporary Commonwealth (ACMI/NGVA, 2006). Lyndell Brown is an honorary research fellow at the University of Melbourne, Melbourne, in the Art History Department, within the School of Culture and Communication. John M. Harris  is Associate Professor of Journalism at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. He worked as a reporter, editor, and photographer for more than 20 years at a variety of newspapers. He received his PhD from the University of Washington in 2011; his dissertation was titled America’s Vision of War: A History of Combat Photography in the United States as Seen Through Three Images. William Kenefick  is an honorary senior history research fellow, University of Dundee. His works on Scottish maritime, labour, and trade union history; the impact of the Great War and the Russian Revolution on the Scottish working class; developing working-class politics in Dundee c. 1880–1939; and Irish and Jewish relations in Scotland from c. 1870 to present have been published widely. He is Chair of the Great War Dundee Commemorative Project 2014–2019.


Notes on Contributors

Martin Kerby  is Senior Lecturer (Curriculum & Pedagogy) at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia. His research areas encompass both educational and historical areas. In the field of education, he has investigated links between schools and universities, mentoring, leadership and management, multi-literacies, curriculum, and school renewal. His historical focus encompasses school museums as sites for learning, biography, military history (1789–1945), and Australian involvement in the First World War. He has sole authored six books and has recently been awarded two competitive Queensland Anzac Centenary grants (2014, 2017) and a national Australian Government Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund Public Grant (2015). He was recently awarded a University of Southern Queensland Publication Excellence Award— Authored Books for Sir Philip Gibbs and English Journalism in War and Peace (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). Kerby is the editor of Australian Art Education. Christine Knauer  is a historian affiliated with the Eberhard Karls University Tubingen, Germany. She received an MA in American civilization from Brown University and an MA and PhD in history from the University of Tubingen. Her dissertation on African Americans and the racial integration of the American military was published under the title Let Us Fight as Free Men: Black Soldiers and Civil Rights in 2014. Knauer has published various articles on African American history, as well as the Korean War in American memory. She is working on a manuscript on lynching narratives in the US South after 1945 and one on the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. Nathan Lowien  lectures in English curriculum and pedagogy at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia. He has over ten years’ teaching experience in primary education. He has completed a Graduate Certificate in Scaffolding English for Speakers of Other Languages and a master’s of education from the University of Canberra. On completion of his master’s, Lowien was awarded a membership into the Golden Key International Honour Society for performing in the top 15% of the university. His research interests include multimodal discourse analysis, systemic functional s­emiotics, critical literacy, and educational semiotics. Nathan is doing a PhD investigating the semiotic construction of evaluative stance in video games. Abbey  MacDonald is Lecturer in Arts Education at the University of Tasmania, where she specialises in visual art curriculum, pedagogy, and practice. She is an Arts-based researcher with an interest in the applications of a/r/ tographic inquiry, and development of tools to support participant, researcher and teacher engagement with and in relational art inquiry. Her research contexts include professional learning collaboration, teacher embodiment, and enactment of curriculum and exploring intersections between pedagogy and methodology. MacDonald’s classroom teaching experience includes secondary visual arts, media arts, and English, as well as diverse pastoral leadership roles. While her area of teaching and practice specialisation is grounded in visual and media arts, she has taught into, designed, and developed units across the five

  Notes on Contributors 


Arts forms in the tertiary education sector. She is a practising visual artist, working in oils and cross media, and an emerging curator. She is Vice President of AEA, and Immediate Past President of the Tasmanian Art Teachers Association (TATA). Daniel Maddock  is an award-winning cinematographer published in all areas (documentary, television commercial, music video, branded content, television drama series, and independent feature film). He has also taught cinematography at the Griffith Film School, the University of Southern Queensland, and several independent tertiary institutions. Maddock completed a PhD at Griffith University’s Film School, researching the development of practice, and meaning of form, for cinematography as filmmaking moves into a future of virtual production. He has explored these ideas in his practice, including his most recent independent feature film Space/Time (http://www.spacetimemovie. com) as well as in the multi-award-winning concept trailer Break The Rock ( Maddock has written about his cinematography for the periodical Australian Cinematographer and published research with the Australian Screen Production Education & Research Association and the Journal of Media Practice. Martin Malone  Martin’s two poetry collections The Waiting Hillside (2011) and Cur (2015) have been published. Two further, Great War–related collections, The Unreturning and Ghosts of the Vortex will be published in 2018. An honorary research fellow in creative writing at Aberdeen University, he has just finished a PhD in poetry at Sheffield University. He edits The Interpreter’s House poetry journal. Gethin  Matthews completed a PhD examining the experiences of Welsh gold-seekers in the Gold Rush to British Columbia. He ran a project at Cardiff University, ‘Welsh Voices of the Great War’, which gathered family-held evidence of the impact of the war upon Welsh communities. Since 2011, Matthews has been a lecturer at Swansea University and has been to the forefront in interpreting the impact of the First World War on Wales during the period of the centenary. In 2016, his edited collection Creithiau, the first ­academic book in the Welsh language about the First World War for 20 years, was published. He is involved with the Living Legacies WW1 Engagement Centre, who have funded his project ‘Welsh Memorials to the Great War’. Janet McDonald  is Associate Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies in the School of Arts and Communication at the University of Southern Queensland (Toowoomba Campus). She received her PhD from Arizona State University (Theatre for Young People) in 1999 and served as the Head of the School of Creative Arts at USQ (2008–2013). Her work in enabling young people in the arts was recognised when she was elected Chair of Youth Arts Queensland, the state’s peak body for youth arts from 2008–2012. McDonald continues her pro-bono support for the Queensland arts sector, working on small-to-medium


Notes on Contributors

management committees and advisory boards (Cobb & Co Museum, Flying Arts Alliance). She is co-recipient of the USQ Excellence in Teaching Award (2008) and an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning (2009). Her research areas include actor-training and well-being, localism and well-being, and liminal arts practices in regional areas which feature prominently her in the published book Creative Communities: Regional Inclusion in the Arts (2015), co-edited with Dr Robert Mason, Griffith University. Inga Meier  is Assistant Professor of Film and Theatre at Stephen F. Austin State University. She has presented her scholarship at conferences throughout the United States and in England, including at Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR), Comparative Drama Conference (CDC), Film and History, The Mid-America Theatre Conference (MATC), The Midwest Modern Language Association (MMLA), Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC), and the Shaw Society. Meier’s research is focused on performances of terrorism, violence, and trauma, and her writing has been published in Film and History and in the anthology Recovering 9/11 in New  York. She serves as the secretary and debut panel coordinator for ATHE and is on the board of the Nacogdoches Film Festival. Kit Messham-Muir  is an art theorist, educator, researcher, and critic based at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. He holds a bachelor of visual arts degree (Honours Class 1) from the University of Sydney and a PhD in art history and theory from the University of New South Wales. His doctoral thesis examined the role of affect and emotion in political conflicts surrounding contemporary art in the 1990s. Since 1997, Messham-Muir has taught art history at universities in Australia and Hong Kong and won multiple awards for teaching. His work is published frequently in peer-reviewed and popular press (Artforum, Art & Australia, The Conversation), and he directs the StudioCrasher video project. In 2015, his book Double War: Shaun Gladwell, visual culture and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was published. He is lead investigator on ‘Art in Conflict’, a three-year Australian Research Council– funded linkage project in partnership with the AWM and the National Trust (NSW), and in collaboration with the University of Melbourne, the University of New South Wales, and the University of Manchester. ‘Art in Conflict’ receives a Linkage Project grant from the Australian Research Council of $293,380 over 2018–2021. Gerard  Oram is Programme Director for War and Society at Swansea University. He is a social, legal, and cultural historian of modern Europe with a particular interest in twentieth-century wars and conflicts. Oram has written extensively on military discipline and on morale—both military and civilian. Stephen Roberts  is a PhD candidate at Manchester Metropolitan University, researching the impact of the Great War on the people of Wirral, a peninsula

  Notes on Contributors 


close to Liverpool in the north-west of England, where he was born and grew up. He has written two books and engaged in numerous educational and community projects relating to the Great War and other topics. He worked as a history teacher in English and Welsh state schools for over 30 years and is also a battlefield guide and family history researcher. Susan Santoli  is the Director of Graduate Studies and Professor in the College of Education and Professional Studies at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. Before coming to higher education, she taught social studies at the middle- and high school levels for 20 years. Since coming to the university 18  years ago, Santoli’s primary focus has been secondary social studies education. She teaches undergraduate and graduate education courses across all content majors, directs graduate research, and supervises student field experiences. Santoli has been honored with an Excellence in Teaching Award for Outstanding Innovation from the College of Education and Professional Studies and has received several of Mortar Board’s student-nominated “Top Prof” awards. Her research interests focus on social studies education, the integration of visual literacy and social studies, and pre-service teacher education. She has co-authored three book chapters and numerous refereed journal articles. She is a regular presenter at the National Council for the Social Studies and at other professional conferences. Santoli received the Best Workshop Award at the Ireland International Conference on Education for a workshop which she co-designed and co-presented and the Outstanding Paper Award in the Research in Social Studies Education Special Interest Group at the American Educational Research Association for a research study in which she was a co-­ participant and co-author. Natasha Silk  is completing a PhD at the University of Kent. Her thesis concerns the study of soldiers as a group in mourning during the First World War and explores the mourning process of the individual, how soldiers collectively expressed their grief, and burial and commemorative practices soldiers used on the frontline. Silk completed her master’s in First World War studies at the University of Kent in September 2016, with a heavy focus on memorialisation practices, and a final thesis, Soldiers in Mourning: Grief, Bereavement and Burial Practices of the Men Who Served in the British and Dominion Armies during the Battle of the Somme, 1916. She completed her undergraduate degree in History at the University of Sussex in 2014. Alexandra Walton  is a specialist in British and Australian art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with particular interest in printmaking and war art. She is an art curator with IWM, and has written a PhD thesis on the history of print collecting at the IWM and the AWM.  Previously, she held a role as Assistant Curator/Documentation Officer in the Art Section of the AWM, and in 2008, she was the Gordon Darling Graduate Intern in the Australian Prints and Drawings Department of the National Gallery of Australia.


Notes on Contributors

Caroline  Winter  is Lecturer in Quantitative Systems at the William Angliss Institute. Winter has two main research interests, the first of which seeks to help provide solutions for sustaining the natural environment by investigating people’s values and attitudes. Winter is also interested in identifying the ways in which visitors commemorate those who have fought in war, particularly the First World War of 1914–1918, and has conducted studies in Melbourne, France, and Belgium. Both quantitative and qualitative methods are used in these projects, including questionnaires and short interviews with visitors, and analysis of visitor books at the military cemeteries. Places on the old Somme battlefield, such as Pozières in France, and Ieper/Ypres in Belgium, are areas where she has undertaken this research. She is also interested in issues relating to Australian national identity and the way in which social memory and remembrance are formed through tourist activities.



American Battle Monuments Commission Army Film and Photographic Unit Australian Imperial Force Associated Press Australian Peacekeeping Memorial Project Australian Research Council Army of the Republic of Vietnam American Society of Cinematographers Australian War Memorial British Expeditionary Force British War Memorials Committee Commission of Fine Arts Conscientious Objector Defence of the Realm Act General Headquarters Great War Dundee The Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation Heritage Lottery Funded The Independent Labour Party International Socialist Bureau Imperial War Graves Commission Imperial War Museum Korean War Veterans Memorial Advisory Board Marvel Cinematic Universe No-Conscription Fellowship National Capital Planning Commission United Nations Operation in Mozambique Pictorial Propaganda Committee Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Royal Air Force Returned and Services League United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda United Nations Good Office Commission War Artists Advisory Committee xxiii

List of Figures

Fig. 2.1

Fig. 2.2 Fig. 2.3 Fig. 2.4 Fig. 2.5 Fig. 2.6 Fig. 2.7 Fig. 2.8 Fig. 2.9 Fig. 2.10

Fig. 7.1 Fig. 7.2 Fig. 7.3 Fig. 7.4

Lyndell Brown/Charles Green, Approaching Darkness, Afghan National Army Observation Post, Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, 2007–2009. Courtesy the artists and ARC One Gallery Melbourne 24 Lyndell Brown/Charles Green, Atlas (The Vale of Kashmir), 1994. Courtesy the artists and ARC One Gallery Melbourne 26 Lyndell Brown/Charles Green, Transformer, 2005. Courtesy the artists and ARC One Gallery Melbourne 27 Lyndell Brown/Charles Green, Flightline with three warplanes, late afternoon, Gulf. #14, 2007–2009. Courtesy the artists and ARC One Gallery Melbourne 29 Lyndell Brown/Charles Green, Afghan National Army Perimeter Post with Chair, Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, 2007–2009. Courtesy the artists and ARC One Gallery Melbourne 30 Lyndell Brown/Charles Green, View from Chinook, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, 2007–2009. Courtesy the artists and ARC One Gallery Melbourne 31 Lyndell Brown/Charles Green, Deep Rock, 2011. Courtesy the artists and ARC One Gallery Melbourne 33 Lyndell Brown/Charles Green & Jon Cattapan, Spook Country (Maliana), 2014. Courtesy ARC One Gallery and Station, Melbourne34 Lyndell Brown/Charles Green, Morning Star, 2017. Courtesy the artists and ARC One Gallery Melbourne. This is the work of art that was the design for the Sir John Monash Centre tapestry 35 Lyndell Brown/Charles Green, Morning Star, 2017, Tapestry woven by Pamela Joyce, Leonie Bessant, Chris Cochius, Jennifer Sharpe, Cheryl Thornton, David Cochrane and Pierre Bureau. Courtesy the artists and ARC One Gallery Melbourne 36 How Long, O Lord?, bar 54 120 The Anxious Dead, bars 1–13 122 The Anxious Dead, bars 30–33 123 The Anxious Dead, bars 125–126 124 xxv


List of Figures

Fig. 7.5 Fig. 7.6 Fig. 7.7 Fig. 7.8 Fig. 7.9 Fig. 8.1

Fig. 8.2 Fig. 8.3 Fig. 10.1 Fig. 10.2 Fig. 10.3 Fig. 10.4 Fig. 10.5 Fig. 10.6 Fig. 10.7 Fig. 11.1 Fig. 11.2 Fig. 11.3 Fig. 13.1 Fig. 13.2 Fig. 18.1 Fig. 18.2 Fig. 18.3 Fig. 20.1 Fig. 20.2 Fig. 20.3 Fig. 20.4 Fig. 20.5 Fig. 20.6 Fig. 20.7 Fig. 20.8

Snow, bars 1–3 124 (a) Snow, bar 14, (b) Snow, bars 19–24 125 I Saw His Round Mouth’s Crimson, bars 11–15 126 Requiem, bars 1–8 127 Thaw, bars 38–41 128 Southern Stars Quartet (a GI student quartet). Burl Scarborough, Alvin Sawyer (Doc Dooley—GI School instructor), Esto Smith, Jim Holcomb. Lake Trinidad at Corsicana, TX, 1949. Photograph courtesy of Thurman Coffey 136 Former Southern Stars Quartet members. Burl Scarborough, Alvin Sawyer, Esto Smith, Jim Holcomb. GI Reunion, Iuka, MS, October 6, 2001. Photograph by Jeannette Fresne 136 Short differentiation of round-note notation versus shape-note notation137 Anticipation (Six Ways to Kill) 2016, Armstrong, Private Collection170 Death of the Bystander (Six Ways to Kill) 2016, Armstrong, Private Collection171 Untitled (Six Ways to Kill) 2016, Armstrong 171 Relics of Decay (detail), 2016, Armstrong, collection of the artist 173 Relics of Decay (detail), 2016, Armstrong 173 Relics of Decay (detail), 2016, Armstrong 174 Relics of Decay (detail), 2016, Armstrong 174 The Burning Monk by Malcolm Browne, Associated Press 184 Saigon Execution by Eddie Adams, Associated Press 187 The Terror of War by Nick Ut, Associated Press 192 Philip Gibbs in uniform, circa 1918 (Courtesy of Gibbs Family Archives)223 Philip Gibbs dressed for the Front, circa. 1918 (Courtesy of Gibbs Family Archives) 230 Jerusalem, 1917, by Margaret Baguley 313 Futility by Eloise Tuppurainen-Mason 314 The New Calvary by Margaret Baguley 315 Screenshot from The Avengers, 2012 film, directed by Joss Whedon357 Screenshot from The Avengers, 2012 film, directed by Joss Whedon357 Screenshot from The Avengers, 2012 film, directed by Joss Whedon358 Screenshot from The Avengers, 2012 film, directed by Joss Whedon358 Screenshot from The Avengers, 2012 film, directed by Joss Whedon359 Screenshot from The Avengers, 2012 film, directed by Joss Whedon360 Screenshot from The Avengers, 2012 film, directed by Joss Whedon360 Screenshot from The Avengers, 2012 film, directed by Joss Whedon361

  List of Figures 

Fig. 20.9


Screenshot from The Avengers, 2012 film, directed by Joss Whedon361 Fig. 20.10 Screenshot from The Avengers, 2012 film, directed by Joss Whedon362 Fig. 20.11 Screenshot from The Avengers, 2012 film, directed by Joss Whedon362 Fig. 22.1 IWM’s first home—Crystal Palace. After the exhibition at Burlington House, some of the BWMC paintings were displayed at the IWM’s first home in the Crystal Palace. This photograph, taken in 1921, shows Cameron’s The Battlefield of Ypres hung as it was originally intended to be alongside Sargent’s Gassed. © IWM (Q 17028) 402 Fig. 24.1 Screenshot from Great War Dundee438 Fig. 24.2 Screenshot from Great War Dundee439 Fig. 24.3 Screenshot from Great War Dundee439 Fig. 25.1 Screen grab from the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan (1998) set during the making of the film in the late 1990s 448 Fig. 25.2 Screen grab of the World War Two Omaha Beach Landing sequence from Saving Private Ryan (1998) 449 Fig. 25.3 D-Day Omaha Beach Landing photograph from the set published in Life magazine, taken by Robert Capa in 1944 451 Fig. 25.4 One of Hurley’s most famous composited photographs made from several different originals taken during World War I (National Library of Australia, 1917) 454 Fig. 25.5 Behind-the-­scenes photograph (photographer unknown) of the pneumatically powered “horse-operated shot” created for Napoléon (Gance 1927) 456 Fig. 25.6 Blown-out window light being used to naturally light the character inside this otherwise dark room, screen grab from Days of Heaven (1978)460 Fig. 27.1 First World War memorial in Salem, Canton (Cardiff), sculpted by Goscombe John (Photo credit: Gethin Matthews) 497 Fig. 27.2 First World War Roll of Honour in Tabernacl, Morriston (Photo credit: Matthew Jenkins) 499 Fig. 27.3 First World War Roll of Honour in Tabernacl, Morriston (Detail) (Photo credit: Matthew Jenkins) 499 Fig. 27.4 First World War Roll of Honour in Bethel, Llanelli (Photo credit: Gethin Matthews) 503 Fig. 30.1 Tony Albert’s sculptural artwork Yininmadyemi Thou didst let fall. Photographer: Malcom Bywaters 561 Fig. 30.2 The Australian peacekeeping memorial. Photographer: Graham Rayner566

List of Tables

Table 4.1

Work undertaken in Huddersfield War Hospital from 9 October 1915 to 31 July 1918 67 Table 5.1 Employment in Birkenhead and Wallasey in 1911 82 Table 5.2 Local authorities in Wirral with population figures 83 Table 6.1 Inauguration dates of major memorials on the Somme 103 Table 6.2 Information topics in the 2016 Somme Tourisme Centenary Guide107 Table 6.3 Analysis of photographs in the 1920 and 2016 battlefield guidebooks108 Table 16.1 Countries of origin of returnees to Arbroath killed in action 278



Introduction: Artistic and Cultural Responses to War Martin Kerby, Margaret Baguley, and Janet McDonald

Introduction As the First World War entered its second year Henry James lamented the failure of language to do justice to the extent of the destruction. The war had “used up all words; they have weakened, they have deteriorated.”1 Silence appeared a more suitable response than the conventions of a language left hopelessly compromised by mass industrialised warfare. The First World War was not unique, however, in challenging the available rhetoric. As Edkins observed, in order to communicate the “facts” of any trauma, they have to be translated into narrative form. This strips them of their immediacy.2 More importantly, any attempt at explanation hampers “the force of its affront to understanding.”3 Yet artists and writers are well placed to explore war, for their output defies efforts to impose a singular or “literal translation.”4 They can also transcend context; just witness the decision in 2003 to cover the tapestry of Picasso’s Guernica at the United Nations when Colin Powell made his case for war with Saddam. Different war, different age, but the raw immediacy was a quality to be respected, perhaps even feared. For, as Susanne Langer argues, art and art objects are “peculiarly adapted to the explication of ‘unspeakable’ things” such as loss, grief, and memory.5 In his searing work Survival in Auschwitz (If this is a man) (1947) Primo Levi tells the story of a fellow inmate who had carved “Ne pas chercher à comprendre” on the bottom of his bowl. Faced with his own death and the looming immolation of his people, the inmate’s exhortation “Do not look for M. Kerby (*) • M. Baguley • J. McDonald University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]; Janet.McDonald@ © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




understanding” is hardly surprising. Yet the visual arts, and indeed all art forms, can not only impart an understanding of unspeakable things, they have, as Sarah Koffman observes, a responsibility to do so: About Auschwitz and after Auschwitz, no story is possible, if by story one means: to tell a story of events which make sense … There remains, nonetheless, a duty to speak, to speak endlessly for those who could not speak because to the very end they wanted to guard true speech from betrayal. To speak in order to bear witness.6

Yet a handbook such as this one, whatever its length and coverage, cannot hope to do justice to the multitude of artistic and cultural responses to war. Another group of editors might have chosen differently, indeed, almost certainly would have. In the course of writing this introduction, the editors are painfully aware of these gaps; the Holocaust, other American cultural responses to war since 1914, particularly the Vietnam War, and our cousins across the Tasman in New Zealand are events and peoples who would have found an equally worthy place in this publication. That must be balanced, of course, against the inclusion of a number of chapters that explore lesser known responses or at least ones less regularly written about. The chapter on the memorial in Washington to the veterans of the Korean War is a case in point, as is the one exploring the work of Irish war poets. Two chapters dealing with the much discussed Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial and Wilfred Owen et al. might have filled a perceived gap in this book, yet hardly a yawning gap in the broader literature. In any case, there is much to value in this eclectic coverage, some of it dealing with the familiar, others perhaps casting light on lesser known topics. Overall these chapters make a valuable contribution to the field and if the editorial choices encourage further debate then it has served its purpose. Like the authors whose work graces the pages of this handbook, the artists, writers, and filmmakers whose work is explored in these pages sought to communicate something about the great events of their age. Like the combatants, they were products of their age, background, and temperament, subject to a variety of forces that shaped their artistic output. Some like Philip Gibbs were left compromised, others such as George Gittoes pursue an aggressive independence. In reality, however, whatever their qualities of character and talent as artists and writers, they offer “a truth” rather than “the truth.” In their attempts to speak of the unspeakable, there has been grace even in their failings.

Section 1: Loss, Grief, and Resilience Charles Green and Lyndell Brown’s “No Agency: Iraq and Afghanistan at War— The Perspective of Commissioned War Artists” (Chap. 2) is a personal and at times poignant insight into their experience as Australian Official War Artists. In a challenge to those who argue that those who accept official commissions



are inherently compromised, they show themselves to be trenchant critics of what they characterise as an attempt by the West to impose an imperial power. Their description of a US base is particularly powerful, as they drive “beside an inconceivably vast airfield perimeter past mile after mile of American military aircraft, a display so stupendous in scale that the imperial power it represents can’t be believed, while we click shot after shot after shot, completely awed and appalled (Chap. 2).” They are both aware, however, that their access to these areas is a privilege but one with limits. From the very beginning of their time in the Middle East, they knew that it would involve a “fraught, long negotiation between the self-determined aims of the artist, the interests of a national institution, the coolness of the military and the expectations of several differing publics.” Paul Duncum’s “Megan Leavey and the Popular Visual Culture of the War-­ on-­Terror” (Chap. 3) offers a fascinating insight into fictional militainment’s response to the longest war in American history. Though undoubtedly “complex, multilayered and contradictory,” it has, as Duncum observes, been overwhelmingly supportive of military intervention. One wonders, however, whether this has been conducive to the creation of great art. In a recent list of the ten best films dealing with the War on Terror (if we discount the First World War’s description as “the war to end all wars”—has there ever been a conflict saddled with so ironic a name?) six were documentaries. Although documentaries are no less art than their fictional counterparts, Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington’s Restrepo (2010) to name just one, in terms of movies, one searches in vain for a work comparable to Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957), Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986) or Edward Zwick’s Glory (1989). Perhaps it is a question of perspective or at the very least the passage of time. As A.J.P.  Taylor observed, many of the canonical novels, plays and memoirs dealing with the First World War were published between 1928 and 1930—Undertones of War (1928) by Edmund Blunden, Journey’s End (1929) by R.C. Sheriff, Death of a Hero (1929) by Robert Aldington, All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) by E.M. Remarque, Goodbye to All That (1929) by Robert Graves, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (1930) by Siegfried Sassoon, and Her Privates We (1930) by Frederic Manning. Can a great film be made about a conflict that is still unfinished business and likely to be so for the foreseeable future? Immediacy, though, has hardly been a barrier to other artists, Picasso painted Guernica a matter of months after the bombing of the Spanish village in April 1937, while Paul Nash’s work between 1917 and 1919 includes some of the most iconic images of the First World War. What all of these great works share, however, is their capacity to make a strong, often raw denunciation of the futility and destructiveness of war. Though these themes are also explored in a number of recent films, what is delivered is anything but an anti-war rhetoric. The filmmakers, or at least most of them, are too skilful to offer us the equivalent of John Wayne’s The Green Berets (1968). Instead, as Duncum contends, Megan Leavey and other films of this ilk demonstrate “visual strategies that in the past may have



been interpreted as anti-war are now used to justify foreign wars but also to regard them as endless, a new reality.” Alice Brumby’s “Tommy Talk: War Hospital Magazines and the Literature of Resilience and Healing” challenges the construct of the embittered British soldier stripped of his idealism and patriotism by the bungling of his superiors and the carnage of the Western Front. She instead draws on war hospital magazines, which have to this point been neglected in the otherwise exhaustive explorations of the First World War print culture. There is little evidence of Siegfried Sassoon’s excoriation of the “smug-faced crowds … who cheer when soldier lads march by” or of the “hell where youth and laughter go.”7 Even in 2001, those lines were still celebrated for their capacity to communicate to an “uninformed public the true reality of the ghastly nature of war.”8 These magazines reveal that Sassoon’s reality was just one of a number. For many wounded soldiers, as Brumby’s “Tommy Talk: War Hospital Magazines and the Literature of Resilience and Healing” (Chap. 4) informs us, the decision to contribute to these magazines and the nature of that contribution was motivated by a “sense of genuine patriotism and achievement rather than scathing resistance.” Not quite Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori, but nevertheless their efforts remind us that the war poets were not the spokesmen for an entire generation. The size, scope, and complexity of war can sometimes leave journalists like Philip Gibbs “overwhelmed” by the “vastness and horror.”9 Though Stephen Roberts might well concede that regional histories cannot mitigate the horror, he would probably argue that they are well placed to challenge the vastness. In “Wirral and the Great War” (Chap. 5), he observes that regional studies allow researchers to test the hypotheses of the national historians while explaining local variations. A study of Wirral, which as Roberts informs the geographically challenged, is a peninsula 20 miles long and 10 miles wide, defined by the Rivers Mersey and Dee and the Irish Sea, and its reaction to the outbreak of war is a case in point. Far from exultation, newspaper reports emphasised a restrained sense of confidence, unity, and determination. The people of Wirral were clearly in no doubt as to the righteousness of the cause for which they were preparing to fight. One local mayor spoke of destroyed cathedrals, burnt towns, and homeless women and children as a reality on the continent and a possible future for England if Germany should prevail. Through the course of the war the people were animated by a belief system strengthened by intimate links between the home and fighting fronts, ones which enabled them to actively and confidently prosecute the war. The memory of war, like all memory, is indeed mostly local.10 In 1917 John Masefield walked along what remained of the front line from the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He was remarkably prescient in his belief that one day tourists would “walk at ease where brave men once ran and dodged and cursed their luck.”11 In “Touring the Battlefields of the Somme with the Michelin and Somme Tourisme Guidebooks” (Chap. 6), Caroline Winter compares the Michelin guide of 1920 and the Somme Tourisme guide of 2016 and in doing so reveals how the battlefields have evolved from a



warscape to a memoryscape presented within a globalised view of the war. Interestingly, it is not only the ground that has changed; the very nature of the tourist experience has altered. In 1920 a tourist viewed the panorama of a warscape whereas the modern visitor can often be enacting an act of remembrance during which they view the sites but also participate in commemorative activities, talk with local people, walk the ground, attend ceremonies, and learn about the war. It is not a process without significant repercussions, given that tourism exerts a considerable influence on the creation of “memories” of the war in a manner similar to other cultural responses. The editors well remember the experience of witnessing the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres and are well aware of the impact of the tourist experience on historical understanding. “Pro patria mori: A Memorial in Music” (Chap. 7) by Phillip Gearing is interesting on a number of levels, not the least being the fact that it explores a musical response to war poetry rather than a musical response to war. It is a valuable reminder that our understanding of past events does not emerge in a “pure form” and are in fact filtered through our previous exposure to other cultural responses. Gearing visited his great uncle’s grave in France and found that he was buried in the same Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery as the Canadian soldier-poet John McCrae, who penned the now immortal In Flanders Fields. From the very beginning, therefore, Gearing’s response was grounded in his shared memory of his grandfather’s grief and the literature of the war poets. His musical response Pro patria mori (drawing on Wilfred Owen’s classical learning) has been performed to critical acclaim in the Australian capital cities of Perth (2014, 2017), Melbourne (2015), and Brisbane (2014 selected movements, 2015, 2018) and has been recorded by the Winthrop Singers of the University of Western Australia. In the course of the Second World War over 16 million Americans enlisted and, for those who served abroad, they spent on average 16  months “over there.” In “The Stamps-Baxter GI School of Music” (Chap. 8), Jeannette Fresne explores one of the US government’s initiatives to aid the re-integration of ex-servicemen and women into peacetime society. Honourably discharged veterans could access grants to use towards their education under Public Law 78-346, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (the G.I.  Bill). Some enrolled in traditional colleges and universities; however, many attended specialty schools such as the Stamps-Baxter G.I. School of Music in Dallas. Though not a large school by any means, with 100 students attending over its six years of operation between 1947 and 1953, Fresne’s chapter provides a valuable insight into a little-known part of post-war American life. The president of the company that ran the school believed that “the young men who faced the horrors of combat, as well as those who were torn from their loved ones, have a right to expect us to make every effort possible to give them the training in Gospel Music they were deprived of while they were away.” It was, he believed, “our duty to give that which we possess.” One wonders whether veterans of modern wars feel that such a view is still widely held.



In a speech delivered to the US Sixth Armoured Division on 31 May 1944 General George S. Patton made the now famous assertion that “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” Though well received by most of the soldiers present and still regarded by at least one historian as the greatest motivational speech of the war and perhaps of all time,12 Patton erred in characterising battlefield death as a choice of binary opposites. As Natasha Silk posits in Chap. 9, “Witnesses to Death: Soldiers on the Western Front,” the emotional impact of bereavement on soldiers offers a far more complex series of options. They had been taught that they had agency over life and death, but the first day of the Battle of the Somme had shown this to be a fallacy. In the face of an enormous personal and shared loss, it became acceptable even in the context of this masculine environment where stoicism was much valued, to mourn and grieve. She illustrates her argument by using primary source material, none more moving than one soldier’s description of the first church parade after battle when the Colonels sat sobbing in front of what was left of their battalions. Silk’s conclusion that soldiers experienced bereavement, expressed grief, and mourned with the same intensity as those on the Home Front mounts a serious challenge to the oft-expressed belief that soldiers became hardened to the sights of violent death. Joanna Bourke identified what she characterised as an implicit hierarchy in war art, one that posits that proximity equates to veracity, that the closer the artist is to the action, the more authentic their output.13 As Paul Gough, one of our contributing authors observes, there are those who argue that “an artist must bear witness, ocular not just circumstantial, to a sense of horror before committing it to canvas.”14 Major Michael Armstrong, author of “The Soldier as Artist: Memories of War” (Chap. 10), argues that even witnessing war is not enough; an artist must experience it, indeed, must participate in it if their output is to be truthful. Armstrong was initially reluctant to make an explicit connection between his military service, which included military deployments to East Timor, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and his artistic output. Yet it pervades his work, shapes it, and gives it a rawness that offers the viewer an insight into the artist as much if not more than the nature of modern war. His criticisms of the output of the official artists are far from an artistic denunciation, they are an exploration of the difference between being a witness and a participant. It is easily the most personal chapter in this handbook, one that charts Armstrong’s relationship with war, for he is at once repelled by it but equally aware that it is the wellspring of his creative endeavours. In an oft-quoted observation, Oliver Wendell Holmes acknowledged that those who have seen combat “have shared the incommunicable experience of war.” In their youth their “hearts were touched with fire.”15 Armstrong’s chapter is written by one whose heart, and art, has been touched by that same fire. As Susan Sontag reminds us, “photographs of the victims of war are themselves a species of rhetoric. They reiterate. They simplify. They agitate. They create the illusion of consensus.”16 The three photographs explored by John M.



Harris in “Icons of Horror: Three Enduring Images from the Vietnam War” (Chap. 11) certainly appear to offer a consensus about the brutality of the war in Vietnam. Yet as Harris shows us, the background to the taking and subsequent release of the photographs titled “Burning Monk,” “Street Execution,” and “The Terror of War” is surprisingly nuanced. Far from making a universal condemnation of war and its terrors, the images are surprisingly context specific. Yet for all the instinctive emotional reaction that they demand, over time, a constant exposure to the three images strips them of something of the underlying horror. “Street Execution,” which is surely one of the most dramatic images of the twentieth century, was used by one Brisbane boarding school in 2001 as a stimulus piece in an exam exploring the impact of the media. An image that had once appeared so confronting was now deemed fit for a 200-­ word response by 15-year-old students. That should not, however, obscure the very real impact of the photographs when they were released, as Harris’ fine chapter makes clear.

Section 2: Identity As an art curator at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) Claire Brenard is well placed to write about its extensive art collection. In “The Weather in Our Souls: Curating a National Collection of Second World War Art at the Imperial War Museum (IWM)” (Chap. 12) she has set for herself a threefold task: to explore the ways in which the “official” collection has influenced and shaped the Second World War art collection as a whole, how the collection might reflect British national identity at a time of total war, and how the term “war art” is interpreted in the context of the IWM. The collection is certainly big enough and broad enough in its scope to warrant such an investigation—3000 works of official art augmented by a further 5000 collected by the museum over the course of 70 years. The War Artists Advisory Committee, which oversaw much of the early collecting, was chaired by Kenneth Clark, director of the National Gallery in London, who was very clear in his belief that art should shape national culture. In 1941 at the height of the Blitz and in a year of military reverses he wrote that in Britain there is an envelope of soft, luminous atmosphere … unlike any other atmosphere in the world … even on sunny days there are no dark shadows in England, and no clear divisions between light and shade … the atmosphere is quite different on the Continent. That people there do literally see things in a different light—a hard, steady, unchanging light which allows them to develop hard, steady unchanging hatreds.17

Here indeed was a vision of a world under an English heaven, just as Rupert Brooke conceived it. Yet as Brenard shows us, the collection is deceptively broad, despite a recent re-organisation at the IWM that leaves it in the surprising situation of being without a separate art department.



Martin Kerby, Margaret Baguley, and Abbey MacDonald provide a similar nuance in their assessment of the First World War British War correspondents. Too often this group of correspondents has been the target of an instinctive condemnation that, at best, has characterised them “as naïve dupes of the military and victims of censorship” or at worst “impugned as co-conspirators in a web of deceit and lies, the effects of which reverberate to this day.” Chapter 13, “Write Propaganda, Shut Up or Fight: Philip Gibbs and the Western Front,” explores the complex pressures that operated on the correspondents by focusing on the most famous of them all. Gibbs’ early reports were amateurish, a shortcoming revealed in his description of the first day of the Battle of the Somme as a good day for England and France. Beyond his inexperience and a censorship regime that could be both extreme and illogical, Gibbs identified the greatest impediment to veracity in reporting as self-censorship, for as Charles Montague, a journalist turned censor, acknowledged, the correspondents were familiar with “the Staff world, [and knew] its joys and sorrows, not … the combatant world. The Staff were both their friend and their censor. How could they show it up when it failed?” Gibbs never admitted to writing a single word that he knew to be untrue, but the extent that he was a compromised witness is evident in his pride that the Army came to understand “that we were loyal … and had its ideals, its interests, and its hopes at heart.” Although undoubtedly a decent man with a great gift for friendship, Gibbs’ knighthood at the end of the war has left more than one critic ruminating that this honour came at too great a cost. Gerard Oram’s “A War on Two Fronts: British Morale, Cinema and Total War 1914–1958” (Chap. 14) reminds us that for all their contribution to our understanding of the First World War, the views of the war poets were not necessarily indicative of the average Tommy in the field. As the author points out, in just six weeks at the height of the Battle of the Somme, 20  million Britons of a possible 32 million watched 77 minutes of silent black and white footage, some of it staged, and no doubt left the cinema believing that what they had seen was the “truth”: Crowded audiences … were interested and thrilled to have the realities of war brought so vividly before them, and if women had sometimes to shut their eyes to escape for a moment from the tragedy of the toll of battle which the film presents, opinion seems to be general that it was wise that the people at home should have this glimpse of what our soldiers are doing and daring and suffering in Picardy. (The Times, 22 August 1916)

Oram moves beyond this early effort to discuss a range of war films that brought back memories of Friday night and Sunday afternoons in front of a television that the maker promoted with the audacious claim that it came with a cordless remote control. The 39 Steps, The Dambusters, Reach for the Sky, and The Battle of the River Plate are part of the editors’ own imaging of conflict. One of them can recall seeing Douglas Bader on This Is Your Life in 1982 with



a who’s who of fighter pilots (even Adolf Galland made an appearance) and being shocked at how little he looked like “his” Douglas Bader (who was of course the much loved Kenneth More). Such is the power of film! If journalists such as Philip Gibbs and photographers such as Malcolm Browne are responsible for the first draft of history, Susan Santoli reminds us that school textbooks are immensely powerful second drafts. In “(Re)Writing the Second World War: United States, Russian and German National History Textbooks in the Immediate Aftermath of 1989” (Chap. 15), she argues that they are anything but objective records and instead are ideological tools devoted to nation building rather than more altruistic ends. Santoli explores the sections dealing with the Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam conferences in history textbooks published in the United States, Russia, and Germany in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall. She identifies two major issues in the course of her chapter, one probably consistent with our preconceptions and the other far less so. Like all histories, Santoli makes it clear that the silences in the various texts and on various issues, also known in education parlance as “the hidden curriculum,” are just as instructive as the most overt attempts to shape material to support a particular narrative. Where our preconceptions are challenged is when it is clear that in many respects the Russian textbook proved superior to its American and German counterpart. It was later banned, as was the unfortunate author, for “propagating anti-state ideology.” Vladimir Putin, at that time serving as the Russian Federation president, believed that “The facts of history … must nurture a feeling of pride in one’s history and one’s country.” In contrast, the American text is now in its 16th edition. However, for all the concerns about Putin’s sabre rattling in recent years, his view is not unique. US textbooks, as Santoli observes, are often criticised for portraying an overtly pro-American or at least American-centric perspective of the Second World War, a failing evident in the 1991 text. As the editors of this handbook are only too aware, many Australians share the view that a “nationally affirming history education” is essential for the maintenance of national cohesion and identity.18 “They Wandered Far and Wide: The Scottish Soldier in the Australian Imperial Force” (Chap. 16) by Fraser Brown explores the newspaper response in Scotland to the men and women of Scottish birth or Scottish descent who served in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), 4303 of whom are numbered among the “fallen.” As Brown notes the Scots saw these returning kinsmen as “good men of ‘good stock’ with a fundamental decency and humanity about them, who were reliable partners in Empire and who could be depended on to ‘stick it.’” The respect that Brown has identified in newspaper reports of the time was not confined to those with Scottish blood, for across the AIF as a whole there was a considerable affinity with Scottish troops, far more than was possible with their English counterparts.19 Indeed, in an observation that Australians of the time would have applauded, Brown argues that the press coverage in Scotland showed that “for many people during the war years, the Australian soldier was Australia.” Virtually from the moment that the first newspaper report of



Australian troops landing on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 appeared in Australian papers, the men of the AIF were feted as the nation’s true founders. Settled by the British as an outdoor jail, there is no revolutionary war or civil war around which a national mythology can be created. British war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett’s dispatch from Gallipoli, first published in Melbourne’s Argus on 8 May 1915, began a process that filled that need and in doing so established a view of the event that remains largely unchallenged. In his view, the men of the AIF had risen to the occasion in a manner befitting a “race of athletes” who were “happy because they knew that they had been tried for the first time and that they had not been found wanting.” Given the yearning for a national baptism of fire, the previous 127 years of European settlement could be safely delegated to a supporting player in the national story, while the racial attitudes of the time ensured that the 40,000 years of Aboriginal habitation did even less to disrupt this mythology. Yet the designation as an imperial force seemed paradoxical given the soldiers’ status as exemplars of Australian manhood. Even more interesting is the fact that 18 per cent of them were born in the United Kingdom. Courtesy of Brown’s research, the story of those with Scottish blood will now reach a wider audience. Not all Scots hastened to join the colours on the outbreak of war in 1914. In “Scottish War Resisters and Conscientious Objectors 1914–1919” (Chap. 17) William Kenefick explores the experience of a small but vocal minority of Scottish war resistors and conscientious objectors. The Independent Labour Party (ILP) was not interested in waging war against the “dreaded Hun” and instead identified jingoism, militarism and secret diplomacy as the real enemy. Until recently, the story of Scottish war resisters and the crucial role of the ILP in the anti-war movement had not attracted the interest of researchers, and Kenefick’s work in this chapter and elsewhere is a welcome and much needed addition to the record of Scotland during the First World War. Most recent studies on war resistance have in his view “presented narratives of heroic individualism and pacifism to the point that the wider anti-war struggle tended to be viewed only in those terms.” Interesting, to say the least, is the implication that anti-war movements are as vulnerable to myth making as war itself. Although the authors and illustrators of Australian picture books dealing with the First World War probably do not see themselves as contributors to a nationalist mythology, in reality their efforts are entirely consistent with the broader canon of Australian war literature. As Martin Kerby, Margaret Baguley, Nathan Lowien, and Kay Ayre explain in Chap. 18, “Australian Not by Blood, But by Character: Soldiers and Refugees in Australian Children’s Picture Books,” whatever their pacifist or near-pacifist inclinations, authors and illustrators dealing with the First World War balance a rejection of war and an empathy for trauma with a respect for the Australian soldier as a national archetype. This ensures that whatever the considerable skill of these practitioners, and at times it is considerable, they present a politically conservative rhetoric that nevertheless baulks even at identifying the enemies or regimes against which Australian troops fought. The malleability of this foundational mythology is evident in the



fact that similar thematic imperatives are evident in the texts dealing with refugees. The authors draw on the traditional belief that members of the French Foreign Legion are French not by blood received, but by blood given, an appropriation that characterises refugees as “Australian not yet by blood, but by the qualities of character.” They are presented as different in the peripherals but not the essentials.

Section 3: Commemoration Martin Malone’s “War Began in Nineteen Sixty-Three: Poetic Responses to the 50th Anniversary” (Chap. 19) is an interesting chapter for a variety of reasons, not least because it offers a break from the seemingly endless round of discussions concerning the First World War centenary commemorations. Australian readers will be particularly thankful given that the five-year cycle has been justly characterised by Joan Beaumont as “a memory orgy,”20 during which the Australian government has spent over half a billion dollars on commemorative projects. Depending on how the final figures are estimated, the Australian expenditure per soldier killed during the First World War is between 5 and 19 times higher than the average spend per death by New Zealand, Canada, United Kingdom, France, and Germany.21 It is refreshing, therefore, to read a discussion of the 50th anniversary of the war, particularly one that explores the secondary canon of post-Great War poetry rather than reprising school memories of Wilfred Owen et al., who in Australian classrooms in the 1970s were celebrated as objective witnesses of the war and spokesmen for a lost generation. In Samuel Hynes’ words, of course, what they offered, and continue to offer, is a particular imagining of the war, in much the same way that the enormously popular Blackadder Goes Forth (1989) television series offers a comic imagining of the Western Front that has firmly entrenched itself as a mix of satire and historical record.22 The writers and actors involved were not, however, really bringing anything new to the table. For as Malone reminds us, by the mid-1960s the memory of the Great War was already dominated by poetry, a reality he explores in his own poem “Dear Revisionist” when he observes that it is “not royal families, but poetry/tips men into war graves.”23 Malone also shows that his control over language is not confined to poetry. In one notable turn of phrase, he characterises the Great War as the “war to construe all wars,” a contention that is well served by his chapter. When one thinks of artistic and cultural responses to war, it is difficult to concede, at least initially, that an image of Captain America punching Adolf Hitler would qualify as anything other than a passing oddity. Such a disdain for the image, which appeared on the cover of the first issue of Captain America comics in December 1940, would ignore the genre’s increasingly nuanced engagement with political culture, ranging from the Civil Rights Movement, to Watergate, and now the War on Terror. For as Inga Meier’s chapter “‘Heroes and Their Consequences’: 9/11, the War on Terror, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe” (Chap. 20) shows, the preparedness of the writers and artists to



“tackle” themes of trauma and violence offers what is in some ways an unrivalled insight into the post-9/11 environment in the United States. Perhaps the national trauma inflicted by this assault on the American homeland has in part obscured the distinction between high and low culture; all levels of society have had to come to terms with the memory of the collapse of the twin towers (9/11). The mass death and bereavement experienced during and after the First World War had, in Jay Winter’s view, much the same effect on the belligerent nations.24 University-educated intellectuals could not speak for everyone. Although hardly everyman figures, Iron Man, Black Widow, Captain America, Thor, the Incredible Hulk, and Hawkeye are characters of considerable depth and nuance. They are more than just heroes, for “individually and collectively” they “represent the multitudinous ways in which the effects of trauma reverberate psychologically, politically, and socially.” After traumatic events, there is, as Jenny Edkins argues, a struggle over meaning.”25 When Captain America suggests that the stars and stripes on his uniform might be a little old fashioned, he, and we the viewers, are offered the reassurance that they still have meaning. In response to Captain America’s query Agent Phil Coulson responds: “Everything that’s happening, the things that are about to come to light, people just might need a little old fashioned.” Paul Gough’s “‘Re-membering’ the Past: Eyewitness and Post-battle Artistic Accounts of the Falklands War” (Chap. 21) shows that the military’s mistrust of outside scrutiny has changed little since the late nineteenth century when Sir Herbert Kitchener swept out of his tent in Sudan through a group of correspondents, pausing only long enough to say “get out of my way, you drunken swabs!” The journalists (only two of whom were photographers) and the single artist permitted to travel with the British Task Force that retook the Falklands in 1982 were subject to treatment that Gough generously describes as “surprisingly unfriendly.” His assessment of the role and impact of visual artists during and after the war includes the important acknowledgement that “bias has an important part to play in any understanding of government-­sponsored war art,” an issue also explored in a variety of other chapters in this handbook, notably by Green and Brown, Kerby, Baguley and MacDonald, and MesshamMuir and Armstrong. Gough’s sensitive discussion of the work of the solitary war artist, Linda Kitson, is a particular strength of this chapter. “When confronted with the immediate consequences of the fighting she faced the crucial dilemma of any artist at war” one that she resolved by pursuing “dispassionate reportage over involved interpretation, however well-defined (and authenticated) by front-line experience.” Having written on war artists before, notably A Terrible Beauty: British Artists in the First World War (2010), Gough is well able to contextualise Kitson’s approach, seeing her as a “witness-­illustrator” in the manner of Edward Ardizonne and Edward Bawden, rather than “combatant-painters” such as Paul Nash or “Richard” Nevinson. Like Claire Brenard, Alex Walton is an art curator at the IWM and is well able to discuss the British War Memorials Committee (BWMC) in an authoritative manner. She has the added pedigree of having completed a PhD on the



artistic print collections of the IWM and the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in Canberra. In Chap. 22, “The Imagined Memorial Gallery: Britain’s Aspiration to Commemorate the Great War Through Art,” she investigates the most ambitious art commissioning project in British history. The artwork was never intended to be merely an historical record, but in a somewhat loftier aim, it was hoped that the project would “elevate scenes of war to a level that was reverential and revealed the cost of war.” The purpose-built space which was to house the work, which was never constructed, was also to facilitate an experiential engagement with the art, one that would encourage reflection. The finished works included paintings by the Nash brothers, Christopher R.W.  Nevinson, Wyndham Lewis, Stanley Spencer, Henry Lamb, George Clausen, Colin Gill, John Singer Sargent, and smaller oils by artists such as Randolph Schwabe, Bernard Meninsky, and Wilson Steer. To show the extent of the Committee’s vision, John Singer Sargent’s Gassed (1918–1919) which Winston Churchill described as a work of “brilliant genius and painful significance”26 depicts a line of nine soldiers blinded by gas being led along a duckboard towards a dressing station. The figures are almost life size, with the painting measuring 231 by 611.1 centimetres (7 ft 6.9 in × 20 ft 0.6 in). The painting reflects the BWMC efforts to make overt links between the modern, classical, and renaissance eras, thereby expressing national sacrifice and patriotic ideals through the grand manner/high-art tradition. Perhaps it is unsurprising that after the national trauma of a world war, comfort would be sought in such familiar motifs. Yet Walton’s wonderful chapter offers the reader the opportunity to renew acquaintances with such an iconic work. For all our revulsion at the mere thought of chemical warfare, one is reminded of Geoff Dyer’s observation that the suffering depicted in the painting is outweighed by its compassion. Instead, he offers the viewer “the solace of the blind: the comfort of putting your trust in someone, of being safely led.” The scene is, as Dyer almost lyrically observes, “is already touched … by the beauty of the world as it will be revealed when their vision is restored.”27 If further proof was needed that the Korean War deserves its designation as the forgotten war, Christine Knauer provides it in Chap. 23, “Rectifying an Old Injustice: The Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.” It took 42 years to have a memorial dedicated in the nation’s capital following a 13-year campaign to find some way to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of the almost 1.8 million US servicemen and women in a war that has technically never finished. The drawn-out campaign to build a memorial also emphasises that any form of commemoration is inevitably a political colonisation of space. For the veterans’ efforts to differentiate themselves from the triumph of the Second World War and the quagmire of Vietnam necessitated a re-imagining of the stalemate as a victory in the war against Communism. There is no room in this construct, however, for Korea and the Korean people other than as the beneficiaries, both militarily and economically, of American valour. Knauer also moves beyond the Korean War Veterans Memorial and its more famous cousin, the Vietnam War Memorial, to the question of the potential commemoration of the War on



Terror, which in time will no doubt raise some serious aesthetic and political issues. Chapter 24, “Lest They Forget: Exploring Commemoration and Remembrance Through Games and Digital Technologies,” by Iain Donald offers an innovative take on the plethora of commemorative projects marking the centenary of the First World War. Technology has certainly come a long way from the video game parlours of the editors’ youth, with their garish lights and cacophony of electronic sounds heralding either victory or defeat. Students in school uniform were denied entry during school hours, but it was a rule more honoured in the breach than the observance. Yet far from being part of a forbidden sub-culture, Donald argues that games are an important pedagogical tool. He explores the Great War Dundee (GWD), a 2014 Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) project that created an interactive documentary and website that laid the groundwork for the possible future creation of a game, the benefits of which have been identified both in this project and wider research. Games design and technology do not replace the historian any more than they have replaced the teacher, yet Donald is persuasive in his assertion that this project has facilitated a deeper public engagement and shaped research on the conflict from the perspectives of the local community. If the past is indeed a foreign country, this type of technology offers an immersion experience that has not yet be either fully realised or understood in educational circles. The battle scenes in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan are widely regarded as the most realistic ever captured on screen. In Chap. 25, “Combat Cinematography: Interpreting the Cinematographic Form of Combat Realism,” Daniel Maddock challenges that assertion and instead places the movie somewhere on the middle ground between verisimilitude and impressionism. Particularly powerful is his identification of Spielberg’s debt to fictional or semi-fictional sources. These include Robert Capa’s images of the D-Day landing in Normandy, famously blurred by errors in developing rather than the vicissitudes of a beach landing and a variety of faked recreations of actual events and real photographs composited together to create an interpretation of actual battle. For those of us without first-hand experience of war, our imagining of it is shaped by previous encounters with cultural and artistic artefacts such as films, books, poetry, music and paintings. The belief that Spielberg’s vision of battle is an accurate one is a reflection of the extent to which it conforms to our expectations. For many years, one of the editors watched his father, a competitive cyclist whose grandson later become a world champion, prepare for Saturday afternoon road races by watching the “Men of Harlech” scene from the movie Zulu (1964). Though the movie is justifiably described as a love letter to Wales penned by its star Stanley Baker, the Welsh connection is not nearly as strong as the movie presents it. When one of the editors (Kerby) stood at Rorke’s Drift in 2000 it was not the hard cold facts that shaped his response to the now silent battlefield. It was instead the vision of a beleaguered band of Welshman of the 24th Foot defiantly singing a song of homeland while thousands of Zulus did the same on the surrounding hills. The emotional pull



of a cherished childhood memory created an imagining of the event with no basis in fact but which nevertheless remains a vibrant memory two decades later. Spielberg likewise has his own “memory” of the events he sought to portray on screen and they too are constructs whose authenticity cannot be assumed. Kit Messham-Muir’s “Conflict and Compromise: Australia’s Official War Artists and the ‘War on Terror’” (Chap. 26) brings to mind Sir Basil Liddell Hart’s view of the Official Histories of the First World War: He believed that the word “Official” sometimes cancelled out the word “History.”28 Though stopping well short of Liddell Hart’s critique, in his exploration of the Australian Official War Artists Scheme, Messham-Muir does explore the extent to which the institutional relationship between contemporary artist and government institution, in this case the Australian War Memorial, limits artistic freedom. To do this he focuses specifically on the work of Official War Artists Shaun Gladwell and Ben Quilty, and George Gittoes, an unofficial war artist. Gittoes’ criticism of the Official War Artists is remarkably similar in language and tone to criticisms made of the British war correspondents on the Western Front during the First World War. In his view, the artists are subject to constant monitoring and an erosion of their independence that reflect the reality that they are provisioned, protected, and cosseted by the Australian Defence Force. Messham-­ Muir offers a more balanced and sympathetic assessment of the conflicts and compromises confronting the artists while nevertheless arguing the case for “new approaches that guarantee [the scheme’s] artistic credibility and political relevance, while remaining within the institutional and operational constraints of the machinery of government.” In his now iconic work The Great War and Modern Memory (1975), Paul Fussell explored how the conflict was memorialised by writers as an historical experience with conspicuous imaginative and artistic meaning.29 No doubt he was aware, and as the chapters in this handbook show, that this observation need not have been confined to the world of literature. As Gethin Matthews observes in “Angels, Tanks, and Minerva: Reading the Memorials to the Great War in Welsh Chapels” (Chap. 27), the conflict was a shock, one that shattered “many preconceived ideas and heralding the dawn of an uncertain future.” Forty thousand dead from a population of two and a half million makes for sober reading, even at a century’s distance. The chapter explores the surprisingly wide variety of responses to this carnage adopted by the Protestant Nonconformist denominations of Wales in chapel memorials. For all the variety evident in these responses, Matthews identifies a discourse in this chapter that stops well short of a celebration of Welsh identity: The prevalence of ‘British’ imagery, and of the English-language in Welsh-­ language chapels, also speaks of the cultural pressures that were brought to bear. When the chapels of Wales conformed to what was expected by the dominant discourse of 1914–18, they were rejecting their own traditions and ideals. The memorials in these places of worship are a signpost towards the Nonconformist



denominations surrendering their places as the moral guardians of the Welsh nation. Those memorials that are foolhardy enough to talk of “victory” are blind to the chapels’ defeat.

After reading Matthews’ chapter, one of the editors asked his two colleagues whether they knew how many Welshmen were killed during the First World War. We had all grown up in Australia where the death toll of 60,000 is seared into our collective memory but we had to admit that the cost in Welsh lives was something we could not even guess at. Like harried undergraduates we turned immediately to the World Wide Web but found that the numbers were often subsumed under “United Kingdom,” “United Kingdom and Colonies,” or “United Kingdom and Empire.” In Chap. 28, “‘The Nest Kept Warm’: Heaney and the Irish Soldier-Poets,” Martin Malone reminds us that such a merging of experience suggest a level of similarity that is not borne out in the facts. He includes the perspectives of the poet Seamus Heaney and his Irish contemporaries, whose take on the First World War is very different from their English counterparts: Here, Irish exceptionalism abounds, as dissenting mythologies compete across both multiple and, seemingly, synchronic time-frames: Republican Ireland’s problematized relationship with the last Great War of the British Empire is offset by the eternal present of the Somme’s blood-sacrifice in northern Unionist mythology; the south’s deeply ambivalent attitude towards its own Great War veterans existed for almost a century alongside the extraordinary cultural privilege afforded to their comrades in the UK, and the Irish Republic’s very origins in the Easter Rising of 1916 was yet seen in some quarters as ‘a stab in the back’.

A divided Ireland and the latter-day conflict in the North have ensured that this duality has survived, hardly surprising when one also considers that it was only in 2015 that the British government was finally able to discharge the last of its debts from the First World War. Tragically, it appears as though it is not just their names which promise to liveth for evermore. In Chipilly on the Somme there is a memorial to the 58th (London) Division depicting an artilleryman cradling the head of a dying horse. Created by the French sculptor Henri Désiré Gauquié, it is a remarkably moving artwork, made all the more so by the obvious connection between man and animal. One commentator went so far as to observe that though it is taking all of the soldier’s strength to comfort the wounded horse, “his lips touch its face as tenderly as a lover’s.”30 Janet McDonald opens “The Theatre of War: Rememoration and the Horse” (Chap. 29) with a reminder of the symbolic power of the horse. Her description of a seemingly trivial incident after viewing the stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel War Horse in New York in 2011 is equally as moving as Gauquié sculpture. After the performance, her sons, then eight and ten, “galloped” down the escalators of the World Trade Centre station, deep beneath the soon to be dedicated memorial commemorating the 11 September 2001 attacks, which killed 2977, and the 1993 World Trade Centre



bombing, which killed six. McDonald’s children immersed themselves in an emotive and spontaneous re-telling of a stage play based on a book which the author had been inspired to write after speaking with neighbours who were veterans of the First World War. The story that Morpurgo subsequently wrote explores, in “his” words, the universal pity of war through the eyes of Joey, the horse. He has, either intentionally or not, echoed Wilfred Owen’s oft-repeated line. Owen is not the only poet to exert an influence on Morpurgo’s work, as the poet Ted Hughes, whose creative output is explored in one of Martin Malone’s chapter, was a neighbour, friend, and inspiration. Morpurgo is thus positioned as both cause and effect. He has influenced our shared “memory” of the conflict, as well as being influenced by it. A further interesting aside is that the screenplay for the Steven Spielberg adaptation of War Horse was written by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis, the latter of course responsible for the enormously popular and influential Blackadder series. McDonald’s chapter focuses on the intricacies of the acclaimed National Theatre stage production of “War Horse” which was presented on Broadway from 2011 to 2013 and then toured the United States from 2012 to 2014. Its popularity has resulted in its current tour of the United Kingdom, marking the tenth anniversary of its debut at the National Theatre on the 17 October 2007 in London. The expression “set in stone” suggests a certain immutable quality to that particular medium. Yet as Martin Kerby, Malcom Bywaters, and Margaret Baguley’s chapter “Australian War Memorials: A Nation Reimagined” (Chap. 30) shows, this may well be a literal truth, but it is certainly not a metaphorical one. Succeeding generations have been able to co-opt war memorials into the national narrative, ensuring that even as attitudes and tastes evolve, they have retained their status as the central shrines of a civic religion. Using two new additions to the commemorative landscape, Yininmadyemi Thou didst let fall (2015) and The National Peacekeepers Memorial (2017), the authors have assessed the means by which monuments that seek to challenge dominant narratives can actually end up reinforcing them. The former is a memorial to Aboriginal servicemen and women, whose story has until recent years been relatively neglected, while the latter commemorates Australian peacekeepers, who as yet have not won the accolades of those involved in Australia’s 15 wars (the number varies on how they are counted). This number includes lesser known actions such as the Egyptian Rebellion (1919) and Operation Astute (2006–2013) in East Timor; if one counts the Frontier Wars, the number increases to 16.

Notes 1. “Henry James’s First Interview,” Henry James on Culture: Collected Essays on Politics and the American Social Scene, ed. Pierre A. Walker (Lincoln/London: University of Nebraska Press, 1999), 144. 2. Jenny Edkins, Trauma and the Memory of Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 41.



3. Cathy Caruth, Trauma: Explorations in Memory (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1995), 154. 4. Susanne Langer, Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite and Art (New American Library, New York, 1948), 77. 5. Langer, Philosophy in a New Key, 78. 6. Sarah Kofman, Smothered Words (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1998), 14–36. 7. Siegfried Sassoon, “Suicide in the Trenches,” in Counter-attack, and Other Poems, ed. Siegfried Sassoon (New York: E. P. Dutton & Company, 1918). 8. Michael Copp, Cambridge Poets of the Great War: An Anthology (Madison, N.J: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2001), 61. 9. Philip Gibbs, Realities of War (London: Hutchinson & Co Ltd., 1936), 70. 10. Edkins, Trauma and the Memory of Politics. 11. John Masefield, The Old Front Line: Or the beginning of the Battle of the Somme (London: Heinemann, 1917), 3. 12. Terry Brighton, Patton, Montgomery, Rommel: Masters of War (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2009), 260. 13. Joanna Burke, “Introduction,” in War and Art: A Visual History of Modern Conflict, ed. Joanna Burke, 7–43 (London: Reaktion Books, 2017). 14. Paul Gough, The artist at war: ‘A very dangerous type of spectator,’ retrieved from 15. Richard Posner, The Essential Holmes: Selections From the Letters, Speeches, Judicial Opinions, and Other Writings of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (University of Chicago Press, 1992). 16. Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (New York: Picador, 2003), 7. 17. Kenneth Clark, “The Weather in our Souls,” The Listener 25, no. 642 (1 May 1941): 620–621. 18. Anna Clark, “Under Construction: Nation-building past, present and future,” in The Challenge of Teaching Australian History, ed. John Butcher (Canberra: ANU Press). 19. Eric Montgomery Andrews, The ANZAC Illusion: Anglo-Australian Relations During World War I (Oakleigh, Victoria: Cambridge University Press, 1993). 20. Joan Beaumont Commemoration in Australia: A Memory Orgy? Journal of Australian Political Science 50, no. 3 (2015): 536–544. 21. David Stephens, “Why is Australia spending so much more on the Great War centenary than any other country?” John Menadue  – Pearls and Irritations. Posted 29 June 2015, access December 16, 2017, david-stephens-why-is-australia-spending-so-much-more-on-the-great-warcentenary-than-any-other-country/. 22. Stephen Badsey, Blackadder Goes Forth and the ‘Two Western Fronts Debate 1914–1918, in The British Army in Battle and its Image 1914–18, ed. Stephen Badsey (London: Continuum Books, 2009), 37–54. 23. “Dear Revisionist’ ll.18–19, Strand 14, no. 2., Jon Glover (ed) (Leeds: Leeds University, 2016), p.75. 24. Jay Winter, Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 2–5. 25. Jenny Edkins Trauma and the Memory of Politics, 16.



26. “A Deadly Weapon, A Solemn Memorial,” Wall Street Journal, 9 November 2012. 27. Geoff Dyer, The Missing of the Somme (Penguin: London, 1994), 91. 28. Basil Liddell Hart, Liddell Hart’s History of the Second World War (London: Pan, 1973), 7. 29. Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (London: Oxford University Press, 1975). 30. Dyer, The Missing of the Somme, 45.

References “A Deadly Weapon, A Solemn Memorial”. Wall Street Journal, November 9, 2012. Andrews, Eric Montgomery. The ANZAC Illusion: Anglo-Australian Relations During World War I. Oakleigh, Victoria: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Badsey, Stephen. “Blackadder Goes Forth and the ‘Two Western Fronts Debate 1914–1918.” In The British Army in Battle and its Image 1914–18, ed. Stephen Badsey, 37–54. New York: Continuum Books, 2009. Beaumont, Joan. “Commemoration in Australia: A Memory Orgy?” Journal of Australian Political Science 50, no. 2 (2015): 536–544. Brighton, Terry. Patton, Montgomery, Rommel: Masters of War. New  York: Crown Publishing Group, 2009. Burke, Joanna. “Introduction”. In War and Art: A Visual History of Modern Conflict, ed. Joanna Burke, 7–43. London: Reaktion Books, 2017. Cathy Caruth. Trauma: Explorations in Memory. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1995. Clark, Anna, “Under Construction: Nation-building Past, Present and Future.” In The Challenge of Teaching Australian History, ed. John Butcher, 33–47. Canberra: ANU Press, 2008. Clark, Kenneth. “The Weather in Our Souls.” The Listener 25, no. 642 (1 May 1941): 620–621. Copp, Michael. Cambridge Poets of the Great War: An Anthology. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2001. Dyer, Geoff. The Missing of the Somme. Penguin: London, 1994. Edkins, Jenny. Trauma and the Memory of Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory. London: Oxford University Press, 1975. Gibbs, Philip. Realities of War. London: Hutchinson & Co Ltd, 1936. Gough, Paul. The Artist at War: ‘A Very Dangerous Type of Spectator’. https://www. James, Henry. “Henry James’s First Interview.” In Henry James on Culture: Collected Essays on Politics and the American Social Scene, ed. Pierre A Walker, 138–145. Lincoln/London: University of Nebraska Press, 1999. Kofman, Sarah, Smothered Words. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1998. Liddell Hart, Basil. Liddell Hart’s History of the Second World War. London: Pan, 1973. Masefield, John. The Old Front Line: Or the Beginning of the Battle of the Somme, London. London: Heinemann, 1917.



Posner, Richard, ed. The Essential Holmes: Selections From the Letters, Speeches, Judicial Opinions, and Other Writings of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. Sassoon, Siegfried. “Suicide in the Trenches.” In Counter-attack, and Other Poems, ed. Siegfried Sassoon. New York: E. P. Dutton & Company, 1918. Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others. New York: Picador, 2003. Stephens, David. Why is Australia Spending so Much More on the Great War Centenary than Any Other Country? John Menadue – Pearls and Irritations (blog). Posted June 20, 2015. Winter, Jay. Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.


Loss, Grief and Resilience


No Agency: Iraq and Afghanistan at War—The Perspective of Commissioned War Artists Charles Green and Lyndell Brown

Introduction In 2007, we were commissioned by the Australian War Memorial (AWM) to serve as Australian Official War Artists in Iraq and Afghanistan. We were joining an extraordinary and adventurous tradition of Australian War Artists commissioned by the AWM, a century-old programme that is independent of Australian Defence Force control. We were given complete artistic freedom and unique access to the unfolding War on Terror’s two principal conflict zones, but our deployment occurred at a point where both zones definitively escaped the West’s ability to impose its imperial power, and thus we were often hemmed in by the realities of two deteriorating wars and the fantasies of our hosts. This chapter, illustrated by our works both during and after our official commission, unpacks the process by which we tried to make artistic sense of our experience, one that indelibly changed the course of our art and our lives (Fig. 2.1).

Backdrop A perplexing phone call from Canberra, from the AWM: can their Department of Art curators visit us in Melbourne as soon as possible, no reason given. Their visit would be a follow-up to our recent gift of many of Green’s painter-father’s World War II watercolours and drawings. Though not a commissioned War Artist—he, along with many other trained artists, was pressed into service as a

C. Green (*) • L. Brown University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




Fig. 2.1  Lyndell Brown/Charles Green, Approaching Darkness, Afghan National Army Observation Post, Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, 2007–2009. Courtesy the artists and ARC One Gallery Melbourne

map-maker—Douglas Green sketched and painted prolifically throughout his military service, producing folios of modernist-inflected observations of New Guinea airstrips and harbours and airplane wreckages, of Darwin during the Japanese bombings and of Indonesian island forward bases. As the War went on, his works became more ambitious and finished, reflecting the modern art he was absorbing both at the George Bell School classes he attended while on leave, and showing the impact of his new friends like Russell Drysdale. But, when the AWM team visit, they ask instead if we will accept a commission to be the nation’s next Official War Artists. Will we travel to Iraq and Afghanistan to document Australia’s role in the War on Terror? Our first response is negative: don’t they know these are deadly places? Genuine danger—as opposed to being mauled by embittered art critics—isn’t what artists, unlike soldiers, sign up for at art school, and we have never thought of any such enterprise. A bolt from the blue. Our second response is to think through the potential: we have always been influenced by nineteenth-century photographs of distant places and orientalist scenes. Charles Green had travelled slowly through Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the mid-1970s en route to India and imagined returning to those high, snow-capped mountains. Our third response is a quandary: the AWM curators carefully point out the deep honour and the astonishing lineage of Australian War Artists—Arthur Streeton and George Lambert—but we can’t immediately see how the expectation that we will produce observational realist painting might be reconciled with the independence



of truly contemporary art, even though the curators insist that there will be no constraints on what we say about our experiences nor how we represent them. We would need to radically reconsider canonical depictions of war such as George Lambert’s celebrated painting, ANZAC, The Landing 1915 (1920–1922). In 1922, it was exhibited in Melbourne and Sydney to astonishing scenes of public reverence. Lambert had been sent to Turkey in 1919 by the AWM, visiting Gallipoli’s already-disappearing battlefields. ANZAC depicts an act of heroism but it was not at all artistically ground-breaking. Indeed, like almost all Australian war art of World War I, it ignored the breakthroughs of modernism long produced across Europe, whose innovations would relegate Lambert (who was sympathetic to more radical artists) and others of his ilk to minor relevance except in War Memorials and in the hearts of the public.1 It is an awkward but charismatic painting, peripheral to the development of Australian art but a still-potent, central symbol of a grieving Australia united in memory of its own World War I dead but not of those of others, nor of those fleeing war, nor of the 100-year consequences of World War I that led directly to present-day conflict and mass migration. We can see how photographers and video artists could manage to bring the Official Artist scheme into the present but not painters. We certainly don’t want to emulate what the last War Artists— all respected realist painters—had done. Nor have we thought of ourselves, our own fastidiously painted, hyper-illusionistic, highly skilled works notwithstanding, as realists and we don’t wish to ever paint propaganda (of course, neither did they) nor would we want to sit around in sand and dust with sticky oil paints and awkward little sketchbooks. We accept and are sworn to secrecy, warned that no-one must know about the commission and that we must be ready to drop everything and be deployed with little notice. Only when we travel to Canberra to see the AWM’s film footage that documentary film-maker Rob Nugent had just shot in Iraq does our way forward crystallize. The profoundly ill-conceived and malignly implemented War on Terror represents the raw power of imperial globalization encountering that same Empire’s own dark side. As writers and strategists from Pankaj Mishra to David Kilcullen will point out, the War on Terror is eighteenth- and nineteenth-century colonialism surviving into the present in a symbiotic dance with its own ghastly, co-dependent mirror worlds: Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Ba’athist kleptocracy, oil autocrats playing both sides.2 The opportunity of the commission is to witness firsthand this profoundly weird, messed-up history unfold—as Nugent’s electrifying Baghdad footage shows. Why approach us? Well, we reflect, we have long been gathering iconic images of contemporary war and asylum seeking. We have several times painted, in our trademark trompe l’oeil, a famous image of refugees on the deck of the MV Tampa, crumpling up and copying in paint the page of the newspaper with a notorious photograph of the cargo ship’s deck, across which a crowd of rescued refugees wait their fate. We have placed copies of similarly infamous photographs as details into our paintings: government-circulated, strategically cropped photographs of asylum-seekers’ children thrown overboard for rescue



from a sinking boat that allegedly showed (our own Australian government deliberately lied) the children cast adrift by their own parents. In more theoretical terminology, we have long explored how painting can be made a critical form of art practice in an era of photography and video. We have shown the interplay of visual symbols and images that have transcultural curiosity and meaning. From the start of our life-long artistic collaboration in 1989, we have developed large paintings that placed fragmentary images from art history within aerial views of cities, ports, airports—all scenes of globalization—inverting the nineteenth century’s depictions of the periphery. We advance in art the theories of white Australian guilt that Charles Green had explained in his book, Peripheral Vision (1996), the first scholarly history of Australian postmodern art (Fig. 2.2).3 We explore the weird globalization of Western culture by inventing occidentalist images, taking the method of the tattoo, imported from Europe’s journeying to the Pacific, as a cue to layer images of journeying on top of images borrowed from the history of oil painting. Following a long artist residency in New Delhi, we draw on Geeta Kapur’s writing on regional modernity, on the

Fig. 2.2  Lyndell Brown/Charles Green, Atlas (The Vale of Kashmir), 1994. Courtesy the artists and ARC One Gallery Melbourne



Fig. 2.3  Lyndell Brown/Charles Green, Transformer, 2005. Courtesy the artists and ARC One Gallery Melbourne

iconic Indian modernist painter, Amrita Sher-Gil, and on conversations with Kapur’s partner, the great contemporary Indian artist Vivan Sundaram, all of which contribute to our commitment to painting the transcultural and cosmopolitan migration of images.4 We make paintings from assemblages of photographs that we then rephotographed and printed onto transparent film, suspending them so that light suffused the images like early tinted photographs or daguerreotypes (Fig. 2.3). Our photographs are, respected curator Blair French writes, “small theatres of suspended reality, hallucinations and dreams [that] are not conditions of escape but urgent performative undertakings through which history, society and the self fleetingly come into focus” through the lens of global migration.5

Inside the Wire So, we are deployed for six weeks—at our request. This is far longer than other War Artist commissions—in combat zones and remote military bases across Iraq and Afghanistan at the height of both conflicts. We are to complete a



large, 33 painting commission for the AWM in the year after we return, which will later be augmented by 14 mural-sized colour photographs. From the start we aim to take several large cameras with us to make photographs grander than anything we would paint, independent of the commission (the AWM curators will quickly grasp their monumentality and acquire them for the collection, as will several other art museums). We stand by for almost a year and imagine that the deployment has been mercifully forgotten, for the news from Iraq is worse and worse: catastrophic sectarian violence; endless Improvised Explosive Device (IED) massacres; and a stream of dead and wounded. The Americans’ occupying troops never gain control, not least because of the obstinate stupidity of their politician masters. Then a window of relative quiet and slightly better security opens, along with optimism about General David Petraeus’s Surge, due to commence at almost exactly the moment we fly in. We are to be ready to leave within weeks and must present ourselves at Randwick Barracks in Sydney for pre-deployment training with the next cycle of Australian troops heading into Iraq, as well as a few anxious-looking Department of Foreign Affairs diplomats. We are inducted into the bleak, black humour of bomb disposal engineers and hostage training. Travel insurance for injury or death is an issue that we had not prepared for: there is none in war zones except Australian government assurances and the legal department at Green’s University wants to block our departure, but the wise Vice-Chancellor, Glyn Davis, intervenes for us. An unmarked, chartered passenger plane unloads us at Kuwait City. There is no passport control. We few Australians wait for a bus amidst tens of thousands of milling American troops toting guns, in our first glimpse of the unimaginably enormous American presence. We are ferried from base to base, negotiating how to ameliorate the near-absolute control over our movement by obstinate and, with a couple of exceptions, obstructive minders who must accompany us everywhere and always. This frustration contrasts with surprising access to the military’s astonishingly frank intel briefings—no-one is under any illusions. The early morning photoshoots across runways, jets, bunkers and the desert are scenes that remind us of both Stephen Shore’s and Andreas Gursky’s photographs (Fig. 2.4). On the one hand, negotiating one of the endless checkpoints inside a vast US defence base, an American army officer barks at us that the US recognizes neither our official identification nor the Geneva Convention; we are as much a potential enemy as insurgents. On the other hand, a strait-laced US Air Force minder unexpectedly cuts loose on our behalf at dusk when our official escorts take time out and, flouting the instructions he’s been given, accelerates beside an inconceivably vast airfield perimeter past mile after mile of American military aircraft, a display so stupendous in scale that the imperial power it represents cannot be believed, while we click shot after shot after shot, completely awed and appalled. At Baghdad airport, on one edge of the incredibly named Camp Victory, we see one aircraft disgorge wounded, bandaged American soldiers ferried back from a street-by-street urban battlefield and another plane



Fig. 2.4  Lyndell Brown/Charles Green, Flightline with three warplanes, late afternoon, Gulf. #14, 2007–2009. Courtesy the artists and ARC One Gallery Melbourne

unload shackled, hooded prisoners. Our ability to work is largely dependent on each base’s commanding officer, on the whims of military minders and on a security situation that is far, far more precarious than the news ever reported. We are cushioned from danger in much the same way as visiting journalists but continually placed far deeper inside the war machine, in sites more remote and for longer periods, than anyone other than a commissioned official War Artist would reach, and we are completely aware of this privilege and its limits. We understand more than any armchair critic the upside and the downside of an embedded artist’s status: we are witnessing the combatants, not the civilians, and see only part of the picture but a very rare part of this monumental jigsaw puzzle. On the other hand, no-one, not even the most intrepid NGO worker, is able to travel on either side of the wire at the locations we are photographing. It seems to us and Sean Hobbs, the gifted young freelance photographer who is accompanying us, and who has been commissioned by the AWM to take portraits of soldiers for its archive, that the vast, semi-secret wars we are witnessing must be urgently documented. Even so, we know that we are at the start of our fraught, long negotiation between the self-determined aims of the artist, the interests of a national institution, the coolness of the military and the expectations of several differing publics. Iraq, after years of American pacification, reminds Green of his Vietnam War journalist friends’ letters home from Saigon and Phnom Penh, disintegrating in the late 1960s. Afghanistan is visibly far worse again, clearly totally beyond any control, only secure inside huge American bases that, even so, are rocketed



regularly. High up in the mountains, we take panoramic photographs of Taliban-controlled mountains at glorious, golden dusk from the edge of the Dutch-controlled Tarin Kowt base perimeter (Fig. 2.5). When we look carefully at a proof of the photograph, months later, we see a distant sentry tower and its dejected Afghan soldier cradling his rifle, waiting for the night’s rockets, more of those that shredded the walls of our hut the night before we arrive. From Kandahar, we are taken out at night on a chopper across jagged mountain ridges and desert; the crew lights up the vast landscape in unforgettable, illuminated flashes of gunfire. The next day, Lyndell takes the only spare seat in a helicopter bound deep into Helmand Province and, with our Hasselblad and Nikon, angles for glimpses of the poppy fields nestled in the folds of mountains from the jump-seat beside the pilot (Fig. 2.6). All the time, we find deep kindness and non-judgemental curiosity from the Australian Defence Force we meet, a genuine sense of public duty that we rarely encounter in the art world. We are surprised by their complete support for War Artists and humbled by their genuine awareness of the concept of service. Soldiers offer to share their poetry. Women fill every role. Two hardened engineers take time out to drive us to admire the sunset up on the roof of an enormous morgue from which we gaze across desert towards the Ziggurat of Ur and watch Apache helicopters take off. American drone pilots show off their weird craft. A surgeon, shattered with weariness and just back in his Black

Fig. 2.5  Lyndell Brown/Charles Green, Afghan National Army Perimeter Post with Chair, Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, 2007–2009. Courtesy the artists and ARC One Gallery Melbourne



Fig. 2.6  Lyndell Brown/Charles Green, View from Chinook, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, 2007–2009. Courtesy the artists and ARC One Gallery Melbourne

Hawk helicopter, describes how he patches up both wounded International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) soldiers and Taliban alike but wounded girls and women are never allowed by their menfolk to be brought to his hospital. We meet no Iraqis and almost no Afghans since IED attacks and, now in Afghanistan for the first time, suicide bombings loom large, always present on everyone’s mind. When the few Army engineers drive out to fix village wells or patch up schoolrooms, they must be accompanied by over a hundred heavily armed soldiers in armoured vehicles. It is clear that these wars have been lost. On our return, we feel compelled by the gravity and immensity of what we have seen to reject anything other than the documentary impulse and make paintings for the AWM that, we fully admit to ourselves, resemble Arthur Streeton’s spare, cryptic World War I paintings of Somme battlefields and Nora Heyson’s World War II paintings of women at work (incidentally, we are told that Lyndell is the first female Australian War Artist to work in active war zones; women like Heyson or, more recently, Wendy Sharpe had been confined to peace-keeping missions or the Home Front). So, we have come full circle. But, we know as well that our contribution should be to revise the rhetoric surrounding Australian images of war, challenging the depictions of action previously dominating Australian war art. So, we also construct the sensation of bleak objectivity in large, mural-sized colour photographs of minimalist stillness, darkness, dust and emptiness. Through such apparent neutrality, we seek to evoke a sense of floating, focused clarity amidst chaotic ruination. We consciously and deliberately depict the very utterly bleak removal of affect and



agency. Writer Amelia Barikin, in her eloquent and original essay, “Framing Conflict” (2009), explains what this means: “These are images about how the past figures in the present, and how it might be accessed and remembered. They are about the realization and reconstitution of events. As such, they constitute a deeply political project.”6 We want to lead the viewer to understand the vast intersections of force that distinguish the appearance and the fact of contemporary war, rather than scenes of action, heroism and resistance. Our continuing depiction of displacement, asylum, and migration intersects with this. The stupendous waves of migration from war zones in Syria into Europe that will so attract the attention of the media and artists lie in the near future. All of the experiences that we mention above are so indelible and intense that they live with us daily, more than ten years later. We habitually find ourselves choking back tears as we watch the evening news. We have a deep, profound respect for our fellow Australian War Artist Ben Quilty’s public campaigns for the neglect that faces military veterans and which has not improved in the decades since Green’s own dying father fought fruitlessly with government agencies over World War II-induced illness. Our complex emotions are inexplicable to the audience when we give lectures to young artists. We negotiate a wave of media attention and endless interviews, and then endure well-meaning pigeon-holing by the art world as “war artists” that persists, a decade on. It takes us two or three years after we return to begin to integrate our experiences back into art that resembles with our pre-War Artist paintings. Deep Rock (2012) is one of the first of these new works: we combine images from contemporary war with present-day Australia’s repellent rejection of refugees and a depiction of the peaceful Yarra River bank where the last great works in the Australian landscape painting tradition were made by Fred Williams in the early 1970s (Fig. 2.7). Our art is to be dominated by reflections on the aftermath of war and the survival of the past into the present. For a coveted Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project, “War and Peace” (2011–2013), we team up with a close friend, painter Jon Cattapan, who has been an Australian Official War Artist with Australian peace-keepers in Timor-Leste during 2008. Together, we examine the aftermath of Australia’s recent wars, in a project in which for the first time the ARC recognizes creative practice as producing new knowledge through art. We record the aftermath of conflicts in which Australia had been involved, as participant and as peace-­ keeper from Vietnam to Timor-Leste, travelling together to massacre sites, battlefields and places of grief, loss and sacrifice, recording together how they appear now, years later. Max Delany, chief curator of the National Gallery of Victoria’s Melbourne Now (2013), a landmark survey exhibition that includes these works, remarks to us on the general apolitical insularity prevailing in Australian art that is challenged, he says, only by a small group of artists, including ourselves, Juan Davila, Tom Nicholson and Brook Andrew, all of whom explore the representation of contemporary events. With Spook Country (Maliana) (2014), we explore the eruption of ghosts from the past that explode into present-day scenes of aftermath and conflict (Fig. 2.8).



Fig. 2.7  Lyndell Brown/Charles Green, Deep Rock, 2011. Courtesy the artists and ARC One Gallery Melbourne

Reviewer Dan Rule, writing in The Age on the occasion of our collaborative exhibition with Cattapan, explains our contribution: “The lasting resonance of this work, which is rich in personal and historical references, is that of the sheer historical, social, spiritual, political and infrastructural complexity and repercussions of conflict on us all.”7 In turn, this means building an archive, not just from on-site observations but from personal archives of images that show that Australians, recent arrivals or by birth, are all implicated in complex webs of war, race and gender. For instance, Green’s French grandfather was gassed on the Western Front; in World War II his artist-father was an army map-maker and his commando-uncle was killed in New Guinea; another uncle, a keen amateur photographer, fought in Palestine and then New Guinea (we frequently use his photographs in our paintings, and he was deeply proud of this up to his death). This is not at all to claim any special insight, we emphasize, but simply to remind everyone of the



Fig. 2.8  Lyndell Brown/Charles Green & Jon Cattapan, Spook Country (Maliana), 2014. Courtesy ARC One Gallery and Station, Melbourne

centrality of war and diaspora in most family histories as well as the close-­to-­ home problems of who is represented: of gender as well as the complex crosscultural interactions in Australia’s wars. These include Indigenous Australians in modern and contemporary Australian conflicts, all of which my own family experienced and recorded in Douglas Green’s photographs and drawings of war-time Aborigines, of Indian soldiers and of working widows. It would therefore be inevitable that we would emerge from the War Artist experience with a need to represent the lateral nature of contact and resonance between images and across borders, working out how we might represent a larger and longer panorama than the embedded viewpoint we had photographed during 2007–2008. The image underlying Scatter 2 (Santa Cruz) (2016), a large (84 × 309 cms), panoramic work co-authored with Jon Cattapan, is a photograph of Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, of the scene of a 1991 Timor-Leste massacre of students by the Indonesian military. We start with a panoramic photograph stitched together digitally from multiple photos we take at the scene, then our Melbourne master-printer, Chris Pennings, prints the file onto transparent duraclear film that he mounts over perspex. Light suffuses the image in a contemporary photographic update of stained glass that we delicately overpaint in oil and acrylic with images, both semi-­abstract (on top, a bloody waterfall of red paint; on right, the freely drawn tracery of memorial architecture over two foreground gravestones) and figurative (left, an intricate,



detailed and painted pyramid of images including Saint Jerome and the crouching figure of Muhamed Haneef, an Indian doctor wrongly accused of terrorism by the populist, right-wing Australian government in 2007). In a second ARC-funded research project that we start in 2017, we move further back in time, towards World War I, and almost immediately are approached for another commission: to create a large tapestry woven by the Australian Tapestry Workshop (ATW) for the new Sir John Monash Centre, at Villers-Bretonneux, in northern France, to commemorate Australian involvement in the tragic battles of the Somme. Morning Star (2017) aims to evoke the experience of arrival at a war and, in particular, of Australians reaching the Western Front (Fig. 2.9). With them were their memories of Australia and their departure from home. Rather than duplicate the powerful archaeology of war at the Centre, the work we will prepare for the tapestry evokes the soldiers’ pathway to the Front, emphasizing the incongruity between the Australia that they remembered and their journey closer and closer towards the ruinous trenches. It seems to us that it is essential, first, to conjure a remembered place of freedom and clear light and, second, to evoke the sea-borne passage towards the soldiers’ arrival at the Front. The tapestry will emphasize the disjunction between peace and the terrible experiences that the Centre memorializes, rather than recapitulate or represent those battles and trench warfare. It seems very important to us to present the images that soldiers carried in their hearts as they arrived at Villers-­ Bretonneux and the Western Front. We know this is the case: Green’s grandfather was one of those World War I Western Front soldiers, badly wounded by mustard gas and invalided to home, and we have his letters. He lived the rest of his life as an invalid, as a deeply disturbed shadow rather than as the ebullient,

Fig. 2.9  Lyndell Brown/Charles Green, Morning Star, 2017. Courtesy the artists and ARC One Gallery Melbourne. This is the work of art that was the design for the Sir John Monash Centre tapestry



Fig. 2.10  Lyndell Brown/Charles Green, Morning Star, 2017, Tapestry woven by Pamela Joyce, Leonie Bessant, Chris Cochius, Jennifer Sharpe, Cheryl Thornton, David Cochrane and Pierre Bureau. Courtesy the artists and ARC One Gallery Melbourne

stylish and sophisticated young man he had been. Although he died decades before Green was born, that World War I tragedy was always present for his family and especially for his widowed grandmother, who drummed into her children the Australian soldiers’ love of Sir John Monash, who was driven by his desire to preserve his soldiers’ lives. Morning Star’s overall image is a view of dawn light during winter, illuminating a rocky pathway through eucalypt trees towards sunlight. The images that nest within this woven photographic space like small beacons are a collage of departures to war by ship punctuated by visual comments: portrait snaps of young men who were about to enlist, a detail of the Elgin marbles, a gesturing hand and a burst of bright light. We deliberately chose to make these images almost monochromatic but shot through with a subtle but definite minimum of colour, since it is clear to us, counter-intuitive though that seems, that the weavers at the ATW have enormous, subtle virtuosity in translating tonal images, as recent tapestries by both David Noonan and Brook Andrew show (Fig. 2.10). Tapestries need not be bright, decorative and technicoloured, and those are precisely the attributes that our work veers away from. We tread a delicate line between the evocation of light-filled beauty and the desire to defy expectations about what light and a commemoration of war might look like.

Official Commissions Are Not Propaganda Art has always been profoundly marked by war, but by the end of World War I in 1918, the distinct genre of war art had clearly emerged. Governments wished to commemorate national experiences of war; artists were commissioned not



only to depict warfare and heroes but also encouraged to re-make (or re-­ picture) the symbols and narratives of war, sometimes in highly experimental ways. War art became widely and publicly linked with national identity, especially in Australia. Few Australians were not now profoundly aware of George Lambert’s ANZAC, the landing 1915, developed through the AWM’s Official War Artist commissions.8 Similar museums and even more adventurous War Artist programmes were created in Canada and the UK, though, significantly, there was no such programme in the US.9 Both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan commissioned and collected astonishing, highly significant art representing their own side of conflict that is even now deeply controversial, mostly languishing unseen and deep in storage vaults. Similarly, artists in Communist China, Vietnam and North Korea all produced sophisticated, ambitious and deeply innovative war art during the same period that Australia’s Official Artist programme continued, right up to the end of the Vietnam War. But at that point Australia’s war art commissions were suspended, only revived almost three decades later in 1996 with the Australian intervention in Timor-Leste. Australian artists have since been deployed in war zones and amongst peace-­ keepers at regular intervals when the calculus of deadly risks just permitted. At the same time, the AWM increasingly moved beyond commissioning straightforward, conservative and figurative paintings, like those it sponsored during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and began inviting artists who would challenge popular preconceptions of war art and who would question what the appropriate memorialization of Australia’s wars might look like. This was clear to us with our own War Artist commission. Shaun Gladwell’s 2009 video portraits of soldiers and, later, Ben Quilty’s 2011 expressionistic portraits of mentally tormented servicemen and servicewomen continued this official experimentation with War Artist commissions.10 But art about war and its aftermath has always been produced independently, and artists do not like being pigeon-holed, still less as War Artists, for fear of being seen as programmatic or tainted by official control. Picasso’s great painting of the Nazi bombing of a defenceless Basque town, Guernica (1937), is the most famous anti-war painting of the twentieth century but was intensely disliked at the time (including by Basques) on account of its savage semi-abstraction. Meanwhile, great photojournalists had always depicted war. Nick Ut’s 1971 shot of a naked Vietnamese girl fleeing from napalm is one of the most indelible images of that conflict. In the 1980s, key photojournalists moved into the contemporary art world, shifting from documentary recording to the equivalent of great history painting but in p ­ hotographs, for instance, in the highly self-conscious orientalism of British war photographer Simon Norfolk with his depictions of contemporary Afghanistan, which uncannily mimicked nineteenth-century photographs made in the same region. The trajectory culminated with renowned French war photographer Luc Delahaye shifting from professional photojournalism into art exhibitions at the Getty Art Museum and New  York galleries with grand, minimalist compositions. At the same time, while the international art world became global rather than concentrated in a couple of cities, contemporary artists from war-­torn



communities around the globe gained attention, particularly from the Middle East, depicting wars that were wreaking deep psychological damage.11 After September 11, 2001, artists worldwide represented the War on Terror and the vast waves of migration out of war zones into Europe and to Australia, but not from the vantage point of the combatant, as War Artists including us had done. George Gittoes, an utterly fearless, intrepid painter and film-maker based, quite astonishingly, in the Afghan city of Jalalabad and, even more unbelievably, tolerated by the murderous, Pakistan ISI-funded Haqqani Network, has often maintained that Official War Artists are cosseted and overprotected.12 In the UK, theorists Julian Stallabrass and Sarah James similarly imagine that photographs depicting the aftermath of contemporary war are made with the supposed desire to depoliticize conflict through an apolitical, highly aesthetic sublimity, attributing to artists such as ourselves (though they are writing of the aftermath photography by Simon Norfolk and others that depicts the aftermath of war) a lack of political awareness when we portray the removal of an individual’s agency in the vast experience of contemporary war. This is completely incorrect. We and Simon Norfolk know that the sublime is not politically anodyne and, as Boris Groys perceptively observes, that the momentous images emerging from modern conflicts articulate less a Kantian notion of the sublime, of “Swiss mountains and sea tempests,” but more of Edmund Burke’s formulations of the sublime, which capaciously included the savage, disruptive “political sublime” of beheadings, tortures and disasters of war.13 We know full well that the machine of politics recuperates and perpetuates hegemonic cultural structures through projects such as our Australian Official War Artist commission, without exemptions or exceptions, but so too, again without exemptions or exceptions, every publicly exhibited work of art, including those that feature activist comment, is recuperated. There are no exemptions nor exceptions. This applies equally to Mogamma, A Painting in Four Parts: Part 3 (2012), Julie Mehretu’s painting of Tahrir Square in Cairo, site of the momentous, tragic Arab Spring demonstrations, installed majestically in Tate Modern’s permanent collection, as much as to highly political videos at documenta, the great survey of contemporary art held every five years, including works such as Artur Zmijewski’s Glimpse (2016–2017), a silent, black-and-­ white, 16  mm film which offers a record of squalid refugee camps across Europe and at the infamous Jungle, near Calais. Across the visual spectrum, from Mehretu’s gorgeously elegant abstract painting to Zmijewski’s harrowing documentary, political comment is equally recuperated, subordinated and celebrated. Nothing, not even claims to witnessing nor memory, is exempt. But at the level of individual artistic agency, tiny though that is by comparison with the vast cultural-political-industrial complex that we acknowledge above, official commissions such as ours are not identical with propaganda. To imagine they are is to be a naïve dupe oneself. It is presumptuous to imagine that particular artistic forms—for example, documentary video, performance or collective action but not painting—are exempt from recuperation merely



through the choice of different but by now normative artistic forms (though this is not at all the same as an analysis of the success or failure of an individual work of art). We understand that the near-total responsibility of our own Western citizenry and polities for its catastrophic, completely failed interventions in the Middle East and Central Asia was based on the multi-generational arrogance and error that Pankaj Mishra traced (Mishra, 2012, 2017). We could do nothing but conclude that this led to a situation in which neither Western nations nor its artists are able to undo or ameliorate anything at all, facing a catastrophe far more intractable than the Vietnam War. From observing a small part of the War on Terror for ourselves, we came to construct portraits of a complete lack of agency. This may be, as writer Amelia Barikin kindly observed, political but only in the way that Thomas Hirschhorn’s great, jerry-built monuments to European philosophers are political, for Hirschhorn totally rejected others’ claims that his intentions are political.14 The drive to imagine that artist activism could have any agency in the face of the West’s catastrophic and continuing irresponsibility, along with the irremediable consequences of imperialism, is as deluded as the idea that climate change can be defeated so late. This, more or less, is the bleak argument that novelist, environmentalist and bird-twitcher Jonathon Franzen concludes from the failure of climate change action.15

Conclusion In August 2016, the Vietnamese government abruptly cancelled an elaborate Australian cycle of celebrations meant to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan. There were plans for about 3000 Australian visitors, including veterans of the battle, to converge on the site, which is a busy, working farm, not publicly accessible (we have visited there and acknowledge the generosity of the local community in providing access to the humble little memorial). Celebrations unravelled in the face of a Vietnamese veto, provoking an Australian media storm about the unfairness of denying the commemoration. By contrast, a perceptive ex-Army observer, who had been stationed near Long Tan during the Vietnam War, wondered how Darwin residents would have felt if Japanese navy pilots returned for a reunion in Darwin to mark their bombing raids.16 He suggested a better course would be a service at the AWM. Art is at the heart of the War Memorial. Art is also, according to Australia Council and British Council research (2015), at the centre of our ideas of nation.17 The Long Tan anniversary shows our need to imagine others’ tragedies alongside our own and tackle, head-on, all insularity within the perspective that war art depicts the crucible of nationhood gifted through war, instead respectfully advancing perspectives that portray why we all share in the state of flux and emergency that marks our own period. This would immeasurably enhance remembrance and respect for our own and others’ dead.



Notes 1. For an alternative methodology for understanding war art, focusing on World War I, see The Sensory War 1914–2014, edited by Ana Carden-Coyne, David Morris, Tim Wilcox (Manchester: Manchester Art Gallery, 2014), Exhibition catalogue. 2. Pankaj Mishra chronicles the continuous history of anti-colonial movements across Asia from the eighteenth century onwards and brings together the panorama of many scholars’ research currently under way on the long history of anti-colonialism; we read his articles and then books from their appearance in the early 2000s onwards; see Pankaj Mishra, From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia (London: Picador, 2012); also see Pankaj Mishra, Age of Anger: A History of the Present (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2017). Australian counter-insurgency expert and military strategist David Kilcullen was a senior advisor to General David Petraeus as the Surge was implemented in Iraq in early 2007, at the point we visited Iraq, following what seemed clearly, even to us—as we stood on the roof of one of Saddam Hussein’s ruined palaces in Camp Victory listening to engineers blow up IEDs, watching shuttles of choppers land and take off and waiting to be ferried into the so-called Green Zone along what experts were then calling “the most dangerous road in the world”—to be the collapse of US military strategies in the Middle East and Central Asia; over a period of years following our return from the Middle East, we then read the succession of essays, articles and books by Kilcullen in which he traced how the initial “Surge” strategy that he had helped invent, based on “disaggregation” (meaning the disruption of terrorist groups through local assistance), failed after its initial 2007–2008 success due to sloppy, inconsistent implementation and the retreat into vicious sectarian rule by the Shia government in Baghdad, which the Islamic State movement then turned to catastrophic advantage. Kilcullen and many others have concluded that we have witnessed the collapse of Western counterterrorism strategy since 2001 and that the West is worse off in 2018 than before 2001, facing stronger, more dangerous enemies; see David Kilcullen, “Countering Global Insurgency,” Journal of Strategic Studies 28, no. 4 (2005): 597–617; also see David Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), David Kilcullen, Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); David Kilcullen, “Blood Year: Terror and the Islamic State,” Quarterly Essay 58 (May 2015); and David Kilcullen, Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016). 3. Charles Green, Peripheral Vision: Contemporary Australian Art 1970–94 (Sydney: Craftsman House, 1995). 4. She was to later republish her 1990s essays in Geeta Kapur, When Was Modernism: Essays on Contemporary Cultural Practice in India (New Delhi: Tulika, 2000); for Vivan Sundaram’s re-making of his grandfather’s photographs of his daughter, Amrita Sher-Gil (who was Sundaram’s aunt), see Green’s essay, Charles Green, “Vivan Sundaram,” World Art 18 (Aug. 1998): 54–59. 5. Blair French, “Tranquillity,” in Natasha Bullock (curator), Tranquillity, exh. catalogue (Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, May 2005), 2–4.



6. Amelia Douglas, “The viewfinder and the view,” Broadsheet 38, no. 1 (Sept. 2009): 200–205; an expanded version appears in Amelia Barikin, “Framing Conflict,” which is Part Two of “The Museum in Hiding: Framing Conflict,” in The International Handbooks of Museum Studies: Museum Theory, eds. Andrea Whitcomb and Kylie Message (Boston: Wiley, 2015), 485–510; also see Stephen Matchett, “The Art of War,” The Weekend Australian Review, April 25, 2009. 7. Dan Rule, “In the Galleries: Christian Capurro’s Homage to Dan Flavin and Mutual works by Lyndell Brown, Charles Green & Jon Cattapan,” The Age, August 23, 2014. 8. See Nola Anderson, Australian War Memorial: Treasures from a Century of Collecting (Canberra and Melbourne: Australian War Memorial and Murdoch Books, 2012), 544, 545, 548, 564, 570–573, 580–581; these pages are an account of our Official Artist commission and an extended discussion of the significance of our art. 9. See Brian Foss, War Paint: Art, War, State and Identity in Britain, 1939–1945 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007). 10. I am indebted to Kit Messham-Muir for his insights on this debate; see Kit Messham-Muir, Double War: Shaun Gladwell (Melbourne: Thames & Hudson, 2015); also see Simon Norfolk, Burke + Norfolk: Photographs from the War in Afghanistan (London: Tate Modern, 2011). The two essays we refer to are Julian Stallabrass, “The Power and Impotence of Images,” in Memory of Fire: The War of Images and Images of War (Brighton: Brighton Photo Biennial, 2008), 6–9, and Sarah James, “Making an Ugly World Beautiful?” in Memory of Fire (Brighton: Brighton Photo Biennial, 2008), 12–15; for a rebuttal of this argument, see Veronica Tello, “The Aesthetics and Politics of Aftermath Photography,” Third Text 28, no. 6 (Dec. 2014), 555–562. 11. Charles Green and Anthony Gardner, Biennials, Triennials and Documenta: The Exhibitions That Created Contemporary Art (Boston: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016). 12. George Gittoes pointedly writes, “Once back in Jalalabad we will be soft targets, not suited up [like Official War Artists] in cams and Kevlar body armour with a tank to get around in and a fortress to retreat to at night”; see George Gittoes, “The Art of War: How Picasso and van Gogh helped George Gittoes interpret the horrors he witnessed in Rwanda, Somalia, Baghdad and Sarajevo,” The Weekend Australian Magazine, October 15–16, 2016. Also see (and note Green’s own comments quoted in this report): Sune Engel Rasmussen, “George Gittoes and the art of war: Conflict and brutality have formed the work of Australian artist George Gittoes, who this year is the recipient of the Sydney Peace Prize,” The Age Good Weekend, April 11, 2015. au/good-weekend/george-gittoes-and-the-art-of-war-20150409-1mhay4. html?logout=true. 13. Boris Groys, Art Power (London & Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008), 127. 14. See Anthony Gardner, Politically Unbecoming: Postsocialist Art Against Democracy (London and Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015). 15. Jonathon Franzen, “Carbon capture: Has climate change made it harder for people to care about conservation,” The New Yorker, April 6, 2015. https:// Also see Jonathan Franzen, “One year of Trump: Is it too late to save the world? Jonathan



Franzen on one year of Trump’s America,” The Guardian, Nov. 4, 2017. 16. Greg Dodds, “Australian sacrifice in Vietnam, it’s time to rethink the way we memorialise,” Australian Financial Review, Sept. 22, 2016. http://www.afr. com/news/world/asia/australian-sacrifice-in-vietnam-its-time-to-rethink-theway-we-memorialise-20160919-grjhgg. 17. Australia Council for the Arts, Arts Nation: An Overview of Australian Arts, 2015 Edition (Sydney: Australia Council for the Arts, 2015).

References Anderson, Nola. Australian War Memorial: Treasures from a Century of Collecting. Canberra and Melbourne: Australian War Memorial and Murdoch Books, 2012. Australia Council for the Arts. Arts Nation: An Overview of Australian Arts. Sydney: Australia Council for the Arts, 2015. Barikin, Amelia. “Framing Conflict.” In The International Handbooks of Museum Studies: Museum Theory, ed. Andrea Whitcomb and Kylie Message, 485–510. Boston: Wiley, 2015. Douglas, Amelia. “The Viewfinder and the View.” Broadsheet 38, no. 1 (Sept. 2009): 200–205. Foss, Brian. War Paint: Art, War, State and Identity in Britain, 1939–1945. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. French, Blair. Tranquillity. Curated by Natasha Bullock with Art Gallery of New South Wales, May 2005. Exhibition Catalogue: 2–4. Gardner, Anthony. Politically Unbecoming: Postsocialist Art Against Democracy. London and Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015. Green, Charles. Peripheral Vision: Contemporary Australian Art 1970–94. Sydney: Craftsman House, 1995. ———. “Vivian Sundaram.” World Art, no. 18 (Aug. 1998): 54–59. Green, Charles, and Anthony Gardner. Biennials, Triennials and Documenta: The Exhibitions that Created Contemporary Art. Boston: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016. Groys, Boris. Art Power. London and Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008. James, Sarah. “Making an Ugly World Beautiful?” In Memory of Fire: The War of Images and Images of War, 12–15. Brighton: Brighton Photo Biennial, 2008. Kapur, Geeta. When Was Modernism: Essays on Contemporary Cultural Practice in India. New Delhi: Tulika, 2000. Kilcullen, David. “Countering Global Insurgency.” Journal of Strategic Studies 28, no. 4 (2005): 597–617. ———. Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla. New  York: Oxford University Press, 2013. ———. “Blood Year: Terror and the Islamic State.” Quarterly Essay, no. 58 (May 2015). ———. Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism. New  York: Oxford University Press, 2016. Messham-Muir, Kit. Double War: Shaun Gladwell. Melbourne: Thames & Hudson, 2015. Mishra, Pankaj. From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia. London: Picador, 2012.



———. Age of Anger: A History of the Present. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017. Norfolk, Simon. Burke + Norfolk: Photographs from the War in Afghanistan. London: Tate Modern, 2011. Stallabrass, Julian. “The Power and Impotence of Images.” In Memory of Fire: The War of Images and Images of War, 6–9. Brighton: Brighton Photo Biennial, 2008. Tello, Veronica. “The Aesthetics and Politics of Aftermath Photography.” Third Text, 28, no. 6 (Dec. 2014): 555–562. The Sensory War 1914–2014. Edited by Ana Carden-Coyne, David Morris, and Tim Wilcox, with Manchester Art Gallery, 2014. Exhibition Catalogue.


Megan Leavey and the Popular Visual Culture of the War-on-Terror Paul Duncum

Introduction Drawing upon earlier critiques of what Takacs calls post-9/11 “fictional militainment,”1 this chapter examines the popular 2017 film Megan Leavey.2 Cultural responses to the war-on-terror have come, and continue to come, in many forms. They include film, television programs, video games, comic books, graphic novels, memorials, T-shirts, and toys. Some are purely fictional like the popular, multiple-series television programs 243 and Homeland4 that involve counterterrorism with ticking-bomb, last-second rescue narratives, as well as numerous first shooter video games like Insurgency5 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.6 The war-on-terror has been also directly inserted into the genre of fantasy fiction. Captain America unites with other Marvel Comic superheroes to fight terrorism,7 and the feature film Batman: The Dark Night Rises8 legitimizes surveillance as an essential means of counterterrorism. Other popular media, like the film The Hurt Locker,9 focus on the gritty realism of combat. The perspectives offered range from gung-ho support for military action to scathing criticism of military and political ineptitude. As previous critiques have indicated, however, although their narratives and visual rhetoric are often complex, multilayered, and contradictory, popular fictional militainment has been overwhelmingly supportive of military intervention.10 In this regard, Megan Leavey is typical of how popular culture commonly reproduces dominant social narratives. In other respects, however, the film may seem at first an odd choice P. Duncum (*) University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, Australia University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




through which to explore the visual culture of the war-on-terror. It is not so much a war film as it is about the relationship between a military dog and her handler. Most online movie sites classify it as belonging to the adventure genre. Yet the film ably demonstrates, first, how the now popular, post-sentimental, post-heroic visual culture of the war-on-terror is different from the popular visual culture of past military conflicts and, secondly, how after 16 years these visual strategies are perpetuated to the point where they are now normalized. They have become so ubiquitous they are now employed in a film about a dog and her handler, the kind of subject that traditionally has been associated with a sentimental genre. Specifically, the film demonstrates how visual strategies that in the past may have been interpreted as antiwar are now used to justify foreign wars but also to regard them as endless, a new reality. At the same time, the film also demonstrates the perpetuation of ideological positions in the US that long predate September 11, 2001. Megan Leavey draws upon the narrative myths and the visual rhetoric not only of the war we are in but the war we look likely to remain in indefinitely.

Scene Setting At the time of the 9/11 attacks on the New York World Trade Centre, many people commented that they felt as if they were watching a movie.11 The images appeared to be simultaneously real and unreal: the second building exploding as the second plane plowed into it, the two gigantic buildings collapsing one after the other, people jumping to their deaths, and others fleeing along the streets as billowing smoke and debris pursued them. The attacks were watched by millions on television in real time and endlessly repeated in the days, weeks, and months that followed. The images were all the more powerful, and consequential, for being so extraordinarily spectacular that the immediate frame of reference was the digitally generated hyperreal of Hollywood-like special effects. Since the attacks were spectacular it seems fitting, especially in an age dominated by visual communication, that dominant cultural responses were, as Sturken comments, similarly “theatrical.”12 The US experienced what Sturken called an “image defeat,”13 but the wound inflicted was not only from the events of the day but to the psyche of the US, to its own understanding of itself. For Muller, what followed 9/11 was a case study in “cultural trauma.”14 The US had seen itself as invincible, innocent, and immune: invincible against its enemies abroad; innocent of wrongdoing; and immune from the chaos and violence beyond its shores. Assumptions of invincibly and immunity were replaced by a sense of vulnerability and fear, and innocence was superseded by a sense of victimization and outrage, which, in turn, acted as a springboard for a narrative of justified retaliation and revenge.15 The narrative of innocence defiled by a profound evil simultaneously provoked another narrative of the US as not only heroic but exceptional. The rupture created by the attacks was met with a fierce reassertion of a traditional



mythology intended to heal the wound, that of US exceptional determination and courage. Neither narrative was new, but it had been six decades since Japan had attacked an unprepared US, and its subsequent overwhelming military strength, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the prosperity of the 1990s had lulled the US into a sense of invulnerability that offered immunity from external threat. Following the 9/11 attacks, the first narrative—exceptionalism—was revived, and the second narrative—innocence defiled—went into overdrive. Both narratives were proclaimed by the Bush administration and Congress, repeated in news media coverage, and fictionalized in popular film and television.16 It was a powerful synergy as politics and culture reinforced and framed each other, leading some to speculate on a formal arrangement, of a “military industrial entertainment complex,” though it was more likely a confluence of interests.17 The ground for this alignment had been long prepared. After defeat in Vietnam the military had gradually won back its prestige so that by the 1990s in the US its own military power was not only unprecedented, it was widely popular.18 The turnabout had been aided and abetted by a great deal of screen culture during the 1980s and 1990s,19 of which Top Gun20 and Saving Private Ryan21 are only two of the most popular examples. However, as Takacs argues, the alignment of the military and entertainment has now placed militarism at the center of US public policy and social life so that it has now become difficult to think of alternatives.22 While the budgets for the soft power of diplomacy conducted by the State Department have been hollowed out, and decimated under the Trump administration, military budgets have exploded leaving the military alone with the operational capacity to conduct foreign relations. In a highly partisan political and social environment in the US, diplomacy and compromise with outside actors are not even presented as options. While fictional militainment is hardly a new phenomenon, the degree to which it is now used as a proactive policy of self-promotion by the military is unprecedented.23 Films and television programs make little distinction between the home front and the battlefield; everyday life is saturated by the disciplinary logics of surveillance, and civilians are reconstituted as “virtual-citizen soldiers.”24 Soldiers on screen are portrayed, not as heroes but ordinary citizens doing their job. They are just low-ranking soldiers, known colloquially in the US as grunts, albeit noble grunts who perform as best they can under difficult circumstances. By promoting identification with individual soldiers, fictional militainment promotes the values of militarism as the inevitable answer to conflict.25 Showing soldiers handing out candy to children and supplies to villages, and distraught when unable to do so, makes war seem not only just but also the most effective way to confront humanitarian crises. In what follows, this general portrait of the war-on-terror on screen is exemplified by examining Megan Leavey.



The Movie Basics The film is a biopic of the real-life figure Megan Leavey, who, after enlisting in the US Marines in 2003, served two deployments in Iraq in 2005 and 2006 before retiring in 2007. Working in the K-9 unit, and paired with the German Shepard Rex, her mission was to identify hidden weapons and explosive devices. Having served upwards of 100 missions, she and Rex were wounded. She was later awarded multiple medals for heroism in combat. When Rex was diagnosed with facial palsy, thus ending his ability to sniff out weapons and explosives, she adopted him. Directed by first-time feature filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite, and starring Kate Mara in the title role, Megan Leavey was released in 2017 to generally positive reviews. While reviewer Guidoccio warned audiences to “Remember to bring tissues!” the film was widely praised for being unsentimental, especially since the treatment of its subject matter could so easily have turned mawkish.26 MovieFone’s review was typical, awarding the film 3.5 stars out of 5 and describing it as “inspiring, engaging, heartwarming, and intensely emotional.”27

The Narrative Although the film takes some liberties, its narrative adheres to the bare facts sketched above. Hapless, going-nowhere working-class Megan escapes the boredom of her small town and overbearing mother to join the Marines where she undergoes grueling training at Boot Camp. At first, she fails but she learns to focus and manages to graduate, though she at once infringes rules, and as punishment she is tasked to clean out dog kennels. Showing the grit that later will be essential to her character, she repeatedly applies to the K-9 unit that uses dogs to sniff out explosives. Eventually accepted, she is assigned to Rex, an unpredictable, violent German Shepard and of whom she is rightly afraid. Megan is not portrayed as a particularly warm person so that the necessary bonding between dog and owner is especially difficult. She spends many extra hours with him as well as learning to give commands, to praise, and how to treat him if he is injured. Once in Iraq, three distinctly different encounters with the Iraqis are presented. The first involves a checkpoint in a hectic situation with soldiers and civilians mixed together in seemingly dangerous proximity. The second involves searching a civilian’s house for weapons that turn out to be hidden under a pile of carpets. The third starts out as a routine identification of landmines but soon escalates when she and Rex are wounded by a bomb detonated from a building some distance away and an intense battle ensues. Recuperating, Megan decides not to reenlist and is thereby separated from Rex who continues to do duty with another handler. Now a civilian, she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alternatively angry and passive, until her father suggests she should fight to be reunited with Rex. She hounds



the military authorities, obtaining signatures from strangers who thank her for her service, seeks help from her local US senator, and is interviewed on television. Eventually, she is awarded custody of a now much damaged Rex. In the final scene, she and Rex are acknowledged as heroes to a standing ovation in a packed football stadium.

The Themes War as the Norm By the time Megan Leavey was produced in 2017, the war-on-terror was in its 16th year with no end in sight. Consequently, it differs from typical films of past, conventional wars between nation states where periods of war and peace osculated. Bronfen argues that the war films of the twentieth century, particularly those produced during periods of peace, functioned to sustain the idea of war as unfinished business.28 Through its screen culture the US renegotiated the traumatic traces of its historical past, reworking contemporary social and political issues in terms of past military conflicts. War haunted the US even during periods of peace because it was only through its horrors that the peace was secured; war was the cost of the peace. In a specific sense, peace was a continuation of the last war through the traumatization of soldiers but also in a more general sense war continued into the peace by “relentlessly haunting the present.”29 Fixated by past wars, audiences remained fascinated by its many representations, war being inscribed in any peace that war had brought about. However, speaking of past wars is now an inadequate response to a continuing, seemingly endless war. Peace is no longer an interim between wars. For civilians at home war takes place elsewhere and yet with a knowledge that it can unexpectedly break into the peace at any time through daily news reports and terror attacks at home. While peace and war have never been entirely separate, they have perhaps never been so intimately connected. The situation now is rather that of an unsettled peace contemporaneous to an ongoing war, a simultaneous war and peace in which civilians are simultaneously aware and blithely unaware of the war. The film is constitutive of a time when the war, though never entirely forgotten, is frequently sidelined by domestic issues and when the war often seems remote. The film captures the high-tension reality of a professional army fighting in a deadly situation while at home most people are fully absorbed by their own problems and pursue relief in consumerism. Megan Leavey thus also differs from many of the films and television programs produced for some years following 2001 when the war was new and victory seemed possible. Consequently, unlike militainment produced closer to the events of 9/11, the film does not deal with revenge, avenging, or even mourning. It also avoids the savage stereotyping and bellicose rhetoric of earlier screen responses.30 Although the real-life Megan Leavey served during an earlier phase of the war, the film Megan Leavey is a product of its time. The film



feels no need to discuss the war’s origins and neither does it hold out any hope of it ever ending. The film reflects the fact that the war-on-terror has become protracted and that despite stylistic differences, US policies have remained remarkably consistent. Although many early critiques saw the Bush administration’s response to the 9/11 attacks as overreaching, subsequent administrations have largely continued the Bush-era policies. The Obama administration, as former CIA Director Hayden made clear, continued Bush policies “but with more killing,”31 and at the time of writing the Trump administration has relinquished both tactical and strategic responsibility to the generals. As entirely normalized, the war has become just an ongoing slog. War Without Contours Twentieth-century war movies are typically characterized by scenes of overwhelming bombardment and the choreography of mass assaults culminating in a climactic battle.32 These are each orchestrated within a defined, contested space comprising fronts and sectors that are typically represented with sweeping panoramic distance shots and aerial flyovers in which the typography of battle is represented as a grand spectacle of anonymous masses. Often seen from the point of view of a general, they provide for the spectator a sense of control.33 By contrast, Megan Leavey is consistent with more recent representations of a war without spatial boundaries. War is represented in terms of small-scale insurgencies that flare up without warning and counterinsurgencies that are continuous and without contour. War consists of sudden death and maiming from improvised bombs and suicide bombers. Streets are minefields, buildings are sniper’s nests, and busy markets are targets for suicide bombers. It is the experience of individual soldiers that is foregrounded. History is replaced by intense sensual impressions, frantic, fearful, and, for some, ecstatic.34 Thus, in Megan Leavey, the first scene of confrontation involves checking for bombs in a businessman’s car at a checkpoint surrounded by civilians in a narrow, busy street while soldiers hold their automatic rifles and shout angrily at locals. Soldiers and civilians are mixed together in close proximity and there is a clear sense that violence is imminent. Gunfire could come from any direction at any time or bombs could explode at any minute; even a child could be wired with a bomb. There is a lot of smoke; it is debris strewn and chaotic, and the scene is shot with alternating mid-shots and distant shots through windows suggesting that the enemy is close by. In the second encounter, Megan gives a soldier the order to check out a civilian’s dog because it could be “stuffed with IEDs.” In the third scene a bomb explodes unexpectedly, wounding both Megan and Rex. The bomb was detonated by insurgents who have been patiently watching and waiting for hours for the right moment to inflict the most casualties.



Professionalism During training, there is horseplay and lighthearted banter, yet the film consistently represents another major theme of the post-9/11 screen portrayals of the US military: its professionalism.35 A strict hierarchy of command is maintained throughout; training is rigorous; on the parade ground, soldiers are dressed immaculately and march impeccably; and in battle everyone has everyone else’s back. A Marine’s death is marked by a small, punctilious ceremony as are other milestones like the retirement of the dogs, in which the military is presented as a world unto itself. As a witness to battle, viewers are asked to identify with the skill and professionalism of the soldiers. The scenes of confrontation appear intensely realistic in a way that may in the past have been considered antiwar, but here, like many other post-9/11 representations, are easily read as an attempt to persuade an audience of the importance of the military.36 The mythic representations of American infallibility are shed in favor of detailed, gritty realism with an emphasis on action that obviates reflection on the political or moral issues at stake. Instead, the soldiers are not admired for their heroism but in recognition of a job well done. They are merely noble grunts. Even when under intense fire, they do not panic. Professionalism trumps patriotism and heroics. Soldiers discuss whether to reenlist or not and they discuss specific missions, but they never discuss the war itself. For the soldiers, the war consists of missions that they are committed to carrying out; the necessity of the war is never in question. When Megan decides not to reenlist, it is not because she has lost faith in the war; it is because she thinks she can protect Rex, a personal decision, not political. Soldiers obey orders, and in an engagement they fight for their buddies, not for an abstraction like country or freedom and perhaps more than anything else, simply to survive. Gritty Realism Bronfen argues that battle scenes inevitably involve a double consciousness, of being there in the mist of battle but also not being there.37 Soldiers on screen shut down part of themselves in order to deal with their immediate tasks of killing and survival, invoked by the phrase “beside oneself” but a double consciousness also applies to the experience of the audience, most of whom have never been in battle and can only imagine what is it like. At the same time, audiences have an expectation of what battle looks and feels like based on their previous experiences of battle scenes. Directors build upon these expectations aided by innovations in technology. And ever since the 1960s, violence in the movies has become ever more visceral. Audiences are now habituated to films being approvingly reviewed as a “blood ballet” in which the director “first highlights the horror of the mindless slaughter and then … makes it beautiful, almost abstract”38 or as “exuberant celebration … a headless joy … a virtuoso celebration of fight choreography.”39 Violent entertainment has



become so commonplace that aesthetician Kupfer describes everyday life today in terms of an aesthetic of violence.: “the sights and sounds of human destruction; the tearing of flesh, mashing of bone, letting of blood.”40 Audiences, he claims, appreciate violence for “its sensational content, its aesthesis [where] death is but the climax of a sensually rewarding attack … a gory process in which a whole, living person is transformed into his or her sensually striking components.”41 While Megan Leavey avoids the most visceral elements of many recent war-­ on-­terror screen representations—there are no extended scenes of torture or eviscerated bodies—it delivers on the expectations of war as feeling “both inescapably intimate and incomprehensibly arbitrary.”42 In each of the three encounters with Iraqis, the war is represented as the private experience of the soldiers. War is a form of extreme bodily tension, of high anxiety with threats from everywhere and from everything, divorced from wider national and social narratives. Cinematography relies upon montages of quick edits from multiple points of view and contrasts of speed, slow motion abruptly interspersed with action, rapidly circling shots, both objective and subjective, and accompanied by a soundtrack of low-frequency droning and heartbeats that is rudely interrupted by shouts and explosions. The effect is to immerse spectators into the heighted tension of battle conveying a sense of being there, with threats coming from above, below, close by, and from a distance, all emphasizing the vulnerability of human bodies, of bodies at risk. For spectators, the threat of annihilation, albeit vicarious, is ever-present and palpable and pushes “the emotional range usually reserved for horror,”43 a genre based on the twin characteristics of shock and dread. Additionally, some of the behavior of the US military could be viewed as less than exemplary and less than professional. Some of the soldiers are very aggressive toward the Iraqi civilians, verbally and physically abusing them. Also, waving machine guns, they shout commands that require immediate obedience. Iraqi civilians either keep their heads down, look apprehensive, or make marked attempts to appease the soldiers. The representation of forceful subjugation is unmistakable, especially since no Iraqi soldiers are present, the encounters being in each case between US military personnel and either Iraqi civilians or insurgents. In past wars on screen, abusing civilians would have been portrayed as repellent and offered a criticism of war’s capacity to turn people into monsters and, by extension, as symptomatic of US imperialism. But such behavior is consistent with a no-nonsense, non-sentimental view of contourless armed conflict. Moreover, since we are offered no overview of the war and only have the “noble grunts” to identify with, it is easy to view the general subjection of civilians as necessary. While in past representations of war, such behavior, if ever shown, would have been considered aberrant and corrected, here it forms part of the necessary performance of what it means to be professional as well as living up to audience expectations of what war is like today.



Pathos Conveying a sense of the reality of war is not only a matter of visceral high tension and normally objectionable behavior but pathos. Bronfen notes that war films are typically based on pathos, on pity for suffering, sadness at the tragedy of war, and the misery and grief it involves.44 Burgoyne further notes that war movies have been “fundamentally a machine for emotions; the visceral experience of excitement, risk, and dread.”45 Bronfen continues, “Finding powerful formulas of heighted emotion is what Hollywood is all about.”46 Moreover, war films, that combine intense emotion and spectacle, especially battle scenes, are “cinema par excellence.”47 More than any other genre, they exploit the particular formal characteristics of film, namely spectacular theatricality, movement, montage, and heightened emotion, and Megan Leavey is no exception. Bronfen has identified what she calls the conventional “pathos formulas” of US war films.48 These are formal elements by which viewers who have never been in battle are enabled through the use of their imagination to gain some sense of “the ungraspable intensity of war.”49 Since the real is largely understood to be raw, unfiltered emotion, pathos formulas create what Bronfen variously names the “authenticity effect” or the “reality effect.”50 I have recourse to her formulas below, because for all the differences between Megan Leavey and past films of conventional wars, there are also marked similarity. Most war films feature the shell-shocked face, momentarily frozen in response to horror, and typically rendered in close-up, though in Megan Leavey there is little horror and the soldiers’ faces are more frantic than horrified. It is easy to identify. War films also typically include tension-ridden faces of individual combat soldiers going into an engagement and Megan is at first apprehensive, while another inexperienced soldier puts on a face that betrays anxiety. Again, identification is almost inevitable. In war films, scenes of the homeland are also common where the narrative focuses on home life, either through flashbacks or after deployment. In Megan Leavey, Megan returns home to her mother and stepfather and is angered by their inability to understand what she has been through. In contrast, she finds deep solace with her father. There is here a contrast between on the one hand a profound emotional misalignment and on the other hand loving acceptance and support, and, thereby, an audience is asked to identify with Megan’s backstory. In war films scenes of suffering, victimization, and sacrifice that hone in on pain, vulnerability, and dying are also common. Megan suffers in hospital, describes how many parts of her body ache, and Rex is described as “unadoptable” because he has become a danger to civilians. An officer remarks of the dogs, “They come back with all the issues we do. They are not dogs anymore.” Rex is only adopted when he becomes so damaged he has lost the ability to be aggressive. Most war films include scenes of injustice and humiliation as well as moral self-assertion in which a soldier reflects upon their war experience and reevaluates it. In this film, this takes the form of Megan’s descent into PTSD although, just as there is no evaluation of the war, she does not reevaluate her role in the war. Rather,



she is depressed primarily because she is separated from her beloved dog. Each of these pathos formulas is crystalized by the emotive power of scenes of communal remembrance that focus on those who survived and those who did not. They act as a moment of shared remembrance. In Megan Leavey this kind of scene comes at the end of the film where Megan and Rex are celebrated for their sacrifice and heroism on Veterans Day, though again, there is no reference to those who did not survive. Some of Bronfen’s pathos formulas are missing. Pictures of the calm commander who appears to have everything under control and about whom troops rally are conspicuously absent. In Megan Leavey there is no authority figure to offer the comfort that someone is in charge. Orders to get ready for a mission come anonymously, and in battle those in charge are ordinary grunts. Similarly missing are scenes in which technology is placed at the center of the story and where often there is tension between the terrible consequences of technology contrasted with notions of battlefield heroics, the cool efficiency of technology with the impact on human bodies. It is now common to show drone attacks and drone and satellite surveillance. These high-technology images continually loop back from the battlefield but they are also contrasted with the vulnerability of actual bodies in battle. The cold, rational, even miraculous efficiency of high technology is juxtaposed sharply with the unpredictability on the ground. One is comfortingly safe, cool, and calculating; the other is entirely prone to risk. In Megan Leavey, we are never permitted a safe haven, all the action takes place up-close; it is visceral and utterly unpredictable so that we are offered no alternative but to identify and not just ideologically but bodily with the combatants. Fighting Back For all the differences between conventional war-on-screen and the war-on-­ terror on screen, the film as a whole charts a long-established narrative arc from hapless to hero, lost to found, with many different tests and trials overcome during the course of the narrative. The arc comes in two distinct stages: first, from hapless nobody to battle-proven military veteran and, secondly, from a PTSD victim without purpose to determined activist and, finally, celebrity hero. In the first phase of the film, Megan leaves to overcome an unsatisfying family situation to join the Marines and while at first, she has difficulty with physical tasks, she perseveres and eventually succeeds. Assigned to Rex, she must then overcome her fear of a dangerous dog, put up with the horseplay of other Marines, and shape up under pressure, all of which take determination. Furthermore, during the shootout sequence with both her and Rex wounded, it is she who takes charge, insisting that they continue with their mission for which she and Rex alike are acclaimed as war heroes. However, she is a hero not because she risks her life to save others in some desperate act of self-sacrifice but because she is but a noble grunt, doing what she is trained to do. She is a hero only in the sense that all the grunts are highly trained professionals ­putting



their lives on the line. Nevertheless, the battle offers an occasion for her moral development and personal growth. The battle is her proving ground, a rite of passage, in which she demonstrates her bravery, loyalty, leadership, and discipline. In the second phase, suffering from PTSD, Megan spends over a year alternatively passive and acting out until she finds a goal in attempting to adopt Rex. This involves constant battling with the military bureaucracy and mounting a public campaign that eventually succeeds. The message is clear: to get what you want, you must fight for it, and if you fight hard enough in the US you will succeed. With determination and hard work, it is possible to live the American Dream. Saving Lives Throughout the film, there are references to saving lives. Of course this is Megan and Rex’s primary role, to sniff out caches of weapons and explosives and thus save lives. When Rex finds a cache of weapons, Megan is praised by her fellow Marines for a job well done, because she has “saved so many lives.” In her campaign to adopt Rex, her primary plea is that Rex has saved “countless lives.” And in the final scene in a celebration of Veterans Day she and Rex are applauded because it was “through their sacrifice they saved countless lives.” In the absence of Iraqis as anything other than insurgents or suspected insurgents, the lives mentioned are solely those of US military personnel, and by extension the implication is that the war is primarily not about killing but saving lives, meaning US lives. America Alone Consistent with most other screen representations of the war-on-terror, Megan Leavey is framed by US-led military action, not Afghan or Iraqi forces.51 Military action is pictured as led entirely by the US forces. Consequently, consistent with most other representations, the story line ties heroics and suffering almost entirely to the US and its people.52 There is no exploration of the cultural context, history, or motivations for terrorism as represented, for example, in Abu-Assad’s 2005 film Paradise Now53 and critiqued by Burgoyne.54 Paradise Now is a relatively rare representation that while not condoning terrorism, it does attempt to portray something of its social context. It represents terrorist violence, especially spectacular violence, as a ceremonial performance whose intended success relies not so much upon the impact on the enemy but upon recognition among members of one’s own community. Specifically, martyrdom is represented as a form of bearing witness to a cause, a testimony that is both personal and social. Martyrdom is shown as a rite of passage in which ordinary citizens are transformed into agents of redemption, wiping out the shame endemic to being oppressed. As Khosrokhavor comments, “Death allows martyrs to recover their spiritual virginity, to wash away their sins … a beautifying



death releases them from their everyday humiliation.”55 What the West views as psychotic behavior, as abject, is viewed by the terrorists as a heroic and ceremonial sacrifice. Paradise Now makes the latter explicit, and ironic, by positioning the would-be suicide bombers at their last meal so as to evoke Leonardo’s The Last Supper.56 This is suicide bomber as lamb sacrificed for the good of others. Considerations of this kind could not be more alien to the positioning of the enemy in Megan Leavey. In the only battle scene, the insurgents are shown from the point of view of the US military, from a distance with the sun behind them so that they appear as characterless silhouettes. Bonding If Megan Leavey has a single overriding theme, it is bonding. I mention bonding last because each of the previously discussed themes serves it. The film opens with Megan leaving her town with which she feels no bond, but as soon as she begins training with Rex bonding becomes central not only to their mutual survival but also to her fellow Marines. Megan is told “Everything goes down the leash. Everything you feel he feels. I can’t teach you how to bond.” Bonding is thereby framed as intuitive, not subject to instruction, not logical. She consequently spends many hours attempting to bond with Rex, spending time with him in his kennel, bringing him into her own hut, and snuggling up to him. She is later exceptionally upset when he is injured, and she is passionate in her efforts to adopt him. And the bond she feels is reciprocated. During the battle scene in which she is thrown from a vehicle, Rex jumps from the car to assist her and after being separated for some time Rex sees Megan and immediately runs to her. When recuperating she is asked what she would say to Rex if he was present, to which she replies “I would thank him for teaching me what love is.” About the dogs in general, a soldier comments, “As much as they are family, we are theirs too.” Megan’s love life with a fellow Marine is short lived; her real romance is with Rex. Megan’s bond with Rex acts as the primary bond of the film and through their relationship a bond is established with the audience as well as the audience with the military. It is a bond that while not mawkishly sentimental is deeply emotional. Like numerous other war films from an earlier time, it is through a rite-of-passage personal narrative of an individual combatant that the film reflects the collective discourse about national identity. As with previous films, combat soldiers stand in for the nation state. Their bodies, armed but also vulnerable, embody the nation. Bonding is especially true of the engagement scenes where soldiers work to protect each other’s backs. The documentary style of contemporary screen violence now lends extra weight to what Feilla calls an “aesthetics of absorption” in which watching a moving scene can slip into acting in that moving scene57 and thereby further authenticating the emotion represented as real rather than constructed. While battle itself takes place outside history as a metanarrative of national interest, Megan Leavey reasserts the national interest in healing wounds. This is



clearly the intent of the closing sequence of the film which is set in the epitome of US homeland culture. In front of a cheering crowd at a football stadium, Megan is acknowledged in a ceremony focused on saving lives, sacrifice, and redemption. Hermetically sealed from the larger, moral and political issues of the war, the film ends as a hymn of praise to an uncritical view of how the US understands itself. Through Megan’s journey of personal redemption, the US is redeemed, its wounds healed. If its image of itself is no longer entirely invincible or immune, at least its innocence is reasserted.

Conclusion Megan Leavey incorporates many themes of post-9/11 war-on-terror popular screen representations. Being at war is now our new normal and fought by a professional military who take pride in their skill and achievements and with whom an audience can be reassured and similarly proud. War is represented in ways that reflect an insurgent war as searches and small-scale battles with a tone that is non-heroic and unsentimental. By first staying close to the action in a highly visceral way, and, secondly, by pursuing a specific story of personal redemption, the film ignores consideration of larger political and moral questions. The film embodies the core American Dream of success through determination and hard work but also the response to the 9/11 attacks in which the US is committed to a protracted struggle. In a war that the film frames as essentially about saving lives, the US remains an innocent victim and, by ignoring all other parties to the conflict, retains its uniqueness, its exceptionality. Like other war films from the past, Megan Leavey is a deeply emotional bonding experience, for the military on screen and through them with an audience where the military stand in for the nation state. Watching ordinary people, mere grunts, as only heroes because heroism is ordinary makes it easier for an audience to identify, to become virtual-citizen soldiers. Despite the gritty realism of battle, an audience is encouraged not to question the war but rather to identify with the military and through them a nation willing to sacrifice, as well as to assert its right to do whatever it takes to pursue its interests.

Going Forward Since war is now commonly represented as unsentimentalized and unheroic, as Campbell notes, offering an unsanitized view of the war is unlikely to be successful in changing attitudes against it.58 As Bond argues, we need the provision of more frames of reference, including ones that contextualize the battlefield in terms of history, pluralize perspectives, and fill in the absences that have typically marked representations until now.59 In sum, we need a discourse about restorative justice. The war-on-terror is an ongoing conflict and the call for such alternative representations needs to be equally ongoing.



Notes 1. Stacey Takas. Terror TV: Popular Entertainment in Post 9/11 America (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2012). 2. Liddell, Mickey, Monroe, Jennifer and Shilaimon, Pete, Megan Leavey, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite (2017, New York: Bleecker Street). Movie. 3. 24. (Los Angeles, CA: 20th Century Fox, 2001–2004). Television Drama Series. 4. Homeland. (Los Angeles, CA: 20th Century Fox, 2011–2017). Television Drama Series. 5. Insurgency, Video Game (Denver, CO: New World Interactive, 2014). 6. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4, Video Game, directed by Jason Ward (Santa Monica, CA: Activision, 2007). 7. Lucy Bond. Frames of Memory After 9/11: Culture, Criticism Politics, and Law (Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). 8. Thomas, Emma, Nolan, Christopher and Roven, Charles. Batman: The Dark Night Rises, Movie, directed by Christopher Nolan (2008, Los Angeles, CA: Warner Brothers). Movie. 9. The Hurt Locker, Movie, directed by Kathryn Bigelow (2008, Santa Monica: Summit Entertainment). 10. Andrew Bacevich, The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Bond Frames of Memory; Christine Muller, September 11, 2001 as Cultural Trauma: A Case Study through Popular Culture (London, England: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017); Stephen Prince, Firestorm: American Film in the Age of Terrorism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009); Rodger Stahl, Militainment Inc: War, Media, and Popular Culture (New York: Routledge, 2010); Marita Sturken, Tourists of Memory (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007). 11. Karen Randell, “‘It was Like a Movie.’ The Impossibly of Representation in Oliver Stone’s World Trade Centre,” in, Reframing 9/11 Film, Popular Culture, and the “War on Terror.” ed. Jeff Brikenstien, Anna Froula, & Karen Randell (New York: Continuum, 2010), 141–152. 12. Sturken, Tourists of Memory, 157. 13. Sturken, Tourists of Memory, 172. 14. Muller, September 11, 1. 15. Bond, Frames of Memory. 16. Bond Frames of Memory; Stahl, Militainment Inc. 17. Takas. Terror TV, 122. 18. Bacevich, The New American Militarism. 19. Takas. Terror TV. 20. Top Gun, Movie, directed by Tony Scott (1986; Los Angeles: Paramount Pictures). 21. Saving Private Ryan, Movie, directed by Steven Spielberg (1998; Universal City: Dreamworks Pictures). 22. Takas. Terror TV. 23. Kevin McDonald, “Grammars of Violence, Modes of Embodiment and Frontiers of the Subject,” in War and the Body: Militarization, Practice and Experience, ed. Kevin McSorely (London: Routledge, 2013), 138–151. 24. Stahl, Militainment Inc. 42. 25. McDonald, “Grammars of Violence.”



26. Joann Guidoccio, “Movie Review: Megan Leavey.” July 4, 2017, 27. MovieFone. “Megan Leavey.” July 2017. movie/megan-leavey/b70YyiY0a7wJ8eGHwFtQD4/main/. 28. Elizabeth Bronfen. Specters of War: Hollywood’s Engagement with Military Conflict (Chapel Hill, NC: Rutgers University Press, 2012). 29. Bronfen, Specters of War, 6. 30. Muller, September 11. 31. David Kravats, “Former CIA Chief: Obamas’s War On Terror Same as Bush, But with More Killing.” Wired, 2012, bush-obama-war-on-terror/. 32. Robert Burgoyne, “Embodiment in the War Film: Paradise Now and The Hurt Locker” Journal of War & Cultural Studies 5, no. 1 (2012): 7–19. 33. Bronfen. Specters of War. 34. Burgoyne, “Embodiment in the War Film.” 35. Bacevich, The New American Militarism. 36. Bronfen, Specters of War. 37. Bronfen, Specters of War. 38. George Amberg, The New  York Times Film Reviews: A One Volume Selection (New York: Quadrangle Books, 1971), 439. 39. Roger Ebert, “Kill Bill Vol 2.” Chicago-Sun Times. April 16, 2004. https://www. 40. Joseph H. Kupfer, Experience as Art: Aesthetics in Everyday Life (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983), 52. 41. Kupfer, Experience as Art, 52. 42. Muller, September 11, 34. 43. Burgoyne, “Embodiment in the War Film,” 16. 44. Bronfen, Specters of War. 45. Burgoyne, “Embodiment in the War Film,” 14. 46. Burgoyne, “Embodiment in the War Film,” 114. 47. Burgoyne, “Embodiment in the War Film,” 3. 48. Bronfen, Specters of War, 8. 49. Bronfen, Specters of War, 20. 50. Bronfen, Specters of War, 13, 132. 51. McDonald, “Grammars of Violence.” 52. Henrike Lehnguth, “Into the Dark Chamber of Terror: The ‘War on Terror’ Visual Culture” (PhD diss., University of Maryland, 2011). 53. Paradise Now, Movie, directed by Hany Abu-Assad (Los Angeles: Warner Independent Pictures, 2005). 54. Burgoyne, “Embodiment in the War Film.” 55. Farhard Khosrokhavor, Suicide bombers: Allah’s New Martyrs (London, England: Pluto Press, 2005), 133. 56. Burgoyne, “Embodiment in the War Film.” 57. Cecilia Feilla, The Sentimental Theatre of the French Revolution (London: Routledge, 2016), 76. 58. David Campbell, “The Elusive Enemy: Looking Back at the ‘War on Terror’s’ Visual Culture,” Blog. November, 2011. https://www.david-campbell. org/…/the-elusive-enemy-war-on-terror-visual-culture/. 59. Bond, Frames of Memory.



References 24. Los Angeles, CA: 20th Century Fox, 2001–2014. Television Drama Series. Amberg, George. The New York Times Film Reviews: A One Volume Selection. New York: Quadrangle Books, 1971. Bacevich, Andrew. The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Beyer, Bero. Paradise Now. Directed by Hany Abu-Assad. Los Angeles, CA: Warner Independent Pictures, 2005. Movie. Bigelow, Kathryn, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier, and Greg Shapiro. The Hurt Locker. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Santa Monica: Summit Entertainment, 2008. Movie. Bond, Lucy. Frames of Memory After 9/11: Culture, Criticism Politics, and Law. Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. Bronfen, Elizabeth. Specters of War: Hollywood’s Engagement with Military Conflict. Chapel Hill: Rutgers University Press, 2012. Bryce, Ian, Mark Gordon, and Gary Levinsohn. Saving Private Ryan. Directed by Stephen Spielberg. Universal City: Dreamworks Pictures, 1998. Movie. Burgoyne, Robert. “Embodiment in the War Film: Paradise Now and The Hurt Locker.” Journal of War & Cultural Studies 5, no. 1 (2012): 7–19. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4. Video Game. Directed by Jason Ward. Santa Monica, CA: Activision, 2007. Campbell, David. “The Elusive Enemy: Looking Back at the ‘War on Terror’s’ Visual Culture” (blog). Posted 10 November 2011. Accessed September 16, 2017.…/the-elusive-enemy-war-on-terror-visual-culture/. Ebert, Roger. “Kill Bill Vol 2.” Chicago-Sun Times, April 16, 2004. Feilla, Ceilia. The Sentimental Theatre of the French Revolution. London: Routledge, 2016. Guidoccio, Joanne. “Movie Review: Megan Leavey”. Posted July 4, 2017. Accessed September 16, 2017. Homeland. 20th Century Fox, Los Angeles, 2011–2017. Television Drama Series. Insurgency. Video Game. Denver, CO: New World Interactive, 2014. Khosrokhavor, Farhard. Suicide Bombers: Allah’s New Martyrs. London, UK: Pluto Press, 2005. Kravets, David. “Former CIA Chief: Obamas’s War on Terror Same as BUSH, But with More Killing.” Wired, October 9, 2012. Kupfer, Joseph, H. Experience as Art: Aesthetics in Everyday Life. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1983. Lehnguth, Henrike. “Into the Dark Chamber of Terror: The ‘War on Terror’ Visual Culture.” PhD thesis, University of Maryland, 2011. handle/1903/11878. Liddell, Mickey, Jennifer Monroe, and Pete Shilaimon. Megan Leavey. Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite. New York: Bleecker Street, 2017. Movie. McDonald, Kevin. 2012. “Grammars of Violence, Modes of Embodiment and Frontiers of the Subject” In War and the Body: Militarization, Practice and Experience, ed. Kevin McSorely, 138–151. London: Routledge, 2013.



“Megan Leavey.” MovieFone. Accessed 30 July 2017. movie/megan-leavey/b70YyiY0a7wJ8eGHwFtQD4/main/. Muller, Christine. September 11, 2001 as Cultural Trauma: A Case Study through Popular Culture. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. Prince, Stephen. Firestorm: American Film in the Age of Terrorism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009. Randell, Karen. “‘It was Like a Movie.’ The Impossibly of Representation in Oliver Stone’s World Trade Centre.” In, Reframing 9/11 Film, Popular Culture, and the “War on Terror”, ed. Jeff Brikenstien, Anna Froula, and Karen Randell, 141–152. New York: Continuum, 2010. Simpson, Don, and Jerry Bruckheimer. Top Gun. Directed by Tony Scott. Los Angeles: Paramount Pictures, 1986. Movie. Stahl, Rodger. Militainment Inc: War, Media, and Popular Culture. New  York: Routledge, 2010. Strenski, Ivan. “Sacrifice, Gift and the Social Logic of Muslim ‘Human Bombers.’” Terrorism and Political Violence 15, no. 3 (2003): 1034. Sturken, Marita. Tourists of Memory. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007. Takas, Stacey. Terror TV: Popular Entertainment in Post 9/11 America. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2012. Thomas, Emma, Christopher Nolan, and Charles Roven. Batman: The Dark Night Rises. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Los Angeles, CA: Warner Brothers, 2008. Movie.


Tommy Talk: War Hospital Magazines and the Literature of Resilience and Healing Alice Brumby

Introduction Print culture of the First World War, especially trench journals, has received substantial attention from academics in the past few decades. These journals have become an important source in understanding the experiences and attitudes of soldiers on the front line. Stephane Audoin-Rouzeau has used a variety of journals to understand how French soldiers used print culture as a means of resilience and endurance.1 Further, Fuller has identified the link between discipline and trench journalism, highlighting that this culture helped relieve wartime pressures, prompting others to observe that the process functioned as a “disciplinary safety-valve.”2 More recent historians have explored similar themes.3 Chapman and Ellin, for instance, argue that the cartoons in these journals acted as a space for sharing concerns and complaints and were vital for the troops’ morale.4 Meanwhile, a growing body of scholarship has looked at treatment and disablement during and after the war. This work has led to an enormous collection of diverse studies, ranging from surgery, disability, orthopaedics, mental health, trauma, and blindness.5 Whilst this body of work offers a comprehensive insight into the treatment regimens associated with disability and hospital routines, others have studied how the patients experienced or responded to their treatments.6 Michael Roper’s work is an important starting point in this respect, as it seeks to understand how soldiers coped with war trauma.7 In The Politics of Wounds, Ana Carden-Coyne examines the Army Medical Services through the “lens of the personal experiences” of the wounded soldiers A. Brumby (*) University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




t­hemselves. She concludes that the medical services did not fulfil wounded soldiers’ expectations of care, and feelings of injustice and resentment simmered behind the men’s silence. By listening to the narratives of these men, Carden-Coyne argues, we can understand how “the wounded engaged in various forms of soft resistance.”8 Tying these two historiographical threads of disability studies and the analysis of wartime literature together, Reznick’s work, Healing the Nation, provides a detailed overview of a selection of hospital magazines produced in select hospitals across England. He concludes that such magazines identify what he refers to as the soldiers’ “disillusionment with the tyranny of modern technology and with the efficiency systems with which the war time healing environment was connected.”9 In his view, injured servicemen should be observed as a unique community which created its identity from difference to others and communicated that difference through scathing satire against the healing institution. Thus, Reznick’s work offers a similar analysis to those discussing trench journal magazines who have argued that a “spiritual bond” developed between men in the trenches, leading them to believe that “the experience of the ‘real war’ in the trenches, marked men off from the rest of society.”10 Similarly, Seal has argued that there was a specific community built around all nationalities serving within the trenches that distinguished these men from civilians at home.11 Rather than piecing together a heavily edited narrative from a diverse group of hospital magazines, as Reznick does, this chapter instead provides a detailed case study of one hospital magazine which has hitherto escaped the close analysis of scholars. The magazine was founded at Huddersfield War Hospital in July 1916. The hospital, located in the North of England, was opened in October 1915 for the exclusive use of injured personnel. The magazine is interesting as a copy of every single edition has survived, allowing a more in-depth analysis of patient opinion to be sampled across the final years of the war, revealing in turn a surprising lack of change in either tone or content over time. Viewed as a whole, the collection at Huddersfield offers a different insight into patient attitudes than the one offered by Reznick. Rather than bitterness or anger towards the institution, the Tommies’ writing often echoes the narrative presented in wartime propaganda. In part, this appears to be linked to the hospital’s success as a healing institution, which is another factor underscoring the importance of looking in depth at specific hospitals, as opposed to comparing magazines from institutions that may have been quite different. Whilst there are indeed many instances of humour and satire within the Huddersfield magazine, these instances clearly served to boost morale and helped soldiers to reconfigure a sense of masculinity from their disabled, diseased, and paralysed bodies. In contrast to previous work, this chapter identifies that in this particular magazine, instances of humour and satire represented only a small fraction of the contributions. Other themes such as gratitude, pride, and loyalty to comrades, doctors, nurses, the institution, and the British Army itself were the dominant messages.



Whereas Chapman and Ellin have argued that editors and readers of trench magazines “despised home front propaganda and the mainstream press as pedlars of unrealistic jingoism and heroism,” this analysis does not appear to extend to those writing within the Huddersfield War Hospital Magazine.12 The editors had to find an occasionally uncomfortable balance between appealing to those on the home front and yet appeasing the soldiers who contributed to the journal. The magazine simultaneously acted as a local piece of propaganda, fitting in with the national story of bravery and heroism, and also as a vehicle for healing soldiers. Through harnessing their creativity, it helped them find resilience and acceptance, often reconfiguring their masculinity to accommodate disability. This conflicting duality of purpose is a unique feature of war hospital magazines and one which as yet has received little attention from those analysing the Tommies’ literature of the First World War. In the preface to a special Christmas edition, the editor noted that for the wounded patients who had submitted work, the magazine was a source of “pride, pleasure and profit.” He said of the 43 wounded “boys” who had contributed to this particular edition that their works displayed “great thought, seriousness in outlook, but never sorrow!”13 Clearly the use of satire and humour in these magazines could help maintain morale and resilience amongst disabled and seriously wounded men. The patients’ collective experiences of medicine, hospitals, and surgery led to a sense of identity amongst those wearing the “hospital blues” during and immediately after the First World War in Britain. However, it must not be assumed that these narratives were necessarily bitter or resentful towards the healing institution. Whilst many historians have hitherto highlighted an enormous sense of dissatisfaction amongst disabled and seriously wounded men, this chapter serves as a reminder that these feelings were not universal. Certainly, the evidence from these magazines suggests another narrative. For many of these men, resilience to the war and their injuries came from a sense of genuine patriotism and achievement rather than scathing resistance. Overall, the hospital magazines provide an insight into the unique cultural and artistic responses of wounded patients and show a different picture of how these patients understood and responded to their experience of wartime Britain.

Origins of the Hospital and Magazine Located in the industrial heartlands of the North of England, Huddersfield War Hospital was built in 1915 to meet the desperate need to create more accommodation for wounded soldiers. It was funded entirely by subscription money raised by the local community for the purpose of setting up a new War Hospital for the sick and wounded. The hospital cost a total of £30,000, of which nearly £20,000 was raised in just a few days; the local press reported that even small children were contributing their pocket money to the fund.14 Local churches got behind the project, raising extra money for Service Books and Penny Testaments for the soldiers.15 The hospital opened on 4 October 1915



and became one of the most important military hospitals in the North of England. The officer commanding the Hospital was Lt Col W.L.W. Marshall, Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). Other staff included 3 RAMC officers, a chaplain, lieutenant/quartermaster, 8 surgeons and other doctors, a matron, approximately 50 non-commissioned officers (NCOs), a body of nurses, and a radiographer. The hospital boasted over 600 beds with an extra 80 beds added just one year later. By 1917, a series of huts and outdoor extensions had increased its bed capacity to nearly 2000. It was noted that over 22,360 patients had passed through its doors by the time of its closure in October 1918.16 These patients belonged to nearly every UK regiment and included  soldiers from many different parts of the Empire and Allied world, including Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, France, Belgium, and the British West Indies.17 As the central hospital, which received patients directly from the front lines, Huddersfield had an important role in categorizing and sorting the patients. After brief periods, less urgent cases were sent to local auxiliary hospitals in order to maintain a constant supply of vacant beds for new arrivals.18 Patients were admitted in a variety of conditions ranging in severity. During the Battle of the Somme, it was noted that patients admitted to Huddersfield War Hospital were suffering from injuries chiefly caused “from shrapnel and high explosive shells and machine gun bullets.”19 One soldier was noted as having 17 machine gun bullet wounds in his body.20 In another instance, two brothers were admitted to the hospital in December 1916: they had enlisted together and served together and had been wounded by the same shell. One had his right arm shattered, the other the left; both had to have the respective arm amputated.21 Whilst the vast majority of the hospital’s patients recovered and were returned to duty, for others Huddersfield War Hospital was the beginning of a new chapter, one which signalled a beginning on the journey to a very slow recovery, or else permanent illness, sometimes disability, and the start of the process of discharge to an often painful and uncertain civilian life. The last known figures correspond to the work undertaken at the hospital from its opening until 31 July 1918, three months before it closed. During this period, it was noted that 15,106 patients had passed through its doors. Of these patients 10,264 or 67.9% were discharged back to either duty or light duty, 76 had died, and 719 patients or 4.8% were discharged as permanently unfit, many of them severely disabled. For these 719 patients, the war had ended but would never really be over (Table 4.1). Within this context, the decision was made to create a magazine celebrating the success of the hospital which also acted as a local piece of propaganda. The Huddersfield War Hospital Magazine was a monthly magazine available locally to patients and civilians. Major E.G.  Coward RAMC and Chaplain Rev Harwood were the editor and sub-editor, respectively. The magazine offered a space for its patients to publish stories, diaries, poems, reflections, recollections, and also cartoons about their lives, both at the trenches and in the



Table 4.1  Work undertaken in Huddersfield War Hospital from 9 October 1915 to 31 July 191822 No. of beds equipped Total no. admitted both by convoy and locally Sent to convalescent hospitals Transferred to other hospitals Deaths Discharged as permanently unfit Discharged to duty or light duty At present in hospital

2027 15,106 11,422 3073 76 719 10,264 974

­ ospital. The tone of the magazine ranges from the serious to the humorous h and topics include homesickness, life in the trenches, and soldiers’ experiences of wounding and hospitals. These fragmented stories offer a real insight into the soldiers’ relationships with those around them, including other soldiers, doctors, nurses, and civilians. The first issue was published in July 1916. The editor explained that the magazine was to be “a source of pleasure and instruction to our patients, our staff and the public generally.”23 Moreover, the magazine claimed that from its columns the public could hope to “glean stories from the front which would otherwise have laid dormant.”24 However, it was clear that as much as a fundraising and propaganda exercise, it was intended that the magazine should have some therapeutic benefit for the patients who contributed their work.25 Initially 1000 copies were printed, but after high demand this was increased to 3000, and then 4000 by the third issue.26 The magazine was sold locally, to soldiers within the hospital and the local auxiliary hospitals, but also to the public. Copies could be obtained initially for the price of just two pence at a host of local stores, which continued to increase with the magazine’s growing popularity. Any profit made from the journal was added to the Colonel’s Fund, which helped to raise money for military hospitals.27

Appealing to the Public, Healing the Soldiers The War Office paid grants to hospitals for every patient they looked after. At the highest rate, the government paid £1 4s 6d per week, or £63 14s 0d per annum, for each patient. This covered full hospital treatment and food.28 However, as the hospital was built entirely from public subscription money, and these funds continued to pay for many of the other costs associated with a soldier’s residence, the magazine had to appeal to the public and give them pride in an institution created at their expense. There was a clear interaction between the magazine and its readership, and the monthly column “To Our Readers” was an important feature in every issue. Clearly the editors intended the magazine to be an outward-looking publication. It is also clear that the core readership was the local civilian public, rather than the more transient hospital population. This is evidenced by the fact that 4000 copies of the



­ agazine were published despite there being, on average, only around 600 m patients at the Hospital, plus those at surrounding auxiliary hospitals at any given time. Accordingly, a prominent feature of the editorials and editors’ content included publicizing the good work done at the hospital or local auxiliary hospitals under its remit. Indeed, the creation of the Official Press Bureau in November 1916 did little to change either the tone or content of the magazine.29 Frequently the editor would publish news of current and former patients receiving military awards. These columns appeared monthly, with a short extract explaining the patient’s achievements, often alongside a picture of the newly decorated soldier. Furthermore, news was often given of former patients. One such example was that of James Marsden, former Corporal of the Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment. After volunteering in August 1914, Marsden had been severely wounded in the right elbow and left leg on the first day of the Somme. He was admitted two months later to Huddersfield War Hospital and remained there, undergoing several operations to save his arm, until December 1916. Whilst his wounds were so severe that he had to be discharged from the Army, the magazine informed the public that he had subsequently graduated with a BA Honours from the University of Sheffield. The editor noted that the care Marsden had received had “materially aided his success.”30 Another volume gave news of the longest resident of the war hospital, Private Johnson, who was admitted in October 1915, as part of the second convoy of patients. Suffering from a severe fracture of the left thigh, the only course of action available was amputation.31 After remaining in the hospital for three years, the magazine reported he was now in good health and soon to receive his artificial leg.32 It is clear that these “good news” stories were intended to boost the morale of patients and civilians alike, suggesting that war wounds did not stop men leading fulfilling lives afterwards and achieving success in civilian occupations. In a further effort to maintain morale and perhaps also to remain under the censor’s radar, the editorial was invariably jingoistic and upbeat in nature. Whilst the editor was clearly sympathetic to the suffering within his hospital, his writings insist that the war was just, fair, and winnable. His editorial of the Christmas Edition in 1916 repeated many popular propaganda myths in looking for the “silver lining to this dark tragedy.”33 He stated that the “boys who went out in their teens” have returned “splendid men. Brave men, men who have looked death in the face and [who are] therefore men to the core.”34 The editor noted the “refining influence” of the war on the wounded men in his hospital and offered his sympathy to those readers whose relatives had made the “supreme sacrifice.”35 Again, this was to maintain morale and, perhaps more importantly, financial support from the public. The magazine was forthright about appealing to its readership and the wider public for finance, resources, or other assistance. Whilst Cyril Pearce has described Huddersfield as a “hotbed” of anti-war feeling, “little moved by the wilder demands of wartime jingoism,” this feeling never manifested itself as hostility to the war ­hospital



or its staff and patients: appeals for public assistance, financial or otherwise, to aid wounded soldiers were always responded to generously by the local public.36 Although the public were the primary audience, the magazine was also clearly aimed at the recovering Tommy, who was encouraged to contribute to the magazine as a form of healing and recreation. The Commanding Officer of the hospital was firmly behind the magazine venture and two prizes of 10 shillings monthly were awarded for the best article, poem or prose, and also the best work of art reproduced within the magazine. Prize winners were announced in the following month’s issue.37 The competition encouraged patient participation, and there is ample evidence to suggest that the wounded soldiers who contributed took much pride in their work and the hospital magazine.38 Many of the soldiers’ contributions echoed similar themes to the messages promoted by the editor, showing that the message of hope and glory still resonated amongst many of the patients. This contrasts starkly with the satirical tone of “ironic anti-heroism” highlighted by historians of trench journals.39 Indeed, there are numerous examples, within this magazine at least, which contradict this construct. A poem entitled “1917,” written by the patient Ernest Clarkson, appealed to all the familiar tropes of heroism, courage, and righteousness, concluding that “the valiant dead must not have died in vain.”40 A poem entitled “Wounded” signed by “An Old Patient” echoed these themes of duty and honour. Instead of the brave dead, the author praises the brave wounded Tommy, who has done his bit for his country:     Back, back, to my home     Wounded and broken, no more to roam     Out of the Horrors of the Hell…     But we’re not downhearted; we’ve given our best     And we leave to our comrades to finish the rest.41

The column entitled “Heard in the wards from those who have been and seen” attempted to enlighten the public about the realities of the front line. However, once again there is no sign of sarcasm, satire, or despair in it. Rather, its author—Private John Stewart of the Royal Defence Corps—writes of the same ideas of bravery and courage. He noted, “Here in the War Hospital of Huddersfield, one is brought face to face with all that war means, or can mean to a nation engaged in the titanic world struggle for freedom against military despotism and the greed of conquest.”42 Another patient, Robert Middlemas, wrote “In times of such awful suffering for these boys, it is well to think that they have such real homes to go to when stricken on the battlefields.”43 His letter expresses his pleasure at being treated within the institution, claiming there was “no red tape in the management there, nothing but real humanity.”44 Similar feelings were expressed in the poem “Bravo War Hospital” and again in another letter entitled “Expressions of Gratitude” written by Sgt Jack Custer of the 12th Manchester Regiment.45 These are just a few examples of the



­ agazine’s many stories and poems which epitomize many of the soldiers’ m perspectives relating to the grandeur and glory of war and their satisfaction with their individual treatment regimes. There is no sense of any “hidden irony” behind the pieces nor would it be justifiable to read into these specific pieces any of the resentment that Reznick and Ana Carden-Coyne find in their sources.46 Instead, these pieces serve as a reminder that for some soldiers, the fact that they had served and been wounded in a “great war of great principles” was important to their narrative and gave meaning to their injuries. The magazine offered a sense of community and comradeship amongst the men in hospital. It is clear from the letters published in the magazine that many ex-patients were fond of the hospital and grateful to its staff for aiding them in their recoveries.

Soldiers and the Institution Although the soldiers were often extremely positive about their experiences, there were still occasions where satire prevailed and patients would air frustration on the pages of the hospital magazine, often by ridiculing aspects of institutional life. This was especially true in the cases of artworks and poetry. Whilst there is often a tone of humorous defiance and stubbornness amongst the patients, these feelings were often disavowed as exaggeration, either at the end of the piece or in other writings. This suggests that some of the sarcasm and satire was merely banter, the men making a community of playful resistance for themselves, which appeared to be endorsed by the editors who not only published but awarded many of these poems and images with prize money. Aspects of institutional life were frequently used as subjects of satire. Describing hospital life, one patient explained: It is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a Patient to get into Bed. On arrival the Patient is supplied with a shoehorn and a corkscrew to enable him to get in and out of bed respectively. To disarrange a Bed is a criminal offence. It is far, far better to have a Tidy Bed than a comfortable a patient.47

Similarly, the staff at the institution were frequently the objects of humour and amusement. Corporal Brook’s work, “A Tale of a Stitch,” ends with a note: “With Apologies to the Staff of the H.W.H and the Surgeon at Poperinghe.”48 His humorous tale narrates the experience of a Tommy having stitches removed after undergoing abdominal surgery. The doctors and nurses in the poem are “baffled” by the case which appears to have been “tied up with string.” After weeks of trying, the poem concludes: As a last resort, the wiseheads thought, Of a consultation solemn. The X-rays showed, what the patient had knowed [sic]: It was fast to his spinal column!49



Whilst there are no corresponding hospital records to suggest whether the poem was based on any form of reality, the final note offering an apology suggests a light-hearted banter existed between patients and staff. Rather than a critical satire, it appears to be a good-humoured anecdote. This humour was exemplified in an article entitled “Hospital Definitions,” written by an anonymous patient. He writes, “A Doctor is a member of the medical profession who is usually to be found at the other end of a stethoscope. His greatest joy is to push a shoehorn down your throat, coupled with a request to say ‘ah!’ He is quite satisfied if you do.”50 This light-hearted banter appears to give way in the more serious articles however, which appear to suggest a more harmonious and respectful relationship between patients and hospital staff. One Canadian soldier explained his feelings of admiration for the doctors. His left leg had been amputated from below the knee and he praised the work of the doctors in trying to avoid amputation. He identified that Colonel Marshall had “fought with it for over four months” explaining “it has gone now—but I wish it hadn’t, for his sake.”51 Whilst this might be evidence of a sarcastic undertone, the rest of the article suggests a loyalty between patient and doctor which exemplifies the so-called stiff upper lip. Similar contradictory and oxymoronic depictions of both humour and respect (or courteous ridicule) appear throughout the magazine’s many editions. Nurses were frequently lampooned. Witty lines such as “who wakened a patient when he was sound asleep to give him a sleeping draft?” and “Which night nurse woke a patient up and asked him if he was having a good sleep?” appeared in the monthly column “We Wonder.”52 Private Hamilton’s contribution described his daily routine of being woken by the nurses, an experience which he clearly did not enjoy. He wrote, “You called me at the break of day/ And made my spirit groan/ As struggling from dreams I cried/ And just repressed a curse/ I woke then smiled a sleepy smile and said ‘Good Morning Nurse!’”53 Just as in the case above however, these comments were also diluted in the very next poem. Clearly intended as a pair, to be published together, and written by the same author, “Those Who Watch Over Us” reflects the belief that the nurses were the “greatest pals” of the wounded Tommy. The poem concludes, “Who has the gratitude we pour? Who will we love for evermore? The Nurses.”54 The orderlies too were also the target of good-natured ridicule and were often chastised by the patients for their perceived “laziness.” The most prominent example of this was a prize-winning sketch of an RAMC orderly “doing his bit” by reading a copy of The Sporting Times and smoking a cigarette, whilst propping up a ward sweeping brush.55 Again, the fact that such an illustration was not only published but also won prize money suggests the sketch’s intention was light-hearted. Even if the author felt any antagonism or resentment towards the orderly he sketched, the editors clearly found it innocuous enough for publication. Food was another common theme throughout the magazine. Like the staff, it attracted both compliments and ridicule. In many of the soldiers’ ­submissions



to the magazine, the staff and the food were interrelated topics. Short stories and satirical anecdotes include how little there was of certain foodstuffs or the orderlies’ ineptitude at making it. One short story recounted how a soldier took a particular fancy to fried eggs, only to find that when he asked for fat to cook them in, he was given soap.56 Another asked “if the sister is the one to butter the bread, who took it off again?”57 Describing a meal, one patient explained, “a meal is about three inches in diameter and about two hours long … [it] arrives in instalments and after the salt and pepper are cold, the rest arrives.”58 The patient concludes “when meal times arrive he understands why he is called Patient.”59 Food was a point of banter, and a collective experience to the boys in blue, no matter what their nationality, rank, or illness. Nevertheless, once again, this was apparently more jest than complaint. In the more serious articles, soldiers frequently wrote of their appreciation for the food. In a moving article entitled “How I survived fifteen days wounded with practically no food,” one soldier relates his experience of being wounded at the Somme on 1 July 1916. He describes how after “going over the lid” he was shot in the chest and the arm by machine gun fire and remained in and out of consciousness in a shell-hole for 15 days until he was rescued. The upbeat conclusion identifies his gratitude towards the staff and says he should soon put weight back on again, “I am fed here by everything that is nourishing and good.”60 It is clear that however the food was described by the soldiers, hospital rations were, at the very least, regular and predictable. Certainly the low death rate at the hospital would suggest that foodstuffs and patients’ diets were adequate within the hospital, a situation which, as J.L. Crammer has identified, was not universally applicable to other wartime institutions.61 The hospital, supplied by a vast army of volunteers and public subscription money, was able to boast that it was the only hospital in Britain which could supply all of its patients with eggs on a weekly basis. Thanks to a special egg collecting scheme, between the years 1915 and 1917, a remarkable 405,585 eggs were collected for consumption within the hospital.62 This was an extraordinary feat, given rationing and the huge price increases of such foodstuffs. Once again, this suggests that the occasional gripes about food expressed in the magazine were perhaps more expressions of disgruntlement with wartime economizing, than a legitimate dissatisfaction with the food on offer at the institution. The magazine editors evidently saw neither truth nor threat in these writings and clearly expected the public to read them as humorous anecdotes rather than serious grievances.

Soldiers and Civilians Where any anger could be said to exist amongst the soldiers, it seemed to be directed towards the general public, and the naivety of civilians was often a target for humour in the magazine. This anger often manifested itself in satirical images or sarcastic comments. A sketch entitled “Somme Bite,” for instance,



depicts a lady on a bench asking an amputee soldier if he had been wounded. The soldier retorts “No Matron’s dog bit my leg off.”63 However, it appears that this satire was used as a more important device than that of a simple “safety-valve” allowing soldiers to release their frustrations about civilians.64 Instead, the drawings, cartoons, and letters within these magazines seem to constitute an assertion of resilience and survival from wounded soldiers, who collectively used the magazine as an outlet to make fun of themselves in an act of morale boosting which also reasserted their masculinities. One short anecdote recounted: “A few days ago a lady and a little girl came into one of the wards and the lady started chatting with a couple of the bed patients. After a minute or two, the little girl started crying. When asked why she was crying the little girl replied, ‘Oh Mummy, I wanted to see some soldiers.’”65 Another illustration showing two wounded soldiers on a park bench conversing with an attractive young lady was titled “What we do not see in the park.”66 Civilians were frequently represented as being at best naïve and at worst entirely oblivious to the soldiers’ sacrifices. One cartoon entitled “When will England realise the War” depicts two ladies gossiping on a train about the terrible conditions of war. After a long conversation, the pair decides that the worst thing about the current war had to be the increase in the price of butter.67 Whilst the identification of civilians as targets for amusement might seem detrimental to the primary readership of the magazine, clearly the editors thought that it was good humoured and necessary to the men’s recuperation and healing. Indeed, prizes were often given to many of the cartoons or stories which were satirical in outlook. The editor even echoed the patients’ tone in recounting some anecdotes of civilians visiting. One tale began: “Here’s a story of the great pluck and brightness of our wounded boys.” When pointed out by a visitor, three wounded soldiers described themselves as “three men with two legs between them and two heads.” The editor then explained that “two of these lads had had both their legs shot away and one a large part of his head.”68 Such blunt, matter-of-fact language mirrored that which was often used by the soldiers themselves to describe their disabilities. Publishing cartoons and stories which criticized civilians might seem risky, given that the hospital was built from public subscriptions, that civilian volunteers were indispensable in running it, and that the magazine itself was sold to a predominantly civilian readership. However, the editors’ own language choices and the nature of the content they published implied that civilians buying the magazine, and thus contributing towards the hospital’s upkeep and the patients’ treatment, were doing “their bit” for the boys in blue. They were therefore distinct from the indifferent, oblivious civilians mocked by the soldiers. The magazine positioned civilian readers as being “in on the jokes” of the soldiers and thus implicitly part of a healing community that defined itself as separate from the “naïve” civilian ill-informed about the war. Whether the soldiers themselves believed in any such associate membership of their community remains unknown.



Restrictions in Liberty Restrictions in the soldiers’ liberty appear to have been one of the most frustrating concerns for the recovering Tommy in hospital. Many were frustrated by the military discipline which characterized their treatments, by the daily routine of the hospital, and by excessively disciplinarian staff. Above all else, many soldiers were deeply frustrated by hospital rules which dictated how much time they were allowed to spend outside the hospital. In the very first issue, Drummer Dowling’s cartoon portrayed this perfectly. The cartoon was captioned “Drummer Dowling’s Idea of Duty and Inclination” and shows a soldier wondering whether it was worth breaking hospital curfews to spend time with an attractive lady. The soldier muses, “It is 10 minutes to 7! If I go with her I lose my pass and get seven days C.B. And if I go back to hospital I lose her! Is she worth it?”69 In Issue 6 of the magazine, the editor took note of a new Command Order that would likely be very unpopular with the wounded soldiers. Rather than appeal to the soldiers, the editor chose instead to appeal to the magazine’s reading public. “The public will feel the new restriction placed on our wounded by the Command Order that all wounded must be in by four in the afternoon.”70 In response, the hospital was determined that “every effort will be made to see our boys have entertainment concerts, whist drives etc. so that their evenings do not drag.”71 The editor appealed to the public to invite the soldiers out, explaining that extensions might be given if the right invitation came up.72 Such a lenient policy was at direct variance with other hospitals, which seemed to focus much more intently on discipline and rules, especially regarding curfews. In Worcester Infirmary, for example, the regulations were much stricter. Whilst the hospital only provided 50 beds for servicemen during the war, its disciplinarian style caused dissatisfaction amongst patients who were troubled by the strict regime of the hospital and the restrictions imposed upon leaving the hospital grounds. An inquiry into their complaints found that they were “of a trivial nature” and the soldiers were curtly reminded that the regulations had to be obeyed.73 Whilst the conditions may have been better at Huddersfield War Hospital, soldiers remained discontented with the rules throughout the war years. In a much later edition to the cartoon noted above, a sketch entitled “Late Again!” depicted the predicament of a young convalescent soldier, who stopped to ask a policeman the time. On hearing that it was half past ten, the soldier is depicted as stating, “Lord, won’t nurse strangle me for this; I shall be gassed and murdered entirely!”74 These sketches identify that soldiers were frustrated by regimes imposed by hospitals and other healing institutions. Hence the magazine was clearly used as a mouthpiece to vent that frustration to each other and the wider public. However, the editors of the magazine used these cartoons and pictures to their advantage; they appealed to the public to help circumvent the earlier curfews for their soldiers, placing doctors, patients, and civilians all on the same side. Unlike the magazines that Reznick analysed, then, it would appear that there was less antagonism between soldiers and staff at Huddersfield War Hospital.



Conclusion Works which are satirical, humorous, or rebellious in nature will always be of interest to historians of the First World War. The words of the dissenting Tommy show us a different picture to the jingoistic, chivalrous, “manly” soldier depicted within wartime propaganda. Perhaps this is why the study of trench journalism is so popular. Nevertheless, these dissenting and satirical voices need to be seen in context. After providing detailed analysis of just one hospital magazine, the localized context of these dissenting voices reveals that these instances of humour and satire were only a small fraction of the contributions. Other themes such as gratitude, pride, and loyalty predominate as the key messages promoted within the publication. Moreover, these dissenting voices were not marginalized, far from it. In fact, they were published to an audience of nearly 4000 readers and awarded prize money for their efforts. Of course, there are two conflicting explanations for the fact that there were significantly more jingoistic and contented contributions than satirical ones. The most obvious explanation would be to advance the argument that the journal was edited and may well have restricted the publication of various pieces through either direct or indirect censorship. Whilst this is clearly a distinct possibility, that does not explain why the magazine published some critical pieces and even awarded them prize money. Another explanation might link to the success rates of the hospital as the vast majority of its patients were treated successfully by the hospital and were discharged to convalescent homes or else back to duty. Less than 5% ended up discharged from the Army on health grounds. That so many men recovered might explain the relative satisfaction with hospital treatment. Unlike other scholarship on trench journalism, which has identified a rift between serving soldiers and the rest of society, the magazine positioned the doctors, nurses, and even readership of the magazine as part of the soldiers’ healing community. The aspects of humour and satire appear to encapsulate that great stereotype of the British “stiff upper lip.” Even works which at first glance appear to be quite scathing towards the institution are measured responses and were often qualified with words or phrases which suggested that the patient felt the opposite. Where sarcasm and satire exist, they appear to have helped maintain morale and helped the troops’ efforts to reassert their masculinities from within their newly paralysed or disfigured bodies. Even the most vituperative pieces in the magazine, targeting the naivety of civilians and the restrictions on patients’ liberty, were co-opted by the editors, who tried to circumvent what they too felt were inappropriately disciplinarian military Command Orders. It seems clear that for this particular magazine, putting too much emphasis on the satirical pieces distorts reality and ignores the fact that the majority of the pieces in this magazine are positive, patriotic, and pro-war. The resistance which has been found in other sources relating to military medicine is far less forthcoming in these pages. That this lack of resistance might seem surprising to a historian suggests, perhaps, that we in the twenty-first century have been



conditioned to expect it from the literature of the First World War and have overlooked a mainstream of stories which conform to propaganda stereotypes, in order to analyse instead the voices that dissent from the crowd. The Huddersfield War Hospital Magazine is an important reminder of why and how the British Tommy “stuck it out”: for these men their belief that the war was just and winnable was intrinsic to their resilience and desire to see it through.

Notes 1. Stephane Audoin-Rouzeau, Men at War: National Sentiment and Trench Journalism in France during the First World War, trans. Helen McPhail (Oxford: Berg, 1992). 2. J.G.  Fuller, Troop Morale and Popular Culture in the British and Dominion Armies, 1914–1918 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 13; Jeffrey S.  Reznick, Healing the Nation: Soldiers and the Culture of Caregiving in Britain during the Great War (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), 66. 3. Graham Seal, “‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’: Trench Culture of the Great War,” Folklore 124, no. 2 (2013): 178–199. See also Graham Seal, The Soldiers’ Press: Trench Journals in the First World War (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). 4. Jane Chapman and Dan Ellin, “Dominion Cartoon Satire as Trench Culture Narratives: Complaints, Endurance and Stoicism,” The Round Table 103, no. 2 (2014): 175–192, 5. Julie Anderson, War, Disability and Rehabilitation in Britain: ‘Soul of a Nation’ (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011); Leo van Bergen, Before my Helpless Sight: Suffering, Dying and Military Medicine on the Western Front, 1914–1918 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993); Joanna Bourke, Dismembering the Male: Men’s Bodies, Britain and the Great War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996); Deborah Cohen, The War Come Home: Disabled Veterans in Britain and Germany, 1914–1939 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001); Peter Barham, Forgotten Lunatics of the Great War (London: Yale University Press, 2007); Fiona Reid, Broken Men: Shell Shock, Treatment and Recovery in Britain, 1914–1930 (London: Continuum, 2011). 6. Alice Brumby, “‘A Painful and Disagreeable Position’: Rediscovering Patient Narratives and Evaluating the Difference between Policy and Experience for Institutionalised Veterans with Mental Disabilities, 1924–1931,” First World War Studies 6, no. 1 (2015): 37–55, 15.1047891. 7. Michael Roper, The Secret Battle: Emotional Survival in the Great War (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010). 8. Ana Carden-Coyne, The Politics of Wounds: Military Patients and Medical Power in the First World War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 2. 9. Reznick, Healing the Nation, 83. 10. Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1989), 232, 230, 229. 11. Seal, “We’re Here Because We’re Here,” 178. 12. Chapman and Ellin, “Dominion Cartoon Satire,” 189.



13. Editorial, Huddersfield War Hospital Magazine (hereafter HWHM), Souvenir Edition. No page numbers to this edition. 14. Anon, Huddersfield Daily Examiner, October 9, 1915. 15. Anon, Huddersfield Parish Magazine, November 1915, 2. 16. F.G. Coward, “Correspondence,” Huddersfield Daily Examiner, September 6, 1919. 17. Ibid. 18. Major-General Sir W.G. MacPherson, History of the Great War Medical Services: vol. 1, Medical Services in the United Kingdom, 1914–1918 (London: HMSO, 1923), 96. 19. Anon, Huddersfield Daily Examiner, July 7, 1916. 20. Ibid. 21. Anon, “Hospital Jottings,” HWHM, December 1916, 12. 22. Table, HWHM, July 1918, 12. 23. Editorial, HWHM, July 1916, 1. 24. Ibid., 1. 25. Editor, “To Our Readers,” HWHM, November 1917, 2. 26. Editor, “To Our Readers,” HWHM, September 1916, 2. 27. Editorial, HWHM, July 1916, 1. 28. British Red Cross, “Auxiliary Hospitals.” Last modified 2017. http://www. 29. Anon, “To Our Readers,” HWHM, November 1916, 2. 30. Anon, “News of an Old Patient,” HWHM, April 1917, 2. 31. Anon, “Our Oldest Patient,” HWHM, March 1918, 8. 32. Ibid., 8. 33. Editorial, HWHM, December 1916, 1. 34. Ibid. 35. Editorial, HWHM, December 1916, 2. 36. Cyril Pearce, Comrades in Conscience: The Story of an English Community’s Opposition to the Great War (London: Francis Boutle Publishers, 2001), 21 and 28. 37. Editorial, HWHM, July 1916, 2. 38. See F.  Garland, “Sonnet on Looking at our Hospital Magazine,” HWHM, Souvenir Edition. 39. Chapman and Ellin, “Dominion Cartoon Satire,” 180. 40. Ernest Clarkson, “1917,” HWHM, Souvenir Edition. 41. An Old Patient, “Wounded,” HWHM, Souvenir Edition. 42. Private John Stewart, “Heard in the Wards,” HWHM, August 1916, 8. 43. Robert Middlemas, “Letter,” HWHM, June 1917, 8. 44. Ibid. 45. C. Elder, “Bravo Huddersfield War Hospital,” HWHM, Souvenir Edition; Jack Custer, “Letter,” HWHM, June 1917, 8. 46. Carden-Coyne, Politics of Wounds, 2; Reznick, Healing the Nation, 83. 47. A Patient, “Hospital Definitions,” HWHM, April 1918, 11. 48. Corporal Brook, “A Tale of a Stitch,” HWHM, Souvenir Edition. 49. Ibid. 50. A Patient, “Hospital Definitions,” HWHM, April 1918, 11. 51. Quoted from Yorkshire Daily Observer in HWHM, August 1916, 9.



52. Anon, “We Wonder,” HWHM, September 1916, 4. 53. J. Hamilton, “A Patient Says ‘Good Morning’ to the Nurse,” HWHM, Souvenir Edition. 54. J. Hamilton, “Those Who Watch Over Us,” HWHM, Souvenir Edition. 55. Corporal Thomas, “R.A.M.C.  Orderly, Doing His Bit,” HWHM, Souvenir Edition. 56. Anon, HWHM, September 1916, 3. 57. Ibid. 58. A Patient, “Hospital Definitions,” HWHM, April 1918, 11. 59. Ibid. 60. A.C. Stagg, “How I survived fifteen days wounded with practically no food,” HWHM, September 1916, 2. 61. J.L. Crammer, “Extraordinary Deaths of Asylum Inpatients During the 1914– 1918 War,” Medical History 36, no. 4 (1992): 430–441. 62. Editor, HWHM, February 1918, 2. 63. Corporal Thomas, “Somme Bite,” HWHM, Souvenir Edition. 64. Fuller, Troop Morale, 13; Reznick, Healing the Nation, 66. 65. Anon, HWHM, November 1916, 3. 66. Drummer Dowling, “What We Do Not See in the Park,” HWHM, Souvenir Edition. 67. Anon, “When Will England Realise the War,” HWHM, November 1917, 3. 68. Anon, HWHM, August 1916, 3. 69. Drummer Dowling, “Drummer Dowling’s Idea of Duty and Inclination,” HWHM, June 1916, 3. 70. Anon, “To Our Readers,” HWHM, December 1916, 2. 71. Ibid. 72. Ibid. 73. The Hive, 5161, B010:16, 6, Worcester Infirmary, Weekly Minute Books, 1912–1920, 416. 74. Anon, “Late Again!” HWHM, September 1917, 3.

References Anderson, Julie. War, Disability and Rehabilitation in Britain: ‘Soul of a Nation’. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011. Audoin-Rouzeau, Stephane. Men at War: National Sentiment and Trench Journalism in France During the First World War. Trans. Helen McPhail. Oxford: Berg, 1992. Barham, Peter. Forgotten Lunatics of the Great War. London: Yale University Press, 2007. Bourke, Joanna. Dismembering the Male: Men’s Bodies, Britain and the Great War. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996. British Red Cross. “Auxiliary Hospitals”. Last modified 2017. http://www.redcross. Brumby, Alice. “‘A Painful and Disagreeable Position’: Rediscovering Patient Narratives and Evaluating the Difference between Policy and Experience for Institutionalised Veterans with Mental Disabilities, 1924–1931.” First World War Studies 6, no. 1 (2015): 37–55. Carden-Coyne, Ana. The Politics of Wounds: Military Patients and Medical Power in the First World War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.



Chapman, Jane, and Dan Ellin, “Dominion Cartoon Satire as Trench Culture Narratives: Complaints, Endurance and Stoicism.” The Round Table 103, no. 2 (2014): 175–192. Cohen, Deborah. The War Come Home: Disabled Veterans in Britain and Germany, 1914–1939. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. Crammer, J.L. “Extraordinary Deaths of Asylum Inpatients during the 1914–1918 War.” Medical History 36, no. 4 (1992): 430–441. Eksteins, Modris. Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1989. Fuller, J.G. Troop Morale and Popular Culture in the British and Dominion Armies, 1914–1918. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990. Huddersfield Daily Examiner. Huddersfield Parish Magazine. Huddersfield War Hospital Magazines. Accessed from Kirklees Museums and Galleries. The Hive: Worcester Infirmary Weekly Minute books. MacPherson, Major-General Sir W.G. History of the Great War Medical Services: Medical Services in the United Kingdom, 1914–1918 (vol. 1). London: HMSO, 1923. Pearce, Cyril. Comrades in Conscience: The Story of an English Community’s Opposition to the Great War. London: Francis Boutle Publishers, 2001. Reid, Fiona. Broken Men: Shell Shock, Treatment and Recovery in Britain, 1914–1930. London: Continuum, 2011. Reznick, Jeffrey S. Healing the Nation: Soldiers and the Culture of Caregiving in Britain During the Great War. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004. Roper, Michael. The Secret Battle: Emotional Survival in the Great War. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010. Seal, Graham. The Soldiers’ Press: Trench Journals in the First World War. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013a. ———. “‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’: Trench Culture of the Great War.” Folklore 124, no. 2 (2013b): 178–199. van Bergen, Leo. Before My Helpless Sight: Suffering, Dying and Military Medicine on the Western Front, 1914–1918. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.


Wirral and the Great War Stephen Roberts

Introduction When historians analyse the impact of a war upon a nation, they are inevitably compelled to make generalisations about a multitude of people from thousands of places who reacted in diverse ways. Regional history can reduce the degree of generalisation and create a sharper focus on a smaller portion of the total population, allowing deeper studies of smaller groups. Such work can test the hypotheses of the national historians as well as explain the singularity of the chosen place. Wirral, situated in Northwest England, is an interesting case on both of these levels. Its population consists of representatives from virtually every social and economic group and contains three main forms of settlement: industrial towns, residential suburbs, and rural villages. Wirral is a microcosm of the United Kingdom but is also unique. It deserves investigation both in its own right and as an illustrative sample of Britain. Wirral is a peninsula some 20 miles long and 10 miles wide, defined by the Rivers Mersey and Dee and the Irish Sea. It is separated from Chester by the Shropshire Union Canal. Liverpool and Lancashire lie to the north and Wales to the south. In 1914 Wirral was in Cheshire. Its two largest towns, Birkenhead and Wallasey, which lie at its north-eastern corner, were county boroughs and so officially not part of Cheshire, but most residents still thought of themselves as Cheshire folk. Due to the fact that the two towns contained over three-­ quarters of Wirral’s population, they feature prominently, but not exclusively, in the ensuing discussion. Table 5.1 shows the main occupations of working people in the two towns.1 During this time Birkenhead and Wallasey contained workers in a representative range of trades across the primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors. Most S. Roberts (*) Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




Table 5.1  Employment in Birkenhead and Wallasey in 19112 Birkenhead Total workforce (male and female) Type of employment Domestic service Clerical Railways Merchants Docks Shipbuilding Agriculture and horticulture

55,519 Number 5718 2611 2130 819 2130 5062 459

Wallasey Percentage 10.3 4.7 3.8 1.5 3.8 9.1 0.8

32,879 Number 3907 3466 385 1243 367 0 459

Percentage 11.9 10.5 1.2 3.8 1.1 0 1.4

of the clerical staff and business people worked in Liverpool. Secondary industries had grown up along the banks of the Mersey at Port Sunlight, where Sir W.H. Lever built his soap factory and associated garden village with accommodation for 3500 employees and their families.3 A mile upstream lay Price’s Candle Factory at Bromborough Pool. By 1913 it was employing about 650 people, some of whom lived in company cottages, an earlier “model village” which Lever had deliberately aimed to outdo. Finally, some six miles further up the estuary, lay Wirral’s newest and fastest growing industrial centre, Ellesmere Port. It was not an offshoot of Birkenhead but rose in its own right due to its situation next to the river and to the Shropshire Union and Manchester Ship Canals, which gave it access to the wider world. By 1914, about 2000 of its residents were working in its two ironworks.4 Wirral’s primary industries included coalmining at Ness, where the Wirral Colliery employed between 45 and 180 men who produced approximately 45,000–50,000 tons of coal per year from a six-foot seam lying under the Dee Estuary which was quarried at various points between Neston and West Kirby and around the coast to Wallasey and Storeton, farming in all the rural areas and fishing at Parkgate, Heswall, and Hoylake. One hundred and eighteen residents of the latter place were earning a living from deep-sea fishing by 1911.5 Wirral’s transport network was highly developed. It is possible that some 3000 people were employed on the railways alone.6 Nobody in Wirral lived further than 2 miles away from a railway station; commuters could be in Liverpool within 30 minutes. The busiest route was the Hooton to Liverpool line, along which 60 trains travelled each day. In June 1911, the last section of the network was completed when Ellesmere Port was linked to Chester, Birkenhead, and Liverpool by a new London and North Western and Great Western Railways joint line, serviced by a state-of-the-art “motor train.”7 In this regard Wirral was unique, as there were parts of Britain with no such commensurate links to the outside world. Table 5.2 lists the district councils and their populations in 1901 and 1911 with their respective growth rates. Wirral’s population rose more than twice as fast as that of England and Wales. This astonishing expansion resulted from



Table 5.2  Local authorities in Wirral with population figures Local authority



Birkenhead Borough Bromborough Chester City Ellesmere Port and Whitby Higher Bebington Lower Bebington Hoylake and West Kirby Neston and Parkgate Wallasey Borough Wirral Rural District Total

110,915 1891 1980 4275 1540 8398 10,911 4154 53,579 13,905 211,548

130,832 1974 2182 10,366 1689 11,412 14,029 4596 78,514 19,024 274,618

Decennial increase (rounded up) % 18 4.4 10.2 142.5 9.7 35.9 28.6 10.6 46.5 36.8 23

in-migration, much of it either directly from or via Liverpool, the gateway to the Atlantic and “Second City of the Empire.” By 1911, 40.2 per cent of the population of Birkenhead had not been born in the town. Of Wallasey’s population, 61.4 per cent had been born elsewhere. By 1914, therefore, Wirral was home to a multiplying and prosperous population employed in a cross-section of trades and professions who came from all over the United Kingdom. It was a diverse and dynamic society, both typical and singular.

Reactions to War in 1914 Wirral’s newspapers reveal that the Great War was not expected by the local population. The most worrying newspaper issue of the day was the possibility of civil war in Ireland, especially because there were many Irish people from both the Nationalist and Unionist factions residing in the area. During the 1990s, local veteran Ernest Haire remembered, “We were really afraid of what would happen and the war broke out and everything stopped.”8 Norman Ellison of Wallasey remembered thinking that the idea of war was “preposterous and impossible. I bought a new fishing rod and made plans for a holiday in North Wales with my schoolmaster friend, Alfred Kynaston.”9 On 8 August, the newspapers described people’s reactions and attitudes in greater detail. The Birkenhead Advertiser said: immediately war had been declared, a great calm fell on the public. It is not that they were afraid or depressed, rather they suppressed their feelings, and set their teeth with a determination to teach the German emperor that we are not a negligible country.

The West Kirby News said that “a blow has been struck at the vitals of summer,” while The Wallasey News described how “the military activities in New Brighton have created the greatest interest, but in common with other parts of the country the crowds have not shown any disposition to Mafeking.”10 There



is no evidence of exultation at the prospect of war. In The Birkenhead Advertiser of 12 August, W.H. Lever described it as a “catastrophe.” The same paper bore an advertisement saying, “Be normal, do not hoard, be frugal” while The West Kirby News of 15 August urged everybody to “carry on our daily avocations, duties and affairs.” The commonly held belief that Britain’s declaration of war was welcomed with delight is clearly not supported by the evidence from Wirral.11 However, once the war had begun, people seemed determined to get involved. It was perceived that Germany was threatening the British homeland and empire. Germany had to be opposed. There was a widespread mood of confidence, unity, and determination. The local newspapers contain editorials expressing these sentiments. One of the clearest appeared in the West Kirby News of 8 August: class and creed and politics are submerged in the overwhelming concern for home and empire. Loyalty and devotion speak an unassailable faith in the ability of those who have answered the country’s call in the hour of peril … ready to sacrifice and prepared to meet with restraint the demands a struggle of such dimensions may make. The spirit of patriotism is setting the land aglow, and we venture to say that greater fervour than that which exists in our own district is unknown.

People in Wirral believed that Britain had not wanted war. The Birkenhead Advertiser of the same date said that Great Britain’s participation in it was “none of our seeking,” while Councillor Richard Bird of Hoylake announced that “war had broken in upon us.”12 But now that the war had begun, the reasons for it were clear: Germany, personified by its Kaiser, had broken international laws and was threatening Britain’s security. It had to be stopped. The newspaper further said that Britain was fighting “To protect the small independent state of Belgium from the German maw.” War was a “ghastly and horrible method of settling disputes,” but it had become necessary and Britain was going to do its best. In the words of W.  Hollowell, Headmaster of Calday Grange School: “We must stand together now. We are united because we feel this is a Christian war, a war that teaches us that the pleasures and riches of life are not such great things after all.”13 Reverend Charles Roper echoed the sentiment in West Kirby when he said that the Germans had been taught “a corrupted morality of force” and that the British were fighting for “liberty of religion.”14 An “enthusiastic meeting” was held in Bromborough on the night of 14 August under the auspices of the Red Cross Society when Drs Carter and Kennedy gave talks about Germany’s war aims and said that “Britain stood today united in the cause of right. In the cause of that equality which she had always stood for.”15 There was no doubt that Britain was right and Germany wrong. Importantly, the war was also justified in local terms. On 23 September, at a recruiting meeting in Birkenhead, the mayor said:



We had scarcely yet realised what was taking place on the continent—cathedrals destroyed, towns burnt, women and children homeless (shame!). But though these outrages seemed far off they would take place in England too once the German got here, and the Briton whose blood did not boil at the very thought, and who was not stirred to prevent these outrages was not worthy of the name (cheers).16

On 20 November the prospective Liberal candidate for Wirral, A.J. Ashton, addressed a recruiting meeting in Ellesmere Port and said that unless the local people could “bring themselves to recognise what the struggle meant, they would do no work in Ellesmere Port in twelve or eighteen months’ time.” In other words, the Wirral way of life, its economy, and infrastructure would have been destroyed by Germany.17 The sentiment was echoed in March 1915 when E.C. Rees addressed a recruiting meeting in Birkenhead and claimed that the recent deaths of local soldiers in Flanders had occurred “on the heights of Tranmere and the slopes of Bidston.”18 Helen McCartney explains the phenomenon: “much of [the soldiers’] understanding of what the war was about had the domestic sphere at its heart.”19 This vision of a conflict which was happening abroad but which had intense local implications was an important motivation for people’s involvement. They were not going to sit back and let the war happen to them: they were going to participate in it, to prosecute it, and to do everything possible to ensure a final victory. De Groot confirms the perception: “the war seemed a noble cause, worthy of sacrifice. The nation responded. That response deserves immense admiration.”20 People of Wirral never thought that it would be a short war: there is no trace of anybody saying it would be over by Christmas. Here we have a vital foundation for the people’s later ability to endure a prolonged war: their understanding of and commitment to the cause allied with a comprehension of the need for sacrifice and mutual support. The people of Wirral, therefore, should not be viewed as hapless victims of a conflict which they did not understand but as eager and yet sober participants in a national struggle to defend their homes and empire and to stop the German despoliation of Belgium and France.

Welfare and Prosperity An understanding of the country’s war aims and a readiness to endure suffering would not, however, have been sufficient on their own: the people needed structures which could channel and actualise their eagerness to “do something.”21 In 1914 Wirral society was imbued with a fascinating combination of modernity and tradition, reform, and reaction. Many aspects of local life, such as consumerism and leisure pursuits, are recognisable to twenty-first-century readers, whereas others, such as religiosity, conservatism, and adherence to the class system seem less familiar. It is intriguing to observe how the two extremes intertwined to create the systems which enabled the people to participate in and to live through the Great War.



Following the outbreak of war, the armed forces needed to mobilise and expand. Unsurprisingly, many column inches of the local press, during 1914 and early 1915, were dedicated to recruitment, but another topic occupied almost as much space. It was introduced by Richard Henderson of Conway Street, at a recruiting meeting at Birkenhead Haymarket on Sunday 6 September 1914 when he shouted the question: “It’s all b … fine for you to stand there asking us to go to the front, but who the b … h … is going to keep our wives and families while we are out there?” A scuffle ensued and Richard was fined 20 shillings the following day at the Borough Police Court.22 It is ironic that he was punished rather than being given an answer to his question, because an answer existed; a network of charitable and civic organisations were preparing to help all local vulnerable people. They were building a welfare safety net to meet both immediate and expected needs. During the early twentieth century in the United Kingdom, charitable attitudes, self-help organisations, and official welfare provision had been combining to form a nascent “welfare state.” There is a general misconception that it was not until the Beveridge Report of 1944 which identified the “five giants” that a system of “cradle to the grave” care had been envisaged. But Wirral sources confirm the views of historians Pat Thane and Jay Winter that the foundations of Britain’s welfare state were being laid during the era of the Great War. Local welfare provision cushioned many vulnerable people from the worst effects of total war and must, therefore, have enabled a higher degree of resilience than would otherwise have been the case.23 Immediately after the war’s declaration, the Prince of Wales established his Relief Fund and Birkenhead Borough Council soon donated £1050.24 At the same time, the Birkenhead Central Relief and Provident Society, which had been founded in the pre-war years to care for Birkenhead’s unemployed, gave its offices to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association (SSFA). In 1919 The Birkenhead News Victory Souvenir averred that this was one reason why Birkenhead “was never overcome by the chaos and confusion which overtook so many towns.”25 Wallasey Corporation made similar contributions and decided that the efforts of all their local relief organisations would be managed via its existing distress committee headed by Sir James Gildea.26 All of Wirral’s district councils supported the Prince of Wales Relief Fund, but Birkenhead, due to its large working-class population, contained the most people in need, especially women whose husbands were on active service. On 7 September 1914, a committee of 70 “prominent ladies and gentlemen” was created to coordinate welfare. It contained representatives from the Borough Council, the Board of Guardians, The Birkenhead Trades and Labour Council, the churches, the Red Cross, the SSFA, The Charity Organisation Society, The Birkenhead Distress and Insurance Committees, The Birkenhead Medical Society, the trades unions, the Co-operative Guild, and local firms. Of the 57 people at the meeting of 10 September 1914, 16 were women, which hints at there being more opportunities for women than is often envisaged.27



Throughout the early twentieth century, women had been playing an increasingly important role in local government and within the voluntary, welfare, and charitable services with the trend continuing after the commencement of war.28 Indeed, of the 59 people nominated to collect West Kirby’s War Relief Fund, 42 were women. Mrs Julia Torr of Carlett Park was head of the Wirral branch of the SSFA.29 Local branches of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS or “Suffragists”) “suspended their normal political work” and dedicated their “entire organisation for the help of those who [were] sufferers as a result of industrial dislocation caused by the war.”30 A trickle of comments in the local newspapers provides limited details about wartime aid. By the end of 1914 after 20 weeks of existence, Wallasey SSFA had relieved some 1000 families at a cost of £20,000.31 The Birkenhead Advertiser of 5 September 1914 published a poignant description of the scene outside the SSFA offices on Argyle Street: Careful enquiries among the recipients failed to discover that there are any Birkenhead men among the war’s victims at the front, but there is a widespread belief that the Cheshires have been badly cut up, and many pale, tear-stained faces were to be seen among the women who came for their relief.

According to The Birkenhead Advertiser, by June 1915, the SSFA branches in Birkenhead had paid £12,961, Ellesmere Port £2235, and Wirral £1400 to servicemen’s dependents since the beginning of the year.32 Ellesmere Port’s figures are startling: during August 1914, The Birkenhead Advertiser stated that there were “reasons to believe that the town [was] experiencing the blackest period in its history.” Supplies of smelter to the iron works had been cut off, leaving 900 married men unemployed. There had been 200 applications for relief over the previous two days. A thousand homes were left with limited or no incomes and 3000 men were “walking about.” Seven hundred people were being fed at the voluntary soup kitchens and 6000 children were receiving free meals at a price of a halfpenny a head. People were being sustained by donations from employers, tradesmen, and farmers. Revealingly, however, during one public meeting at Ellesmere Port, E. Peter Jones of the Mersey Iron Works made the astonishing claim that “he was glad that Britain had taken part in the war” and that he would rather be “ruined ten times over than allow Germany to despoil the gallant Belgian nation (Applause),” which, although his belief might not have been shared by his workers, is further evidence of the widespread preparedness to make sacrifices for the national cause.33 Most of Wirral’s major employers were philanthropic. The largest in the district was Cammell Laird’s shipyard at Birkenhead. During the firm’s board meeting on 12 August 1914, the directors agreed to donate £2500 to the Prince of Wales’s Relief Fund, to support the families of all its workers who joined the armed forces.34 Unsurprisingly, the famously enlightened Sir W.H.  Lever, Director of the Port Sunlight soap works, was attentive to his employees’ needs. In March 1916 he reported that £44,588 had been paid to



the families of staff who had joined up and said that his employees had donated £4674 to the Prince of Wales’s Relief Fund.35 As the war progressed, local industries expanded and thereby not only reduced poverty by employing previously idle workers but also fuelled a rise in living standards by paying higher wages and war bonuses. Due to increased demand for new ships and for repairs to old ones, Cammell Laird’s boomed. In April 1916 directors said that “the firm’s output has been far in excess of anything hitherto achieved during the history of the company” and, after the war, reported that the firm had employed an average of 14,000 men and spent over seven and a half million pounds on wages.36 In 1918 the company was still advertising for extra staff and talking of a critical labour shortage. New employees were offered emergency accommodation and good wages.37 All employees received generous war bonuses, including “boys and women,” who by January 1918 were receiving an extra shilling and sixpence to five shillings a week.38 Lever Bros. also flourished, due to glycerine manufacture. In March 1916, Sir W.H. Lever reported that despite “possibly the most difficult conditions they had ever had to face,” the company was “progressing” and that during the previous year, they “had shown the biggest increase in all departments they had ever had.”39 By the middle of the war, even Ellesmere Port’s struggling ironworks were once again booming. In addition, Levinstein’s Dye Works had prospered due to increased demand for indigo and as such they planned to expand. The Manchester Ship Canal cement works also flourished following a change of ownership in June 1915.40 The Liverpool Daily Post of 4 September 1918 stated that “Ellesmere Port is not merely keenly interested in the advent of the new industry but already has visions of becoming a great industrial town.” Public employees also received generous pay rises and bonuses, leading to much discussion in the local press. For example, Wirral and Bromborough Councils’ roadmen’s wages were increased from 18 shillings to 24 shillings a week and their war bonuses from 3 shillings to 6 shillings per week in March 1917.41 The national picture was very similar and has been analysed by Jay Winter, who argued that wages and family incomes more than kept pace with wartime inflation and led to higher standards of living, especially for previously underpaid manual workers. Allied to this phenomenon was the maintenance of food supplies and improvements in working-class diet which led to longer life expectancy and decreased infant mortality, something which is also recorded in Wirral’s newspapers.42 The ability of the people of Wirral not only to survive but possibly even to flourish during the Great War can partly be explained by the material well-­ being of a large portion of the population. Pre-war philanthropic organisations co-operated after August 1914 to protect the people from the worst effects of war. The first people to suffer were absent servicemen’s dependents and the second were industrial workers in Ellesmere Port whose factories closed in consequence of the disruption of trade. Local evidence implies that both groups were effectively cared for early during the war. People benefited from a



boom in local industries which reduced unemployment and increased wages. Public employees were well paid and the wages of previously underpaid workers rose dramatically. Physical well-being was the foundation of communal resilience. Wirral’s local, nascent welfare state, comprising a range of charitable and official bodies, is the product of a complex, modern, and progressive society.

Beliefs and Attitudes Material well-being on its own would not have ensured stoicism during the Great War. Appropriate attitudes and beliefs were also necessary, especially if people were to cope with the appalling sufferings arising from the most horrific conflict in which Britain had ever been involved. Sources reveal the role of patriotism, a belief in the class system, an adherence to the concept of sacrifice, admiration for servicemen, and the importance of local heroes. During the pre-war years, patriotism had been fostered by most local institutions in Wirral. It is impossible to know how patriotic everybody was by 1914, but an abundance of evidence from local newspapers makes it clear that pride in Britain and in its empire coupled with an admiration for the armed forces and for the military values of discipline, courage, and manliness were regarded as essential sentiments. Sermons during Territorial Army church parades speak of such attitudes. For example, in May 1910, at St Saviour’s Church in Oxton, Merseyside, the vicar said that soldiering was “a duty which every physically capable citizen owed towards his king and country. To bear arms was an honourable occupation” and, in October 1912, the Bishop of Sodor and Man said, at St Mary’s in Birkenhead, “For his country the patriot was proud to live and for his country the patriot was prepared to die.”43 Local veterans retrospectively confirmed this perception and commented on the role of youth groups in inculcating militarism. Thomas Brown, during his 1987 interview, was enthusiastic about his organisation when he said, “The Church Lads Brigade Oh … We had our own brass band; we had camp every year. It was very useful for military drill and training.”44 The Birkenhead Advertiser of 30 September 1914 quoted Joe Hallows who said that his training with the Church Lads had helped him quickly to settle into army life. The newspaper also reported that the Bebington branch had supplied some 100 members for the armed forces. The Liverpool Echo of 10 October contained a similar article which said that the organisation did not “aim at militarism” but that many of the former church lads had already been promoted. The Boy Scouts and Boys’ Brigade fulfilled a similar function. By the end of August 1914, 20 of the boys who had belonged to the Neston branch under Captain Coventry were serving in the army.45 Admiration for the military coalesced with a reverence for royalty and social hierarchy. Edward VII’s death in 1910 and the coronation of George V in 1911 were described in great detail by the local press and observed with enormous sincerity and reverence by local people. Beliefs like those expressed by



J. Middleton of the Wallasey Independent Labour Party in May 1911, when he protested against “the excessive expenditure of £900 for coronation festivities in view of the fact that no money could be raised for the feeding of necessitous school children,” were uncommon.46 Royal visits to Birkenhead in March 1914 and May 1917 were celebrated with almost religious fervour. Local figureheads and dignitaries were viewed with comparable awe, their doings and pronouncements receiving detailed coverage in the local press. Sir W.H Lever and his wife were Wirral’s de facto royal family. When Lady Lever died, The Birkenhead News of 28 May 1913 described the event as “a bombshell” for the local area.47 Local figureheads were not only revered but, in practical ways, helped the area to mobilise for war and to remain determined and confident during four years of struggle. In August 1914, W.H. Lever and Gershom Stewart MP created the 13th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment or “Wirral Battalion.” It contained more people from a single factory (Lever’s soap works at Port Sunlight) than any other British battalion. Famously, some 750 recruits travelled by rail, amidst great ceremony and emotion, from Port Sunlight to Chester on 7 September 1914. Lever continued to act as the battalion’s benefactor. Not only had he urged all of his male staff aged 19–35 to join up, but he made it possible for them to do so by continuing to pay recruits half their salaries and promising to keep their situations open for when they returned. He also provided members of “his” battalion with personal encouragement, comforts, and necessities such as food, cutlery, and footballs.48 The other great regional figurehead was the 17th Earl of Derby. He was based near Liverpool, at Knowsley Hall, but his ancestors came from Wirral; he was the most famous aristocrat in the region and is credited with inventing the idea of Pals Battalions.49 In 1919 he explained the innovation as follows: when I proposed the formation of … the Pals’ Brigade, I merely voiced the wish expressed to me by many would-be recruits that they should be allowed to serve with their friends. The appeal was, therefore, likely to be a great success before it was even made.50

About 10 per cent of the Liverpool Pals came from Wirral, most of whom were clerks working for Liverpool merchant and shipping companies. They managed to maintain a strong sense of comradeship and regional identity, which combined with some successes on the Western Front, and the paternal oversight of the Earl of Derby enabled them to endure over three years of fighting.51 It is often asserted that if the civilians on the home front had possessed any inkling of what was happening to their menfolk on the fighting fronts, they would have called for an end to the war or even begun a revolution. The notion is not supported by evidence from Wirral. Local newspapers were full of articles about local men serving in the armed forces. Special attention was given to families who had many members in uniform. They were elevated as examples to emulate. Mrs Cheetham of Cambridge Road, Ellesmere Port, had seven



relatives, including three sons, in the army.52 One of them was only 18 and had been taken prisoner within a month of arriving at the front. Mrs Barlow of Great Meols had 21 relatives in the forces. The Birkenhead Advertiser of 27 November 1915 said that she had “attained the ripe old age of 85 and [spoke] with pardonable pride of having eleven grandsons, three nephews and seven half nephews doing their bit for King and country. This would almost seem to constitute a record on Deeside.” These two women and thousands of others in Wirral must have experienced many more much less pleasant emotions than pride—dread, anxiety, and grief being amongst the most common and the most painful. It is hard to imagine how local people managed to function normally under such strain. Understanding of, and commitment to, the country’s war aims to provide part of the explanation, but the widespread belief in the value of sacrifice must also be understood. Sir Douglas Haig, the Commander in Chief of the British Expeditionary Force himself, famously expressed his belief in the concept when he wrote this in a letter to British newspapers in May 1916: The lessons which the people of England have to learn are patience, self-sacrifice, and confidence … The aim for which the war is being waged is the destruction of German militarism. Three years of war and the loss of one-tenth of the manhood of the nation is not too great a price to pay in so great a cause.53

Judging by the evidence from Wirral it appears that Haig was preaching to the converted. The word “sacrifice” permeates contemporary prose. Soldiers who had died were said to have made the “ultimate sacrifice.” A list of casualties in The Ellesmere Port Advertiser of 8 May 1917 begins with the words “killed on Easter Day” when talking about the death of John Pore of West Kirby, implying a parallel with Christ’s Passion. Further down, Private J. Jackson of Hoylake is said to have “died the best of deaths, a death for others” and typically is described as having been “killed instantly … without any pain.” Stanley Kennaugh of Heswall received special praise because he combined deference to his superiors with a willingness to die when he wrote in his last letter that he admired his officer and felt that “a chap could follow him anywhere.” The paper said, “It is in that spirit that Private Kennaugh has laid down his life nobly and willingly.” Women were urged to accept their losses selflessly. Two letters from the front contain extraordinary words. The first was published in The Birkenhead News of 26 May 1915. It was written by Sergeant-Major M. Quigley to Mrs Evans of Camden Street, Birkenhead, whose son, Private H.  Williams, had been killed; he said, “I know it is a sad and hard blow to those at home when they lose their dear ones, but is the penalty that mothers and wives must pay.” The fact that Mrs Evans had submitted the letter to the newspaper implies that she approved of the sentiment. The second appears in the service records of Private Samuel Andrew of Liscard killed in action on 27 March 1918. It was lovingly written by an Australian soldier called Harry Sharpe who described



discovering and burying Samuel’s body on the roadside. He said, “It is very hard for you dear women to lose your dear ones, but your dear husband has paid the great penalty in the cause of his king and country. No finer death could be possible.”54 When the war memorial on Grange Hill in West Kirby was dedicated in December 1922, Mrs Johnstone, who had lost six sons, laid the first wreath, prompting the local newspaper to say: Such a family is entitled to be remembered with affectionate pride wherever the English language is spoken … surely never did one family give an example more glorious of the qualities which made the Empire and can alone preserve it.55

Mike Finn has analysed the role of the “local hero” in building a sense of community on Merseyside.56 An analysis of Wirral’s newspapers supports and complements his hypothesis. The hundreds of articles describing the loyalty and self-sacrifice of men from every class are striking and profoundly moving. There is no doubt that all of them were regarded as heroes, but some were given exceptional coverage. Chief amongst these were Victoria Cross winners, Cyril Gourley (1893–1982) of West Kirby, and Frank Lester (1896–1918) of Irby. Officers gained fame by dying when leading their men into battle. Captain Arthur Twentyman (1876–1914) of the Liverpool Scottish (a territorial battalion) is a classic example.57 His death, according to The Birkenhead News of 5 December 1914, came as “a great shock” to local people. Two weeks later, the same newspaper published a letter from Private Sydney Adams of Poulton, who was one of six soldiers who carried Twentyman’s body back to the lines. He left us with a poignant image of the devoted soldiers bringing their beloved officer home for burial: “We lost a very fine man in Captain A. Twentyman … We had a pretty warm time carrying the poor chap away from the firing line.” Frank Case of West Kirby was one of the group. He died in France on 19 August 1916. Probably because his father was a local councillor, his adventures had already received a lot of coverage in the local press. His most haunting words were published after his death, including a sanitised description of how he despatched enemy soldiers who were hiding in their dugouts: “a bomb thrown down upon them quietens the whole lot. I could provide you with further details about the things I have seen, but it would make you ‘creep’ for a week.” Case is testament to a remarkable phenomenon that helped to preserve the morale of Britain’s citizen soldiers. This was how they managed to stay mentally at home wherever they were, often by meeting and talking about and to old friends. Frank listed eight other local soldiers he had met and concluded, “It makes one forget the war for a few minutes and does one good to have a local chat.” In return, the people at home stayed connected to their soldiers. Young men like Frank captured the public’s imagination and were “adopted” by local women and children who sent them letters and gifts. Frank was wounded in an accident involving an ammunition transport. He was taken to a casualty clearing station where one of the medics was an acquaintance, Fred Fowles, a teacher in Hoylake. Fred wrote:



Fortunately, I was on night duty, and was soon at his side … Conscious as he was all the time, he stuck it like a true Briton, and all present, including the officers, marvelled at his wonderful pluck and fortitude throughout … On leaving the dressing station his last words were, ‘Just write and tell my Dad I’m not a bit downhearted.’

He signed off with the words: “I cannot write more at present. I’ve no heart to do so after twelve hours’ strenuous duty amongst sights that are too awful for words.”58 The above extracts are typical, despite not describing the most shocking results of warfare; people were left in no doubt that destruction, suffering, and death were now unavoidable, thereby reinforcing the importance of stoicism and sacrifice. People did not continue to support the war because they did not know what it was really like but they believed that the war was necessary despite its horrors. Due to correspondence between the home and fighting fronts and the way in which the press published a great deal of it, civilians had no illusions about what was really going on. The portrayal of servicemen as heroes was a vital component in the reciprocal maintenance of morale.

Conclusion By concentrating upon the evidence from a representative region within Britain, it is apparent that, firstly, the most vulnerable were cushioned from the war’s worst social and economic consequences, secondly, the war caused some people’s living standards to rise, and, thirdly, the people were imbued with beliefs and attitudes bolstered by intimate links between the home and fighting fronts, entailing a vision of soldiers as heroes. This enabled them not merely to survive the Great War but actively and confidently to prosecute it. Details resulting from this analysis have corroborated the findings of historians such as De Groot (2014), Finn (2010), McCartney (2013), Pennell (2012), Thane (1998), and Winter (1986) who have studied Britain as a whole. The above discussion has also shed further light on the history of Wirral itself. In this regard, Wirral can be seen both as a microcosm of the United Kingdom and as a unique locality.

Notes 1. Anthony D.M.  Phillips and Colin B.  Phillips, eds., A New Historical Atlas of Cheshire (Chester: Cheshire County Council and Cheshire Community Council Publications Trust, 2002), 74, 90, 92 and 102. 2. Census figures in Eric H. Rideout, The Growth of Wirral (Liverpool: E.A. Bryant, 1927), 99 and The History Data Service, University of Essex, http://www. 3. Edward Hubbard and Michael Shippobottom, A Guide to Port Sunlight Village Including Two Tours of the Village (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1988); Stephen J. Roberts, A History of Wirral (Chichester: Phillimore, 2002), 151– 153; Adam MacQueen, The King of Sunlight: How William Lever Cleaned Up The World (London: Corgi, 2011), 55–81.



4. Peter J. Aspinall, Daphne M. Hudson and Richard Lawton, Ellesmere Port: The Making of an Industrial Borough (Ellesmere Port: Ellesmere Port, Neston and South Wirral Borough Council, 1982), 55–56. 5. Geoffrey Place, Neston 1840–1940 (Burton: Burton and South Wirral Local History Society, 1996), 57–98; Stephen J.  Roberts, Hoylake and Meols Past (Chichester: Phillimore, 1992), 70–77. 6. An estimate based on the proportion of Cheshire’s population employed by the railways with a small increase to take into account Wirral’s comparatively dense railway network. 7. George Philip & Son, A New Historical Atlas, 78–79; The Liverpool Echo 25/4/1911 and The Birkenhead News 3/6/1911. 8. Liddle Collection WW1/Gall/041. 9. David R.  Lewis, ed., Remembrances of Hell: The Diary of Norman Ellison (Shrewsbury: Airlife, 1998), 22. 10. Mafeking in this context refers to the type of hysterical nationalistic celebration which occurred after the relief of Mafeking in South Africa on 17 May 1900 following a 217-day Boer siege. 11. For an example of a district which did not welcome the declaration of war, see G.J. Bryant, “Bolton and the Outbreak of the First World War,” The Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 138 (1988), 181–190; Stephen J.  Roberts, “Did the People of Britain Welcome the Declaration of War in August 1914?,” The History Review, 52 (December 2005), obtainable at http:// and Catriona Pennell, A Kingdom United: Popular Responses to the Outbreak of the First World War in Britain and Ireland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 22–56 for discussions of the complexity of reactions throughout Britain. 12. The West Kirby News 22/8/14. 13. The West Kirby News 12/9/14. 14. The West Kirby News 17/10/14. 15. The Birkenhead News 15/8/14. 16. The Birkenhead Advertiser 26/9/14. 17. The Birkenhead News 21/11/14. 18. The Birkenhead Advertiser 27/3/15. 19. Helen B. McCartney, “North-West Infantry Battalions and Local Patriotism in the First World War,” in N. Mansfield, ed., The Great War in the North West, Manchester Region History Review, 24 (2013), 1–13 (5). 20. Gerard J.  De Groot, Back in Blighty: The British at Home in World War One (London: Vintage, 2014), 435. 21. A phrase used by several veterans, such as Thomas Brown, Cecil Tomlinson, William Tobey, and John Mallalieu when answering questions during the 1980s and 1990s; their interviews are available at the Imperial War Museum Sound Archive. 22. The Birkenhead News 9/9/1914. 23. Pat Thane, Foundations of the Welfare State (London: Longman, 1998), 49–53 and J. Winter, The Great War and the British People (London: Macmillan, 1986), 240–242. 24. The Birkenhead News 12/8/14. 25. The Birkenhead News Victory Souvenir (Birkenhead: Willmer Bros, n.d.), 133.



26. The Wallasey News 12/8/14 and 26/8/14. 27. Ibid. 28. For example, the Birkenhead and District Women’s Local Government Association was very active. See its records at Wirral Archives YPX/98. 29. Julia Torr née Holmes (1845–1920), wife of Canon William Edward Torr (1851–1924) of Carlett Park in Eastham; the family’s wealth derived from Liverpool trade. See R.  Hutchings, Carlett Park: A College With a History (Birkenhead: Countyvise, 1994), 15–21. 30. The Birkenhead News 15/8/14, 22/8/14, and 12/9/14, The West Kirby News 3/10/14. 31. The Liverpool Daily Post 25/1/1915. 32. The Birkenhead Advertiser 12/6/1915. 33. The Birkenhead Advertiser 19, 22, and 29/8/14. 34. Cammell Laird Board Meetings Minute Book 10, 179, Wirral Archives Z/CL2. 35. The Liverpool Daily Post 31/3/16. 36. The Liverpool Daily Post 11/4/16, The Birkenhead News Victory Souvenir, 49. Kenneth Warren, Steel, Ships and Men: Cammell Laird and Company 1824–1993 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1998), 173–200. 37. Advertisement in The Liverpool Echo 13/4/18. 38. Cammell Laird Minute Book 10, 16/1/18. 39. The Liverpool Daily Post 31/3/16. 40. The Belfast Newsletter 21/6/15. 41. The Ellesmere Port Advertiser 14 and 21/3/17. 42. Winter, The Great War and the British People, 213–245. For example, The Birkenhead News 26/1/18, 10/7/18, and 27/7/17 which talk about the efficacy of rationing. There are also references to council allotments, for example, The Birkenhead News 12/5/17—a photograph of women working on a new plot in Birkenhead. Poverty figures are difficult to find; for example, the minutes of the Birkenhead Guardians (Wirral Archives B/500/33-37) do not contain any references to numbers of people in receipt of relief, and relevant newspaper reports are erratic and imprecise. 43. The Birkenhead News 25/5/1910, 6/9/1911, and 8/10/1912. Anne Summers, “Militarism in Britain Before the Great War,” History Workshop, 2 (Autumn, 1976), 104–123 and Arlie J. Hoover, God, Germany, and Britain in the Great War: A Study in Clerical Nationalism (New York: Praeger, 1989). 44. Imperial War Museum Recording 10081. 45. See J.O. Springhall, “The Boy Scouts, Class and Militarism in Relation to British Youth Movements 1908–1930,” The International Review of Social History, 16 (1971), 125–158. 46. The Liverpool Echo 11/5/11. 47. MacQueen, The King of Sunlight, 232–233. 48. The Birkenhead Advertiser 12/9/14. 49. Edward George Villiers Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby (1865–1948); Randolph S. Churchill, Lord Derby, King of Lancashire (London: Heinemann, 1959)184– 352, Peter Simkins, Kitchener’s Army: The Raising of the New Armies 1914–16 (Barnsley: Pen and Sword 2007), 58–59. 50. Graham Maddocks, Liverpool Pals: The 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Battalions of The King’s Liverpool Regiment 1914–1919 (Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 1991), 22–28.



51. Figures based on casualty lists in Maddocks, Liverpool Pals, 216–245. 52. The Ellesmere Port Advertiser 8/9/15. 53. Douglas Haig’s Diaries and Letters, The National Archives, London, WO 256/10. 54. The National Archives, London, WO 363. 55. The Deeside Advertiser 22/12/22. 56. Mike Finn, “The Realities of War”, History Today, 52(8) (August 2002), 26–31 and “Local Heroes: War News and the Construction of ‘Community’ in Britain, 1914–18”, Historical Research, 83 (2010), 520–538. 57. Helen B.  McCartney, Citizen Soldiers: The Liverpool Territorials in the First World War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005). 58. The Deeside Advertiser 18/8/16.

References “About the History Data Service Collection”. History Data Service. Accessed January 15, 2018. Anon. The Birkenhead News Victory Souvenir. Birkenhead: Wilmer Bros. Aspinall, Peter J., Daphne M Hudson, and Richard Lawton, Ellesmere Port: The Making of an Industrial Borough. Ellesmere Port: Ellesmere Port, Neston and South Wirral Borough Council, 1982. Birkenhead Board of Guardians Minute Books B/500/33-37. United Kingdom: Wirral Archives. Birkenhead and District Women’s Local Government Association Records YPX/98. United Kingdom: Wirral Archives. Brown, Thomas, Cecil Tomlinson, William Tobey, and Johyn Mallalieu. Recordings of Interviews with Great War Soldiers: Thomas Brown, Cecil Tomlinson, William Tobey and John Mallalieu. United Kingdom: Imperial War Museum London. Bryant, G.J. “Bolton and the Outbreak of the First World War”. The Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire 138 (1988): 181–190. Cammell Laird Board Meetings Minute Book 10, 179, Z/CL2. United Kingdom: Wirral Archives. Churchill, Randolph S. Lord Derby, King of Lancashire. London: Heinemann, 1959. De Groot, Gerard J. Back in Blighty: The British at Home in World War One. London: Vintage, 2014. Finn, Mike. “The Realities of War”. History Today, 52, no. 8 (2002): 26–31. ———. “Local Heroes: War News and the Construction of ‘Community’ in Britain, 1914–18”. Historical Research, 83 (2010): 520–538. Haig, Douglas. Douglas Haig’s Diaries and Letters. WO 256/10. London, United Kingdom: National Archives. Haire, Ernest. Transcription of Interview with Ernest Haire WW1/Gall/041. United Kingdom: Liddle Collection University of Leeds. Hoover, Arlie J.  God, Germany, and Britain in the Great War: A Study in Clerical Nationalism. New York: Praeger, 1989. Hubbard, Edward, and Michael Shippobottom, A Guide to Port Sunlight Village Including Two Tours of the Village. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1988. Hutchings, Hazel. Carlett Park: A College With a History. Birkenhead: Countyvise, 1994.



Lewis, David R., ed. Remembrances of Hell: The Diary of Norman Ellison. Shrewsbury: Airlife, 1998. MacQueen, Adam. The King of Sunlight: How William Lever Cleaned Up The World. London: Corgi, 2011. McCartney, Helen B. Citizen Soldiers: The Liverpool Territorials in the First World War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. ———. “‘North-West Infantry Battalions and Local Patriotism in the First World War’. In N. Mansfield, ed., The Great War in the North West”. Manchester Region History Review 24 (2013): 1–13. Maddocks, Graham. Liverpool Pals: The 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Battalions of The King’s Liverpool Regiment 1914–1919. Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 1991. Pennell, Catriona. A Kingdom United: Popular Responses to the Outbreak of the First World War in Britain and Ireland. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Phillips, Anthony D.M., and Colin B. Phillips, eds., A New Historical Atlas of Cheshire. Chester: Cheshire County Council and Cheshire Community Council Publications Trust, 2002. Place, Geoffrey. Neston 1840–1940. Burton: Burton and South Wirral Local History Society, 1996. Rideout, Eric H. The Growth of Wirral. Liverpool: E.A. Bryant, 1927. Roberts, Stephen J. Hoylake and Meols Past. Chichester: Phillimore, 1992. ———. A History of Wirral. Chichester: Phillimore, 2002. ———. “Did the People of Britain Welcome the Declaration of War in August 1914?” The History Review, 52 (December 2005). Simkins, Peter. Kitchener’s Army: The Raising of the New Armies 1914–16. Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2007. Soldiers’ Service Records, WO 363. United Kingdom: National Archives London. Springhall, J.O. “The Boy Scouts, Class and Militarism in Relation to British Youth Movements 1908–1930”. The International Review of Social History, 16 (1971): 125–158. Summers, Anne. “Militarism in Britain Before the Great War”, History Workshop, 2 (Autumn, 1976): 104–123. Thane, Pat. Foundations of the Welfare State. London: Longman, 1998. The Birkenhead News. The Birkenhead Advertiser. The Deeside Advertiser. The Ellesmere Port Advertiser. The Liverpool Echo. The Wallasey News. The West Kirby News. Warren, Kenneth. Steel, Ships and Men: Cammell Laird and Company 1824–1993. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1998. Winter, Jay. The Great War and the British People. London: Macmillan, 1986.


Touring the Battlefields of the Somme with the Michelin and Somme Tourisme Guidebooks Caroline Winter

For Norman and Walter

Introduction Before the Great War of 1914–1918, the Somme in France was in Brian Osborne’s words, an agricultural “bucolic landscape,” but by 1916 it had become “a dystopian warscape.”1 The war’s devastation was so great that it was generally thought agriculture would never return to the area.2 By the 1930s however, the battlefields had been cleared and a sizeable proportion of the citizens had returned to their farms and begun to restore their previous way of life.3 As Mandy Morris argues, particularly in reference to military cemeteries, the evidence of the war was “smoothed over” so that a century later the old battlefields present, if only on the surface, a serene pastoral.4 Hundreds of war memorials are now a feature of the landscape, standing in stead for the thousands of men killed in the battles of long ago. Travel is an integral component of the processes designed to remember the Great War, and across the globe tourists are one of the largest groups to visit war memorials and museums.5 As Tony Seaton showed through his analysis of Waterloo, tourism is also acknowledged as an important mechanism in creating the memories of war.6

C. Winter (*) William Angliss Institute, Melbourne, VIC, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




This chapter analyses two tourist guidebooks, the 1920 Michelin Guide to the Somme7 and the Somme Tourisme 2016 Centenary Guide.8 They represent two periods in time following the Great War and illustrate the t­ ransformation of the battlefields from a warscape to a memoryscape. The guides also reflect the changes in the former combatant societies as a result of generational change, technology, historical knowledge, and education.9 Together, all of the memorials, the practices of remembrance, and the activities of the tourism industry help to form what can be described as a commemorative apparatus within which today’s visitors engage with the war. As part of this apparatus, the guidebooks represent the remarkable resilience and stability of remembrance practice for the Great War over the century.

Clearing the Battlefields and Creating Memorials The Great War was fought between August 1914 and November 1918 along a narrow but lengthy trench line of 700 km stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss border and resulted in the deaths of 10 million people.10 The Battle of the Somme infamously began at approximately 7.30  a.m. on July 1, 1916, when 100,000 British infantry advanced towards the German lines. At the end of that first day, 20,000 British soldiers had been killed and a further 40,000 wounded. When the battle ended in mid-November, the total casualties (dead and wounded) for Britain and her “Dominions” (at which time included Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa) totalled 432,000 with similar numbers for Germany.11 In 1917, the British formally established the Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC) to begin planning for the post-war burial of the dead, which was to occur within some set parameters: no bodies were to be repatriated to home countries but were to be buried as close as possible to where they had fallen in graves of a standard design. All of the dead would be remembered by being named on either a headstone or a memorial.12 Across all theatres of the War, in 1919 the British counted 580,000 identified and 180,000 unidentified graves, with 530,000 missing men. Across the length of the Western Front, the IWGC ultimately built a 1000 military cemeteries, and enormous monuments listing the names of the missing, on land that the French and Belgium governments had set aside.13 Immediately after hostilities ceased, an urgent and intense search for, and recovery of, bodies was made on the battlefields by the IWGC.  According to Philip Longworth “Every battlefield was examined at least six and some as many as twenty times,” and many bodies were exhumed from isolated and smaller sites to be reinterred into larger consolidation cemeteries.14 All combatant countries paid respect to their dead through formal burial and naming, but only the British buried unidentified remains in individual graves. Today, the Somme landscape is dominated by 410 military cemeteries and numerous memorials of Britain and her allies, together with 22 French military cemeteries and 14 German cemeteries.15



The Role of Travel The burial practices adopted by the IWGC meant that the relationship between the dead and the land was publicly and intimately connected, with families, ex-­ servicemen, and tourists wanting to see the places at which major events had occurred. Geography thus became integral to the social memory of the Great War, where the magnitude of death was, as Thomas Laqueur observes, made visible by the line of cemeteries.16 These memorials attracted many visitors, with the largest group being the British Legion pilgrimage of 10,000 people in 1928.17 Travel by tourists waned somewhat in later years, but David Lloyd suggests that people were tired of visiting ruins and were more attracted to new destinations that had opened up in the South of France. On the other hand, costs and access had become easier, thus encouraging visitation by other members of the public, with peak visitation of 112,000 people from June to August 1938, the year before the Second World War.18 As a result of this high visitation, the sites of larger battles, such as the Somme and the Ypres Salient (now known as the area around the city of Ieper), rapidly became centres for pilgrims and tourists. Even the most devout pilgrims need access to basic services and recreation, and today visitors are supported by a large tourism industry that provides accommodation and hospitality services, information, tours, and access.19 Battlefield visitation has been sustained over the century and in 2016, numbers increased by 11.4% at Thiepval to 189,000, by 4.5% at Beaumont-Hamel to 165,250, and by 15.5% to the Somme museum in Albert, reaching 79,760 visitors.20 In the 1920s, the battlefields were self-evident, but within a few years of them being cleared, even the sites of significant battles were not identifiable unless a visitor possessed a good knowledge of geography and history. One of the roles of tourism is that it “makes explicit that which is implicit in the local landscape.”21 This may be achieved by simple signage, such as the small notice just outside La Boisselle, on the main road linking Albert to Pozières that simply reads Ligne de front, 1er juillet 1916. Dean MacCannell identified a further stage in touristic communications and, in applying the notion of the sign, suggested that a “marker” signifies a meaning and the specialness of a place.22 Thus the apparently simple sign on the roadside signifies not only the beginning of the Battle of the Somme but mass death, grief, and the terrible destructive power of industrial war. One of the most common ways in which these markers can be indicated is through tourist guidebooks.

Guidebooks Guidebooks provide basic information to help travellers negotiate people, cultures, and places, but they are rarely passive or impartial and in their selections and information can privilege some places over others or influence perceptions about cultural values and importance. Deborah Bhattacharyya comments that a guidebook “mediates the relationship between tourist and destination, as



well as the relationship between host and guest,” providing “a cognitive framework” for interpretation.23 A guidebook can also be considered as a means of “communicative mediation” which “acts as a culture broker” between hosts and guests.24 These perceptions can be created by the number of sources used, the repetition of limited themes, and be informed by discourses external to the destination.25 Guidebooks can construct a particular view of a place, simply by selection and exclusion of text, photographs, information, and interpretations.26 This in turn can influence the tourist’s selection of sites to visit in the first instance, and as Peter Siegenthaler found, for example, guidebooks at two Second World War sites could “both enact and reflect the habit of selective remembering.”27 Through the inclusion and exclusion of ideas, texts, and images, places can be constructed as the subject of a “gaze” in which some themes that are of interest to tourists come to dominate others.28 Popular interpretations of landscape, for example, were created for English and European travellers, through some styles of poetry and painting, which portrayed limited views, such as “the picturesque” and “the sublime,” and represented supposedly ideal interpretations of their own cultures.29 Similarly, in the 1930s America, John Jakle writes that “Tourists were taught to value a narrow spectrum of landscapes” by government promotions, guidebooks, slide evenings, and museum exhibits.30 As a result of extensive newspaper reporting during the war, the public in Britain was aware of the battlefields; they knew the names of the villages and wanted to see them and to understand the soldiers’ experiences.31 To assist travellers, at least 30 guidebooks in English were published throughout the inter-war period, with Michelin being the most prolific.32

The State of the Battlefields in the 1920s and 1930s The inter-war period was a time of great change on the battlefields, as the war debris was cleared and the cemeteries and other monuments were constructed. That is, this was the period in which the aspect of the commemorative apparatus formed by the construction of the memorials was designed and built. By 1921, 300,000 graves in 351 cemeteries were under construction by the IWGC, with 500 cemeteries on the Western Front being completed by 1927. By 1931, 50,000 headstones had been erected.33 The year of peak intensity for the IWGC was 1924, but graves were still being found in large numbers in 1937.34 Amongst these massive reconstruction projects, the first tourist guidebooks were published, and people began visiting the battlefields in greater numbers. The inauguration dates of some of the main sites on the Somme indicate how the landscape changed between 1920 and 2016. Table 6.1 shows that the majority of large national monuments on the Somme were inaugurated in the 1930s, with Australia being the last, in 1938. New memorials were still being built from the 1970s to 1990s and even recently, a new cemetery and museum were built at Fromelles, and a substantial visitor centre, known as the Sir John Monash Centre, is scheduled to open near VillersBretonneux in 2018.



Table 6.1  Inauguration dates of major memorials on the Somme Inter-war period



First CWGCa cemeteries completed, 1920 Ulster Tower, 1921 New Zealand Memorial, Longueval, 1922 Newfoundland Memorial, Beaumont-Hamel, 1925 Australian Memorial Pozières, 1925b Thiepval, 1932 Chapel of Remembrance, Rancourt, 1937 American Memorial Cantigny, 1937 Australian National Memorial, 1938

Lochnagar crater, purchased 1978 by Richard Dunning South African Memorial, 1986 Welsh dragon, Mametz, 1987

Thiepval Visitor Centre, 2004 Fromelles museum, 2013 SJMCc, 2018 projected, Villers-Bretonneux

Historial of the Great War, 1992 Australian Memorial Park, Fromelles, 1998

CWGC is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (formally Imperial War Graves Commission) Date of inauguration is approximate c SJMC is the Sir John Monash Centre, scheduled to open at the Australian National Memorial in 2018 a


Battlefield Travellers: Pilgrims and Tourists This section draws upon David Lloyd’s book Battlefield Tourism: Pilgrimage and the Commemoration of the Great War in Britain, Australia and Canada, which is concerned with the inter-war years. Although it is difficult to determine exactly who battlefield travellers were during this period, the majority of travellers were the bereaved and ex-servicemen who sought graves and markers of their lost families and comrades-in-arms.35 The notion of visitation as pilgrimage related to the portrayal of battlefields as sacred places: “It also expressed the belief that the wartime sacrifice offered by the fallen was sacred and that the nation was obligated to respect that sacrifice.”36 Indeed, as Lloyd notes “As a mystical figure, the Unknown Warrior ranked just behind Jesus Christ in the 1920s.”37 Catherine Bell defines sacredness as a characteristic of a place that is special in some way, which need not be religious, but can also relate to some other desire for higher-level experiences by an individual.38 Peter Slade, for example, refers to Australians’ motivations to visit the 1915 Gallipoli battlefield in Turkey as secular pilgrimage based on nationalism.39 Tourists, who were mainly from the upper and middle classes, formed a third identifiable group that visited the battlefields in the inter-war years. Lloyd argues that this wealthy group was accustomed to European travel and sought to distinguish themselves as superior to other battlefield visitors.40 He argues further that they used the language of “anti-tourism” and the aspects of pilgrimage that related to the attainment of spiritual and higher-level experiences and meanings at special sites, to differentiate themselves from what they perceived as inferior tourists.41 In these early years after the war there were reservations about the



appropriateness of touristic travel to battlefields, and guidebooks were sensitive to this.42 All the same, the close proximity of tourists and the bereaved on the battlefields was a source of tension and unease in the early years after the war because of their differing interests.43 Mark Connelly argues that the way in which tourists adopted the respectful behaviours of pilgrims helped to soften the potential conflict between these two groups.44 Current conceptualisations of travel to sacred sites, such as battlefields and shrines, regard tourists as sophisticated and sensitive to the characteristics of places and not necessarily prone to engaging in stereotypical, inappropriate practices. According to Victor and Edith Turner “the most characteristic modern pilgrimage is blended with tourism, and involves a major journey, usually by modern means of transportation, to a national or international shrine.”45 Other researchers have found that pilgrimage places are similar to other tourist destinations in being multifaceted and appealing to people with different sets of motives.46 On the Great War battlefields, the notion of travel as pilgrimage, involving paying respect to the dead, has persisted across the century so that it is difficult to distinguish a pilgrim from a tourist.47 Jennifer Iles writes that “the tourist is more than a disembodied sightseer”48 and Ria Dunkley et al. suggest that battlefield visitors can be described as “an emotionally sensitive, nuanced and reflexive constituency.”49

Analysing the Guidebooks The two guidebooks analysed here (the 1920 Michelin Guide to the Somme and the Somme Tourisme 2016 Centenary Guide) are well known, easily accessible, and respected publications in the area of battlefield tourism. Even without the various historical and technological differences that impact their offering, these two guides present different styles of battlefield tourism that reveal the nature of their underlying approaches over the centenary. All the same, it is important to mention that they are but two sources of information that were available to tourists at the time they were first published. For example, Somme Tourisme also publishes other guides, including an annual “non-­ war” version, and in 2016 Michelin published an updated guidebook for the Somme battlefields, as part of a series to mark the centenary.50 It is similar in style to the original series, but it now includes a vast number of memorials and other sites and sights that were either not present in 1920 or existed in a different form. Michelin Tyre Co. The Somme: Volume 1. The First Battle of the Somme (1916–1917) (Albert, Bapaume, Peronne)51 The Michelin Guide to the Somme was originally published in the 1920s and was dedicated, “In memory of the Michelin workmen and employees who died gloriously for their country.”52 G.H. Smith and Son republished the guides, beginning with the Somme in 1993, and, with the exception of a two-page



Introduction, no alterations of any kind were made to the text.53 In the introduction, A.J.  Peacock states that information was “often clearly based on authentic army sources which did not become freely available to researchers until the 1970s.”54 A total of 127 places are referenced in the index, of which 105 are villages, and 22 are woods and farms, with some battle features, such as redoubts and topographical sites. There are numerous maps: 7 large (half page) and 30 small size showing the trench lines at different stages of the campaign. Interspersed throughout the text are a total of 179 black-and-white photographs depicting places before and after the war. The guide is in three parts, with an initial 28-page history of the first Battle of the Somme and touring details for two one-day tours of the battlefield. The first advice given to travellers in the guide is that “it is advisable not to rely upon being able to obtain supplies, but take a luncheon basket and petrol with you from Amiens.”55 The guide is designed for those travelling in a private (or hired) vehicle, who would be described today as “free independent travellers.” This analysis deals with Day 1 only, given that both days are relatively similar in presentation and style. Day 1 follows most of the current “Remembrance Trail” (Peronne is on Day 2) extending from Beaumont-Hamel, north to Bapaume, then east to Longueval, and down to Carnoy. From Amiens on Day 2, the route travels along the Somme valley to Peronne and north to Combles. The present-day trail is based in Albert, and even though the objective of the Somme campaign was to capture Bapaume, it is no longer part of the main tourist route (the Remembrance Trail). This is probably because most of the large memorials were built on the Pozières ridge to commemorate the men lost in the battle.  ay 1: Amiens, Albert, Thiepval, Bapaume (132 km) D The 1920 Guide is overwhelmingly focused on historical information, with maps and photographs depicting the (at the time) current state of the battlefields, as a landscape of destruction, ruined villages, and abandoned military installations. Lloyd argues that the focus on the ruins of pre-war major attractions “formed part of a wider emphasis in the Michelin guides upon the ­wartime atrocities perpetrated by the Germans.”56 Most photographs of villages, for example, show the remains of the church, with captions as below:         Beaumont-Hamel, where the church used to stand57         Miraumont, ruined church on the left58         Courcelette, all that is left of the church59         Martinpuich, the church used to stand here60

Albert is described as being “entirely in ruins,”61 and “No public building, not excepting the civilian hospital was spared.”62 The impressive basilica (Notre Dame de Brebières) is “a shapeless heap of stones, bricks and debris of all kinds.”63



Some places are recognisable as those that still attract high numbers of visitors. The guide describes how, “On each side of the Albert-Bapaume road, opposite La Boisselle village, huge craters form an almost continuous line … The largest crater lies on the right.”64 This, presumably, is the Lochnagar crater that was purchased by Richard Dunning in 1978, where a ceremony is held on July 1 at 7.30 a.m. each year, commemorating the explosion of the mine and the beginning of the British attack in 1916. Thiepval Wood, now the site of the massive Franco-British memorial, was described as “cut to pieces” but ironically, a noteworthy view remained: “The view of the Ancre Valley from here is most impressive (photo below)”65 (which shows a ruined landscape of tree trunks). Beaumont-Hamel has become an important tourist site with preserved trenches, but in 1920 it too was “a mere heap of chaotic ruins.”66 The materiel of war was still evident on the battlefields, as described in the examples below: Ovillers: In the village numerous shelters and military works can be seen.67 Courcelette: Numerous shelters, trenches, and British and German graves may be seen along the road.68

Clearly travel was more challenging than today, and at Pozières: “Its site, completely levelled and upturned, is now indistinguishable from the surrounding country.” From Pozières the road to Thiepval (approximately 3 km) was passable only for about 1 km and from there “the tourist” should go on foot.”69 In summary then, the 1920 Michelin Guide is instructional, presenting two single trails through which the tourist can gaze upon the evidence of the Battle of the Somme. Somme Tourisme. Somme 2016: Guide to the Sites of the First World War70 The annual Somme Guide produced by the Somme Tourist Board (Somme Tourisme) for 2016 is a sophisticated and impressive, 59-page, A4-sized publication. It contains 117 photographs, including 7 full-page, most of which are in colour, except for 21 historic, black-and-white photos of soldiers. Rather than being divided into a few distinct sections like the 1920 Michelin Guide, the Somme 2016 Guide devotes two or three pages to several topics (see Table 6.2). The guide is designed for a wide audience, with potentially diverse interests in the battlefields, as well as providing practical information about site access including directions, opening times, and email and telephone contacts. In 2016, tourists no longer need to take their own lunch and petrol! The information provided is such that tourists can select the sites in which they have personal interest and then make their own way to them. In contrast to the British focus of the 1920 Michelin Guide, the Somme 2016 Guide reflects the contemporary global view of the war, as it was indeed the first world war and states that, “the specific nature of the Somme is that it became the symbol of



Table 6.2  Information topics in the 2016 Somme Tourisme Centenary Guide National memorials and monuments, museums, other monuments The French Front at Naours Remembrance flowers: poppy, cornflower The CWGC Other campaign areas: Arras, Ypres, Vimy War artists, poets, and writers

Sponsors Tour guides contacts, visitor centre contacts Information to interpret headstones: CWGC, France, Germany, USA The 2016 events programme Digital information: websites, apps Maps

an international war.”71 The 2016 Somme Guide devotes three full-colour pages to the Historial Museum of the Great War (Historial combines “history” and “memorial”), in Peronne, which promotes an international approach to its displays and research. A brief reconstruction history notes that town halls and churches were given special attention, with some being built as exact replicas (Albert, Courcelette, and Authille) while others were constructed in the new Art Deco style. Colour photographs are also shown for the various national monuments and memorials, some including photographs of the visitor centre managers. In addition to the main British and former “Dominion” sites, information is also included about sites of importance for other nations, as well as the French Front at Naours, the American memorial at Cantigny, the Chinese cemetery at Noyelles-­ sur-­Mer, and the German cemetery at Fricourt. In summary, the 2016 Somme Tourisme Guide presents the result of a century of memory making on the Somme battlefields, where tourists are made welcome and invited to create their own journeys of remembrance to some of the hundreds of sites that have been made visible and accessible.

Comparative Analysis of Photographs In order to compare the two guides more clearly, a brief content analysis of the photographs in each was undertaken, with the results presented in Table 6.3. As could be expected, and given that Michelin is a tyre manufacturing company, in 1920, there are a few photographs of vehicles, en route, with one on the opening pages labelled as the “ideal of the tourist” depicting four travellers touring picturesque mountain scenery.72 No vehicles are shown in the Somme 2016 Guide. With respect to the portrayal of pre-war (undamaged) buildings, the two guides are similar, with about 3–4% of photographs showing public buildings such as churches and town squares. In virtually all other respects, the guides are markedly different, and this is because they represent the state of the battlefields and society’s memory of the war at two points in time. The development of the battlefields as a memoryscape is evident in the portrayal of the military cemeteries, which comprise approximately 8–10% of photographs in each guide. In 1920 the photographs show the early battlefield burials (wooden



Table 6.3  Analysis of photographs in the 1920 and 2016 battlefield guidebooks Type

Pre-war buildings (not ruined) Cemeteries, crosses Ruined villages Ruined landscapes Vehicle Military


War memorials, Museums and their displays

Poppies, cornflower French front Other Apps and technology Total themes Total photos




Freq %

Freq %

Mainly churches, town halls, town square





1920 is pre-war construction 2016 is post-war construction Buildings, mainly churches Battlefield panoramas × 20, small photos of ruined woods × 5, farm × 1 Tourist or civilian Trenches Heavy guns Tanks—mostly disabled Aerial views: gas attack, troops in trench, village bombing German positions, blockhouse, German ammunition dump Other: Chinese camp, observation balloon, dressing station entrance, captured guns Troops—including several French Small, not identifiable—incidental to the picture Senior commanders Civilians—mostly incidental Germans retreating Australian band in Bapaume Museum directors Tour guides Commonwealth War Graves Commission staff Tourists—clearly identifiable Local people and B&B owner Officials at ceremony South Africa, Thiepval, Ulster Tower, Newfoundland at Beaumont-Hamel, Le Hamel, Villers-Bretonneux (Australia), USA, New Zealand at Caterpillar Valley, Pozières, Doullens, Welsh dragon at Mametz, Lochnagar, Newfoundland at Gueudecourt Feature prominently on the front cover





70 26

33.6 2 12.4 –

1.3 –

8 8 3 6 5

3.8 3.8 1.4 2.9 2.4

– 5 – 1 –

– 3.2 – 0.6 –





22 6 8 5 1 1 – – – – – – –

10.5 2.9 3.8 2.4 0.5 0.5 – – – – – – –

19 – – – – – 6 11 4 18 3 5 41

12.1 – – – – – 3.8 7.0 2.5 11.5 1.9 3.2 26.1



3 7 8

1.9 4.5 5.1

Artworks, Froissy train

Note: Some photographs contained more than one theme

209 100 157 100 179 117



crosses of different designs), while in 2016, they show the standardised headstones: white Portland stone for the CWGC burials, German black crosses, and French white crosses. In the 1920 Michelin Guide the dominant number of photographs (46%) are of ruins: landscapes make up 12.4%, and as Lloyd observed, there is a focus on villages (33.6%), particularly the larger buildings such as churches. Within this ruined landscape, 17.2% of the guidebook photographs show direct evidence of the war: military equipment, tanks, aerial views, and German positions. Although some images were historic and clearly not available as sights for the tourist, notes in the text indicate that some military installations were still in place and that disabled tanks and guns may have been visible. In the Somme 2016 Guide there are two photographs only of ruins: the village of Fay and an historic photograph of the basilica in Albert. Similarly, there are five photos of preserved trenches, but no in situ military equipment, presumably because these objects are now classed as historic artefacts which have been moved into museums. The depiction of people is vastly different in both volume and content, with 2016 containing more than twice as many photographs (42%) as in 1920 (20.6%). Both guides include photos of troops (10.5% in 1920 and 12.1% in 2016), but there is a temporal difference. In 1920, the photographs were contemporary with the soldiers who were possibly still alive, but perhaps, as Geoff Dyer observed, they were simply the before-hand pictures of those who were about to be killed.73 In 2016, these are historic images of men who have all since passed away. Notably, the only photograph of German soldiers in the 1920 Michelin Guide shows them in retreat, and while the current guide shows nothing of the senior commanders, eight are shown in 1920. In the remaining photographs (5.3%) of 1920, the people are incidental to other content (e.g. showing a former town square). The 1920 Michelin Guide is thus very impersonal with no named people other than the senior British and French commanders. In contrast, the 2016 Somme Guide is highly personalised through its use of colour photographs of tour guides, museum, and visitor centre managers (several are named) with 11.5% showing tourists on site. Close-up, friendly portraits welcome the development of relationships between tourists and the museums, memorials, and staff working on site. War memorials are completely absent of course in the 1920 Guide, but, in 2016, a quarter of photographs (26.1%), several of which are full page, show large national monuments and museums. While there may have been a reluctance in the early post-war period to make overt claims of victory,74 Heffernan (1995) argues, that in more recent years, the memorials have become symbols of national identity (author’s emphasis).75 Information about site access illustrates technological developments as well as the state of the battlefields between 1920 and 2016. The 1920 Michelin Guide is highly instructional, guiding the tourist along a 132 or 177 km one-­way circuit, by means of distance and direction. This is understandable, given the absence of



reliable roadside signage, that villages are unrecognisable and that previous landmarks have disappeared. The Somme 2016 Guide takes an entirely different approach. Not only does it provide sophisticated navigational information, it provides information that allows the tourist to design their own remembrance trail. The guide lists contact details for the website, telephone number (land lines and mobile), and opening times of the various tourist offices, museums, and visitor centres. Of note in the present-day guide is the acknowledgement of floral symbols for remembrance, with a poppy red cover, stylised poppies and cornflowers, and an outline of the Thiepval Memorial. The red poppy was first recognised by Britain and her “Dominions” in the mid-1920s, as a result of work by Moina Michael and Anna Guerin, while France acknowledged the blue cornflower (le bluet) as their official flower in 1920.76

Conclusion The state of the Somme battlefields in the 1920s demanded that independent tourists be self-sufficient: there were no museums, cafes, or visitor centres, and military cemeteries did not exist in their current form. In addition, the battlefield presented a dangerous place that had not been cleared of military equipment, unexploded munitions, and the dead. To uninformed tourists, walking would have been ill-advised under these conditions. Tourists were also in the presence of pilgrims seeking the graves of their family members and the grave recovery units undertaking the very heavy work of locating and burying the dead. It was perhaps for very good reason then that the 1920 Michelin Guide directed tourists along pre-determined routes. The Somme 2016 Guide provides a diverse collection of information from which tourists can create their own journey around the battlefields. In fact, the memorials are so numerous that tourists are forced to base their itineraries around a limited and carefully selected range of sites. Although the Somme 2016 Guide encourages tourists to be self-sufficient, it does not seek to reduce their interaction with local people in the tourism industry, but rather welcomes it.77 The 1920 Michelin Guide presented a limited “gaze” based primarily on “looking,” in which panoramas of the warscape formed the focus of the trip.78 Today, the battlefields form a memoryscape, but it can be suggested that the activities of tourists have operated to create a remembrance gaze. That is, many of the tourists’ journeys may form acts of remembrance, where tourists not only view the sites but participate in commemorative activity, talk with local people, walk the ground, attend ceremonies, and learn about the war. In 1920, evidence of the war was everywhere on the fields of battle: the detritus of war marked large battles, death, victory and defeat, and lives that were changed forever. This landscape has been replaced by a highly visible memoryscape, forming part of a commemorative apparatus, which is illustrated in the 2016 Somme Guide. This apparatus consisting of war memorials and assisted by the tourism industry was in its infancy in 1920, when the cemeteries



were still under construction, monuments were in design stages, and the warscape was a panorama of shell-holes, destroyed forests, and farmland overgrown with weeds. Battlefield travel in 1920 and 2016 was undertaken in the context of two vastly different cultural climates. Post-war travel in 1920 followed a war that resulted from complex adversarial relationships between highly competitive European empires, supported by their faraway “Dominions.” A 20-year interlude was interrupted by the Second World War that caused even more destruction across a wider area extending beyond Europe. Contemporary tourism on the Somme exists within an era of globalisation but also a European environment that gives greater acknowledgement to the mutual benefits of more cooperative economic, political, and social activity. The last word goes to Somme Tourisme which has adopted the hashtag, “#RemembranceisEveryday.”79

Notes 1. Brian Osborne, “In the Shadows of Monuments: The British League for the Reconstruction of the Devastated Areas of France,” International Journal of Heritage Studies 7, no. 1 (2001): 61. 2. Michelin Tyre Company, The Somme: Volume 1. The First Battle of the Somme, (1916–1917) (Albert, Bapaume, Peronne) [reprinted 1993]. Illustrated Michelin Guides to the Battle-Fields (1914–1918) (G.H. Smith & Son. Easingwold: UK, 1920). 3. Osborne, “In the Shadows.” 4. Mandy Morris, “Gardens ‘For Ever England’: Landscape, Identity and the First World War British Cemeteries on the Western Front,” Ecumene 4, no. 4 (1997): 428. 5. Valene Smith, “War and Tourism: An American Ethnography,” Annals of Tourism Research 25, no. 1 (1998). 6. A.  V. Seaton, “War and Thanatourism: Waterloo 1815–1914,” Annals of Tourism Research 26 (1999). 7. 1920 Michelin, The Somme. 8. Somme Tourisme. Somme 2016: Guide to the Sites of the First World War (Amiens, France: Somme Tourisme, 2016). 9. Jay Winter, Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). 10. David Stevenson, 1914–1918: The History of the First World War (London: Penguin, 2004). 11. Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson. The Somme (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2005). 12. Philip Longworth, The Unending Vigil: The History of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (Barnsley, United Kingdom: Pen and Sword, 2003). 13. Longworth, The Unending Vigil. 14. Ibid., 58.



15. “Somme Centenary 2014–2018, Military cemeteries,” Somme Tourisme, accessed November 24, 2017. 16. Thomas Laqueur, “Memory and Naming in the Great War,” in Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity, ed. John R.  Gillis (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994). 17. David Lloyd, Battlefield Tourism: Pilgrimage and the Commemoration of the Great War in Britain, Australia and Canada (Oxford: Berg, 1998). 18. Lloyd, Battlefield Tourism. 19. Yeh (Sam) Shih Shuo, Chris Ryan, and Ge (Maggie) Liu, “Taoism, temples and tourists: The case of Mazu pilgrimage tourism,” Tourism Management 30 (3). 20. “In 2016, Remembrance Sites Continue to Benefit from the Centenary Effect.” Atout France. accessed November 10, 2017. default/files/document/press_release/CP%20M%C3%A9moire%20-%20 bilan%2020162%20EN.pdf. 21. Maoz Azaryahu and Kenneth Foote, “Historical Space as Narrative Medium: On the Configuration of Spatial Narratives of Time at Historical Sites,” GeoJournal 73 (2008): 179. 22. Dean MacCannell, The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 2013). 23. Deborah Bhattacharyya, “Mediating India: An Analysis of a Guidebook,” Annals of Tourism Research 24, no. 2 (1997): 372. 24. Bhattacharyya, “Mediating India,” 374. 25. Julien Mercille, “Media Effects on Image: The Case of Tibet,” Annals of Tourism Research 32, no. 4 (2005). 26. Bhattacharyya, “Mediating India.” 27. Peter Siegenthaler, “Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japanese Guidebooks.” Annals of Tourism Research 29, no. 4 (2002): 1132. 28. John Urry, The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies (London: Sage, 1990). 29. Ian Ousby, The Englishmen’s England: Taste, Travel and the Rise of Tourism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990). 30. John Jakle, “Touring by Automobile in 1932: The American West as Stereotype,” Annals of Tourism Research VIII, no. 4 (1981): 537. 31. A. J. Peacock, Introduction, in Michelin Tyre Co. (1920). The Somme: Volume 1. The First Battle of the Somme, (1916–1917) (Albert, Bapaume, Peronne). [reprinted 1993]. Illustrated Michelin Guides to the Battle-Fields (1914–1918) (G.H. Smith & Son. Easingwold: UK, 1993). 32. Lloyd, Battlefield Tourism. 33. Longworth, The Unending Vigil, 125. 34. Ibid. 35. Lloyd, Battlefield Tourism. 36. Ibid., 43. 37. Ibid., 84. 38. Catherine Bell. Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). 39. Peter Slade, “Gallipoli Thanatourism: The Meaning of ANZAC,” Annals of Tourism Research 30, no. 4 (2003). 40. Lloyd, Battlefield Tourism.



41. Victor Turner and Edith Turner. Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1978). 42. Lloyd, Battlefield Tourism. 43. George Mosse. Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990). 44. Mark Connelly, “The Ypres League and the Commemoration of the Ypres Salient, 1914–1940,” War in History 16, no. 1 (3). 45. Turner and Turner, Image and Pilgrimage, 240. 46. Shih Shuo, Ryan, and Liu, “Taoism, Temples and Tourists.” 47. A. V. Seaton, “Another Weekend Away Looking for Dead Bodies: Battlefield tourism on the Somme and in Flanders,” Tourism Recreation Research 25, no. 3 (2000). 48. Jennifer Iles, “Exploring Landscapes After Battle: Tourists at Home on the Old Front Lines” in Writing the Dark Side of Travel, ed. Jonathan Skinner (New York: Berghahn Books, 2012), 185. 49. Ria Dunkley, Nigel Morgan and Sheena Westwood, “Visiting the Trenches: Exploring Meanings and Motivations in Battlefield Tourism,” Tourism Management 32 (2011): 866. 50. Michelin. The Battlefields of the Somme: Amiens, Peronne, Albert: Michelin Illustrated Guides to the Battlefields 1914–1918 (Boulogne Billancourt, France: Michelin Travel Partner, 2016). 51. 1920 Michelin, The Somme. 52. Ibid., 1. 53. Peacock, “Introduction.” 54. Ibid., v. 55. 1920 Michelin, The Somme, i. 56. Lloyd, Battlefield Tourism, 116. 57. 1920 Michelin, The Somme, 41. 58. Ibid., 42. 59. Ibid., 44. 60. Ibid., 45. 61. Ibid., 32. 62. Ibid., 33. 63. Ibid., 35. 64. Ibid., 37. 65. Ibid., 39. 66. Ibid., 41. 67. Ibid., 38. 68. Ibid., 43. 69. Ibid., 47. 70. Somme Tourisme, Somme 2016. 71. Ibid., 5. 72. 1920 Michelin, The Somme, iii. 73. Geoff Dyer, The Missing of the Somme (London: Phoenix, 1994). 74. Ken Inglis, Sacred Places: War Memorials in the Australian Landscape (Carlton, Australia: Melbourne University Press, 2008). 75. Michael Heffernan, “For Ever England: The Western Front and the Politics of Remembrance in Britain,” Ecumene 2, no. 3 (1995).



76. Nicholas Saunders, The Poppy: A History of Conflict, Loss, Remembrance and Redemption (London: Oneworld, 2014). 77. Bhattacharyya, “Mediating India.” 78. Urry, The Tourist Gaze. 79. Somme Tourisme, Somme 2016.

References Azaryahu, Maoz, and Kenneth Foote. “Historical Space as Narrative Medium: On the Configuration of Spatial Narratives of Time at Historical Sites.” GeoJournal 73 (2008): 179–194. Bell, Catherine. Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Bhattacharyya, Deborah. “Mediating India: An Analysis of a Guidebook.” Annals of Tourism Research 24, no. 2 (1997): 371–389. Connelly, Mark. “The Ypres League and the Commemoration of the Ypres Salient, 1914–1940.” War in History 16, no. 1 (2009): 51–76. Dunkley, Ria., Nigel Morgan, and Sheena Westwood. “Visiting the Trenches: Exploring Meanings and Motivations in Battlefield Tourism.” Tourism Management 32 (2011): 860–868. Dyer, Geoff. The Missing of the Somme. London: Phoenix, 1994. Heffernan, Michael. “For Ever England: The Western Front and the Politics of Remembrance in Britain.” Ecumene 2, no. 3 (1995): 293–323. Iles, Jennifer. “Exploring Landscapes After Battle: Tourists at Home on the Old Front Lines.” In Writing the Dark Side of Travel, ed. Jonathan Skinner, 182–202. New York: Berghahn Books, 2012. “In 2016, Remembrance Sites Continue to Benefit from the Centenary Effect.” Atout France. Date accessed 10 November 2017. default/files/document/press_release/CP%20M%C3%A9moire%20-%20bilan%20 20162%20EN.pdf. Inglis, Ken. Sacred Places: War Memorials in the Australian Landscape. Carlton, Australia: Melbourne University Press, 2008. Jakle, John. “Touring by Automobile in 1932: The American West as Stereotype.” Annals of Tourism Research VIII, no. 4 (1981): 534–549. Laqueur, Thomas. “Memory and Naming in the Great War.” In Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity, ed. John R.  Gillis, 150–167. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994. Lloyd, David. Battlefield Tourism: Pilgrimage and the Commemoration of the Great War in Britain, Australia and Canada. Oxford: Berg, 1998. Longworth, Philip. The Unending Vigil: The History of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Barnsley, United Kingdom: Pen and Sword, 2003. MacCannell, Dean. The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2013. Mercille, Julien. “Media Effects on Image: The Case of Tibet.” Annals of Tourism Research 32, no. 4 (2005): 1039–1055. Michelin. The Battlefields of the Somme: Amiens, Peronne, Albert: Michelin Illustrated Guides to the Battlefields 1914–1918. Boulogne Billancourt, France: Michelin Travel Partner, 2016.



Michelin Tyre Company. The Somme: Volume 1. The First Battle of the Somme, (1916–1917) (Albert, Bapaume, Peronne). [reprinted 1993]. Illustrated Michelin Guides to the Battle-Fields (1914–1918). G.H.  Smith & Son. Easingwold: UK, 1920. Morris, Mandy. “Gardens ‘For Ever England’: Landscape, Identity and the First World War British Cemeteries on the Western Front.” Ecumene 4, no. 4 (1997): 411–434. Mosse, George. Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars. New  York: Oxford University Press, 1990. Osborne, Brian. “In the Shadows of Monuments: The British League for the Reconstruction of the Devastated Areas of France.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 7, no. 1 (2001): 59–82. Ousby, Ian. The Englishmen’s England: Taste, Travel and the Rise of Tourism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Peacock, A.J. Introduction. In Michelin Tyre Co. (1920). The Somme: Volume 1. The First Battle of the Somme, (1916–1917) (Albert, Bapaume, Peronne). [reprinted 1993]. Illustrated Michelin Guides to the Battle-Fields (1914–1918). G.H. Smith & Son. Easingwold: UK, 1993. Prior, Robin, and Trevor Wilson. The Somme. Sydney: UNSW Press, 2005. Saunders, Nicholas. The Poppy: A History of Conflict, Loss, Remembrance and Redemption. London: Oneworld, 2014. Seaton, A.V. “War and Thanatourism: Waterloo 1815–1914.” Annals of Tourism Research 37 (1999): 130–158. ———. “Another Weekend Away Looking for Dead Bodies: Battlefield tourism on the Somme and in Flanders.” Tourism Recreation Research 25, no. 3 (2000): 63–77. Shih Shuo, Yeh (Sam), Chris Ryan, and Ge (Maggie) Liu. “Taoism, Temples and Tourists: The Case of Mazu Pilgrimage Tourism.” Tourism Management 30 (2009): 581–588. Siegenthaler, Peter. “Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japanese Guidebooks.” Annals of Tourism Research 29, no. 4 (2002): 1111–1137. Slade, Peter. “Gallipoli Thanatourism: The Meaning of ANZAC.” Annals of Tourism Research 30, no. 4 (2003): 779–794. Smith, Valene. War and Tourism: An American Ethnography. Annals of Tourism Research 25, no. 1 (1998): 202–227. Somme Centenary 2014–2018. Military Cemeteries. Somme Tourisme. Date accessed 24 November, 2017. Somme Tourisme. Somme 2016: Guide to the Sites of the First World War. Amiens, France: Somme Tourisme, 2016. Stevenson, David. 1914–1918: The History of the First World War. London: Penguin, 2004. Turner, Victor, and Edith Turner. Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1978. Urry, John. The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies. London: Sage, 1990. Winter, Jay. Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.


Pro patria mori: A Memorial in Music Phillip Gearing

Introduction This chapter describes the creation of a piece of music that I composed not as a memorial to war per se but rather to those who have been affected by war. As was the case all across Australia, the First World War had a profound impact on my family. My great uncle, the youngest brother of my paternal grandfather, was wounded on 27 September 1917 in the Battle of Polygon Wood and subsequently died of his wounds on 14 October 1917. Though we never met, I have long felt an inexplicable connection to him and was fortunate to have been gifted his signet ring bearing the family crest, which had been found amongst his personal effects. In September 2011 I had the opportunity to visit his grave in Wimereux, France, being the first family member to do so (with the possible exception of my grandfather in 1918, who also served in France). This visit to his final resting place was profoundly moving, but somehow also provided comfort, a sense of completion. The impact of this visit was contextualized within a broader cultural response when I discovered that the Canadian soldier-poet John McCrae, famed as the man who penned In Flanders Fields, was also laid to rest in this cemetery. On a subsequent trip to Europe, I visited the National War Museum in Manchester, England. There I observed the detailed, imaginative exhibits devoted to the two World Wars; however, what impacted me even more was a room devoted to post-1945 conflicts. For though I was cognizant of the personal cost of war as personified by my family connection, this experience reminded me that whatever the perceived benefits of “winning” these conflicts, it was hardly commensurate with the suffering and grief. Out of these seemingly disparate experiences was born a compulsion to tangibly express my P. Gearing (*) Independent Researcher, Brisbane, QLD, Australia © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




e­ motive response through music. This was not to glorify war, national identity, or to sanctify victory or mourn defeat but rather to honour both the soldiers and civilians who have died in war in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and perhaps even to provide some sense of comfort or resolution. My response to war was, however, not just a product of my family background and my response to a museum display. Whether consciously or not, my understanding was also filtered through other cultural artefacts. Perhaps unsurprisingly I was drawn to the work of the First World War poets. Working from a selection of 20 that resonated with me I eventually selected seven that provided a manageable scope for a composition which I titled Pro patria mori, a reference from Horace (dulcis et decorum est pro patria mori: it is sweet and honourable to die for one’s country) with the prefatory words intentionally omitted. I arranged the poems in a cyclical order to create a narrative that explored different aspects of, and responses to, war such as disbelief, numb shock, anger, resignation, loss of innocence, grief, and hope. The resulting seven-movement cycle for choir with piano is approximately 25  minutes in duration. Each movement derives its title from the poem that inspired it. The first and fourth movements also require a soprano soloist, who can be drawn from the choir. The piano part is set as an independent voice to provide its own commentary, rather than as a mere accompaniment to, or doubling of, the choral voices. Pro patria mori has been performed to critical acclaim in the following capital cities in Australia: Perth (2014, 2017),1 Melbourne (2015),2 and Brisbane (2014 selected movements, 2015, 2018).3 It has also been recorded by the Winthrop Singers of the University of Western Australia with pianist Graeme Gilling directed by Nicholas Bannan (2014). The Perth performances have been in the context of Anzac Day commemorations; all other performances have been within a concert setting, in programmes themed around war, peace, or hope.

The Composition This section explores each of the seven movements in turn through the poem which has inspired each section, followed by a discussion of its musical setting. Musical notation examples are provided where they may illuminate the discussion and will be of particular interest for readers with musical expertise. On Receiving News of War (Isaac Rosenberg: Killed in Action, 1918) Snow is a strange white word. No ice or frost Has asked of bud or bird For Winter’s cost. Yet ice and frost and snow From earth to sky



This Summer land doth not know. No man knows why. In all men’s heart it is. Some spirit of old Hath turned with malign kiss Our lives to mould.

This poem uses the white and cold of winter to explore the numbness and sense of incomprehension that was doubtless felt by many when war was first declared. The movement opens with bare monotone Gs, firstly in the piano and then the voice, representing the numbness felt on receiving news of war. The piano’s opening rhythm is regular (a new iteration every three beats, like the tolling of a bell) yet unsteady, in that the common time metre is not respected—life carries on as usual yet with uncertainty. In bar 9 the voice finally pulls away from the monotone, but only a little distance before drawing inexorably back to the G. The choir enters in bar 15, the harmonies centred around a new, warmer tonal centre of F, representing the comfort drawn from the community, yet the numbness is pervasive, and bar 21 sees the return of the G monotone, albeit this time with harmonic choral accompaniment. The men in the choir have a different response in bar 28—anger: the forte octave Cs are compelled to dissonance with piled-up 2nds (also seen as comprising perfect 4ths in two keys) and jabbing punctuation from the piano to express the “malign kiss” from Rosenberg’s poem, but these voices, too, are drawn back to the G monotone, and the piano tolls steadily but uncertainly on. How Long, O Lord? (Robert Palmer: Killed in Action, 1916) How long, O Lord, how long, before the food Of crimson-welling carnage shall abate? From sodden plains in West and East the blood Of kindly men streams up in mists of hate, Polluting Thy clean air: and nations great In reputation of the arts that bind The world with hopes of Heaven, sink to the state Of brute barbarians, whose ferocious mind Gloats o’er the bloody havoc of their kind, Not knowing love or mercy. Lord, how long Shall Satan in high places lead the blind To battle for the passions of the strong? Oh, touch Thy children’s hearts, that they may know Hate their most hateful, pride their deadliest foe.

Any significant loss has the capacity to generate anger, as in the second movement of this work. Anger grows out of the initial numbness expressed in the first movement. The choir’s dissonant cry “How long?” erupts out of the piano’s opening figure and is repeated twice for emphasis. The choir continues



its questioning from bar 5, the unison melody lending a declamatory and clamouring tone. The accompaniment offers nothing unexpected at first, but whilst the bass continues harmonically in tandem with the vocal line, the treble quavers break away to create a period of bitonality—signalling an emotional fracture—in which the hollow intervals of the 4th and 5th are prominent, before coming to resolve in A major (at bar 19) as the questioner’s thoughts are drawn to consideration of Palmer’s pure “clean air”. The clamour returns, marked by the return to G minor, the introduction of a nervous rhythmic element in the piano and an angular unison melodic line for the voices. The piano accompaniment again features 4ths and 5ths in the treble, maintaining some emotional control by remaining in the home key but breaking into a juxtaposed tonality and brutalist repeated chords from bar 29 and then relaxing again to A major at the mention in bars 34–35 of “love [and] mercy”. Changeable emotional responses now return to the cry “How long?” emanating again from the piano semiquaver chords and reinforced by the stylized growl of the voices. Tension builds again in the ensuing bars until at bar 54 a climax is reached in which the chord of F# (open 5ths, deliberately neither major nor minor) and a chord cluster in G minor (see Fig. 7.1) represent the phalanx of unstable emotional and mental conflict that is felt. At this and subsequent appearances of this F#/G minor cluster chord in later movements, the music pauses, as though reaching a point of overwhelming emotion and incomprehension. The ensuing piano interlude introduces a more reflective mood, preparing for the choir’s tender plea to “touch”, in which the earlier intervallic material, that is, chords built of quartian harmony (harmony created from 4ths rather than the traditional 3rds), assumes a gentler guise. The mood intensifies quickly through the following crescendo (“that they may know”), and at the mention of “hate” the listener recognizes that feelings are still raw, and the movement ends inconclusively in a heavily declaimed descending unison phrase, finishing on the dominant.

Fig. 7.1  How Long, O Lord?, bar 54



The Anxious Dead (John McCrae: Died in Base Hospital, 1918) O guns, fall silent till the dead men hear    Above their heads the legions pressing on: (These fought their fight in time of bitter fear,    And died not knowing how the day had gone.) O flashing muzzles, pause, and let them see    The coming dawn that streaks the sky afar; Then let your mighty chorus witness be    To them, and Caesar, that we still make war. Tell them, O guns, that we have heard their call,    That we have sworn and will not turn aside, That we will onward till we win or fall,    That we will keep the faith for which they died. Bid them be patient, and some day, anon    They shall feel earth enwrapt in silence deep; Shall greet, in wonderment, the quiet dawn,    And in content may turn them to their sleep.

In The Anxious Dead the resigned trudging of the soldiers through the stricken landscape, the horror and dismay of battle, and the resolve to keep faith with fallen comrades are heard in turn. There is a pervading sense of ­resignation, represented by the steady marching bass line in open 5ths and by the frequent rests and staccato articulation of the male vocal line (see Fig. 7.2). Occasionally a legato melisma lends a haunting quality. From bar 28 the rhythmic movement increases in energy for an extended treatment of the text “O flashing muzzles”, with the introduction of underlying semiquavers in the bass register of the piano. Over this are the overlapping entries of the choir in uneven rhythms, and offbeat accents in the right hand of the piano, to depict the chaotic scenes and sounds of the battlefield (see Fig. 7.3). The continuing dissonant treatment of the word “O” reflects the horror and fear of those engaged in battle. A sudden declamatory “O pause” commands the listener’s attention, marked by the F#/G minor cluster chord; attention is held by tenuto crotchet movement of the choir: “and let them see the coming dawn that streaks the sky afar”, punctuated intermittently by the cluster chord. The nervous semiquaver piano figures return, this time modulating to F# minor for the choir to declaim in unison “Then let your mighty chorus witness be |To them, and Caesar.” The limping rhythms of the unison Bb-Eb in the piano in bars 84–85 leave the listener aghast: “that we still make war”. At this, the piano reverts to the marching bass line, and the male voices return with a resigned monotony. A different colour is introduced for the final stanza. Warmer harmonies and a modulation to the more neutral C major breathe a prayer for rest. A descending figure in the piano in bar 125 is heard for the first time, bringing a sense of



Fig. 7.2  The Anxious Dead, bars 1–13

relief and repose. (Hereafter referred to as the “descending motif”, its distinguishing characteristic is alternating descending 4ths and rising 2nds; it is heard in fragmentary or modified form in Snow, I Saw His Round Mouth’s Crimson, and Thaw; see Fig.  7.4.) As the chorus sustains the final word “sleep”, the piano gives in single notes the outline of the opening march in a peaceful guise to bring a sense of completion to the movement. Snow (Edward Thomas: Killed at Arras, 1917) In the gloom of whiteness, In the great silence of snow, A child was sighing And bitterly saying: ‘Oh, They have killed a white bird up there on her nest The down is fluttering from her breast.’ And still it fell through that dusky brightness On the child crying for the bird of the snow.

The fourth movement, Snow, marks a return to the world of numb whiteness, but this time it originates not from the war but from the death of the bird, a casualty of the war. The boy of the poem probably does not understand the war, but he becomes aware of its intrusion into his own life. The detached semiquaver chords in the high register of the piano represent the delicate snow;



Fig. 7.3  The Anxious Dead, bars 30–33

in the left hand, the sustained melody—also in a high register—is reminiscent of the “descending motif”, here representing the innocence of the boy (see Fig.7.5). A high-pitched tremolo from the piano, significantly based on the pitch G (alluding to the opening of the first movement), offers a halo around the soprano soloist who (also alluding to the opening of the first movement) gives her text on a monotone Eb to depict the whiteness and the silence of the snow. On the word “snow”, the piano refers fragmentarily to the “descending motif”—a little flurry in short-note values. Bar 14 introduces a chromatically descending sighing motive into the solo soprano part, which will later be taken up by the choir and the piano as a mournful, increasingly wailing “Oh”, as the boy’s innocence is assaulted by the killing of the bird. The compounded quatrain harmonies lend insistence to the wailing (see Fig. 7.6).



Fig. 7.4  The Anxious Dead, bars 125–126

Fig. 7.5  Snow, bars 1–3

The tremolando halo returns, now a 3rd lower to reflect an intrusion to innocence, under which the soloist reports on the death of the bird. The chorus returns with the final couplet. This time, the word “snow” is treated with an ambiguous harmony (neither Bb major nor G minor), which seemingly is confirmed as G minor by the bass voice of the piano but confused by the “degraded” dominant of G minor (D minor 7). Above it, the treble voice of the piano part concludes with the detached semiquaver chords (the opening snow motif) in a contrasting tonality and halting rhythm, then a final reference to the “descending figure”. The inconclusive harmony shows the boy’s ­confusion at the spectre of violence towards an innocent creature that has now violated his own innocence. I Saw His Round Mouth’s Crimson (Wilfred Owen: Killed in Action, 1918) I saw his round mouth’s crimson deepen as it fell,    Like a sun, in his last deep hour; Watched the magnificent recession of farewell,    Clouding, half gleam, half glower, And at last splendour burn the heavens of his cheek.    And in his eyes The cold stars lighting, very old and bleak,    In different skies.



Fig. 7.6  (a) Snow, bar 14, (b) Snow, bars 19–24

With the mention of “crimson”, the implicit image of spilled blood in Snow becomes explicit. As a foil to the coldness of Snow, the musical setting here is simple, hymn-like, in the warm tonality of Eb major. This more comfortable mood is interrupted by the dissonance at “half glower”. So far the chorus has been unaccompanied, but now the piano offers a response reminiscent of the “descending figure” with an inverted reference to the cluster chord (bars 11–14), then repeated a tone lower and providing harmonic relaxation preparing for a return of the hymn-like melody (see Fig. 7.7). The chorus returns on unison Bb as a link to the partial reiteration of the hymn-like melody. This is the first of three instances in this movement of unison singing on Bb, used partly as an unsettling effect. On the next occasion,



Fig. 7.7  I Saw His Round Mouth’s Crimson, bars 11–15

the upper voices move to unison Bb to represent “the cold stars”—the “descending motif” punctuates once more—and then an octave lower for “very old and [very] bleak”. The “descending motif”, in more relaxed rhythm, brings the movement to rest gently in Eb major. Requiem (Ivor Gurney: 1890–1937) Pour out your light, O stars, and do not hold    Your loveliest shining from earth’s outworn shell – Pure and cold your radiance, pure and cold    My dead friend’s face as well.

The intention with this Requiem is to bring solace and relief, a tender farewell to acknowledge that death brings peace to the slain. In the poem, a soldier entreats the stars to pour out their pure radiant light upon the face of his friend, just as many other soldiers would have done on the battlefields. The choice of D major for this movement was deliberate: it is a key traditionally associated with brightness and light. The piano prelude, marked semplice, is shaped by a recurring phrase built from a gentle and peaceful two-note sighing motive, crowned with gently rising semibreves representing the glittering of stars in the open night sky (see Fig. 7.8). The voices enter with a simple yet earnest invocation to the stars to pour out their light, their yearning expressed by a gradual rise in pitch, reaching a climax at the word “light”. The prelude music re-enters, creating a platform for the chorus to continue their plea, unaccompanied. An unexpected harmonic twist from the home key D major to Eb major in bar 48 arrests the attention; the prelude music re-enters in the new key, and this time the right-hand melody



Fig. 7.8  Requiem, bars 1–8

(bars 51–55) is taken from the soprano line (bars 46–48 “pour out your light”) to continue the intent of the text. The change of mood presaged in bar 48 now comes to the fore: stark open 5ths at bar 56 mark the radiance that is both “pure” and “cold”; a modulatory passage marks the choir’s reflection on these two adjectives, cadencing on open 5ths in F# minor. This acts as a pivot back to the home key for the prelude music to return one last time as a postlude, our “friend” of the poem now resting eternally with the timeless stars. Thaw (Edward Thomas: Killed at Arras, 1917) Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed The speculating rooks at their nests cawed And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass, What we below could not see, Winter pass.

This final poem brings together a number of important motifs evident in the movements. The return of snow, this time is not fundamentally cold and antagonistic but thawing and bringing the promise of spring. The rooks replace the dead white bird in Snow. A similar musical device to Snow is employed in Thaw—a glistening right-hand piano figure, with a more sustained melody in the left hand, this time in parallel 5ths, suggestive of the peaceful qualities of plainchant. The choir interpolates simple straightforward chordal phrases in an easy part of the register so that all sounds calm and resolved. From bar 33 the piano reminds us consistently of the “descending motif” as the music relaxes into the coda: the choir iterates once more “winter pass”, finishing with a sense of hope on the 3rd degree of the scale, as the piano figure brings us to repose with “descending motif” in gentle crotchets, affirming the mood with a warm C major chord in the left hand (see Fig. 7.9).

Reflection Pro patria mori has been well received by conductors, choirs, and audiences. The three conductors who have presented the work4 agree that the piece is well written and is musically and emotionally effective. They all comment on the atmospheric writing throughout, with well-wrought contrasts of mood between songs reflecting the sentiment of the text. One comments that the songs are well written for the voice and that the writing for the voice and piano is always idiomatic. Another conductor considers the word setting to be supe-



Fig. 7.9  Thaw, bars 38–41

rior, achieving a good relationship between verbal metre and syllabic placement within rhythmic patterns, as well as being significant of interval, so that what is written “makes sense”. Long phrase lengths—in the Requiem, for example— give opportunity for the choir to do a lot with a sense of arrival, colouring and underlining textual meaning. All agreed that the work is challenging to prepare and present, but there is never the feeling that it is impossible to perform, as with some contemporary works. They reported that both choir and conductor enjoyed the various challenges of preparing and performing the work, and one specifically mentioned the choir relished getting the piece precise. Another conductor commented that the music really forces the performer to commit to an atmosphere or mood in a very direct way but that the emotional content of the music helps the choristers to transcend technical challenges. Recording the work presented a different set of challenges. One of these was microphone placement. Because much of the piano writing uses treble and bass registers but not the middle of the keyboard, two microphones were used for the piano—one placed at the bass and the other at the treble—as well as two for the choir and one general microphone to achieve overall balance and ambience. It was also reported that the soloists (two soloists were used, one for the first movement and one for Snow, to present different personalities), who had been quite comfortable singing in live performance, found the need to be technically exact (pitch control, breath control, dynamic shaping) in a recording far more challenging, particularly if the writing covered their passaggio. Superior technical control was also required from all choristers in a more critically concentrated way than was necessary for live performance. All conductors reported that the audience reaction following performances has been very positive. Some audience members who attended the Melbourne and Brisbane performances contacted me directly to express their enthusiasm for what they heard. One Brisbane audience member, a Vietnam War veteran,



was quite specific in describing his reaction to Pro patria mori.5 He was “quite stunned” that someone who has not been to war could capture the moods so effectively, evoking “instant and constant deeply emotional response from someone who had been to war. For me there was not a single word, note or combination of such that was irrelevant.” He describes that, as the performance progressed, he could “vividly see a slowly swirling, contra-rotating montage of living images that were cued by the music that I was experiencing” and considered that, rather than merely listening, he was engaged in a “multi-­ sense experience”. He further offered the opinion that Service colleagues would share his reaction and that they and families of loved ones lost should “experience that performance”. My intentions in composing Pro patria mori were to write music as a tangible expression of the emotions that were evoked in me in a visit to a War Museum; to honour those who have died in military conflict in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; and to provide some sense of comfort or resolution. Responses from those who have been involved in performing and those who have listened to the work affirm that Pro patria mori is a successful piece of music both technically and musically, engaging performers and audiences alike. That the work has received multiple performances is further evidence of the esteem in which it is held, both for its own sake and for its popularity with audiences. Audience feedback confirms a strong emotional connection with listeners, including former Service personnel, and suggests that the composer’s intentions were met successfully.

Notes 1. Winthrop Singers, Graeme Gilling (piano), Nicholas Bannan (conductor). 2. Polyphonic Voices, Peter Baker (piano), Michael Fulcher (conductor). 3. Canticum Chamber Choir, Phillip Gearing (piano), Emily Cox (conductor). 4. Personal email and skype communication with the conductors, April 2018. 5. Unsolicited email communication from an audience member, June 2015.

References Dekel, R., and Goldblatt, H. “Is There Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma? The Case of Combat Veterans’ Children.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 78, no. 3 (2008): 281–289. Gearing, Phillip J. Pro patria mori. Unpublished score, 2012. Kübler-Ross, Elizabeth. On Death and Dying. New York: Macmillan, 1969. Kübler-Ross, Elizabeth, and David Kessler. On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss. New York: Scribner, 2005. Winthrop Singers, The. Departures: Music of Love, Loss and Longing. C.D.  The School of Music (now Conservatorium of Music), University of Western Australia, 2014.


The Stamps-Baxter GI School of Music Jeannette Fresne

Introduction The Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company, established in Dallas, Texas, in 1926 by Virgil Oliver Stamps and Jesse Randall Baxter, Jr., contributed significantly to American music education. This occurred through the company’s sponsorship of the Stamps-Baxter GI School of Music (GI School) and its organization of singing schools, which taught basic-note reading and singing skills to improve congregational singing in the church, in addition to the Stamps-Baxter Normal School of Music (1926–1964). The GI School, which operated from February 1947 to July 1953, grew out of its founders’ sense of patriotism and love for gospel music and provided training to World War II veterans interested in learning more about gospel music.1 Baxter established the school to train teachers for singing schools as well as to show patriotic support for veterans’ military efforts. While the school began in February, the company continued through the months and years to advertise for students. One example is an advertisement in the October 1947 printing of the monthly journal published by the Stamps-Baxter Company, Gospel Music News: Stamps-Baxter G. I. School has grown much faster than we anticipated, but we are making room for more, and if you are an ex-service man and want to study Gospel Music, we invite you to write us and let us tell you what we have to offer. Uncle Sam is making it possible for you to accomplish something, and we are happy to be the first Gospel Music school to be given this opportunity to show our appreciation for what you fellows have done for our country.2

J. Fresne (*) Lamar University, Beaumont, TX, United States e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




This advertisement referred to the availability of federal monies for veterans through the GI Bill, commonly known as The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944. Veterans received an allowance for attending various types of schools and the schools received tuition and fees directly from the Veterans’ Administration. The government approved student attendance for each quarter after the Stamps-Baxter Company submitted Form 7–1901c–1 with most students attending full-time for two years.3 The creation of the GI School of Music for former service members determined its name: Some have asked why we call this a GI School when the boys here are ex-G.I’s [sic]. Most all who served time in any branch of service knows that GI means “Government Issue,” so I’m sure you will agree that this school is a GI School since our government is paying “issuing $$” [sic] for the two-year course VIA [sic] the Veterans Administration, under Public Law 346. That is the real reason we call it a GI School.4

While interviewing Calvin Wills, one of the former GI School students in Dallas, Texas, about a related study, the author became aware of and increasingly curious about the GI School. She discovered there was a lack of documentation regarding the history and processes of the school. Wills introduced the author to Thurman Coffey, a former GI School student who organized the reunions. After speaking on the phone and discussing the goal of documenting the school, Coffey invited the author to attend the reunion. At the reunion he concluded his introduction of the author to the group by saying, “She’s okay, boys.” The former students respected Coffey, and his endorsement certainly encouraged participants to willingly participate in the research. From 2001 to 2003, the author interviewed eight of the former students, one spouse, and two widows in Iuka, Mississippi, during their annual reunion on the first weekend of October, circa 1995–2006. The only living teacher from the GI School, when it was in operation, participated through correspondence. While approximately one hundred students matriculated through the GI School, many had passed away before the research began. The former ­students spoke highly of the teachers, education, and affability of classmates with whom many remained connected during the following decades. An institutional review board at Arizona State University approved the research. Approaching the research half a century after the GI School closed, the author relied on a variety of sources, such as personal interviews, correspondence, bookkeeping records, publications, audio/visual recordings, printed material, handwritten material, and audio/visual material.

Government Approval: GI Bill To provide job training and education to members of the military returning to civilian life, the government passed Public Law 346 of the Seventy-Eighth Congress, or the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (the GI Bill), to



assist World War II veterans “who served in the active military or naval forces on or after September 16, 1940.”5 Public Law 16 allowed funding for disabled veterans similar to that provided by the GI Bill.6 In addition to distributing funds directly to the educational institutions, the Veterans’ Administration also furnished “[s]alaries and expenses, medical and hospital, and compensation and pensions … available for necessary expenses” related to education.7 Originally signed on June 22, 1944, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Act and subsequent amendments established new commencement and completion dates and increased monetary allowances for veterans attending school. Although the federal government funded it, individual states were given some freedom in administrating the GI Bill of 1944.8 In Texas, enrollment peaked at schools in the state at approximately 300,000 veterans. Some veterans enrolled in traditional colleges and universities; however, many attended specialty schools. Oversight of federal GI funding for all these schools fell under the Texas Education Agency, which also dealt with private schools and extensions of various institutions of higher education.9 Veterans could use federal monies at more than one institution. When John Phifer separated from the armed services in 1946, he used the GI Bill to pay for the remainder of his high school education before enrolling in the GI School. He stated that the GI Bill assisted him in obtaining an education beyond high school that he would have not been able to afford otherwise.10 Another student, Warren Wilson, exhausted the GI Bill funds available to him by attending nine months of study at Stephen F. Austin College after completing twenty-­ one months at the GI School.11 Sometimes students arrived before the necessary papers were filed or approved. When Edward Hamrick arrived, he realized that his regiment had not forwarded his papers. As a result, he had to obtain copies of the necessary papers and resubmit.12 When Thurman Coffey moved to Dallas, he worked in various part-time jobs to pay for room and board while he took the entrance examinations at the school and waited for approval for GI Bill funds. While Coffey was waiting for approval, Trueman Stamps Pankey, secretary-treasurer of the company, hired Coffey to work part-time at the printing plant. Coffey, a full-time student, worked part-time at the Stamps-Baxter printing plant and as an usher at the Texas Theatre. Coffey stated that without Pankey and the GI Bill, he would have been unable to attend the school.13 Different governmental agencies assumed responsibility for administering the programs outlined in the GI Bill. However, the educational and loan programs remained the responsibility of the Veterans’ Administration as stipulated by the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 and the subsequent Veteran’s Readjustment Assistance Act of 1952, the latter popularly known as the second GI Bill.14 Even though this second GI Bill was approved, the Stamps-Baxter Company decided to end its GI School in September 1953.15 Former students speculated that the time and money required to run the school combined with the uncertainty of funding through the passage of federal bills resulted in the decision to close the school.



From Military Service to the GI School The uniqueness of the GI School lay in its students, most of whom were former service members who had been approved by the government to draw financial assistance through the GI Bill. While students at the GI School served in a number of different branches of the US armed services, the type and length of military service varied.16 James Holcomb entered the Navy the day after high school graduation in May 1944. He wanted to serve his country and thought he could “destroy the enemy.” After boot camp, he interviewed and received an assignment to run the speedboat for Lt. Commander Lamar, flag secretary of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet.17 On the last day of high school, Henry Blankenship boarded a bus to Roanoke, Virginia, to take a physical examination to join the Navy. He was on active duty from July 1, 1945 to September 1946.18 Calvin Wills joined the Navy on February 24, 1945, three days before his eighteenth birthday. He was sent from Terminal Island, California, on the ship New Jersey Battle Wagon. In August, he was sent from Pearl Harbor to Maui, where he served in the Naval Air Corps. He was sent to Guam for one month, where he remembers having two Thanksgiving days because the ship crossed the International Date Line. On Christmas Eve, he was sent to Saipan and Kenyan, where he remained until he returned to San Diego for discharge in June 1946.19 Thurman Coffey served in the Army during 1945–1946.20 Esto Smith, drafted into the Army in April 1945, served until February 1946 as part of the occupation force in Japan.21 Also stationed in Japan, Warren Wilson worked as a mapmaker in the Army Corps of Engineers. He served from 1946 to 1947, a total of eighteen months. “I was drafted after the shooting war was over. Tried to volunteer beforehand, and they wouldn’t have me on account of perforated ear drums-the possibility of [my] going deaf if I was around artillery fire.”22 Several students, including John Phifer and Ezra Knight, were drafted prior to high school graduation.23 Students learned of the GI School through advertisements in the Gospel Music News, from traveling quartets, and from their attendance at various singing and normal schools of the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company. Henry Blankenship remembered reading about the GI School in the Gospel Music News.24 When he attended the Stamps-Baxter Normal School, he asked W. Lee Higgins, one of the teachers,25 for more information regarding the GI School. Warren Wilson attended a performance in Nacogdoches County, Texas, where he met members of a Stamps-Baxter ensemble, the Southern Stars Quartet. He received his certificate of completion in May 1951.26 Students moving to Dallas to register for classes at the GI School often obtained help from the company in locating housing and part-time work. Most students lived in boarding houses. As students arrived and began their education at various times throughout the year, placement in boarding houses was determined by availability. Some students were placed in boarding houses with



other GI School students.27 However, others were placed in boarding houses with few or no other GI School students. When Holcomb arrived in Dallas in April 1948, the school placed him in a boarding house on West 10th Street “owned by two sisters who were retired Broadway actresses, or so they told me.” There were approximately eight rooms on each level, with female boarders on the lower level and male boarders upstairs. Bill Baker was the only other boarder attending the GI School.28 Most students found part-time jobs while they were enrolled full-time. With classes ending by 3:00 p.m., students were able to work at various jobs. While Coffey worked as an usher at the Texas Theatre, several students worked for the Stamps-Baxter Company, mostly in the printing plant. Many worked for the company until graduation and a few accepted full-time positions after graduating.29 Additional work came in the form of quartet singing. While attending Stamps-Baxter to learn about gospel music, some students were drawn to the performance opportunities. Jim Holcomb stated, “I used to dream that I’d hit a baseball out of the park, but not as much as I had a dream of singing bass with any quartet. That’s what drove me, I guess.”30 Most students participated in quartets, traveling to locations within driving distance of Dallas to perform on weekends. Each group selected a name for its quartet—such as Southern Stars Quartet, Melody Boys Quartet, and Stamps-Baxter Goodwill Quartet—and quartet membership remained constant until students left the school.31 Income varied substantially among groups. If a group maintained a fairly consistent performance schedule, publicity photographs would be sold at their performances. One such group, the Southern Stars Quartet, decided to have professional photographs made of the group. Ordered from California at six cents each, they sold at concerts for fifty cents. In addition to income from the photographs, the quartet sold recordings and books published by the Stamps-­ Baxter Music and Printing Company. In return for selling company publications, Stamps-Baxter paid for their meals and hotel accommodations.32 Members of quartets that paid their own expenses received a commission on the sales of company publications. The quartet sold tickets for their Friday and Saturday performances but sang in church on Sundays for a “free-will o ­ ffering.” The free-will offering was a special voluntary collection taken during the church service for the sole purpose of providing monies to the quartet.33 In addition to concerts, quartets performed on radio shows. Unless there was a sponsor, quartet members rarely received pay for the radio show, although they received payment for gasoline used to travel to the event. The limited monies were used to pay the group’s travel expenses before members were paid (Figs. 8.1 and 8.2).34 Approximately one hundred students attended the GI School during its six years of operation.35 Reasons for attendance varied, but it appears that many students sought to maintain certain traditions. Some were interested in attending a full-time music school that taught “round” notes using what students called “doremi.”36 However, most if not all students were drawn by the



Fig. 8.1  Southern Stars Quartet (a GI student quartet). Burl Scarborough, Alvin Sawyer (Doc Dooley—GI School instructor), Esto Smith, Jim Holcomb. Lake Trinidad at Corsicana, TX, 1949. Photograph courtesy of Thurman Coffey

Fig. 8.2  Former Southern Stars Quartet members. Burl Scarborough, Alvin Sawyer, Esto Smith, Jim Holcomb. GI Reunion, Iuka, MS, October 6, 2001. Photograph by Jeannette Fresne



Fig. 8.3  Short differentiation of round-note notation versus shape-note notation

f­amiliarity of shape notes. In Showalter’s Practical Rudiments and Music Reader, one of the textbooks used in the school, shape notes are described (Fig. 8.3).37 Shape notes were the first American invention in music.38 Following the tradition of singing schools, the GI School used both round-note notation (traditional) and seven-shape-note notation, which was developed in the mid-­ 1800s by Jesse Bowman Aiken. He introduced his seven-shape-note system in The Christian Minstrel (1846), using seven-shape notation on two, three, or four staves, including meter signatures with accidentals placed on the staff in front of the notes to be altered.39 As the singing schools moved toward gospel music, so followed Aiken’s system of shape notes. When the Stamps-Baxter School of Music opened in 1926, Aiken’s shape notes were well established and continued in use into the twenty-first century. The students’ desire to study shape-note gospel music grew from musical experiences during their childhood years. Born in the 1920s, the same time as the founding of the company, many former GI School students still remember various Stamps-Baxter publications in their childhood homes. While the motivating factor for some students was tradition, others were drawn by their love of gospel music. Warren Wilson, like many GI School students, attended the school to learn more about gospel music. His approach to singing had been to “open my mouth and let her fly,” so he was interested in learning about the mechanics of singing. For many students, attending the school provided knowledge of music, spiritual edification, and the social benefits of meeting good friends.40

Facilities, Schedule, and Curriculum Facilities for the school were initially rented from Grace Temple Church, located next to the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company in Dallas. Eventually, the company purchased the church facilities, including separate buildings attached by a walkway.41 This permanent brick building contained an auditorium that could accommodate approximately 150 people42 and a nine-­ foot grand piano.43 The four classrooms used in the morning were the same four rooms used in the afternoon for applied piano and voice studies. Practice rooms were available for solo practice and ensemble rehearsals.44 The company used part of the facility for storage.45 Several former students reported that the opening exercises at the GI School began between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m.46 Although memories about the daily school schedule varied among students, they agreed that each day began with a time of prayer, reading one to ten verses from the Bible, a short commentary



on the scripture, and, occasionally, singing a song. Classes began immediately after these fifteen- to twenty-minute opening rituals. According to student John Phifer: It never got boring. You went from one thing to another, right quick-like, through the day. At the end, all of us—which I think there were sixty-something when I went—we all gathered in the auditorium and sang and directed. When a new songbook would come out, we’d start with [the] number one song and go right through it.47

As students could start at any level and progress at their own pace, class size, which typically ranged from eight to twenty, varied according to student progress.48 In interviews many years later, students expressed an understanding that they were entering a two-year program.49 Indeed, most completed the program in two years, although no formal graduation ceremony occurred. Instead, Combs would announce in the assembly class that one person, or several people, were receiving their certificates and would no longer attend.50 Although homework was regularly assigned in harmony, nothing was scheduled in the evenings except the Tuesday night radiobroadcast.51 GI students were required to attend the live radio show from 11:05  p.m. to midnight, where students sang as the GI Chorus under the direction of Combs: You can hear several of the boys in quartets and also the entire G. I. school chorus Tuesday night on the Stamps-Baxter Original Singing Convention of the Air from 11:05 to 11:55 WFAA 820. Tune them in and let us hear from you, and remember, “anything better than singing is more and better gospel singing.”52

In the hours before the Tuesday night radiobroadcast, the repair shop across the street from the school had a television in the window set to wrestling matches. With a speaker outside the store, the students would often watch the match prior to leaving for the radio show.53 Classes listed on the Monthly Report of Training, Veterans Administration Form 7–1905c included Music Theory, Ear Training, Sight-Reading, Harmony & Composition, Chorus, Supplemental Study and Practice, Private Voice, Private Piano, and Versification.54 Group learning occurred in Music Theory, Ear Training, Sight-Reading, and Versification. The “Assembly” class, also called “Directing,” addressed performance issues such as directing, stage appearance, choral arranging, quartet performance, and solo singing.55 Almost all students studied both private voice and private piano.56 Taught by Combs as an optional course on Saturday mornings, the piano tuning class developed a marketable skill. Few students attended this class due to conflicting work schedules and lack of interest. However, students who completed the training often used it during future years as a source of income, working either as private tuners or for established companies.57



Selected Students’ Use of Education After the GI School As students graduated or left the school, they found a variety of uses for their education. Some participated in choirs or bands associated with the companies for which they worked. There were also opportunities to serve in churches as song leaders, choral directors, soloists, and ministers of music. Quartets continued to be popular during the years after the GI School closed, and because of the school’s emphasis on sight-reading, applied voice, and four-part singing, many students performed with local quartets. In addition to performing, students engaged in piano tuning, publishing, and teaching, and a few obtained jobs with the Stamps-Baxter Company. Using their education in part-writing and versification, students published gospel music hymns through the decades, some continuing through the mid-2010s. Teaching singing schools continued to be an option. Indeed, some former students continue teaching singing schools some fifty years later.58

Ezra Knight Tom J.  Welch, who recommended that Ezra Knight attend the GI School, organized a singing school for Knight at a Methodist Church in Hackneyville, Alabama, in the summer of 1950, when Knight returned home from military duty. This was the first singing school Knight taught and Welch attended to observe his teaching. Knight taught all theory, ear training, and sight-singing classes using Stamps-Baxter Modern Rudiments with shape notes. The class (as the participants of the singing school were known) sang scales and learned how to direct songs using Stamps-Baxter songbooks. Completing this school ­successfully, Knight taught singing schools and normal schools full-time from 1950 to 1963.59 When Knight began working full-time for the Stamps-Baxter Company in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in September 1963, he limited his singing-school teaching to evenings and weekends: Ezra Knight, one of our former G. I. students and one of our very active teachers, will now be working with Stamps-Baxter employees in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He will replace Howard Young as shipping clerk and will also be attending conventions within reach from Chattanooga. We are glad to have Ezra in this capacity and feel sure he is going to enjoy the friends of Stamps-Baxter in the Chattanooga area.60

When Zondervan bought the company in 1974, officials closed the Chattanooga office and sent Knight to work in the Dallas office for the next twelve years. During his years in Chattanooga and then Dallas, he served as a church choir director in each location, in addition to conducting singing schools and working for the company.61



Although Knight chose not to attend the piano tuning class available on Saturday due to the heavy homework load, he learned piano tuning in the years after attending the school. Knight said, “A lot of times I’d find myself burning some midnight oil working with my harmony ‘cause I really wanted to learn that ‘cause I wanted to learn how to write some songs.”62 Knight estimates that he has published hundreds of songs since 1950. His first song, “For Christ My King,” was published in the Stamps-Baxter publication Better Songs in 1951. He submitted songs for publication to the Stamps-­ Baxter Company exclusively through 1986, with the exception of one piece submitted to the Stamps Quartet Music Company during the 1960s. After a few years had gone by and the song still had not been published, Knight requested that it be returned. The company declined and published it soon thereafter. When Zondervan bought the Stamps-Baxter Company in 1986, Knight began submitting his compositions to other companies. Through the early 2000s, Knight continued to teach singing schools, serve as church pianist, and teach piano privately.63

Thurman Coffey Shortly after leaving the GI School, Thurman Coffey began working for Burlington Industries in Johnson City, Tennessee, where he joined the company choir. The Burlington Industries company choir performed as a community service for various events in the local area, as well as for the employee Christmas program. He also sang occasionally in church and community quartets.64 Since March 1, 1953, Coffey has served as church choir director at Riggs Chapel Baptist Church in Harriman, Tennessee, the church in which he was raised. The hymnal used by the church when he began as choral director in 1953 was printed in shape notes, and the church continued to use a shape-note hymnal into the early twenty-first century. Although Coffey read shape notes and round notes, he continued to use shape notes because most people in his church could read them and very few read round notes. According to Coffey, the majority of the people in the church in 1943 knew how to read shape notes. Throughout the years, he offered classes periodically in the rudiments of shape-note reading as well as the basics of meter, in addition to other skills he deemed necessary to participate in church music. Classes were usually taught over a period of one month for one hour each week.65 Thurman Coffey composed more than one hundred songs. He composed his first song in 1953 and requested that Volley R. (Doc) Dooley add lyrics. Published by the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company the same year, “Travel On” appeared in Harvest Songs.66 Since 1953, he has published with multiple lyricists, including the author, and has had over one hundred songs published by several companies, including Stamps-Baxter, Vaughn Music Company, Cumberland Valley Music Company, Jeffress Music Company, Leoma Music Company, and Gospel Heritage Music Company. For several



years, he published four songs every year, each song by a different company. Although Coffey has never worked full-time in music, his consistent part-time efforts in performing, directing, and composing during the past fifty years reflect the use of the education he received at the GI School.67

Jim Holcomb During the decades after attending the GI School, Jim Holcomb sang on a radio show with a local quartet in Fort Payne, Alabama. While serving as minister of music during the 1960s at Northside Baptist Church in Attalla, Alabama, he also participated in community choirs. From the 1950s to the 1970s, he taught two singing schools each year at local churches to maintain his musicianship and teaching skills learned in the GI School, and he purchased the materials needed from the Stamps-Baxter Company. During the last three decades of the twentieth century, he participated in the church choir but no longer held the position of minister of music.68

Henry Blankenship After graduating from the GI School, Henry Blankenship returned to Richmond, Virginia, where he directed a church choir (a nonpaying position) and tuned pianos for the Terry Piano Company. In 1956, he accepted a paid conducting position at another church. A year later, with an increase in the demand for piano tuners, he resigned his conducting position at the church. He resigned after nine years of employment with the Terry Piano Company to become a self-employed piano tuner. In May 1977, he sold the business and moved to Blacksburg, Virginia, to help care for his wife’s parents. In addition to piano tuning, he reported that he used the conducting skills he acquired at the GI School in various church positions, including choral director. When he was no longer the choral director, Blankenship joined the choir. He has been an active participant throughout the years in every church attended.69

Warren Wilson Upon leaving the GI School, Wilson used his music education in personal, religious, and social settings. His children performed as a family ensemble during church services. He sang in the church choir and assisted as interim choral director through the years when needed, but he never served as a permanent minister of music.70

Calvin Wills Calvin Wills worked as a mechanic in his father’s garage until the spring of 1947, when he decided to change careers by entering the music business, where he could utilize the education he had received at the GI School. One



month prior to finishing at the school, he accepted an invitation to join a quartet in Alabama. As a result, he did not receive a certificate. He and his wife moved to Dothan, Alabama, where he performed with the Dempsey Rain Water Quartet and the Dixie Melody Boys. He performed in the evenings and on early morning radio shows, and tuned pianos during the day until June 1949, when he fell ill with an inner ear infection. When he became sick, he and his wife moved back to Dallas. In 1951, he opened a piano tuning store with Cecil Pollock, a former classmate from the GI School. Wills remembers charging $5.00 and $7.50 for piano tuning in the late 1940s and early 1950s, respectively.71 In 1956, Wills and his sister started a company called Sword and Shield Music Printing Company, which published sheet music and produced recordings. Different in function from the Stamps-Baxter Company, the Sword and Shield Company published or recorded material written by an individual or group, whereas Stamps-Baxter published material edited and/or written by its staff. Individuals or groups that contracted with the Sword and Shield Company were responsible for paying royalties and other publishing or recording-related expenses, and they were required to release Sword and Shield from certain publishing liabilities.72 In addition to his work in music, Wills operated several small businesses, including a piano store, a barbeque restaurant, a drive-in grocery, and a music store. In 1968, he and his sister, Lu, produced a family television show with more than 150 episodes syndicated to about thirty stations. In 1998, they produced the Wills Family Reunion television show. Throughout the years, he retained his desire to promote gospel music.73

Reunions Former students began to organize reunions during the 1980s in various locations; the 1988 GI reunion was held in Harriman, Tennessee, where Coffey was born and raised.74 Originally intended to produce GI Chorus recordings, the reunions became annual events by 1990. After meeting in different locations in Texas, Tennessee, and Mississippi during the early 1990s, they finally settled on Iuka, Mississippi, as the place for the annual reunion. Located in the northeast corner of Mississippi, Iuka is central to Texas and Tennessee and had a church willing to host the reunion. Former GI School students meet at the Shady Grove Baptist Church, where John Phifer, a former student at the GI School, attended. Several former students attend regularly. With the exception of the reunion in 2000 when his wife was experiencing high blood pressure, Holcomb attended all the GI reunions. John Phifer attended the reunion for at least ten years and Wilson attended every reunion although he had to leave early one year on Saturday when his daughter was having surgery. The yearly GI School reunions continued annually during the first weekend of October from 1995 to 2005.



Conclusion From February of 1947 to July of 1953, the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company in Dallas operated the Stamps-Baxter GI School of Music for returning veterans.75 The United States government made available grants for honorably discharged veterans to use toward their education under Public Law 346. The school continued year round, and students could enter at any time. Quarterly examinations were administered to determine their progress and understanding of the subject matter, which consisted of music theory, harmony, composition, sight-reading, ear training, directing, interpretation, piano, and voice. Indeed, former students express strong sentiments regarding the success of the school. Unanimously, they report that the training was challenging and scholarly. Many former students who did not stay to complete requirements for their two-year certificates said that they often regretted the missed education, in addition to not earning the certificate of completion.76 Conveying no negative criticism of the school or its administration, students consistently related personal events in which the school, administration, teachers, and company provided needed support at crucial moments in their lives. Organized by Baxter to show appreciation for the young men’s efforts in the military, the GI School appears to have met the immediate and future needs of the students for whom it was established. When the school closed, he reiterated the sentiment expressed when the school had opened six years earlier: The Stamps-Baxter G. I. School was not launched for profits and we shall feel grateful if we come out even, but we saw the need and went to work to supply that need … We believe that the young men who faced the horrors of combat, as well as those who were torn from their loved ones, have a right to expect us to make every effort possible to give them the training in Gospel Music they were deprived of while they were away. It is our duty to give that which we possess.77

Notes 1. Ezra Knight, Interview by author (Iuka, MS, October 5, 2002). 2. “Stamps-Baxter G. I. School,” advertisement, Gospel Music News 14 (October 1947): 3. Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company published Gospel Music News, a monthly periodical, from March 1940 to December 1974. Topics in the journal included its sponsored singing schools, an occasional gospel song, statements on company growth and reduction, and the GI School, including the names of GI students who completed the two-year school. 3. Knight, interview. 4. Lester L.  Dooley, “News from G.  I. School of Music of Stamps-Baxter in Dallas,” Gospel Music News 15 (March 1949): 30. 5. Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, Statutes at Large 58, sec. 400, 287 (1944). 6. V.  Ray Cardozier, Colleges and Universities in World War II (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1993), 224.



7. Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, Statutes at Large 58, sec. 400, 290 (1944). 8. Theodore R. Mosch, The G.I. Bill: A Breakthrough in Educational and Social Policy in the United States (Hicksville, NY: Exposition Press, 1975), 44. 9. C. E. Evans, The Story of Texas Schools (Austin, TX: Steck Company, 1955), 139. 10. John Phifer, Interview by author (Iuka, MS, October 6, 2001). 11. Warren Wilson, Interview by author (Iuka, MS, October 6, 2001). 12. Ed Hamrick, Interview by author (Iuka, MS, October 6, 2001). 13. Thurman Coffey, Interview by author (Iuka, MS, October 6, 2001). 14. Veteran’s Readjustment Assistance Act of 1952, Statutes at Large 82, 663–91 (1952); and Mosch, The G.I. Bill, 52. 15. Ma [Clarice] Baxter, “Opportune Observations,” Gospel Music News 19 (July 1953): 3. 16. Calvin Wills, Interview by author (Dallas, TX, July 30, 1999); Coffey, interview. Information derived from lists of names on the GI reunion mailing list and an additional list of deceased former GI School students. Wills and Coffey provided lists from 1989, 2000, and 2002. 17. James Holcomb, Interview by author (Iuka, MS, October 5, 2002). 18. Blankenship, interview. 19. Wills, interview. 20. Coffey, interview. 21. Esto Smith, Interview by author (Iuka, MS, October 6, 2001). 22. Wilson, interview. 23. Knight, interview. 24. Blankenship, interview. 25. “Stamps-Baxter Special Music School,” Gospel Music News 13 (November 1945): 7. 26. Wilson, interview. 27. Coffey, interview; J. Phifer, interview; and Charles Wade Walker, Interview by author (Iuka, MS, October 6, 2001). J. Phifer lived in a boarding house with Walker, Coffey, and other GI School students. 28. Holcomb, interview. 29. Blankenship, interview; Dessie Roach, Interview by author (Iuka, MS, October 5, 2002). Wilford Roach began part-time work as a typesetter during his years in the GI School. He worked for the company until his death in 1984. 30. Holcomb, interview. 31. Ibid. 32. Ibid. Holcomb, a member of this quartet, remembers the hotel accommodations as “very nice.” 33. Ibid. 34. Wilson, interview. 35. Information derived from lists of names on the GI reunion mailing list and an additional list of deceased former GI School students. Wills and Coffey provided lists from 1989, 2000, and 2002. 36. Coffey, interview; Katherine Fossett, Interview by author (Iuka, MS, October 6, 2001); and Knight, interview. Shape-note singers use the terms “syllable names” or “singing the notes” to indicate the use of do, di, re, ri, mi, me, fa, fi, so, si, la, ti (Coffey, interview). The purpose of using syllable names was to facilitate audiation when reading notation. Coffey, Fossett, and Knight referred to the solfège



system as “doremi.” Under the assumption that students would eventually teach singing schools, solfège hand signs were presented as an additional teaching tool in the singing schools, especially for the benefit of children or when there were hearing-impaired students in attendance. 37. Blankenship, interview. Anthony Johnson Showalter, Showalter’s Practical Rudiments and Music Reader, revised ed. (Dallas, TX: Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Co., 1926), 6. 38. Jeannette Fresne, “The Stamps-Baxter GI School of Music: The Singing School Funded by the GI Bill,” Contributions to Music Education 34 (2008): 110. 39. Gilbert Chase, America’s Music: From the Pilgrims to the Present, 3rd ed. (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1987), 182. 40. Wilson, interview. 41. Fresne, “The Stamps-Baxter GI School,” 83. 42. Wilson, interview. 43. Blankenship, interview. 44. J. Phifer, interview. 45. Wilson, interview. 46. Wilson, interview (estimated 7:00  a.m.); Blankenship, interview (estimated 7:30 a.m.); Holcomb, interview (estimated 8:00 a.m.); and Coffey, interview (estimated 8:00 a.m.). 47. J. Phifer, interview. 48. Blankenship, interview; and Wilson, interview. 49. Holcomb, interview. 50. Blankenship, interview, Wilson, interview; and Holcomb, interview. 51. Holcomb, interview. 52. Dooley, “News from G. I. School,” 30. Knight, interview; and Wilson, interview. Former students believe that there are no extant recordings of these broadcasts. 53. Coffey, interview. 54. Jeannette Fresne, “Schools of the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company: A History from 1926 to 1964” (D.M.A. diss., Arizona State University, 2004), 103–04, 108. 55. Volley R. (Doc) Dooley, letter to author, October 15, 2002, Dallas, TX. 56. Wilson, interview. There were individual exceptions. Wilson studied piano for two days but decided through a discussion with Wallace, his piano teacher, that he would not be a pianist. 57. Holcomb, interview; and Wills, interview. 58. Knight, interview. 59. Ibid. 60. Ma [Clarice] Baxter, “Welcome to Ranks,” Gospel Music News 29 (September 1963): 14. 61. “Our New Employee,” Gospel Music News 29 (September 1963): 27; and Knight, interview. 62. Knight, interview; Wills, interview; Coffey, interview. 63. Ibid. 64. Coffey, interview. 65. Ibid. 66. Harvest Songs: Our First 1953 Book for Singing Schools, etc. (Dallas, TX: StampsBaxter Music and Printing Company, 1953).



67. Coffey, interview. 68. Holcomb, interview. 69. Blankenship, interview. 70. Wilson, interview. 71. Wills, interview. 72. Ibid. 73. Ibid. 74. Esther Evelyn (nee Ehnow) Phifer, Interview by author (Iuka, MS, October 5, 2002). Date and location handwritten in one of the songbooks in her possession. 75. Ibid. 76. Coffey, interview. 77. J[esse] R[andall] Baxter, Jr., “This and That,” Gospel Music News 14 (August 1948): 2; quoted in Beary, “The Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company,” 157.

References Baxter, J[esse] R[andall], Jr. “This and That.” Gospel Music News, June 9, 1943: 2. Baxter, Ma [Clarice]. “Opportune Observations.” Gospel Music News, July 19, 1953: 3. ———. “Welcome to Ranks.” Gospel Music News, September 29, 1963: 14. Beary, Shirley L. “The Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company: A Continuing American Tradition, 1926–1976.” D.M.A. diss., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1977. Cardozier, V. Ray. Colleges and Universities in World War II. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1993. Chase, Gilbert. America’s Music: From the Pilgrims to the Present, 3rd ed. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1987. Dooley, Lester L. “News from G. I. School of Music of Stamps-Baxter in Dallas.” Gospel Music News, March 15, 1949: 30. Evans, C. E. The Story of Texas Schools. Austin, TX: Steck Company, 1955. Fresne, Jeannette. “Schools of the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company: A History from 1926 to 1964” D.M.A. diss., Arizona State University, 2004. ———. “The Stamps-Baxter GI School of Music: The Singing School Funded by the GI Bill.” Contributions to Music Education 34 (2008): 79–96. Harvest Songs: Our First 1953 Book for Singing Schools, etc. Dallas, TX: Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company, 1953. Mosch, Theodore R. The G.I. Bill: A Breakthrough in Educational and Social Policy in the United States. Hicksville, NY: Exposition Press, 1975. “Our New Employee.” Gospel Music News, September 29, 1963: 27. Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944. Statutes at Large 58 (1944). Showalter, Anthony Johnson. Showalter’s Practical Rudiments and Music Reader. Rev. ed. Dallas, TX: Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company, 1926. “Stamps-Baxter G. I. School.” Gospel Music News, October 14, 1947: 3. “Stamps-Baxter Special Music School.” Gospel Music News, November 13, 1945: 7. Veteran’s Readjustment Assistance Act of 1952. Statutes at Large 82 (1952).


Witnesses to Death: Soldiers on the  Western Front Natasha Silk

Introduction This chapter explores the response of British soldiers who fought on the Somme between July and November 1916 to bereavement. While historians concede that these soldiers were affected, sometimes profoundly, by their battlefield experiences, this is usually balanced by the overarching belief that in time they became hardened to the sights of violent death.1 It has been argued that these experiences did not overwhelm the soldiers but instead dampened their senses to the horror.2 Although there is some truth in this assertion, the belief that emotional stoicism was such a vital part of the pervading construct of masculinity that emotional responses from soldiers were rare and when they did occur, were frowned on, deserves to be more thoroughly interrogated by historians. The diaries, memoirs, trench journals, and oral testimony of soldiers provide ample proof that they constructed, processed, or attempted to mask their feelings in a variety of ways in response to bereavement. In particular, the diary of Harry Drinkwater and the memoir of Giles Eyre are used to chart the experience of the individual over the duration of their time on the Somme.3

The Battle of the Somme The Battle of the Somme has earned a reputation as the bloodiest and most futile attack of the Great War. Witness to the highest casualty rate ever sustained by the British Army in a single day, it was initially conceived as one of a

N. Silk (*) University of Kent, Canterbury, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




series of combined offensives against the Central Powers in 1916 launched by the French, British, Russian, and Italian armies that would bring the war to a conclusion. Kitchener’s New Army was initially to have played a support role to the larger French contribution. By the time of the opening attack on July 1, 1916, the French were being bled white in the 303-day battle at Verdun which would eventually cost them 377,000 casualties. The British attack on the northern flank instead became the principal effort. In the week preceding the opening of the battle, the Germans were subjected to a heavy bombardment designed to cut their wire and destroy their defences. The initial wave of soldiers discovered to their cost that this was not the case; most of the wire was still intact, and German soldiers emerged from their deep dugouts and machine gunned the approaching troops as they walked towards the German lines. At the end of the first day, British casualties already numbered 57,470, 19,240 of whom were killed for a limited gain on the German right 5.6 kilometres wide and 1.6  kilometres deep. A series of failed or semi-successful offensives followed over the next four months. By the time the offensive ground to a halt, the British Army had captured 12 kilometres of ground at the cost of 432,000 men killed, wounded, or missing. Though it has been subject to revision, the popular view that the British Army were lions led by donkeys has proved remarkably resilient.4 Revisionist historians have challenged this construct by suggesting that the British Army gained new understandings of how the war should be fought.5 Furthermore, as William Philpott has argued, the passing of time has stripped the debate of some of its emotion, for “the great battle can be examined in its entirety and complexity, and even rehabilitated as the ‘quest for blame’ of the post war decades subsides.”6 Though Jay Winter pinpoints the Battle of the Somme as the exact moment the traditional ideas of warfare were destroyed, both on the Home Front and on the frontline, this is not true of the British Army as a whole.7 Though no doubt true for many on the Home Front and for the men of Kitchener’s New Army who had their baptism of fire on the Somme, the regulars and the territorials had already fought at Mons, Loos, and Neuve Chappelle. Indeed, some of the Kitchener Battalions had previously seen action at places such as Arras. Many of those men had already had their illusions of glory shattered or at least challenged. The reinforcements, some of whom were conscripts, who would arrive to buttress the broken battalions, would experience this painful revelation as the war progressed. The Somme, therefore, is more accurately considered an example of how participation in an offensive, particularly one that began with such high hopes, impacts on morale and contributes to growing disillusionment. It is not possible, however, to consider it a victory in any form. Had losses been less catastrophic and appreciable gains achieved, soldiers may have felt the sacrifice of their comrades more worthwhile, as perhaps they did in the second half of 1918. On the Somme, however, grief could not be assuaged by conferring on it special meaning. The battle had not achieved its objective and had ground to a halt in a sea of mud and dashed hopes.



Grief and Mourning During the Great War Grief and mourning among soldiers of the Great War is an area rarely explored by scholars, nor is it associated with the popular understanding of the Tommy. In contrast, in their study of the French experience of war, Stephane Audoin-­ Rouzeau and Annette Becker refer to soldiers as the first group in mourning.8 Psychological works can help inform our understanding of grief as a natural human emotion. Colin Murray Parkes argues that grief is difficult to define because it does not have a standard set of symptoms. It is often experienced in episodic pangs and intense emotions which resurface over a lifetime.9 Among frontline soldiers, emotional responses to death challenge pervasive constructs of masculinity and civilian perceptions of what it means to be a soldier. However, grief over the death of a friend or comrade was omnipresent in the ranks of the British Army. Traditional grief and mourning processes were not, however, always appropriate, timely, or applicable. Traditional indicators of grieving do not necessarily appear, but symptoms that are specific to battlefield conditions and the witnessing of violent death do. In addition, there is a need to ensure that any attempt to understand the grieving process recognises the separate impact of offensive action on the soldier as distinct from everyday life and death in the trenches. Participating in offensive action forced men to leave the relative safety of the trenches and enter a world where death was random, anonymous, unpreventable, and unpredictable. However, as well as risking their own lives, soldiers were forced to confront the losses of the men with whom they had trained, eaten, slept, and now fought with. The most obvious symptom of the grieving process was a deep disillusionment concerning the value of their lives and those of their comrades. This usually, but not exclusively, was closely associated with a loss of faith in the traditional understanding of the glory of war and wartime sacrifice. Michael Roper argues that historians shy away from considering the soldiers’ response to death because they were so varied and contradictory.10 Paul Fussell has suggested that soldiers themselves struggled to put the war into words, in what he terms “the collision between events and the language available … to describe them.” This either manifested itself in complete silence or the eschewing of direct language when observing that a friend or comrade had been killed.11 Reactions to bereavement are diverse, particularly when the individual soldier experiences the loss in the wider context of mass death. This should not be confused with hardening or indifference. As Malcolm Brown has argued, men would respond to the same situation differently based on character and the pressures of the social group they found themselves in.12 During large-scale offensives, men would have to process a range of emotional responses concerning different types of death, which if they allowed it to, would inevitably impact morale and endanger their own lives. Although it may be impossible to build a comprehensive and generalised view of soldiers’ grief, it is possible to map and establish a complex picture of how men processed their feelings of loss in the trenches.



Mourning Mass Death in the Military Misconceptions about soldiers’ emotional responses may have been informed by a misunderstanding of how the military structure influenced a man’s mentality. The army was an institution that stripped men of their civilian identity, with the explicit aim of replacing a man’s civilian sensibilities with a regimental identity.13 These military groupings would in essence become a man’s community. The British Army was tribal in nature with men identifying very closely with their regiment.14 Within these traditional and uniform groups, men formed their own informal communities which provided the necessities the military structure could not offer.15 Therefore, a bereavement within a community would ultimately create chaos, just as it would do in a civilian grouping.16 David French has argued that after heavy losses, men came to see their battalions not as a unit possessing military prestige but as a dwindling group of friends.17 These two understandings of the military structure were not mutually exclusive but existed side by side in the trenches. The impact of the loss was twofold, for it was both personal and military. Consequently, the level of carnage wrought upon military groupings at the Somme would have enduring consequences for the men who survived. Soldiers of the Great War did not have the same intense devotion to the identity of the regiment as their regular army predecessors.18 They did not set the mass casualties within the context of the greater prestige of the regiment but instead felt them personally. Alfred Percy Irwin saw the new drafts arrive to fill the gaps in his regiment after the Somme but “it was no longer the 8th East Surreys in spirit. All my best chaps had gone.”19 The identity of a battalion was not rooted in insignia or a glorious military history, the value was with the men who served as part of the unit. For men such as Irwin, the spirit of the battalion had been lost. The deceased had once embodied the personality or spirit of the unit, and it was this that had been destroyed on the battlefield. Harry Drinkwater enlisted in the Army in 1914 at the outbreak of war and served in the Birmingham Pals (later designated the 15th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment), entering the trenches for the first time at the end of 1915. He served on the Western Front for the final three years of the war and was present at both the Somme and Passchendaele. Drinkwater saw the battalion irretrievably changed by the death of so many men: “The battalion as a Pals Battalion was badly shaken on 4 June at Arras and practically ceased to exist after our first time up at Delville Wood. Since then drafts of men have come up from time to time but not men of the same stamp.”20 The drafts were not, in Drinkwater’s estimation, of the same quality as the men they had replaced, nor could they be trained to be. They had not shared the experiences of the small handful of survivors. Though the battalion could be reformed in the literal sense, it had been weakened, at least in spirit if not in body. Bonds on the frontline were not formed simply because men were thrust together to fight but instead were nurtured by the shared experience of everyday existence and cemented through the hardships of war. When these bonds were severed



by death, men could not always find the same sense of belonging in their fighting unit that they once had. The sense of loss, both of individuals and the group cohesion they offered, was compounded by the constant stream of reinforcements who were also being killed. Disillusionment set in as soldiers saw few prospects for their own survival in a world that seemingly placed so little value on the life of an individual. Drinkwater acknowledged that “it’s a very worrying business, this getting to know a fellow, going up the line and afterwards finding out no one knows what has happened to him. His place is filled by the next draft up and so continues; officers and men alike. The infantry are beginning to be known as ‘gun fodder.’”21 By the time Drinkwater wrote these words, the Somme offensive had been raging for over two months. He had already seen action before July 1916 and had seen a large number of recruits join the battalion only to be killed or wounded. Soldiers such as Drinkwater who had already witnessed the destructive nature of the war did not have the inclination, nor the time, to form close bonds with these men. The deaths of reinforcements did not create feelings of grief but instead exacerbated a sense of apathy. There was no glory to be had in war. There was only the near certainty of death or wounds. By the mid-point of the Somme, Drinkwater was well aware that he was merely fodder for the materialschlacht of war. Emotional responses to severe trauma could not always be kept private, even for experienced soldiers. As a result of a shared loss on such a monumental scale, public displays of emotion became acceptable in the martial sphere. The oral testimony collected by the Imperial War Museum in the 1970s and 1980s provides a window into the aftermath of the Somme Offensive. There is much which can be said about the validity of oral accounts, given their inherent subjectivity.22 However, this research is concerned with the ways men recall events they witnessed and the language they use to discuss their own actions and the actions of others. Thomas Alfred Dewing recalled a church parade after battle and noted “that we had no idea what a shambles it had been … the Colonels sat in front of what was left of their battalions, sat there sobbing. We were completely taken aback, didn’t realise it was anything like that. ”23 Andre Loez has argued that tears on the frontline were generally considered unacceptable whereas sobbing was rarely derided. Sobbing was seen as the point where a man had met his “emotional threshold” and could no longer maintain control over his emotions.24 Dewing does not deride the emotional reaction of these men, suggesting that their emotional display was acceptable, given the extreme circumstances. In fact, it would seem from Dewing’s words many years after the event, that this scene had a lasting emotional impact on him. The men who had survived the first day of the Somme had experienced horrors and a level of death that was extraordinary. These officers were men who had been pushed to their limits by being forced to witness the annihilation of the battalions they were responsible for leading into battle. Their hard work and investment in these battalions had been undone in



a single day. As soldiers, they were taught they had agency over life and death, whereas, in reality, there was little they could do to prevent it.

Constructing Communal Mourning The existence of individual grief is not proof that it was widespread, nor that public displays of emotion in response to bereavement were the norm. Men could hide their feelings, and diary entries and post-war memoirs are by their nature selective in both what they record and how they record it. However, in trench journals produced on the frontline by soldiers for soldiers, there is evidence to suggest there was a communal aspect to grief in the British Army. This was a public and enduring admission of how soldiers felt about the losses they had sustained, one pervaded by the narrative that the unit could never be the same again. The most detailed account of the impact of the Somme on a military unit is the Highland Light Infantry’s trench magazine The Outpost. This magazine is notable for both the level of detail and the fact that it was one of the few journals which had a continuous run during the summer of 1916. This allows for the charting of the varied manifestations of shared grief as men had time to process their collective bereavement and were relieved of the immediate censorship which followed the calamity of July 1. The regiment’s roll call on July 4 revealed that 22 officers and 447 other ranks had been killed, wounded, or were missing. In the edition released on August 1, 1916, there is an explicit reference to the immediate communal reaction to these losses: We feel intensely for those we have lost that words seem idle and thought itself in vain. We mourn for them with a grief the more real and poignant in that they were to us not merely comrades-in-arms, but personal friends.25

The use of “we” reinforces regimental identity by characterising the grief as a shared and collective feeling of loss. This reflects a widespread view that the shared experience of war had created a community of men who knew each other well and had come to rely on one another as both comrades and friends. The reference to the fallen as “friends” ensures that the discussion of grief and loss transcends the military sphere. Just as they would have been in peace, these men were friends rather than merely soldiers of the same regiment. Soldiers can be replaced. Friends cannot. In October, the magazine’s editorial made further explicit reference to the impact of such losses: The first of July, which marked the beginning of the Somme Offensive, witnessed the process of breaking-up. We have not recovered from these initial losses, nor is it likely we ever shall. We had lost of the finest, the bravest and the best. We who were left were thenceforth deprived of the service and comradeship of those who had played the greater part in making the Battalion what it was.26



Although these words were written before the end of the offensive, the sentiments expressed are consistent with those present in personal accounts recorded during and after the war. As trench journals were regarded as a vehicle for both influencing and communicating the identity of a fighting unit,27 it is highly likely that this editorial reflected the feelings of many of the survivors. In fact, several trench journals began out of the soldiers’ desire to record for posterity their own, true account of what was happening on the frontline.28 By acknowledging to soldiers that it was acceptable to grieve, collective grief was assimilated with the broader identity of the fighting unit. It was an elite brotherhood.The men who joined the unit after the Somme could not share the experience of having served with the glorious dead. For them, there was only the knowledge that the men they were replacing had set the standard very high. These words, and others like them, sought to enshrine a glorious regimental history and to offer comfort to the men who knew the cost of that history. The trench journal also played a quietly subversive role, in that it helped construct the emotional identity of the battalion, “as human beings in contradiction to fighting men we have ran through the gamut of emotions.”29 The same editor who mourned the losses on the Somme chose to make a distinction between a soldier’s two different and conflicting identities, ones that needed to balance the stoicism expected of a soldier and the civilian identification with an emotional response towards a mass and intense bereavement. As Jay Winter and Denis Winter have argued, the First World War soldier was a civilian in uniform who never truly shed his pre-war identity.30 Nevertheless, soldiers would have been well aware of what was expected of them as “fighting men.” As human beings, however, they could not always hide or even control their emotional reaction but as soldiers they knew the value of retaining at least the veneer of the stiff upper lip. So public admission of this conflict between soldier and civilian identities suggests that far from being completely unacceptable within the martial sphere, emotional reactions were to a certain extent discussed openly and accepted with varying degrees of tolerance. Trench journals were not the only way men sought to make sense of their individual and communal grief on the frontline. Letters to the family of the deceased were often a place where men referred to themselves as a group in mourning. They were also a place where the individual often openly shared his feelings of sorrow with the Home Front. Sergeant M. Sharkey wrote to a Mrs Linzell, on the death of her son Lieutenant Harold Harding Linzell: On behalf of the Grenade Squad and myself who is sergeant in charge, I thought it my duty and honour to write to you with deep regret of all of the above, in the loss of the finest and best leader ever possessed during our activity … we all mourn the loss of him deeply, because he was well respected not only by the bombers but by everyone in the Batt, I repeat again we all mourn the loss of him.31

Sharkey writes on behalf of all the men in the fighting unit, perhaps as an expression of military hierarchy, and as a sergeant he would have had more



direct contact with an officer than the other members of the squad. Understandably, Sharkey emphasises the qualities of the unfortunate Linzell, a point reinforced by his observation that his views were shared by the entire battalion. What is even more interesting is the additional observation that the men are in an active state of mourning. The letter becomes not only an attempt to assuage the grief of a popular officer’s family but to make it clear that they too shared the impact of this bereavement. However, the most ritualised display of shared mourning came when burials and rudimentary funerals took place at the front. This was naturally more difficult during an offensive. Burial has been an important part of the grieving process in most communities and societies throughout history. The death of a soldier could be a chaotic event within the bounds of a tight-knit group of men. Burial and all the relevant rites are a way in which human beings try to restore order to the world.32 A soldier is no different, particularly in the large civilian army which served during the Great War. E.P.F.  Lynch records just such a scene in his memoir, though for all its insight, the author still cannot quite use the word killed and settles on a euphemism: I land the padre at the cemetery where a long row of shallow graves are dug. Near each open grave lies the body of an Australian soldier … The men nearby stand to attention. A few of them remove their steel helmets and the padre says a brief burial service and passes on to the next … Hard livers, hard doers—yet there’s a tightening of the jaws, a treading softly through the muddy lanes between the graves and hushed serious over all tonight. A communing between man and Maker, unspoken, unproclaimed by lip, but our innermost hearts are furrowed by grief for mates gone west.33

Despite the hurried and quiet nature of the burials, men still observed particular funeral practices as a sign of respect. They still stood to attention and some removed their helmets. It was a rudimentary service that men attended and observed. Furthermore, although they had been detailed to carry out these burials, they still did so with the highest respect for the fallen. It was far from being an ordinary military task. Themes that have been present throughout exist here; they were not comrades but “mates” instead. Lynch straddled the line between military identity and human emotions, but they were shared and not just personal. An unspoken understanding of how the bereavement of their military comrades affected them pervades the description. Despite the hardness of character, this was an appropriate moment to break and grieve for those men who had  “gone west.” Although Lynch's account emphasises that emotion was present, it was a controlled emotion.

Mobilisation for Combat and Bereavement There was more than just military indoctrination acting to control emotional responses to losses sustained during an offensive. A misunderstanding of the natural psychological processes which occur during battle has led to the belief



that soldiers are left unaffected by the scenes they witness. Understandings of masculinity and the appropriate conduct for a soldier in the martial sphere have further cemented this idea. Alexander Watson argues that during combat men cease to function on a conscious plain, with Loez suggesting that “the mobilisation of the mind and body” for battle delayed an emotional response to war.34 However, the mind demobilises after battle; soldiers must then confront the experience. For Harry Drinkwater this occurred only after he left the trenches. During a period of rest, in September 1916, he records in his diary, “Now that it was over we had time to reflect on our losses since our advent into the Somme, of many good fellows that we had known who had gone west.”35 Drinkwater’s diary entry demonstrates that he was aware that there was no time in the line to lament losses, but that the periods behind the lines offered ample time for reflection. With the demobilisation of the mind, men could begin to acknowledge and process feelings of grief. These periods of rest meant that men had the space and time to deal with loses without their emotional response endangering lives. However, for some men, the grieving process was postponed until after the end of the war. The complete demobilisation of the mind and body led to a process of mourning required to come to terms with a bereavement, as soldiers such as Alexander Aitken acknowledge in their memoirs: “the attack was led by Frank Jones, who replaced another officer at the last moment. To my great grief, not so much felt then, when death was occurring all around, as later when I was out of it … [Jones] died on 22nd September.”36 Aitken does not give a specific moment when these feelings occurred, but his experience demonstrates that grief could be repressed for a period following bereavement. Witnessing mass death can lessen or obscure entirely the initial impact of a personal bereavement. The loss of Jones, someone he clearly thought highly of, became just one of thousands of similar deaths. His emotional response was repressed until the end of the war when the possibility of his own mutilation or death became less likely. The repression of grief was not a process which could continue indefinitely; when the mind demobilised from combat, soldiers were ultimately confronted with the emotional pain of losing a close comrade.

An Individual’s Grief Explored: Giles Eyre One of the most detailed explorations of bereavement and its emotional manifestations was a memoir written by Giles Eyre. It is an account of the two months’ intense fighting that Eyre participated in as a soldier in the Second Kings Royal Rifle Corps, from May to July 1916 before he was taken prisoner on July 23, 1916. During his time on the Somme, most of his close comrades were killed; however, some bereavements were more intense than others. At the height of battle, his close friend Rodwell was shot while saving his life: ‘Oh pitiful Mother of Sorrows!’ Cries O’Donnell in a cracked and stricken voice, running forward and dropping down … It had been my poor, brave pal who had



snatched me from the very maw of death—and had paid the price for me! We two stricken with sudden, searing sorrow, bent over him.37

Ultimately, moments such as this could prevent men from continuing to fight, if only momentarily. Although many men struggled to process their bereavements during battle, Eyre highlights here the significance of the varied and individual responses human beings have to bereavements. For soldiers were not just passive witnesses to death but would have to provide aid or comfort to friends and enemies as they died. Roper has argued men who chose to assist the dying were brought face to face with death. They would have to touch the wound should they attempt to save the man or try to comfort a man whose life they knew they could not save. All of this would occur while experiencing “the infant terror” of falling apart himself.38 As Eyre and his comrade “essayed to apply the field dressing we saw with horror that it had broken the cheekbone, made a horrible cavity of red, mangled flesh, with gouts of blood seeping up, and had carried away part of his ear.”39 Here, the two men were forced to confront the damage inflicted on flesh by modern weaponry, as well as how far adrenaline could sustain a man despite a grave wound. Throughout this ordeal, Eyre and O’Donnell struggled to keep their emotions in check. Joanna Bourke has suggested that wounded men were expected to remain stoic even when injured, as to plead and cry would break the unwritten rule of manly stoicism, although Eyre’s understanding was more nuanced than this might suggest40: “‘Pull yourself together, Rod,’ I cried wildly. ‘We’ll bandage you up and get you away: you’ll be alright.’ But as I gazed at his poor shattered face I knew all be in vain.”41 The need for men to “pull themselves together” is not in fact tied only to notions of masculinity but is recognition that the men trying to save you are likewise struggling with their own fear. In this case, Eyre is trying to convince the wounded man, as well as himself, that they will both survive. His own powerlessness in the face of wounding or death would have only exacerbated his grief. Pat Jalland has argued that a man could become hardened to the sight of death but ultimately his inner reserve would break down, as Eyre’s memoir makes clear42: We two grief-stricken, heedless of the war, of battle, the burst of shells, or the wails of stricken men around us, watched the great soul of our pal wing its way free to soar to the realms beyond our kin. I stood thus petrified, grasping the hand of the pal that had saved me from oblivion and in doing so had forfeited his own life, full of purpose and promise. O’Donnell was mute, filled with the sense of our loss, and we two, who had learned to look on death unmoved, bowed down and wept, while around us the din of the conflict waxed louder as the Boche began to plaster us with shells again on the railway line.43



In this instance, we see how the collapse of a soldier’s self-control in the face of danger challenges the construct of the battle-hardened soldier. Devastated by the loss of Rodwell both men begin to cry, free from any sense that their reaction was inappropriate. Though there are certain elements of detail in this account which suggest a level of embellishment, it is certainly not enough to argue unequivocally that the strength of the bereavement did not bring about this reaction. Violent death is a particularly abhorrent way for people to die, leading to a process Robert Lifton termed the “death imprint.”44 Those affected become locked into reliving the death repeatedly, thereby repressing the emotions and grief generated by the event. The violence of the death and the emotional response to it are so powerful that recovery from the bereavement is impossible.45 In this instance, a soldier such as Eyre may relive the event in an attempt to work out how they may have saved that man’s life,46 perhaps explaining his observation that he knew immediately that the wound was fatal, thus absolving him of any need to assess other courses of action. However, this repression of emotion cannot last, and here the memoir is serving as a cathartic exercise, a way for Eyre to process his bereavement. The death of one friend could be devastating but perhaps ultimately manageable. However, the death of a number of close friends over a short period of time could prove too much for some men. Bereavements could often be staggered and, when discussing the loss of close friends, evoke completely different reactions to the mass death sustained in a battalion going over the top. The bereavement Eyre had suffered in the loss of Rodwell was compounded when days later O’Donnell was killed by a shell. Sitting for hours on a firing step, Eyre acknowledges to a fellow soldier, Carpenter, that “‘it’s a pretty nasty thing to be bearing constantly’ … communing with my thoughts and thinking of my lost pals, all gone to feed this unnatural Moloch.”47 What is important to note is that Carpenter did not deride Eyre for his show of grief but offers a non-judgemental companionship while he mourns his losses. Regular bereavements do not make the grief less urgent; in fact, the opposite occurs as the survivors become increasingly despondent. Soldiers lost more than their ­comrades; men would now have to find a way to endure the trenches and the brutality of war without the support system they had relied upon since training. However, as Denis Winter explores in Death’s Men, soldiers had to find a way to deal with breakdowns brought about by loss. He suggests that some men sought distractions both in the war and outside of it, but for others it could simply be a case of their personality. Winter suggests cold and introverted men often had the best chance of mental survival.48 Though men were affected deeply by their bereavements, many went on to serve out the war in one capacity or another, if they themselves survived. Therefore, grief did not prevent many men from ultimately recovering their morale but they would go on to experience a process of mourning after the war.



Conclusion In conclusion, the evidence outlined has offered a selection of material available to explore the complex landscape of the Great War soldiers’ experience of bereavement on the frontline. Responses are determined by timing, intensity, and character. There are no broad generalisations which can be offered for every man that served in the ranks of the British Army. However, it can be concluded with certainty that soldiers experienced bereavement, expressed grief, and mourned with every intensity present on the Home Front. The Somme is just one example of the trauma experienced by soldiers during an offensive action, as well as the war in general. Our understanding of how a soldier should behave has been coloured by our civilian understanding of what it means for a man to serve in the martial sphere. The evidence presented is taken from published material and publicly accessible archives, yet like other sources that acknowledge bereavement, they have remained marginalised and unacknowledged. Both privately and publicly, soldiers did not shy away from their emotions when they suffered a great loss and mourning became part of their communal identity. In many cases, grief did not lead to a breakdown but that did not mean it was not ever present. Most soldiers were forced to see out the war carrying the burden of deep disillusionment having watched so many men “go west.”

Notes 1. Dan Todman, The Great War: Myth and Memory (London: Continuum, 2005), 45. Mark Hewitson, “German Soldiers and the Horrors of War: Fear of Death and Joy of Killing in 1870 and 1914,” History 101, no. 346 (2016): 415. Richard van Emden, The Quick and The Dead: Fallen Soldiers and Their Families in the Great War (London: Bloomsbury, 2011), 56. Pat Jalland, Death in War and Peace: Loss and Grief in England, 1914–1970 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 16. 2. Malcolm Brown, Tommy Goes to War (Gloucestershire: The History Press, 1978), 161. 3. Harry Drinkwater, Harry’s War: The Great War Diary of Harry Drinkwater (St. Ives: Edbury Press, 2013). E.P.F.  Lynch, Somme Mud: The Experiences of an Infantryman in France, 1916–1919 (London: Transworld Publishers, 2006). 4. This phrase, though not the viewpoint, was popularised by Alan Clark in his book The Donkeys (1961). The phrase itself is much older with variations of it dating back to the First Century. 5. For a more in-depth understanding of the Somme as a military campaign see: William Philpott, Blood Victory: The Sacrifice on the Somme (London: Abacus, 2014). Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson, The Somme (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006). Gary Sheffield, The Somme (London: Cassell, 2003). 6. Philpott, Bloody Victory, 625. 7. Jay Winter, “Representations of War on the Western Front, 1914–18: Some Reflection in Cultural Ambivalence” in Power, Violence and Mass Death in Pre-



modern and Modern Times, ed. Joseph Canning, Hartmut Lehmann and Jay Winter (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), 205–210. 8. Stephane Audoin-Rouzeau and Annette Becker, 14–18: Understanding the Great War (New York: Hill and Wang, 2002), 204. 9. Colin Murray Parkes, Bereavement: Studies of Grief in Adult Life (London: Penguin Books, 1998), 107. 10. Michael Roper, The Secret Battle: Emotional Survival in the Great War (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009), 14. 11. Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), 169. 12. Brown, Tommy Goes to War, 143. 13. Watson, Enduring the Great War: Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914–1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 57. 14. Todman, The Great War, 63. 15. Tony Ashworth, Trench Warfare, 1916–1918: The Live and Let Live System (London and Basingstoke: The Macmillan Press, 1980), 155. 16. William G. Hay, Do Funerals Matter? The Purpose and Practice of Death Rituals (New York: Routledge, 2013), 11. 17. David French, Military Identities: The Regimental Systems, the British People and the British Army c. 1870–2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 284. 18. Watson, Enduring the Great War, 63. 19. Alfred Percy Bulteel Irwin, 1973, 211, The Imperial War Museum. 20. Drinkwater, Harry’s War, 192. 21. Drinkwater, Harry’s War, 149. 22. For more information on the debates surrounding oral testimony see, Penny Summerfield, Reconstructing Women’s Wartime Lives: Discourse and Subjectivity in Oral History Interviews (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998), Alessandro Portelli, “The Peculiarities of Oral History,” History Workshop Journal, no. 12 (1981): 96–107. 23. Thomas Alfred Dewing, 1999, 19073, The Imperial War Museum. 24. Andre Loez, “Tears in the Trenches: A History of Emotions and the Experience of War,” in Uncovered Fields: Perspectives in First World War Studies, ed. Jenny Macleod and Pierre Purseigle (Boston, Brill Academic Publishers: 2004) 213. 25. “Editorial. 1916,” The Outpost, Aug 1, 1916. 26. H.C. A, “Editorial,” The Outpost, Oct 1, 1916. 27. J.  G. Fuller, Troop Morale and Popular Culture in the British and Dominion Armies (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 137. 28. Fuller, Troop Morale and Popular Culture, 15. 29. H.C. A, “Editorial.” 30. Winter, “Representations of War on the Western Front,” 208. Winter, Death’s Men: Soldiers of the Great War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 204. 31. Lieutenant Harold Harding Linzell, Fallen on the Somme: The War Diary of 2nd Lieutenant Harold Harding Linzell M.C. 7th Border Regiment, ed. M.A. Argyle (Bideford: Shadow Books, 2015), 47. 32. Jan Davies, “One Hundred Billion Dead: A General Theology of Death” in Ritual and Remembrance: Responses to Death in Human Societies, ed. Jan Davies (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 24. Hay, Do Funerals Matter?, 10.



33. E.P.F. Lynch, Somme Mud, 71. 34. Alexander Watson, Enduring the Great War, 67. Loez, “Tears in the Trenches,” 218. 35. Drinkwater, Harry’s War, 165. 36. Alexander Aitkens, Gallipoli to the Somme: Reflections of a New Zealand Infantryman (Wellington and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1963), 140. 37. Aitkens, Gallipoli to the Somme, 160. 38. Roper, The Secret Battle, 14. 39. Eyre, Somme Harvest, 161. 40. Joanna Bourke, Dismembering the Male: Men’s Bodies, Britain and the Great War (London: Reaktion Books, 1999), 115. 41. Eyre, Somme Harvest, 161. 42. Jalland, Death in War and Peace, 20. 43. Eyre, Somme Harvest, 162. 44. Robert J. Lifton, The Broken Connection: On Death and the Continuity of Life (New York: Basic Books, 1983), 169–7. 45. Lifton, The Broken Connection, 171. Edward K.  Rynearson, Retelling Violent Death (Philadelphia: Brumer-Routeldge, 2001), 21–5. 46. Lifton, The Broken Connection, 188. 47. Eyre, Somme Harvest, 211. 48. Denis Winter, Death’s Men, 138–9.

References Aitkens, Alexander. Gallipoli to the Somme: Reflections of a New Zealand Infantryman. Wellington and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1963. Ashworth, Tony. Trench Warfare, 1916–1918: The Live and Let Live System. London and Basingstoke: The Macmillan Press, 1980. Audoin-Rouzeau, Stephane, and Annette Becker. 14–18: Understanding the Great War. New York: Hill and Wang, 2002. Bourke, Joanna. Dismembering the Male: Men’s Bodies, Britain and the Great War. London: Reaktion Books, 1999. Brown, Malcolm. Tommy Goes to War. Gloucestershire: The History Press, 1978. Davies, Jan. “One Hundred Billion Dead: A General Theology of Death”. In Ritual and Remembrance: Responses to Death in Human Societies, ed. Jan Davies. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994. Dewing, Thomas Alfred. Catalogue Number: 19073, The Imperial War Museum, 1999. Drinkwater, Harry. Harry’s War: The Great War Diary of Harry Drinkwater. St. Ives: Edbury Press, 2013. “Editorial. 1916.” The Outpost. Aug 1, 1916. French, David. Military Identities: The Regimental Systems, the British People and the British Army c. 1870–2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975. Hay, William G. Do Funerals Matter? The Purpose and Practice of Death Rituals. New York: Routledge, 2013.



H.C.A. “Editorial.” The Outpost, October 1, 1916. Hewitson, Mark. “German Soldiers and the Horrors of War: Fear of Death and Joy of Killing in 1870 and 1914.” History, 101, no. 346 (2016): 396–424. Irwin, Alfred Percy Bulteel. 1973, 211, The Imperial War Museum. Jalland, Pat. Death in War and Peace: Loss and Grief in England, 1914–1970. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Lifton, Robert J. The Broken Connection: On Death and the Continuity of Life. New York: Basic Books, 1983. Linzell, Lieutenant Harold Harding. Fallen on the Somme: The War Diary of 2nd Lieutenant Harold Harding Linzell M.C. 7th Border Regiment. Ed. M.A.  Argyle. Bideford: Shadow Books, 2015. Loez, Andre. “Tears in the Trenches: A History of Emotions and the Experience of War.” In Uncovered Fields: Perspectives in First World War Studies, ed. Jenny Macleod and Pierre Purseigle. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2004. Lynch, E.P.F. Somme Mud: The Experiences of an Infantryman in France, 1916–1919. London: Transworld Publishers, 2006. Parkes, Colin Murray. Bereavement: Studies of Grief in Adult Life. London: Penguin Books, 1998. Philpott, William. Blood Victory: The Sacrifice on the Somme. London: Abacus, 2014. Portelli, Alessandro. “The Peculiarities of Oral History”. History Workshop Journal, no. 12 (1981): 96–107. Prior, Robin, and Trevor Wilson. The Somme. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006. Roper, Roper. The Secret Battle: Emotional Survival in the Great War. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009. Rynearson, Edward K. Retelling Violent Death. Philadelphia: Brumer-Routeldge, 2001. Sheffield, Gary. The Somme. London: Cassell, 2003. Summerfield, Penny. Reconstructing Women’s Wartime Lives: Discourse and Subjectivity in Oral History Interviews. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998. Todman, Dan. The Great War: Myth and Memory. London: Continuum, 2005. Van Emden, Richard. The Quick and The Dead: Fallen Soldiers and Their Families in the Great War. London: Bloomsbury, 2011. Watson, Alexander. Enduring the Great War: Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914–1918. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Whiltlam, Wilfred. 1987, 9882, The Imperial War Museum. Winter, Denis. Death’s Men: Soldiers of the Great War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Winter, Jay. “Representations of War on the Western Front, 1914–18: Some Reflection in Cultural Ambivalence.” In Power, Violence and Mass Death in Pre-modern and Modern Times, ed. Joseph Canning, Hartmut Lehmann, and Jay Winter. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004.


The Soldier as Artist: Memories of War Michael Armstrong

Introduction Art became my dirty little secret during my two decades of service in the Australian Army. I did not tell military people, my predominate friendship circle, that I spent my free time drawing and painting. The closest they came to engaging with the arts was studying military history at the Australian Defence Force (ADF) Academy in Canberra or admiring realist art prints depicting military aircraft or vehicles. Perhaps understandably, the rather limited world of a soldier, particularly one on active duty, is one beset by more primal concerns than the state of one’s art practice. I regularly painted and drew from life in my pursuit of technical mastery, but it was only after friends visited my home and noticed the artwork on the walls that they became aware of my arts practice. I did not, however, consider myself a “real” artist as I had always just drawn and painted for my own enjoyment. I had a “coming out” in 2016 that was, in effect, a nervous, almost reluctant reveal of “Major Mike the Artist.” I was terrified at the prospect of declaring myself an artist, largely because I did not know what it would mean to me as a member of Australia’s armed forces, a conservative organisation that was easily 10–15 years behind the general population in its views on everything from homosexuality to women in the workplace. I felt that my two lives, the soldier and the artist, might in effect subvert each other and condemn me to an unfulfilling existence trapped in a metaphorical no man’s land. This chapter describes my ongoing attempt to reconcile these different identities while staying true to myself. Throughout my schooling and later during what was a remarkably varied career in the military, art has always been a big part in my life. Encouraged by

M. Armstrong (*) Australian National Capital Artists (ANCA), Dickson, ACT, Australia © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




my parents, I was an avid painter and drawer during my childhood. I exhibited with the Victorian and Sunbury Artists’ societies, entered art competitions and participated in workshops at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia. This was where I worked from life for the first time, an approach that continues to shape my art practice. I completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in painting in 1997 at the University of Ballarat although it did not bring me any closer to developing a coherent sense of what I wanted to express in my art. I joined the Australian Army in 1998 in order to fulfil a variety of personal aspirations, some abstract such as a desire to expand my horizons, and others more mundane, such as a desire to learn a trade. I intended to return to art practice at a future date once I had found an experience worthy of exploring artistically. A total of 20 years of military service, 14 postings and multiple deployments to war zones constituted a busy and fulfilling career. Despite the inevitable exposure to trauma that a deployment involves, my transition from military service to art was not part of a deliberate process of healing. I do not suffer from post-­ traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and my art practice does not constitute a form of therapy for me. My active service in East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq has provided me with the aesthetic material I had vainly sought 20 years earlier at art school. Though my artistic output is regularly characterised as war art, that designation disrupts my intentions as an artist by imposing theoretical and thematic limitations with which I have no sympathy.

An Australian Context for War Art Despite an increasing exploration of trauma in recent additions to the war art canon, for millennia it has been regularly used to celebrate battlefield victories and more recently as an act of nation-building.1 It is by its nature a subjective activity, one that says as much about its creator as it does about its subject matter.2 In an Australian context, the Official War Art Scheme established in 1917 was conceived as a means of communicating a version of the Anzac story constructed primarily by Charles Bean, the official historian and founder of the Australian War Memorial (AWM). It argued for the existence of a distinctive Australian military tradition that would define national identity.3 Australian War Art, both official and unofficial, produced during the war and in its immediate aftermath, studiously ignored trauma and focused instead on perpetuating (or at least not contesting) the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) mythology.4 Though the Australian people have retained a fidelity to the belief that the nation was born on the cliffs of Gallipoli in 1915, a view eagerly adopted by successive Australian governments, it has not been entirely resistant to change. In the 1960s and 1970s, there emerged the construct of a “kinder, gentler Anzac” which transformed the mythology from one “grounded in beliefs about racial identity and martial capacity to a legend that speaks in the modern idiom of trauma, suffering and empathy.”5 This has encouraged a growing focus on veteran trauma,6 an alteration that has contributed to a renewed support for Anzac Day as a celebration of national identity. This focus



on trauma, as is evident in the work produced by Ben Quilty in 2011 under the auspices of the Official War Artist scheme, threatens to dominate the reading of my own works. Veterans of modern wars are often ill-served by this evolution in the mythology. The smaller scale of modern conflict, at least from an Australian perspective, ensures that “their” war is a unique experience. It has only a tenuous link to the past, in terms of both the actual experience itself or its subsequent representation by artists. For the centrality of trauma in the mythology is potentially just as limiting as the use of it as a propaganda tool or for nation-building. Though the construct of the soldier as a survivor of trauma appeals to artists because of its potential to act as “the perfect conduit to that past,”7 the consumption of war art of this type “might simply lead to declarations of horror, rather than any deeper political response.”8 As an emerging artist, I fear that I am confronted by approaches that are binary opposites: either I produce art that conforms to dominant narratives and that generates a superficial support from audiences comforted by the familiar tropes or I produce art that challenges the narrative but fails to resonate with an audience despite its “truthfulness.” Throughout my military career, I distanced my art from my military service; I did not want to produce war art and instead attempted to remove its influence entirely from my art practice. Its function as an historical device, its conservative style and my perception that it was not a serious art genre led me to avoid all military subjects, personal or otherwise. I have always instinctively resisted external demands on my art practice; the most unattractive subject for me has always been the one that has been required of me. I hate commissions; I painted someone’s dead pet once, a guinea pig to add insult to injury, and it will almost certainly be my last. Doing war art for no other reason than the fact that I was a soldier felt like a commission; it did not help when well-meaning friends and family encouraged me to paint a Blackhawk helicopter or two. My view of war art was skewed by what I now realise was contemporary “military” art which depicted war or the machines of war in heroic form—Spitfire fighters above the green fields of England or the dust-filled landing of Huey helicopter in Vietnam. This type of fakery repulsed me even before I deployed. My intermittent arts practice during the first 15 years of my military service instead focused on relatively banal subject matter merely as a vehicle for continuing to develop technical proficiency whilst avoiding any serious questioning of my practice. I had difficulty expressing my military experiences and reactions in any form to both civilians and military alike. My stories risked exposing me. There was also the fear of what the military would say about my art and what my friends or colleagues would think of what I produced. I worried that I did not have a right to tell their story. I joined the military when Australia was not at war and apparently unlikely to be so for some time. Except for a handful of individuals who had served in Rwanda and Somalia as part of an Australia peacekeeping mission, the ADF had not been to war since Vietnam. I had a romanticised view of soldiering that did not need to find a place for



trauma and disfigurement, let alone death. The occasional contact with someone who had “seen” war was an exciting revelation, and their stories were discussed in a hushed, almost reverential manner. It really was not until the rush of military funerals between 2010 and 2013 that war became “real” for me. I saw the effect on the bereaved families. I spoke to friends who were in command when these tragedies occurred. Eventually, I started to recognise the names of the fallen. Every late-night or weekend text message now triggered panic; who had been killed? Whose body was being returned to Australia? A deployment to Afghanistan in 2013 provided a period of reflection; I felt I had now achieved everything I needed to in the military. I began to explore ideas for life after war. I was still uncertain about what I wanted to produce as an artist, although I was still convinced that it would not be war art. A chance experience in Afghanistan challenged that commitment. I stumbled across the Ben Quilty Official War Artist catalogue,9 a copy of which had been sent to the soldiers based in Tarin Kowt, one of the locations he had visited during his short tour of Afghanistan. It had been discarded in a pile of magazines, ignored by the members of the Special Operations Task Group I was deployed with. Flipping through the book, I recognised friends who had posed for him and read the essays celebrating Quilty’s “stunningly insightful works.”10 I was appalled at how my colleagues had been characterised as victims of trauma and felt repulsed by the process through which the artworks had been produced. As Geoff Dyer observes, the horror of war had itself become a cliché, “worn so thin that its value seems only marginally greater than ‘Glory’, ‘Sacrifice’ or ‘Pro Patria’, which ‘horror’ condemns as counterfeit.”11 Quilty appeared to have immersed himself in this counterfeit. A short immersion in war followed by an afternoon in a studio back in Australia had led to a portrayal of war that was, at its core, untruthful. Though it was hardly an objective assessment, or perhaps even an accurate one, I felt that Quilty had “stolen valour” earned in combat. To me the works had become about the artist rather than his subjects. Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan sat on my desk in Tarin Kowt and challenged me; I was an artist and soldier at war. Surely, I could do better. Surely, I could tell a story that would be truthful. Others had cashed in on their Special Forces credibility and were viewed with scorn by my comrades—“Commando Tough” fitness training, commando branded martial arts, knives and even “Commando,” a popular character in an Australian TV show. This experience further shaped my view of war art; on the one hand, I was outraged by Quilty’s handling of our story and, on the other hand, I had witnessed the ostracism of those who had used war as a marketing tool. I needed clarity, and I sought this in postgraduate university study. My enrolment in a Master of Arts in 2014 was a means by which I sought to reconcile the artist and the soldier. My study was interrupted by an unexpected and short-notice deployment to northern Baghdad, Iraq, in April 2015. Rather than putting my study on hold, I decided to continue working through the coursework with my lecturer, who was willing to accommodate my unusual study situation. Denied access to my studio, the internet, a library and my normal surrounds, I used my daily routine in Iraq



to explore the theoretical concepts of aesthetics and the body. It was an oftensurreal experience, set amongst rocket attacks and a heat wave that threatened to break local records.12 It was even hot enough for the Iraqi government official announcement to concede that it was “too hot for Jihad.” We witnessed the fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi, the rebuilding of its military and the tragic deaths of the Iraqi soldiers we had befriended as they fought to retake towns and cities from Islamic State later that year. This period of reflection forced me to question my convictions about war art. I was gradually convinced that my role of combatant in war may provide a unique and valuable perspective after all. I enlisted in 1998 with a naive trust in Australia’s political system, a belief that my employment as a soldier would be a noble one, applied judiciously on behalf of a just cause. My deployment to East Timor felt good; it was a cause I could support wholeheartedly. My deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq were not as easily reconciled with my idealism. On a local, tactical level, our mission to support the training and development of local forces and to help them secure their homes and families was a noble one. I remember talking to an Iraqi general one afternoon, as he proudly showed me photos of his children. He prayed for a day when his kids would be able to live free from the fear of ­assassination. While I supported this aspiration, I also understood the complex series of events that led to this moment; the botched political and military decisions instigated by the US and its allies that created chaos in both Afghanistan and Iraq. I despaired and continue to despair at the fact that the region had seemingly been doomed to decades of sectarian and political violence rather than the future that the general wanted. It was around this time I heard news that the local leaders of Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan, had been assassinated by the Taliban, men that Australia had supported for many years before our withdrawal from the region in December 2013. I had been on the last plane out of Tarin Kowt; I had left with optimism for the people of the region. I hoped that it was better for our presence. It now felt like a loss; the lives of these Afghanis, their families and their supporters just wasted. It was a loss felt more keenly because of the Australian soldiers who had been killed or wounded fighting to stabilise the region. Even those that survived would return to Australia changed by their experience. Their families and the broader Australian community now bear the responsibility for their physical and mental wounds. It was these people that I resolved to serve as I embarked on a journey of art production. Though the period of study and reflection offered by university study brought with it a considerable benefit to my own practice, it also had the unintended effect of giving me a greater understanding and sympathy for Ben Quilty, both as an individual and as an artist. With artists the calibre of Wendy Sharp, Lyndell Brown, Charles Green and Shaun Gladwell, he is part of a select group of Australian post-modern Official War Artists. He travelled to Afghanistan in October 2011, visiting the military bases in Kandahar, Tarin Kowt and Kabul. Although he travelled to a war, Quilty felt that the photographic and drawing records he collected were empty without the human



c­ onnection he had experienced when talking to soldiers in Afghanistan.13 Their experiences revealed to Quilty the limitations imposed by being an official artist, which was what had motivated my rejection of his work when first exposed to it. Rex Butler identifies a “modernist doubt” which led Quilty to reassess the works he had created during his 2011 visit.14 Quilty was also not immune to the front-line bonding that has been both muse and constraint on many who have sought to paint or write about war. He acknowledges that he had “realised within those few days that the responsibility I had to represent these young [people] was probably the most important thing I’ve ever been asked to do.”15 Modernist artists have generally sought to reveal the individual, human experiences of servicemen and servicewomen rather than the historic motifs of the history genre.16 Despite the relative freedom granted to modern war artists, Quilty recognised that he had achieved no insight into war; that without the authenticity and context of individual experiences his artworks would be left wanting.17 In search of this authenticity, when he returned to Australia in 2011, Quilty began to contact soldiers he had met in Afghanistan and invite them to visit his studio where he could converse, reconnect and then paint them. Unlike the other war artists deployed to the Middle East, Quilty avoided depictions of the mundane. Perhaps in a rejection of the “unknowability” of war, Quilty sought a direct and human response to war, an approach that proved to be very popular with the public and critics alike.18 The subjective experiences of the individual veterans were Quilty’s primary concern; it was a view isolated from the war zone, their individual units and fellow soldiers. By bringing the soldiers into his studio and listening to their stories and acknowledging the physical presence of their bodies, Quilty sought to capture their experience in paint. Ironically, it became an attempted spontaneous response to an orchestrated and choreographed retelling. For all Quilty’s conscious search for the individual, his art falls subject to his process. His presence is felt in his almost uniform handling of the subjects; Captain S, after Afghanistan (2012), Trooper M, after Afghanistan (2012), Lance Corporal M, after Afghanistan (2012) and Troy Park, after Afghanistan, no. 2 (2012) are almost indistinguishable despite his insistence that the soldiers selected their own poses and stories during their time in his studio.19 The audience is unable to ascertain the specific experiences of Quilty’s subjects; just the vague promise of insight. Butler goes as far to say that “not only do we not come to know what the soldiers went through, we ultimately do not want to know.”20 He argues that this is why they are so successful; they provide a means for the public to feel like they had an “insight” into an experience whilst successfully avoiding “any real encounter with the outcome of war.”21 Butler believes that Quilty’s paintings embody “a particular form of knowledge and experience in themselves, as a result of their expression in a painting.”22 Quilty’s pictures are ambiguous, his subject’s expressions potentially anything from fear to heroism; it is their ambiguous nature that allows the audience and critic alike to impart their own beliefs and thoughts on the paintings.23



In interviews after the success of his Afghanistan show, Quilty spoke of the impact on his time in Afghanistan,24 thus either intentionally or not, claiming part of the experience of war for himself. He spoke of the brightness of the light, the heat, the dust, the smell, the thump and crack of explosions and gunshots. Armoured vehicles, uniforms, rifles and body armour—street scenes beyond anything he had ever experienced. It is unlikely, he assures his audience, that he will ever forget those couple of weeks on a choreographed tour of a war zone. Like a tourist in a foreign city, Quilty took photographs, made sketches and spoke to soldiers. Everything was new, strange and a little terrifying. It likely felt “hyperreal” as a result of his heightened state of stress and anxiety. Quilty’s experience was powerful, possibly life changing, but was it “genuine” war? Did he experience war, and was he somehow positioned to deliver an insight for the people of Australia? Inevitably, Quilty’s status as an outsider prevented him from gaining real experience. He had no agency in the war in Afghanistan; he was not a participant or at least not in the sense that he was a combatant. He observed and he bore witness, but by its nature, this is a passive engagement. In the final analysis, a soldier is there to fight, and if need be, kill and be killed. It was for this reason that Bean preferred soldier artists when he looked to commemorate the service and sacrifice of the Australian soldier. Sean Gladwell, another Official War Artist (2009), admits that his view of Afghanistan was different to that of the soldiers accompanying him.25 Gladwell acknowledges the inability of an audience unaccustomed to military service in a war zone to easily share a soldier’s gaze.26 As a combatant myself, I was appreciative of Gladwell’s approach—rather than faking or claiming empathy, his Afghanistan works acknowledged his own limitations as a spectator. Gladwell’s work Double Field/ Viewfinder (Tarin Kowt) 2009–2010 seeks to express unknowable perspective by placing soldiers behind the viewfinders of two cameras as they circle each other in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan. The viewfinders so prevalent in modern warfare remain in the hands of the soldiers; the subject of the soldier’s gaze, not the artist’s, is thereby mediated through their viewfinder. Gladwell’s Behind Point of View, Middle East Area of Operations, 2009–2010, is a series of photographs of the backs of heads of Special Forces soldiers. In addition to preserving the anonymity of the subjects, the works display the object of the soldier’s gaze: again, an expression of the “unknowable” nature of a soldier’s experiences in Afghanistan.27 I find myself more forgiving of Gladwell’s works because they were not received by the art and broader Australian community in the same manner as Quilty’s. Gladwell’s received a much more subdued response, likely because the works require a different level of reflection and cannot so easily be used to mythologise war. In contrast, the response to Quilty’s work generally lauded it for its insight: insight I knew he could not possess and which he himself doubted at various times. Rather than attempting to mediate and express the individual stories of soldiers he encountered as Quilty intended with his portraits or as Churcher attempted in his paintings of daily life, or to present the landscape much as a



tourist would in Charles Green and Lyndell Brown’s highly detailed oil paintings, Gladwell, instead, sought to present the unknowability of the war experience. Unlike the conservative and/or representational approaches of his peers, his approach utilised conceptual theories and contemporary methods to discuss the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The methods selected allowed the soldiers’ experience, in some examples, their literal view, to be presented to the audience in a way that painting or drawing would always struggle to do. Perhaps Gladwell’s contribution to war art is the more honest response in that it acknowledges his own and the audiences’ inability to fully empathise with the experiences of a combatant. In my own art practice, I have sought to bridge the gap between the artist and the soldier and, in doing so, I have looked to provide a visceral insight into the “true” nature of war. The series Six Ways to Kill (2016) (Figs. 10.1, 10.2, and 10.3) seeks to explore experience as art object by displaying two-­ dimensional works that are vulnerable to the audience’s initial unexperienced reading. This is then subsequently challenged by a performative experience that facilitates a rereading using a “veterans’ frame.” When it was first exhibited in 2016, the work comprised five larger than life graphite drawings of the human form: men and women standing unprotected and seemingly oblivious to the audience. The drawings are presented without adornment or explanation beyond their names, leaving the audience free to draw their own conclusions. The viewing is immediately followed by the performative component, in this case, a workshop presented in the presence of the drawings. The content of the workshop, specifically six methods to kill efficiently and effectively with a knife in close Fig. 10.1  Anticipation (Six Ways to Kill) 2016, Armstrong, Private Collection



Fig. 10.2  Death of the Bystander (Six Ways to Kill) 2016, Armstrong, Private Collection

Fig. 10.3  Untitled (Six Ways to Kill) 2016, Armstrong

c­ ombat, was derived from the personal material I have been involved in developing and delivering to soldiers throughout my military career. Those experiences speak powerfully to me as an artist; they are a raw documentation of my participation in the facilitation of violence, both my own and my “students’.” It demonstrated the repurposing of my body necessitated by my military



s­ervice. More importantly, for the participants, the workshop provides an insight into my mindset and more broadly the soldier mindset, the conditioning that we must undergo and the awful “knowledge” that is retained from such exposure. The sharing of experience is a powerful method of unification, one that is used enthusiastically within the military to form powerful bonds between individuals.28 The act of engaging in the training with me as a “performer” generated an authenticity and empathy for my experiences as a soldier, thereby facilitating a deeper understanding of the content and inscriptions I had endowed upon my art objects.29 Physiological and psychological reactions are experienced by participants in response to my stimulus: changes to heart rate, breathing, feelings of disgust and excitement. Within the work, the body is physically present but increasingly becomes “self-aware” as the killing drills are described and rehearsed. The visceral components of blood, arteries and vulnerable organs are exposed despite remaining invisible to view. They are imagined, explored and viewed with fascination, revulsion and fear as the participants visualise the effects of the techniques they are learning—a fictional but, nonetheless, powerful imagining.30 Once exposed, the audience becomes “complicit and certified,” having “lived” a story and are  now responsible as holders of “dangerous” knowledge. The art objects reconstituted as a result of the performance must be reinterpreted through the experiences of the audience as well as the time and place.31 The gaze of the drawn subjects becomes submissive, their bodies vulnerable and the major arteries the subject of deadly strikes almost pulsating with anticipation to the newly attuned awareness of the audience. The artwork becomes a means through which to “incarnate my ideas rather than just express them,” a means through which to bridge the inherent language limitations resident within an art object.32 This process seeks to rectify the limitations expressed by Gladwell in his war art and experienced by Quilty in his. Rather than accepting the unknowability of war as an inherent limitation of war art, it seeks to subvert that idea by using war art as a reframing experience of war. The following work also invited viewer participation and sought to create resonance through the ongoing “cause and effect” which also implicated the audience. Relics of Decay (see Figs. 10.4, 10.5, 10.6, and 10.7) was created in response to my increasing despair at the rate of veteran suicide in Australia. On a disturbingly regular basis, friends were posting news on social media that another veteran had taken their life. One quoted the figure of 259 soldiers since the commencement of the Australian peacekeeping mission to East Timor in 1999.33 Utilising the blade form of the knife I carried in Afghanistan, I created seven files of 37 blades, suspended in formation in uniform, equal ranks. The blade had become a metaphor in my art practice for both soldier and soldiering, a relic of service that in its design struggled to find a useful purpose in a “post-war” environment. The blade was designed for fighting and was all but useless as a tool for employment in any other context.34 It is an apt analogy for most of the skills I had acquired during my years of service. The suspended



Fig. 10.4  Relics of Decay (detail), 2016, Armstrong, collection of the artist

Fig. 10.5  Relics of Decay (detail), 2016, Armstrong

blades sat over a large wooden drum with a piece of watercolour paper draped across its surface. Spray bottles were placed around the artwork, and the ­audience were invited to participate in spraying the blades with water, and in doing so became complicit in the act of destroying the blades. Water droplets formed on the wire and the blades, triggering rust to develop. Dragged by the water and gravity, the rust fell to the paper beneath marking the surface with its passing; an echoing staccato rhythm beating out in the stillness of the room as



Fig. 10.6  Relics of Decay (detail), 2016, Armstrong

Fig. 10.7  Relics of Decay (detail), 2016, Armstrong

each droplet struck the paper on the drum. The paper was changed weekly with the now rust-stained “relics” being hung on the wall to memorialise the slow decay of the blades. The work is designed to be destroyed through the complicity of the audience and reform as relics of that destruction. Relics of Decay demands involvement from the audience. As the audience inevitably yield to the urge to participate or to follow the example of others and spray the blades, they begin and then perpetuate their destruction. Just as the audience is to the blades, the Australian government and the society it purports to represent are



to the now exposed veterans. They must bear responsibility for the impact of war on the veterans and its subsequent reverberation through their network of family and friends. We as society are still experiencing the wounding effects of our countries’ involvement in Vietnam. It will be many more decades, perhaps generations, before we are free of the ripples caused by our soldiers’ service in Afghanistan and Iraq. Relics of Decay sought to capture the slow, determined destruction of our veterans whilst acknowledging the external forces that contributed to that decay. Despite producing several exhibitions of war art, the creation of war art still makes me uncomfortable. I find myself compelled to balance a desire to be politically and artistically subversive, with a fear that I might insult the dead and their families; in effect, steal their valour. Such a situation would be untenable to me as an artist, as a soldier and as a man. It would see me ostracised by both the art community and the veteran community. The artist in me says I shouldn’t care; I should produce the works I believe in and to hell with the repercussions. Yet, I have an empathy for those that I portray in my art, an empathy that I believe is my greatest resource as a war artist. It is also a source of potential weakness, for it begs me not to drag the dead back into view—to not use their sacrifice and pain as instruments of art. I feel for the victims of war; all of the victims, the soldiers, the civilians, the families and the nation. This tension was unvoiced for the majority of my military career. I just avoided the subject; I avoided war art. It is only now that I feel compelled to join the discussion, but I do so with acute awareness of the tension that is created by my position as veteran artist. In his original conception of Australian War Art, Charles Bean, the official historian and founder of the Australian War Memorial, emphasised the relationship between the artist and the events they were living. His own experiences in war left him with a deep respect and admiration for the soldiers, the “diggers” and through his efforts and those of like-minded people, they assumed the status of national archetypes. The Official War Art Scheme that Bean and John Treloar, director of the AWM between 1920 and 1952, led always reserved a special reverence for eyewitness testimony, which could only come from the soldiers themselves. In doing so, they elevated “historical veracity and realism over aesthetic experiment and avant-garde inclination.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, though it is one of Australia’s most significant art commissioning programmes, “the scheme occupies a marginal position within the historiography of Australian art.”35 The art produced under the scheme during the First World War is inherently biased, shaped and moulded as it was to meet Bean’s agenda; and the ready acceptance of his mythologising of the Australian soldier. The availability of expatriate artists, experienced and serving in London during the initial two years of the First World War, resulted in war art that although not always first-­ hand, was the product of a deeply felt empathy between artist and subject. Moving a hundred years forward to today, we see artists deploying overseas to be Official War Artists with little real understanding or empathy for those



undertaking military service. Curiosity and a desire to support the deployed forces are not in any way comparable to the insider’s view of war achieved by those actually participating in it. Compressed time-frames, orchestrated tours, “handlers” and the absence of “real,” meaningful experience limit our well-­ intentioned artists and the artworks they produce. The absence of real experience and the philosophical developments of modernism and post-modernism on Australian War Art have resulted in a situation where artists struggle to contribute meaningfully to the genre. The implied requirements of “realism and truth” are difficult to manifest for a post-modern artist who only fleetingly is embedded in a war zone. To avoid clichéd representations of heroes or horrors, images veer towards banality in their portrayal of war or instead seek safety in ambiguity through which an audience is left free to apply their own interpretation. The reading of war art is subject to the same societal trends and biases that all art is subject to. The interpretation currently popular within the broader Australian community is the association between war and trauma. This trend provides a level of authority or autonomy to artists and protects them from critical debate. I argue that it contributed to Ben Quilty’s success as an Official War Artist; his works immediately imbued with authority for their “insight” into the experiences of the traumatised soldier. The AWM believes that an artist can provide a unique, artistic eye through which war can be experienced. In that sense, the Official War Artist Commissioning Scheme is successful; selected, high-profile (commonly Archibald Prize winners) Australian artists are introduced to a war zone and asked to respond to that experience. Their responses are then inducted into the memorial collection to become part of Australia’s history at war. The response is genuine, and the experience of the artist is perceived by them to be real. It is an artist’s snapshot into the world of Australians at war. But like all history, it is full of biases, dominate narratives, censorship and self-censorship. It is also important to remember that the artists commonly commissioned are outsiders—“tourists of war”—rather than combatants. Their experiences are fabrications orchestrated in an attempt to expose them to war. Whilst they may provide some insight into their subject, like Quilty’s paintings, I argue that they contain little substance beyond what is imbued or stolen by their proximity to soldiers and war.

Conclusion The ANZAC legend has prompted generations of Australians, including myself, to join the military and serve their nation. The risk is that this mythmaking stifles or distorts debate and perpetuates a pattern of Australians serving in poorly devised and executed military campaigns, rather than bringing attention to and addressing the true needs of our veterans. My art practice is motivated by my desire to provide alternate narratives, to express a deeply personal experience of war. It seeks to engage and discuss rather than commemorate. It should be remembered that “commemorating soldiers is not the same as



c­ onnecting with them.”36 Arthur Streeton’s experiences working at the front in the First World War were such that he felt compelled to paint, as if striving for some level of resolution from those experiences.37 My own experiences in turn compel me to produce art, to express what is perhaps unknowable to anyone but a veteran. By assuming a multidisciplinary stance and an approach that seeks to involve the audience in a complicit manner, Six Ways to Kill and Relics of Decay aimed to bridge the divide in experience between artist and soldier in order to offer an insight to the “uninitiated” spectator. Arguments regarding the “effective” depiction and action of war art must accept the inevitable incompleteness of any depiction and “our” presence as “embodied witness.”38 Rather than fighting for “clarity” through representation, these artworks sought to embrace “experience” as a means of representation and reflection. Unlike many of the Official War Artists, my formal training in art combined with my military service arguably allows me to provide a clearer, more succinct vision. My formal training provides me with a broadly accessible visual language through which I can explore and articulate my experiences with war. The academic research underpinning my practice provides a means to review and debate my ideas within the broader Australian and international art community. Just as I had hoped as I set upon my Master of Arts journey, the two halves of my experiences as artist and soldier have been reconciled into a coherent voice for the expression of my story as a veteran artist.

Notes 1. Richard Travers, To Paint a War: The Lives of the Australian Artists Who Painted the Great War, 1914–1918 (Port Melbourne, Melbourne: Thames & Hudson, 2017), 1. 2. Travers, To Paint a War, 1. 3. Michael Scheib, “Painting Anzac: A History of Australia’s Official War Art Scheme of the First World War Volume 1” (PhD thesis, The University of Sydney, 2015). 4. Christina Twomey, “Trauma and the Reinvigoration of Anzac: An Argument,” History Australia 10, no. 3 (2013): 85–108. 5. Carolyn Holbrook, “Are We Brainwashing our Children? The Place of Anzac in Australian History,” Agora 51, no. 4 (2016): 19. 6. Twomey, “Trauma and the Reinvigoration of Anzac.” 7. Twomey, “Trauma and the Reinvigoration of Anzac,” 107. 8. Joanna Burke, “Introduction,” in War and Art: A Visual History of Modern Conflict, ed. Joanna Burke (London: Reaktion Books), 33. 9. Laura Webster, “Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan.” Art Monthly Australia 258 (2013): 41–43. 10. Webster, Ben Quilty, 15. 11. Geoff Dyer, The Missing of the Somme (Penguin, London, 1994), 27. 12. Jason Samenow, Iran city hits suffocating heat index of 165 degrees, near world record, The Washington Post, July 31, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost. com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2015/07/30/iran-city-hits-suffocatingheat-index-of-154-degrees-near-world-record/?utm_term=.8671349b5679.



13. Rex Butler, “Ben Quilty: The Fog of War.” Intellectual History Review 27, no. 3 (2017): 433–451. 14. Butler, “Ben Quilty,” 436. 15. “Ben Quilty,” Australian Story, Australian Broadcasting Company, 28 June 2012, television broadcast. 16. Butler, “Ben Quilty,” 436. 17. Butler, “Ben Quilty,” 439. 18. Butler, “Ben Quilty,” 442. 19. Butler, “Ben Quilty,” 444–445. 20. Butler, “Ben Quilty,” 443. 21. Butler, “Ben Quilty,” 443. 22. Butler, “Ben Quilty,” 434. 23. James Brown, Anzac’s Long Shadow: The Cost of our National Obsession (Melbourne: Penguin, 2014). 24. Webster, “Ben Quilty,” 8–12. 25. Kit Messham-Muir, Double War: Shaun Gladwell, Visual Culture and the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (Melbourne: Thomas and Hudson, 2015), 151. 26. Messham-Muir, Double War. 27. Messham-Muir, Double War, 162. 28. Cormac Power, Presence in Play: A Critique of Theories of Presence in the Theatre (New York: Rodopi, 2008), 3. 29. Power, Presence in Play, 8. This concept is also discussed by Dr Phillip Auslander, the performance theorist, in Ajay Heble and Rebecca Caines, eds. The Improvisation Studies Reader: Spontaneous Acts (London: Routledge, 2014), 358. 30. Power, Presence in Play, 11. 31. Peter Brook, The Empty Space: A book about the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996). 32. Esslin, Martin. Artaud. Vol. 3831 (London: J. Calder, 1976), 115. 33. I was unable to find a definitive number at the time to verify the figure, so I proceeded with the project using 259 blades. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare later indicated that at least 292 deaths had occurred amongst the soldier and veteran community over the 2001–2014 period, indicating that the figure quoted by my friend was significantly lower than what the actual figure at the end of 2016 would have been (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016. Incidence of Suicide among Serving and Ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel 2001–2014. Cat. no. PHE 212. Canberra: AIHW. ISBN 978-176054-044-9 (PDF)). 34. The blade I carried was a Special Operations Combatives Program (SOCP) Double-Edged Dagger, the issued knife for members of the Second Commando Regiment in Australia in 2013. Its short-edged tip was extraordinarily sharp, but its design and weight made it useless as a tool with any general utility. It was worn on my chest, on my body armour, positioned so that if I got into a fight at close quarters it was always accessible. Its primary function was to cut at an opponent who had grabbed my rifle, freeing it for use. The ring on the head of the blade allows the user to continue to fire the rifle whilst holding the knife looped on their index finger. 35. Ryan Johnston, “Recalling history to duty: 100 years of Australian war art,” Artlink 35, no. 1 (2015): 14.



36. Brown, Anzac’s Long Shadow, 5. 37. Anne Gray, Arthur Streeton; The Art of War (Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 2018), 5. 38. Nicholas Mirzoeff, Bodyscape: Art, Modernity and the Ideal Figure, Visual Cultures (London: New York, 1995), 191.

References Baugh, Bruce. “Authenticity Revisited.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 46, no. 4 (1988): 477–487. Bean, Charles Edwin Woodrow. Letters from France. London: Cassell & Company Limited, 1917. Bourke, Joanna. War and art: A Visual History of Modern Conflict. London: Reaktion Books, 2017. Brook, Peter. The Empty Space: A Book about the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996. Brown, James. Anzac’s Long Shadow: The Cost of Our National Obsession. Melbourne: Penguin, 2014. Butler, Rex. “Ben Quilty: The Fog of War.” Intellectual History Review 27, no. 3 (2017): 433–451. Cassin, Ray. “Anzac Myths Beyond the Alan Bond Test.” Eureka Street 24, no. 7, 2014. Posted April 23, 2014. Accessed December 20, 2016. https://www.eurekastreet. Condé, Anne-Marie. “John Treloar, Official War Art and the Australian War Memorial.” Australian Journal of Politics & History 53, no. 3 (2007): 451–464. Davies, Stephen. “Definitions of Art.” In The Routledge Companion To Aesthetics, ed. Berys Gaut and Dominic Lopes, 169–179. London: Routledge, 2001. Douglas, Amelia. “The Viewfinder and the View.” Broadsheet 38, no. 3 (Sept–Nov 2009), 110. Eaton, Marcia Muelder. Art and the Aesthetic. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. Esslin, Martin. Artaud. Vol. 3831. London: J. Calder, 1976. Fenner, David E.W. Introducing Aesthetics. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003. Goldman, Alan, B.  Gaut, and D.M.  Lopes. “The Aesthetic.” In The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics ed. Berys Gaut and Dominic Lopes, 181–192. London: Routledge, 2001. Gray, Anne. Arthur Streeton; The Art of War. Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 2018, 5. Green, Jonathan. “Anzac Day is about their deaths, not our lives.” ABC News Online. Australian Broadcasting Company. April 25, 2012. Television broadcast. http:// Heble, Ajay, and Rebecca Caines, eds. The Improvisation Studies Reader: Spontaneous Acts. London: Routledge, 2014. Herwitz, Daniel. Aesthetics: Key Concepts in Philosophy. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2008. Hibbert, Rachel. “I wasn’t a Fan of Football on Anzac Day… until I Changed My Mind.” Sydney Morning Herald, April 20, 2017. opinion/i-wasnt-a-fan-of-football-on-anzac-day%2D%2Duntil-i-changed-my-mind20170419-gvnxg5.html.



Johnston, Ryan. “Recalling History to Duty: 100 Years of Australian War Art.” Artlink 35, no. 1 (2015): 14–19. Langer, Susanne K. Feeling and Form. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1953. Lewis, Robert. “Culture Warriors against ANZAC.” Quadrant Online, April 25, 2010. Messham-Muir, Kit. Double War: Shaun Gladwell, Visual Culture and the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Melbourne: Thomas and Hudson, 2015. Mirzoeff, Nicholas. Bodyscape: Art, Modernity and the Ideal Figure, Visual Cultures. London; New York: Routledge, 1995. Power, Cormac. Presence in Play: A Critique of Theories of Presence in the Theatre. New York: Rodopi, 2008. Samenow, Jason. “Iran City Hits Suffocating Heat Index of 165 Degrees, Near World Record.” The Washington Post, July 31, 2015. news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2015/07/30/iran-city-hits-suffocating-heatindex-of-154-degrees-near-world-record/?utm_term=.8671349b5679. Seal, Graham. Inventing Anzac: The Digger and National Mythology. St. Lucia, Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 2004. Sheppard, Anne. Aesthetics: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Art. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1987. Stephen, Ann. “Portrait of an Artist as an Ex-War Surgeon.” History of Education Review 45, no. 2 (2016): 183–197. “The Official War Art Scheme.” Australian War Memorial. Accessed 4 April 2015. Travers, Richard. To Paint a War: The Lives of the Australian Artists who Painted the Great War, 1914–1918. Port Melbourne, Victoria: Thames & Hudson, 2017. Twomey, Christina. “Trauma and the Reinvigoration of Anzac: An Argument.” History Australia 10, no. 3 (2013): 85–108. Webster, Laura. “Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan.” Art Monthly Australia 258 (2013): 41–43.


Icons of Horror: Three Enduring Images from the Vietnam War John M. Harris

Introduction On June 10, 1963, a source telephoned members of the Saigon press corps and told them to be at a pagoda for an important demonstration the following morning. Malcolm Browne of the Associated Press (AP) was the only journalist present1 as a procession of Buddhist monks, carrying signs protesting the Ngo Dinh Diem regime in both Vietnamese and English, marched down the street. They stopped at an intersection, and a monk unloaded a five-gallon plastic jug containing a mixture of diesel fuel and gasoline from the trunk of a car. Others led an elderly monk to the center of the intersection, where he sat down on a cushion. Browne moved within twenty feet and focused his camera as the fuel was poured over the monk’s head. The monk calmly lit a match, and Browne forced himself to expose frame after frame as the man burned to death. “The one thing that sort of keeps you going in war or times of crisis like that is having something to do,” he said later.2 His photos were distributed around the world by the AP and one of them, known as “The Burning Monk,” became one of three iconic images from the Vietnam War, along with “Saigon Execution” by Eddie Adams, photographed during the Tet Offensive in 1968, and “The Terror of War” by Nick Ut, photographed in 1972. All three images were taken by AP photographers—two Americans and one Vietnamese. Each image was one of many taken by the photographer at the scene before and after the decisive moment. None of the photos show foreign

J. M. Harris (*) Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




soldiers, but each shows the trauma inflicted on Vietnamese citizens by the conflict. “Each captured a critically different era of the war,” wrote photo historian Susan Moeller. “And each defined a pernicious moral dilemma previously unfathomed by the American public.”3 These three icons of horror have helped create the collective memory of the Vietnam War. They are what Bonnie Brennen and Hanno Hardt describe as “reminders of shared experiences that contribute to a sense of national identity.”4 How and to what extent such photos make a contribution depends on the context in which they were taken and the way in which they were presented to the public. They might begin as a straightforward record—who, what, where, when—but they can become an element of propaganda. They can serve to perpetuate a government’s stated purpose for going to war (some call it the “myth”), as with Joe Rosenthal’s World War II photograph of Marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima; it was the model for the US Marine Corps Memorial. Or they can confuse the myth, as in the photos by Browne, Adams, and Ut. No monuments have been built to them. “The Burning Monk” came at a time when the United States’ involvement in Vietnam was beginning to gain momentum. The country was more concerned about civil rights and the Communist threat in Europe and Cuba than happenings in faraway Southeast Asia. But that changed with publication of Browne’s photo. “[It] put Vietnam on the front pages,” said former AP photo editor Hal Buell.5 The “Saigon Execution” photo was made at the height of America’s military involvement, a time when hundreds of US soldiers were dying weekly, and the war was at the forefront of the public’s consciousness. It showed the moment a bullet fired by a South Vietnamese officer entered the head of a suspected Viet Cong guerilla. For many, it represented the futility of the war at a time when America’s military and politicians were exuding confidence. Vietnam War historian Stanley Karnow called it “the most memorable image of the upheaval in Saigon—and one of the most searing spectacles of the whole war.”6 Nick Ut’s “The Terror of War” was published as US troops were being withdrawn from Vietnam and the American public was weary of the conflict. It showed a nine-year-old girl running naked down a highway after suffering burns over most of her body in a napalm attack by South Vietnamese planes. Americans were diverted by other issues at the time, such as feminism and the environment, but it served as a reminder of the cost of Vietnam’s ongoing civil war—and of all wars. “The power of the picture is a classic case of innocence caught in the crossfire of war,” said Hal Buell.7 Each image in its own way focused attention on Vietnam, and each has lived on in the history of the war and of photojournalism.

The Burning Monk When President John F.  Kennedy assumed office in 1961 fewer than one-­ thousand US servicemen were stationed in Vietnam.8 The AP had maintained a bureau in Saigon throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s, but the office



Malcolm Browne inherited when he took over as bureau chief in November 1961 consisted of a single room with two battered typewriters and a phone patched together with adhesive tape. The bathroom doubled as a darkroom. The American press corps—“a handful of underpaid wire-service reporters, struggling freelancers, and journalistic adventures”9—was just beginning to pay attention to the growing US presence (two years later, there were more than sixteen thousand American advisers and troops).10 The activity was evident to everyone in Saigon, but US officials were trying to keep it under wraps, and with good reason: America’s intervention violated the Geneva Accords that partitioned Vietnam in 1954. This lack of transparency by the United States made it possible for the reporters and photographers to work with fewer restrictions than in previous wars. To censor them would have been to admit the growing military presence. The journalists were not entirely free, however. The Diem regime tapped phones, assaulted and arrested reporters, and even threatened to kill them. The reporters appealed their mistreatment to the American Embassy in Saigon but received little help. The journalists’ troubles were between them and the South Vietnamese. The root of the problem, from the US standpoint, was the regime’s conflict with the Buddhists; it was not an American problem because this supposedly was not America’s war. Reporters circumvented the regime by using “pigeons”—people willing to carry their stories and film on airplanes to news offices outside Vietnam.11 Once the stories and photos arrived in America, they were free to be published. By the spring of 1963, growing numbers of Vietnamese were unhappy with the corrupt regime of President Diem, who was seen as America’s puppet, propped up by a foreign military and millions of dollars in aid. The country was predominantly Buddhist, but Diem was a Catholic and he imposed Catholicism as the state religion, flying Vatican flags beside the national flag. Buddhists launched protests, and on May 8, the ceremonial birthday of Buddha, they tried to display their flag in Hue. Grenades were thrown into the crowd, and a woman and seven children were killed. The government claimed the Viet Cong were the perpetrators; others said government troops were guilty.12 The Buddhists continued demonstrating, and they hinted to foreign correspondents of an imminent and dramatic protest of some kind, possibly a disembowelment or immolation of a monk. Most of the correspondents had lost interest in the protests and threats and tended to ignore them. But not Browne; he had spent two years in Vietnam and was familiar with the country’s society and politics, and he regarded the uprising as an important story. When a monk called reporters on June 10 and told them of an important event the next morning, “I alone took him at his word,” Browne said.13 He arrived at the pagoda about 7:45 in the morning. He was directed to a low table and served tea. His informant spotted him and came over. “I advise you to stay until the very end of this,” he said, “because I think something very important will happen.” Three hundred or so monks and nuns chanted for an hour at the pagoda before marching in two columns, led by a gray Austin sedan with five monks inside. A white police jeep approached and led the way to clear



traffic—“so bored had the government become that Buddhist marches and gatherings at that point were treated as mere traffic nuisances,” Browne noted.14 The sedan stopped in the middle of a busy intersection. The marchers followed and formed a circle about thirty feet in diameter with the sedan forming a link, blocking traffic in all directions. Monks stood at all four corners holding signs reading, “A Buddhist Priest Burns for Buddhist Demands.” It was 9:20 a.m. A monk took a five-gallon can made of translucent plastic from the car’s trunk. Another placed a small brown cushion on the street, and sixty-­ seven-­year-old Thich Quang Duc sat down on it. The other monks poured the fuel over his bowed head and stepped back. “From about twenty feet away, I could see Quang Duc move his hands slightly in his lap striking a match,” Browne recounted. “In a flash, he was sitting in the center of a column of flame, which engulfed his body.” Quang Duc remained upright for nearly ten minutes as his flesh burned away.15 Browne was numb with shock, but he shot roll after roll of film on his Petri rangefinder camera, focusing and adjusting exposures mechanically and unconsciously. He told himself, “The sun is bright and the subject is self-illuminated, so f16 at 125th of a second should be right…. But I couldn’t close out the smell” (Fig. 11.1).16 Browne’s photos from the scene were relayed by the AP around the world. The images showed the monks pouring the fuel over Quang Duc, his body erect and aflame; prostrate on his back, his limbs twisted and charred; and

Fig. 11.1  The Burning Monk by Malcolm Browne, Associated Press



other monks wrapping his body in a flag. The most widely published image, the one that became known as “The Burning Monk,” showed flames flowing up around the seated Quang Duc, his head and shoulders burned black, while monks stood watching in the background. Life published three photos over a two-page spread under the headline “An Angry Buddhist Burns Himself Alive.” The “Burning Monk” image covered more than a full page.17 U.S. News & World Report ran the same photo with an accompanying story that noted, “These horrors were symptoms of a religious struggle in Vietnam that is a threat to wreck American-backed efforts to fight Communist guerrillas.”18 The photo earned Browne the World Press Photo of the Year in 1963 and quickly became used for propaganda. “[The photos] came to have an existence of their own as they circulated around the world,” he wrote soon after. “They meant many things to many people.”19 A group of clergy used one of the pictures in full-page advertisements in the New York Times and Washington Post, over the heading, “WE, TOO, PROTEST.” It was signed by a dozen clergy who opposed the loss of American lives, America’s support of a regime that prevented religious freedom, and the “fiction that this is ‘fighting for freedom.’”20 Buddhist leaders displayed them in South Vietnam in hopes of goading the masses to revolt against the Diem government.21 Years later, Henry Cabot Lodge, the new ambassador to Vietnam at the time, told Browne he visited the Oval Office and saw the photo on Kennedy’s desk. “We’re going to have to do something about that regime,” the president told Lodge.22 At the time Browne was photographing the scene, he had no time to consider the consequences of his images. Susan Moeller quoted him in Shooting War: Journalistic photographs certainly have no point of view in them because there is no time or energy for point of view in this kind of photography. Any point of view ascribed to them later is just that. That would apply to my pictures of the burning monk. I had no point of view. I was concerned that they be properly exposed, but since the subject was self-illuminated that wasn’t much of a problem.23

Not all newspapers used Browne’s photos of Quang Duc. The New York Times decided against publishing “The Burning Monk,” citing the breakfast test: It was too gory for its audience to stomach. The newspaper did run one of Browne’s photos from the demonstration. It showed monks lying on the ground, blocking a fire truck, as “some distance away, another monk committed suicide by fire on the street.”24 At that point in the war, the photo of a man burning alive superseded the news value of the image, at least in the minds of the Times’ editors. That would change as the war progressed. When John Morris was hired as photo editor of the Times in 1967, he kidded executive editor Turner Catledge, “I hope we’ve



gotten beyond the burning monk” decision.25 Morris and the Times editors would have the opportunity to test their decision-making skills when Adams’ photo came across their desk, but by then the tenor of the war and the American public’s perception of it had changed.

Saigon Execution At about noon on January 31, 1968, at the height of the Tet offensive, two South Vietnamese marines pulled a man out of a doorway at the end of a street in the Cholon district of Saigon. The soldiers led the man up the nearly deserted street to an intersection where South Vietnamese Brig. Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan stood waiting. Eddie Adams and an NBC television crew had just arrived, having heard about fighting near An Quang Pagoda, a Buddhist compound. Adams and a two-man NBC crew—correspondent Howard Tuckner and Vo Suu, NBC’s most experienced cameraman26—approached the marines and their prisoner. The Viet Cong had overrun the pagoda, but the South Vietnamese had retaken it and in the process had captured the man they had in tow. He wore a plaid shirt and black shorts, and his hands were bound behind his back. Adams carried a Leica M2, equipped with a thirty-five-millimeter lens,27 and he took eight frames as the marines and their prisoner drew near. He worked automatically, as he would whether on the streets of Vietnam or America. “[A] ny photographer, any news photographer, when cops or anybody grabs a prisoner in New York … you just follow them,” Adams said later. “I mean, it’s a picture. … You follow them until the prisoner is loaded into a wagon and driven away.”28 When the soldiers were about five feet from Loan, they stopped and backed away. Adams recounted what happened next (Fig. 11.2): I saw a man walk into my camera viewfinder from the left. He took a pistol out of his holster and raised it. I had no idea he would shoot. It was common to hold a pistol to the head of prisoners during questioning. So I prepared to make that picture—the threat, the interrogation. But it didn’t happen. The man just pulled a pistol out of his holster, raised it to the VC’s head and shot him in the temple. I made a picture at the same time.29

The man sprawled on the pavement, blood spraying from his head. Adams looked away until the blood subsided and then took a few more photos of the body.30 Loan was a familiar figure to the journalists. Chief of South Vietnam’s 75,000-member national police force, he was a trusted confidant of Nguyen Cao Ky, the country’s vice president and commander of its armed forces. From Howard Tuckner’s perspective, Loan’s actions were in keeping with his personality and the vagaries of the war.



Fig. 11.2  Saigon Execution by Eddie Adams, Associated Press General Loan took one look at him and knew he was going to get no information out of him. Loan had been through this with many prisoners. There was not one word. Loan did not try to talk to him nor scare him. He did not wave his gun at his face or head. He did not put the gun to his temple. He just blew his brains out.31

Wallace Terry, Time  magazine’s deputy bureau chief in Saigon, had sent a Vietnamese reporter to cover the fighting around An Quang Pagoda. The reporter returned to the office but made no mention of the shooting. Terry later heard Loan had executed a prisoner in front of journalists and asked the reporter about it. “Ah, Mr. Terry, General Loan does that all the time. That’s not news.”32 Adams returned to AP’s office, held up a roll of film, and announced, “Goddamn it, General Loan shot a man right in front of my eyes.”33 He left for lunch, and a technician processed the film. Veteran combat photographer Horst Faas was coordinating AP’s photo coverage of Tet. He bent over the strip of film and inspected it with a magnifying glass. “I saw what I had never seen before on the lightbox of my Saigon editing desk,” Faas wrote later. “The perfect newspicture—the perfectly framed and exposed ‘frozen moment’ of an event which I felt instantly would become representative of the brutality of the Vietnam War.”34 The thirty-four-year-old Adams had served with the Marine Corps as a military photographer and, following the war, he worked for newspapers in Michigan and Philadelphia. He joined the AP in 1962,35 and he lobbied his bosses to send him to Vietnam in 1965 when it was announced US troops were headed there, citing his credentials as an ex-Marine. Hal Buell, his colleague



and friend, explained Adams’ motivation: “He said openly and unabashedly that it was essential for him to cover the big story.”36 Adams joined an extraordinary staff in AP’s Saigon bureau. In addition to Browne, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for international reporting, it included Faas, who won the Pulitzer in 1965 for his combat photography, and reporter Peter Arnett, who won the award the following year for his reporting of the war. By the late 1960s, the bureau numbered about twenty editors, reporters, and photographers, including Vietnamese citizens, and it operated twenty-four hours a day. Faas remembered that Adams was in continual pursuit of the perfect photograph that would express the frustrations, the suffering, and the bravery of war—all in one image. He would become moody and depressed when he failed, and even though the editors in New York were satisfied with his work, he was not. “Until Feb. 1, 1968,”37 Faas said. That afternoon, Adams told someone in the office: “I got what I came to Vietnam for.”38 Adams’ photograph of the execution and a handful of others he took at the scene were ready for transmission to the United States that afternoon. By then, it was early the next day on America’s East Coast, too late to make that morning’s papers. AP’s operator transmitted Adams’ photos from a switchboard at a Saigon telephone and telegraph office. Relayed through Tokyo, the wirephotos were picked up in San Francisco and then transmitted to AP’s New York City office. By now, it was late morning, February 1, on America’s East Coast.39 Buell was working as deputy photo editor in the New  York bureau. He reacted to the execution photo much as Faas had in Saigon. “The picture was startlingly dramatic,” he said. “How many times do you see someone being shot dead in front of your eyes?” It had an icy calm to it, showing “the bridge between life and death.”40 The AP editors in New York discussed the photo’s impact while waiting thirty minutes for a caption to be written and for it to be prepared for transmission to AP’s 1262 client newspapers.41 Buell said there was no reservation about sending it out. “It had all the elements of a great news photograph and it stands alone,” he said. “It was a picture that had to be used. Why would we not use it?”42 The AP was cognizant, however, of the implications of Adams’ photo and decided to send an image that provided “atrocities-on-both-sides” balance.43 The photograph showed a South Vietnam officer holding his slain child. An accompanying story included the following paragraph: “Communist bands, in addition to gunning for allied military personnel, had staged several executions since the outbreak of the fighting here Wednesday. Wives and children of Vietnamese officers were among the victims.”44 The execution photo appeared the following morning on front pages of newspapers across the United States, including The New  York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times (the slightly edited video of the shooting appeared on NBC that evening).45 At the New York Times, front-page layout was controlled by a “bullpen” of news editors who generally were cautious, as witness to their decision against publishing Browne’s photo five years



earlier. The decision-making process was short—“there was no time for long philosophical discussions,” recalled John Morris, the paper’s picture editor at the time. “Instinctively I recognized the power of Eddie’s picture… I do recall that on that day it gave the bullpen an easy way out when the second [atrocity-­ balancing] picture came along, giving them a sense of ‘balance.’”46 Peter Braestrup, the Washington Post’s Saigon bureau chief, said the newspaper’s editors in Washington argued over whether to pair Adams’ photo with that of the bereaved South Vietnamese colonel, but they ultimately decided against it.47 The breadth of the execution photo’s circulation should not be overstated. Although it appeared on the front pages of many of the nation’s leading papers, its publication was hit and miss. It was not published at all in Denver, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Houston. And the fact it ran in New  York, Washington, and Los Angeles did not assure it would be seen beyond the papers in those cities. No internet existed, nor did publications utilize satellite technology that today allows them to print at sites across the country. No national paper, such as today’s New York Times or USA Today existed, at least not one that would have published Adams’ photo. The nation’s most widely read weekly news magazines, Newsweek and Time, published the picture, while U.S. News and World Report did not (neither did Life nor Look). Two weeks later, Time dedicated a portion of its coverage of Tet and Khe Sahn to the Adams’ image, without showing it again. The account of the shooting was used to provide context in an article about how prisoners of war should be treated, a story likely assigned in light of the photo. Loan’s act caused little stir in Saigon, where for two years the general has waged a ruthless, successful campaign against street terrorists…. But the execution aroused sharp world opinion, and raised a question that has concerned the U.S. since it took on the Viet Cong: How should prisoners in a guerrilla war be treated?48

Readers of newspapers and magazines reacted with letters to the editor, and the overriding theme was that Loan’s shooting of the Viet Cong suspect was a crime. A letter writer to the New York Times noted, “Your caption copy calls it execution. Webster’s dictionary defines that word as follows: ‘Putting to death in accordance with a legally imposed sentence.’ What the picture really shows is simply what we call a summary lynching.”49 Time magazine’s February 23 issue included a letter to the editor addressing the photo. Written by John S. Carson, MD, Rosemont, Pa., it read: No doubt your picture of the execution of a Viet Cong officer by General Nguyen Ngoc Loan will bring much satisfaction to the hairy 2% of our populace who revile the atrocities, some real and some imagined, committed by the U.S. and its allies while turning a deaf ear to murder and assassination by the Viet Cong. I only hope that alongside of it in the history books is placed the picture of the South Vietnamese officer carrying the body of his child murdered by these same Viet Cong.50



Dr. Carson’s hope went unfulfilled. Adams’ image became one of the most enduring of the Vietnam War, while the atrocity-balancing photo is rarely mentioned or reproduced. The purported effect of Adams’ execution photo, especially as an anti-war text, has grown to almost mythic proportions. Journalist Tom Buckley, writing in Harper’s Magazine in 1972, called the image “the turning point, the moment when the American public turned against the war.”51 It would be difficult, if not impossible, to prove the photograph influenced public opinion to the extent Buckley stated; after all, the war continued for another seven years. Buell said the daily flow of still photographs from Vietnam helped polarize public opinion about the conflict, and even contributed to its end, but Adams’ photo cannot take full credit. “No one picture changes the way people think,” he said. “All pictures contribute to the way people think. Some pictures contribute more.”52 Adams won the Pulitzer Prize for spot news photography in 1969 for “Saigon Execution.” That acknowledgment of its power as a news photograph was not, however, proof of the photo’s moral or political strength. Peter Braestrup, who studied the media coverage of the Tet offensive, concluded the photograph received wide play because of the oldest and simplest journalistic instinct: “Not every day do newspapers get a close-up picture of one man shooting another at ‘the instant the bullet slammed into the victim’s head, his features in a grimace.’”53 Over time, the photograph took on a life of its own, evolving from a striking news photo to a political text. Adams discovered this, much to his dismay. “I started hearing once the picture was released that it started causing demonstrations … and it was creating all this upset and furor in America, and I didn’t understand it, and I still don’t understand it, because during a war, people die in wars,” he said in a Newseum interview: What I ask people a lot, too, If you’re this man, the general, and you just caught this guy after he killed some of your people, you know it’s a war. How do you know you wouldn’t have pulled that trigger yourself? A lot of times pictures do lie; they have condemned this guy.54

Adams said two men died when he took the picture: the man Loan shot and Loan as well. “The photograph destroyed his life, but this was not the intentions [sic], to destroy his life. The intentions were to show what happened.”55 Loan was interviewed for Look magazine by Oriana Fallaci in June 1968, and he bemoaned the Americans’ lack of understanding of his action. Fallaci noted that he had crushed the Buddhist uprising and imprisoned 4000 Viet Cong in two years. She called him “the most feared and the most hated and the most cursed man in Saigon, maybe in Vietnam.”56 Loan told Fallaci, “This meeting between the two civilizations is so difficult, so impossible. The result is a perpetual misunderstanding.”57



Without such context, was it possible for the photograph to change the American public’s perception of the war? Or did it have a greater effect on public opinion because of this lack of context? It is impossible to answer those questions, but it does point out that a visual image of war cannot stand alone, no matter how powerful. As Eddie Adams said, “A lot of times pictures do lie.”

The Terror of War By the beginning of 1972, American military involvement in Vietnam was waning. Three years earlier, more than a half million US military personnel had been stationed in South Vietnam. By the end of 1971, fewer than 200,000 remained and many more were leaving.58 But the war continued, with fighting between the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops. On the morning of June 8, 1972, AP photographer Nick Ut was sent to the South Vietnamese town of Trang Bang, about twenty-five miles northwest of Saigon, where fighting had been raging for three days. Ut and a driver left Saigon in an AP minibus at dawn and arrived near the village about 7:30. North Vietnam soldiers had advanced into the area, and traffic was backed up as villagers fled down Route 1, a major highway connecting Saigon and Cambodia. Ut and other journalists, among them photographer David Burnett and British television reporter Christopher Wain, watched as South Vietnamese soldiers crossed a paddy a few hundred yards in front of them. Their advance stalled on the outskirts of Trang Bang, and an ARVN commander called in air support. Two Skyraider aircraft, Korean War-vintage planes, flew overhead about 1 p.m. First, they dropped explosives, then white phosphorous, followed by napalm. The journalists were nearly a quarter mile away but could feel the heat of the explosions. “The effect was like someone opening an oven door,” Wain said.59 Ut carried four camera bodies—two Nikons and two Leicas. He used his three-hundred-millimeter telephoto lens to photograph a plane as it unleashed its bombs, then turned his attention to the clouds of white phosphorous mixing with the oily black napalm spraying across the highway near a pagoda. Ut was surprised the South Vietnamese would bomb a pagoda because of its religious significance, but it was believed the North Vietnamese had set up anti-­ aircraft guns nearby. Suddenly, terrified and injured villagers came running out of the smoke down the highway toward the journalists and other onlookers. Ut photographed a woman carrying a child with skin peeling off its back and legs. Another woman carried a badly burned baby. Both children would die as result of the attack.60 As he photographed the scene, Ut heard a young girl screaming and looked up to see her running naked toward him. He made what would become his iconic image of her and her brother using his Leica M2 with a ­thirty-five-­millimeter lens. He was confused why she was naked until she passed by and he turned



and saw her flesh burned by the napalm. The girl, nine-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phuc, had torn off her burning clothes. She screamed, “Quá nóng, quá nóng” (“Too hot, too hot”)! Ut set his cameras down on the highway and began pouring water on her burns, as did Wain, but it worsened her pain. Ut later described it as like pouring water onto a barbecue. “That’s why I stopped right away,” he said. “Easy to kill her by water.” Instead, he and Wain gave her drinks from their canteens. She wailed, “I think I’m going to die” (Fig. 11.3).61 Kim Phuc and some of her family members had been hiding in the pagoda, like Ut figuring it would be spared from the bombing. Her parents had taken refuge in a nearby bunker and were unaware what had happened to her and her two brothers (her older brother Tam can be seen on the left side of the frame in Ut’s photo). Burnett, an award-winning, veteran war photographer, was changing film in his camera when Kim Phuc and her brothers ran by. “Nicky,” he told Ut, “you got all the photos.”62 Ut was the eleventh of twelve children in a South Vietnamese farming family. His older brother Huynh Thanh, the seventh born, had been a movie actor before going to work lugging sound equipment for CBS. He caught the attention of AP’s Saigon bureau and became a combat photographer, gaining a reputation as one of the toughest photographers in the war. “He just wanted to make pictures to show the world what the war was doing to his country,” Hal Buell said.63

Fig. 11.3  The Terror of War by Nick Ut, Associated Press



Huynh Thanh regularly showed his photos to Nick. “One day a picture will stop the war,” he told his younger brother.64 He was wounded in October 1965, and the Viet Cong overran his field hospital and executed him and the other wounded. Nearly the entire Saigon press corps marched in his funeral procession.65 Nick Ut idolized his older brother and wanted to follow in his footsteps. He finagled a job in the darkroom of AP’s Saigon bureau, but Horst Faas refused to let him work as a combat photographer. Faas said he was too young—Ut was fifteen in 1966 when he began working in the darkroom—and he didn’t want Nick to end up like his brother. Ut told Faas, “I don’t worry about dying. I’m not married, and don’t have girlfriends.” Faas eventually acquiesced and Ut became a war photographer.66 Ut was one of the few journalists who could communicate with Kim Phuc and her family members on Route 1 that afternoon. Her uncle urged him to help, and Ut carried her to the AP van, joined by her two brothers, an uncle, and aunt. Kim Phuc’s parents still didn’t know what had become of their ­children.67 Ut told the driver to speed to the hospital at Cu Chi, an hour away. Kim Phuc had suffered third-degree burns to more than half her body; she wailed until she passed out.68 The doctors at the hospital were used to seeing burned and wounded victims and worked in a triage system: sorting urgent and nonurgent cases. Ut worried the doctors would set aside Kim Phuc for later because of the severity of her burns, and he pleaded with them to attend to her. He showed them his press pass and explained he’d made photos of her that would be published widely. They agreed to treat her, and Ut stayed until she was on the operating table. Ut had shot eight rolls of Tri-X, 400 ASA. He figured his exposure would be fine, but he worried about the focus. On the way back to Saigon in the van, he prayed to his older brother for good luck. “I didn’t pray to God,” he said. “I prayed to my brother. I said, ‘Brother, please, I remember you telling me you want to stop this war. I want a picture. Maybe this one will stop this war.’”69 He processed the film and laid it out on a light table. The image that became the famous “The Terror of War” was frame 7 on the roll. Ut’s nickname for his older brother was “Seven,” because Huynh Thanh was the seventh child in the family. Ut took it as a sign: “I cried and said, ‘Oh, my God. That’s my brother. Same number.’”70 Another AP photographer, Ishizaki Jackson, asked why the girl was naked. Ut explained about the napalm attack. They made 5 × 7 prints and discussed what to do with them. The AP had a strict policy against transmitting photos with frontal nudity, but the purpose was to keep sexually explicit photos off the wire. Faas returned from lunch and looked at the prints. “Who shot this picture?” he asked. Ut repeated the account of the napalm attack and Kim Phuc tearing off her clothes. Faas yelled, “Why is the picture still here?” He ordered up prints and captions and transmitted them to New York.71



The AP editors in New York briefly discussed whether to send the image of Kim Phuc to their members. No one objected, and Buell ordered it sent. “I concluded the picture was not prurient in any way,” he said. “Guidelines are guidelines, but the power of a news photo can obviate the guidelines. That was the case here. It was a transcendent news picture.”72 The photo quickly began circulating around the world. It ran full page in Life and bled over into a second page. A photo by Burnett of a woman carrying a dying child ran beside it. “The pictures by David Burnett and Nick Ut preserve the full horror of the scene,” the accompanying caption said. “But they also raise a question. These are South Vietnamese children. Would you feel any easier had the children been North Vietnamese?”73 Don North, a veteran war correspondent who had covered the Vietnam War, saw the image in a newspaper in Egypt, where he was working. “Nick’s photo seemed to have a similar shock effect on most people I knew, similar to the effect of Eddie Adams’s photo of the execution of a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon,” he said. “However, I think because it showed the pain and suffering of a young child its effect on viewers was more intense.”74 Kim Phuc spent fourteen months in the hospital and underwent seventeen operations. She eventually settled in Canada, married, and had two children. In 1995, a journalist tracked her down, and Ut’s photo appeared on the front page of the Toronto Star, upending her peaceful and anonymous life. “I wanted to escape the picture because the more famous it got, the more it cost me my private life,” she said. “It seemed to me that my picture would not let me go.” But she decided to use the photo and the fame it brought to promote peace. “I realized that now I have freedom and am in a free country, I can take control of that picture.”75 She established The Kim Foundation International, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping children victimized by war. “The Terror of War” became “a symbol of civilian suffering in the Vietnam War.”76 Each of these three icons of horror captured a moment in the history of the Vietnam War, moments that have lived on for decades through these images. Ut’s photo arguably has had the most lasting impact because it is the most universal. More than the other two, it shows the effect of war on the innocent. Horst Faas described it as “a picture that does not rest.”77 The war correspondent Chris Hedges explained that governments attempt to perpetuate their myth when they go to war. “Each side creates its own narrative,” he wrote. “Neither is fully true.”78 Combat photographers such as Browne, Adams, and Ut provide a picture of what is happening, but they lose control of what they’ve documented once the film leaves their cameras. Their photos can help provide a greater understanding of the conflict, or they can confuse it when context is missing. But without such photographers, the public loses an opportunity to make sense of the narrative. Without them, war is a myth.



Notes 1. Browne heard later a South Vietnamese journalist was present, but it’s unclear whether he photographed the scene, and no photos other than Browne’s were published. Patrick Witty, “Malcolm Browne: The Story Behind the Burning Monk,” Time, 28 August 2012 (15 November 2017). http://time. com/3791176/malcolm-browne-the-story-behind-the-burning-monk/. 2. The Associated Press (AP), “Malcolm Browne’s ‘Burning Monk’: How the photograph was taken,” 20 December 2013 (14 November 2017). https:// 3. Susan D.  Moeller, “An Instant that Lingers.” Media Studies Journal 12 (Fall 1998): 8–9. 4. Bonnie Brennen and Hanno Hardt, “Newswork, History, and Photographic Evidence: A Visual Analysis of a 1930s Newsroom,” in Picturing the Past (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1999), 11–35. 5. Hal Buell, telephone interview with John M. Harris, 12 October 2007. 6. Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History, The First Account of Vietnam at War (New York: The Viking Press, 1983), 529. 7. Hal Buell telephone interview with John M. Harris, 25 October 2017. 8. The Editors of Boston Publishing Company, The American Experience in Vietnam: Reflections on an Era (Minneapolis: Zenith Press, 2014), 24. 9. William Prochnau, Once Upon a Distant War: Young War Correspondents and the Early Vietnam Battles (New York: Random House, 1995), 10–11. 10. The American Experience in Vietnam, 24. 11. Malcolm Browne, Muddy Boots and Red Socks (New York: Random House, 1993), 13. 12. Prochnau, 304. 13. Browne, Muddy Boots and Red Socks, 10. 14. Ibid. 15. Malcolm Browne, The New Face of War (New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1965), 177–180. 16. Browne, Muddy Boots and Red Socks, 11–12. 17. “A Buddhist Cremates Himself,” Life, 21 June 1963, 24–25. 18. “When A Monk Became A Human Torch,” U.S. News & World Report, 24 June 1963, 8. 19. Browne, The New Face of War, 181. 20. New York Times, 27 June 1963, C21. 21. Browne, Muddy Boots and Red Socks, 12. 22. Ibid. 23. Susan D.  Moeller, Shooting War: Photography and the American Combat Experience (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1989), 355. 24. New York Times, “Monks Take Part in Buddhist Protest,” 12 June 1963, 3. 25. John Morris, e-mail correspondence John M. Harris, 6 October 2006. 26. Horst Faas, “The Saigon Execution,” The Digital Journalist, 19 October 2004 (1 October 2007). 27. Nick Ut, e-mail correspondence, 15 October 2007; also see Adams’ description of taking the photo in Adams, Alyssa, editor. Eddie Adams: Vietnam (Brooklyn: Umbrage Editions, 2009), 144. 28. Quoted from an oral history of AP photography, cited in Eddie Adams, 144.



29. Faas, “The Saigon Execution.” 30. Eddie Adams: Vietnam, 144. 31. David D.  Perlmutter, Photojournalism and Foreign Policy: Icons of Outrage in International Crises (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998), 42. 32. Perlmutter, 40. 33. Peter Arnett, “To War with Eddie Adams,” Digital Journalist, October 2004 (1 October 2007). 34. Faas, “The Saigon Execution.” 35. Buell in Eddie Adams, 23. An article in The Santa Fe New Mexican, “War Through the Lens of Eddie Adams,” 35, reported that he joined AP in 1961. Database online. Available from ProQuest Direct. But Buell was his AP colleague and longtime friend and is a more reliable source. 36. Buell in Eddie Adams, 24. 37. Adams took his famous photograph at about noon 31 January 1968, Saigon time. It already was early morning 1 February 1968 on the East Coast of the United States. The date of the photograph is variously reported on those dates, depending on the perspective. 38. Faas, “The Saigon Execution.” 39. Buell interview, 2007. 40. Ibid. 41. Don Oberdorfer, Tet: The Turning Point in the Vietnam War (New York: De Capo Press, 1984), 16. 42. Buell interview, 2007. 43. Peter Braestrup, Big Story: How the American Press and Television Reported and Interpreted the Crisis of Tet 1968 in Vietnam and Washington (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1983), 461. 44. Ibid. 45. Karnow, Vietnam: A History, 529. 46. John Morris, e-mail correspondence, 2006. 47. Braestrup, Big Story, 347. 48. “By Book & Bullet,” Time, 23 February 1968, 32. 49. “Summary Lynching,” The New York Times, 7 February 1968, 46. 50. “The Face of War,” Time, 23 February 1968, 5. 51. Buckley, “Portrait of an Aging Despot,” 547. 52. Buell interview, 2007. 53. Braestrup, Big Story, 348. 54. Newseum. War Stories. Arlington, VA: Newseum: The Story Behind the News, 2001. Videorecording. 55. Ibid. 56. Oriana Fallaci, “An Interview with the Most Hated Man in Saigon,” Look, 25 June 1968, T17–T18. 57. Ibid. 58. The American Experience in Vietnam: Reflections on an Era, 221. 59. Faas and Fulton, “Documentary Video: The Napalm Girl,” Content Media Group, 14 June 2012 (24 October 2017). watch?v=Pa9auMart0E. 60. Nick Ut, telephone interview with John M. Harris, 26 October 2017. Faas and Fulton. 61. Ut, interview, 2017.



62. Faas and Fulton. 63. Buell interview, 2017. 64. Ut interview, 2017. 65. Horst Faas and Tim Page, eds., Requiem (New York: Random House, 1997), 321. 66. Ut, interview, 2017. 67. Ibid. 68. Faas and Fulton. Rebecca Lumb, “Reunited with the Vietnamese ‘girl in the picture,’” BBC News, 17 May 2010 (14 November 2017). 69. Ut interview, 2017. “Documentary Video: The Napalm Girl,” Content Media Group. 70. Ut interview, 2017. 71. Ibid., Buell interview, 2017. 72. Buell interview, 2017. 73. “The Beat of Life,” Life, 26 June 1972, 4. 74. Don North, e-mail correspondence with John M. Harris, 25 October 2017. 75. Lumb, “Reunited with the Vietnamese ‘girl in the picture.’” 76. The Kim Foundation International (14 November 2017). 77. Buell interview, 2017. 78. Chris Hedges, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (New York: Anchor Books, 2003), 81.

References “A Buddhist Cremates Himself.” Life (21 June, 1963): 24–25. Adams, Alyssa, ed. Eddie Adams: Vietnam. Brooklyn: Umbrage Editions, 2009. Arnett, Peter. “To War with Eddie Adams.” The Digital Journalist (October 2004). Accessed October 1, 2017. Braestrup, Peter. Big Story: How the American Press and Television Reported and Interpreted the Crisis of Tet 1968  in Vietnam and Washington. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1983. Browne, Malcolm. The New Face of War. New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1965. ———. Muddy Boots and Red Socks. New York: Random House, 1993. “By Book & Bullet.” Time, 23 February 1968. “Documentary Video: The Napalm Girl.” Content Media Group (Online Video, 14 June 2012). Faas, Horst. “The Saigon Execution.” The Digital Journalist (19 October 2004). Accessed October 1, 2017. Faas, Horst, and Tim Page, eds. Requiem. New York: Random House, 1997. Fallaci, Oriana. “An Interview with the Most Hated Man in Saigon.” Look (25 June 1968). Hedges, Chris. War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. New York: Anchor Books, 2003. Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History, The First Account of Vietnam at War. New York: The Viking Press, 1983. Lumb, Rebecca. “Reunited with the Vietnamese ‘Girl in the Picture.’” BBC News, 17 May 2010.



“Malcolm Browne: The Story Behind the Burning Monk.” Time, 28 August 2012. Accessed November 15, 2017. Moeller, Susan D. Shooting War: Photography and the American Combat Experience. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1989. ———. “An Instant that Lingers.” Media Studies Journal 12 (Fall 1998): 8–9. New York Times. “Monks Take Part in Buddhist Protest.” 12 June 1963. Oberdorfer, Don. Tet: The Turning Point in the Vietnam War. New  York: De Capo Press, 1984. Perlmutter, David D. Photojournalism and Foreign Policy: Icons of Outrage in International Crises. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998. “Summary Lynching.” The New York Times, 7 February 1968. The American Experience in Vietnam: Reflections on an Era. Minneapolis: Zenith Press, 2014. The Associated Press. “Malcolm Browne’s ‘Burning Monk’: How the Photograph Was Taken” (Online Video, 20 December 2013). watch?v=prXUs6op_6Q. “The Beat of Life.” Life (26 June 1972). “The Face of War.” Time, 23 February 1968. “When A Monk Became A Human Torch.” U.S. News & World Report, 24 June 1963.




The Weather in Our Souls: Curating a National Collection of Second World War Art at the Imperial War Museum Claire Brenard

Introduction The Imperial War Museum (IWM) in London is perhaps most well known for its collections of objects, letters, diaries and ephemera representing the British perspective of the Second World War. The museum’s collection of fine art of this period is regarded as the cornerstone of Britain’s war art collection and forms an important visual record of the time. It can be understood as consisting of two parts: around 3000 works of “official” war art derived from the Ministry of Information’s wartime collecting scheme and the museum’s own collecting during the 70 years since the war, bringing the total number to nearly 8000 artworks. This chapter explores the ways in which the “official” collection has influenced and shaped the Second World War art collection as a whole, how the collection reflects British national identity at a time of total war and considers the interpretation of the term “war art” in the context of a UK national museum.

The Imperial War Museum and the War Artists Advisory Committee The IWM was founded on March 5, 1917, when the War Cabinet approved Sir Alfred Mond MP’s proposal to create a national war museum that would record the events of the ongoing Great War. The intention was to collect and

C. Brenard (*) Imperial War Museum (IWM), London, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




display material as a record of the nation’s experiences during that war—civilian and military—and to commemorate the sacrifices of all sections of society.1 During the final years of the First World War, there were many different strands of official art commissioning and collecting in the UK relating to the continuing conflict, including IWM’s own schemes via its subcommittees representing the Admiralty, the War Office, the Ministry of Munitions and (after 1918) the Royal Air Force (RAF).2 By the onset of the Second World War in 1939, IWM had moved to its new home in the former Bethlem Royal Hospital, or “Bedlam,” in Lambeth, South London, where it remains today. Here, the museum remained closed to the public for most of the duration of the conflict but was already expanding its remit to include the new war.3 Nonetheless, art collecting relating to the Second World War began at a much slower pace, due to the existence of the War Artists Advisory Committee (WAAC), which effectively precluded the museum from actively amassing its own collection during the war years. Established within the Ministry of Information in 1939, the committee’s purpose was to compile, “through commissions and purchases, a documentary and artistic history of the [United] Kingdom during the Second World War.”4 The committee was chaired by Kenneth Clark, director of the National Gallery in London, as well as head of the Films Division and Controller of Home Publicity within the Ministry of Information.5 It employed 37 full-time salaried artists (only one of whom was a woman, Evelyn Dunbar), awarded short-term contracts to many more, as well as accepted independent submissions by sale or donation.6 By the end of the war, the committee had acquired 5570 works of art by over 400 artists.7 The committee had a hugely important role to play in patronising and sustaining artistic production during a time of severe strain for artists. Its influence in defining the nation’s sense of itself was critical at a time of total war, as is explored and illuminated in Brian Foss’s study War Paint: Art, War, State and Identity in Britain 1939–1945. Foss argues that “aside from supporting large numbers of artists, it helped to articulate national values and beliefs when they were most needed, and established a framework of state support for the visual arts.”8

National Culture and the Establishment of a New Collection at the IWM Kenneth Clark’s concern with shaping and identifying a national culture is clearly conveyed in his 1941 article The Weather in Our Souls, where he defines British art and temperament in opposition to that of continental Europe. Clark noted that in Britain there is an: envelope of soft, luminous atmosphere … unlike any other atmosphere in the world” and “even on sunny days there are no dark shadows in England, and no clear divisions between light and shade … the atmosphere is quite different on the Continent. That people there do literally see things in a different light—a



hard, steady, unchanging light which allows them to develop hard, steady unchanging hatreds.9

This extraordinary rallying cry in support of a national temperament that reveals itself through the visual arts is a clear articulation of Clark’s mission, one that sought to use the backdrop of the war to shape the nation’s arts scene. As WAAC chairman, he famously rejected abstraction as an appropriate means for war art on the grounds that it could not engage the masses.10 Instead he championed the artists Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland, John Piper and Henry Moore whose work he saw was part of a canon of British art that was characterised by lyricism, mysticism and inspired by the native landscape and climate. Prominently associated with the Neo-Romantic movement, their work was valued for its capacity to boost morale and promote national unity. However, not all the work of artists associated with the movement could be assimilated so easily into this vision, and the committee passed on more introspective and melancholy works, a subject I return to later. Artworks from the scheme were displayed in exhibitions at the National Gallery in London from July 1940 until the end of the war. The WAAC also arranged touring exhibitions to venues outside London, organised by the Museums Association and the British Institute of Adult Education.11 Artworks were toured overseas too, beginning with Britain at War, which opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This attempt to sway American public opinion in favour of entering the war attracted high visitor numbers and enthusiastic press.12 WAAC artworks were additionally reproduced in a series of affordable booklets, War Pictures by British Artists, which also proved extremely popular.13 During the war, the IWM was not involved with the activity of the WAAC. There was, however, an arrangement between the two bodies, with the IWM agreeing to give the committee first refusal of any artistic records of the Second World War on the understanding that it would eventually receive a large percentage of the committee’s acquisitions.14 After the demise of the WAAC in 1945, the IWM took over administration of the scheme (portraits in particular were still produced in the post-war years) and, in 1947, its Allocations Committee dispersed the collection to public art galleries and ministries in Britain and abroad. The Allocations Committee divided the collection roughly into “art” and “record” giving institutions like the Tate and British Council first and second choice. The IWM also received a representative selection from the “art” collection and had first choice of those works designated “record” apart from naval material, which was mostly allocated to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Other institutions were then invited to put forward a claim for works they felt had particular significance and interest for them. Well over half of the WAAC collection was retained by the IWM, a total of 3268 works.15 All the Keepers of the various collections at IWM were chosen as specialists in their field.16 Ernest Blaikley, the first Keeper of Art, provided continuity



from the founding of the museum in 1917 through the interwar period and beyond, finally retiring in 1951. In his place came W. Philip Mayes, who had been curator of the Paisley Museum and Art Gallery. Mayes compiled the museum’s first catalogue of paintings, drawings and sculpture of the Second World War in 1956.17 Nevertheless, during the 30-year period after the end of the Second World War, further collecting of artwork relating to the war was rather piecemeal, and reactive, owing on the one hand to a lack of funds but also a sense of complacency induced by the richness of the collection inherited from the WAAC.18 The presence of over 3000 works from the WAAC scheme gave the new collection both a profile and a centre of gravity. The entire archive of the WAAC, including minutes, correspondence with its artists, lists of submissions and rejections, were transferred as public records to IWM. In addition to the artworks formally allocated to the IWM, there were many others that came under the museum’s care, presumably having been rejected by the committee but never retrieved by the artists. The most high profile of these were 18 drawings by Graham Sutherland (1903–1980) that were discovered in the museum’s art store in 1971.19 The artist was notified of the situation and was content for the museum to retain the works, leading to a solo exhibition at the museum that same year.20 A whole collection of supporting material for WAAC commissions can be identified and designated as part of the “unofficial” collection, demonstrating the close links and blurring of the lines between the two parts of the collection. Additionally, supporting material came in from other sources. For example, in 1960, the National Art Collections Fund (now Art Fund) presented the museum with over 140 drawings by Stanley Spencer (1891–1959) relating to his Shipbuilding on the Clyde paintings commissioned by the WAAC.21 The paintings were already in the museum’s collection, so the IWM was considered the proper home for the drawings, which all relate to the initial commission. This large collection of drawings provides a fascinating insight into Spencer’s processes, planning his grand scheme for the paintings in the corner of sketches of figures or technical equipment. They are also a regular favourite of television documentary makers.22 Key acquisitions in the post-war period were usually the result of generous donations. Notably, Anna (1901–1976) and Doris Zinkeisen (1898–1991), who both sold works to the WAAC, donated significant works to the museum’s collection in 1958. Both sisters had trained at the Royal Academy Schools in London and received commissions to paint medical subjects during the war, Anna from the WAAC and Doris from the Red Cross. Anna Zinkeisen gave the museum Archibald McIndoe: Consultant in Plastic Surgery to the Royal Air Force, operating at the Queen Victoria Plastic and Jaw Injury Centre, East Grinstead.23 Her sister Doris, whose paintings of the liberation of Bergen-­ Belsen are among the most powerful yet detached images of the end of the war that the WAAC collected, donated three paintings to the museum via the Order of St John of Jerusalem.24 These works were made during her commission to



record the activities of doctors and nurses across North-West Europe towards the end of the war.25 Joseph Darracott became Keeper of Art in 1969, having previously worked at Manchester City Art Gallery and lectured in art history at Hornsey College of Art. He spent much of his time extensively researching the collection and produced books on aspects of the collection, including, for example, on the First World War and Second World War posters.26 By the early 1970s, it was clear a more proactive and considered approach was needed as Belinda Loftus, Darracott’s Principal Assistant, noted: The Art Collections are weak in two respects; the representation of foreign artists in the fine art collections is minimal and post war coverage is poor. Mr Darracott believes we should concentrate on purchasing high quality works by foreign artists to enhance the collections. My personal feeling is that we should abandon a field in which suitable material is scarce and prices are high… By adding further fine paintings and more particularly sculptures to our British collections, which are already very strong, especially in the First World War field, I feel we will be consolidating our position in a field which has been greatly neglected up to the last few years.27

Loftus raised a point of contention that remains to this day—is this a British collection or should it be looking to encompass views of the war from around the world? The collection is typified by the British perspective, whether revealing the atmosphere and realities on the home front, or the British individual’s reaction to being overseas as a result of war. In later years, the museum started to collect the work of foreign-born artists; however, very few did not have some kind of connection with Britain, having settled in the country at some point before, during or after the war. This gradual shift reflects the debates developing around British national identity, as IWM curators sought to include the perspectives of those who settled in Britain as a result of the war and contributed to the country’s artistic life. The collection contains inevitably a few depictions of Adolf Hitler by Nazi artists, items usually given to the museum by members of the public in the 1950s. Aside from these, one notable exception is a work by the German artist George Grosz (1893–1959): the watercolour Fear, 1933, donated to the museum in 2007.28 IWM has very few artworks relating to the period leading up to the Second World War, so this work stands apart in a number of ways. A wild-eyed man dominates the picture frame, holding a burning torch aloft and pulling up his arm protectively while two equally wild dogs jump up at him snarling. The man is baring his teeth, echoing those of the dogs. In the background, a building burns and explodes. The year 1933 was significant for Grosz: he left Germany for the USA, having played a prominent role in the Berlin Dada movement. He had served in the First World War before making explicit anti-war drawings and paintings attacking the social corruption of Germany.



The Grosz watercolour can be seen as the exception that proves the rule, so, as per Loftus’s sage recommendation, the Second World War art collection continues to retain its British focus. She also mentions sculpture as an area that needed focus, and this assertion remains true. The WAAC collected few sculptures for many reasons: sculpture was associated with memorials rather than records. It was also much more expensive, as well as time-consuming, to create. They did commission some sculptors, including Jacob Epstein (1880–1959) and Frank Dobson (1888–1963), to make portrait busts. The most popular and intriguing piece of sculpture in the collection remains Renato Bertelli’s (1890–1974) Profilo Continuo (Testa di Mussolini) or Continuous Profile (Head of Mussolini), also made in 1933 and donated to the museum in 1945. Made in terracotta, it is reminiscent of optical illusions involving profiles and vases, presenting Mussolini in a Futurist style, but also rather absurdly as a kind of spinning top. Elsewhere in the report, Loftus refers to the general feeling among curators that for the Second World War art collection, the best official works were allocated elsewhere, that is, the Tate and the British Council.29 Furthermore, she demonstrates strong ambitions for the IWM’s art collection that subsequent art curators would go on to realise: Whether we obtain these improved display facilities or not I think the Museum should aim to combat the neglect of the art-collections by critics, scholars and the general public by putting on a carefully selected run of exhibitions with adequate information and very well organised publicity.30

Expansion of the Second World War Art Collection Angela Weight became Keeper of Art at the IWM in 1979, having previously held the position of Keeper of Aberdeen Art Gallery. According to the curator Michael Moody, under her guardianship, the output of the Department of Art expanded in terms of exhibitions, acquisitions and publications. Throughout the 1980s, the museum was regarded as a major London art venue.31 During this same period, the museum acquired via modest purchases and donations, artworks by John Minton, Merlyn Evans, Eric Ravilious, William Scott and Keith Vaughan.32 The museum staged an exhibition in 1981, The Neo-­ Romantics: Drawings and Watercolours, which demonstrated the strength of the collection in this area. With a number of loans from institutions and private lenders,33 it also indicated where the collection might need to grow. In the 1980s, the Neo-Romantic period of British art began to witness a revival of interest, having been critically ignored for some time. In 1987, the Barbican Art Gallery staged the exhibition A Paradise Lost: the Neo-Romantic Imagination in Britain 1935–55. From the late 1980s onwards, the museum started purchasing key high-value works with successful applications to funders in order to make the purchases possible. These included Plane Crash in Sussex, 1940, by Henry Moore in 1986, Bomb Store by David Bomberg in 1989, Pro



Patria, 1938, by John Armstrong in 1995, Blitzed City with Self Portrait by John Minton in 2001 and Soldier and Girl Sleeping by William Scott in 2004.34 In doing so, the museum began to amass an impressive selection of work by Neo-Romantic artists. Today, thanks in part to some key exhibitions staged at the museum, all these artists command respect and corresponding high prices on the art market. The early examples of the Zinkeisen and Spencer gifts demonstrate the magnetism of the core collection of 3268 artworks transferred from the WAAC. Although the effect of this continues, the high interest in (and therefore prices of) artworks of this period has meant that today generous gifts of high-profile artists’ work are relatively unknown. There is no doubt that during the immediate period after the war, IWM’s collection benefitted from the museum’s role as the final administrator for the WAAC. Later still, the collection has benefitted from the museum’s status as the home for national war art. It is perhaps useful to explore this definition here. According to the Tate “War artists are artists who are commissioned through an official scheme to record the events of war.”35 It also links this definition to the British official government-­ sponsored schemes of the First and Second World Wars, noting that the IWM continues to commission artists to cover later conflicts. This definition of war art is, however, rather narrow, and the IWM’s art curators have been concerned with broadening and questioning this restrictive classification. The expansion of the collection started by Weight has continued under the guardianship of Roger Tolson, Head of Art between 2005 and 2010, and Kathleen Palmer, Head of Art from 2010 onwards. During these periods, key acquisitions were made. The work of the artist Keith Vaughan (1912–1977) relating to the period of the Second World War is a good case in point. Vaughan registered as a conscientious objector and served as a non-combatant in the Pioneer Corps during the Second World War, making drawings and sketches of his experiences. He was never given a commission but was successful at selling some of his works to the WAAC. This would already disqualify him as a war artist under Tate’s strict definition of the term. These drawings were typically of soldiers in basic barrack rooms, showing the interaction and close physical proximity of the men, and came into the IWM’s collection at the end of the war. The museum augmented its holdings in 1985, acquiring more of his sketchbooks from this time.36 In 2008, the IWM bought Echo of the Bombardment at Christie’s with the help of a full grant from the Art Fund.37 Just three years later, the museum purchased the drawing Nissen from the Offer Waterman gallery.38 These two works, both dating from 1942, are by a long measure the most exciting of Vaughan’s in the museum’s collection. Echo of the Bombardment is unusual in its depiction of the experience of suffering an aerial attack rather than the view of the aftermath. It has been displayed frequently at the museum39 and is much valued for its unsettling impression of what arbitrary physical danger might feel like. The rather stark Nissen, showing three soldiers writing letters under the confined curved roof of a Nissen hut, evokes a strong sense of the alienation many must have felt living through



uncertain and dangerous times. Such personal reflections allow us to view the Second World War from an unfamiliar perspective and challenge established narratives of the period. They also expand the concept of what war art can, and should, look like. There are other artists, including the English surrealist John Armstrong, Neo-Romantic artist Robert Colquhoun and George Lambourn, who are in a similar category to Keith Vaughan. They had artwork commissioned or collected by the WAAC, but the works acquired were not representative of the strongest or most interesting of the artists’ oeuvre. The museum has taken the opportunity to expand its holdings years later. George Lambourn (1900–1977) is only represented by one work in the WAAC collection, Calais, 26th May 1940. Died of wounds.40 He independently submitted the work to the committee, who decided to purchase it in 1941.41 Lambourn had an interesting background as he was a veteran of the First World War, and subsequently studied at Goldsmith’s College, London, and at the Royal Academy Schools. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he joined the Red Cross and in early 1940 went to France with an Ambulance Unit attached to the British Expeditionary Force. He organised the last Field Dressing Station for the holding force covering the retreat from Calais and was evacuated on the final boat, severely wounded.42 In 1981, the IWM purchased five of his drawings depicting refugees.43 The drawings are very much in the Neo-Romantic style, evocative of the figurative works of Robert Colquhoun and Keith Vaughan. Important contemporaries of Vaughan, Armstrong and Lambourn were completely sidelined by the WAAC. Works by Neo-Romantic artists that could be described as introspective and melancholy were, quite understandably, not chosen by the committee in their mission to galvanise an inspiring and resilient national spirit at a time of crisis. With its attention on the wider British art scene of the period and the place of the Neo-Romantic movement within it, the museum took the opportunity to start filling those gaps from the 1980s onwards. It purchased The Execution by Merlyn Evans (1910–1973) in 1981, later acquiring further works by the artist. Evans’s early years were spent in Glasgow, where his eyes were opened to violence and poverty. He wrote: “conventional painting of any kind seemed inappropriate in the world in which I lived.”44 During the war, he served with the Eighth Army in North Africa, Syria and Italy, making a number of paintings and drawings during his four years’ service. The Execution depicts the body of Mussolini hanging by the feet in the town square in Milan after he was killed in April 1945. Marjorie Few, the artist’s widow, wrote: “Merlyn Evans saw and felt the crowds around the hanging corpse of Mussolini. It was the element of the mob he was trying to capture.”45 John Minton (1917–1957) was at the forefront of the younger generation of Neo-Romantic artists who rose to fame and prominence in the 1940s. During this period, he made frequent visits to the areas of Wapping, Poplar and Rotherhithe in East London which had been heavily bombed in the blitz. He



made numerous drawings and paintings on the subject, recognising the broken buildings as metaphors for his own despairing mental state. He was not the only artist to use architectural damage as a metaphor: many WAAC artists covered this subject including Dennis Flanders, Muirhead Bone and, famously, John Piper. These artists were drawn to architecturally significant buildings— St Paul’s Cathedral, St Bride’s church and St Stephen’s church in the City of London46—rather than people’s homes.47 Here architectural damage was a metaphor for unseen violence to the body, and the fine standing ruins a symbol of resilience in extreme circumstances. Minton’s gloomy and introspective treatment of the subject invoked altogether different emotions: Surveying bomb-blasted London, Minton’s early drawings record not human suffering, but a romantic melancholy that echoed his own alienation. In Figure in Ruins,48 a lorry ploughs through a deserted nocturnal city, with a sad-eyed, ragged young man—an incarnation of Minton himself, perhaps—leaning against a wall in the foreground. The shattered buildings in Bomb-Damaged Buildings bring to mind some mythical Italian city rather than the actual place portrayed: Poplar, in the East End.49

The IWM bought its first two Minton works in 1979, Looking Down on a Bombed Building and Desolation, Poplar. It continued to acquire his works and today has a collection of six wartime works. These works are frequently displayed50 and loaned out to other institutions.51 Over the 70-year period since the end of the Second World War, the IWM has collected artworks by various types of prisoners, notably by those who were captured by Japanese forces in the Far East during the war, as well as work by other prisoners of war (POW) and civilian internees. These range from material produced in German POW camps to drawings executed by “enemy aliens” in British internment camps and include the artists Ronald Searle, Charles Thrale, Philip Meninsky, Brian Stonehouse and Fred Uhlman.52 Additionally, there are works by survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust. These were researched alongside later and contemporary artistic responses for an exhibition in 2008, Unspeakable: the artist as witness to the Holocaust, which included unofficial material, WAAC material and contemporary reflections on the Holocaust.53 Although collecting around these themes has occurred predominately in the years after the war, even in this area, the WAAC had set a precedent. James Morris (1908–1989) served in the Navy before the committee commissioned him to record the British Pacific Fleet in the Far East.54 He made a great many works on diverse subjects but one drawing shows a liberated Japanese prisoner camp in Kiirung, Formosa.55 Leslie Cole (1910–1976) travelled extensively as a salaried war artist, recording the aftermath of the war in Malta, Greece, Germany and the Far East. He witnessed both the horrors of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in the wake of liberation and the Japanese prisoner of war camps in Singapore, recording the emaciated state of the prisoners in three works made at Changi Gaol in Singapore.56



The museum began collecting material relating to POWs in the Far East from the 1970s onwards, with a large collection of drawings from the artist Philip Meninsky purchased in 1973, followed by a gift of drawings by John Mennie in 1978 and 104 drawings by Charles Thrale presented to the IWM in 1981. The most high-profile acquisition in this area was the donation by the artist in 1984 of Ronald Searle’s (1920–2011) extensive drawings and archive relating to his period in captivity in the Far East. Searle was part way through his studies at the Cambridge School of Art when he joined the Territorial Army as an architectural draughtsman, leaving for the Far East with his brigade in 1941. They were captured by Japanese forces in Singapore after the invasion in 1942, and Searle became part of the mass of allied prisoners who worked on the Thai-Burma railway construction, transferring to Changi Gaol in Singapore in May 1944. When the war in the Far East ended, Searle returned to England with the drawings he had made during his three years of captivity.57 The IWM is now known as a repository for Far East Prisoners of War (FEPOW) material and this sub-collection has built up substantially over the years.58 The collection of artworks dovetails in with the museum’s collection of diaries and journals on the subject and this collection as a whole is of enormous documentary importance, as very little photographic or film evidence exists of the events in the Far East prisoner camps.59 This function ties in neatly with one of the WAAC’s original aims: that of documenting the history of the British perspective of the Second World War.60 This is not to downplay the artistic quality of many of the works; however, the importance of the collection as testimony to experiences of Allied POWs and civilian internees in the Far East cannot be underestimated. Related evidence from artists’ statements and autobiographical accounts shows that an important motivation for drawing in the camps was to bear witness to the distressing conditions in captivity. In particular, four artists were requested by camp medical authorities in Thailand to document improvised medical equipment and treatment in camps where medical resources were scarce. Some of the drawings now in IWM’s collection were amongst the earliest evidence of the FEPOW experience to be seen by a British audience after the war. Ronald Searle exhibited forty drawings in Cambridge in 1946; Charles Thrale’s exhibition ‘The Valley of Death’ toured UK venues from 1946 until 1964, proof of a lasting interest in this material; Philip Meninsky’s medical illustrations appeared in the British Medical Journal in 1946.61 Works from the Far Eastern prisoners of war collection have also been regularly displayed at IWM over the last 35 years.62 Artworks on the subject of the Holocaust also make up an important grouping within the collection. Straight after the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, it was not difficult for journalists and others to gain access to the camp,63 and the WAAC artist Leslie Cole, among others, including Mary Kessell, Doris Zinkeisen, Eric Taylor, Edgar Ainsworth and Bryan de Grineau, visited Bergen-­ Belsen in 1945. Their works bring an important outsider-as-eyewitness perspective to the horror of the concentration camps.



Leslie Cole had written to the WAAC in 1940 asking for work as a war artist, but he was turned down. At this time, Cole joined the RAF only to be discharged on health grounds soon after. Determined to be a witness to the unfolding events, he approached the WAAC again, sending pieces of completed work reflecting the war situation in Hull (he taught at Hull College of Art) and his home town of Swindon. Eventually, he became a salaried war artist with an honorary commission as a captain in the Royal Marines. Cole travelled widely, recording the aftermath of the war in Malta, Greece, Germany and the Far East. His work consistently addressed the suffering of human beings.64 Mary Kessell (1914–1977) was sent by the WAAC to record the war in Germany in 1945. By the time she reached Bergen-Belsen, four months after its liberation, it had been transformed into a holding place for displaced persons, many who were survivors of the camp, waiting to be returned home. Her drawings are unusual in terms of official war art: very small and with abstract figures completely decontextualised from their physical surroundings, they symbolise the personal cost of war. Edgar Ainsworth (1905–1975) was the art editor of Picture Post, visiting the camp three times65 on assignments for the magazine. Drawings made for the magazine have been donated to the IWM over the last 20  years by various donors, with the latest three given by the family in 2013.66 Similarly, the artist Bryan de Grineau (1883–1957) was sent by The Illustrated London News to produce eyewitness drawings of Bergen-Belsen. This grouping of artists-as-correspondents has only been supplemented with artworks by those more directly affected, including survivors, from the late 1990s onwards. These remarkable acquisitions were, in part, a product of the research towards the IWM’s new Holocaust Galleries, which were opened in June 2000. In 1997, Jan Hartman (1926–2009) gave the museum his sketch of a survivor at Auschwitz, made in 1946. IWM went on to purchase three more of his drawings, all made in the immediate aftermath of liberation: I think it was in ’45, I must have done them as quickly as I possibly could, because it was my way of expressing what I had seen… I couldn’t do it today, because I wouldn’t remember how it was, but at that time I still did. So it was one way of expressing an evidence the same way as I do it today in words.67

Hartman’s grim scenes of death marches show crowds of anonymous figures in dark overcast landscapes. He was from a Jewish family based in Prague, who were taken to the Theresienstadt camp in Czechoslovakia in 1942. In the years that followed, he was held at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Czestochowa and Buchenwald, before they were liberated in spring 1945. Hartman ended up settling in France. Similarly, Wilhelm “Bill” Spira (1913–1999), a Jewish cartoonist from Austria, escaped to France in 1938 before being caught and deported to Poland and then sent to a number of forced labour camps: Sakrau, Laurahuette and, finally, Blechhammer. Spira’s drawings were popular, and he and other artists traded their artworks with POWs, civilian workers and the SS



in exchange for food, clothes and other goods. The cartoons in IWM’s collection were gifted by the family of a British soldier who had also been imprisoned in Blechhammer. He had acquired the drawings in exchange for some cigarettes. They are likely to be the only drawings by the artist that survived this time and show the prisoners being forced to work and march. Spira resettled in France after the war. The works of these artists are rare examples of non-British perspectives in the collection, crucial in terms of telling the story of the Nazi concentration camp system more fully. A standout acquisition from this time is Lama Sabachthani (or Why have you forsaken me?), 1943 by the artist Morris Kestelman (1905–1998), a member of the London Group of painters and born in London to a Jewish immigrant family. This painting is one of the first artistic responses to news from Europe about the Nazi concentration and death camps. The title is taken from the first verse of Psalm 22 and the painting shows a group of Jewish men, women and children mourning over a mound of corpses, with more such mounds and burning buildings in the background. The painting was donated to the museum by the artist’s family shortly after his death. There are also artists in the collection who came to Britain as a result of Nazi persecution. George Mayer-Marton (1897–1960) was born in Gyor, Hungary, and served in the Austro-Hungarian Army during the First World War. From 1919 to 1924, he studied art in Vienna and Munich. He immigrated to England in 1938 to escape the threat of Nazi Germany, but his parents remained in Gyor. Mayer-Marton painted Women with Boulders in 1945 after receiving the news that his parents had been deported from the ghetto in Gyor and killed. The work shows a bleak landscape with two lonely female figures. The boulders are reminiscent of stones placed on Jewish graves to protect the body waiting for resurrection. The family donated the painting to the museum in 2000. The first acquisition of works by an émigré artist was in 1979 when the museum accepted a gift of drawings from the artist Fred Uhlman (1901–1985). The drawings, part of a series on internment, relate to Uhlman’s period spent as a civilian internee at Hutchison Camp on the Isle of Man. Uhlman was Jewish and, as a lawyer in Stuttgart, had been politically active against the Nazis. This did not stop him being classed as an enemy alien in Britain, however, and, he was arrested in London in 1940, just a few years after he had settled there with his wife. Many of his drawings feature a child, inspired by his daughter Caroline, born a week after his arrest. He described this figure as a “symbol of joy and liberty, marching with sure, unfaltering steps through the valley of death and terror—totally undisturbed, untouchable and triumphant.”68 Other works by émigré artists in the collection include those by Helmuth Weissenborn (1898–1982), who was also interned at Hutchison Camp, having left Germany for Britain with his Jewish wife in 1939; Martin Bloch (1883–1954), a German artist who was interned at Huyton Camp in Liverpool and Sefton Camp on the Isle of Man; and Erich Kahn (1904–1980), a German



Jewish artist who was interned both by the Nazis at Welzheim Camp (briefly in 1938) and by the British in 1940 at Hutchison Camp after he had immigrated to Britain. These artists were released at the beginning of 1941, yet for many their outsider status continued. The WAAC generally overlooked such artists, so it is important that the IWM continues to collect these neglected perspectives. Beyond artists exiled from Europe who came to Britain, and some examples from European artists who faced the most extreme circumstances of the war, the museum’s collection has little in the way of perspectives from artists outside of Britain. This chapter has presented some of the reasons for this; however, the lack of representation from those from Britain’s former empire is troubling, considering the “Imperial” in IWM.  Again, there is a precedent set by the WAAC and its “Native-Born Colonial Artists” scheme, which was established to encourage painting by “non-European Colonial artists.” The committee was keen that artists should paint in their native style, not have a European painting style imposed on them. The plan was for the best works to be sent to London for exhibition and purchase by the WAAC. As Angela Weight noted in her accompanying text to The Call of Empire exhibition in 1986: Clearly the Committee meant well but their expectations were unrealistic. The Committee failed to appreciate that there was no tradition of pictorial representation in the African countries chosen to participate, nor was there a ‘native’ pictorial tradition in Jamaica uninfluenced by European styles. As the art advisor in the Gold Coast pointed out, African art was three-dimensional; perhaps more importantly its purpose was symbolic and magical. Such art could not be adapted easily to recording events in the Western manner.69

Paintings eventually arrived from Jamaica, Uganda, Nigeria and the Gold Coast, and examples from each country were purchased by the WAAC, but generally the committee were disappointed with the results of the scheme and the works were not photographed or exhibited at the National Gallery exhibitions. Further research from a post-colonial perspective would be invaluable in this area, for example, the work of Ugandan artist PWG Maloba (whose dates tellingly are not known) is still little known today. Maloba’s paintings of the King’s African Rifles are strong in terms of design and colour but perhaps do not fit easily into the narrative of British national identity that has to date been explored within the museum. Works from the “Native-Born Colonial Artists scheme” will be included in a display alongside the new Second World War Galleries in 2020, and it will be interesting to see the interpretative approach and reaction from visitors.

Conclusion So what is the future for this collection at IWM? The museum’s current focus on increasing its collecting relating to contemporary conflicts, combined with the pressure on storage, means that collecting art made around the period of



the Second World War, or reflecting on this period, is not currently a priority. The museum again cannot afford to be proactive in this area, yet generous offers of donations continue to come in, usually from families of lesser known artists. Interesting recent examples include the other-worldly drawings of Kathleen Trigg Spagnolo (b. 1919), pensive scenes of everyday wartime life by Leo Hardy (1905–1989), the zoomorphic images of Warner Cooke (1916–1987) and prints testifying to the brutality of the Nazi death camps by Holocaust survivor Richard Grune (1903–1983). The challenge for collecting art today falls to the IWM’s new Head of Art, Rebecca Newell, who started in 2017. She joins a newly restructured IWM, where Art no longer has a Department or Section of its own. Overall, the IWM’s Second World War art collection arguably gives us a multidimensional view of British national identity, with the “unofficial” collection acting as an important foil to the official material, bringing in the perspectives of émigré artists, prisoner artists and those artists who were excluded from the WAAC scheme. Precedents from the WAAC collection, notably the grouping and promotion of Neo-romantic artists, have provided IWM curators with a model to pursue relating collecting. Similarly, the lack of international artists in the WAAC collection has meant this area has been a dead-end for further collecting. Although there is not a clear line between these two parts of the collection, it is useful when approaching this material to think of the role of art during the war itself and what such artworks bring us now, giving us valuable insights into a time that continues to define British national identity. Interest in artistic output from this era is not restricted to IWM itself but also to the many institutions, both nationally and internationally, that continue to borrow from this collection for important temporary exhibitions. As the IWM looks to open new Second World War and Holocaust Galleries in 2020, the opportunity to include highlights from this collection on permanent display will demonstrate the unique power of art to give nuanced reflections on diverse aspects of the period.

Notes 1. “History of IWM,” IWM, accessed December 12, 2017. uk/corporate/about-IWM. 2. Various authors, Origins of the Art Collection in the Imperial War Museum (IWM information leaflet, August 2013). 3. IWM, “History of IWM.” 4. Brian Foss, War Paint: Art, War, State and Identity in Britain 1939–1945 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007), 1. 5. Foss, War Paint, 1. 6. Foss, War Paint, 196. 7. Ulrike Smalley, Collection Review Report, Second World War Official Art (IWM internal document, 2011), 1. 8. Foss, War Paint, 1. 9. Kenneth Clark, The Weather in our Souls, the Listener 25, no. 642 (1 May 1941), 620–621.



10. Kenneth Clark to Paul Nash, October 3, 1944, Tate Archive 8812.7050.361. 11. Foss, War Paint, 181. 12. Foss, War Paint, 161. 13. Foss, War Paint, 160. 14. Foss, War Paint, 22. 15. Smalley, Collection Review Report, 2. 16. Sarah Henning (Museum Archivist, IWM) in discussion with the author, October 2017. 17. W. Philip Mayes, A concise catalogue of paintings, drawings and sculpture of the Second World War, 1939–1945 (London: Imperial War Museum, 1956). 18. Sara Bevan, Collection Review Proposal, Contemporary Art Collection (IWM internal document, 2013), 1. 19. Adlib Collections Content Management System (CCMS), IWM (Object numbers Art.IWM ART LD 6161–LD 6178), accessed December 12, 2017. 20. Sutherland, Graham, IWM artist file. 21. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Object numbers Art.IWM ART LD 6008 1–LD 6008 141). 22. One recent example: Bill MacLeod, Stanley Spencer: The Colours of the Clyde (London: BBC, 2014). 23. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Object number Art.IWM ART LD 6001). 24. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Object numbers Art.IWM ART LD 5998–LD 6000). 25. Kathleen Palmer, Women War Artists (London: Tate Publishing, 2011), 13. 26. Joseph Darracott and Belinda Loftus, First World War Posters (London: Imperial War Museum, 1972); Joseph Darracott and Belinda Loftus, Second World War Posters (London: Imperial War Museum, 1981). 27. Belinda Loftus, Report on the Collections of the Department of Art (IWM internal document, 1972). 28. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Object number Art.IWM ART 16661). 29. Loftus, Report on the Collections. 30. Ibid. 31. Michael Moody, IWM Oral History 32102 (IWM sound archive, 2009). 32. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Object numbers Art.IWM ART 15761, 15910, 15279, 15713 1-21, 15172, 15173, 15213–15215, 15739, 15280–15286, 15905–15909). 33. The Neo-Romantics Watercolour Exhibition 03 Oct 1981–04 Jan 1982 (IWM Art archive file ART/AD08/SMA/035). 34. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Object numbers Art.IWM ART 16112, 16293, 16547, 16739, 16843). 35. Art Term: War Artists, Tate, accessed December 12, 2017. http://www.tate. 36. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Object numbers Art.IWM ART 15905–15909). 37. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Object number Art.IWM ART 17439). 38. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Object number Art.IWM ART 17515). 39. Breakthrough (exhibition at IWM London, 2009); Architecture of War (exhibition at IWM London, 2013). 40. Foss, War Paint, 203. 41. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Object number Art.IWM ART LD 970). 42. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Object number Art.IWM ART LD 970). 43. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Object numbers Art.IWM ART 15260–15264). 44. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Persons and institutions database: Evans, Merlyn).



45. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Object number Art.IWM ART 15279). 46. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Object numbers Art.IWM ART 16488, LD 1076, LD 1381). 47. Foss, War Paint, 43. 48. Art.IWM ART 16739 Blitzed City with Self Portrait is a similar painting to the one described. 49. Mark Hudson, “Paintings packed with joie de vivre – John Minton: A Centenary Pallant House, Chichester review,” The Telegraph, June 29, 2017. 50. Architecture of War (exhibition at IWM London, 2013); People’s War (exhibition at IWM London, 2012). 51. Peace and Reconciliation Gallery (The Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry, 2008–2011). 52. Claire Brenard, Collections Review Report, Second World War Art – Unofficial material (IWM internal document, 2014), 1. 53. Unspeakable: the artist as witness to the Holocaust (exhibition at IWM London, 2008). 54. Foss, War Paint, 199. 55. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Object number Art.IWM ART LD 5534). 56. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Object numbers Art.IWM ART LD 5618, LD 5824, LD 5825). 57. Adlib CCMs, IWM (Persons and institutions database: Searle, Ronald). 58. Jenny Wood, Collections Review Report, Far Eastern prisoners of war art (IWM internal document, 2012), 1. 59. Wood, Collections Review Report, 1. 60. Foss, War Paint, 1. 61. Wood, Collections Review Report, 1. 62. Prisoners of War artists (exhibition at IWM London, 1981); To the Kwai and Back: Ronald Searle War Drawings 1939–45 (exhibition at IWM London, 1986); Captive: War artists in the Far East (exhibition at IWM London, 2005–2006). 63. Mark Celinscak, Distance from the Belsen Heap: Allied Forces and the Liberation of a Nazi Concentration Camp (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015). 64. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Persons and institutions database: Cole, Leslie). 65. Long Read: Artists’ responses to the Holocaust, IWM, accessed December 13, 2017. 66. Adlib CCMS, IWM (Object numbers Art.IWM ART 17616–17618). 67. Long Read: Artists’ responses to the Holocaust, IWM. 68. Fred Uhlman, Private Papers of Dr F Uhlman (IWM Documents.6781). 69. Angela Weight, The Call of Empire – Portrayals of African, Asian and Arabic peoples in the Second World War (London, IWM art exhibition, 1986).

References Adlib Collections Content Management System, IWM. “Art Term: War Artists.” Tate. Accessed December 12, 2017. uk/art/art-terms/w/war-artists. Bevan, Sara. “Collection Review Proposal, Contemporary Art Collection.” IWM Internal Document, 2013.



Brenard, Claire. “Collections Review Report, Second World War Art  – Unofficial Material.” IWM Internal Document, 2014. Celinscak, Mark. Distance from the Belsen Heap: Allied Forces and the Liberation of a Nazi Concentration Camp. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015. Clark, Kenneth. “The Weather in Our Souls.” The Listener 25, no. 642 (1 May 1941): 620–621. Darracott, Joseph, and Belinda Loftus. First World War Posters. London: Imperial War Museum, 1972. ———. Second World War Posters. London: Imperial War Museum, 1981. Foss, Brian. War Paint: Art, War, State and Identity in Britain 1939–1945. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007. “History of IWM.” IWM.  Accessed December 12, 2017. corporate/about-IWM. Hudson, Mark. “Paintings Packed with joie de vivre  – John Minton: A Centenary Pallant House, Chichester Review.” The Telegraph, 29 June 2017. “Long Read: Artists’ Responses to the Holocaust.” IWM.  Accessed December 13, 2017. Mayes, W.  Philip. A Concise Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture of the Second World War, 1939–1945. London: Imperial War Museum, 1956. Palmer, Kathleen. Women War Artists. London: Tate Publishing, 2011. “The Neo-Romantics Watercolour Exhibition 03 Oct 1981–04 Jan 1982.” IWM Art Archive File, ART/AD08/SMA/035. Various Authors. “Origins of the Art Collection in the Imperial War Museum.” IWM Information Leaflet, August 2013.


Write Propaganda, Shut Up or Fight: Philip Gibbs and the Western Front Martin Kerby, Margaret Baguley, and Abbey MacDonald

Introduction In Men at War, his edited anthology of war writing published in 1942, Ernest Hemingway distilled the dilemma facing war correspondents on the Western Front into mutually exclusive choices. In his view, writers wrote propaganda, shut up, or fought.1 Though the choices for the correspondents were in fact far more complex than Hemingway’s hyperbole, it is a valuable starting point for an assessment of their participation in what was subsequently derided as the most discreditable period in the history of journalism.2 Philip Knightley’s dismissal of the correspondents makes Hemingway’s look tame in comparison. In his view, more deliberate lies were told between 1914 and 1918 than in any other period of history. He was equally forthright in identifying the culprits. The greater part of the blame must, in his view, “rest with the British war correspondents.”3 They deserve more, however, than this blanket condemnation, as the wartime correspondence of Philip Gibbs attests.

M. Kerby (*) • M. Baguley University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected] A. MacDonald University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




The War Correspondents and the Military: An Evolving Relationship Though it is undoubtedly true that by the middle of 1918 a sophisticated relationship between the British military and the press had developed, it had been some time in the making. Between August 1914 and May 1915 (with the exception of guided tours conducted in March 1915), the correspondents were outlaws, subject to immediate arrest by any French or British officer who discovered them in the war zone. In addition to this close control of the news at its source, there were further impediments on the Home Front. A tight-knit group of press lords whose co-operation was rewarded with social rank and political power, and the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) made public dissent both difficult and illegal.4 The State granted itself unlimited power to control the dissemination of information. Opposition to the war, in any form, potentially became a criminal offence. In the second stage of this evolution, from May 1915 to April 1917, there was a reluctant acceptance of the correspondents, but they were closely controlled and hampered by their own inexperience and a series of official and semi-official subterfuges intended to waste their time and limit their effectiveness. From April 1917 until the first months of 1918, there was a major re-organisation of the propaganda apparatus following the entry of the United States into the war, which had long been the most important aim of British propaganda. This was further complicated by a general war weariness that reflected the widely held belief that Germany was winning the war or, perhaps more accurately, was contriving not to lose it. From March 1918 until the Armistice, the war correspondents were increasingly valued for their contribution to a complex system of propaganda that now focussed on mass persuasion rather than focussing on the elite.5 In the days either side of the outbreak of war, there were some encouraging signs that the military was prepared to allow press access to the front. On 27 July 1914, official arrangements for the accreditation of war correspondents began in a deceptively co-operative atmosphere. At a conference with the War Office and the Admiralty, the press assented to a voluntary code of censorship which covered the reporting of troop movements and shipping. This was hardly surprising, given that newspaper owners and editors were part of a ruling elite that mixed socially and professionally with leading politicians. As members of the same clubs, guests at the same dinner parties and members of the same political parties, they offered their support freely, albeit at times conditionally, without the need for coercion. Their restraint and their belief in loyal opposition became identified with gentlemanliness. At times, doing the right thing became a matter of fulfilling obligations to fellow members of the club rather than meeting their professional responsibilities. The War Office subsequently released “Regulations for Press Correspondents Accompanying a Force in the Field.” In order to have their name added to the register of approved correspondents, a candidate needed a licence from the Army Council authorising them to travel with the Army. Articles had to be



submitted in duplicate to the Chief Field Censor, their de facto commanding officer, via the Press Officer. It was forbidden to mention, let alone discuss morale, casualties, troop movements, or their strength, location or composition. Criticism or praise of the military leadership was also forbidden. From the very outset, the aim was to limit the number of correspondents and to ensure that those chosen were completely compliant with the needs of officialdom.6 In any event, it was a smokescreen, one which left the correspondents who waited for official accreditation exercising their horses in Hyde Park as the German Army crashed through Belgium. The policy of stalling was replaced by open opposition on 5 August 1914 when Lord Kitchener was appointed Secretary of War. He promptly banned war correspondents from entering a military zone around the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). Any reports that might still make their way to Britain from the continent would, in theory, require War Office authorisation before publication. The profound amateurism of the reports that did emerge from the Western Front in the first months of the war could hardly have been better personified than in Philip Gibbs’ arrival in Paris in late July clad in a lounge suit and carrying a walking stick. Though in his late 30s and possessing a frail physique and a temperament ill-suited to what lay ahead, Gibbs was one of 200 correspondents who journeyed across the Channel rather than wait for official accreditation. He initially worked as an artist/correspondent for The Graphic and, a few days after the declaration of war, as a correspondent for the Daily Chronicle. Like his professional colleagues, Gibbs’ reports during this seven-month period, one he characterised as a “prolonged nightmare,”7 were “graphic, theatrical, action and actor focused dispatches.”8 Typical of this approach was his description of French mobilisation: Fate had come with the little card summoning each man to join his depot, and tapped him on the shoulder with just a finger touch … Yet I know that for many of those young men it seemed a blow between the eyes, and, to some of them, a strangle grip as icy cold as though Death’s fingers were already closing round their throats.9

In the “vortex of the French retreat,”10 Gibbs was able to blend in with the thousands of refugees, trusting his charm and luck while waving a pass stamped by French Headquarters permitting him to receive the daily communiqué from the War Office in Paris and dozens of other passes and permits from local authorities and police.11 Despite not witnessing any actual fighting, Gibbs did convey some sense of the brutality and waste. In the third week of September 1914, he walked through fields strewn with the bodies of French and British soldiers and witnessed the burning of the German dead: No individual corpse among them could be brought in guilty of the crime which had caused this war, and not a soul hovering above that mass of meat could be made responsible at the judgement seat of God. They had obeyed orders, they



had marched to the hymn of the Fatherland, they believed as we did, in the righteousness of their cause. But like the dead bodies of the Frenchmen and the Englishmen who lay quite close, they had been done to death by the villainy of statecraft and statesmen, playing one race against another as we play with pawns in a game of chess.12

Wandering around France and Belgium looking for a war to report on was to Gibbs a terrible adventure, but it was one that could not last.13 When the line settled down in late 1914, the correspondents were more easily controlled. Gibbs was arrested and returned to England. Though he understood the need for censorship and was not by nature a man given to rebellion, he believed that it was “senseless that the greatest war in history should be fought behind a veil of absolute secrecy.” With an eye already on posterity, he feared that if the correspondents were pursued as criminals “thousands of facts would be lost forever and many things will be hidden which should see the light” (Daily Chronicle, 12 October 1914). He understood the need for censorship; however, for as he conceded in 1912 while reporting from the Balkans, war was not “a theatrical exhibition, nor a peep show, for descriptive journalists and men of literary attainments. It was a business in which great nations had staked all they had.”14 Gibbs accepted that it was a nation’s right to regard a war correspondent as a potential spy and to impose a severe censorship regime. In response to a variety of pressures which had culminated in a discussion in the House of Commons in early February 1915, Gibbs and three other correspondents were invited to British General Headquarters (GHQ) for a tour during the Battle of Neuve Chapelle (10–12 March 1915). The favourable impression created by a staff officer laying out a map and outlining the disposition of the troops was offset by the subsequent refusal to permit coverage of any of the actual fighting. Gibbs’ dispatch on the second day of the first British offensive on the Western Front appeared under the heading “How the striking power of the Armies is organized” (Daily Chronicle, 15 March 1915). His observation in that dispatch that “few things have been hidden from us” showed that Brigadier-General John Charteris was justified in dismissing the correspondents as “amazingly ignorant.”15 Later as head of military intelligence, Charteris became their commanding officer. He made little effort to hide his disdain for them and encouraged them to feed civilian readers a steady diet of “upbeat purple prose.”16 In spite of, or, perhaps because of this ignorance, shortly after this first visit, John Buchan, Percival Phillips, Herbert Russell, Valentine Williams, and Gibbs arrived at GHQ wearing officers’ uniforms and enjoying the status of official correspondents (Fig. 13.1). Over the course of the war, they would be replaced or joined by William Beach Thomas, H. Perry Robinson, Basil Clarke, H.M. Tomlinson, Hamilton Fyfe, Filson Young, Percival Gibbson, George Dewar, H.F.P.  Battersby, Frederick Palmer, and Henry Nevinson. As Taylor observes, they were indeed an elite group capable of producing vivid prose, but equally they were too few



Fig. 13.1  Philip Gibbs in uniform, circa 1918 (Courtesy of Gibbs Family Archives)

in number to offer anything but a patchy coverage of an Army of more than 60 divisions.17 Beyond even that constraint, Gibbs later acknowledged that the correspondents subsequently came to identify “absolutely with the armies in the field.” Patriotism and a belief that it was their duty to keep up morale and to reinforce the loyalty of the people at home ensured that the correspondents subjected themselves to the most “corrosive dictatorship of all: self-­ censorship.”18 In private, however, Gibbs questioned whether the uncensored truth about a battle such as Loos (25 September–8 October 1915) would have been any more appropriate, given that it would have inevitably led to “party fighting party over it—a lot of division and strife and internal discussion at home.”19 Though he was concerned about the domestic implications of the “truth,” writers such as Gibbs did not see themselves as “purveyors of lies or distortions, but as professional persuaders trying to attract potential supporters through the force of their convictions and argument.”20 Propaganda was not yet recognised as “the next thing to a damned lie” for it was the war which gave it its “miasmic aura.”21 It was, as Charles Masterman so memorably characterised it, the propaganda of facts, albeit ones skilfully used. The creation of a Press



Bureau under Frederick Smith, later the First Earl of Birkenhead, to censor news reports and then disseminate them to the domestic and international press is a case in point. The Bureau examined all press cables and issued news releases but also exerted a more pervasive influence by instructing newspaper editors on the attitude they should adopt towards important issues, what needed to be emphasised and what needed to be downplayed or ignored. Most newspapers remained committed to the war as the supreme patriotic endeavour and were quite prepared to suppress reports about air raids, food riots, and labour disputes to instead focus on upbeat stories that better reflected the official narrative. Indeed, speaking on behalf of the correspondents, Gibbs boasted that in time the Army came to understand “that we were loyal … and had its ideals, its interests, and its hopes at heart.”22 The correspondents’ accreditation was given the final official imprimatur when they were met by the commander in chief Sir John French at his headquarters in a chateau near St Omer in June 1915. French, resplendent in riding boots and spurs, expressed the hope that he could trust their honour and loyalty. Across the course of the next three and a half years, the correspondents proved their loyalty to the Army repeatedly. It was their honour rather than their loyalty which would be impugned in the post-war years. A later meeting with Douglas Haig, after he succeeded French, found the new commander not nearly as impressive. He had only accepted journalists with “distaste and reluctance”23 and displayed a complete absence of emotional intelligence when he met them by characterising their role as getting “hold of little stories of heroism, and so forth, and [writing] them up in a bright way to make good reading for Mary Ann in the kitchen and the man in the street.” In time, however, he would soften his views. In a ceremony on the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne, in December 1918, he shook hands with each of the correspondents and gifted them a small Union Jack flag in recognition that they had, in his words, “played the game like men.”24 The correspondents were initially quartered in a chateau in the village of Tatinghem near GHQ at St Omer, although they moved occasionally to be better placed to report on various offensives. Their comparative comfort and safety saw them dismissively referred to by staff officers as “chateaux warriors.” On the morning of a battle, they would divide up the front line and then draw lots to see which portion they would cover. Travelling their separate ways in cars, beginning often before dawn, they would find a vantage point from which to witness the preliminary bombardment. Following the shelling, they would then walk over the captured ground, if any, and interview the walking wounded and prisoners of war. They would then move to Divisional and then to Corps Headquarters to watch the reports come in by telephone, aircraft, or pigeon. Their ability to integrate the myriad details and personal impressions into a coherent critique of the progress of an offensive was at this point cruelly and regularly exposed as they became easy prey for staff officers who amused themselves by intentionally passing them false information.



Aware that his reports would inevitably be compromised, Gibbs outlined for his readers a role description that absolved him of personal responsibility.25 He believed that the war correspondents were “chroniclers of the fighting day by day, trying to get the facts as fully as possible and putting them down as clearly as they appear out of the turmoil of battle.” Prophesy or criticism was not part of their job description.26 Despite their loyalty to the Army, each correspondent had a censor attached to him, “a kind of jailer and spy, eating, sleeping, walking, and driving,” though Gibbs would later characterise them as “gentlemen and broadminded men of the world.” By the end of the war, he “had no complaint against the censorship, and wrote all that was good to write of the actions day by day, though I had to leave out something of the underlying horror of them all, in spite of my continual emphasis, by temperament and conviction, on the tragedy of all this sacrifice of youth.”27 The shortcomings in the correspondents’ reports were almost immediately apparent, but it was the Battle of the Somme (1 July–18 November 1916) which remains the greatest stain on their professional reputations. On the evening of 30 June 1916, Charteris revealed to the correspondents that an offensive would commence the following day and suggested that they view the opening moments from high ground near the Albert-Bapaume road. The official wires were also made available for their use to ensure that their dispatches would make it into the following day’s papers. Regardless of these concessions, what happened and what was reported could hardly have been more different. On that day, for a limited breach in the German lines on the right (south) 5.6  kilometres wide and 1.6  kilometres deep, the British Army sustained 57,470 casualties, of whom 19,240 were killed. Thirty-two battalions lost over 500 men, or over 50 per cent of their battle strength. Gibbs described the carnage as an advance conducted with “a spirit of marvellous self-sacrifice.” The soldiers “faced the cruellest fire with a high and noble courage” (Daily Chronicle, 3 July 1916). In 1924, Gibbs believed that these men “were in living splendour the priceless treasure of the British folk— and they were squandered, wasted and destroyed.”28 At the time though, he and the other correspondents saw things very differently. Gibbs’ words, in particular, were profoundly and tragically inaccurate. In his dispatch written at the end of that first day, Gibbs observed that “on balance it was a good day for England and France” (Daily Chronicle, 3 July 1916). Within days, however, the correspondents began to hear awful rumours of major reverses near Gommecourt, Thiepval, and Serre, yet nothing of this was communicated to people in England. Even when Gibbs interviewed troops, they were drawn from units who participated in relatively successful actions. As the promise of the long-awaited breakthrough disappeared and the inaccuracy of the earlier reports became obvious, Gibbs increasingly adopted the language of attrition which had come into vogue at Loos the previous year. The purpose of the battle was reimagined to become a wearing down of German strength rather than a triumphal advance. His imagining of it was dominated by the “red vision of great bloodshed, for the story of the Somme



battles on the German side is ghastly and frightful.”29 To justify the slaughter, Gibbs felt compelled to show that the Germans were unable to “check our men, or stop their progress.” Though he conceded that the Germans were “hard to beat, grim and resolute,” his belief that they fought “with the courage of despair” would suggest that Gibbs was well aware of the propaganda value of his reports.30 Implicit in these reports is the underlying argument that the Somme was a victory because it had contributed to the wearing down of German strength, an attrition which would in time lead to victory. In time, Gibbs believed that the correspondents became more skilful in balancing the profit and loss of a battle, although his description of the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line in February 1917 suggested otherwise. Despite recognising that the surrender of ground was motivated by strategic reasons, Gibbs found in it a post facto justification for the casualties on the Somme. It had been compelled by the “smashing of [the German] divisions by incessant gun-fire and infantry assaults.”31 His dispatches during this period implied that the end of the war beckoned, for the Germans were yielding “to the ceaseless pressure of men and guns.” They were “escaping” to a new line of defence in fear “that our fighting power in the spring might break his armies if they stayed on their old line” (Daily Chronicle, 28 February 1917). The excitement of being above ground and part of an advancing army was palpable. In one report alone, Gibbs emphasised the changed circumstances by using the words “retired,” “retreat,” “fled,” “gone,” “crept,” “hurrying,” and, most tellingly, “pursuit” (Daily Chronicle, 20 March 1917). No doubt determined to avoid the premature elation evident in his earlier reports, a note of caution crept into Gibbs’ dispatches at the beginning of April 1917. He warned his readers that greater sacrifice was needed and that the respite was merely an “interlude between greater and grimmer things” (Daily Chronicle, 3 April 1917). A week later, he shared his hope that the Battle of Arras (April–16 May 1917) might “be the beginning of the last great battles of the war” (Daily Chronicle, 10 April 1917). As he had done at Loos in 1915 and on the Somme in 1916, Gibbs witnessed the preliminary bombardment; it was a “beautiful and devilish thing, and the beauty of it and not the evil of it put a spell upon one’s senses” (Daily Chronicle, 10 April 1917). Prisoners taken in the first week, “Prussians, Bavarians, Hamburgers” had “lost all spirit for this fighting, hate it, loathe it as a devilish fate from which they have luckily escaped at last with life.” In contrast, soldiers from Nova Scotia, who were “dragging one foot after another in sheer exhaustion” and were “spent and done,” had eyes that “were steel blue and struck fire like steel when they told me of the good victory they had shared in” (Daily Chronicle, 16 April 1917). Gibbs was, however, a shrewder man than the one who reported on the Somme: Our men have still most bloody fighting before them. The enemy is still in great strength. We shall have to mourn most tragic and fearful losses. But the tide of battle seems to be setting in our favour, and beating back against the walls of the German armies, who must hear the approach of it with forebodings, because the



barriers they built have broken and there are no impregnable ramparts behind. (Daily Chronicle, 16 April 1917)

The following day, Haig ordered an end to the offensive, which after early gains had ground to a halt at the cost of 150,000 British casualties. Farrar argued that having proved their loyalty, the war correspondents were now a valuable asset to the military. His additional assessment that they “had turned a blind eye to the true reality of war” exaggerates the limitations of their reports.32 In the collection of his dispatches covering this period titled From Bapaume to Passchendaele (1918), Gibbs left little to the imagination. For he had watched “the tide of wounded flowing back, so many blind men, so many cripples, so many gassed and stricken men.” Even after three years of war, Gibbs was staggered by the “vastness and the unceasing drift of this wreckage of war.”33 His description of German corpses after the retreat to the Hindenburg Line could hardly have been starker: From the mud, arms stretched out like those of men who had been drowned in bogs. Boots and legs were uncovered in the muck heaps and faces with eyeless sockets on which flies settled, clay coloured faces with broken jaws, or without noses or scalps, stared up at the sky or lay half buried in the mud. I fell once and clutched a bit of earth and found that I had grasped a German hand.34

Gibbs and his colleagues, however, never attempted to critique the higher direction of the war. This would have run counter to their personal identification with the Army and their own patriotism, as well as being illegal. In any case, it would not have been published and might well have resulted in their recall to England. It was always a more complex issue than merely a question of who lied and who did not.35 The extent to which the Army had come to recognise the value of absorbing the press was evident in the extent of their co-operation prior to the opening of the Battle of Messines (7 June–14 June 1917). General Sir Charles Harington, Chief of Staff of the Second Army, provided a candid pre-battle briefing to the correspondents. This new openness was characterised by Farrar as a reward for their loyalty, although by implication it might just as well have indicated the extent to which they had abrogated their journalistic responsibilities.36 Yet as evidence of how differently the same event might be viewed, Beach Thomas, one of Gibbs’ colleagues, saw it as the complete surrender of the Army and War Office to the press. In fact, their candour left him “aghast” for by now the correspondents, having been joined by American, French, and Italians, were “almost a mob.” Nevertheless, the correspondents were still on a leash. When he asked the Chief of Intelligence what he could write about the Battle, Beach Thomas received the reply “Say what you like. But don’t mention any places or people.” “It did not occur to him,” Beach Thomas observed wryly, “that one’s style was a little cramped by such a prohibition, and I did not ask him what he thought was left of a battle after place and people were



s­ ubtracted.”37 Even those people with a less draconian view of press freedoms understood that there was more at stake than just accurate reporting. Neville Lytton, the Press Section’s senior conducting officer, encouraged the writing of more realistic reports in 1917. At the same time, however, he expected the correspondents to use their reports to promote Anglo-French relations.38 On 7 June 1917, Gibbs witnessed the opening of the battle heralded by the explosion of 19 mines buried under the German front line. Requiring two years of preparation and a million pounds of explosives, 10,000 German soldiers just disappeared into the mud. Within three hours, the whole ridge had been secured, lending some credence to Gibbs’ description of it as a “great victory,” one in which he had “never seen the spirit of victory so real and so visible among great bodies of British troops since the war began” (Daily Chronicle, 9 June 1917). Perhaps unwilling to commit himself further, he left it to a German prisoner to observe that “the attack ought to end the war.” Yet having raised the issue amidst a glowing report of victory, he cautioned his readers “not to base too much optimistic belief on such words by German prisoners” (Daily Chronicle, 9 June 1917). Gibbs could have saved himself the effort because optimism was in particularly short supply, given that his readers in Britain were now struggling with food queues, rationing, and air raids and were in fact exhibiting their own brand of “battle fatigue.”39 In any case, Gibbs was well aware that “neither by colour nor language nor sound could mortal man reproduce the picture and the terror and the tumult of this scene” (Daily Chronicle, 8 June 1917). In his report on the opening day of the Third Battle of Ypres (31 July–10 November 1917), Gibbs boasted that though the build-up had been evident to the correspondents, it was not even “hinted at” in their dispatches. That Gibbs was ready to celebrate his discretion in so public a forum is testament to just how convinced he was that his self-censorship was honourable. This was also reflected in how little censoring was actually occurring. Neville Lytton, now the master censor of the British Army, observed that on several occasions the correspondents assured him that even had there been no censorship, “they would have written in just the same strain.”40 Charles Montague, a journalist turned censor, acknowledged after the war that this co-operation came at a cost. The journalists were almost without exception “good men.” Yet they were only familiar with “the Staff world, [and knew] its joys and sorrows, not … the combatant world. The Staff were both their friend and their censor. How could they show it up when it failed?”41 Though Gibbs’ first dispatch from Ypres was still optimistic, his reports, and those of his fellow correspondents, were markedly different from earlier offerings. Thirty years later, Gibbs was still astonished that the censors passed them.42 Lytton was also well aware of the change in the tone of the dispatches, a fact often overlooked amidst the accusations that the correspondents lied or censored themselves into irrelevancy: During the Flanders offensive they spoke of the angelic patience of the men and of their great sufferings; they did not actually say that the task was impossible, but



they gave clearly the impression that to fight the whole German army, on that narrow strip of land between the Belgian inundations (on the north) and the industrial valley of the Lys (on the south) in torrents of rain, was almost hopeless.43

This new freedom was reflected in the constant references to the terrain and the weather, topics that were previously forbidden. On 1 August 1917, Gibbs referred to the swamps in the north around Dixmude and the low flats around Ypres as being so “full of peril for attacking troops that optimism itself might be frightened and downcast” (Daily Chronicle, 1 August 1917). Gibbs’ reports for 2, 4, and 6 August 1917 all opened with references to the appalling weather. Two weeks later in his description of attacks launched near Langemarck, Gibbs conceded that “these words of mine convey nothing to people who read them. How could they when for three years we have been talking in superlatives without exaggerating the facts, but without understanding them, as minds are numbed by colossal figures” (Daily Chronicle, 17 August 1917). What those words needed to convey was the colossal stupidity of pursuing the offensive in “an infernal battlescape in which thousands of British soldiers met their sacrificial deaths.”44 Gibbs attributed what successes there were to “sheer courage.” Where there was failure “it was because courage itself was of no avail against the power of nature” (Daily Chronicle, 10 October 1917). Such was the extent of the alteration in tone that Haig believed Gibbs was exaggerating the difficulties and the suffering endured by the troops. It was not just in public that Gibbs availed himself of these expanded opportunities to write and speak with greater freedom. On 27 December 1917, he gave a speech about the fighting in Flanders at a private dinner at the Savoy Hotel organised by his editor Robert Donald and attended by Prime Minister Lloyd George, Lieutenant General J.C. Smuts, and representatives of over a dozen newspapers. Before Gibbs spoke, there were old scores that his press colleagues needed to settle. Each speaker in turn criticised the “irksome restrictions” and “mistakes” of the censorship regime imposed by the military. It required, however, a delicate balancing act. Gibbs was lauded as a “real hero … in a war waged by heroes,” one who had done “honour to himself, and honour to his profession.” Conscious perhaps of his non-combatant status, it was noted that Gibbs had rendered to the “State and the Nation just as good service as any other branch of the Nation in arms.” This placed Gibbs in the interesting position of being celebrated as a successful participant in a propaganda war without being characterised as a propagandist. Instead, he was credited with not having written “a single line that is not literature; not a single article that is not the truth” and, in doing so, he had never “swerved from noble aims.” Donald also recognised that the correspondents served two masters, for after the Army’s initial opposition, they had been “harnessed to the wheels of war.” They were now “allowed to see more of the war than correspondents have in other wars—and are permitted to write less.”45



When Gibbs spoke, his own concerns with censorship were, as always, tempered by his acceptance of it as a general policy and his own gentle nature that left him with few skills in criticism. Where he found fault was in the detail, for example, he believed that the continued refusal to allow the naming of specific divisions put “out the flame of enthusiasm which would be lighted in the counties, and it is always a great disappointment to the soldiers.”46 It was more than just divisional names that censorship sought to conceal, as Gibbs well knew. Reference to German mustard gas and its terrible effect upon the wounded was forbidden, though Gibbs’ audience that evening could not have been in any doubt as to its effect. Outside Arras, he had witnessed 3000 wounded men queuing outside a dressing station (Fig. 13.2): Blind boys came groping their way, men with their faces smashed and their heads all bloody—a tragic and unforgettable sight … the strange miracle is that these men of ours chaff each other, and find any old joke in any old place. That side must not be left out. It is allowed by the Censor. But, as one of these men said to me, ‘Don’t make us too bloody cheerful.’ They do not like us to write about their cheerfulness unless we write also about the misery, and the agony, and the terror they have endured.47

Fig. 13.2  Philip Gibbs dressed for the Front, circa. 1918 (Courtesy of Gibbs Family Archives)



Gibbs described for his listeners a hypothetical day in the life of a correspondent and in doing so showed that he was battling with a sense of the war’s futility and perhaps a disquiet concerning his role in it. Gibbs opened the narrative with a car journey to a village where “there is no village, or to some heap of ruins like Ypres.” Then in increasing levels of horror, he recounted the various signposts that indicated the transition from the relative safety of the rear areas to the battlefield: First we walk past dead horses, and their stench rises and fills the air about us. Then we walk past dead men—old dead and new dead; then we walk through the heavy batteries which are being shelled by the enemy, so that the gunners are working with death searching for them. And then we walk further to the field batteries some miles forward, where the shell fire is heavier and the gunners are being killed and wounded.48 And then, if our courage takes us further, we reach the support troops going up to the front lines along tracks taped out by German shells. Beyond this we can see very little in weather like this but smoke and bursting shells and mist. Presently, out of the mist come the first men back. They are the walking wounded. They have a long way to walk—sometimes five or six miles over dreadful ground, and it is a Via Dolorosa; the scene burns itself into one’s heart and brain. They come limping down their tracks until they drop, and sometimes until they die. One can do nothing for them—these poor, bloody men, these blind men, these cripples.49

Gibbs recalled that it left Lloyd George in tears. The prime minister described Gibbs’ speech as an “impressive and moving description of what the war in the West really means … The thing is horrible and beyond human nature to bear … I fear I can’t go on with this bloody business: I would rather resign.”50 Despite the greater freedom in reporting permitted by late 1917, Gibbs still reminded his audience that there were limits. Criticism or judgement “was not within my liberty or duty as a correspondent.”51 Gibbs’ reports during the first three months of 1918, and those of his fellow correspondents, were written with the express intention of preparing the Home Front for the expected German offensive. When it came, he was free to describe a German advance, but the British Army, in a pageant of heroic youth, made them pay “a dreadful price.” Even when an advance was made “he [German soldier] is never able to break our line entirely” (Daily Chronicle, 28 March 1918). After a three-week break in England during the month of August due to ill health, Gibbs returned in time to cover the final battles of the war. By then, he believed the Germans no longer had “even a dim hope of victory… All they hope for now is to defend themselves long enough to gain peace by negotiation” (Daily Chronicle, 28 August 1918). He saw in the German prisoners, as he had so many times before, proof that the end was near. For the next three months, he accompanied the advance across “old battlefields and beyond them into country we had never held, and into cities long in German hands” (Daily Chronicle, 18 October



1918). The liberation of Lille, which “I am glad that I lived to see,” remained a “vivid and precious memory” even 30 years later.52 In December 1917, Gibbs wrote that it was his great hope that he would have the “supreme luck of writing the last message which shall tell the English people that Tommy Atkins is out of the trenches, and that we have peace with honour.”53 In the post-war years, he would adopt a soldier’s rhetoric in which he openly criticised the “enormous, impregnable stupidity of our High Command.”54 But in November 1918, he saw no need for such a revision. His final report was pervaded by a sense of relief that it had ended. Written at Mons from near the spot where for the British the war had begun, he took stock of both the extent of the achievement and the cost. The war zone was “silent … with the beautiful silence of the nights of peace … as though God gave a benediction to the wounded soul of the world.” Gibbs congratulated the officers “who went over the top at dawn and led their men gallantly, hiding any fear of death.” For the sake of Britain, they had sacrificed their lives “as a free, cheap gift.” The enlisted men had “been patient and long suffering and full of grim and silent courage, not swanking about the things you have done, not caring a jot for glory, not getting much, but now you have done your job, and it is well done.”55

Conclusion In 1920, Gibbs was knighted for his work as a war correspondent, which in time came to be seen as a reward for his complicity in a propaganda war. Yet like so much of the criticism of the correspondents, it is a mangled truth. Within the narrow parameters laid down by officialdom, circumstances, and his own conception of the task before him, Gibbs had acted without malice and without conscious use of falsehood. He was a patriotic middle-aged man raised during the Victorian Age. He identified with the war’s broader aims, conceiving it as a national battle for survival, and, in the pursuit of victory, he played his role as others played theirs. Constant exposure to total war left the correspondents “psychologically numbed by the vast landscapes of horror.”56 Gibbs was not blind to this development and, by 1920, openly acknowledged that he had been “overwhelmed” by the “vastness and horror.”57 Though he admitted to being ashamed of his decision not to enlist, Gibbs comforted himself with the thought that his words “might be passed down in history as a warning to the generations to follow.” It does his critics well to remember that Gibbs spent longer on the Western Front than any other correspondent. Though his life was far safer and more comfortable than that endured by a front-line soldier, the strain of constant exposure to battle cannot be dismissed. Yet despite his standing as an eye witness, the perception that the correspondents “were in the thick of things” has been rightly derided by writers such as Williams as “another variety of Great War falsehood, since the danger faced by closeted pressmen on the Western Front was such that no French of British-empire correspondent was lost there to enemy action in the war.”58



Closer to the truth was his own assessment that as a journalist and writer he was an “onlooker of life,” standing in the “wings of life’s drama” but never walking on the stage as one of the actors.59 Perhaps Gibbs agreed in part with Hemmingway’s assessment of the choices open to him. In any case, he chose to write. What he wrote and why he wrote it, however, are questions that deserve more than a blanket criticism.

Notes 1. Ernest Hemmingway, ed., Introduction to Men at War; the best war stories of all time (New York: Crown Publishers, 1942). 2. Phillip Knightley, The First Casualty (London: Pan Books, 1989); Arthur Ponsonby, Falsehood in Wartime (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1928). 3. Knightley, The First Casualty, 81. 4. Brock Millman, “HMG and the War against Dissent, 1914–18,” Journal of Contemporary History 40, no. 3 (2005): 413–440. 5. Martin Farrar, News from the Front: War Correspondents on the Western Front (Phoenix Mill, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 1998); Philip Taylor, “The Press, Propaganda and Passchendaele 1917,” in The British Army in Battle and its Image 1914–1918, ed. Stephen Badsey (New York: Continuum, 2009), 181; See Martin Kerby, “A Shared Rhetoric: The Western Front in 1914/15 as reported by Harry Gullett and Philip Gibbs.” Media, War & Conflict 10, no. 2 (2017). 6. Farrar, News from the Front, 4. 7. Philip Gibbs, The Soul of the War (London: Heinemann, 1915), 45. Gibbs turned his correspondence into an annual book release. This was the first of four. 8. Matthew Farish, “Modern Witnesses: Foreign Correspondents, Geopolitical Vision, and the First World War,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 26, no. 3 (2001): 276. 9. Gibbs, The Soul of the War, 23–26. 10. Gibbs, The Soul of the War, 72. 11. Martin Kerby, Sir Philip Gibbs and English Journalism in War and Peace (London: Palgrave, 2016), 78–79. 12. Gibbs, The Soul of the War, 125. 13. See Kerby, “A Shared Rhetoric.” 14. Philip Gibbs, The Balkan War: Adventures of War with Cross and Crescent (Boston: Small Maynard and Company, 1913), 113. 15. John Charteris, At GHQ (London: Cassell, 1931), 79. 16. Taylor, The Press, Propaganda and Passchendaele, 167. 17. Taylor, The Press, Propaganda and Passchendaele, 167. 18. Paul Moorcroft and Philip Taylor, Shooting the Messenger – The Political Impact of Reporting (Washington: Potomac Books, 2008), 43. 19. Bean, Charles. Diaries, Notebooks and Folders. Diary January–February 1916. Series 38 3DRL 606/37/1. Australian War Memorial. Official History, 1914– 18 War: Records of C E W Bean, Official Historian. p. 36. 20. Stephen Badsey, “Douglas Haig and the Press 1914–1918,” in The British Army in Battle and its Image 1914–1918, ed. Stephen Badsey (New York: Continuum, 2009), 22.



21. Will Irwin, Propaganda and the News (New York: Whittlesey House, 1936), 3. 22. Philip Gibbs, Realities of War (London: Hutchinson & Co Ltd, 1936), 70. 23. Lyn McDonald, Somme (London: Michael Joseph, 1983), 79. 24. Taylor, The Press, Propaganda and Passchendaele. 25. Gibbs was not alone in offering this justification. The Australian journalist Harry Gullett also adopted it quite openly in his own reports from the Western Front in 1914/15. See Kerby, “A Shared Rhetoric.” 26. Philip Gibbs, The Battles of the Somme (London: William Heinemann, 1916), 18. 27. Gibbs, Adventures, 251. 28. Philip Gibbs, Ten Years After (London: Hutchinson and Co., 1924), 30. 29. Philip Gibbs, The Germans on the Somme (London: Darling & Son Ltd, 1917), 3–4. 30. Gibbs, The Germans, 10. 31. Gibbs, The Battles of the Somme, 59–60. 32. Farrar, News from the Front, 146. 33. Philip Gibbs, From Bapaume to Passchendaele (London: Heinemann, 1918), 101. 34. Gibbs, From Bapaume, 103. 35. Kerby, Sir Philip Gibbs, 123. 36. Farrar, News from the Front, 148. 37. Beach Thomas, A Traveller, 120–122. 38. Keith Grieves, “War Correspondents and Conducting officers on the Western Front from 1915,” in Facing Armageddon. The First World War Experienced, ed. Hugh Cecil and Peter H. Liddle (London: Leo Cooper, 1996). 39. Farrar, News from the Front, 150. 40. N Lytton, The Press and the General Staff (Glasgow: W Collins and Co., 1920), 114. 41. Gibbs, Realities, 40. 42. P. Gibbs, The Pageant of the Years (London: Heinemann, 1946), 207. 43. Lytton, The Press, 104. 44. Brian Bond, “Passchendaele: Verdicts, Past and Present,” in Passchendaele in Perspective, ed. Peter H. Liddle (London: Leo Cooper, 1997), 479. 45. The speeches and Gibbs’ address were published in a commemorative booklet. Courtesy of the Gibbs Family Archive. 46. Commemorative booklet, 1917, Gibbs Family Archives. 47. Commemorative booklet. 48. Commemorative booklet. 49. Commemorative booklet. 50. Charles Prestwich Scott, The Political Diaries of CP Scott, 1911–1928 (London: Collins, 1970), 324. 51. Gibbs, From Bapaume, 21. 52. Philip Gibbs, Daily Chronicle, 18 October 1918; Gibbs, The Pageant of the Years, 231. 53. Gibbs, author’s note, From Bapaume. 54. Gibbs, Pageant, 125. 55. Philip Gibbs, Open Warfare: The Way to Victory (London: Heinemann, 1919), 551–552. 56. Moorcroft and Taylor, Shooting the Messenger, 43.



57. Gibbs, Realities, 70. 58. John Williams, Anzacs, The Media and The Great War (Sydney: UNSW Press, 1999), 3. 59. Philip Gibbs, Life’s Adventure (London: Angus and Robertson, 1957), 3.

References Badsey, Stephen. “Douglas Haig and the Press 1914–1918.” In The British Army in Battle and Its Image 1914–1918, edited by Stephen Badsey, 13–35. New  York: Continuum, 2009. Beach Thomas, William. A Traveller in News. London: Chapman, 1925. Bean, Charles. Diaries, Notebooks and Folders. Diary January–February 1916. Series 38 3DRL 606/37/1. Australian War Memorial. Official History, 1914–18 War: Records of C E W Bean, Official Historian. Bond, Brian. “Passchendaele: Verdicts, Past and Present.” In Passchendaele in Perspective, edited by Peter H. Liddle, 479–488. London: Leo Cooper, 1997. Charteris, John. At GHQ. London: Cassell, 1931. Commemorative Booklet. Gibbs Family Archives, 1917. Farish, Matthew. “Modern Witnesses: Foreign Correspondents, Geopolitical Vision, and the First World War.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 26, no. 3 (2001): 273–287. Farrar, Martin. News from the Front: War Correspondents on the Western Front. Phoenix Mill, Glos: Sutton Publishing, 1998. Gibbs, Philip. The Balkan War: Adventures of War with Cross and Crescent. Boston: Small Maynard and Company, 1913. ———. The Soul of the War. London: Heinemann, 1915. ———. The Battles of the Somme. London: William Heinemann, 1916. ———. The Germans on the Somme. London: Darling & Son Ltd, 1917. ———. From Bapaume to Passchendaele. London: Heinemann, 1918. ———. Open Warfare: The Way to Victory. London: Heinemann, 1919. ———. Ten Years After. London: Hutchinson and Co., 1924. ———. Realities of War. London: Hutchinson & Co Ltd, 1936. ———. The Pageant of the Years. London: Heinemann, 1946. ———. Life’s Adventure. London: Angus and Robertson, 1957. Grieves, Keith. “War Correspondents and Conducting Officers on the Western Front from 1915.” In Facing Armageddon. The First World War Experienced, edited by Hugh Cecil and Peter H. Liddle, 719–735. London: Leo Cooper, 1996. Hemmingway, Ernest, ed. Introduction to Men at War: The Best War Stories of All Time. New York: Crown Publishers, 1942. Irwin, Will. Propaganda and the News. New York: Whittlesey House, 1936. Kerby, Martin. Sir Philip Gibbs and English Journalism in War and Peace. London: Palgrave, 2016. ———. “A Shared Rhetoric: The Western Front in 1914/15 as Reported by Harry Gullett and Philip Gibbs.” Media, War & Conflict 10, no. 2 (2017): 1–14. Knightley, Philip. The First Casualty. London: Pan Books, 1989. Lytton, Neville. The Press and the General Staff. Glasgow: W Collins and Co., 1920. McDonald, Lyn. Somme. London: Michael Joseph, 1983. Millman, Brock. “HMG and the War Against Dissent, 1914–18.” Journal of Contemporary History 40, no. 3 (2005): 413–440.



Moorcraft, Paul, and Philip Taylor. Shooting the Messenger  – The Political Impact of Reporting. Washington: Potomac Books, 2008. Ponsonby, Arthur. Falsehood in Wartime. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1928. Scott, Charles Prestwich. The Political Diaries of CP Scott, 1911–1928. London: Collins, 1970. Taylor, Philip. “The Press, Propaganda and Passchendaele 1917.” In The British Army in Battle and Its Image 1914–1918, edited by Stephen Badsey, 163–183. New York: Continuum, 2009. Williams, John. Anzacs, the Media and the Great War. Sydney: UNSW Press, 1999.


A War on Two Fronts: British Morale, Cinema and Total War, 1914–1958 Gerard Oram

Introduction Within six weeks of its release in 1916, the British film The Battle of the Somme had sold over 20 million tickets to a population of 32 million. No other medium was capable of such “reach.” To a nation denied ready access to reliable news from the front, it appeared to offer a genuine insight into a world of conflict, which was now entering its third year. Premiered in London on August 10, 1916, and going on general release less than two weeks later, the film was in cinemas even as the Battle of the Somme (July 1 until November 18, 1916) was being fought, a timing that gave it a sense of immediacy that the heavily censored newspapers could not. The perception that The Battle of the Somme offered both veracity and immediacy only partly explains its box-office success. Of even greater significance was how it connected communities to the war effort and in doing so bolstered morale on the home and war fronts. Frequent references in the intertitles, the filmed, printed text edited into the film, reinforced this connection by identifying units by their county names, a practice forbidden in newspaper reports. Munition workers, whose work was vital to the prosecution of a modern industrial war, could see both the effect of the ordnance they produced and it being referenced in the intertitles. Communities, therefore, flocked to the cinemas to witness for themselves not just the battle but their own local connection to it. In Ystradgynlais, near Swansea, filmgoers reportedly recognized at least seven local men during a screening of the film in October 1916. According to the local newspaper, three of these “Swansea Pals” had since been killed in action G. Oram (*) Swansea University, Swansea, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




and the remaining four wounded, one of whom was in the audience and “as he crossed the building soon afterwards, he was heartily cheered.”1 The fact that Britain was now involved in a total war was made clear in January 1916 when the government passed the Military Service Act which imposed conscription on all single men aged between 18 and 41. In May, it was extended to include married men. In addition, the first reluctant steps towards compulsory rationing were made in 1916, although it would not be until the end of the following year that compulsory rationing was introduced in stages. These were significant steps for a nation that saw itself as liberal and progressive and in which the voluntary principle had long formed the basis for military service. Conscription fundamentally altered the relationship between the state and the population and gave rise to concerns about the loyalty, trustworthiness, and the fighting abilities of men compelled to serve in his majesty’s forces.2 The cinematic portrayal of Kitchener’s volunteers in The Battle of the Somme provided the state with the opportunity to reinforce duty as an essential component of both citizenship and masculine identity. The controversial scenes showing British dead (real or faked) and the sacrifices of the Swansea Pals, that did not go unnoticed by the audience nor by the press, must be understood in the context of ongoing opposition to conscription. Cinema played a key role in conveying the importance of duty to servicemen and civilians. Instructional films and documentaries were a ready source of information that extolled the virtue of duty and outlined practical means of voluntarily supporting the war effort, ranging from growing vegetables to counter the U-boat threat, to purchasing War Savings Certificates and increasing industrial production. In Fighting U-Boats in a London Back Garden (1918), a “grannie”—explicitly accorded the accolade of “a private in the civilian army”—displays the turnips she has grown and declares “this is why the U-Boats don’t worry me.”3 Similarly, though more implicitly, the patriotic duty of the young woman who is the main focus of A Day in the Life of a Munitions Worker (1917) is acknowledged when at the end of the short film her image fades into one of the union flag. As important as these types of documentary films were, feature films provided different opportunities to engage with and mobilize audiences. Fictional characters could engender a sense of empathy in their viewers by making a direct appeal to their emotions. The propaganda value of this medium was further emphasized in its capacity to characterize the war in simple binary terms as a battle between Good and Evil,4 and the experience of war as either good or bad. In The Woman’s Portion (1918),5 for example, the theme of duty is portrayed primarily through a single female character. The opening sequence shows a terrace of houses with steps leading from the street directly to the front doors. Scruffy children play in the road and on the steps. This is clearly a working-class, urban setting. The women who populate these slums are shown receiving tragic news. But these are not the genteel women for whom Vera Brittain later claimed to speak. The main character, Lizzie, struggles to cope with her infant child and worries for her husband, Jim, who is away at the front.



The local vicar’s reassurance to “remember, he is doing his duty” is met with: “He might have dodged it. Plenty have! It’s too long!… It’s too long! It isn’t fair to us women.” Here, the soldier’s duty is clear, but the expected role of women on the home front, the film’s primary audience, is less obvious. Lizzie’s simple, candid reply to the vicar was a subtle device to gain their empathy prior to the development of the main theme. Lizzie faints when she receives a letter telling her that her husband is missing presumed dead. She then dreams that her husband has returned from the war. Her happiness, however, is short lived when he admits that he is a deserter. Lizzie’s response is to tell him that “I’d sooner you were dead than a deserter.” The dream sequence then ends, though her patriotism is rewarded when her husband returns to her, having done his duty rather than shirk it. In this short film, the audience’s emotions are channelled through the character of Lizzie and to a lesser extent through Jim. Lizzie’s grievance at the iniquity of the war experience and her belief that the sacrifice was not shared equally were likely to evoke sympathy from the audience. But it is soon countered by her choice of duty over all other considerations, even the life of her husband. The line between right and wrong—good and bad—is clearly drawn. This simple message is reinforced through sophisticated characterization; the deserter Jim in the dream sequence is domineering and shows no interest in the infant son who he has never seen. By contrast, the real Jim is considerate and affectionate. The film ends with the real Jim holding his son, completing the family group. On learning of his wife’s dream, Jim’s reply—“Me desert? Not likely! We’re out to finish this job!”—reinforces his loyalty to wife and country. There is no such sense of duty animating deserter Jim, who is selfish, a bad husband, a bad father, and a bad soldier. The conflation of bad character—particularly that of the bad husband—with the shirker is consistent with earlier recruitment initiatives such as the 1915 poster available at the Imperial War Museum (IWM)6 and titled “To The Young Women of London” which encourages them to consider why the young man they are seeing is not wearing khaki and concludes with the following exhortation: If your young man neglects his duty to his King and Country, the time may come when he will NEGLECT YOU. Think it over—then ask him to JOIN THE ARMY TO-DAY

This valorizing of those who placed duty above all else did not always extend to a support for conscription, nor did it last into the peace. After the war ended, the slow demobilization led to widespread mutinies. At Dover and Folkestone, thousands of armed troops took over the ports, causing the government to capitulate to their demands. Members of the Army Service Corps in armoured cars temporarily took control of Whitehall. There were outbreaks of mutiny in the Royal Air Force (RAF) at Biggin Hill and in the Royal Navy



at Milford Haven. This was not restricted to British troops, for a mutiny at Kinmel Park in North Wales by Canadian troops resulted in the deaths of two guards and three mutineers.7 Post-war British cinema displayed its own version of war weariness in its general reluctance to embrace the war as subject matter. The notable exceptions were Anthony Asquith’s adaptation of Ernest Raymond’s 1922 generational story Tell England (1931) and Asquith’s codirected (with Walter Forde) 1935 adaptation of C.S. Forrester’s novel Forever England.8 During the interwar period, the British film industry benefitted enormously from an influx of Jews and others fleeing persecution elsewhere in Europe. Screen actors such a Conrad Veidt and film-makers, notably Emeric Pressburger, were amongst those who fled the Nazis and brought with them skills they had developed in the highly rated German UFA studios. This continued an established tradition, as earlier Jewish immigrants had included the parents of Michael Balcon, a key figure in British film before, during, and after the Second World War (especially as head of Ealing Studios from 1938 to 1955) who had assisted Veidt to flee to Britain. Balcon, together with Victor Saville, founded Gainsborough Pictures in 1923, which later merged into Gaumont British. In 1933, Balcon produced I Was a Spy, featuring Veidt and directed by Saville. The key feature of the film, however, was the central and heroic role of a female character, Belgian nurse Marthe Cnockhaert (played by Madeleine Carroll). The film, which was both a box-office and critical success, was based on the memoirs of Cnockhaert who nursed German wounded but passed intelligence to the British during the First World War.9 The film, which recognized the active roles played by women in the war and acknowledged the contribution of foreign allies, was part of a growing espionage film genre that developed during this period. Arguably, the best known of this genre was another Balcon and Carroll collaboration: Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (1935).10 The screenplay included a number of highly significant variations from John Buchan’s 1915 novel. Buchan’s male spy, the American Scudder, was replaced with a female character—Annabella Smith—and given a central European accent (possible because of the introduction of sound). Another female character was also introduced: Pamela (Carroll) was an innocent bystander dragged into the world of espionage by the main “innocent on the run” male character—Richard Hannay (Robert Donat), a typical Hitchcock trope. But perhaps the most significant deviation from the novel was that the film was set in contemporary interwar Britain rather than the period preceding the First World War. By placing events in the 1930s, the film-makers were able to engage directly with the issue of air defence, which was one of the key military and political concerns of the time. These concerns were epitomized by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin’s 1932 “A Fear for the Future” speech in which he uttered the famous phrase that “the bomber will always get through.”11 In Hitchcock’s film, the main characters seek to prevent an Air Ministry secret from being transmitted to an unnamed foreign power, whereas Buchan’s literary characters were concerned with exposing a plot to assassinate a Balkan



monarch.12 The following year, Alexander Korda was more explicit about the threat in Things to Come (1936) in which the city of “Everytown” was destroyed by aerial bombing, including a direct hit on a crowded cinema.13 The bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by the German Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion and the Fascist Italian Aviazione Legionaria in April 1937 only served to heighten these concerns. Again, cinema played a crucial role in reflecting contemporary events.14 Clearly popular with British audiences, the espionage genre maintained the public’s awareness of potential conflict and, crucially, the threat posed by fifth columnists and others with suspect loyalties. This coincided with the rise of fascism in Europe and in Britain, where Mosley’s “blackshirts” were increasingly regarded by many as a threat to external as well as internal security, evoking varied responses, including the passing of the Public Order Act 1936. It was not a good year for traditionalists, as a still greater crisis had engulfed the royal family and culminated in the king’s abdication. Concerns in government and in the security services that Edward VIII and, more explicitly, his consort Wallis Simpson, had Nazi sympathies were leaked to the press. These concerns were not assuaged by Mosley’s revelation that he had met with the king during 1935. The privately owned British cinema was hardly a conduit for government policy. Yet the frequency of the espionage storyline—and its enduring popularity with audiences—was a mark of the wider interests of cinemagoers. In many ways, the ambiguous characters of the spy films personified the considerable uncertainties of the times. Ambiguities were washed away by the end of the decade. The enemy had come into clear view. By the time that The Spy in Black was released in October 1939, war had in fact broken out. But the film, Emeric Pressburger’s first collaboration with Michael Powell, had been made in the atmosphere of the slide towards war and the failure of appeasement. Yet the central character—a German spy played by Conrad Veidt—is sympathetically portrayed and Veidt brings his usual nobility to the role. Set in the Orkney Islands during the First World War, the film plays on the genre’s ambiguities through the characterization of spies, traitors, and double agents. In this case, it is the Royal Navy that is portrayed as the crucial element in the nation’s defence. The identification of Germany as the enemy state was essential to the subject matter, but fortuitously this also reflected the changed reality by the time of the film’s release. The broad appeal of the genre was understandable. The causes, course, and consequences of war were not portrayed as the preserve of military and political elites but as the concern of ordinary people. The events, both cinematic and real, were unfolding on Britain’s shores, not in a distant, foreign land. Not all interwar movies were as explicit in identifying an enemy. The film-­ makers’ reluctance to do so was driven by the not unreasonable fear of censorship. Material that could be construed as political in nature was discouraged, including comment about other states, Germany included, especially when events there such as the persecution of Jews had potential domestic ramifications. The British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) rejected two scripts submitted



by Gaumont British on the grounds that they were a threat to public order. The problem, as the BBFC saw it, was that the scripts were sympathetic towards persecuted Jews in Germany at a time when clashes had occurred between fascists and Jews in London. But a third script was approved. The main difference between this one—Jew Süss—and the rejected scripts was its historical setting. By setting it in the eighteenth century, they distanced the storyline from current events in a way that the proposed scripts for A German Tragedy (rejected in May 1933) and City Without Jews (rejected in June 1933) had not. Dorothy Farnum and A.R. Rawlinson’s script was far less explicit than the others in its criticism of Nazi Germany’s “race policy” and was approved by the BBFC in June 1934.15 Although the overarching theme of the film is the persecution of Jews, in its historical setting any contemporary criticism remained implicit only. Nevertheless, the script cunningly connected historical with contemporary persecution by referring to boycotts (unique to 1930s Germany) and by having a character, dressed in traditional Jewish attire, say to Süss (Veidt): “They did it [persecuted Jews] in 1430, they can do it in 1730, they can do it in 1830, they can do it in 1930. Who is going to stop them?”16 However, its producer, Michael Balcon, later recorded his regret that film-makers had not done more to highlight “the agony of those times.”17 Regardless of Balcon’s retrospective self-reproachful remarks, Jew Süss did have a considerable impact in Germany where an incensed Goebbels commissioned the better-known Jud Süß (1940) in response.18 At the outbreak of war in 1939, the Films Division of the Ministry of Information (MOI) was hardly in a state of readiness, having been neglected for other priorities and then subject to significant upheaval in those first months.19 As Chapman points out, this was exacerbated by the rapidly changing—and one must add deteriorating—situation of the first year or so of the war.20 Thereafter, cinema increasingly contributed to the war effort, often taking into account the changing needs of the state and reflecting the various stages of the conflict. Initially, the primary aim was to educate the public in order to prepare them for what might come. Following the fall of France in June 1940 and the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from the beaches of northern France—minus nearly all its equipment—attention turned to the possibility of invasion. Miss Grant Goes to the Door (1940) was a short feature film in which a German invasion is thwarted by the quick thinking of two elderly sisters in a “typical” rural English village—a plot partly recycled for the 1942 full-length feature Went the Day Well?21 Through various institutions and organizations, the state sponsored the production of a range of films, though the focus was primarily on documentaries or at least a documentary style. London Can Take It (1940)—ostensibly a documentary about the blitz on the capital—was really a propaganda film aimed at neutral America. Quentin Reynolds’s gentle Midwest-­accented narration characterized it as a conflict between good and evil. The stoicism of Londoners as they endured the Luftwaffe’s bombing campaign is foregrounded in order to emphasize the impact of the war on ordinary people, as Reynolds makes explicit in his narration:



I am a neutral reporter, I have watched the people of London live and die ever since death in its most ghastly garb began to come here as a nightly visitor five weeks ago. I have watched them stand by their homes. I have seen them made homeless. I have seen them move to new homes. And I can assure you that there is no panic, no fear, no despair in London town; there is nothing but determination, confidence and high courage among the people of Churchill’s island.22

The film’s director, Humphrey Jennings, was one of the most prolific filmmakers of the period. In addition to the MOI, production organizations included The Crown Film Unit, The General Post Office Film Unit (responsible for London Can Take It) and the film units of the various services, which produced the series of “victory” films that signposted the way to the end of the war—including The True Glory, directed by Carol Reed in 1945.23 Reed also directed the feature film The Way Ahead (1944)24 which, interestingly, started out as a short MOI training film. This type of overlap was not unusual. Feature films generally followed a similar course, even though production was not directly in government hands. Once the invasion threat had passed, the instructional films were less important. Feature films provided entertainment and encouragement at the same time. It was the ideal means to tell the people’s story. The emphasis shifted from elites, therefore, to ordinary citizens. For example, in the closing scene of Noel Coward and David Lean’s In Which We Serve (1942),25 the positioning of the camera allows the viewer—for the most part—to see the ship’s ratings’ faces26 rather than that of its captain (Coward) as he bids them farewell, often naming them as they process from right to left across the screen. In this way, the audience is encouraged to empathize with the sailors. Two other key moments feature at the very beginning of the film. The first during the opening credits when the film consultants are named, rating first followed by officers:     Able Seaman T.W.J. Lawlor      Lt-Commander I.T Clark OBE RN     Lieutenant C.R.E. Compton RN

Then, the first scene shows the riveting of the hull and the workers who produced the ship. The narrator (Leslie Howard) announces “this is the story of a ship,” and in so doing establishes the template by which the ship—HMS Torrin—symbolizes the Royal Navy and, more significantly, the entire nation. This is further achieved through characterization and a series of flashbacks connecting the crew with their civilian family and friends.27 Moreover, these civilians are portrayed in ordinary circumstances. In this respect, the ship’s crew serves as a metaphor for the whole country—not being tied to any specific location but containing elements of all parts represented through their regional accents. Similarly, Millions Like Us (1943)28 emphasized the vital role of ordinary women in industrial production. For the most part, the women here are not the genteel folk characterized by Miss Grant in 1940. The urban settings, earthy humour, and working-class accents establish Sidney Gilliat and Frank



Lander’s film as one about ordinary women, despite the presence of the occasional character with higher social status. Interestingly, too, the factory also becomes a metaphor for the nation with its mixture of accents and classes in much the same way that HMS Torrin did. But this time, the connection between war and home front is reversed, giving primacy to civilian women. Through their relationships with men serving in the military (including allied nations), the war is never detached from civilian society. The film closes with a particularly poignant scene at a party where the women are singing along with “(There was I) Waiting at the Church” a popular music hall song by Henry E. Pether and Fred Leigh. The central character, Celia (Patricia Roc), receives news that her husband, who she only recently wed, has been lost on a bombing operation over Germany. At that moment, aircraft fly overhead. Celia looks pensively skywards as a flight of RAF bombers heads out on another operation. After a prompt and encouragement from her friend, Celia then smiles and joins in with the singing. In that moment, she becomes a symbol of British resilience and courage. The film ends as it had begun: to the sound of Beethoven’s fifth symphony (second movement), a work whose opening four-note motif was associated with victory. Accordingly, the vital contribution of women is acknowledged as is tragedy and the likelihood of further sacrifice. Not all films were so closely in tune with the needs of the state. The best known of these is Powell and Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943),29 based on the David Low cartoons. The film dissented in form—it was shot in colour, lasted 163 minutes, and featured a jazz soundtrack—and in content: mocking, as it did, the old guard of the military establishment for being out of touch. This attracted the ire of Prime Minister Winston Churchill who had to be persuaded from supressing it.30 That more such films did not appear might seem surprising, given that film production was not controlled by government. But the reality was that there was no great demand from a nation largely in step with government thinking. Nevertheless, Colonel Blimp was bettered only by In Which We Serve at the British box office in 1943.31 Popular culture was important for morale across Britain, given its capacity to engage with regional or national identities that could otherwise feel disconnected from the state. For example, the BBC broadcast a daily radio news roundup in the Welsh language, and there were also programmes specifically for Welsh schools (and in other languages). Two films made during the war years are of further interest for how they interact with ideas about Welsh identity. The first of these, The Proud Valley, was made in 1940 and directed by Pen Tennyson (grandson of Alfred Lord Tennyson), who had also worked with Hitchcock on The 39 Steps. The film starred the black American actor, singer, and political activist Paul Robeson and tells the story of a mining community, harsh working conditions, and the sacrifice made by a talented singer (Robeson) when a pit disaster occurs. The film was shot on location and the context of Welsh traditions of community, singing, and coal mining provides the setting for an engagement with ideas about identity, particularly that of the oppressed “other” and sacrifice. The second film of note is also set in a



mining community. The Silent Village (1941) was directed by Humphrey Jennings and starred the villagers of Cwmgiedd in the Swansea Valley where it was shot. The film portrayed a Welsh mining community occupied and massacred by foreign invaders and was made as a response to the Nazi massacre in the Czech coal mining village of Lidice in reprisal for the assassination of SS commander Reinhard Heydrich. Again, the central theme in this film is one of oppression, and once more key elements of Welsh identity are emphasized such as the coal mining community and the valley scenery. But what is most striking in this Crown Film Unit (and Czechoslovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs) production is the use of the Welsh language throughout the film: Welsh is shown as the language of the oppressed villagers and English as the language of occupation. Cinema remained a useful conduit for government communications with the people. Important changes in policy, especially if controversial, needed to be explained in order to maintain consent. A good example of this is the controversial shift in 1942 in military policy to “area bombing,” which was based on the calculation that: In 1938 over 22  million Germans lived in fifty-eight towns of over 100,000 inhabitants, which, with modern equipment, should be easy to find and hit. Our forecast output of heavy bombers (including Wellingtons) between now and the middle of 1943 is about 10,000. If even half the total load of 10,000 bombers were dropped on the built-up areas of these fifty-eight German towns the great majority of their inhabitants (about one-third of the German population) would be turned out of house and home.32

Pathe News’ On the Chin featured Air Marshal Arthur “Bomber” Harris informing the viewer that “they [Germany] sowed the wind, and now, they are going to reap the whirlwind.”33 The following year, Alexander Korda’s The Biter Bit reinforced the message in its portrayal of German bombing. The end of the war brought about much introspection. Sidney Gilliat, for example, returned to the theme of war as experienced by women that he had explored in Millions Like Us (1943) with Waterloo Road (1945).34 As a framing device to shape the narrative, he bookends the film with a monologue spoken by the local GP, Dr Montgomery (Alistair Sim). It tells the story of a community near to London’s Waterloo Station, and in particular a young workingclass couple “doing very nicely before the war” whose lives were turned upside down by the conflict. Jim Colter (John Mills) joins the army and his new wife Tilly (Joy Shelton) sees their plans thwarted when they are separated by war. Her frustration with the situation and the deteriorating relationship with Jim’s family, with whom she is living, leave her vulnerable to the advances of the local spiv,35 Ted Purvis (Stewart Grainger). On hearing rumours of the possible relationship, Jim deserts the army, evades capture, and eventually confronts Purvis and resolves the matter in a fight. Tilly’s honour remains intact. The doctor informs the audience that war is unsettling, especially for women, echoing the



words attributed to Lizzie in The Woman’s Portion (1918). Tilly and Lizzie share something else too: their husbands (both named Jim—coincidentally) are shown as deserters either real or imagined. However, one is treated sympathetically whilst the other is not. The key difference here is that Waterloo Road was made post-conflict and takes a more circumspect view of “duty.” The ordinary setting and the working-class protagonists, particularly the spiv, all contribute to the realism of Waterloo Road, a point recognized by reviewers of the time.36 The title not only locates the film in a specific area of the capital through its association with the railway station but also references an earlier conflict from which the station acquired its name. The continuity of war’s impact on ordinary lives and communities is implied. That this “happened to plenty of others” is more explicitly communicated, again through the narration of Dr Montgomery, who shares his name with Britain’s most famous general. Waterloo Road is an exploration of the impact of war on human relationships, charting the tensions caused by change and the struggle to return to normality. It is a hopeful film too. There is regeneration in the finale when Jim and Tilly have a baby, prompting Dr Montgomery’s assessment that “they [the war generation] didn’t come through it too badly” and to the baby “You’ve got a future. It’s all yours.” A relationship was also the device deployed by Powell and Pressburger in A Matter of Life and Death (1946).37 In this case, though, the lead female character, June (Kim Hunter) is more passive. After the philosophical questions posed in the otherworldly opening sequence, the action moves to earth with the American June at the end of a radio as Peter Carter (David Niven) instructs her to “be brave” as he prepares to die in his crippled Lancaster Bomber. Facing death, he is stoic and in control, whilst June is emotional, unsuccessfully holding back the tears whilst talking to this stranger. This is a far more traditional female role. The film, though, explores a range of contemporary issues and concerns. Peter’s description of himself as “Conservative by nature, Labour by experience” was a comment on the 1945 general election. The film addresses the post-war relationship between the allies, particularly Britain and the USA. It also deals with death, with loss and with the blurring of lines between what is real and what is imagined. It offered hope at the end of conflict whilst warning about future ones that might involve nuclear weaponry. Human relationships provided the ideal way for film-makers to convey something of the complex experience of the people’s war. In this respect, it acted in the same way as the ship or the factory had as a metaphor for the nation at arms. After the war, the emphasis shifted. Film-makers had the difficult task of celebrating victory whilst also commemorating and memorializing those who had lost their lives, been disabled, injured, or otherwise affected by the devastation of war. The enormity of the conflict remained the greatest obstacle to any narrative of the war. The solution in many cases was to focus on individuals such as the Battle of Britain fighter pilot Group Captain Douglas Bader in the 1956 Lewis Gilbert film Reach for the Sky.38 For others, a single event was preferred. Both approaches enabled film-makers to distil the essence



of the war story into a feature length presentation. In both cases, realism and authenticity were regarded as essential elements. In other words, the films tended more towards documentary than entertainment. The preferred medium was black and white. This was more appropriate for such serious subject matter and allowed for newsreel or other authentic film to be cut into the film where desired. For the film The Battle of the River Plate (1956), Powell and Pressburger used real warships to re-enact sequences of the battle that culminated in the scuttling of the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee.39 Another approach was to focus on the special mission or operation. Based on a Paul Brickhill novel (as was Reach for the Sky), The Dam Busters (1955)40 tells the story of Operation Chastise, the 1943 raid on the Ruhr valley. Michael Anderson’s film is consciously made in documentary style. The film’s great success—and it was the year’s most popular film in Britain—stems from the skill with which Anderson steers the narrative between the celebratory and the reverent. The raid is shown as a major blow to Germany’s industrial capacity whilst acknowledging the courage and dedication of No. 617 Squadron RAF. Nevertheless, it retains due reverence, especially in the final scene where the loss of life amongst the aircrew is clearly but subtly illustrated. But the film is also—and perhaps most significantly—a celebration of the fusion of military and scientific elites through the two figures of Wing Commander Guy Gibson and Barnes Wallis, whose “bouncing bomb” invention was essential to the mission’s success. Women feature rarely and only then in subordinate positions to the male characters: Barnes Wallis’s wife is first shown serving tea whilst the only other female characters amount to women serving in the canteen and showgirls—all shown very briefly. Gibson’s dog is his main emotional attachment, especially when the animal is run over and killed. Otherwise, his focus remains solely on the mission—his duty. Another special mission to attract the attention of film-makers was Operation Frankton, a 1942 commando raid. The mission, conceived and led by Colonel “Blondie” Hasler was arguably the most audacious mission undertaken in the war.41 The plan entailed 12 Royal Marine commandos, transported by submarine to the mouth of the Gironde estuary, paddling by canoe for 71 miles in Nazi-occupied France and planting “limpet” mines on ships in Bordeaux harbour. The commandos would then attempt to escape on foot, with the help of the resistance, across the Pyrenees to neutral Spain and on to Gibraltar. It would have made a good screenplay even without the raid taking place. Incredibly, four of the commandos did make it to the harbour to plant their mines. The others were either drowned, died of exposure, or were captured (and executed under Hitler’s controversial “commando order”) before completing their mission. Only two—the mission leader, Hasler, and Marine Bill Sparks—escaped and survived. Naturally, they were both commissioned as consultants for the film The Cockleshell Heroes.42 This project, however, differed from The Dam Busters. The production company was Warwick Films, an American-­owned company set up in 1951 by Albert R.  Broccoli and Irving



Allen and operating in Britain partly to circumvent Marshall Plan regulations controlling foreign currency. The other key difference was that the film was shot in colour, a medium associated more with entertainment than with serious documentary style film-making. The format of the film follows the familiar pattern with two distinct halves to it: the first follows the conception of the mission, the selection of personnel, and preparation; the second deals with the mission itself. In this respect, it bore some similarity to The Dam Busters and many others. However, the first half is filled with comedic moments that lighten the mood and the second half pays little attention to accuracy, although its association with Operation Frankton remains obvious. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Hasler disapproved and had disengaged from the filming process. Bill Sparkes recorded his frustration: I often wondered why I had been asked to be a technical adviser, since they never took any notice whatsoever of suggestions, or any criticism, made by either myself or Colonel Hasler. The answer was always ‘Your ideas are welcome, but they would not work in the theme of things’. I suppose we were there because our names would look good on the film credits—implying authenticity.43

The Cockleshell Heroes, therefore, was as much about entertainment as its colour medium suggests. However, what is clear from the retention of Hasler and Sparks—and their acknowledgement in the credits—is that a sense of authenticity remained vital for a film about the war to succeed. So important was their continued involvement that Bill Sparkes was guest of honour at premieres in London, New York, Toronto, and in Bordeaux where his identity tag was returned to him by a member of the resistance who had sheltered him and helped him and Hasler escape. Hasler, though, absented himself from the premieres and distanced himself from the film.44 Women are not commonplace in The Cockleshell Heroes, though not nearly as invisible as they are in The Dam Busters, and the film does follow the role played by military elites. However, the ordinary marines are prominent throughout and with the inclusion of the comedy elements, there is much in the film that is reminiscent of wartime cinema. The volunteers for the mission, drawn from across Britain with differing backgrounds, speak in an array of accents. There is a muted return to the idea of “the people’s war” in The Cockleshell Heroes that is often missing from 1950s British films. The Cockleshell Heroes’ American influence went beyond its production company. Warwick Films followed the formula it had successfully established in The Red Beret (1953) by casting an American lead actor, Jose Ferrer who also directed. Box office receipts no doubt benefitted from this but at some cost to authenticity.45 This did not appear to damage the film’s integrity in the eyes of the popular media, however. The Daily Mail, for example, viewed it as a worthy memorial:



No ordinary film would command such an audience [referring to the Duke of Edinburgh, Captain General of the Royal Marines, and Lord Louis Mounbatten, commander of Combined Operations, at its London premiere] and this is no ordinary film. It is one, which honours the Royal Marines and gives them no more honour than they deserve.46

Nevertheless, it was perhaps a sign that just over a decade after the end of the war Britain was no longer a wartime society. Rationing gradually eased and was officially ended in 1954. The war in Korea (1950–1953) did not have the same impact and despite its potential nuclear dimension was not a total war. Nor was it a people’s war even though it was fought by conscripts. Moreover, it failed to catch the cinematic imagination. A Hill in Korea (1956), a gritty and realist study of the strains of war on a small patrol, is a notable exception. National Service had been extended for the duration of the Korean War and retained after its end. But from 1957, it too was phased out. Britons, conscripted during both world wars, struggled to adjust to it during the First World War, as the post-1918 mutinies indicate. But there was less resistance to it second time around. It is fitting, therefore, that the cinematic reaction to the ending of conscription following the Second World War—the people’s war— was a gentle comedy that welcomed the end of conscription but with an affectionate backward glance at the institution that defined an entire generation. Carry On Sergeant (1958)47 unintentionally ushered in one of the best known of British film franchises and signalled the end of an era of war films. British society was indeed changing and not just with the ending of conscription. A new generation with different needs and expectations was emerging. The 1960s had begun. A new head of the BBFC, John Trevelyan, was appointed and oversaw the reorganization of film censorship and certification. Increased television ownership (or more likely rental for most) meant that cinema had to change to survive the challenge of a visual medium that had even greater “reach.” The war film did not disappear overnight. Leslie Norman’s 1958 film Dunkirk followed a group of ordinary soldiers as they extricate themselves from an impossible situation, achieved in the end with the help of ordinary civilians in their “little ships.” Norman’s film reasserts the people’s war narrative in a fitting tribute to the war generation.

Conclusion The war film had run its course. It was displaced by other genres that catered to the younger generation such as the horror film where the good versus evil narrative would be explored within a different setting. Cinema’s status as the most important popular art form diminished in favour of television. This was driven mainly by economic and technological factors. But it coincided with the passing of the war society for which the ending of rationing and conscription were key indicators. Cinema had played its part. It had informed and entertained, often at the same time. It had reflected the changing fortunes of war. It



had enabled communities to feel connected to the war front and to feel valued as they did their bit. It celebrated moments of great courage and memorialized those who participated. It helped to ensure that consent for the war effort was freely given by all—women and the working class especially—even if afterwards the narrative did not always acknowledge this.

Notes 1. “Ystradgynlais Lads on the Somme: Local Boys in Battle Pictures.” Llais Lafur, Labour Voice, October 21, 1916. 2. Gerard Oram, Military Executions during World War One (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2003), 41–42. 3. Fighting U-Boats in a London Back Garden (Ministry of Information, 1918). 4. Jay Winter, “Propaganda and the Mobilization of Consent,” in The Oxford Illustrated History of The First World War, ed. Hew Strachan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 221. 5. The Woman’s Portion (1918), Film Producers’ Guild, UK. 6. “To The Young Women of London,” IWM Poster, IWM (Art.IWM PST 4903). Retrieved from 7. Gerard Oram, “Britain, Post-World war I Army Mutinies and Revolutionary Threats,” in The International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, ed. Immanuel Ness (Oxford: Blackwell, 2009), 510–511. 8. H.  Bruce Woolfe, Tell England, directed by Anthony Asquith and Geoffrey Barkas (United Kingdom: British Instructional Films, 1931). Michael Balcon, Forever England, directed by Walter Forde and Anthony Asquith (United Kingdom: Gaumont British, 1935). 9. Michael Balcon, I Was a Spy, directed by Victor Saville and Herbert Mason (United Kingdom: Gaumont British, 1933). 10. Michael Balcon, Alfred Hitchcock, The 39 Steps, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (United Kingdom: Gaumont British, 1935). 11. Stanley Baldwin, “A Fear for the Future” cited in Times, November 11, 1932, 7. 12. John Buchan, The 39 Steps [1915], in The Complete Richard Hannay (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1991). 13. Alexander Korda, Things to Come, directed by William Cameron Menzies (London: London Film Productions, 1936). 14. Anthony Aldgate, Cinema and History: British Newsreels and the Spanish Civil War (London: Scolar, 1979). 15. Susan Tegel, “The Politics of Censorship: Britain’s Jew Süss (1934) in London, New York and Vienna” in Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 15, no. 2 (1995): 219–244. 16. Michael Balcon, Jew Süss, directed by Lothar Mendes (United Kingdom: London Film Productions, 1934). 17. Michael Balcon, A Lifetime in Films (London: Hutchinson, 1969), 99. 18. Tegel, “The Politics of Censorship,” 239. 19. James Chapman, The British at War: Cinema, State and Propaganda 1939–45 (London: I.B. Tauris, 1998), 19–40. 20. Chapman, British at War, 31.



21. Brian Desmond Hurst, Miss Grant Goes to the Door, directed by Brian Desmond Hurst (United Kingdom: MOI, 1940); Michael Balcon, Went the Day Well? Directed by Cavalcanti (United Kingdom: Ealing Studios, 1942). 22. Commentary, London Can Take It (1940). 23. Chapman, British at War. 24. John Sutro and Norman Walker, The Way Ahead, directed by Carol Reed (United Kingdom: Two Cities Films, 1944). 25. Noel Coward, In Which We Serve, directed by Noel Coward (United Kingdom: Two Cities Films, 1942). 26. A ‘rating’ is a non-officer position/rank. 27. Chapman, Britain at War, 185. 28. Edward Black, Millions Like Us, directed by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder (United Kingdom: Gainsborough Pictures, 1943). 29. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (United Kingdom: General Film Distributors, 1943). 30. Chapman, British at War, 84. 31. Chapman, British at War, 194. 32. Memorandum of March 30, 1942, by Professor Frederick Lindemann, Baron Cherwell (British government’s chief scientific adviser) sent to the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. 33. “On the Chin,” British Pathe, February 8, 1942, Newsreel,; Alexander Korda, The Biter Bit (Coombe Productions, MOI, 1943). 34. Edward Black, Waterloo Road, directed by Sidney Gilliat (United Kingdom: Gainsborough Pictures, 1945). 35. A ‘spiv’ is a slang word from the United Kingdom to describe a man, who is usually a flashy dresser, and who makes a living by disreputable dealings. This word was predominately used during the Second World War and in the post-war period when goods were rationed due to shortages. 36. Robert Murphy, Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939–49 (London: Routledge, 1992), 151. 37. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, and George Busby, A Matter of Life and Death, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (United Kingdom: Archers Productions, 1946). 38. Daniel M. Angel, Reach for the Sky, directed by Lewis Gilbert (United Kingdom: Rank Film Distributors, 1956). 39. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, The Battle of the River Plate, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (United Kingdom: Rank Film Distributors, 1956). 40. Robert Clark and W. A. Whittaker, The Dam Busters (1955), directed by Michael Anderson (United Kingdom: Associated British Picture Corporation, 1955). See also John Ramsden, The Dam Busters: A British Film Guide (London: I.B. Tauris, 2002). 41. Paddy Ashdown, A Brilliant Little Operation: The Cockleshell Heroes and the Most Courageous Raid of WW2 (London: Aurum, 2012). 42. Phil C.  Samuel and Cubby Broccoli, The Cockleshell Heroes, directed by Josè Ferrer (United Kingdom: Warwick Films, 1955).



43. Bill Sparks, Cockleshell Commando: The Memoirs of Bill Sparks DSM (Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 2002), 105–106. 44. Sparks, Cockleshell Commando, 106–107. 45. The film was amongst the top ten British films for the year. 46. Cited in Sparks, 107. 47. Peter Rogers and Kenneth Myers, Carry On Sergeant, directed by Gerald Thomas and Peter Rogers (United Kingdom: Peter Rogers Productions, 1958).

References Aldgate, Anthony. Cinema and History: British Newsreels and the Spanish Civil War. London: Scolar, 1979. Angel, Daniel M. Reach for the Sky, directed by Lewis Gilbert. United Kingdom: Rank Film Distributors, 1956. Ashdown, Paddy. A Brilliant Little Operation: The Cockleshell Heroes and the Most Courageous Raid of WW2. London: Aurum, 2012. Balcon, Michael. I Was a Spy, directed by Victor Saville and Herbert Mason. United Kingdom: Gaumont British, 1933. ———. Jew Süss, directed by Lothar Mendes. United Kingdom: London Film Productions, 1934. ———. Alfred Hitchcock. The 39 Steps, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. United Kingdom: Gaumont British, 1935a. ———. Forever England, directed by Walter Forde and Anthony Asquith. United Kingdom: Gaumont British, 1935b. ———. Went the Day Well?, directed by Cavalcanti. United Kingdom: Ealing Studios, 1942. ———. A Lifetime in Films. London: Hutchinson, 1969. Baldwin, Stanley. “A Fear for the Future.” Cited in Times, November 11, 1932, 7. Black, Edward. Millions Like Us, directed by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder. United Kingdom: Gainsborough Pictures, 1943. ———. Waterloo Road, directed by Sidney Gilliat. United Kingdom: Gainsborough Pictures, 1945. British Pathé. “On the Chin,” February 8, 1942, Newsreel. https://www.britishpathe. com/video/on-the-chin. Buchan, John. The 39 Steps [1915]. In The Complete Richard Hannay. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1991. Chapman, James. The British at War: Cinema, State and Propaganda 1939–45. London: I.B. Tauris, 1998. Clark, Robert, and W.A.  Whittaker. The Dam Busters (1955), directed by Michael Anderson. United Kingdom: Associated British Picture Corporation, 1955. Coward, Noel. In Which We Serve, directed by Noel Coward. United Kingdom: Two Cities Films, 1942. Film Producers Guild. The Woman’s Portion. United Kingdom, 1918. Hurst, Brian Desmond. Miss Grant Goes to the Door, directed by Brian Desmond Hurst. United Kingdom: MOI, 1940. Korda, Alexander. Things to Come, directed by William Cameron Menzies. London: London Film Productions, 1936. ———. The Biter Bit. Coombe Productions, MOI, 1943.



Ministry of Information. Fighting U-Boats in a London Back Garden, 1918. Information, 1918. Murphy, Robert. Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939–49. London: Routledge, 1992. Oram, Gerard. Military Executions During World War One. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2003. ———. “Britain, Post-World War I Army Mutinies and Revolutionary Threats.” In The International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, edited by Immanuel Ness, 510–511. Oxford: Blackwell, 2009. Powell, Michael, and Emeric Pressburger. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. United Kingdom: General Film Distributors, 1943. ———. The Battle of the River Plate, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. United Kingdom: Rank Film Distributors, 1956. Powell, Michael, Emeric Pressburger, and George Busby. A Matter of Life and Death, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. United Kingdom: Archers Productions, 1946. Rogers, Peter, and Kenneth Myers. Carry On Sergeant, directed by Gerald Thomas and Peter Rogers. United Kingdom: Peter Rogers Productions, 1958. Samuel, Phil C., and Cubby Broccoli. The Cockleshell Heroes, directed by Josè Ferrer. United Kingdom: Warwick Films, 1955. Sparks, Bill. Cockleshell Commando: The Memoirs of Bill Sparks DSM. Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 2002. Sutro, John, and Norman Walker. The Way Ahead, directed by Carol Reed. United Kingdom: Two Cities Films, 1944. Tegel, Susan. “The Politics of Censorship: Britain’s Jew Süss (1934) in London, New York and Vienna.” In Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 15, no. 2 (1995): 219–244. Winter, Jay. “Propaganda and the Mobilization of Consent.” In The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War, edited by Hew Strachan. Oxford: OUP, 1998. Woolfe, H.  Bruce. Tell England, directed by Anthony Asquith and Geoffrey Barkas. United Kingdom: British Instructional Films, 1931. “Ystradgynlais Lads on the Somme: Local Boys in Battle Pictures.” Llais Lafur, Labour Voice, October 21, 1916.


(Re)Writing the Second World War: United States, Russian and German National History Textbooks in the Immediate Aftermath of 1989 Susan Santoli

Introduction As a secondary school World and European History teacher, I made regular use of a large world map that hung on the back wall of my classroom. In the three years following the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the subsequent collapse of Communist rule in much of Eastern Europe, at times it felt as though I was changing national borders or marking the establishment of a new nation state on an almost daily basis. Though clearly this was not literally the case, my students and I were well aware that we were living in a time of profound political, social, and economic change. Almost overnight, our textbook was rendered obsolete and, in its stead, primary sources such as newspapers and news reports became a vital component of my classroom pedagogy. If journalism is, as many believe, the first draft of history, it was immediately apparent to many governments, scholars, and educators that a second draft would need to be created and sooner rather than later. This second draft of history was inevitably going to involve each nation’s respective education system adapting their approach to a changing world. Clearly, it would not be enough for individual teachers to alter classroom maps, for students and society at large would need to know why they were being altered and what that meant for the nation states involved. History textbooks

S. Santoli (*) University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




were inevitably going to be in the vanguard of this process. Textbooks have traditionally played a major role in the teaching of history in the US and other nations.1 Indeed, Bernstein considers them the “major pedagogic device” in use in the classroom.2 Yet, though they are often perceived to be apolitical, they are, as de Castell observes “a ‘purpose-built’ technology for the transmission of accumulated cultural and scientific knowledge that has been accorded the status of fact.”3 To challenge this moral and historical authority is inevitably problematic, for what they offer is in effect a “state sanctioned version of history” that reflects “a nation’s priorities and values.”4 In this way, they help create a common cultural memory and national identity5 and are therefore vulnerable to being manipulated to “justify behavior and actions that are designed to have specific social consequences.”6 These consequences have ramifications beyond the classroom because a student’s educational experiences are the means by which they “acquire the mental paradigms that provide context to other forms of discourse transmission, such as media accounts.”7 When students in different countries are presented with differing accounts of the same historical events during their formative years, there is inevitably an impact on their attitudes and understanding of the past as well as of the present and future.8 This is further problematized within nation states when a generation of students are presented with a national story that is profoundly different from the one espoused by the generations that preceded them. History textbooks are uniquely placed to influence the way a nation views itself and others, particularly in “nations where the past has been difficult and where memory is disrupted—where the past cannot easily be made amenable to linear and uplifting narratives.”9 Wars are fertile ground for just such a manipulation, as they are subject to much subjective interpretation, for they serve “important cultural functions in the history of nations. Not only are they powerfully justified before they begin and during their course, but they also continue to be justified long after they are over because they are crucial in the ongoing process of nation building.”10 These issues and others like them have been the focus of international research and discussion for many decades. Following the First World War, the League of Nations and, later after the Second World War, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) supported international textbook discussions and modifications in recognition of the “detrimental role played by textbooks in shaping the concept of the enemy.”11 As a result, some discussions were conducted between national history teacher organizations in France and Germany. In 1951, in the midst of the Cold War, yet another international conflict fueled by aggressive nationalism, the International Institute for the Improvement of Textbooks was established in Braunschweig, Germany. This institute, which became the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research in 1975, continues to pursue its mission as a center for international textbook research and revision. The Institute has sought to moderate dialogue between former combatants with the goal of eliminating “factual errors, particularly images of the enemy and stereotypes from history books” with the hope of



bringing academics together “to collaborate in a process of European unity, and also to enable teachers to develop a democratic view of history which would then be passed on to the next generation.”12 With the assistance of the Georg Eckert Institute, the Harvard University National Resource Center for Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies and the American Textbook Council, I obtained copies of national history textbooks published after 1989 and used in secondary history classes for college-bound students during 1994 in Russia, Germany, and the US. For the purposes of this chapter, I analyzed the treatment of the Tehran, Yalta (Crimea), and Potsdam Conferences from three textbooks: the German text Unsere Geschichte (Our History) (1991) by Heruasgegeben von Wolfgang Hug, et al., the Russian text Noveishaia istoriia (Newest or Modern History) (1994) by A.A.  Kreder, and The American Pageant (1991) by Thomas A.  Bailey and David M. Kennedy. The focus on the Allied conferences attended by the “Big Three” as opposed to other events in the war reflected my desire to investigate war aims rather than battlefield events, though the two were inevitably connected. In addition, as the decisions reached at the conferences established a world order which was “frozen into place” for the next 40 years,13 their portrayal in the revamped textbooks was particularly significant, involving as it did a newly democratic Russia flirting with greater intellectual freedoms, the US as the last global superpower left standing, and a newly reunified Germany committed to a pan-Europeanism. Although no textbook can be definitive in its coverage, there are some events of such impact that they warrant inclusion almost regardless of context. The Second World War is just such an event.14 It was the largest and most devastating conflict in human history, which was fought on six continents and caused an estimated 72 million military and civilian deaths. Six million of those deaths were Jews.15 An estimated 60 million Europeans became refugees during the war with 1 million still without permanent housing as late as 1950.16 Europe and parts of England and Asia and the Pacific were left devastated. The borders of many countries were redrawn and colonial empires, especially in Africa and Asia, began to dissolve, laying the groundwork for later conflicts in Korea, Algeria, Vietnam, and the Middle East. The Great Powers such as the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and China were either exhausted by their efforts to win the war, suffering the impact of having lost it, or as was particularly the case with China, wracked by massive social and economic upheaval. A world which had multiple great powers before 1939 was left with two superpowers, the US and USSR: the former a technologically and economically powerful democracy enjoying a physically unscathed homeland, and, the latter, a totalitarian dictatorship which had been both adversary and ally and had suffered more death and devastation than all her allies combined. The end of the war brought with it the advent of the nuclear age and little promise that out of the suffering a new world might emerge, wiser and more civilized than the one that had engaged in two world conflicts in less than half a century.



Revolutions of 1989 and 1991 and the Rewriting of the Second World War Seemingly without warning, in the fall of 1989, “the ossified regimes of Eastern Europe toppled like so many dominoes.”17 Within a year, Germany was reunified followed shortly after by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Writing in 1993, Gail Stokes concluded that it would be a long time before the impact of the revolutions could be fully analyzed,18 but as history was being written in real time, it was clear that education systems would not have the luxury to wait for the final denouement. This left the nation states most affected by the changing world order faced with the task of either abandoning their history or adjusting it to suit a rapidly changing world.19 School classrooms were the sites where this process of national reconceptualization would begin. The Second World War would need to be refought in the pages of school textbooks if the events of 1989–1991 were to be placed in an appropriate context. A.A. Kreder, a historian of American History at the University of Saratov, wrote Noveishaia istoriia (1994) for Russian students in a period of considerable political and economic upheaval. Kreder was chosen to write this book from an outline submitted to a national competition funded by the US-based George Soros Foundation. He had three months to write the book which was based on his lecture notes. As someone who taught Communist Party leaders, Kreder had access to “the secret digest of articles from the Western press translated unabridged for the top party leadership” and began to use that information as soon as he was free to do so.20 The late 1980s and early 1990s had seen the dissolution of the Soviet Union, internal political turmoil, and financial insecurity. Any reassessment of Russian history under these circumstances was always going to be problematic, yet Kreder’s textbook does not lose anything in a comparison with its American and German counterparts. The situation which confronted Kreder was not unique in Russian history, for it was in fact the second great turning point in Russian historiography, the first having occurred after the 1917 revolution. The glasnost-era revelations about the Soviet past dominated this second turning point, and for the first time since the Khrushchev era, it was possible for anti-Stalin sentiment to make it into the public sphere.21 So quickly did things change and so readily were different views disseminated, that on two occasions between 1988 and 1990, history examinations had to be canceled. This was, however, merely the most public manifestation of this state of flux, one which saw the release of multiple versions of history textbooks and an equally bewildering array of approaches to teaching Soviet era history. The difficulties in meeting competing demands is evident in the fact that for all of the moves toward a recognition of the shortcomings of the Soviet era, Kreder’s textbook does not mention the Katyn massacre or Marshall Zhukov, both of which represent significant silences on the part of the author. Ironically, Kreder’s textbook, which went through three editions, was banned in one Russian federation and later had the Ministry’s Seal of Approval



removed (which in effect banned it) nationwide in 1997 for “propagating anti-­ state ideology.”22 One ideological indiscretion was the claim that the USSR bore a significant responsibility for the outbreak of the Second World War. An attack was made both on the message as well as the messenger, with Kreder himself being subject to a ban. Vladimir Putin, at that time serving as the Russian Federation president, displayed an interesting use of the word “facts” when he observed that they serve rather than drive a narrative: “The facts of history … must nurture a feeling of pride in one’s history and one’s country.”23 Teaching the Second World War is more difficult than teaching other parts of Russian history given its impact on current political developments and efforts by the Putin government to rehabilitate Stalin. Gone now are the “anti-Soviet narratives that had existed during the Boris Yeltsin period, both in Russian society as a whole and in textbook content.”24 Kreder stated that his goal was to write “a textbook that was so objective that a teacher of any ideological bent could use it,”25 a multiplicity of uses that did not suit Putin’s more proscriptive view of history education. Like its Russian counterpart, The American Pageant, first published in 1956 but now in its sixteenth edition, was shaped by the periods in which it was first written and then subsequently updated. Despite attempts over various editions to respond to world events and changing tastes: it is at heart a patriotic work that celebrates American progress and the free enterprise system, while largely ignoring dissenting political viewpoints outside the mainstream. Sidebars present broader historiographic interpretations, but the context seems clearly intended to convey the notion that these other views are mistaken in some way.26

Unlike Kreder’s work, The American Pageant has benefitted from the relative stability of the American political system, because for all of its nationalistic leanings and its avoidance of controversy, it still “enjoys a reputation as one of the most popular, effective, and entertaining texts in American history.”27 Again in contrast to the unfortunate Kreder, its author, Thomas Bailey was a much decorated and revered academic historian. After his death in 1983, the text has been periodically updated by David M. Kennedy and Lizabeth Cohen, both respected academics, though the content has remained essentially unaltered from the first edition released in 1956.28 The American Pageant’s patriotic overtones hardly make it unique among American history textbooks. Tony Waters, an American sociologist identified an intellectual confusion experienced by many undergraduates when confronted by university history courses. Their schooling had exposed them to a “triumphal, grand sweep perspective,” or as he characterized it, a sacred view of history that was inherently patriotic and positive.29 In contrast, their university courses offered a profane take on the national narrative, one that still dealt with these themes but also explored the ambiguity and the conflict.30 Though the edition of The American Pageant published in 1991 appeared at a time



when it might reasonably have been claimed that the nation had emerged victorious from the Cold War, the decade was also marked by a “culture war” over textbooks and the teaching of history in American schools. Proposed national standards for history teaching focused on a perception held by some that there was an increasing tendency to belittle the achievements of Western civilization. This textbook, however, exists firmly in the realm of the sacred rather than the profane, and it is certainly not free of ideological considerations. The following has been the opening paragraph for the chapter on the Second World War since the earliest iteration in 1956: The United States was plunged into the inferno of World War II with the most stupefying and humiliating military defeat in its history. In the dismal months that ensued, the democratic world teetered on the edge of disaster. Japan’s fanatics forgot that whoever stabs a king must stab to kill. A wounded but still potent American giant pulled itself out of the mud of Pearl Harbor, grimly determined to avenge the bloody treachery.31

Heruasgegeben von Wolfgang Hug et al. had the interesting task of writing a text for use by students who only months before had been citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic, or in common parlance, West and East Germany. The extent of the gulf between the two education systems is no more evident than in the textbooks used between 1949 and 1990. In East Germany, there was only one textbook in use at any given time and it was subject to revision only every eight to ten years.32 Students from East Germany were used to a characterization of the twentieth century as a conflict between socialists and imperialists. The Western allies were accorded little significance in the successful prosecution of the war against Germany and were guilty of a “cynical and Machiavellian” intention to let the Germans and Russians destroy each other. Little emphasis was given to the treatment of the Jews as a distinct group of victims, and as time passed “any explicit allusion to the guilt of the ordinary German population seemed superfluous or detrimental.”33 The awareness of history’s didactic possibilities underpinned the creation of a curriculum more ideological than even its Nazi equivalent.34 In the first decade after the end of the war, West German textbooks were “full of self-righteousness and self-pity.” It appeared to one historian at least that it “seemed impossible for people to perceive themselves as perpetrators or as guilty of anything.”35 In West Germany, at any one time there could be anywhere between 20 and 30 textbooks competing with each other. Over time, the text books responded to the most egregious errors, though still equivocating about the issue of responsibility. From the 1960s onwards, the textbooks balanced the victimization of the Germans through experiences such as the bombing of their cities and the crimes perpetrated by the Nazi regime against others.36 By the time von Wolfgang Hug et al. wrote their textbook, the world had, however, changed:



There was no longer any competition with East Germany. The school students of today, born shortly before 1989 as the fourth generation after the war, are no longer the sons and daughters or grandsons and granddaughters, but already the great-grandsons and great-granddaughters of the Germans who lived under Hitler. About 20–25 per cent are descendants of immigrants from other nations. No longer is there a personal or deeply emotional face-to-face confrontation with family members responsible for Nazi crimes, neither with an ambivalent father nor with a much-loved grandfather.37

Allied Conferences 1943–1945 Each of the three textbooks explored in the course of this chapter provide a variable coverage of the three major war conferences held in Tehran (November 28–December 1, 1943), Yalta (February 4–11, 1945), and Potsdam (July 17– August 2, 1945). The Allied leaders of the UK, Russia, and the US met in person only three times during the final two years of the war. Although Churchill met with Roosevelt seven times and with Stalin twice, there was not a united Allied strategy in fighting the war, agreement on the allocation of materials and resources, on what would happen to Germany after the war, and on Soviet demands for territory in Eastern Europe.38 Though there are some significant differences between the three texts, what they share is a general paucity of details and analysis. The textbook coverage says less about these events than the motivations of their authors and the context in which they wrote.

The Tehran Conference On Stalin’s insistence, Roosevelt and Churchill met with him at the Soviet Embassy in Tehran toward the end of 1943 to discuss strategies for defeating Germany and Japan. No formal agenda was prepared, and even now it is difficult to be certain what exactly was said during those “rambling conversations.”39 Even who actually attended the meetings for the Soviets, besides Stalin, has been disputed. The UK and the US agreed to launch an invasion of France, which would open a second front. Stalin agreed to launch an eastern offensive at the same time with the intention of fatally overstretching an already faltering German war machine. All agreed to an unconditional German surrender. Postwar borders and the governance of Germany and Eastern Europe were also discussed but not finalized. Stalin agreed, in theory, to free elections in Eastern Europe and to declare war on Japan once Germany was defeated. Stalin and Roosevelt discussed postwar international cooperation and Roosevelt laid out his plan for the future United Nations, although no definite decisions were made. Relying on British sources, which became available in the mid-­ 1970s, Mastny concluded that the Russians “interpreted the outcome of the conference as giving them a green light to proceed with their own solution of the Polish question.”40 The Second World War historian, Antony Beevor



­ riting in 2012 agreed with this assessment and concluded that “Stalin considw ered that he had won the game.”41 The American Pageant’s often unsympathetic view of the Soviets was even more pronounced when dealing with the final years of the war. In the authors’ view, the Tehran Conference occurred “because the Russians had never ceased their clamor for an all-out second front” but nevertheless concluded that discussions among the three leaders “progressed smoothly.”42 The “most important achievement” of the conference was the agreement on “broad plans, especially the coordinated eastern and western attacks on Germany.”43 There was no mention of the discussions concerning the Soviet annexation of part of Poland, nor of the United Nations. In discussing the meeting between Roosevelt and Stalin at Tehran, Bailey used his trademark style to describe the American president as “confident that Rooseveltian charm would woo the hardened conspirator of the Kremlin from his nasty Communist ways.”44 The Soviet army’s movement into Germany was described as “vengeful Russians clawing their way forward … followed by an orgy of pillage and rape.”45 Though there is ample justification for this description of the Russian advance into Germany, it is clear that this behavior was being positioned in order to contrast it with the US drive across Europe after the breakout from Normandy: “Most spectacular were the lunges across France by American armored divisions, brilliantly commanded by blustery and profane General George S. (“Blood ‘n’ Guts”) Patton.” History, as Martin Alm reminds us, is ultimately an existential endeavor46: We use it to construct an identity and to orientate ourselves in the world. That said, identity is developed in tandem with difference; knowing who we are also entails knowing who we are not. Our self-image is frequently contrasted with an ‘Other’, a counter-image that illustrates qualities and values which we do not stand for.47

Bailey’s approach is also consistent with one of the dominant themes in American textbooks which posits that good (democracy) versus evil (non-­ democracy) is a fundamental historical narrative.48 In contrast, Kreder’s text was far less polemic in dealing with Russia’s allies. He identified Tehran as the meeting where future military and postwar actions were discussed, and noted the agreement to open a second front as one of the “major decisions of the conference.”49 He also acknowledged a “heated argument” about where to open this front, with the US and Russians identifying northern France and the British preferring the Balkans. The Soviet agreement to declare war on Japan once the war with Germany was over was explained as a Russian attempt to “get recognition of its new borders with the west, which included annexing part of Poland.”50 No mention was made of plans for the United Nations. Like Bailey, Kreder did not discuss any of the political or military factors concerning the timing of the second European front, which was definitely a point of contention between Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt.



Interestingly, Kreder alone mentioned that Stalin agreed to declare war on Japan once Germany was defeated. The German text commits only a few sentences to a rather cursory description of the Tehran Conference, including basic material such as the conference dates and identifying it as the moment when Allied war aims were established. This included the division of and de-Nazification of Germany and the agreement by the US and UK to Stalin annexing part of Poland, although no explanation is provided as to why this agreement was made. There was no mention of the second front in France, Stalin’s agreement to declare war on Japan once Germany was defeated, or the United Nations. Given that most of the fundamental decisions about the future of postwar Germany were made here, this is an egregious silence. All three texts are likewise silent on the issue of which nation gained the most advantage from the conference. Though this is a point of contention, as early as 1975, there was a view “the Russians approached … from a position of weakness” but emerged having its goals met,51 a conclusion later affirmed by historian Antony Beevor.52

Yalta Conference At the Tehran Conference, the “Big Three” agreed to meet a second time, and again Stalin dictated the location, this time at Yalta in the Crimea. By February 1945, the war in Western Europe was drawing to a close and each leader came to the conference with specific goals in mind. Though ostensibly allies, the only bond that held the Grand Alliance together was the common desire to defeat Germany and to ensure that she would never again threaten the peace of Europe.53 Roosevelt’s primary goal was to secure an agreement from Stalin to enter the war against Japan and to convince the Soviets to play a role in establishing the United Nations. Stalin wanted promises of postwar economic aid and validation of a Soviet sphere of influence in Europe, particularly with regard to Poland. Churchill wanted to retain the British Empire, while also keen to clarify the future of Poland, for which his country had ostensibly gone to war in 1939. Decisions made at the conference confirmed the postwar division and governance of Germany and Berlin, as well as reparations and the establishment of war crime trials. The Soviets agreed to free elections in all liberated territories, with the US and UK agreeing that Soviet friendly governments be allowed in countries with whom she shared a border. The government of Poland was the main area of disagreement, with the US and UK supporting the Polish government in exile while Stalin supported a communist dominated group. Negotiations were complicated because the Soviets had by that stage “liberated” Poland. Eventually, Stalin prevailed, but it was clear that freedom was a secondary consideration to stability, and it was the peoples of Eastern Europe who would pay the price. Roosevelt has been criticized for his seeming indifference to the fate of Eastern Europe, but though the end of the war against Germany may have appeared close, the war against Japan appeared likely to go



into 1946. The obvious fanaticism with which the Japanese would oppose an invasion ensured that Stalin’s agreement to enter the war against Japan was desirous, but his agreement came at a price, which in this case was the meeting of some of his territorial ambitions and a recognition of his spheres of influence. The organization of the United Nations was finalized and the members of the Security Council were agreed on. Though Yalta was characterized by more than one Western historian as a betrayal, in hindsight however, it is difficult to see how the US and the UK could have won more concessions without resorting to war. As with the Tehran conference, there is some variance across the three textbooks, though all authors were seemingly dismissive of its significance. The German text provided a single sentence, the Russian text provided little more than a paragraph, while the US text did not mention it at all. Von Wolfgang Hug et al. concluded that Yalta was a place where the Tehran agreements were validated but without any specifics. That the future division of Germany could find no place in a German textbook in the months after the wall came down is surprising. Kreder provided the most detailed information about the conference, which is a direct challenge to any preconceptions that the Russian text would be less forthcoming and far more a vehicle for overt propaganda than its American and German counterparts. The governance of postwar Germany, according to Kreder, was the “primary question” and alone of the three texts it identified that France would be included in postwar occupation.54 The Russian text, alone again, discussed the differing attitudes regarding German reparations, the Allied recognition of the new Soviet borders in the West, Stalin’s agreement to declare war on Japan after Germany’s defeat in exchange for Chinese and Japanese territory, and that this was the last meeting in which Roosevelt took part. Yalta remains hugely controversial, and it has become synonymous with political cynicism and the betrayal of brave peoples. The decisions made here sealed the fate of Eastern Europe for a generation, yet despite the harsh judgment of history, the seven-day meeting confronted more complex and serious issues than any other in history. In reality, Churchill and Roosevelt probably got the best deal possible in the face of Soviet strength and Stalin’s desire for territorial expansion. The Machiavellian aura that surrounds it makes it less appealing than it otherwise might be, but as the last conference attended by Roosevelt and the one that included a discussion of the liberation of Europe from the West, it has an almost mythic status in the US. The lack of prominence given the conference in the three books remains a strange anomaly. As Robin Edmonds observed on its 40th anniversary, one cannot consider Yalta in isolation, for it must be viewed in the context of both the military background of February 1945 (which did not offer an ironclad assurance that the war was necessarily entering its final months) and the Potsdam Conference five months later.55 These gaps in the textbooks’ coverage, however, make for flawed history.



When assessing the revolutions of 1989–1991, Anatoly S. Chernyaev, one of Gorbachev’s closest advisors commented that it was the end of Yalta.56 Yet the European borders established at Yalta generally survived the events of the late 1980s and early 1990s which formed the backdrop to the publication of the three textbooks under discussion. A united Germany again stood astride central Europe, but there was no adjustment to its eastern border. Czechoslovakia moved in the opposite direction when it split into two states, but their borders remained those established immediately after the Second World War. The borders of Poland and the former Soviet republics of Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine, all of which now possessed part of Poland’s interwar territory, likewise remained static.57

Potsdam Conference At Yalta, Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt agreed to meet again after the German surrender to determine political borders in postwar Europe and to continue some of their previous discussions. This time they met on conquered territory, in Potsdam, near Berlin, between July 17 and August 2, 1945. Only Stalin would see this third great conference through to the end. In April 1945, Roosevelt died and was succeeded by Harry Truman, who was far more suspicious of Stalin’s intentions. During the conference itself, Churchill learned that he had lost the national election to Clement Atlee, who as deputy prime minister had accompanied Churchill to Potsdam. As the conference progressed, Truman was made aware of the successful atomic tests, rendering the need for Soviet participation in the war against Japan neither necessary nor welcome. This change in the status quo was balanced by the reality that the Red Army now occupied Central and Eastern Europe. The primary concerns of the conference were the specific governance of the newly surrendered Germany, what reparations would be required of Germany, the borders of Poland and Austria, the role that the USSR would play in Eastern Europe, and the strategies for the continuing war with Japan. Germany’s four occupation zones were finalized, with Austria also divided, as were the capitals of Berlin and Vienna. The discussion concerning the planned unified government for Germany was indefinitely postponed. The Soviets wanted massive German reparations which were in part mitigated by Atlee and Truman. Revision of the German-Soviet-Polish borders was a major issue. To compensate Poland for territory lost to the USSR in the east, she received territory from Germany in the west and promptly began to expel the resident Germans. Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria were already controlled by communist governments and there was little the US and UK could do to counter Soviet expansion. The Germans in these areas were also expelled.40 Indochina, now Vietnam, was an area which was also discussed at Potsdam as the Japanese were still very active in this area. The three leaders agreed that Indochina would also be divided into two occupation zones after Japan’s defeat: the northern half would



be occupied by China and the southern half would be occupied by the Western powers.41 Future Vietnam conflicts had their roots in these decisions. In late July, Truman informed Stalin that the US had detonated a very powerful weapon earlier that month and planned to use the weapon against Japan. Stalin already knew the atomic bomb was being developed because of intelligence operating within the Manhattan Project. On July 26, 1945, an ultimatum was issued from the conference, without Stalin’s signature, demanding Japan’s unconditional surrender. Japan refused and as a consequence atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and August 9, 1945, respectively. On August 8, 1945, the USSR declared war on Japan and invaded Manchuria. Stalin moved quickly to consolidate his position in Eastern Europe, establishing pro-Soviet governments and arresting Western supporters. He refused to move troops from Iran and attempted to move into Greece and Turkey.44 In March 1947, Truman made it clear how he viewed this and subsequent developments when he declared to Congress that “it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.”45 It rapidly became clear that there would be no joint reconstitution of Europe. Instead of bringing a lasting peace, Potsdam marked the beginning of the Cold War and set the stage for the revolutions of 1989–1991. Despite the far-reaching impact of decisions taken at the conference, neither the German nor the Russian texts even mention it, though they do acknowledge the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan. Having included only cursory mentions of the previous conferences, the gaps in the German text are at least consistent. The absence of any mention in the Russian text might be explained by the fact that the Soviets were not invited to sign the Potsdam Declaration, released during the Conference, which outlined the terms of surrender for Japan. It was certainly not an attempt to suggest that Russia’s motives at Potsdam were any more altruistic than her wartime allies, for the text does address Allied concerns over the spreading of Soviet influence and the establishment of Communist governments in Eastern Europe.”43 The material on which an assessment might have been made was certainly available. By the end of the 1960s, the Soviet transcripts of the plenary sessions had already been published, followed by even further material in the following decade. Though there are some differences between these published records and those held in the archive of the Russian Foreign Ministry, they are in the “form of omissions rather than textual changes.” Though they are “important and revealing, they are not extensive enough to cast wholesale doubt on the value of the published Soviet documents.”58 The coverage in the US text is patchy at best and discusses the conference only in the context of the ultimatum issued to Japan to surrender or be destroyed. This perhaps reflects the fact that the US had in fact fought two wars, one in Europe and Africa, and the other in Asia and the Pacific, the latter still being pursued even as the Potsdam Conference was underway. Yet the absences are glaring—the division and governance of Germany, Berlin, and



Austria, and the division of Indochina, an inconceivable absence given the later war in Vietnam. Truman was identified as the new US president; however, there was no mention of Atlee replacing Churchill. This is particularly strange, given that the absence of the two war leaders might have been used as mitigation for the failure to curtail Soviet territorial ambitions. Perhaps the fairest assessment of the conference was delivered by the American diplomat and scholar W.R. Smyser, who observed that at Potsdam “each side paid what it had to pay to get what it wanted most.”59

Conclusion In June 2016, the foreign ministers of Germany and Poland announced the release of Von der Ur- und Frühgeschichte bis zum Mittelalter (From Prehistoric and Ancient History to the Middle Ages). It is the first volume of a four-­ volume series of history textbooks titled Europa. Unsere Geschichte/Europa. Nasza historia (Europe: Our History), designed for history classrooms at the lower secondary level (Sekundarstufe I) in Germany and the equivalent level in Poland. Volume 2, Neuzeit bis 1815 (From the Modern Era to 1815) was published in September 2017, with the final two volumes slated for release by 2020. Its focus is unashamedly on history seen through a German-Polish perspective: The textbook thereby provides a new lens with which to view Europe: It aims to disrupt the enduring focus on the founding states of the European Union and expand the historical consciousness of German youth towards the East—and Polish youth towards the West. Going beyond widespread nation-centric interpretations, the textbook leads readers to discover European and world history anew, to evaluate that history differently and to perceive it in a more nuanced way. The textbook highlights the multifarious nature of Europe itself and the plurality of European memory cultures.60

Yet for all of the altruism driving what will be a 14-year process, it is impossible, even for the greatest historian, to “eliminate the personal equation [for] regardless of whatever acts of purification [he] may perform, he yet remains human, a creature of time, place, circumstance, interests, predilections, culture.”61 Authors must make “theoretical, conceptual and empirical choices,” for no one textbook would be comprehensive enough to convey a country’s entire history,62 let alone two. It also cannot be assumed that all that is taught in history classrooms is textbook information, nor that what is taught in history classes is all that students learn about their countries.57 However, due to the frequency of textbook use in national history classrooms across the world and the importance of history education in “the identity building of citizens,”63 they are a vital consideration. As we seek to make sense of our own nation’s history and that of others, the answers may lie partly in examining the national history textbooks that were used in classrooms in the past and are in current



use. Reviewing a past history is not always pleasant, but rewriting it to suit national purposes is worse.

Notes 1. Hanna Schissler and Yasemin Nuhoglu Soysal, eds. The Nation, Europe and the World: Textbooks and Curricula in Transition (New York: Berghahn Books, 2005); Stuart Foster and Jason Nicholls, “America in World War II: An Analysis of History Textbooks from England, Japan, Sweden, and the United States,” Journal of Curriculum and Supervision 20, no. 3 (Spring, 2005): 214–233; JoAnn Phillion, Ming Fang He, Michael F.  Connelly, SAGE Handbooks of Curriculum and Instruction (Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2008); Eckhardt Fuchs and Steffen Stammler, Textbooks between Tradition and Innovation: A Journey through the History of the Georg Eckert Institute (Braunschweig: Georg Eckert Institute-Leibniz Institute for International Research, 2016). 2. Keith Crawford and Stuart J.  Foster, War, Nation, Memory: International Perspectives on World War II in School History Textbook (Charlotte: Information Age Publishing, 2008), xiv. 3. Suzanne De Castell, “Teaching the Textbook: Teacher/Text Authority and the Problem of Interpretation,” Linguistics and Education 2, no. 1 (1990): 80. 4. Dana Lindaman and Kyle Ward, History Lessons: How Textbooks from Around the World Portray US History (New York: The New Press, 2006), xviii. 5. Lindaman and Ward, History Lessons; Crawford and Foster, War, Nation, Memory; Susan Santoli, “Analysis of the Treatment Given to Selected Aspects of World War II in Secondary School History Textbooks Published in France, Germany, Great UK, Japan, Russia and the United States.” PhD thesis, Auburn University, 1997. 6. Crawford and Foster, War, Nation, Memory, 9. 7. Todd H. Nelson, History as ideology: the portrayal of Stalinism and the Great Patriotic War in contemporary Russian high school textbooks, Post-Soviet Affairs 31, no. 1 (2015): 37–65. 86X.2014.942542. 8. Lindaman and Ward, History Lessons, xviii. 9. Schissler and Soysal, “Teaching beyond,” 2. 10. Crawford and Foster, War, Nation, Memory, 4. 11. Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research, History, para. 1, 3. Accessed January 11, 2017. html. 12. Eckhardt Fuchs and Steffen Sammler, eds. “Reconciliation and Understanding: International Textbook Work,” in Textbooks between Tradition and Innovation: A Journey through the History of the Georg Eckert Institute (Braunschweig: Leibniz Institute for International Textbook Research, 2016), 6. 13. Tony Judt, “The Past is Another Country: Myth and Memory in Postwar Europe,” in Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and Its Aftermath, ed. Istaván Deák, Jan T. Gross, and Tony Judt (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), 293. 14. Santoli, “Analysis of the Treatment.”



15. “World War 2 Statistics,” Second World War History. Accessed November 12, 2017. 16. Lily Rothman and Liz Ronk, “This is What Europe’s Last Major Refugee Crisis Looked Like (September 11, 2015), par 3. 17. Ronald A.  Francisco, “Theories of Protest and the Revolutions of 1989,” American Journal of Political Science 37, no. 3 (August 1993): 663. 18. Gale Stokes, The Walls Came Tumbling Down: The Collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe (New York: Oxford Press, 1993), 168. 19. R.J.B. Bosworth, “Nations Examine their Past: A Comparative Analysis of the Historiography of the ‘Long’ Second World War,” The History Teacher 39 (1996): 500. 20. Sonni Efron, “New Texts Reshape Past for Russians,” Los Angeles Times (September 25, 1994): 2. mn-42980_1_soviet-past. 21. Todd H.  Nelson, “History as Ideology: The Portrayal of Stalinism and the Great Patriotic War in Contemporary Russian High School Textbooks,” Post-­ Soviet Affairs 31, no. 1 (2015): 37–65. 86X.2014.942542. 22. Oksana Karpenko, “‘Prison of the Peoples’ and ‘Friendship of the Peoples’ in Soviet and Post-Soviet History Textbooks of the USSR/Russia,” Myths and Conflict in the South Caucasus 1, Okasana Karpenko, Jana Javakhishvili, eds. (London: International Alert, 2014), 135–136. 23. Ibid., 136. 24. Nelson, “History as Ideology,” 40. 25. Efron, “New Texts Reshape Past for Russians,” par. 10. 26. Peter Parish, ed. Reader’s Guide to American History (London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997), 693. 27. National Geographic Learning. The American Pageant. http://ngl.cengage. com/search/ 28. Thomas A. Bailey, The American Pageant (Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, 1956); David M. Kennedy and Lizabeth Cohen, The American Pageant, 16th ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing, 2016). 29. Tony Waters, “The Sacred and the Profane in American History Curriculum,” The Social Studies 98, no. 6 (Nov/Dec 2007): 246. 30. Tony Waters, “Why Students Think There are Two Kinds of American History,” The History Teacher 39, no. 1 (November 2005). 31. Bailey, The American Pageant, 880; Kennedy and Cohen, The American Pageant, 16th ed., 827. 32. Bodo von Borries, “The Third Reich in German History Textbooks since 1945,” Journal of Contemporary History 38, no 1. 33. Von Borrie, The Third Reich, 49. 34. John Rodden “The Uses and Abuses of History, or the Lessons of Progressive Pedagogy: An Analysis of East German History Textbooks, The Midwest Quarterly 43, no. 2 (December 2002): 207–223. 35. Von Borrie, The Third Reich, 52. 36. Brian M.  Puaca, Teaching Trauma and Responsibility: World War II in West German History Textbooks, New German Critique, No. 112, Ambivalent Sites of Memory in Postwar Germany (Winter, 2011): 135–153.



37. Von Borrie, The Third Reich, 55. 38. Robert Service, Stalin: A Biography (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005). 39. Vojtech Mastny, “Soviet War Aims at the Moscow and Teheran Conferences of 1943,” The Journal of Modern History 47, no. 3 (September 1975): 493–494. 40. Mastny, “Soviet War Aims.” 41. Antony Beever, The Second World War (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012), 514. 42. Thomas A Bailey and David M.  Kennedy, The American Pageant, 9th ed. (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company, 1991), 855. 43. Ibid. 44. Ibid. 45. Ibid., 859. 46. Martin Alm, “Europe in American World History Textbooks,” Journal of Transatlantic Studies 12, no. 3 (2014): 239. 012.2014.928024. 47. Bailey and Kennedy, The American Pageant, 856. 48. Alm, Europe. 49. A.A. Kreder, Noveishaia istoriia (Mockva: Interpraks, 1994), 154. 50. Ibid. 51. “The Yalta Conference (1945),” par. 10. Accessed December 13, 2017. http:// 52. Beever, The Second World War, 514. 53. Kreder, Noveishaia istoriia, 154. 54. Ibid., 159. 55. Robin Edmonds. “Yalta and Potsdam: Forty Years Afterwards,” International Affairs 62, no. 2 (Spring, 1986): 197–216. 56. Gail Stokes, The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Collapse and Rebirth in Eastern Europe (New York: Oxford Press, 2012), 245. 57. Serhii Plokhy, “Remembering Yalta: The Politics of International History.” The Harriman Review 17, no.1 (2009): 34–47. 58. Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin at the Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam Conferences, Journal of Cold War Studies 9, no. 4 (2007): 6. 59. Michael Beschloss, The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman, and the destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1941–1945 (New York; London: Simon & Schuster, 2003), 269. 60. Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research, German-Polish Joint History Textbook ‘Europa – unsere Geschichte’ (Europe – Our History), para. 3. Accessed March 11, 2018. 61. William Dray, Philosophy of History (New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc., 1964), 22. 62. Gail Stokes, The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Collapse and Rebirth in Eastern Europe (New York: Oxford Press, 2012), 245. 63. Serhii Plokhy, Remembering Yalta: The politics of international history, The Harriman Review 17, no. 1 (2009): 34–47.



References Alm, Martin. “Europe in American World History Textbooks.” Journal of Transatlantic Studies 12, no. 3 (2014): 237–257. 8024. Bailey, Thomas A. The American Pageant. Boston, MA: D.C.  Heath and Company, 1956. Bailey, Thomas A., and David M. Kennedy. The American Pageant, 9th ed. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company, 1991. Bosworth, R.J.B. “Nations Examine Their Past: A Comparative Analysis of the Historiography of the ‘Long’ Second World War.” The History Teacher 39, no. 4 (1996): 499–523. Cichowlas, Ola. “How Russian Kids Are Taught World War II.” The Moscow Times, May 8, 2017. Cowell, Alan. “Teaching Nazi Past to German Youth.” New York Times, June 9, 1995. Crawford, Keith, and Stuart J. Foster. War, Nation, Memory: International Perspectives on World War II in School History Textbook. Charlotte: Information Age Publishing, 2008. Davis, O.L. “Foreword.” In War, Nation, Memory: International Perspectives on World War II in School History Textbook, edited by Keith Crawford and Stuart J.  Foster, xiii–xvi. Charlotte: Information Age Publishing, 2008. De Castell, Suzanne. “Teaching the Textbook: Teacher/Text Authority and the Problem of Interpretation.” Linguistics and Education 2, no. 1 (1990): 75–90. Dray, William H. Philosophy of History. New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc., 1964. Edmonds, Robin. “Yalta and Potsdam: Forty Years Afterwards.” International Affairs 62, no. 2 (1986): 197–216. Efron, Sonni. “New Texts Reshape Past for Russians.” LA Times, September 25, 1994. Foster, Stuart, and Jason Nicholls. “America in World War II: An Analysis of History Textbooks from England, Japan, Sweden, and the United States.” Journal of Curriculum and Supervision 20, no. 3 (2005): 214–233. Francisco, Ronald A. “Theories of Protest and the Revolutions of 1989.” American Journal of Political Science 37, no. 3 (1993): 663–680. Fuchs, Eckhardt, and Steffen Stammler. Textbooks Between Tradition and Innovation: A Journey Through the History of the Georg Eckert Institute. Braunschweig: Georg Eckert Institute-Leibniz Institute for International Textbook Research, 2016. “Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research.” German-Polish Joint History Textbook ‘Europa  – unsere Geschichte’ (Europe  – Our History). Accessed March 11, 2018. “Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research.” History. Accessed November 1, 2017. Judt, Tony. “The Past Is Another Country: Myth and Memory in Postwar Europe.” In Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and Its Aftermath, edited by Istaván



Deák, Jan T. Gross, and Tony Judt, 293–324. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000. Karpenko, Oksana. “‘Prison of Peoples’ and ‘Friendship of Peoples’ in Soviet and Post-­ Soviet History Textbooks of the USSR/Russia,” In Myths and Conflict in the South Caucasus, Volume 1, edited by Oksana Karpenko and Jana Javakhishvili, 134–164. London: International Alert, 2013. Kennedy, David M., and Lizabeth Cohen. The American Pageant, 16th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing, 2016. Kreder, A.A. Noveishaia Istoriaa. Mockva: Interpraks, 1994. Lindaman, Dana, and Kyle Ward. History Lessons: How Textbooks from Around the World Portray US History. New York: The New Press, 2016. Mastny, Vojtech. “Soviet War Aims at the Moscow and Teheran Conferences of 1943.” The Journal of Modern History 47, no. 3 (1975): 493–494. Nelson, Todd H. “History as Ideology: The Portrayal of Stalinism and the Great Patriotic War in Contemporary Russian High School Textbooks,” Post-Soviet Affairs 31, no. 1 (2015), 37–65. Office of the Historian. “Potsdam.” Milestones 1937–1945. Accessed November 3, 2017. Office of the Historian. “The Tehran Conference, 1943.” Milestones 1937–1945. Office of the Historian. “Yalta.” Milestones 1937–1945. Accessed November 3, 2017. Parish, Peter J., ed. Reader’s Guide to American History. London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997. Phillion, JoAnn, Ming Fang He, and Michael F.  Connelly. SAGE Handbooks of Curriculum and Instruction. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2008. Plokhy, Serhii. “Remembering Yalta: The Politics of International History.” The Harriman Review 17, no. 1 (2009): 34–47. “Potsdam Conference.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessed October 29, 2017. Puaca, Brian M. “Teaching Trauma and Responsibility: World War II in West German History Textbooks.” New German Critique, no. 3 (September 1975): 135–153. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. “Voronezh Legislature Criticizes New History Textbooks.” Newsline, October 31, 1997. html. Roberts, Geoffrey. “Stalin at the Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam Conferences.” Journal of Cold War Studies 9, no. 4 (2007): 6–40. Rodden, John. “The Uses and Abuses of History, or the Lessons of Progressive Pedagogy: An Analysis of East German History Textbooks.” The Midwest Quarterly 43, no. 2 (Winter 2002): 207–223. Rothman, Lily, and Liz Ronk. “This Is What Europe’s Last Major Refugee Crisis Looked Like.” Time, September 11, 2015. Santoli, Susan P. “Analysis of the Treatment Given to Selected Aspects of World War II in Secondary School History Textbooks. Published in France, Germany, Great UK, Japan, Russia, and the United States.” PhD thesis, Auburn University, 1997. Schissler, Hanna, and Yasemin Nuhoglu Soysal, eds. The Nation, Europe, and the World: Textbooks and Curricula in Transition. New York: Berghahn Books, 2005.



Spartacus Educational. “Potsdam.” Accessed October 25, 2017. Spartacus Educational. “Yalta.” Accessed October 25, 2017. Stokes, Gale. The Walls Came Tumbling Down: The Collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. New York: Oxford Press, 1993. ———. The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Collapse and Rebirth in Eastern Europe. New York: Oxford Press, 2012. “The Yalta Conference (1945).” Accessed December 13, 2017. “Truman Doctrine 1947.” Accessed December 12, 2017. Von Borries, Bodo. “The Third Reich in German History Textbooks Since 1945.” Journal of Contemporary History 38, no. 1 (2003): 45–62. Von Wolfgang, Hug, Jochaim Hoffman, Elmar Kruatkrämer, Franz Bahl, and Wilfred Danner. Unsere Geschichte [Our History]. Germany, 1991. Warren, James A. “How Potsdam Gave Birth to the Cold War.” The Daily Beast, July 19, 2015. Waters, Tony. “Why Students Think There Are Two Kinds of American History.” The History Teacher 39, no. 1 (November 2005): 11–21. ———. “The Sacred and the Profane in American History Curriculum.” The Social Studies 98, no. 1 (November/December 2007): 246–250. “World War 2 Statistics.” Second World War History. Accessed December 11, 2017. “‘Big Three’ Meet at Yalta.” Accessed December 13, 2017. http:// “Yalta Conference.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessed November 4, 2017. http://


They Wandered Far and Wide: The Scottish Soldier in the Australian Imperial Force Fraser Brown

Introduction In the Central Hall of the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle sits the leather-bound Rolls of Honour naming those 4303 Scots men and women of Scottish descent from Australia who died in the Great War, while on local memorials, published Rolls of Honour and Rolls of Service all over Scotland the simple designation “Australians” appears time and again after the names of local men. Of course, the Australian contingent was not the only assemblage of Scots from the Empire and beyond which returned to fight, and neither was it the largest. This mass return of Scots, described by Jane Carmichael in the foreword to Common Cause: Commonwealth Scots and the Great War,1 driven “by a strong sense of Scottish identity and allegiance to their original roots” included men from every part of the Empire and beyond. As Sir Tom Devine points out, the Scottish diaspora was nothing if not wide in its spread and very long lasting.2 In fact, the year 1914 saw Scottish outward migration reach one of its many peaks, yet within months of the outbreak of war, what amounted to Scottish return military migration of multinational origin in time of war rapidly took shape. Some, like the Scots from South America, Europe, and Asia and beyond arrived and joined their local regiments straight away. However, the largest numbers by far arrived with the imperial contingents of Canada, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. It is on the Australian element of this movement that this chapter focuses.

F. Brown (*) Honorary Research Fellow, University of Dundee, Perth, Scotland e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




In terms of Britain as a whole, the greater patriotic narrative of the defence of the motherland in her hour of need appeared at all levels of British wartime press reporting on the Australians but so too did the collective image of the Digger recently described by Allan and Forsyth in Common Cause as the “scruffy, unflappable veteran of Gallipoli, Pozieres and Romani,” whose success as practitioners of efficient, effective, and gallant soldiering was never in doubt.3 In a sense, the old joke published in the local Scottish dialect in the widely read Peoples Journal in 1917 with a punch line loosely translated as “I knew they were Australians because of the kangaroo feathers in their hats” was redundant long before publication: the readers of that newspaper had known all about Australians—with or without kangaroo feathers—since the first days of the war.4 Nevertheless, when the focus moves from the Australian contingent as a whole to discussion of individual men, and from the national to the local perception of that contingent, it becomes clear there were other important dimensions to the public perception of the Australian soldier that could exist only at the local level of village, town, and county and which can be found in the local press. The fact was that unless an individual was a nationally known Australian hero, Australian Imperial Force (AIF) men named in the wartime Scottish local press were almost always either returned local Scots Australians or Australian-­ born men of Scottish heritage. Because of that, this localised perception was a view most often based on previous knowledge of individuals expanded by the contents of reports produced and delivered by very active small local newspapers printing comparatively low numbers of copies but with very high levels of local readership within the towns and villages of wartime Scotland.5 These were the newspapers which Catriona MacDonald writing in Scotland and the Great War believes played a crucial mediating role in forming a war narrative in Scotland which encouraged identification with an “imagined community” from which emerged an “identifiably Scottish war effort” with an imperial dimension.6 The Australian element of that dimension was fed by letters home from local Scots and Australian soldiers published in the local press, face-to-face meetings during leave in Scotland or in areas of operations, the placement of Australians in slouch hats in the endless composite newspaper pictures of families at war, notice of the deaths, wounding, and awards involving Australian troops as covered by local newspapers. This coverage drove deepening local perceptions of the Australian soldier as the war progressed. The result was that discussion of both Scots and Australian-born men of the AIF in the press was not of anonymous members of an imperial or allied contingent such as the Indians or Americans of whom the average Scot knew little, but of individual Australian soldiers. This chapter shows that local perception of the Australian military identity was essentially shaped both by the tone and content of reports of local Scottish Australians in the press. This perception was in no sense a replacement for the collective image of the Diggers described earlier, but rather a regional enhancement of it. It is the key elements of this dimension of the Scottish per-



ception of the Australian soldier of local birth or heritage from the 42nd Regimental Area of Forfarshire, Perthshire, Fife, and the city of Dundee in the north-east of Scotland that this chapter explores.7

Placing the Australian Contingent Within the Return Migration In a general sense, almost nothing appears to have been published regarding local or even national perceptions in Scotland of men involved in the return military migration of the Great War. Instead, recent discussion of Scottish return migration has been in terms of Scots as sojourners, roots tourism or Scottish networks, and when soldiers were mentioned it was in terms of pre-­ Great War service.8 In Australia, attention has been directed towards the influence of pre- and post-Great War Scottish migrant military tradition there, as well as the extent of Scottish influences both within the units of the AIF and on their character and structure.9 The role of that war in shaping a new Australian national identity as well as the place of uniformity of Australian military structures in that process has also been discussed recently. However, at time of writing, no in-depth Scottish national or regional study dealing with the AIF has been found either describing the Australian Scots’ place within the greater Scottish Great War return migration, or estimating the extent of their presence in the Australian contingent. Above all, no study has been found which examines how the returnees were regarded in their communities of origin. As a necessary first step in the exploration of local perceptions of the Australian soldier in this chapter, it is important to estimate both the place of the Australian contingent within the return migration amongst men from the 42nd Area and what percentage of local men killed in action were Australians. The most appropriate place to start is the Roll of Honour of Arbroath and District, the memorial book of the town which is the site of the annual ANZAC Day commemoration in the north-east of Scotland.10 It contains a short ­biography of every man from Arbroath killed in the Great War, including all of those known to have returned from overseas. Table 16.1 shows the range of countries involved, but at least three men are known to have returned from Argentina and France and survived, so these countries do not appear. In terms of the percentage of returnees killed in the 42nd Area, reference to other memorial books and war memorials show Arbroath is not widely out of line with the other towns at almost 11 per cent, of which around 1 per cent were Australian. Dundee returnees amounted to 9 per cent of all dead, with Australians killed at almost 2 per cent. Returnees to the small country town of Crieff in rural Perthshire amounted to 12 per cent, with 2 per cent Australians.12 Perth lost 1101 men of whom almost 2 per cent were Australians, and on the 67 parish memorials of Perthshire, many of which are in remote areas and with no more than a handful of names, 25 name at least one Australian soldier.13 The situation in Fife and Angus was very similar; so overall, it is likely AIF men constituted around 2.5 per cent of local war dead in the 42nd Area.



Table 16.1  Countries of origin of returnees to Arbroath killed in action Country of origin

Number killed

Canada New Zealand Australia South Africa United States India Mexico Japan Paraguay Total killed n = 795

51 7 7 7 7 4 1 1 1 86 or 10.8%

Source: Roll of Honour Arbroath and District11

What is more striking is that when the Scottish national statistics are considered and the figure of 11,713 AIF men who admitted Scottish birth on their Attestation Forms completed on enlistment in Australia is compared with the figure of 4303 names of AIF men killed in action as recorded in the Scottish National War Memorial, the ratio of served to killed is exceptionally high at barely under three to one. Similarly, if the figure of 147,000 or the number of names on the Scottish National War memorial is taken as the total number of Scottish dead, then Australians made up almost 3 per cent of the Scottish fallen. Yet even as the first of these deaths were being reported in the local wartime press, it will be seen that there was one constant inescapable feature of the writing: these men were defined in service and in death, above all, as Australians. They may once have been friends, neighbours, and even kin, but as part of the Scottish military return diaspora, a significant and rapid change had taken place in their personal identity. They were no longer in the parlance of the times simply Scottish exiles returned to their own as they would have been before or after the war, but rather Australian soldiers of Scottish birth or heritage returned in arms in defence of the Empire.

Fostering Perceptions of AIF: National Identification in Life and Death and Partnership in Empire The mechanism of this change in personal identity lay in the form and content of local press reports. Under normal circumstances, during the Great War, individual Australians or members of other imperial contingents were seldom mentioned by name in the local Scottish press unless they were either very high-ranking soldiers, men with strong local connections or within a very limited range of other circumstances. These included news of their enlistment in Australia as recorded in local Muster Rolls in Scotland, death, wounds, and any gallantry award they received. Occasionally, they were mentioned in reports of their visits to ancestral areas or more commonly when their letters outlining



their experiences were published in the newspapers. Discussion of major actions involving individual national contingents followed a different pattern, but it is very noticeable that when individual local Australians were reported on, there was a near universal tendency to first identify them as Australians whether they had lived in Australia for a few years or were second or later generation Australians. It is also clear from reading local newspapers that this was not an acknowledgement or statement of Australian particularism but rather contemporary military protocol as adopted and then applied by the local newspapers, for the same pattern of identification prevailed when men from any of the other imperial contingents were mentioned. Even so, when it is remembered that during the Great War, an individual Scottish soldier’s primary military identity was regimental, there is another more subtle aspect to the use of this form of words in article headings which also applied to local Scots serving in both Scottish and Australian units. In the case of the Scottish soldiers in Scottish units headings like “Forfar Gordon Killed” or “Commission for Dundee Royal Scot’” stresses the regimental identity whereas in the headings associated with the Australians such as “Leven Australian’s M.M.” or “Kirriemuir Australian Dies of Wounds,” it is the national identity that is emphasised. As far as the individual Australian soldier was concerned, his military family identity was set by battalion, and that of the serving Scotsman by regiment, but for the civilian population the Australian soldiers identity—whether he was personally known to them or not—was above all national and therefore Australian. Moreover, because no Australian-­ Scottish units like the Canadian or South African Scottish existed, Australian identity remained unchallenged. The population of the 42nd Regimental Area was constantly reminded of this by the format of almost every notice of an AIF death, for the most uncompromising statement of Australian military identity in the local press came in reports of Australians killed in action. When announcement of the death of an Australian soldier was made, the normal military proprietaries such as rank and unit were always observed, but beyond that, when death notices were longer than a bald announcement in the Deaths column, men were always clearly first identified as Australians, then by family, but then were invariably slotted back into that local life they had left through details of work and leisure activities. A typical example of the level of detail involved can be seen in the obituary of Arbroath-born Lance Corporal George Gray in June, 1915. Not only was his trade and former employer noted but also his membership of the local amateur dramatic society where he had been one of the team painting scenery. He had been a member of the Forfarshire Battery, Royal Field Artillery acting as range finder for several years before moving to Melbourne seven years before his death in the Dardanelles. However, in death he was indelibly marked as an Australian. Apart from alerting old friends of Gray’s fate, one other effect that the format and content of the death notices appears to have had on the local population was that it affirmed the idea that the Australians were very serious and reliable partners in Empire. The same theme appears regularly as seen in a



letter written in December, 1914 from Alexander Anderson then resident in Sydney to his brother John in Arbroath, which leaves no doubt as to the extent of how in much “the people out here are as in earnest about the preservation of the British Empire as the people in the old country.”14 He wrote how soldiers were everywhere and that three boats full of men very recently set off for the front would most likely proceed to “Old Dart” for further training. However, as well as naming another man from Forfarshire who had enlisted in Australia, unusually he clearly stated what he saw as the reason for the war: “I feel that Britain has not rushed into the war but entered it simply because she wanted to keep her treaty obligation with less fortunate friends on the continent.”15 As far as anyone reading this was concerned, here was a local man, now writing from a country of the Empire confirming their own thoughts and feelings, and above all, displaying imperial solidarity. It was also clear to local Scots from what they read that Australians reacted in the same way to events as they no doubt hoped local men would have, so that when the news of the sinking of the Lusitania appeared in the Australian press the three Bruce brothers from Anstruther in Fife immediately enlisted in Australia for overseas service.16 Private Andrew Brunton from Inchture in rural Perthshire joined the Australian Army immediately on hearing of his brother’s death in a Scottish unit in 1915.17 The idea that he was “going to fight because he felt it was his duty” as expressed by Duncan Mitchell, resident of Alpha in Queensland at his send off on 27 April 1915, was not an unusual sentiment to appear in reports of send offs, but neither by that point in the war was the idea that this was not to be “anything like a pleasure trip.”18 Even so, the message to the readers was clear: Australians did their duty just as Scots did theirs. At times, longer letters would appear which did offer some insight into the thinking of Scots born Australians who wrote either to their families or friends in Scotland, or on occasion to their old local newspaper. The Arbroath Herald received at least two such letters and a postcard from Corporal Salmond and addressed to Savant, the author of the football section of the paper. Corporal Salmond had been a well-known footballer in Arbroath and an experienced member of the Arbroath Battery of the Royal Field Artillery Territorial Force before he arrived in Australia in June, 1914. Like so many of the other letter writers, he had occasional access to copies of his old local paper and was very interested in the published lists of enlistments in the paper’s Muster Roll. He was not slow to ask Savant to tell anyone who was not in uniform “to get into the kilts right now.”19 However, what had prompted him to write the first letter to the Herald published on 17September 1915 was that his unit as part of the Second Australian Division was under orders to deploy to Gallipoli and would move by the end of that week. Leaving aside the question of whether or not a censor ever saw this letter, Salmond remarked that while he might have expected to have gone to war as part of a traditional Scottish regiment, he was very proud to be “part of a new Colonial army which has covered itself in glory at the storming of Gaba Tepe” and in doing so clearly stated not only his Australian credentials but also his Scottish roots.



Letters from the Front, Incidents at Home: Evidence of an Ethos of Effective, Efficient, Humane—And Sometimes Unorthodox Soldiering The amount of published information sent back to the 42nd Regimental Area by local men in the AIF covering actions they took part in was substantial by any reckoning and often surprisingly detailed. One of the best examples of this can be found in the Perthshire Advertiser under the heading “Interesting Letter to Perth Gentleman” in which Private A.  Ewan, Second Field Ambulance, Australian Army Medical Corps, described the Gallipoli landings as observed from his position in the rear echelon with the medical teams.20 As the war progressed, letters from serving Australians increasingly indicated the extent to which the Australians in general could be relied on to be effective soldiers who had learned their trade and who knew their business. Another highly detailed but much more discrete and clearly self-censored letter headed “With the ANZACS in France” published in September 1916, but written on 31 July by Lieutenant Guthrie appeared in the Fife Free Press.21 In this case, as with the other letters, there is no doubt as to its authenticity because the author and his family background are clearly identified. His description of life in reserve echelon with the inevitable move from fatigues like road building to moving up in support of the assault troops, occupying the German lines and dugouts as part of that process, gave a flavour of the way troops deployed in a logistical role away from the front line. In fact, it could be said that Captain Guthrie’s letter like so many other similar communications, many of which were never meant to have been seen by the public, reinforced one of the key features of the Australian military ethos as promoted by Captain C.E.W. Bean in his dispatches and remarked on by many others: Australians were effective and efficient soldiers in any situation. This impression was confirmed time and again by local men in Scottish units who met Australians in areas of operations. Examples of letters from Australians serving in Egypt were not uncommon and one in particular written from the Aerodrome Camp, Heliopolis, in January 1916 is fairly typical in that it notes not only the intensity of the physical part of infantry training carried out but is also one of many examples of Australians meeting Scots from their own home town, either in Australian or British uniform.22 In this case, the seven men involved were from the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry, a Scottish Territorial unit which recruited across the 42nd Regimental Area. Meetings of this type were not solely an Australian preserve, but there seem to have been far fewer stories of Scottish-born members of other contingents meeting on the battlefield. In another such example drawn from of the rural Perthshire, when Private Ebenezer Robertson of Ballinluig serving with the Australians appeared on recuperation leave from France, he too supported the idea of an Australian ethos of effective and efficient soldiering in his comment “that for dash and daring there was nothing equal to the Australians, except perhaps the Scots.”23



When Australians appeared in Scotland, they confirmed this impression and there was no doubt that there was also a parallel pull of kinship on the part of the local population or perhaps more accurately a pride in fellow Scots who were seen as having done the right thing by returning to fight. There was also a thread of common humanity which ran through the Australian ranks and which was generally displayed in accordance with military convention—and occasionally in direct contravention of that format. In accordance with what was considered proper military conduct, personal letters of condolence were sent by Australian regimental officers to the next of kin of Australian dead, and in the 42nd Regimental Area and elsewhere in Scotland, these were frequently printed verbatim in the local newspaper. It was not unusual to find, as in the case of Corporal Mudie from Dundee, that both a letter from the Chaplain and one from a comrade were also published.24 These were greatly appreciated by the recipients as were other communications such as that sent by his officer to the parents of Sergeant D.  Fraser on the arrival of his posthumous Military Medal after his death in 1916. The anonymous officer assured his parents that not only was he a loss to both them and the Australian Army but also “his magnificent conduct on the fields of battle helped earn for the Australian soldiers a fame which would endure as long as memory lasts.”25 The fact that many local men serving in Scottish units were treated in the Australian Clearing Stations, particularly in 1918, meant more written contact with previously unknown Australians took place than might be thought as Australian Sisters wrote to widows and mothers explaining how their husbands and sons had died. Sometimes these letters were published verbatim, often comprising of detailed accounts of the wounds, treatment given and a reassurance everything had been done that could have been done. The effect on families when these letters were received can be imagined but in the case of Private William Taylor from Kirkcaldy, for example, a letter from a named official such as Sister Fleming, Head Sister in Charge of No. 1 Australian Clearing Station published in the Fife Free Press in June 1918, would have meant all of Kirkcaldy and well beyond would have read that letter.26 On a more unconventional level, a number of additional individual incidents were very important in increasing Australian prestige and particularly the idea that the Australian soldier was a decent sort of man, but one in particular would have struck a chord in the 42nd Area, if for no other reason, that it touched on the thorny issue of men missing in action and the length of time the British took to declare them dead. The Perthshire Advertiser published an article in August 1917, entitled “Message from the Dead” subtitled “Kindly Act by an Australian,” which must be seen as important in forming local opinion of Australians and still remains within Black Watch regimental memory.27 It involved an Australian soldier who was never named and whose background was never mentioned but who had been part of a group on the old battlefield of Delville Wood where 12 Black Watch men missing since 30July, 1916 lay unburied, or perhaps had been disinterred by shell fire. The Australians buried the Black Watch men and attempted to identify them, collecting what evidence



of identity there was as per standard practice. One Australian who knew he would be in Dundee within a few days found and kept a pay-book with the Soldiers Will page intact belonging to Private Andrew Imrie of Tulloch in Perth, who, unknown to him, was a well-known local sportsman. When he arrived in Dundee, the anonymous Australian sacrificed a precious day of leave and set off for Perth where he searched for and quickly found the family. The document was handed over to the parents who now knew beyond all doubt the fate of their son. The family were recorded as desperately sorry to have their worst fears confirmed, but extremely grateful to at least have the pay-book as a memento, while the act of returning it was seen as a self-imposed task deserving of great thanks. What the parents may not have been aware of, but serving soldiers would have known, is that by keeping the pay-book and acting as he did, the Australian had taken a massive risk because he had broken regulations relating to possessions of men killed in action and could have suffered very serious disciplinary consequences.

Face-to-Face Contact in Scotland and the Idea of “Good Stock” But other Australian visitors on more pleasant visits also arrived. That was particularly true of men who had been born in Australia and who returned as wounded men on recuperation leave to ancestral areas. At times discrete notes like “On Furlough—Mr and Mrs John Reid, Commercial Street, were visited by their son Lieutenant D. Reid, Australian Forces, who was accompanied by Lieutenant Mortimer of the same contingent” appeared regularly, and increased after the successful introduction of the scheme to give Australians with no relatives in Britain leave addresses which began to appear in local newspapers in mid-1917 and again in 1918.28 The Arbroath Herald reported on two such cases in Arbroath in September and October, 1915.29 The first case involved one Australian of Arbroath stock who returned with an Australian-born friend from a convalescent hospital in the south of England to visit relatives he had never met before and who he only knew of through family reminiscence, while the second case involved Australian-born Gunner J.D. Gordon whose parents had left Arbroath 23 years before and who had returned with a friend to visit his aunt in Arbroath. The short article was quick to point out in glowing terms that these men had become “bosom friends while fighting in the same good cause” but had been wounded at Gallipoli. These were “strapping young colonial heroes who had returned to help the mother country in her hour of need,” essentially optimistic as to the course of the war and men who could be relied, in the parlance of the times, to stick it or fight on to the end of the war. As would be expected of a small town paper, the description given of Gunner Gordon’s Arbroath connections was very detailed, and it was made clear that these were men of “good stock,” who had done well like Gordon’s father who was Superintendent of the Electric Railway in Victoria. But within this and



other similar short pieces, the achievements of the family in Australia were highlighted in such a way as to ensure that Australia was portrayed as a land of achievement and that Gunner Gordon and his friends were her sons cast of the same mould. The idea that the men of the Australian contingent were of so-called good stock, meaning of good and respectable family and therefore could be relied on to do their duty, was stated widely in the local press, and it was the case that a number of Australians serving or who had been killed in action were well connected within the 42nd Area. One example of this were two nephews of J.M. Barrie, a native of Kirriemuir and author of the famous story Peter Pan [1904], who served with the Australians. Other men like Rev. D.M. Stewart, chaplain in the AIF, were from families long settled in Australia. In that case as a mark of respect on visiting his ancestral district of Pitlochry in Perthshire after over 30  years’ absence, he was invited to preach from the old pulpit of his father who had been minister of Pitlochry Free Church.30 On another occasion, in the same area at the funeral of the Fergusson Laird of Baledmund, one of the pall bearers was his nephew Colonel Stewart of the Australian Forces while the heir to that estate had been wounded as a Royal Navy Lieutenant at Gallipoli while serving with the Australians.31 If of “good stock” meant those with connections to the aristocracy, then Sergeant Robert Adam, heir to Sir Charles Adam, Bart., owner of the large Blairadam estate in Fife killed in August 1916 before his commissioning papers arrived fitted the bill, but it must be made very clear that in the public mind there is no doubt that the idea of “good stock” covered all Australians, not only the well connected.32 It is also in that sense of “good stock” that the raft of light-hearted snippets of news about the Australians in Scotland and those items which were published in the Scottish local press about Australia are best viewed. As would be expected in wartime, it was clear from the earliest comments in the local press regarding the Australians that the tenor of reporting on the contingent was overwhelmingly positive and not surprisingly that continued to be the case for the rest of the war. On one level, there was a constant stream of short articles or notes about Australian soldiers, often humorous or sad in tone, and which often involved children in some way but always showed the Australian soldier as a decent man, again of “good stock.” One incident widely reported at both national and local level which shows this trend concerned an Australian soldier whose visit to his old school in London was interrupted by a Zeppelin raid but who reputedly calmed the children as much by his presence as by anything he said or did. Meanwhile, readers and members of the Sunbeam Club, a column written by Sadie Sunbeam for very young children which appeared in the widely read locally based Peoples Journal were informed of the death of former local Sunbeam, Captain A.C. Small M.C. of the AIF. News of the award of his Military Cross and his visit to the newspaper office had appeared in the column months earlier, and now Sunbeams were invited to “extend heart-felt sympathy to Lieutenant Small’s mother.”33



On a lighter note, in the 42nd Regimental Area, a flood of little articles fed the idea that the Australian soldier was a good sport—and a very human soldier. The report of Australian soldiers taking part in a flood-lit curling tournament on ice at Rothes in Fife no doubt raised a few local smiles, partly because the article made clear these men had never seen ice and snow before, and partly because in their opinion the experience of curling made up for the extra duties they would get for overstaying their leave.34 A number of Australian-Scottish weddings were reported in very jolly terms in the fashion of the times with descriptions of the bridal party and bride’s bouquets tied in ribbons of the Australian bridegroom’s unit colours.35 Other snippets of information regarding the activities of Australians on leave showed up in unusual places: Sergeant Major N. Campbell’s ten shillings donation to the Perth Station Barrow which served free tea and sandwiches to soldiers in transit through Perth kept company with the same sum donated that day by Lady Christian Ogilvy of Airlie and the £4 raised by the children of tiny rural Clunie and Kilspindie Public Schools. This kind of exposure was continuous and good examples are not hard to find. The Dundee Courier reported on numerous occasions including in July 1916, how local children also responded to what they saw as Australian generosity and sacrifice by raising money for the purchase of soldiers’ comforts for their men in France, while on various occasions school log books report when the Australians along with other soldiers on leave visited schools, they would be solemnly presented with what was referred to as a token of esteem—most often cigarettes bought for them by the pupils, then handed over in a very formal little ceremony by the oldest pupil present. What Lieutenant Sweetham of the AIF thought when asked to judge the children’s dance competition at the Bankfoot Village Sports in aid of YMCA Huts in April 1918 can only be guessed at, but even so, the continual exposure of Australian soldiers to this type of press coverage gives the impression that the Australian presence in the 42nd Regimental Area was perhaps greater than it actually was. Nevertheless, when Driver Rudder died unexpectedly of appendicitis in Dundee in 1915, and another Australian fell to his death from what appears to have been a badly lit stair head in Ogilvy Street in Dundee, enough Australians were to be found on leave in the city to act as pall bearers.36

Australians and the Idea of the “Fighting Family” It was also the case where several brothers were in uniform and the father had been a soldier, that the idea these local families were “fighting families” appeared in the press. These articles were usually accompanied by a composite picture showing images of all of the family and almost always an Australian soldier would be present, but although this idea did appear with regard to the majority of large families with sons fighting in the AIF, this was not solely an Australian preserve. Even so, in a significant number of cases there was a sense in which the extended links of family involvement in the war were stressed so



that the example of Sapper A. Mitchell of the Australian Mining Corps from Broken Hill who had returned to Dundee after 31 years in Australia was not unusual.37 He, like a number of other men was an old soldier, holding the Egyptian Campaign Medal and the Khedives Star, and as the article pointed out, “had many relatives serving King and country at this time” including a son with the Australian forces, a son in training, and a son-in-law in the trenches. Similarly, Captain William Dewar, AIF, whose mother had five sons and two sons-in-law serving, and who was a Boer war veteran from Dundee, landed at Gallipoli with a younger brother in the same regiment and a brother-in-law in a Scottish unit. All three were wounded on the first day of the action and returned to Dundee at different times.38 Even so, in spite of these examples, the idea of “fighting families” must be highly questionable, for by the end of the war, so many men served in the armed services that almost everyone came from a fighting family. However, as the records of the AIF men published online by the National Archives of Australia indicate, previous military service was common amongst men from the 42nd Area. On enlistment, men were questioned about previous military or naval service and answers were recorded on the military form Attestation Paper of Persons Enlisted for Service Abroad under Questions 10, 11, and 12. In the case of the city of Dundee, the largest concentration of population in the 42nd Area, the Archive shows 485 Dundee-born men fought with the AIF. Australians recorded on the Dundee Roll of Honour as fallen number 106 and of these 103 records of the Dundee-born men can be examined in terms of Questions 10, 11, and 12. Those men admitting previous significant military or naval experience numbered almost 37 per cent. Their service covered a wide range of types ranging from that of 14 time-expired men from British infantry regiments, while 15 men had served in Dundee-based Territorial Force or old Volunteer units including service with the Black Watch or with the Royal Garrison Artillery. Another nine men were members of the Royal Naval Reserve and most were former Royal Navy personnel. This figure, if repeated across the entire Scots Australian contingent would indicate a high level of military experience amongst recruits, although some of that same experience would have been of variable quality.39 When the Archive is searched under “Dundee Scotland” and Item “B245” [AIF Service Records] the results are more surprising. In that case of the 485 men of Dundee birth of whom 106 would die, 224 of the men admitted previous military experience within the terms of the same Questions 10, 11, and 12. Exactly 150 Dundee-born men who volunteered to serve in the AIF had service with the British Regular, Territorial, or old Volunteers, while another 52 of the much younger Dundee-born men who may well have arrived in Australia as children admitted previous service within the Australian system including time spent with the Citizens Forces, service in Australia or New Guinea, previous service in the AIF before discharge, or as cadets or very occasionally with various rifle clubs which the attesting authorities appear to have recognised as military service. The same situation prevailed in Perth, the county town of



Perthshire where of the 20 local men killed in the AIF, of the 18 records searchable in these terms, 9 had been significant previous service either with the regular army of the Territorial Force. When the Archive is searched further under the same terms very similar results are returned for the smaller towns and settlements of the 42nd Area. The final figure of 43 per cent of locally born men from towns and cities other than Dundee and Perth admitting previous military service is certainly a reasonable figure bearing in mind the Dundee and Perth figures of 46 and 50 per cent, respectively, but it is also clear that in the smaller communities, as elsewhere, there were wide variations which almost certainly had little to do with the idea of the “fighting family.” High figures for Forfar and Arbroath, for example, also reflect the very active nature of the pre-war Territorial Force units in these towns, for this was the recruiting area of the crack Fifth (Angus) Battalion, Black Watch, the first Scottish Territorial Battalion to go to France in 1914. The same can be said for the 100 per cent figure for previous service of Scottish migrants from Aberfeldy, which was probably due to the influence of the charismatic Black Watch Territorial Company Commander Lieutenant Wyllie, who later commanded the Sixth (Perthshire) Battalion. Previous service in the regular army followed by migration to Australia and the apparent success they enjoyed there also says a great deal more about employment prospects in Australia for time-expired British soldiers than anything else.

Conclusion Even so, returning to the local perceptions of Australian soldiers which this chapter explores, a number of points can be made. In general terms, the image of the Great War Digger as the “scruffy, unflappable veteran of Gallipoli, Pozieres and Romani” mentioned earlier was not created by the local press of the 42nd Area, but everything it had to say about Australian troops reflected that reputation and enhanced it. The quality and frequency of the reporting of Australian casualties in the local newspapers of the 42nd Area ensured the extent of the Australian sacrifice, as witnessed by the numbers of their dead, was understood by all. Australians of Scottish birth and heritage were paying dearly for their defence of the Empire and the local population were well aware of that. At the local level, there was also a distinct hint in the press coverage that for many people during the war years, the Australian soldier was Australia. Their gallantry was reflected in and acknowledged by the numbers of announcements in the local press of decorations awarded to local men now in Australian uniform, and their performance as practitioners of effective and efficient soldiering was testified to by letters from Scots in Australian and British uniforms alike. Finally, these men were seen as good men of “good stock” with a fundamental decency and humanity about them, who were reliable partners in Empire and who could be depended on to “stick it.” In short, these men were regarded as very good friends in very hard times.



Notes 1. Stuart Allan and David Forsyth, Common Cause: Commonwealth Scots and the Great War (Edinburgh: N.M.S., 2014), vii. 2. T.M. Devine, To the Ends of the Earth: Scotland’s Global Diaspora (London: Alan Lane, 2011), 289–290. 3. Stuart and Forsyth, Common Cause, 138. 4. Peoples Journal, April 14, 1917. [All Editions.] 5. The 42nd Area was covered by 39 newspapers. One provided daily coverage in Dundee and another, the Dundee Courier covered the entire Area in different editions. The remainder, including the Peoples Journal which covered almost all of Scotland in different editions, were generally published on a weekly basis. 6. Catriona MacDonald, “Race, Riot and Representations of War,” in Scotland and the Great War, edited by Catriona Macdonald and E.W. McFarland (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1999), 150. 7. See Map. 8. Tanja Bueltman, Andrew Hinson and Graeme Morton. The Scottish Diaspora (Edinburgh: E.U.P., 2013), 132–147. 9. Craig Tibbits, “‘A military fervour akin to religious fanaticism:’ Scottish Military Identity in the Australian Imperial Force.” In A Global Force: War, Identities and Scotland’s Diaspora, edited by David Forsyth and Wendy Ugolini, 128–149 (Edinburgh: E.U.P., 2016). 10. Anon, Arbroath and District Roll of Honour 1914–1919 (Arbroath: T. Buncle & Co., 1921). 11. Ibid. 12. A. McGregor, Comrie War Memorial (Perth: Perthshire Advertiser, 1921). 13. Golden Book: Perth and Perthshire Roll of Honour (Perth: Munro and Scott, 1928). 14. Arbroath Herald, December 18, 914. 15. Ibid. 16. Dundee Courier, December 12, 1916. 17. Perthshire Advertiser, May 16, 1917. 18. Arbroath Herald, July 16, 1916. 19. Ibid., September 17, 1915. 20. Perthshire Advertiser, June 12, 1915. 21. Fife Free Press, September 23, 1916. 22. Fifeshire Advertiser, February 19, 1916. 23. Perthshire Advertiser, June 14, 1916. 24. Dundee Courier, December 23, 1916. Similar re. Pte Jamieson Blairgowrie Advertiser, September 23, 1916. 25. Ibid., April 4, 1918. 26. Fife Free Press, June 29, 1918. 27. Perthshire Advertiser, August 25, 1917. 28. Fife Free Press, June 16 and August 4, 1917. 29. Arbroath Herald, September 17 and October 29, 1915. 30. Perthshire Advertiser, May 23, 1917. 31. Ibid., November 13, 1918. 32. Dundee Courier, August 18, 1916. 33. Peoples Journal, August 24, 1918.



34. Fifeshire Advertiser, November 20, 1915. 35. Dundee Courier, August 22, 1917. 36. Ibid., December 15, 1916, and August 7, 1917. 37. Ibid., August 9, 1916. 38. Ibid., August 15, 1916. 39. The Archive could not provide a comparative figure for the AIF.

References Brindle, Graham D. Harris Academy: The First Hundred Years. Dundee: Taurus Press, 1985. Bueltman, Tanja, Andrew Hinson, and Morton G.  Graeme. The Scottish Diaspora. Edinburgh: E.U.P., 2013. Devine, T.M. To the Ends of the Earth: Scotland’s Global Diaspora. London: Alan Lane, 2011. Duffy, Mark, ed. Blairgowrie and Rattray War Memorial: Behind the Names. Blairgowrie: Culross and Son, 2006. Forsyth, David, and Wendy Ugolini, eds. A Global Force: War, Identities and Scotland’s Diaspora. Edinburgh: E.U.P., 2016. Fountain, Nigel, ed. When the Lamps Went Out: From Home Front to Battle Front. Reporting the Great War 1914–1918. London: Guardian Books, 2014. Horne, John, ed. A Companion to World War 1. Oxford: Wiley – Blackwell, 2012. Macdonald, Catriona, and E.W.  McFarland, eds. Scotland and the Great War. East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1999. Mackie, D.M. Forfar and District in the War: A Record of Service in the Great Struggle. Forfar: Forfar War Memorial Committee, 1921. McCarthy, Angela, and John MacKenzie, eds. Global Migrations: The Scottish Diaspora Since 1600. Edinburgh: E.U.P., 2016. McGregor, A. Comrie War Memorial. Perth: Perthshire Advertiser, 1921. Morrow, John Howard. The Great War: An Imperial History. London: Routledge, 2003. Spiers, Edward M. “The Scottish Soldier at War.” In Facing Armageddon: The First World War Experienced, edited by Hugh Cecil and Peter Liddle, 317–318. London: Leo Cooper, 1996. Stuart, Allan, and Forsyth, David. Common Cause: Commonwealth Scots and the Great War. Edinburgh: N.M.S., 2014.

Memorial Publications Arbroath and District Roll of Honour 1914–1919. Arbroath: T. Buncle & Co., 1921. Brechin in the Great War. Brechin: Brechin Advertiser, 1915–1919. Fife News and Coast Chronicle Annual. Kirkcaldy: Fife News, 1914, 1915 & 1916. Perthshire Constitutional Annual. Perth: Perthshire Constitutional, 1912–1919. The Great War 1914–1919 Roll of Honour Pupils and Staff of Dunfermline High School. Dunfermline: Abbey Press, 1920.


Scottish War Resisters and Conscientious Objectors, 1914–1919 William Kenefick

Introduction: Historiography and Methodology Before August 4, 1914, the average male British citizen went about his business thinking little about the liberty and freedom inherent in living out his day-to-day life. He did not carry an identity card and required neither passport nor permission to travel abroad, and unlike most European citizens, British men were not required to perform compulsory military service. A man could enlist in any branch of the British armed forces, if he chose, and could also ignore, if he chose, the demands of national defence. This changed after Britain went to war and as the conflict wore on, citizens’ rights and civil liberties became secondary to those of the British state. The state went onto establish a hold over its citizens that even in peacetime was never fully removed and for the first time in their history, the great mass of the British people became “active citizens.”1 With the country in the grip of war fever, most people accepted their new status, but a small and dedicated minority in Scotland fought hard in defence of cherished rights and liberties to become war resisters and conscientious objectors. Until relatively recently, there has been no comprehensive account of the Scottish war resisters or any meaningful examination of the crucial role of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in the anti-war movement during the Great War. Standard works dealing with war resistance essentially focus on the issue surrounding conscientious objections (COs) and conscription from the

W. Kenefick (*) University of Dundee, Dundee, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




British national perspective and generally, only after the introduction of the Military Service in January 1916. Moreover, most studies only make slight of passing reference to Scotland and largely ignore or downplay the role of politics and the ILP.2 Cyril Pearce’s Comrades in Conscience (2001) highlights such weakness, and in an extensive review of existing historiography on war objection and resistance noted that more recent studies (1980 to 1990s), presented narratives of heroic individualism and pacifism to the point that the wider anti-­ war struggle tended to be viewed only in those terms.3 Pearce is mindful of the “national perspective” but essentially adopts a microhistory approach focusing predominantly on Huddersfield and specifically set his study of war resistance and COs in a firm social context. In this manner, he attempts to understand COs and war resisters not just as “heroic” or even “misguided” individuals but more generally “as groups and individuals expressing a broader community consciousness.”4 Until recently, there has been no similar in-depth study of war resistance in Scotland. William Marwick’s contribution to the debate in the early 1970s highlighted the main influences on Scottish war resisters and conscientious objectors, but beyond providing some useful lines of enquiry, added little to our understanding of Scottish war resistance.5 In 1999, some 27 years later, when Pearce was working on his Huddersfield study in England, William Kenefick produced the first authoritative account of the Scottish anti-war movement during the First World War, “War Resisters and Anti-Conscription in Scotland: an ILP Perspective.” This study examined the anti-war and anti-­conscription role of the Scottish ILP and explored the “conceptual thicket” surrounding COs.6 This topic was revised and extended over several chapters in Red Scotland! The Rise and Fall of the Radical Left (2007). Therein, Kenefick examined the role of the ILP that combined the broader national overview with two case studies of organised anti-war working-class community action in Aberdeen and Dundee.7 The Dundee research demonstrated that, like Huddersfield, support and tolerance of the anti-war movement by the wider community was “more substantial than the excepted national model might allow,” and likewise, as Pearce asserts, raised doubts about claims and assumptions of the “enduring popularity” of the Great War.8 For Kenefick, the study of Dundee suggested that the city had a unique quality not found elsewhere in Scotland.9 Further research uncovered the existence of an extensive, well-­organised, and broadly supported working-class movement in Dundee largely built on the pre-war foundations laid by the ILP and helped explain the widespread support and tolerance of the local anti-war movement during the Great War.10 Robert Duncan’s Objectors and Resisters (2015) provides the most sustained analysis of Scotland’s war resisters offering a remarkable testimony of opposition to war on political, religious, and moral grounds: it also substantiated Kenefick’s claim that Dundee was “a special case.”11 Based on those COs who could be “identified by name” or “given anonymous mention in press reports,” he could only confirm 700 entries for Scottish COs.12 Based on the newly ­compiled Pearce Register of Conscientious Objectors13 which then identified



16,500 British and Irish Cos, this meant that Scottish COs numbered approximately 4.24% of British totals. Duncan, at that stage, had no prior access to the Pearce Register which suggested that Scottish COs numbered over 1400, and invariably Duncan seriously underestimated the number of active COs in Scotland between 1916 and 1918. The most up-to-date published study of opposition to war is Cyril Pearce and Helen Durham’s Patterns of Dissent in Britain During the First World War (2015). They advocate a new approach to the study of war resistance, and its “principle indicator” CO, through a thorough analysis of the newly complied Pearce Register of Conscientious Objectors which contains the individual data sheets for 16,614 COs.14 The most current and accessible iteration of the register holds the records of 17,426 COs.15 But the published Register is being continually updated and the most recent “unpublished” iteration contains the records for 18,700 British COs.16 It is the latest “unpublished” version of the Register that is used in this chapter, and therein reveals records for 1472 Scottish COs. This equates to 7.81% of British totals, and while it is substantially higher than the 4.24% suggested by Duncan, given that the Scottish population was 11.31% of total British population (based on the 1911 census), the estimate of 7.81% is significantly lower than might be expected.17 But does such information raise questions regarding the Scots’ reputation for establishing a proactive centre of war resistance?

The Shadow of War: Shadow of Conscription—An ILP Perspective On Sunday, August 2, 1914, the ILP National Council, the Divisional Councils, the federations and branches of the ILP “acted as by a common impulse,” and in every city, town, and village, the ILP membership gathered in public to protest against Britain being dragged into war. According to James Keir Hardie’s biographer, William Stewart, the ILP declared one central demand: “that whatever might happen in Europe … [Britain] … should stand neutral and play the part of peacemaker.” Hardie likely had no time to think about it, but on that day, argued Stewart, “he had every reason to be proud of his beloved ILP.”18 The ILP had been fearful of the introduction of conscription should Britain become embroiled in any European conflict, and for over a decade warned of the threat of war, the rapid expansion of the armaments industry, and how the ILP would fight such threats.19 In 1911, the Birmingham conference moved a resolution advocating the use of a “General Strike as an effective method of preventing war,” and pledged support for the International Socialist Bureau (ISB) in their struggle to keep European workers united against war.20 In 1912, the Merthyr conference again advocated use of “the strike weapon” as a mean of preventing war, and W. C. Anderson (Chairman) reported on “a great anti-­ war demonstration in Paris” the previous year, where the ISB demanded that



“disputes between nations should be settled by the arbitration of international tribunals.”21 Similar sentiments were expressed at Manchester the following year where it was reported that arrangements were in place for a series of conferences and demonstrations to be held “in the capital cities of Europe” on how to maintain peace.22 Indeed, during 1913, the party organised a nationwide campaign against conscription, and, at the end of the year, Hardie, alongside leading ISB figures, addressed international demonstrations across London in what was “the biggest and most successful pieces of work” the ILP had ever undertaken. The No-Conscription Campaign raised £336  selling literature warning against the perils of war, militarism, and the threat of conscription at 200 meetings and demonstrations.23 It is therefore somewhat surprising that when the delegates departed the Bradford conference in April 1914 to report back to their districts and branches, prepare for the summer propaganda work, and an expected general election at the end of the year, there was no talk of war. According to Stewart: The possibility did not enter into their calculations. Indeed, it is a remarkable fact, that the great upheaval so long feared and dreaded and prophesied, came at last unexpectedly, almost like a thief in the night, and gave the democracies of the various countries no time to  organise any resistance, much less to collaborate internationally on a common policy.24

Indeed, as late as July 30, 1914, as Austria declared war on Servia  (sic), W.C. Anderson argued in the Labour Leader that “Despite all signs to the contrary, there will, I believe, be no war.”25 J.  Bruce Glasier, with Keir Hardie representing the ILP at a hastily arranged meeting of the ISB in Brussels on July 29, likewise felt that no European-wide conflict would take place between the great powers “until at least the full resources of diplomacy had been exhausted.” When Hardie addressed a large meeting of 15,000 people at Trafalgar Square on August 2, he was one of an impressive list of speakers who represented all sections of the labour and trade union movement. In the main, those gathered believed war would be averted: for on that day, all of the labour movement was against the war. Within a matter of 48 hours, that had all changed and the mood of the nation now favoured “militaristic khaki.”26 According to Niall Ferguson, by late July, it was far from clear that Britain was on the threshold of war, and even in early August, Sir Edward Grey had not guaranteed Belgium that Britain would assist if their neutrality was threatened by Germany.27 Many European socialists, like their parliamentary contemporaries, felt that diplomacy would halt a full-scale European conflict, and as such agreed to hold the International Socialist Congress in Paris on August 9, 1914. By then Europe was at war and Hardie ominously predicted: “that war means conscription!”28 From then on, the ILP vowed “to remain true and faithful to the spirit and pledge of International Socialism.”29 It would be the only political party in Britain to refuse to support or share any responsibility for the persecution of the war. In Scotland, that resolve remained steadfast



throughout the conflict.30 Despite some evident enthusiasm for war, Ferguson reminds us that under the circumstances “feeling of anxiety, panic and even millenarian religiosity were equally common popular responses to the outbreak of war.”31

The Scottish ILP on the Threshold of War The Scottish ILP had been viewed as an “irrelevant minority,” but their propaganda was heard by thousands of workers before the war, so it might be expected that some would listen as a war of attrition developed and war weariness set in.32 In Britain, the ILP and its modest but committed support assumed the leading anti-war position, and none more so in Scotland where, as Ferguson commented, “leaders like James Maxton seem to have relished confrontation with the authorities.”33 But just how influential was the Scottish ILP? It is difficult to be accurate regarding membership as figures for UK totals were not made public after 1911, and Scottish membership can only be estimated by calculating national affiliation fees. We know that the number of branches in Scotland in 1911 was 129 out of a total of 796 ILP branches across Britain and Ireland with a total paying membership of 26,500. According to Chris Harvie, Scottish membership would have been around 5000 at that time and thus accounted for 18.87% of total ILP membership, with Scottish ILP constituting 16.21% of all ILP branches across Britain and Ireland.34 Based on these figures, the Scottish ILP were clearly punching well above their weight at a time when the Scottish population was 11.31% of UK totals in 1911. Overall, ILP membership generally was small, yet it did influence working-­ class political development before 1914. For much of the early twentieth century, the ILPs “summer propaganda campaign” toured across Scotland in its “Forward Van.” In the year war broke out, the “Van” was on road for 16 weeks and the party organised 112 outdoor and indoor meetings. Meetings were addressed by an array of party activists and propagandists speaking to audiences of 500 in smaller towns and over 1000 in larger urban centres, selling ILP literature, including the Labour Leader and Glasgow Forward35 which were widely distributed and with back copies sold at a reduced rate. The last “summer propaganda” meeting gathered, as was tradition, on Glasgow Green in September 1914, the month with highest voluntary military recruitment in Scotland. It attracted over 2000 men and women. But this was not the largest meeting of the year. On Sunday, August 9, over 5000 people attended a hastily arranged peace rally on Glasgow Green, organised jointly by the ILP, the British Socialist Party (BSP), and the Glasgow Peace Society. It was an impressive feat of organisation, considering that the event was only advertised in the Glasgow Forward the day before. The meeting agreed they “could not stop the war” and that they simply sought to offer an antidote to jingoism and war fever.36 Despite a relatively small circulation, the Glasgow Forward was able to reach a “wide and cosmopolitan” audience that included “doctors and dock labourers” and rebels of every possible brand “from mild peace advocates to the wildest of



revolutionaries.”37 Yet despite the large turnout, no Scottish newspaper except the Glasgow Forward, the Labour Leader, and the Dundee-based Scottish Prohibitionist reported the event. As the Glasgow Forward headline reported: “Glasgow’s Peace Demonstration … Boycotted by the Capitalist Press.”38 Where there was a strong ILP presence, it might be expected that other peace protests were organised in other cities and large towns in Lancashire and Yorkshire. But in England there were serious splits over support for the war, where, as Pearce notes, some labour people openly supported the war and others remained “remarkably silent.” Regional differences were also evident. In Bradford, for example, there existed a “strong patriotic [ILP]  element” whereas, in Huddersfield, the ILP “was consistent and undivided in its generalised opposition to war.”39 In Scotland, the ILP maintained a united front across the country and dismissed claims that Britain’s war was a “just cause.” Put simply, the ILP’s position was that the war was being fought to satisfy the lust for industrial profit and to promote the British Military state and was the result of duplicitous and self-serving British diplomacy in the run-up to the crisis. The ILP held consistently to that line from the commencement of hostilities through to the armistice on November 11, 1918.40

Scottish Red Flag Propaganda and the Glasgow Forward On the eve of war, the Scottish ILP had a membership or around 5000, which fell to around 3000 grouped in 92 branches soon after war was declared.41 The early months of war would prove difficult, but by February 1915, the party sensed a change in the public attitude. For Willie Stewart, Scottish ILP organiser and editor of the Glasgow Forward, this meant “that the work of Socialism could be revived,” and their fight for a negotiated peace with Germany redoubled. He stressed that they would need to be tender and considerate to the feelings of fellow workers, but in time the party would get their message across: a prediction which was proved correct.42 By the early months of 1915, monthly recruitment for the war effort fell from 300,000 to around 120,000.43 At that time, however, the government were not unduly concerned by these figures as they needed to balance both military and civil needs. For the patriotic pro-conscriptionists of the Scottish press such news was like manna from heaven. In November 1914, the Glasgow Herald had already decided that “if voluntarism did not work, then conscription was the only alternative,” and in December asked their readership if they thought conscription was unfair.44 In the meantime, the Labour Party swung determinedly behind support for war and recruitment in order to avoid conscription. A letter to the Glasgow Forward in November 1914 asserted that if the Labour Party had adopted the attitude of some socialists “would conscription not already be upon us? Has not the slow, sure common-sense of the Labour Party washed-up better than the theories of its critics?” The editors of the Glasgow Forward responded arguing that “there was no evidence to ­suggest



that the recruiting energies of the Labour Party [had] saved the country from conscription” and that unlike the Labour Party: The Anti-War Socialists [would] fight against Conscription if ever it is proposed. The Labour Party has given away their right to do so, and, on their present line of action, should not desire to do so!45

And one week later, foreshadowing the formation of the No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF), a Forward editorial, on “The Question of Conscription,” suggested it was time for those of who refused to fight in the present war to form themselves “into a body to consider the matter.”46 At this point the anti-conscription movement was still at an embryonic stage of development. But in November 1914, Fenner Brockway (later secretary of the NCF) as editor of the Labour Leader invited young men to form an organisation of “joint action for mutual help and encouragement.” In early December, both the Labour Leader and Forward informed their readers that the NCF had been formed to offer support, guidance, and direction for those men who would refuse military service if it were imposed by the state and had the full support of anti-war labour.47 According to John Rae, “this fusion of idealism with the promise of active resistance attracted young men with a variety of religious and political views.” The BSP, the SLP, the Socialist Party of Great Britain, and the Industrial Workers of the World together produced many COs. Yet, it was the young men of the ILP who were to provide the initiative and leadership of the organisation, and while political objection to conscription was by no means restricted to the ILP, there was little doubt that it was “the best organised and most active group.”48 It was the same in Scotland where, as Harvie asserts, “almost seventy percent of conscientious objection cases involved ILP members.”49 In January 1915, J. Bruce Glasier, travelled to Scotland to gauge how the ILP’s anti-war campaign was proceeding. He praised the Dundee, Leith, and Glasgow branches for holding regular anti-war lectures and propaganda meetings, and said that generally the situation in Scotland was very encouraging: The unanimity and steadfastness of the Branches in their adhesion to International principles, and the opposition to Militarism in all its forms … must be reckoned one of the most distinctive and memorable events in the life of the ILP and the history of the Socialist movement.

He asserted that the anti-war feeling in Scotland “was more energetic and aggressive than in English Branches” and attributed this to the courageous and brilliant “Red Flag propaganda of Forward.” He concluded, That he had never felt more reassured of the spirit and power of the ILP than now in beholding the Scottish branches bearing the banners of their Socialist faith unfalteringly against the almost universal crash of religion and politics.50



Opposition to war and the pursuit of peace was the main aim of the ILP, but as James Maxton argued, the war also brought with it new opportunities to proclaim the socialist message.51 As a result, the ILP and the NCF were growing in strength, and in the early months of 1915, the NCF formed a large branch in Glasgow as a result of a meeting organised by the BSP, widely advertised in both the Labour Leader and Forward.52 By the first anniversary of the start of the war, the NCF had expanded and set up branches in many locations around the country, and this paralleled the network of ILP branches that were forming across Scotland. A branch of the NCF was set up in Dundee in November 1915, following a large ILP meeting.53 Dundee was unique in having the support of two Scottish Prohibitionist Parties: the Scottish Prohibitionist Party (SPP) led by Edwin Scrymgeour, and the National Prohibition and Reform Party led by Robert “Bob” Stewart, respectively, with religious support from the Dundee Free Religious Movement led by Rev. Henry Dawtrey. Together with the anti-war Scottish District Council of the Marxist BSP, and the unequivocal support of Scrymgeour’s Scottish Prohibitionist newspaper, they formed the Dundee Joint Committee Against Conscription in January 1916.54 The Joint Committee was castigated by the provincial press as “Pro-­ German,” but the socialist press saw things differently and reporting in the Labour Leader in August 1916, Patrick Dollan wrote: The persistence of our Dundee friends in opposing conscription deserves notice, its meeting supported by all sections of the movement. In this way, the local opposition to conscription is kept at a high pitch. What was being done in Dundee, should not be impossible elsewhere.55

This group was later joined by the Union of Democratic Control (UDC) after a branch was established in Dundee in May 1916.56 Thereafter, the city became a stronghold of a growing anti-war movement led by the ILP and NCF along with the BSP, the UDC, and the Women’s Peace Movement drawn from Dundee’s anti-war suffragette community. By the end of 1915, the ILP and NCF produced a CO register that claimed to speak for 10,000 men in Scotland. In the meantime, some trade unions were organising non-conscription registers, including: the Gasworkers Union of Scotland, the Shop Assistants Union, the Glasgow branch of the Workers’ Union, the Leith Dockers and the Central Iron Moulders, and the Clydebank Trades Council. Moreover, Aberdeen, Dundee, and Kirkintilloch Labour Representation Committees (LRCs) declared that they would help organise resisters’ registers. The best organised was Glasgow, where the combined anti-­ war movement organised a series of demonstrations and meetings on the issues of “conscription” and “free speech.” The largest meeting was held on December 18, 1915, and attracted 7000 people. It was addressed by a host of well-known speakers, including John Maclean, Emmanuel Shinwell, Helen Crawford, and Willie Gallacher.57 In order of magnitude, Glasgow turned out more p ­ rotesters,



but across Scotland, the ILP, the NCF, the BSP, the SLP, and the UDC augmented by the women’s anti-war movement worked hard to bring their antiwar message to public attention. And once conscription was introduced, they worked tirelessly for its repeal.58 In July 1916, there was a special report in Forward on the COs turned down at the Dundee Local Tribunal. Among these were leading labour and trade unionists Ewan G.  Carr (President of Dundee LRC and Secretary of Scottish Section of the ILP Scouts), Andrew Henderson (Vice President of the Dundee LRC, Cooperationist, Trade Unionist, Socialist, and “promising ­propagandist”), Stewart Campbell and William Adamson (Dundee Socialist Sunday School), Sandy Ross (ex-Glasgow Policeman and “champion literature seller North of the Forth”), Alexander Dewar (Prohibitionist and Socialist), and finally, Bob Stewart (ex-town councillor, Prohibitionist, Socialist, and International Protagonist—an “Absolutist CO”). The following September, it was reported that Bob Stewart was at the CO Labour Camp at Dyce, Aberdeen where around 250–500, mainly English, COs were engaged in “hard labour.”59 Carr and six other leading Dundee COs (known as the “Dundee Seven”) spent time at the “Road Camp” at Ballachulish in Argyllshire as part of the Home Office Scheme, alongside 200 COs undertaking hard physical labour.60 In January 1917, they were transferred to Dartmoor prison and later Wakefield Prison Work Centre for COs.61 Harvie argued that Scots ILPers were “a more subversive, less principled bunch” who usually “avoided the martyrdom of prison,” which in part helps explain the lower number of Scots COs listed in the Pearce Register of Conscientious Objectors.62 For example, James Maxton avoided prison by accepting work of national importance and in We Did Not Fight (1935), he explained why: I appreciated and understood the attitude of my friends who absolutely declined to do anything … but it did not suit my philosophy, which demanded active carrying on of the class struggle.

The war presented the ILP with opportunities to foster social revolution and Dundee war resister Ewan Carr was evidently keenly aware of this when writing to Maxton, from Wakefield Work Centre, in February 1917: “My Dear Jim Shake! I am glad to hear you are free again, even for a little. I sincerely trust you will manage to retain your freedom.” He then offered guidance on how this might be done: Now I don’t know your attitude regarding alternative Service, but I want to suggest this to you. If, when before the tribunal (local or appeal) you are offered Work of N.I. may I advise you take it. You are needed outside prison, [and] in the movement. Maxton alive is worth 100 Maxtons dead. [And] Maxton free to help the cause is worth 50 Maxtons in prison (sic).



He signed off referring to “Ross, Andrew Henderson, & others, you know, are here, we all wish you well. Yours Fraternally E.G. Carr.”63 Other sources confirm that Scottish COs were willing to fight for social revolution. In John Paton’s autobiography Proletarian Pilgrimage (1935), he noted ethical difference between the ILP members and their comrades in England and “there were extremely few absolutists” in Scotland. Like Maxton, he noted that the COs were keen to avoid prison: There arose an attitude in Scotland which saw nothing inconsistent in taking full advantage of any loopholes in the Acts (Conscription); in cheerfully accepting the various forms of “alternative service” which did not involve direct assistance to the armed forces; and even evading the thing altogether by quietly disappearing.

The mention of disappearing persons referred to COs on the run from the authorities of which there were many. And in Aberdeen, Paton noted there were “half a dozen young men wanted by the police for military service … dodging about the country doing anti-war propaganda for their bed and board.”64 By avoiding prison and exploiting war weariness, and with more trouble brewing over the issue of industrial conscription, the ILP in Scotland reaped their harvest and by early 1917, membership was on the increase.65 By then Dundee emerged as a leading centre of the anti-war movement in Scotland, and in April Forward reported with some pride “that the city was “fair hotchin’ wi conchies.”66 By May, Forward reported that there was “a pacifist majority” on Aberdeen Trades Council and that “more restraint” was being shown to COs and pacifists as a result.67 The war resisters did not have it all their own as there were several attempts to break up an anti-war rally in Aberdeen from 1917 onward. But the ILP and SLP were sufficiently well organised in the city to physically and forcefully defend themselves on such occasions.68 There was not an overwhelming clamour for retribution against COs and pacifists in Scotland, but one incident in Edinburgh proved an exception. It was a brutal display of organised violence at a peace meeting called jointly by the ILP, NCF, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the UDC, the Society of Friends, and the Women’s International League, held in July 1918. They had gathered to protest the passing of repeat sentences on COs, but an “organised band” of soldiers and sailors broke up the meeting where they rushed the platform, beat up speakers, destroyed literature, and “confiscated money from one women’s case.” COs were separated out for special treatment, and although the police were called, “little was done on their part.” Victims’ pockets were riffled as they lay on the floor, and one man’s clothes were so ripped that his bare body was exposed to the crowd.69 This outburst directly involved the National Seamen’s and Firemen’s Union, who, it later emerged, plied the men with drink and paid them to break up the meeting. Despite being described as “a riot,” there was no sympathy from the Edinburgh press. Indeed, the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch stated the meetings promoters “got what they had been asking for” and the “riotous demonstra-



tion” was simply a “spontaneous ebullition of National Patriotism.”70 It was rumoured that some of the “hooligans” had been recruited from among Leith dockers, but George Kibble, secretary of Leith branch of the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL), strenuously denied such claims, adding that this “spontaneous demonstration of public feeling” was in fact a carefully organised attack. On no account would he or the Leith dockers be party to such hooliganism and that none of the hooligans were from the docks!71 Indeed, all available evidence demonstrates that Havelock Wilson was ultimately behind the riot at Edinburgh and that the Leith NUDL played no part.72 No such violence or disruption occurred at Dundee, which by early June 1917 was considered something of a jewel in the ILP and NCF crown. Indeed, the city’s reputation was further enhanced in July when pacifist, prohibitionist, and erstwhile socialist Edwin Scrymgeour declared he would challenge Winston Churchill in the forthcoming ministerial by-election. Churchill won the contest comfortably, but despite the best efforts of the Dundee press, Scrymgeour polled almost 22% of the popular vote. With only one week’s notice, and with limited resources, he pushed Churchill, and the city’s Conservative, Liberal, and Labour wartime coalition forces, hard. The local press reported that for patriotic reasons the contest should not have taken place, but having taken place, the election had “exposed accumulated levels of discontent and grievance that found expression in the vote of the defeated candidate.”73 Scrymgeour was supported by leading elements of the local Labour movement, Dundee’s 40-strong discharged soldiers and sailors, 700 COs at Wakefield work centre (who raised £6 and 3 shillings towards his election expenses), well-known pacifist religious ministers, and the secretary of Glasgow Trades Council.74 For his support of COs and his uncompromising anti-war attitude, Scrymgeour was held in the highest esteem by Scottish war resistors and objectors across Scotland as well as active servicemen who wrote him letters of support during and after the by-election.75 By 1918, there were around 105 COs in Dundee, many doing work of national importance and this is well chronicled by Duncan’s Objectors and Resisters.76 Time and space denies deeper analysis here, but the city was attracting sufficient country-wide attention that Willie Stewart was compelled to make “special mention” of the activities of Dundee ILP in a Forward editorial and how: The Party had stood its ground through the war and the dark days of militaristic oppression. It has its sons in every prison and penal centre set apart for conscientious objectors to militarism. It has steadfastly and fearlessly fought for liberty and Socialism.

On that basis alone, Stewart anticipated that “in the great inevitable political uprising which is destined to place Labour permanently in power, the working class of Dundee will demand a foremost place.”77



Conclusion As the microhistories of the study of Huddersfield, Hyde, and Dundee demonstrate, the anti-war movement remained strong and resilient in certain areas, and crucially, their activities were tolerated and supported by the wider community. When measured against “the claims and assumptions” about the war’s “enduring popularity,” this would suggest, as Ferguson’s argues, we should question the “myth of war enthusiasm.”78 The evidence presented here would certainly support that contention and none more so when regarding the crucial role of the Scottish ILP during the Great War. Despite the party’s early unpopularity, its political isolation, and its lone stand against the warmongers, the ILP had won through. But its greatest triumph was the anti-conscription struggle “when the young men of the ILP … had to face a new ordeal.” The ILP worked hard to encourage the spread of socialism, resulting in branches being formed beyond the industrial urban conurbations in rural locations and areas as remote as Inverurie, Buckie, Keith, and even Banffshire. It was a remarkable achievement and it would have been unthinkable before the war. Membership had tripled between 1916 and 1918, rising from 3000 to 9000. By 1919, membership stood at 10,000 and was double the highest pre-war level of membership. Forward thus proudly proclaimed: “That the ILP in Scotland lives, and in 201 towns and villages bears witness to the vitality of the Socialist Movement.”79 The Scottish ILP provided one-third of British ILP party membership at that juncture. According to Harvie “this wartime expansion was quite unique” and only occurred in Scotland. Elsewhere in Britain, he noted, Labour Party membership went down during the war and stayed down.80 In Scotland, the ILPs success laid the firm foundations for Labour’s electoral breakthrough in 1922, when the party independently supported 40 out of 43 Labour candidates. Labour won 29 seats and included Dundee, where Labour’s E.D.  Morel (whose election agent was Ewan G.  Carr) and Scottish prohibitionist and erstwhile socialist Edwin Scrimgeour, both fervent anti-war pacifists, pushed Churchill into fourth place. International Socialism may have failed at the outbreak of war, but Scottish war resisters provided an alternative tradition to inspire later generations of Scottish socialists.81

Notes 1. A.J.P.  Taylor, English History 1914–1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), 1–2. 2. John William Graham, Conscription and Conscience. A History 1916–1919 (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1922); Denis Hayes, Conscription Conflict: The conflict of ideas in the struggle for and against military conscription in Britain between 1901 and 1939 (London: Sheppard Press, 1949); D. Boulton, Objection Overruled (London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1967); John Rae, Conscience and Politics: The British Government and the Conscientious Objectors to Military Service 1916–1919 (London: Oxford University Press, 1970); and, T. Kennedy, The Hounds of Conscience. A History of the No-Conscription Fellowship



(Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 1981): Graham makes only four index references to the Independent Labour Party (ILP) across 388 pages, and Kennedy 9 over 322 pages. Kennedy largely dismissed the ILP and the No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF) as they were “numerically insignificant” (see page 267). 3. Caroline Moorehead, Troublesome People. Enemies of War, 1916–1986 (London: Adler and Adler, 1987), and Felicity Goodall, A Question of Conscience: Conscientious Objection in Two World War (London: Sutton Publishing Ltd., 1997). 4. Cyril Pearce, Comrades in Conscience. The story of an English community’s opposition to the Great War (London: Francis Boutle Publishers, 2001), 23–29. 5. William H. Marwick, “Conscientious Objection in Scotland in the First World War,” Scottish Journal of Science 1 (June 1972): 157. 6. William Kenefick, “War Resisters and Anti-Conscription in Scotland: an ILP Perspective,” in Scotland and the Great War, eds. Catriona Macdonald and E.W.  McFarland, 59–80 (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1999): see also Keith Robbins, “The British Experience of Conscientious Objection,” in Facing Armageddon. The First World War Experience, edited by Hugh Cecil and Peter H Liddle, 691–706 (1996): was objection to British intervention in the war “conscientious”? According to Robbins: ‘It is here that we begin to move into a thicket of conceptual difficulties. In short to support or oppose the war!’ 692. 7. For Aberdeen, see William Kenefick, “‘Aberdeen was More Red than Glasgow’. The impact of the First World War and the Russian Revolution beyond Red Clydeside,” in Scotland and the Slavs: Cultures in Contact 1500–2000, eds. Mark Cornwall and Murray Frame, 159–189 (Newtonville, MA: Oriental Research Partners, 2001). 8. Pearce, Comrades in Conscience, 27. 9. William Kenefick, Red Scotland! The Rise and Fall of the Radical left c.1872– 1932 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007), 147–155. 10. Kenneth Baxter and William Kenefick, “Labour Politics and the Dundee working Class, c.1895–1936,” in Jute no More. Transforming Dundee, eds. Jim Tomlinson and Christopher A.  Whatley, 191–219 (Dundee University Press, 2011); William Kenefick, “‘An Effervescence of Youth: Female Textile-Workers’ Strike Activity in Dundee, 1911–1912,’” Historical Studies in Industrial Relations 33 (2012): 189–221; William Kenefick, “From Red Clydeside to Red Scotland c.1906 to 1922”—Culture and Conflict: an international academic exploration of the impact of war in the twentieth century, Edinburgh International Festival, August 2014; William Kenefick, “The impact of war, war resisters and the role of the Independent Labour Party in Scotland c.1914–1922” (Keynote Address)—War: Women, Work, Resistance, Scottish Labour History Society Annual Conference, Glasgow, November 2014. 11. Robert Duncan, Objectors and Resisters: Opposition to Conscription and War in Scotland 1914–18 (Berwick-upon-Tweed: Common Print, 2015). References to the activities of Dundee war resisters and conscientious objections (COs) are peppered throughout this publication: see chapter 3 (39), and chapter five (113–114). 12. Duncan, Objectors and Resisters, 2–3. 13. Cyril Pearce and Helen Durham, “Patterns of Dissent during the First World War,” War and Society 34 (May, 2015): 140–159.



14. Pearce and Durham, “Patterns of Dissent,” ibid. 15. Imperial War Museum, Lives of the First World War. Conscientious Objectors Register 1914–1918: world-records/conscientious-objectors-register-1914-1918. 16. The most recent iteration released by Cyril Pearce through a private network was December 1, 2017. 17. Census of Scotland, 1911. Scottish population is 4,782,904: UK population is 42,082,000; Scottish population is therefore 11.31% of UK Totals. 18. William Stewart, J.  Keir Hardie: A Biography (London: Independent Labour Party Publication Dept, 1921), 358. 19. Keir Hardie feared “anti-democratic Russia” more than Germany. Nationally, the ILP had been organising an annual peace event for a decade and more before the outbreak of war in 1914; working closely on annual summer propaganda campaign with the Social  Democratic  Federation/later the British Socialist Party, the Fabians, the Christian Socialist Fellowship, the Clarion and ILP Scouts, and the Catholic Socialist Societies. In 1911 it was also part of the ILP’s “Struggle for the Living Wage” campaign and trade union recruitment drive among women and unskilled male workers: see Kenefick, “An Effervescence of Youth,” 214–215, ft. 122. 20. Independent Labour Party, Report of the 19th Annual Conference, Birmingham, April 1911 (London, 1911): 93–97. 21. Independent Labour Party, Report of the 20th Annual Conference, Merthyr, May 1912 (London, 1912): 16, 96. 22. Independent Labour Party, Report of the 21st Annual Conference, Manchester, March 1913 (London, 1913). 23. Independent Labour Party, Report of the Coming-Of-Age Conference, Bradford, April 1914 (London, 1914): 20–23; other leading socialists included Victor Adler (Austria); Emile Vandervelde (Belgium), Karl Leibknecht (Germany), and leading European anti-militarist Jean Jaurès (France). 24. Stewart, J. Keir Hardie, 357. 25. Labour Leader, July 30, 1914. 26. Stewart, J. Keir Hardie, 378. 27. Niall Ferguson, The Pity of War. 1914–1918 (London: Basic Books, 1998), 158–173. 28. Stewart, J.  Keir Hardie, 357, 366: The 1914 the  Internationalist  Socialist Congress was originally to be held in Vienna on August 23 that year, but war in Austria forced a change of plans; it was brought forward by two weeks and held in France. 29. Labour Leader, August 6, 1914. 30. Kenefick, “War Resisters and Anti-Conscription in Scotland,” 59–61, 77; and Kenefick, Red Scotland, 132–133, 154–155. 31. Ferguson, The Pity of War, 158–173. 32. Ferguson, The Pity of War, 174–179. 33. Ferguson, The Pity of War, 179. 34. Report of the 19th Annual Conference, Birmingham. Directory of ILP Branches: Division 1. – Scotland and Ireland; 112–115: for estimate of membership consult Harvie, “Before the Breakthrough, 1886–1922,” 16. 35. Glasgow Forward (hereafter Forward) was published weekly every Saturday from 1916, and was the Scottish ILPs propaganda organ. Forward provided for



a growing body of radical groups principally in Glasgow but also the expanding membership in Scotland which increased by 60% before the war: see Christopher Harvie, “Before the Breakthrough, 1886–1922,” in Forward! Labour Politics in Scotland 1888–1988 (Edinburgh, 1989), 7–29. 36. Labour Leader, August 13, and Scottish Prohibitionist, August 15, 1914. 37. Kenefick, Red Scotland, 135–136. 38. Forward, August 15, 1914. 39. Pearce, Comrades in Conscience, 75–78. 40. Forward, August 22, 1914. 41. Harvie, “Before the Breakthrough,” 24: see also Kenefick, “War Resisters and Anti-Conscription,” 63. 42. Forward, February 13, 1915. 43. Hayes, Conscription Conflict, 150. 44. Glasgow Herald, November 18 and December 8, 1914. 45. Forward, November 21, 1914. 46. Forward, November 28, 1914. 47. Labour Leader, December 3, Forward, December 5: see also Hayes, Conscription Conflict, 249, 251; and Kennedy, “Hounds of Conscience,” 46. 48. Rae, Conscience and Politics, 12, 83–84. 49. Harvie, “Before the Breakthrough,” 23; see also Kenefick, Red Scotland, 139. 50. Forward, January 2, 1915. 51. James Maxton, “War Resistance by Working Class Struggle,” in We Did Not Fight, ed. Julian Bell, 213–222 (London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1935). 52. Labour Leader, February 25, March 18; and Forward, March 13, 1915. 53. Scottish Prohibitionist, November 6, 1915. 54. Scottish Prohibitionist, January 29, 1916. 55. Labour Leader, August 17, 1916: see also Duncan, Objectors and Resisters, 38–39. 56. Scottish Prohibitionist, May 28, 1916. 57. Forward, December 18, 1915. 58. Forward, February 19, 1915. 59. Forward, July 15 and September 2, 1916. 60. Duncan, Objectors and Resisters, 103–107. 61. Carr Archive © Dundee City Council, Dundee Art Galleries and Museums. 62. Harvie, “Before the Breakthrough,” 23. 63. James Maxton Papers, Mitchell Library: Coll TO956/5/7. Letter dated 8/2/1917: citing his wartime address as Work Centre, Wakefield, Yorks (including prison number C2: 34), 252. It was written on ILP Cycle Scouts headed notepaper. Note: NI refers to offer of Work of National Importance. “Ross, Henderson and ‘& others’ likely refer to the ‘Dundee Seven.’” 64. John Paton, Proletarian Pilgrimage: An Autobiography (London: Routledge, 1935). 65. Maxton, “War Resistance,” 213–222. 66. Forward, April 28, 1917. “Fair hotchin wi conchies” is Scots for “a great many” COs. 67. Aberdeen Evening Express, May 23; Forward, June 15, 1918. 68. Paton, Proletarian Pilgrimage, 274–278. 69. Forward, July 27, 1918. 70. Kenefick, Red Scotland, 153–154.



71. Forward, July 27, 1918. 72. As reported in Forward, October 26, 1918; see also Kenefick, Red Scotland, 153–154. 73. Dundee Courier, July 31, 1917. 74. Scottish Prohibitionist and Forward, August 4, 1917. 75. See variously letters of support published in both the Scottish Prohibitionist and Forward, over July and August 1917. 76. Duncan, Objectors and Resisters: makes many specific references to Dundee COs and their activities. Duncan identifies 70 COs of which 14 do not appear on the Pearce register which records 92 COs (with at least one duplication), which gives a total of 105 COs for Dundee. 77. Forward, February 23, 1918. 78. Pearce, Comrades in Conscience, 27; Pearce and Durham, “Patterns of Dissent during the First World War,” Local Studies—Hyde and Huddersfield, 141–142: see also Kenefick, Red Scotland, 132–183; and Duncan, Objectors and Resisters, 37–39. 79. Forward, October 26, 1918: see earlier report March 19, 1918: “ILP gaining ground in Scotland.” 80. Harvie, “Before the Breakthrough,” 23–25. 81. Kenefick, Red Scotland, 154–155.

References Baxter, Kenneth, and William Kenefick. “Labour Politics and the Dundee Working Class, c.1895–1936.” In Jute no More. Transforming Dundee, edited by Jim Tomlinson and Christopher A. Whatley. Dundee: Dundee University Press, 2011. Boulton, David. Objection Overruled. London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1967. Donnachie, Ian, Christopher Harvie, and Ian S. Wood, eds. Forward! Labour Politics in Scotland 1888–1988. Edinburgh: Polygon, 1989. Duncan, Robert. Objectors and Resisters: Opposition to Conscription and War in Scotland 1914–18. Berwick-upon-Tweed: Common Print, 2015. Ferguson, Niall. The Pity of War. 1914–1918. London: Basic Books, 1998. Goodall, Felicity. A Question of Conscience: Conscientious Objection in Two World Wars. London: Sutton Publishing Ltd., 1997. Graham, John William. Conscription and Conscience. A History 1916–1919. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1922. Harvie, Christopher. “Before the Breakthrough, 1886–1922.” In Conscription Conflict: The conflict of Ideas in the Struggle for and Against Military Conscription in Britain Between 1901 and 1939, edited by Denis Hayes. New  York: Garland Publishing, 1973. Kenefick, William. “War Resisters and Anti-Conscription in Scotland: An ILP Perspective.” In Scotland and the Great War, edited by Catriona Macdonald and E.W. McFarland. East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1999. ———. “‘Aberdeen Was More Red Than Glasgow’. The Impact of the First World War and the Russian Revolution Beyond Red Clydeside.” In Scotland and the Slavs: Cultures in Contact 1500–2000, edited by Mark Cornwall and Murray Frame. Newtonville, MA: Oriental Research Partners, 2001.



———. Red Scotland! The Rise and Fall of the Radical Left c.1872–1932. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007. ———. “An Effervescence of Youth: Female Textile-Workers’ Strike Activity in Dundee, 1911–1912.” Historical Studies in Industrial Relations 33 (2012): 189–221. Kennedy, T. The Hounds of Conscience. A History of the No-Conscription Fellowship. Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 1981. Marwick, William H. “Conscientious Objection in Scotland in the First World War.” Scottish Journal of Science 1 (June 1972): 157. Maxton, James. “War Resistance by Working Class Struggle.” In We Did Not Fight, edited by Julian Bell, 213–222. London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1935. Moorhead, Caroline. Troublesome People. Enemies of War, 1916–1986. London: Adler and Adler, 1987. Paton, John. Proletarian Pilgrimage: An Autobiography. London: Routledge, 1935. Pearce, Cyril. Comrades in Conscience. The Story of an English Community’s Opposition to the Great War. London: Francis Boutle Publishers, 2001. Pearce, Cyril, and Helen Durham. “Patterns of Dissent During the First World War.” War and Society 34 (May 2015): 140–159. Rae, John. Conscience and Politics. The British Government and the Conscientious Objectors to Military Service 1916–1919. London: Oxford University Press, 1970. Robbins, Keith. “The British Experience of Conscientious Objection.” In Facing Armageddon. The First World War Experience, edited by Hugh Cecil and Peter H. Liddle. London: Pen and Sword, 1996. Stewart, William. J.  Keir Hardie: A Biography. London: Independent Labour Party, 1921. Taylor, A.J.P. English History 1914–1945. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Archive Material Independent Labour Party, Report of the 19th Annual Conference, Birmingham, April 1911. Independent Labour Party, Report of the 20th Annual Conference, Merthyr, May 1912. Independent Labour Party, Report of the 21st Annual Conference, Manchester, March 1913. Independent Labour Party, Report of the Coming-Of-Age Conference, Bradford, April 1914. Carr Archive © Dundee City Council, Dundee Art Galleries and Museums. James Maxton Papers, Mitchell Library: Coll TO956/5/7.

Newspapers Aberdeen Evening Express. Dundee Courier. Glasgow Herald. Labour Leader. Scottish Prohibitionist.


Australian Not by Blood, but by Character: Soldiers and Refugees in Australian Children’s Picture Books Martin Kerby, Margaret Baguley, Nathan Lowien, and Kay Ayre

Introduction Over the past two decades, children’s picture books dealing with the Australian participation in the First World War have been dominated by the increasingly sentimentalized construct of the Australian soldier as a victim of trauma and the traditional use of Australian war literature to explore national identity. It is an approach that has proved quite malleable, for variations of it have been used in children’s picture books dealing with the far more polemic issue of refugees and their place in the contemporary sociopolitical environment in Australia. By drawing on this framework, authors and illustrators characterize refugees as Australian not by blood but by character. As victims of a trauma not of their making, they are compelled to draw on reserves of courage and resilience in a manner entirely compatible with a construct of national identity grounded in martial capacity. The readers of these texts are thereby encouraged to welcome these arrivals at a literal level as new citizens and symbolically as inductees into a familiar and pervasive construct of Australian identity. This hypothesis is explored by first establishing the discourses evident in a range of children’s picture books published in the last two decades dealing with the First World

M. Kerby (*) • M. Baguley • N. Lowien • K. Ayre University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]; Nathan.Lowien@; [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




War and those exploring the experience of refugees, with a specific focus on And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda (Bogle & Whatley, 2015) and Out (George & Swan, 2016). Modern children’s picture books dealing with Australia’s involvement in the First World War have kept in step with the wider themes evident in Australia’s wartime commemorations. Though war is positioned as a national and personal trauma, it is also revered as a creative force that has shaped our personal and national identity. It is this distinction that allows the authors and illustrators to produce work that is overtly anti-militaristic, indeed almost pacifist in its intent, yet studiously avoid any criticism of the soldiers themselves. War might be futile, but the sacrifice of Australian soldiers is not. For while the authors and artists, some of whom are avowed pacifists, might well excoriate the militarism and realpolitik that led to a world war, they never belittle “the sacrifice of Australians past and present who fight alongside our allies and defend our freedom.”1 The Australian literary response to the First World War was initially marked by a “certain swagger,” one which “transmuted the unpleasant particulars of modern combat into an epic model of national achievement.”2 In contrast to their European counterparts, Australian writers did not have a literary tradition on which to draw when articulating an “imagining” of the war. What they adopted instead was a hybrid of two mythological traditions, one belonging to ancient Greece and the other to white Australia: The war writers cultivated a fresh, home grown heroic image, while simultaneously exploiting an imported one from antiquity. The Anzacs in particular were portrayed as belonging to a new, vigorous race from the Great South Land, grown strong through generations of combat with the Australian bush; at the same time they were seen as having somehow atavistically inherited the transcendent qualities of the heroes of the legendary Trojan battlefield so tantalizingly close to Gallipoli itself.3

This mythology has proved remarkably resilient, for even a century later it continues to shape perceptions of what it is to be Australian.4 This fidelity has not been without cost, for the gradual militarization of Australian history has obscured many achievements that might otherwise have contributed to a more balanced sense of national identity. War commemoration and writing history has instead become “conflated [and] joined in a grand narrative about the seminal role of Australian military engagements and the Anzac spirit in shaping the nation.”5 The Australian soldier as a national archetype was most notably articulated in the work of Charles Bean, the official historian and founder of the Australian War Memorial. In his opinion, what made the Australian soldier special “lay in the mettle of the men themselves”: Life was very dear, but life was not worth living unless they could be true to their idea of Australian manhood. Standing upon that alone, when help failed and



hope faded, when the end loomed clear in front of them, when the whole world seemed to crumble and the heaven to fall in, they faced its ruin undismayed.6

This overtly masculine Anglo-Saxon ideal has not, however, been entirely resistant to change. In the 1960s and 1970s, there emerged the construct of a “kinder, gentler Anzac.” This transformed the mythology from one “grounded in beliefs about racial identity and martial capacity to a legend that speaks in the modern idiom of trauma, suffering and empathy.”7 Though retaining the belief that the nation was somehow born on the cliffs of Gallipoli, the Australian people have increasingly characterized war as an individual and national trauma. As children’s picture books have traditionally reflected social, cultural, and historical changes, it is not surprising that Australian authors and illustrators exploring the First World War have generally kept in step with this evolution in understanding. This was not, however, the only shift in the way Australians articulated their understanding of national identity. In 1972, there was a change in the federal government in Australia for the first time in a quarter of a century, one which subsequently saw the ideology of assimilation replaced by multiculturalism. Children’s picture books began to advocate strongly for multiculturalism, presenting it as a “desirable social value and one to be inculcated in child readers.”8 This represents more than just a literary fashion, for as Paul Hazard argues, children’s literature is a means by which “a national soul is formed and sustained.”9 Based on their recent output, this is a view well understood by Australian authors and illustrators. Though one reviewer characterized the “torrent” of children’s picture books which emerged in Gallipoli’s centenary year as a “potent repellent against war for young people,”10 as this chapter shows, this is not synonymous with a rejection of a national mythology. Yet as Esther MacCallum-Stewart observes, however, the balancing of “respect” and the “pity of war” that this demands is often problematic.11 Children’s picture books are a “very powerful ideological tool.”12 For all their nomenclature as “modern” and the authors’ obvious preparedness to respond creatively to the many challenges of presenting a national narrative in an age-appropriate manner, they are almost always politically conservative. Little effort is made to offer an alternative discourse nor is there any inclination to criticize the enemies or regimes against which Australian soldiers fought. For all the claims to educate young readers about war, trauma, and sacrifice, this is a significant silence. Tolerance is a virtue that is much admired, but in this instance, it comes at a cost in understanding.

Australian Picture Books: A Conservative Rhetoric The central protagonist in My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day (Hoy & Johnson, 2006) is an elderly man who marches on Anzac Day “for all his friends who can’t march.” Significantly, “he also marches for us,” as is fitting, given that the annual April 25th commemoration in Australia and New Zealand is in effect a celebration of a national identity revealed and nurtured in war. At



the conclusion of the march, the elderly man is “quiet” as he is “still remembering.” His granddaughter predicts that “one day I will march on Anzac Day, and I will do the remembering.” She is not merely an onlooker, she is a participant and, by extension, a member of a national community.13 The author’s constant repetition of “we” emphasizes the communal ownership of the mythology, one founded in war for a people who claim to have no love of fighting. The House That Was Built in a Day: Anzac Cottage (Everett & McGuire, 2007) also foregrounds the concept of a national community created through the trauma of war. The book documents the construction of a cottage in Mt Hawthorn, Western Australia, by 200 volunteers for the first wounded Gallipoli veteran to return to the district. The author describes the landing at Gallipoli in rather lurid terms—“this stretch of sand, red with Australian blood, became known as Anzac Cove”—yet the illustrations do not show either a single casualty figure or a Turkish defender. References to the trauma of war, though not the enemy, are in the text rather than the artwork: “Australians were proud of their soldiers, but casualties had been high. The young nation mourned for a lost generation who would never return to the land where the stars of the Southern Cross shine.” The link between the trauma of war and the broader Australian community pervades the entire book. Even the construction of the cottage is imagined as an act of war. The volunteers move towards the vacant land past “cheering crowds lining the street” to commence work at 4.30 a.m., the time of the landing on Gallipoli. Like the soldiers, the volunteers “rolled up their sleeves and waited, their bodies silhouetted against the fading night sky.” Once the order is given, the men begin digging trenches, and as the foundations are laid, “the earth tremble[s] with each thump of stone into trench.” The workers give their all “like our soldiers gave theirs on the shores of Gallipoli.” The narrowness of the national archetype is gently challenged, but the only role that the author and illustrator can find for the town’s women is decidedly domestic, for they prepare and serve hasty meals, a role that at once includes and disenfranchises them. Once the cottage is complete “a proud community gazed upon its achievement… The Australians who fought and died would live on in hearts and memories through the passing of generations.” As they now must cater to a multicultural audience, the authors and illustrators of children’s picture books reassert the notion of a shared humanity. During wartime, an enemy is demonized as somehow less than human, firmly positioned as the “other,” but now in peace, he is a fellow victim of trauma, as is evident in One Minute’s Silence (Metzenthen & Camilleri, 2014). Set in a contemporary Australian classroom where a teacher is encouraging his rather uninterested students to “imagine” the war, it is unapologetic in its efforts to engender an emotional rather than an intellectual response. The teacher believes that in “one minute of silence you can imagine a war long gone; you can share what the soldiers saw and felt as they fought.” Going even further than empathy, he assures his students that the “story is yours and you are the



story.” Metzenthen and Camilleri enlist the students as participants in the wartime descriptions, portraying them storming the beaches at Gallipoli, attacking the Turkish trenches, and joining the evacuation at the end of the campaign. Conscious of their intended readership, they broaden the parameters of the imagined community in a manner that would once have been inconceivable. The students also “participate” in the fighting as Turkish soldiers. They are then able to “imagine the enemy, and see that he is not so different from you.” Other examples abound of this approach: in Voices from the Trenches (Kerby, Tuppurainen-Mason, & Baguley, 2017), Margaret Baguley’s image Jerusalem 1917 is a delicate balancing act of historical attitudes and the modern imagining of the war in the Middle East. Baguley remains faithful to the official history’s construct of the light horsemen as “spiritually ennobled Christian warriors” but she eschews its portrayal of the Turks as a people “motivated by a mixture of fanaticism and illicit desire that is incompatible with the rational and ethical virtues that distinguish a Christian civilization” (Fig. 18.1).14 In the same book, Eloise Tuppurainen-Mason’s Futility offers an image of a modern schoolboy engaged in an act of commemoration and communal mourning, again foregrounding the issue of trauma and presenting war not as the foundation of civilization, but its destruction (Fig. 18.2). Gary Crew and Shaun Tan’s Memorial (1999) is likewise dominated by grief and the repression of trauma, personified in a now elderly veteran of the First World War who like his Vietnam veteran grandson has repressed memories of

Fig. 18.1  Jerusalem, 1917, by Margaret Baguley



Fig. 18.2  Futility by Eloise Tuppurainen-Mason

war because “there’s some things you don’t want to remember.” His final words, however, are a triumph of resilience and courage: “Still, that don’t mean they’ll forget you. It’s the fight in you they’ll remember. That memory won’t die—not like my old bones. Even concrete and rock won’t last forever.” Only a Donkey (Walters & Mullins, 2008) cherry-picks a number of cultural and historical tropes by merging the stories of John Simpson Kirkpatrick, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. Simpson, as he was known, served as a stretcher bearer on Gallipoli and with his donkey transported wounded soldiers to the beachhead. He was killed after three weeks of service and though undoubtedly courageous, his life and death have become “heroic rhetoric for cannon-fodder, a grotesque romanticization of Australian soldiers in battle and death.”15 The eponymous donkey of Walter and Mullins’ book dreams of travelling “a great open road” that will take him “to a place in his dreaming where magic would be.” With an eclectic group of animals who are openly disdainful of each other, he is eventually inspired by the example of Simpson and his donkey. The group bear witness to the “magic” and are now members of a community who share the same values whatever their more surface differences. Interestingly for a society that is increasingly secular, the desire to use picture books as a vehicle for moral instruction often leaves them with a decidedly religious tone. Anzac Day is in the vanguard of Australia’s war c­ ommemoration,



Fig. 18.3  The New Calvary by Margaret Baguley

and though it is often the subject of some lukewarm criticism as a martial celebration, its religious overtones pass without comment. In fact, it is best “understood and explained as a Christian rite, even liturgy, albeit one in predominately secular guise, that has survived, even transcended, the decline of Christianity in the context of the host nations within which it sprang.”16 It can be rightly characterized as Australia’s All Souls’ Day,17 a quality that pervades both the artwork and the text of many picture books. Margaret Baguley’s The New Calvary is an image pervaded by Christian symbolism: a soldier silhouetted against the dawn, is revealed by the rising sun. It is the triumph of light over darkness, of good over evil, and of life over death. Standing at the foot of a cross marking the grave of a comrade, the soldier might just as easily be a witness to the crucifixion of Jesus. There is no resurrection possible in this case, but there is the promise of immortality, for his name will “liveth for evermore.”18 Yet never far from the text or images is the issue of trauma endured and the value of resilience and courage (Fig. 18.3).

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda: Eric Bogle and Bruce Whatley Perhaps the most famous articulation of the soldier as a traumatized victim construct, at least in terms of popular culture, is And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda (Bogle & Whatley, 2015). Before being released as a children’s picture book to mark the centenary of the Gallipoli landing, it was a popular ballad penned by Eric Bogle in 1971. Though widely acknowledged as “one of the



greatest Anzac songs ever written,” it is, in fact, a thinly veiled attack on the Vietnam War.19 Despite its overt anti-war message, it has been readily subsumed into the historical canon. The acceptance of trauma in Australian war narratives facilitated a seamless progression from protest song to historical truth to children’s picture book. The story opens with a young man who enlists against the backdrop of a population so animated by jingoism and the promise of national glory that they send their young men to war amidst “cheers” and “flag-waving.” In contrast to the idyllic portrayal of pre-war Australia, the landing at Gallipoli delivers these soldiers into a “mad world of blood, death and fire.” Here, far from home, they are “butchered like lambs at the slaughter.” Crippled by a Turkish shell, the protagonist is repatriated to Australia, where he is at first greeted by an embarrassed silence that is a painful contrast to his departure. Later, once the shock is absorbed by the civilian population, he is treated with indifference. Bogle openly questions the relevance of this “long forgotten war” and the national day that commemorates it. This heresy is permitted only because the unnamed soldier was not “a larger-than-life hero going into battle.” Instead, he is a “very human survivor reflecting on the meaning of it all.”20 Bogle does not, however, reject the central tenet of the mythology, for as he concedes, his ambition was “to create a tribute to the many brave young men and women [who served on Gallipoli] and as an indictment of the stubborn stupidity and arrogance of the political and military leadership of the Allied forces at the time, which led to the waste of all that courage and all those young lives.” The Australian soldier remains above and somehow separate from the wider criticisms.21 This reflects the view that children’s picture books must “be morally instructive or to depict events considered commendable in order to counter beliefs that war is a positive action.”22 Yet this is not always compatible with historicity. This is part of what MacCallum-Stewart characterizes as the “parable of war” which is “an emotive, literary retelling of the war based on a series of texts and cultural shifts rather than on historical perspectives.” This is particularly important, given the ideological impact of literature on children: [It] can include historical, cultural, or social details suggesting that war can only be represented in certain ways, and consequently bolstering this idea through critical agreement, children’s literature, which engages with the First World War privileges more recent political and ideological beliefs rather than the actual events. This erases subtleties of distinction and contrasts in behaviour and/or belief that occurred during the war. It also encourages the notion that certain ways of thinking about the war are valorised over others and that ones which may have been fact at the time are now derided or seen as incorrect.23

Bogle embraces this parable of war approach and whatever its shortcomings in terms of historical accuracy, it succeeds in a commercial sense because it resonates with a readership already well schooled in war literature that, in the words of Wilfred Owen, emphasizes the pity of war.



The use of the First World War tropes to shape refugee narratives reflects both their pervasiveness and the evolution of white Australia into a multicultural society. This appropriation does, however, require a selective use of the mythology. For the Australian literary response to the war celebrated the Australian soldier as the living embodiment of a new and vigorous white race strengthened by frontier life. It was nothing if not a prescriptive belief system, informed as it was by the threat of invasion and an anxiety about the nation’s internal racial make-up. The Immigration Restriction Act (1901) was the first passed by the new parliament, a preoccupation that reflected the nation’s strategic vulnerability and the almost universal desire to “keep” Australia white. This “provocative policy of a palisade against the unwanted”24 was bolstered internally by an attempt to “absorb” Indigenous Australians into the mainstream, a policy that was predicated on the “elimination of Aboriginality, the abandonment of language, custom and ritual, and the severing of kinship ties.”25 Exclusive racial possession of the country became the defining feature of the nation state’s nascent sense of self.26 The nation fought a world war in the second decade of its existence for a variety of reasons, one of the most important was the right to keep Australia white.27 In the case of the Indigenous inhabitants, the government showed that it was also prepared to take proactive and ruthless steps to make it white. The malleability of this national mythology facilitated a discarding of the racial theories that underpinned the deification of the Australian soldier. This left only the more palatable portions, ones compatible with the values of multiculturalism and more able to lay claim to the loyalty of an evolving demographic. The authors and illustrators of children’s picture books therefore find themselves free to integrate their material into an already established canon. By positioning refugees as the victims of personal, ethnic, or national traumas who are compelled by circumstance to display courage and resilience, they offer readers a familiar narrative. These new arrivals are Australian, not yet by blood, but by the qualities of character. They are presented as different in the peripherals, but not the essentials. Arriving not as a threatening “other,” their values are Australian values. As they deal with social, cultural, and religious issues, these picture books are inevitably heavily politicized. Theirs is an unconditional celebration of the symbolic ideal of a multicultural Australia. The authors and illustrators of these picture books are well aware of the concerns about the capacity of refugees to integrate, and, as such, they take clear steps to counter this perception. This is in keeping with the broader literature dealing with refugees, which acknowledges that the refugee experience of trauma is seriously aversive and harmful. It also advocates for a shift of focus to positive elements of trauma such as resilience, strength, and coping abilities in order to promote a more balanced, holistic view.28 Pursuing what Moore and Begoray characterize as “harness[ing] survivorship,”29 authors and illustrators prioritize the courage and resilience shown by the victims of trauma rather than disempowering them in a narrow portrayal of them as victims who are unable or unwilling to exercise agency. This mirrors the Australian literary response to



war. Poets such as Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and Isaac Rosenberg and novelists such as Henri Barbusse and Erich Maria Remarque portray the front-­ line soldier during the First World War as a passive rather than an active hero. What he does is never as important as what is done to him.30 By contrast, the carefully constructed “imagining” of the Australian soldier emphasizes all of the qualities encouraged by a settler society, foremost among them courage, initiative, and resilience. Like the refugees in Australian picture books, he might be a victim of bigger events, but he is never passive. Instead of trench warfare or repeated assaults against machine guns and barbed wire, refugees face a different type of trauma. These situations could include the forced movement from one country to another and other highly aversive experiences such as negotiating inhospitable landscapes (e.g., travelling on boats that are often unseaworthy, walking through jungles, or deserts) and sexual assault, torture, arrest, and detention. Literature dealing with refugees is usually divided into the three stages of pre-migration, migration, and post-migration.31 The pre-migration stage involves them fleeing their war-torn homeland. The migration stage depicts the characters enduring months on a crowded, unseaworthy boat. The post-migration stage portrays them attempting to integrate into a new culture. Marginalized and vulnerable, refugees are exposed to the equivalent of Bogle’s mad world of blood, death, and fire as they negotiate a world that does not afford them the freedoms enjoyed in pre-­ war Australia by Bogle’s protagonist in And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda. Though Liz Lofthouse and Robert Ingpen probably did not make the connection between their book Ziba Came on a Boat (2007) and the Australian literary response to the First World War, a number of reviewers come very close to making the link for them. They adopt a rhetoric that is all but indistinguishable from that used to describe the plethora of children’s picture books dealing with the First World War. This story of a refugee girl and her mother’s journey to a new country communicates a “message of tragedy, courage, and hope,”32 one that “imparts empathy, humility, and understanding,”33 all the while balancing the danger with an “undercurrent of hope.”34 It is, as The Sunday Age reviewer assures us, “a tender story of hope [that] is timeless.”35 It is not just in the language of the reviewers, however, that a familiar pattern emerges. The publisher and reviewers celebrate the book’s accuracy and its status as a “true” story. In reality, it is a compilation of a number of stories that Afghan refugees shared with the author. Though this does not make it untrue to the reality of the refugee experience, it contributes, as one reviewer noted, to a series of “obscure impressions and dark vagueness.”36 This might be an attempt at universalizing the experience of refugees, yet the paucity of background information provided by Lofthouse is reminiscent of the almost total absence of Turks in Everett and McGuire’s depiction of the landing on Gallipoli in The House That Was Built in a Day: Anzac Cottage (2007). War is responsible for the death and destruction rather than the soldiers of another nation and faith. Metzenthen and Camilleri are equally reticent in their approach to the issue in One Minute’s Silence (2014) and choose to encourage the reader to ­empathize



with both the Australian and Turkish soldiers equally. Lofthouse and Ingpen cannot hope to encourage that level of identification, nor would they probably want to. Instead they offer the strangely disembodied “angry voices” and “gunfire” that Ziba hears and which sends her and her mother on a desperate quest for “Azadi” (freedom). Though not identified in the book as such, the young girl and her mother are members of the Hazara ethnic minority, an overwhelmingly Shiite group that makes up 9 per cent of the population of Afghanistan. Victims of persecution by the Sunni majority, they have also been the target for multiple documented massacres and human rights abuses at the hands of the Taliban.37 To offer details would name Muslims as both victims and perpetrators. Instead, we are invited through Ziba’s flashbacks to recognize activities which are universal, such as reading schoolbooks and helping to set the dinner table, and those more culturally specific, like carrying water jugs back to a mud-brick home.38 The act of reading a school book is never identified as a potentially life-­threatening pursuit; instead, we are invited to empathize with a generalized trauma. This will, in Lofthouse’s view, “inspire us with their courage and determination.” Like Walters and Mullins’ protagonist in Only a Donkey (2008), we have witnessed the magic of courage and resilience in the face of traumatic events. We now understand the value of a community enriched rather than weakened by difference. The best-known Australian picture book dealing with refugees is Anh Do’s The Little Refugee which is based on his award-winning biography The Happiest Refugee. Both document his family’s escape by boat from Vietnam and his subsequent adaptation to a new life in Australia. The escape from Vietnam, which was characterized by one reviewer as “the quintessential horror journey for any refugee”39 saw his family battle “heat, storms, hunger, thirst, [pirate] attack, loneliness and fear before they found a safe haven in a new country, and a new life in Australia.”40 Resilience is the central theme of the book, even more so than courage, as many reviewers recognize—“it is a testimony to the power of hope, resilience, family, friends and good humour to carry us through even the darkest of times”41 and “eventually for a young Anh, who tried hard to see the bright side of life no matter what the difficulty, there was triumph.”42 Some people, we are reminded, “have to fight for life.”43 The book has garnered particular notice because Anh Do did more than just survive the experience of migration. He has, in fact, thrived in Australia, becoming a very popular author, actor, comedian, and artist. His success, like those of the Australian soldiers, is the nation’s success. Readers are reassured that hard work, courage, and determination are rewarded in modern Australia regardless of race or creed. As Anh Do observes at the end of the book, “in spite of all the dangers and hardships they had faced, Mum and Dad always told me to have hope, and to believe that everything would turn out okay in the end… And they were right. It did.” There are a whole range of similar picture books dealing with the experience of refugees travelling to Australia, most of them focussing on the impact of war and displacement on children from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. These include My Two Blankets (Kobald & Blackwood, 2014), Ships in the Field



(Gervay & Pignataro, 2012), My Dog (Heffernan & McLean, 2000), Dancing the Boom-Cha-Cha Boogie (Oliver, 2012), A Safe Place to Live (Walker, 2011), The Treasure Box (Wild & Blackwood, 2013), Home and Away (Marsden & Ottley, 2008), Refugees (Miller, 2003), and Teacup (Young & Matt, 2015). Each conforms to the pattern established across the genre and the framework established by authors and illustrators dealing with the First World War. For example, the young girl in Ships in the Field, now resident in what is presumably Australia, intentionally mispronounces sheep as ship, as her father does when reciting a nursery rhyme. By refusing linguistic assimilation, she empowers herself in the face of trauma and displacement. The Treasure Box also emphasizes resilience in the face of trauma, thereby reminding the reader that “there are things that cannot be destroyed with bombs. Literature, the power of words and stories, strength of human spirit and hope are the true treasures which continue to survive and sustain people through times of great tragedy and devastation.”44 In Refugees, David Miller uses ducks whose swamp has been draining as an analogy for displacement. They too must face danger, rejection, and violence before finding freedom on a lake. Each of the books an excellent addition to any reading list. Each explores displacement, loss, and grief and ends with a celebration of the human spirit, and of resilience and courage. Like their First World War counterparts, they do not offer a history lesson, though they often have pretentions to do so. They also decline to name an enemy, as though war and displacement do not have human origins. In preaching tolerance, as both genres do, naming an enemy, and giving him a face, and, more dangerously, a nation or a faith, becomes impossible.

Out: Angela May George and Owen Swan Like the other examples of picture books dealing with refugees, the text and promotional material for Out (George & Swan, 2016) use the same language conventions as their First World War counterparts. The book documents the story of a young girl fleeing her home with her mother and making the dangerous journey to a new country. She is traumatized by her experiences, for even when safe in Australia, “some days, when there’s a loud bang, I drop to the floor.” The story is anything but subtle in its celebration of “the triumph of the human spirit in the darkest times, and the many paths people take to build a new life.”45 The young girl is reunited with her father on the final page of the book, a denouement which ensures that earlier references to “horrible things” are outweighed by the recognition that “Brave is waiting and believing in your heart that everything will be okay.” Again, as with the authors who write about Australia’s experience in war, George and Swan are confident that their work is well and truly in step with conventional attitudes. The book, released to coincide with World Refugee Day in 2016, was motivated by George’s desire to “tell a story that would both educate young children unfamiliar with the plight of asylum seekers and also give young refugees a chance to recognise something of their own journeys on the page.” Though she further acknowledges that she has “always had great



compassion for refugees,” her belief that “it’s important to be fairly non-­ political, to just put the story out there and let the children come to their own conclusions” suggests some disconnect.46 So convinced is she that her views are universal, she sees a book that advocates for the acceptance of refuges as apolitical, when, in reality, it has been a major election issue in Australia for the better part of two decades. Such a use of a picture book as an agent of socialization is, as John Stephens reminds us, a “conscious and deliberate process.”47 Whatever George may argue about her motivation, literature for young children is ideological,48 a claim supported by the overtly political approach adopted by author and artist in what is a well-respected work by two very skilled practitioners.

Conclusion The capacity of children’s picture books to engage in ideological discussions is further evident in the recent release of Alfred’s War,49 the story of a First World War Aboriginal soldier. Often denied the right to enlist and unable to access veterans’ benefits when they did, there has been in recent years a number of attempts to highlight the service of Indigenous Australians. As with the books focussing on the plight of refugees, while the content seeks to disrupt the dominant narrative, the approach draws on familiar tropes: Alfred is shipped home from the war with a “gammy leg” and a head throbbing with troubling memories. Denied the acknowledgement and opportunities afforded to returned white servicemen, he ends up an itinerant worker, sleeping under the stars and on park benches. While Alfred does not talk about his war experiences, he never forgets his army mates who “didn’t make it home.”

The themes of trauma, courage, and resilience are foregrounded in the pre-­ release publicity, as is the desire to communicate a moral lesson. Again, however, there is an uncertain acknowledgement of the political nature of the material. Bin Salleh argues that it is important for junior readers to form their own opinions “about what is just and right in our society, as these young people will go on to craft the world in which we live.”50 For all the importance of this view, authors and illustrators exist in a context. Traditional imaginings of the war have not left them untouched. As Charles Bean noted, the example of the Australian soldier is “a monument to great hearted men, and for their nation—a possession forever.”51 It is this pervasiveness that challenges all who choose war as their topic.

Notes 1. Joy Lawn, “Gallipoli books for children open an enlightening window on the reality of war,”, April 24, 2015, au/entertaining-kids/parenting-and-childrens-books/gallipoli-books-for-children-open-an-enlightening-window-on-the-reality-of-war-20150420-1mmcfl. html.



2. Robin Gerster, Big-noting: The Heroic Theme in Australian War Writing (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1987), 15. 3. Gerster, Big-noting, 2. 4. Joan Beaumont, “The Anzac Legend,” in Australia’s War, 1914–1918, ed. Joan Beaumont (St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1995), 149–176. 5. Marilyn Lake, “How do school children learn about the spirit of Anzac?” in What’s Wrong with ANZAC?: The Militarisation of Australian History, eds. Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds (Sydney, NSW: University of New South Wales Press, 2010), 135–156. 6. Charles Bean, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918, Volume I – The Story of ANZAC from the outbreak of war to the end of the first phase of the Gallipoli Campaign, May 4, 1915, 11th ed. (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1941), 607. 7. Carolyn Holbrook, “Are We Brainwashing our Children? The Place of Anzac in Australian History,” Agora 51, no. 4 (2016): 19. 8. John Stephens, “Advocating Multiculturalism: Migrants in Australian Children’s Literature after 1972,” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 15, no. 4 (Winter 1990): 180. 9. Paul Hazard, Books, Children, and Men, trans. Marguerite MacKellar Mitchell (Boston: Horn Book, 1983), 111. 10. Joy Lawn, “Gallipoli books for children open an enlightening window on the reality of war.” 11. Esther MacCallum-Stewart, “If they ask us why we died: Children’s Literature and the First World War 1970–2005.” The Lion and the Unicorn 31, no. 2 (2007): 180. 12. John Stephens, Language and Ideology in Children’s Fiction (London: Longman, 1992), 205. 13. Martin Kerby, Margaret Baguley, Abbey MacDonald, & Zoe Lynch, “A War Imagined: Gallipoli and the Art of Children’s Picturebooks,” Australian Art Education 38, no. 1 (2017): 209. 14. Chris Lee, “War is not a Christian Mission: Racial Invasion and Religious Crusade in H.S. Gullett’s Official History of the Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine,” Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature 7 (2017): 92. 15. Peter Cochrane, “WWI legend of Simpson and his donkey a case of selective truths,” The Australian, January 25, 2017. arts/review/wwi-legend-of-simpson-and-his-donkey-a-case-of-selectivetruths/news-story/8c3bfa810c90ed5c29f4ea6bf695cbc9. 16. Bradly S.  Billings, “Is Anzac Day an incidence of ‘Displaced Christianity?” Pacifica 28, no. 3 (2015): 230. 17. John A. Moses, “The Nation’s Secular Requiem” in Anzac Day: Then and Now, ed. Tom Frame (Sydney: NewSouth Publishing, 2016), 54–65. 18. Kerby et al., “A War Imagined,” 208. 19. Daniel Keane, “Eric Bogle: Australia’s anti-war balladeer reflects on his Anzac anthem and his upcoming trip to Gallipoli,” ABC News, April 22, 2015. http:// 20. John Rickard, Australia: A Cultural History (Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, 1988), 71. 21. Kerby et al., “A War Imagined,” 206.



22. Esther MacCallum-Stewart, “If they ask us why we died: Children’s Literature and the First World War 1970–2005,” The Lion and the Unicorn, 31, no. 2 (2007): 180. 23. MacCallum-Stewart, “If they ask us why we died,” 177–178. 24. Gordon Greenwood, “National Development and Social Experimentation 1901–1914,” in Australia: A Social and Political History, ed. Gordon Greenwood (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1955), 247. 25. Stuart Macintyre, A Concise History of Australia (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 145. 26. Martin C.  Kerby, Margaret Baguley, and Abbey MacDonald, “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda: Australian Picturebooks (1999–2016) and the First World War,” Children’s Literature in Education: An International Quarterly (2017). 27. Macintyre, A Concise History, 145. 28. Howard Bath, “The Trouble with Trauma,” Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care 16, no. 1 (2017): 1–12; Robert Hart, “Child Refugees, Trauma and Education: Interactionist considerations on social and emotional needs and development,” Educational Psychology in Practice 25, no. 4 (2009): 351–368; Kerrie A. Pieloch, Mary Beth McCullough and Amy K. Marks, “Resilience of Children with Refugee Statuses: A Research Review,” Canadian Psychology 57, no. 4 (2016): 330–339. 29. Amber Moore and Deborah Begoray, The Last Block of Ice: Trauma Literature in the High School Classroom, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 61, no. 2 (2017): 175. 30. See Gerster, Big-noting. 31. Pieloch et  al., “Resilience of Children” 330–331; Amanda L.  Sullivan and Gregory R.  Simonson, A Systematic Review of School-based Social and Emotional Interventions for Refugee and War-Traumatized Youth, Review of Educational Research 86, no. 2 (2016): 503–530. https://doi. org/10.3102/0034654315609419. 32. Liz Lofthouse, “Ziba Came on a Boat,” July 5, 2012. https://www.penguin. 33. Katy Brownless, “Book Review: Ziba Came on a Boat,” The South Sydney Herald, December 2, 2014, 34. Chandra Howard, “Ziba Came on a Boat by Liz Lofthouse,” (blog), posted April 16, 2013, accessed December 5, 2016, http://sdsubookreviews.blogspot. 35. Liz Lofthouse, “Ziba Came on a Boat.” 36. Kirkus Review, “Ziba Came on a Boat,” Kirkus, accessed December 5, 2017, 37. “Explainer: Who are the Hazaras?” SBS News, September 3, 2013, https:// 38. Howard, “Ziba Came on a Boat by Liz Lofthouse.” 39. Tania McCartney, “Review: The Little Refugee by Anh & Suzanne Do,” The Boomerang Books Blog (blog), posted November 15, 2011, accessed January 4, 2017,



40. “The Little Refugee,” Scholastic Teacher Notes, accessed December 1, 2017, 41. Ibid. 42. “The Little Refugee,” Allen & Unwin Book Publishers, accessed December 2, 2017, 43. Carolyn Webb, “Little refugee tells kids a tall tale,” The Sydney Morning Herald, August 4, 2011, 44. Megan Daley, “Review of ‘The Treasure Box,’” Children’s Books Daily (blog), posted February 15, 2013, accessed December 2, 2017, 45. “Out (HB),” Maclean’s Booksellers, accessed December 4, 2017, https:// ode=9781743629000. 46. Jess Layt, “Children’s book shines light on refugees,” Campbelltown-­Macarthur Advertiser, June 28, 2016, story/3995776/childrens-book-shines-light-on-refugees. 47. John Stephens, Language and Ideology in Children’s Fiction (London: Longman, 1992), 9. 48. Layt, “Children’s book shines light on refugees.” 49. Rachel Bin Salleh and Samantha Fry, Alfred’s War (Broome: Magabala Books, 2018). Alfred’s War has been published by Magabala Books, Australia’s oldest independent Indigenous publisher. 50. Rosemary Neill, Unknown Soldiers, The Weekend Australian Review (April 21–22 2018), 3. 51. Charles Bean, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918, Vol. VI – The Australian Imperial Force in France during the Allied Offensive, 1918 (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1942), 1096.

References Bath, Howard. “The Trouble with Trauma.” Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care 16, no. 1 (2017): 1–12. Bean, Charles. Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918, Volume I – The Story of ANZAC from the Outbreak of War to the End of the First Phase of the Gallipoli Campaign, May 4, 1915, 11th ed. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1941. Beaumont, Joan. “The Anzac Legend.” In Australia’s War, 1914–1918, edited by Joan Beaumont. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1995. Billings, B.S. “Is Anzac Day an Incidence of ‘Displaced Christianity?” Pacifica 28, no. 3 (2015): 229–242. Bin Salleh, Rachel, and Samantha Fry. Alfred’s War. Broome: Magabala Books, 2018. Brownless, Katy. “Book Review: Ziba Came on a Boat.” The South Sydney Herald, December 2, 2014. Cochrane, Peter. “WWI Legend of Simpson and His Donkey a Case of Selective Truths.” The Australian, January 25, 2017.



arts/review/wwi-legend-of-simpson-and-his-donkey-a-case-of-selective-truths/ news-story/8c3bfa810c90ed5c29f4ea6bf695cbc9. Daley, Megan. “Review of ‘The Treasure Box.’” Children’s Books Daily (blog). Posted February 15, 2013. Accessed December 2, 2017. review-of-the-treasure-box/. “Explainer: Who Are the Hazaras?” SBS News, September 3, 2013. Gerster, Robin. Big-noting: The Heroic Theme in Australian War Writing. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1987. Greenwood, Gordon. “National Development and Social Experimentation 1901–1914.” In Australia: A Social and Political History, edited by Gordon Greenwood. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1955. Hart, Robert. “Child Refugees, Trauma and Education: Interactionist Considerations on Social and Emotional Needs and Development.” Educational Psychology in Practice 25, no. 4 (2009): 351–368. Hazard, Paul. Books, Children, and Men, trans. Marguerite MacKellar Mitchell. Boston: Horn Book, 1983. Holbrook, Carolyn. “Are We Brainwashing Our Children? The Place of Anzac in Australian History.” Agora 51, no. 4 (2016): 16–22. Howard, Chandra. “Ziba Came on a Boat by Liz Lofthouse,” (blog). Posted April 16, 2013. Accessed December 5, 2016. au/2013/04/ziba-came-on-boat-by-liz-lofthouse.html. Keane, Daniel. “Eric Bogle: Australia’s Anti-War Balladeer Reflects on His Anzac Anthem and His Upcoming Trip to Gallipoli.” ABC News, April 22, 2015. http:// Kerby, Martin, Margaret Baguley, and Abbey MacDonald. “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda: Australian Picturebooks (1999–2016) and the First World War.” Children’s Literature in Education: An International Quarterly (2017a). https:// Kerby, Martin, Margaret Baguley, Abbey MacDonald, and Zoe Lynch. “A War Imagined: Gallipoli and the Art of Children’s Picturebooks.” Australian Art Education 38, no. 1 (2017b): 199–216. Kirkus Review. “Ziba Came on a Boat.” Kirkus. Accessed December 5, 2017. https:// Lake, Marilyn. “How Do School Children Learn About the Spirit of Anzac?” In What’s Wrong with ANZAC?: The Militarisation of Australian History, edited by Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds, 135–156. Sydney, NSW: University of New South Wales Press, 2010. Lawn, Joy. “Gallipoli Books for Children Open an Enlightening Window on the Reality of War.”, April 24, 2015. Layt, Jess. “Children’s Book Shines Light on Refugees.” Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser, June 28, 2016. story/3995776/childrens-book-shines-light-on-refugees. Lee, Christopher. “War Is Not a Christian Mission: Racial Invasion and Religious Crusade in H.S. Gullett’s Official History of the Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine.” Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature 7 (2017): 85–96.



Lofthouse, Liz. “Ziba Came on a Boat.” July 5, 2012. books/ziba-came-on-a-boat-9780143505518. MacCallum-Stewart, Esther. “If They Ask Us Why We Died: Children’s Literature and the First World War 1970–2005.” The Lion and the Unicorn 31, no. 2 (2007): 176–188. Macintyre, Stuart. A Concise History of Australia. New  York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. McCartney, Tania. “Review: The Little Refugee by Anh & Suzanne Do.” The Boomerang Books Blog (blog). Posted November 15, 2011. Accessed January 4, 2017. https:// Moore, Amber, and Deborah Begoray. “The Last Block of Ice: Trauma Literature in the High School Classroom.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 61, no. 2 (2017): 173–181. Moses, John A. “The Nation’s Secular Requiem.” In Anzac Day: Then and Now, edited by Tom Frame, 54–65. Sydney: NewSouth Publishing, 2016. Neill, Rosemary. Unknown Soldiers, The Weekend Australian Review, April 21–22, 2018. “Out (HB).” Maclean’s Booksellers. Accessed December 4, 2017. https://www. ode=9781743629000. Pieloch, Kerrie A. Mary Beth McCullough, and Amy K. Marks. “Resilience of Children with Refugee Statuses: A Research Review.” Canadian Psychology 57, no. 4 (2016): 330–339. Rickard, John. Australia: A Cultural History. Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, 1988. Stephens, John. “Advocating Multiculturalism: Migrants in Australian Children’s Literature After 1972.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 15, no. 4, (Winter 1990): 180–185. ———. Language and Ideology in Children’s Fiction. London: Longman, 1992. Sullivan, Amanda L., and Gregory R. Simonson. A Systematic Review of School-Based Social and Emotional Interventions for Refugee and War-Traumatized Youth. Review of Educational Research 86, no. 2 (2016): 503–530. https://doi. org/10.3102/0034654315609419. “The Little Refugee.” Scholastic Teacher Notes. Accessed December 1, 2017. http:// “The Little Refugee.” Allen & Unwin Book Publishers. Accessed December 2, 2017. Webb, Carolyn. “Little Refugee Tells Kids a Tall Tale.” The Sydney Morning Herald, August 4, 2011.




War Began in Nineteen Sixty-Three: Poetic Responses to the 50th Anniversary Martin Malone

Introduction At a time of heightened interest occasioned by the centenary of the First World War, it is interesting to reflect upon aspects of its 50th anniversary and the considerable legacy it bestowed upon English culture. Inheritors of this legacy and revisionist historians alike seem keen to perpetuate or talk down its immense impact upon our current perceptions of the Great War and the mythology that has developed around it. Today, many of our received truths about the conflict appear to have grown out of this first great cycle of commemoration, played out in a world still populated by large numbers of living veterans willing to bear first-hand witness. Some division appears to exist between perceptions of “real history” and remembrance—the one being “factual” and the other an explicable, though invidious, form of reconstruction. It is an interesting binary entirely in keeping with the nature of the conflict itself. In his book The Long Shadow, David Reynolds summarizes the historian’s perspective: “In Britain this social reconstruction of the Great War around its fiftieth anniversary served to drive 1914–1918 firmly into the trenches and into poetry”.1 Meanwhile, in Forgotten Victory, Gary Sheffield opens his revisionist account of the war’s conduct by dedicating a subsection of the opening chapter to “The 1960s and the Birth of the British National Perception”, before obliquely demonstrating his own point with regard to the politicization of the Great War: British popular interest in the 1914–18 war, dormant during the 1939–45 conflict, began to reawaken in the mid- to late-1950s. It was during the 1960s,

M. Malone (*) University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




however, that the British national perception of the First World War as futile and incompetent became firmly established: to borrow a Marxist phrase, it had become a dominant ‘ideology’, constantly reinforced by the media.2

In fact, the slew of neo-con writing and revisionist TV programmes accompanying the post-Thatcherite centenary of the Great War have begun to constitute something of their own counter-revolutionary “ideology”, to the extent that one might be forgiven for thinking that “not royal families, but poetry/ tips men into war graves”.3 Whatever one’s view on this debate, centennial studies of the conflict have gone some way to remind us that the Great War has, to a remarkable degree, become the war to construe all wars, and that this state of affairs was brought about by the work of the 1960s. Certainly, the cultural legacy left by its 50th anniversary has proved both potent and durable. The fact of this may well bear out Reynold’s contention that “we have lost the big picture: the history has been distilled into poetry”.4 Nevertheless, it should also serve to remind us that the period being blamed for this produced a powerful creative response worthy of renewed attention in itself. Analysis of the period has tended to focus upon the popular imagination and the effect of programmes like the BBC’s groundbreaking TV series The Great War (1964), as well as the success enjoyed by musicals like Oh, What A Lovely War! (1963) and Alan Clark’s now infamous book, The Donkeys (1961). However, as Reynolds points out, “The 1960s was, in fact, the decade when the Great War poets became iconic” also. Within the poetic community, the influence of Wilfred Owen had been apparent since the 1930s, when he became something of a cult figure to the young poets of the Auden-Spender generation.5 It follows, then, that as Auden’s own influence grew upon subsequent generations of poets, the work of Owen and his peers would offer, at the very least, some allure. One could, indeed, compile an impressive anthology of material written as a result of renewed interest in the Great War during the decade either side of its 50th anniversary. Poets such as Ted Hughes, Christopher Logue, Michael Longley, and Jon Silkin all produced work in which the conflict appears. This group features poems about the Great War written by the offspring and grandchildren of the combatant generation, who lived through the Second World War as children and who took their creative bearings from an Auden generation which, as Samuel Hynes points out, was itself obsessed by the trenches as a result of it being too young to go.6 The poetry makes fascinating reading for a current audience, perhaps more so for practitioners, since the very contemporaneity of its style conditioned predominant modes of response yet current. Indeed, it is not unreasonable to suggest that this auxiliary canon of Great War poetry exerts almost as much influence upon contemporary writers as the “primary source” material provided by the trench poets themselves, albeit a different and subtler kind. In many ways, then, the 1960s saw the emergence of two Great War poetic canons: that of the Sassoon, Graves and Owen school of soldier-poets themselves and the subtler inauguration of a secondary canon written largely as cultural reception. The second of these—



what Fran Brearton calls “post-war Great War poems”7—is fascinating, both in the form of expression which evolved and in the questions of witness it posed, given that it has to do with a writer’s use of shared material avowedly not drawn from direct experience. It is this secondary canon that I’d like to consider here—chiefly because it is born of creative processes closer to those undergone by poets currently using the Great War as their subject. To a surprising degree, the war remains, as Ted Hughes put it back in 1965, “The National Ghost”.8 Hughes’s 1957 debut The Hawk in the Rain resoundingly announced the arrival of a major new voice in English poetry. The elemental social and folkloric struggles that underpin the collection take a decidedly military turn in its closing sequence, in which Hughes vividly explores various dimensions of modern warfare. The thematic unity of the sequence offers us an opportunity to glimpse his remarkably consistent talent for penetrating the scrutinized moment and drawing from it maximum emotional and linguistic effect. The ironic contrast between “the national sorrow” of the cenotaph and the “Secretest, tiniest” loneliness of the widow in “Griefs for Dead Soldiers” is, for instance, extremely moving:         She cannot build her sorrow into a monument         And walk away from it. Closer than thinking          The dead man hangs around her neck, but never         Close enough to be touched, or thanked even          For being all that remains in a world smashed.9

Here, the dead man hanging around the widow’s neck gives vibrant expression to the almost preternatural pervasiveness of Hughes’s notion of a national sorrow. Collectively and individually, the Great War dead are his “National Ghost”: closer than thought itself yet never close enough to be touched even by their loved ones. The dead man here comes to represent what Paul Fussell was later to characterize as “the essential condition of consciousness in the twentieth century”.10 Most fascinating is the degree to which Hughes manages to channel a Great War literacy—acquired from his father and the war poets themselves—into creating work, of itself, distinct and contemporary. Consider the lines from “The Casualty”, “But already, in a brambled ditch, suddenly-­ smashed | Stems twitch” and how proximate their seeing is to those from Owen’s “Spring Offensive”: “When even the little brambles would not yield | But clutched and clung to them like sorrowing arms”. And, in the same poem, Hughes’s trademark intimacy with the natural world betrays something of Blunden in the way that it provides broader perspective to war’s human destruction, in terms of its effects upon wildlife and landscape:              In the stubble a pheasant         Is craning every way in astonishment.         The hare that hops up, quizzical, hesitant,          Flattens ears and tears madly away and the wren warns.11



Similarly, the nightmare of “Bayonet Charge” is rendered in a phrasing that consciously resonates with Owen’s own from a poem such as “Dulce Et Decorum Est”. The flashback of a dreamer, “Stumbling across a field of clods towards a green hedge | that dazzled with rifle fire” palpably feeds off the energies of “But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, | And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime”, for instance. In the same way, the fully realized ironies of the “national sorrow” in “Griefs for Dead Soldiers” clearly channel Sassoon’s anger at the “peace-complacent stone” of the Menin Gate’s “sepulchre of crime”.12 The influences are evident, but Hughes’s achievement here goes ­further for, in finding his own voice through these poems, he was collaterally demonstrating how the war’s long shadow might be a legitimate subject for contemporary poetry. Perhaps the best-regarded post-war Great War lyric from this sequence is the ekphrastic “Six Young Men”. Certainly, it is the poem that has provided subsequent poets with a well-wrought method of entry into writing about the Great War. One may characterize this as the objet trouvé route back to 1914–1918, usually facilitated by archival or family artefacts which allow the poet some sense of “direct access” to the events of a century or, in Hughes’s case, “Four decades” earlier. The fact that this was Europe’s first widely filmed and photographed conflict proved hugely significant in providing non-combatant writers, working after-the-fact, with the necessary authenticating elements for their work. The poem is inherently dialogical, enlisting, as it does, a three-way relationship between poet, picture, and the implied reader. In some respects, Hughes has chanced upon a form of chronotope in which the photograph itself allows time to become artistically visible. Such pity as is on display here is of a more considered and remote order than Owen’s, in keeping with the added remove of historical hindsight. Hughes’s evocation of tragic loss manages to be no less visceral, however, on its own terms. The opening stanza literally frames the subject and provides it with a temporal context, self-consciously alerting the reader to the age of the photograph as well as the ages of the young men. As implied readers, we are made subtly aware of the temporal disconnection between ourselves and the poem’s subject, with the reference to their hats being “not now fashionable”. In contrast, the descriptions which form the second half of this stanza are details of timeless human traits, recognizable in any group of young men having their picture taken:                One imparts an intimate smile,         One chews grass, one lowers his eyes, bashful,         One is ridiculous with cocky pride—

The issue of recognition is a key one; locally, it draws the reader onto the opening stanza’s closing barb: “Six months after this picture they were all dead”. However, the sheer plausibility of recognizable description here also inaugurates a compositional trick deployed in much Great-War-related poetry subsequent to this poem: whether that be the just-out-of-reach distance of



Larkin’s descriptions in “MCMXIV” or the patina of ageless human nature used here. The essential bid for empathetic verisimilitude which underpins this feature is reinforced in stanza two, following the shocking revelation that all the young men are dead. The dialogical focus is shifted to that now taking place between the poet and his putative reader, whose imaginative consent he courts, in almost Wordworthian style, with the claim that:                         I know          That bilberried bank, that thick tree, that black wall          Which are there yet and not changed. From where these sit         You hear the water of seven streams fall          To the roarer in the bottom, and through all         The leafy valley a rumouring of air go.

Our engagement with the fate of the young men is, then, heightened by Hughes’s pitch for credibility as a witness. Unlike Owen, he is not a serving officer speaking from direct experience, so pity needs be evoked in other ways from greater rhetorical distance, whilst retaining the next-best thing to direct experience—which, in this case, is exactly what Hughes is qualified to speak of: his own landscape. In a sense, Ted Hughes is refashioning Eliot in his own image here. In poems such as the Four Quartets, Eliot attempts to make history present so that the failures and accomplishments of the past can act as beacons for the future, and in “Six Young Men” Hughes is trying to do something similar. Note that subtle acquisition of the lost generation for the poem’s eternal present in the line, “Pictured here, their expressions listen yet”, before Hughes weaves them into his rhetorical fabric of historical continuity with “And still that valley has not changed its sound” (author’s emphasis). Having been imaginatively enlisted alongside the doomed young men, the reader is again suddenly thrown out of the second stanza with a repetition of the almost choric closure of the first: Hughes’s terse reminder of their fate, “four decades under the ground”. The third stanza of “Six Young Men” most obviously channels what I have termed Hughes’s “Great War literacy”. This concept involves more than just poetic influence; however, it is the sum of his own father’s stories, the war poets, novels, memoirs, and every media image of the conflict—photograph and film—to which he had been exposed. At the same time, the poem reminds us that, just as the classically educated war poets themselves had an initial framework for martial reference, culled from the Greeks and Romans (what Elizabeth Vandiver calls their “comparandum”),13 the Great War provided its own store of reference and tradition for subsequent writers. So, as the third stanza outlines the fate of the six young men, we encounter many of the classic Great War tropes: the wounded soldier dying out on the wire, his friend shot whilst attempting a rescue, another sniped while “potting at tin-cans in no-­ man’s land” and the Known-Unto-God missing details of the remaining three. A lesser poet would have finished the poem at the end of its third stanza but



the return of the tragic chorus to the stanza’s closing line ushers in a change of tempo and focus that takes “Six Young Men” onto a higher level of response, a fact recognized by Terry Gifford and Neil Roberts in their 1981 book Ted Hughes: A Critical Study: […] the response which raises this poem above an elegy in a Georgian or even ‘Movement’ manner appears first in the paradoxical but grimly accurate formulation of the sudden intimacy with death at the end of the third stanza.14

It is an intimacy reminiscent of the one “Closer than thinking” that constitutes the core of the widow’s suffering in “Griefs for Dead Soldiers”: “But come to the worst they must have done, and held it | Closer than their hope; all were killed”. The repetition of death which closes the first three stanzas has undergone a subtle mutation from the merely “dead” of stanza one, through the length of time they have been this way (“four decades”) to “killed” in the third stanza, when how they died initiates a broadening of the poem’s purpose. Hughes is here helping to inaugurate the Great War as the type of collective memento mori it has, indeed, become in the national consciousness. Similarly, he introduces a marvellous fusion of Darwinism and mythology with “Nor prehistoric or fabulous beast more dead”. At this point, the poem reaches its sympathetic apotheosis and the gradual replacement of elegiac energy with lyric vitality is completed by the self-conscious introduction of “thought” in the stanza’s fifth line. This line creates a crucial switch not just for this poem but for many others meditating upon conflict from a vantage point well to the rear of the frontline since it posits a stark juxtaposition of imagined warfare, taking place at the level of thought, with the gruesome realities of the actual battlefield, here represented by “their smoking blood”. At this point, the value of indirect witness is to be found in the lessons learnt from empathetic exposure to stories and historical artefacts from past wars, as distinct from exposure to the real dangers encountered by direct witnesses such as Owen. If there is any practical worth in contemporary writers taking on the Great War as a subject for poetry, it surely lies here and, in 1957, Hughes provides something of a prototype for this sort of response:         To regard this photograph might well dement,         Such contradictory permanent horrors here         Smile from the single exposure and shoulder out         One’s own body from its instant and heat.

The “Smile” here is fascinating, since it is appended to “Such contradictory permanent horrors”. Surely horrors do not “smile”, yet, within the context of “the single exposure”, the smiles of the now-dead men are coterminous with the horror of a shared outcome known only by someone who can later look upon the photograph with full knowledge of its history. The lines enact, therefore, a moment of empathy, as the tragic incongruity becomes clear to the



c­ urrent viewer and provokes the sense of “One’s own body” being shouldered out “from its instant and heat”. In the war poems from The Hawk in the Rain, then, Hughes demonstrates a process by which some valid statement of witness is yet made possible in Great War terms. In doing so, he creates a blueprint of response for subsequent writers wishing to explore the conflict. The year 1963 saw considerable preparation for the Great War’s 50th anniversary. Publication of Owen’s collected Poems and a reverential biography by his brother15 followed Alan Clark’s The Donkeys (1961) and Benjamin Britten’s Owen-inspired War Requiem, written for the consecration of Philip Larkin’s hometown cathedral in Coventry. Unsurprising, therefore, that Larkin’s third collection, The Whitsun Weddings, should make its own contribution to the nation’s growing fascination with The War to End All Wars. “MCMXIV”’s single sentence shorn of a main verb appears to allow for both of its most common readings: that Larkin, in what Heaney called his “Elysian’ mode”,16 indulges in nostalgic lamentation for a Golden Age lost to the cataclysm of the Great War and that he is creating a piece of pseudo-history to evoke an imagined community ironically undermined by its own overt artifice. Of course, the poem does articulate something of that forlorn sense of an English Eden now marooned on the wrong side of the Great War, but the second of these readings strikes me as the more likely product of Larkin’s pen; it is also the more prescient, in terms of the creative legacy bequeathed by the 50th-anniversary poets. Again, we are implicitly in the company of a poet gazing at the sepia-­ toned photograph of men quick with life and blissfully unaware of the fate they are about to suffer by signing up:         Those long uneven lines         Standing as patiently         As if they were stretched outside         The Oval or Villa Park,

The poem is pervaded by the solemnity of collective hindsight and, consequently, provides an early demonstration of that which unites most post-war Great War poetry: we know what is to follow and that the world shall never be the same. As a result, Larkin’s poem shares similar qualities of intimacy with Hughes’s “Six Young Men”, though, here, it is self-consciously enacted upon a more public stage and for more openly ironic purposes. As William H. Pritchard points out: In speaking about something that is elsewhere—maybe past and gone but not quite—Larkin achieves an extraordinary intimacy of tone, both in relation to that subject and to the implicated reader, who, it is assumed, will care just as much about it as the poet.17

And it is, indeed, this assumption of a collective care and recognition that represents the active ingredient in most subsequent poetry of this kind. These



conditions of assumed foreknowledge are what militate against a purely “Elysian” reading of the poem and make it a deeply ironic and rhetorical one. Stephen Regan has it that: “‘MCMXIV’ is not a wilful indulgence in nostalgia, but a knowing and ironic poem which sets up a potent ideal of national and civic virtue, only to record its unavailability in the 1960s”.18 This is a view supported by the implied intimacy of tone offered by that opening pronoun, “Those”, which demonstrates the “long uneven lines” of volunteers while simultaneously sharing some presumption of a reader’s imaginative proximity to them. The poem’s listing, through a single sentence spanning four octets, reads like a checking-off of commonly understood Edwardian signifiers: the sporting crowds, high street commerce, the English countryside, and garden, all reduced in particularity and rendered generic by a flattening repetition of the definite article “the” (16 times after that opening pronoun). Crucial to our purposes here is this suggestion of the possibilities of reinvention for poets wishing to discuss contemporary matters by way of the shared mythology offered by the Great War. Perhaps what Larkin bequeaths most to twenty-first-­ century writers is the way in which his poem blurs the distinction between historical detail and imaginative creation. As Steve Clark has it: ‘MCMXIV’ offers a commemoration of the dead that brings them back to life as a conscious fiction. The absence of any main governing verb allows an accumulation of cultural signifiers … which present a world that can never be directly experienced, but which has always been mediated beforehand.19

So, we get Larkin’s Golden Summer variation upon the battlefield tropes identified in Hughes’s poem: “The crowns of hats, the sun | On moustached archaic faces”, “the shut shops, the bleached | Established names on the sunblinds”, and “The place-names all hazed over | With flowering grasses”. Everywhere, the poem betrays its hindsight: even the England it recalls is coterminous with that of someone like Edward Thomas, with its “fields | Shadowing Domesday lines | Under wheat’s restless silence”. Yet, as Stephen Regan points out, “it draws its power from a knowledge of what happened between 1914 and 1918”.20 It is precisely this bond of shared knowledge which sets our secondary canon apart from the Great War canon itself: writers such as Owen and Sassoon set out to warn a public they perceived as being remote and ignorant of the realities of the Western Front, whereas the challenge to subsequent writers is how to engage an audience that, for the most part, share their Great War literacy. Where Hughes, then, inaugurates a method of almost reinhabiting the ghosts of the Great War in order to hold a personal séance that speaks to his age, Larkin models a quite different technique. His imagined community is evoked more knowingly and with overt artifice, relying upon that accumulation of cultural signifiers to create an implicitly shared discourse with the reader, whereas Hughes’s dialogue is explicit and his manner less elegiac than extrapolative. Significantly, both writers demonstrate creative ways into the nascent



mythic structures of the Great War which they and their generation helped to consolidate. Each of these poems also articulates something of the nature of the secondary Great War canon as written around the 50th anniversary. Both appear to share a common origin: the stimulus of a photographic artefact, folk memories of the Great War, and the poetic “comparandum” of the trench poets. Of the two, Hughes is more self-consciously particular, whereas Larkin is more overtly ironic, offering oblique comment upon the process of mythologizing the Great War in a poem which performs that very task. The influence of the war poets upon both, though, cannot be underestimated: as we saw with Hughes, the ghost of Owen was never far from his pen and, whilst more subliminally present, Edward Thomas haunts the fourth stanza of “MCMXIV” just as Owen’s “Anthem for Doomed Youth” hovers over the poignancy of its closing images of absence turning into permanent loss. What I earlier called “the objet trouvé route back to 1914–1918” certainly played and continues to play its part in stimulating much new poetry concerned with the Great War: consider Patricia McCarthy’s poem “Clothes that escaped the Great War” which won the 2013 National Poetry Competition, Sinéad Morrissey’s recent poem, “Electric Edwardians”, or some of Andrew Motion’s “Last Tommy” inspired creations. There is, as Brearton observes, a seemingly insatiable appetite for more work on the subject. However, it is the linguistic and intrapoetic stimulus offered by the war poets which, I believe, exerts the greatest influence upon writers, both those of the 50th-anniversary generation and today’s authors of the centenary. For each, the Great War has become part of the furniture of the mind: just as Edwardian culture adduced the Trojan War as a template for the modern one, we have a tendency to adduce the First World War as a template for subsequent conflict. Besides Hughes and Larkin’s early meditations upon the Great War, Geoffrey Hill’s contemporaneous work represents an interesting third way that offers a relatively untrodden path to writers approaching the subject today. As Henry Hart observes in The Poetry of Geoffrey Hill: The eclectic modernist poem is Hill’s model, and, to a certain extent, he reflects on the literature and politics of the modernists. Like the authors of The Waste Land, The Cantos, and Ulysses, Hill attempts to X-ray a culture broken by the First World War.21

Dismissive of the Movement and Larkin, in particular, Hill, nonetheless, reads Larkin’s nostalgia as a national symptom of the Great War and one that is, at least, plausible within the broader context which concerns him: “I think my sense of history is in itself anything but nostalgic, but I accept nostalgia as part of the psychological experience of a society and of an ancient and troubled nation”.22 At this national and anthropological level, Hill engages with history as “some vital dimension of intelligence”,23 envisioning it as a repetitive struggle red in tooth and claw. Like Hughes and Larkin, then, his early collections also engage with the “national ghost”, though at a level intentionally more



problematized than his peers. Within the generational scope of this discussion, his first collection, For The Unfallen (1959) and its follow-up, 1968s King Log, require some comment. Set beside Hughes and Larkin’s relative specificity of context, Hill makes more encoded and oblique cuts into the corpus of Great War mythology, seeing it within a much broader continuum of human history and capacity for violence. We encounter a more self-consciously allusive and rhetorical language enmeshed within its own purpose, namely, an examination of the problematical nature of indirect witness, particularly to such things as warfare and human atrocity. The poems declare themselves to be elegiac, but the nature of the elegy is altogether different to those of the other poets discussed here. What we encounter in For The Unfallen and King Log is an abiding sense of the Great War intricately stitched into the warp and weft of a canvas concerned with depicting a far broader sweep of human history than the years 1914–1918. Moreover, the very nature of Hill’s poetic constitution appears rooted in an innate proclivity towards symbol and allegory, the purpose of which appears to be a form of heteroglossic revelation of human truth, arising from aggregated mythologies and knowledge, of which the Great War is only one culturally available descriptive medium. Thus, we encounter “Baroque Meditations”, a welter of classical and Christian mythology, the liturgical calendar, a series of metamorphic fables, songbooks, annunciations, nativities, soliloquies, masks, personae, letters, and variations upon the theme of variation in two collections of startling historical drift. Within such all-encompassing discourse, however, is a widely acknowledged fascination with the Great War and, whilst more obliquely rendered than in Hughes and Larkin, its tropes are ever-present. Though the Great War we encounter is heavily mediated and linked to a deep instinct for historical patterning rather than any performed sense of personal reception. This is clear from the opening poem of For The Unfallen, where the nature of Hill’s “Genesis” is one of perpetual and bloody struggle:         By blood we live, the hot, the cold         To ravage and redeem the world:         There is no bloodless myth will hold.24

Over the course of the two books, this world-view is enacted in a heady ebb-­ and-­flow of mythical and historical signifiers of war—all wars, but most commonly the two world wars which racked the twentieth century. What helps to hold Hill’s Great War fascination at one remove is the manner in which it is often mediated through the more recent Second World War and the Holocaust in particular. This is in keeping with the joined-up nature of his historical sensibility: the flawed settlement of the one being the direct cause of the other in Europe. We see this in the Mauberley-esque wide-view of the opening fable from his sequence “Of Commerce and Society”, where the gross of broken statues are reconfigured as “The Apostles: Versailles, 1919” in order to expose



the collapse of civilized virtues at the end of the First World War and the path it opened up to the Second:         They sat. They stood about.         They were estranged. The air,         As water curdles from clear,         Fleshed the silence. They sat.         They were appalled. The bells         In hollowed Europe spilt         To the gods of coin and salt.         The sea creaked with worked vessels.25

Here, as Hart points out, “In deflated, almost simplistic sentences, he imitates the deflation of values and the concomitant deflation of Germany that set the country, and the rest of Europe, on the track towards holocaust”.26 The way in which the topic is approached, both historically and linguistically, is very different from the main body of what I have called the “auxiliary canon” of post-war Great War lyric. What Jeffrey Wainwright describes as Hill’s “severe reflexiveness towards his own voices”27 is encapsulated by Jon Silkin in his essay “War and the Pity”: Hill’s use of language, and choice of words, has been noticed—often, one feels, to the detriment of his themes. The compressed language is intimately bound up in what it is conveying. This is true of many poets but true to an unusual degree with Hill in King Log. It is true in another sense. The language itself is unlike most other current writing, and there is an unusually self-­ conscious pointing on the part of the poet to the language. This is not because he wishes to draw attention to it for its own sake, but because the language both posits his concerns, and is itself—in the way it is used—an instance of them.28 “The dead are my obsession this week”, writes Hill in For The Unfallen, thereby dramatizing an authorial voice at the point of such performative self-­ analysis. And by drawing the reader’s attention to this linguistic expansion of theme, Hill is partially solving the inherited problem of direct witness. In dramatizing the difficulty of speech and by approaching warfare askance, via its peripheral participants, Hill relocates the canonical battleground to the No Man’s Land of big history, indirect witness and language itself: “so we bear witness, | Despite ourselves, to what is beyond us”, as he puts it in the final sonnet of the “Funeral Music” sequence from King Log.29 The “so” here is quintessential Hill in the weary ambiguity of tone that scrupulously dramatizes the dilemma at the heart of remembrance: “Not as we are but as we must appear, | Contractual ghosts of pity”. This “pity” is self-consciously loaded with echoes of Owen, but, as Silkin points out, with Hill “The scrupulousness, like the pity, is in the language”.30 Hill models, here, a curiously current dilemma of permission for the non-soldier-poet to “prod dead men from their stone”31 and “Cleanse with a kind of artistry the ground | Shared by War”.32



The fact that this dilemma is so edgily dramatized links it to Ted Hughes’s “essential bid for empathetic verisimilitude”, though Hill’s truth-seeking will not allow him quite the same leap towards imaginative sympathy. Throughout his first two collections, then, we see his ongoing struggle to accommodate “The tongue’s atrocities” with the poet’s duty of witness: “Poetry | Unearths from among the speechless dead || Lazarus mystified, common man | Of death”,33 as he writes in “History As History”. Always Hill’s tongue is “broody in the jaw”34 and his critical self-analysis of the poet’s role in such a milieu is carried out “with an ease | That is dreadful”35 whilst he lifts “the spicy lid of my tact | To sniff at the myrrh”.36 As mid-century man, he poses a question which applies even more pointedly to an era of 24-hour rolling news broadcast, when he asks of a public, “brawny with life”: “Is it good to remind them, on a brief screen, | Of what they have witnessed and not seen?”37 In so doing, Hill actually positions himself against the object trouve school of response as modelled by Larkin and Hughes, leery of the moral impact that can be made by such ephemera. The Great War does, nonetheless, provide King Log and For The Unfallen with allusive resources which supply both with metaphorical keynotes. Its tropes, as with Hughes and Larkin, are part of Hill’s cultural capital, though his use of them is more syncretic and co-mingled with other historical moments: as he states himself, “Tragedy has all under regard”.38 His critical reception as a poet with kinship to the war poets is, then, partly based upon echoes of them incorporated into his verse with the self-conscious intention of Great War resonance. The “speechless dead” from above clearly channel Charles Sorley’s “mouthless dead”,39 the “pity” of “Funeral Music”, and “The Pities” from “A Pastoral” are freighted with memories of Owen, whilst the gods’ confusion of men’s brief lives with “immortal essences” resonates with the “God-ancestralled essences”40 of Rosenberg. As Vincent Sherry observes in his book, The Uncommon Tongue: Hill does not often use the Poundian tweezers in his poetry, but he works his clichés in similarly rigorous ways. In some cases, the phrasing is altered, while in others the usual context for it is disturbed.41

Perhaps even more than worked cliché and references, though, Hill’s verse is alive with a discrete analysis of the nature and purpose of commemoration. Everywhere in his first two collections are Poundian allusions to the empty monumentalism of public grieving for the dead of war: “their long death | Documented and safe”, as he puts it in “Two Formal Elegies for the Jews in Europe”. That the Great War’s specific influence contributes to this trope ­cannot be in doubt, since its modus of commemoration is so familiarly engraved in the masonry of both books. In For The Unfallen we, therefore, encounter “such ample monuments to lost || Nations and generations” (“The Lowlands of Holland”), “our designed wreaths” (“Drake’s Drum”), “Words glossed on stone” (“The Distant Fury of Battle”), “raftered galleries of bone” (“Merlin”)



and statements like “To put up stones ensures some sacrifice” (“Two Formal Elegies For the Jews in Europe”). Likewise, in King Log, Hill refines his troubled interrogation of “improper speech from proper tombs” in poems such as “A Letter From Armenia” in which “I hesitate amid circumstantial disasters. I gaze at the authentic dead”. And his hair-shirted autoethnography appears to conclude in despondency with the final utterance of King Log when, in the persona of Sebastian Arrurruz from “1921”, he notes:                     I wake         To caress propriety with odd words         And enjoy abstinence in a vocation         Of now-almost-meaningless despair.

It is Hill’s conscientious dramatization of this dilemma which speaks loudest to poets now contemplating the Great War centenary, since it constitutes an extra dimension of verisimilitude that goes beyond our “contractual” empathy for the war dead and requires something more scrupulous than just the channelling of Owenesque pity or Sassoon-like rage. It also problematizes the issue within the long-after-the-fact real-time of current writers themselves. After all, Great War writing from the vantage point of its centenary is problematical and loaded with issues of permission. In order to remain viable, it surely has to prioritize the ideas and language of its received culture over mere ventriloquism of the canon, no matter how well executed and researched. It is no surprise, then, to discover that Hill is drawn most to Isaac Rosenberg among the soldier-poets, for his sense of linguistic “mass” and the plasticity of his poetic ideas: To possess a ‘sense of mass’ in language would require a sense of contexture, and appreciation of, and an ability to initiate, the changes that single words and phrase undergo when moved from one context to another. As a form of technical experiment this can be traced back at least to Chaucer, but I cannot think of another modern poet writing in English who conducts the experiment more intensively than Rosenberg.42

The intellectual rigour that is frequently credited to Rosenberg amongst the soldier-poets is, indeed, echoed in Hill’s own work and may even have been behind the decision to omit a tribute “For Isaac Rosenberg” from his final selection for For the Unfallen, since it would have represented too-definitive a Great War reference than was required of a poetry that seeks the very plasticity of contexture referred to above. Philosophically too, Hill’s “ancient troughs of blood” (“Ovid in the Third Reich”) most approximates Rosenberg’s Judaic vision of war as an “ancient crimson curse”.43 Certainly, among the non-­ participant poets to have written about the Great War, Hill comes closest to enacting Rosenberg’s own injunction, written in a letter (undated but probably July 1916) that:



[war writing] should be approached in a colder way, more abstract, with less of the million feelings everybody feels; or all of these should be concentrated in one distinguished emotion.44

In the final analysis, what is most impressive about Hill’s early poetry is precisely his beyond-revisionist anthropology of human suffering and his scrupulous ability to interrogate the propriety of our finding “value | in a bleak skill” at a moment when Europe was still “Traversing the still-moist dead”45 of the two world wars. Like the soldier-poets he most admires, his work stands to the side of the auxiliary canon of post-Great War lyric, a state of affairs with which I feel sure he was content.

Conclusion Clearly, this discussion has been highly selective, ostensibly focusing upon two well-known poems and Hill’s gross of broken statues, though it is possible to be illuminating without being exhaustive. Poetic responses to the 50th anniversary were obviously more diverse. One could, for example, write an entire chapter on the influence of Jon Silkin and his editorship of the Stand journal in respect of the period and subject here discussed. However, what is most fascinating about the poetry which came out around the time of the Great War’s 50th anniversary is the fact that it is, in and of itself, an act of readership. This reading was undertaken by an audience who had no direct experience of the fighting but who lived in a world of many veterans and whose fathers, grandfathers, and uncles had brought home their own artefacts and stories of the conflict. What the work discussed here demonstrates, then, is a mode of cultural reception which should be more familiar to a twenty-first-century audience than it was to that of the late 1950s and 1960s, since, in part, the historians are correct in suggesting that dominant contemporary responses to the First World War were inaugurated by those which found utterance around its 50th anniversary. In compositional terms, the three writers examined here do indeed gain subjective purchase upon events and material beyond their own direct knowledge by working with the yetliving archive of Great War experience. In doing so, they drafted modes of witness that still prevail in the work of contemporary UK poets such as Andrew Motion, Carol Ann Duffy, Owen Lowery, Sinéad Morrissey, and John Greening. This is certainly true of the poems we have seen from Hughes and Larkin, work I have characterized as the “objet trouvé” route back to Great War resonance, other forms of which might today be termed the “Who Do You Think You Are?” familial-archive route. Hill’s “eclectic modernism”, on the other hand, remains underused by comparison. What both approaches did, however, was model forms of response to events and mythologies encountered latterly as cultural reception: almost literally, they are emotions re-collated in tranquillity.



Notes 1. David Reynolds, The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century (London, rpt 2014: Simon & Schuster, 2013), p. 317. 2. Gary Sheffield, Forgotten Victory (London; rpt, 2002: Headline Publishing, 2001), p. 17. 3. The quotation is my own from the poem, “Dear Revisionist” ll.18–19, Stand 14, no. 2, Jon Glover (ed) (Leeds: Leeds University, 2016), p. 75. 4. David Reynolds, Introduction to The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century, p. xv. 5. Spender called Owen the greatest English war poet in “Poetry”, Fact, no. 4 (July 1937), p. 26 and, as Heaney points out in his essay “Sounding Auden” the younger poet owed more than just inspirational debts to the soldier-poet. Owen represented a technical precursor also, particularly in his use of pararhyme (Seamus Heaney, “Sounding Auden”, London Review of Books 9, No.11, June 4, 1987, pp. 15–18). 6. As Hynes observes: “This sense of opportunity lost, of the test that one has failed without even having taken it, is expressed in many memoirs of the time, and is, I think, an important factor in the collective consciousness of the whole generation of young men who came of age between the wars”. Samuel Hynes, The Auden Generation: Literature and Politics in England in the 1930s (London: Pimlico, 1976), p. 21. 7. Fran Brearton, “‘But that is not new’: Poetic Legacies of the First World War”, S.  Das (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Poetry of the First World War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp. 229–241. 8. Ted Hughes, Review of Men Who March Away: Poems of the First World War, edited by I.M. Parsons (London: Chatto and Windus, 1965) from The Listener, August 5, 1965. 9. Ted Hughes, “Griefs for Dead Soldiers”, The Hawk in the Rain (1958; rpt. London: Faber & Faber, 1968), pp. 52–53. 10. Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (London: Oxford University Press, 1975), p. 314. 11. The Hawk in the Rain, pp. 49–50. 12. Siegfried Sassoon, “On First Passing the New Menin Gate”, The War Poems (1983, rpt; London: Faber and Faber, 2014), p. 143. 13. Elizabeth Vandiver, Stand in the Trench, Achilles: Classical Receptions in British Poetry of the Great War. Classical Presences (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). 14. Terry Gifford and Neil Roberts, Ted Hughes: A Critical Study (London: Faber and Faber, 1981), p. 84. 15. Harold Owen, Journey from Obscurity: Wilfred Owen 1893–1918 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963). 16. Seamus Heaney, “The Main of Light” from The Government of the Tongue (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), p. 31. 17. William H. Pritchard, “Larkin’s Presence”, from Philip Larkin: The Man and his Work, Dale Salwak (ed.) (London: Macmillan, 1989), p. 78. 18. Stephen Regan, “Larkin’s Reputation” from Larkin with Poetry, Michael Baron (ed.) (English Association Conference Papers, 1997), pp. 63–64.



19. Steve Clark, “‘The lost displays’: Larkin and Empire” from New Larkins for Old: Critical Essays, James Booth (ed.) (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000), pp. 175–176. 20. Stephen Regan, p. 64. 21. Henry Hart, The Poetry of Geoffrey Hill (Illinois, South Illinois University Press, 1986), p. 70. 22. Interview with Blake Morrison, New Statesman (February 8, 1980), p. 213. 23. Interview with Blake Morrison, p. 213. 24. Geoffrey Hill, “Genesis”, For the Unfallen (1971, rpt. London: André Deutsch, 1959), pp. 15–17. 25. Geoffrey Hill, “The Apostles: Versailles 1919”, For the Unfallen, p. 48. 26. Henry Hart, pp. 70–71. 27. Jeffrey Wainwright, Acceptable Words: Essays on the Poetry of Geoffrey Hill (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005), p. 7. 28. Jon Silkin, “War and the pity”, Geoffrey Hill: Essays on his work, Peter Robinson (ed.) (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1985), p. 120. 29. Geoffrey Hill, “Funeral Music” King Log (1971, rpt. London: André Deutsch, 1968), p. 25. 30. Jon Silkin, p. 122. 31. “The Death of Shelley”, For The Unfallen (London: Andre Deutsch, 1959), p. 51. 32. “A Pastoral”, For The Unfallen, p. 56. 33. Geoffrey Hill, “History as Poetry”, King Log, p. 41. 34. “Elegaic Stanzas”, For The Unfallen, p. 43. 35. “Soliloquies: The Stone Man”, King Log, p. 47. 36. “Three Baroque Meditations”, King Log, p. 47. 37. “Two Formal Elegies For the Jews in Europe II”, For The Unfallen, p. 32. 38. “A Valediction to Osip Mandelshtam”, King Log, p. 38. 39. Charles Hamilton Sorley, “When You See Millions of the Mouthless Dead”, Marlborough and Other Poems (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1919: facsimile rpt. Forgotten Books, 2012), p. 78. 40. Isaac Rosenberg, “Dead Man’s Dump”, The Collected Works of Isaac Rosenberg, Ian Parsons (ed.) (London: Chatto and Windus, 1979), pp. 109–111. 41. Vincent Sherry, The Uncommon Tongue: The Poetry and Criticism of Geoffrey Hill (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1987). 42. Geoffrey Hill, Collected Critical Writings: Isaac Rosenberg 1890–1918, Kenneth Haynes (ed.) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 456. 43. Isaac Rosenberg, “On Receiving News Of The War”, The Collected Works of Isaac Rosenberg, Ian Parsons (ed.) (London: Chatto and Windus, 1979), p. 75. 44. To Mrs. Herbert Cohen, summer 1916; The Collected Works of Isaac Rosenberg, Ian Parsons (ed.) (London: Chatto and Windus, 1979), p. 237. 45. “Orpheus And Eurydice”, For The Unfallen, p. 57.

References Booth, James. Philip Larkin: Writer. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992. Clark, Steve. “The Lost Displays: Larkin and Empire.” In New Larkins for Old: Critical Essays, edited by James Booth. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000. Das, Santanu, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Poetry of the First World War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.



Eliot, T.S. The Waste Land and Other Poems. 1938, rpt; Florida: Harcourt, 1962. ———. Selected Essays. London: Faber & Faber, 1999. Farjeon, Eleanor. Edward Thomas: The Last Four Years. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958. Fennell, Desmond. Whatever You Say, Say Nothing: Why Seamus Heaney Is No. 1. Dublin: ELO Publications, 1991. Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory. 1975, rpt; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Gifford, Terry, and Neil Roberts. Ted Hughes: A Critical Study. London: Faber & Faber, 1981. Gilbert, Martin. The First World War. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1994. Hart, Henry. The Poetry of Geoffrey Hill. Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1986. Heaney, Seamus. Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968–1978. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1981. ———. The Government of the Tongue. London: Faber & Faber, 1988. ———. The Redress of Poetry. London: Faber & Faber, 1995. ———. Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971–2001. London: Faber & Faber, 2002. Hill, Geoffrey. For the Unfallen. 1971, rpt. London: André Deutsch, 1959. ———. King Log. 1971, rpt. London: André Deutsch, 1968. ———. Mercian Hymns. 1976, rpt. London: André Deutsch, 1971. ———. Selected Poems. London: Penguin Books, 2006. ———. Collected Critical Writings, edited by Kenneth Haynes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. ———. Broken Hierarchies: Poems 1952–2012. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Hollis, Matthew. Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas. London: Faber & Faber, 2011. Housman, A.E. A Shropshire Lad. 1924; rpt. New York: Dover Thrift Editions, 1990. Hughes, Ted. The Hawk in the Rain. 1958; rpt. London: Faber & Faber, 1968. ———. Winter Pollen: Occasional Prose. London: Faber & Faber, 1994. Hutchison, Hazel. The War That Used Up Words. Yale: Yale University Press, 2015. Hynes, Samuel. The Edwardian Turn of Mind. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968. ———. A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture. 1990; rpt. London: Pimlico, 1992a. ———. The Auden Generation: Literature and Politics in England in the 1930s. 1976; rpt. London: Pimlico, 1992b. Kirkmayer, Laurence J. “Landscapes of Memory: Trauma, Narrative and Dissociation”. In Tense Past: Cultural Essays in Trauma and Memory, edited by Paul Antze and Michael Lambek, 175. New York and London: Routledge, 1996. Larkin, Philip. The Whitsun Weddings. 1964; rpt: London: Faber and Faber, 1983. Longley, Edna. Poetry in the Wars. 1986; rpt. Newcastle: Bloodaxe Books Ltd., 1996. Malone, Martin. Mr. Willett’s Summertime. Salzburg: University of Salzburg Pamphlet Series No. 25, 2018. Marsland, Elizabeth A. The Nation’s Cause: French, English and German Poetry of the First World War. 1991; rpt. London: Routledge Revivals, 2013. Maxwell, Glyn. On Poetry. London: Oberon Books, 2012. McLoughlin, Kate. Authoring War: The Literary Representation of War from the Iliad to Iraq. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.



Middleton, Peter, and Tim Woods. Literatures of Memory: History, Time and Space in Postwar Writing. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000. Motion, Andrew. Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life. London: Faber & Faber, 1993. Owen, Harold. Journey from Obscurity: Wilfred Owen 1893–1918. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963. Owen, Wilfred. Wilfred Owen: Collected Letters, edited by Harold Owen and John Bell. London: Oxford University Press, 1967. ———. Wilfred Owen: The Complete Poems and Fragments, edited by Jon Stallworthy. 1983; rpt. London: Chatto and Windus, Hogarth Press and Oxford University Press, 2013. Paxman, Jeremy. Great Britain’s Great War. London: Viking, 2013. Petch, Simon. The Art of Philip Larkin. Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1981. Regan, Stephen. “Larkin’s Reputation”. In Larkin with Poetry, edited by Michael Baron. English Association Conference Papers, 1997. Reynolds, David. The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century. London and New York: Simon and Schuster, 2013. Robinson, Peter, ed. Geoffrey Hill: Essays on His Work. Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1985. Rosenberg, Isaac. The Collected Works of Isaac Rosenberg, edited by Ian Parsons. London: Chatto and Windus, 1973. Sagar, Keith. The Art of Ted Hughes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975. Sassoon, Siegfried. The War Poems. 1983, rpt; London: Faber and Faber, 2014. Scannell, Vernon. New & Selected Poems 1950–1980. London: Robson Books, 1980. Sheffield, Gary. Forgotten Victory, the First World War: Myths and Realities. London: Headline Book Publishing, 2001. Sherry, Vincent. The Uncommon Tongue: The Poetry and Criticism of Geoffrey Hill. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1987. ———. The Great War and the Language of Modernism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. Silkin, Jon. Out of Battle: The Poetry of the Great War. London: Oxford University Press, 1972. Sorley, Charles Hamilton. Marlborough and Other Poems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1919: facsimile rpt. Forgotten Books, 2012. Stallworthy, John. Wilfred Owen. 1974: rpt. London, Revised Edition, Pimlico, 2013. Vandiver, Elizabeth. Stand in the Trench, Achilles: Classical Receptions in British Poetry of the Great War. Classical Presences. Oxford; New  York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Wainwright, Jeffrey. Acceptable Words: Essays on the poetry of Geoffrey Hill. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005.


“Heroes and Their Consequences”: 9/11, the War on Terror, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe Inga Meier

Introduction In 2008, Paramount Pictures released Iron Man (Favreau, 2008). The film was both a critical and commercial success, grossing more than US$585  million worldwide. Positioned as the first film produced and financed by the newly formed Marvel Studios, Iron Man also served as the first entry into what would eventually grow to become the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Since its release, the film has garnered two sequels—Iron Man 2 (2010) and Iron Man 3 (2013). The MCU has expanded to include close to 20 feature films, several television series (on Hulu, Netflix, and ABC), online series, short films (also referred to as “one-shots”), and tie-in comics. To date, the films within the MCU can generally be divided into three distinct phases, which each serve as individual acts of a larger climactic structure: Phase One (2008–2012), Phase Two (2013–2015), and Phase Three (2016–2019). Phase Four, marking the beginning of a new three-phase cycle, is currently in the planning and preproduction stages.1 With decades of comic books serving as potential source ­material and the overall critical and commercial success of the MCU, there are no signs of this expansion slowing. The MCU’s formidable branding has ensured a bountiful revenue stream for its studio and fortified (and, in some instances, given rise to or even resurrected) the individual brands of its stars.2 However, the MCU’s ambitions

I. Meier (*) Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, TX, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 M. Kerby et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Artistic and Cultural Responses to War since 1914,




extend beyond its unusually successful economics. Rather, the MCU challenges and expands upon conventional visual narrative structure, crafting a complex, multidimensional universe stitched together through an interdependent web of relations across various media (film, television, the internet, and print) and genres (action, science fiction, fantasy, noir, blaxploitation, etc.). This structure not only reflects upon and speaks to a culture increasingly conversant in digital technologies and in the processing of simultaneous flows of information but also serves to formulate a richly layered, nuanced, and complex fictive universe. Characters and stories cross over from one medium and/or genre to another; narrative arcs occur sequentially, out of sequence, or concurrently, and conventional binaries (e.g., protagonist/antagonist, good/evil, us/them) are deconstructed and subverted. I argue that this multivalent approach is not merely designed to cinematically adapt the complexity of the comic book universe to an increasingly mediatized landscape. It is also simultaneously structured as what trauma theorist Dominick LaCapra has termed a “working through,” in this instance, of the events of 9/11 (as first depicted as “The Battle of New York” in The Avengers) and the subsequent “war on terror.” This chapter explores how the trope of the superhero is re-imagined to address the complexities of twenty-first-century warfare and to interrogate issues of patriotism, drone strikes, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), grief, memorialization, politicization, mass surveillance, and civil liberties.

Origin Story: From Humble Beginnings Today, despite declining sales compared to its 1970s peak (the result of a push toward diversity or the expense of print media, depending on the political leanings of whom you ask), Marvel Comics consistently maintains the largest share of the comic book market, roughly between 30% and 40% of US$1 billion in annual sales, ahead of rivals DC, Image, and Dark Horse.3,4 However, much like the heroes and villains whose adventures have filled its panels since World War II, Marvel Comics has an origin story of humble beginnings that is worth exploring to help us understand how and why we got here. Despite having aspirations of becoming a novelist, in 1939, a 17-year-old Stan Lee (then named “Stanley Lieber”) began working at Timely Comics, the comic book department of a publishing company owned by a distant family relative. At the time, the only other people employed by the department were artists Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, for whom Lee worked as a staff writer, proofreader, and assistant.5 The first notable success for the company, selling out in a matter of days, was the creation of Captain America Comics, a comic book series which saw its titular hero (whose alter ego was army private Steve Rogers and whose nickname is “Cap”) punching Adolf Hitler on the cover of its first issue in March 1941 (released in December 1940), a year before the United States’ entry into World War II. As Peter Sanderson writes in Marvel Universe, the character was created “as a response to the outbreak of war in Europe: they



clearly wanted the Nazis stopped as much as did their character.”6 Cap’s primary adversary was the Red Skull, whose “blood-red skull mask made the Skull not only a powerful visual icon for the Nazis’ evil but a living embodiment of death.”7 The visual and ideological contrast between the villain and the brightly saturated stars-and-stripes-wearing hero could not have been more clearly articulated. In the world crafted by Kirby and Simon, the fictional Cap and Red Skull existed alongside the contemporary figures of Adolf Hitler and the American President Franklin D.  Roosevelt. On the page, it is Roosevelt, for example, who presents Cap with his iconic indestructible shield, and it is Hitler and the Nazis who are the most prevalent villains. The comic book proved so successful that it spawned a series of imitators. As Mike Benton writes in Superhero Comics of the Golden Age, “Within six months of Captain America’s debut, there were more than two dozen red, white, and blue imitators […] All of these heroes were punching Nazis months before the United States entered World War II.”8 In newsreels and in newspapers, the horrors of the war were all too real and the outcome far from certain, but on the pages of Captain America, Kirby and Simon crafted a clearly morally delineated universe that offered the otherwise elusive reassurance that, in the end, good would triumph over evil. Nonetheless, following a dispute over compensation, Simon and Kirby departed after the tenth issue, while Lee remained and assumed the roles of editor and art director.9 Under Lee’s leadership, Cap continued to fight the Axis powers, and eventually Communism, before the series was discontinued for two decades starting in the 1950s. For the next two decades, under Lee’s leadership, which lacked the vision of Simon and Kirby, the company found itself branching out into a variety of genres including westerns, horror, crime, monster, humor, and romance, none of which had the allure of the original Captain America. Kirby had moved on to work at National Periodical Publications (later renamed DC from the company’s popular series Detective Comics), where he was equally unsatisfied and eventually fired. In addition to their personal dissatisfactions, Lee and Kirby faced further challenges due to the post-war political climate. As comic historian Sean Howe notes, “In the 1950s there was a big backlash against comics. There was a senate subcommittee hearing for juvenile delinquency that pointed the finger at comic books. Churches were holding comic book burnings. Then sales just kind of bottomed out.”10 While the backlash had first begun in the late 1940s, by the 1950s it had become a full-fledged threat.11 If World War II and the threat of fascism had offered the sorts of clearly delineated moral binaries easily occupied by villains and superheroes, the Atomic Age and the Red Scare proved a less hospitable setting, for both the creations and the creators. And yet, it was precisely these circumstances which gave rise to Marvel’s greatest period of innovation within the comic book genre. Beginning in 1956, DC succeeded in emerging from the industry’s collapse by first reviving and then uniting its most popular “Golden Age” superheroes, including the trinity of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, under the banner of the “Justice League of America.” In 1961, Lee was asked by Martin



Goodman, his publisher, to launch a similar effort. As Stan Lee notes, “My wife said to me, ‘Stan, if you want to quit anyway, why don’t you do one book the way you’d like to do it? The worst that happens is you’ll be fired, but so what, you want to quit.’”12 Unfortunately, unlike DC, which had a full roster of recognizable characters with whom to populate its pages, Lee did not. Taking his wife’s advice, Lee hired Kirby back, and the two began expanding the Marvel Universe, starting with the creation of the Fantastic Four. As Lee explains, “I was trying to take these comic book characters and treat them as if they were in a book by some famous author and make them real characters as much as possible in the comic book medium.”13 Sanderson expands upon this, stating: Lee’s guiding principle in creating the first wave of Marvel heroes was to create characters with distinct personalities and ground the fantasy in a recognizable, believable reality. His characters would encounter the same problems that would exist in the real world, and they would react the way that real people would, the only difference being that they would possess super powers. This strategy gives the fantasy elements more dramatic power by giving readers realistic characterizations and situations with which they can empathize.14

With Kirby’s distinct artwork (including the innovative use of close-ups and points-of-view) and Lee’s novelistic, complex approach to character, the resulting product proved sufficiently successful to warrant a continuation of the series. That same year, Lee changed the company’s name, which had previously been “Atlas,” to “Marvel.” The success of this first effort of the re-branded company allowed Lee and Kirby to introduce characters who have since become iconic, including the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Ant Man, The Wasp, and Spider-­ Man (with Ditko replacing Kirby on the latter in 1962), and the X-Men, Iron Man, and Doctor Strange. In 1963, finally having a suitable roster of characters to rival the Justice League, Lee and Kirby assembled Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man as the Avengers.15,16 In the fourth issue, Captain America joins the Avengers after he is discovered frozen in ice since World War II. Beyond its usefulness as a plot device enabling the inclusion of a character popular decades before, the frozen suspension of Captain America formulates a useful moral counterpoint. Time and again, Captain America’s moral universe is contrasted with that of the world in which he is unfrozen. From the social upheavals of the 1960s and the 1970s represented on the page to the Manichean binaries of the “war on terror” depicted in the MCU, Captain America embodies a nostalgia for a simpler morality in which the Allied Powers were “good,” and fascism was “evil.” That these binary formulations never quite held to begin with, as evidenced in the safe haven provided to Nazi scientists by the United States and Russia, for example, is one that the MCU explores time and again in its depiction of “HYDRA,” a secretive, Nazi-inspired organization founded by the Red Skull that reaches throughout the MCU, most notably in the Captain America films, Agent Carter, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.



Now emerging as a formidable competitor to DC with the creation of The Avengers, Marvel, despite the artistic success of its product and high demand, found its distribution abilities constrained. Unfortunately, Marvel signed a distribution agreement with Independent News, the parent company of DC, which would not be dissolved until 1968. Originally entered into as a means for Marvel to remain financially solvent, the agreement now restricted the company’s growth and favored DC. The ensuing conflict between the two comic book franchises has lasted to the current day. To counter DC’s efforts, Lee began a grassroots campaign to entice readers, launching efforts like his “Stan’s Soapbox” column, engaging directly with fan mail, and encouraging the formation of fan clubs. By the end of the 1960s, Marvel had found a loyal fan base in the politicized college counterculture, which they increasingly reflected on their pages, and which in turn influenced the popular culture of the time. Pink Floyd, for instance, referenced the character of Dr. Strange on “Saucer Full of Secrets,” Jerry Feff Walker recorded a song called “Ballad of the Hulk,” Peter Fonda referred to himself as “Captain America” in Easy Rider, the television show M*A*S*H showed Radar, one of its central characters, reading an anachronistic 1963 issue of Avengers, and the Incredible Hulk adorned the cover of the September 30, 1971 issue of Rolling Stone. In short, Marvel comics were no longer a threat to the impressionable minds of young children; they were, put simply, cool. While Marvel had first begun to engage the political culture of its time when Captain America punched Adolf Hitler, that political engagement grew more nuanced in the 1960s and 1970s. For example, the X-Men incorporated the themes and ideals of the Civil Rights movement, struggling with issues of bigotry and difference through the theme of mutation. Captain America was likewise affected by the times as his reputation was threatened by the Secret Empire, an organization inspired by Watergate. Though he ultimately triumphed, he exchanged his Captain America costume for that of the more anonymous “Nomad,” a decision that was only later reversed with the reemergence of the Red Skull and the moral binaries he represented. In a world in which government corruption extended to the very top, Captain America, and the brand of patriotism he embodied, experienced an identity crisis. However, Marvel’s decision to pit their fictional superheroes against these real-world obstacles entrenched a precedent first set by Captain America in World War II.  Additionally, it proved fertile ground for scholars. Thus, with scholarly interest in the comics increasing due in large part to their willingness to tackle these types of events in innovative and meaningful ways, Lee began to tour the lecture circuit of college campuses. However, with Lee’s celebrity on the rise, tensions grew within the offices of Marvel, as Ditko and Kirby came to resent the manner in which the public increasingly identified Lee as the primary creative force behind the comics (whether rightly or wrongly, this remains a point of contention). While Ditko left in 1966, Kirby remained. However, the conflict between Kirby and Lee was further exacerbated by the increased licensing of Marvel-related products, which did not translate into increased c­ ompensation



for Kirby, who again left for DC in 1970. Kirby died in 1994, never seeing the Marvel Cinematic Universe of the 2000s.

“It Felt Like a Movie”: Marvel, Hollywood, and 9/11 Though a Captain America film had first been attempted in 1944, it was not until the 1970s that Marvel began seriously experimenting with transferring its properties to film and television, though they initially met with little to modest success. The Incredible Hulk, running from 1978 to 1982 and starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, proved the most successful of the television ventures. The film outings, with perhaps the exception of Blade (Norrington 2003), which would go on to spawn two sequels, proved equally problematic. The peak of these embarrassments occurred in 1986 with the release of Howard the Duck (Hyuck, 1986), a critical and financial failure that featured its cigar-­ chomping title character portrayed by multiple actors in animatronic suits and costumes.17,18 After decades of failures, however, Marvel finally achieved an unequivocal success with the release of X-Men (Singer, 2000) via 20th Century Fox. The film, which would itself generate multiple sequels, provided a winning formula that subsequent Marvel films would follow. In its leads, Sir Ian McKellan and Sir Patrick Stewart, the film employed formidable, accomplished actors whose celebrity was sufficient to offer name recognition but whose star power would not overwhelm the product. Further, with a US$75-million budget, the film could afford to leave the camp of the 1970s and 1980s behind, with a polished mise-en-scène, elaborate visual effects and action sequences, and an extensive marketing campaign that would eventually become standard for the later MCU films. More importantly, the film signaled a return to Marvel’s roots, with complex characters, a nuanced screenplay, and a willingness to tackle themes of trauma and violence, most notably in villain Magneto’s origin story, revealing the character as a Holocaust survivor. Following the success of XMen, Sony began filming on Marvel’s next live-action project, Spiderman (Raimi, 2002), in early 2001. Prior to its completion, however, real-world events presented a spectacle as dramatic as anything imagined in the Marvel universe. On 9/11, reality finally caught up with fiction. Or, perhaps, fiction caught up with reality. As Gus Vazquez, an inker and penciller for Marvel Comics, pointed out, “Watching the TV and seeing the plume of smoke and then opening the window and seeing the plume of smoke, it was nothing I’ve ever experienced before.” The distinction, like so much else, was suddenly unclear. The line separating the real from the imagined was found to not only be far more permeable and vulnerable than previously believed possible but the repeated assertion of the event’s fictive nature by witnesses suggested that it had ceased existing altogether, causing Susan Sontag to comment in Regarding the Pain of Others that “After four decades of Hollywood disaster films, ‘It felt like a movie,’ seems to have displaced the way survivors of a catastrophe used to



express the short-term unassimilability of what they had gone through: ‘It seemed like a dream.’”19 In the space of 102 minutes on an Indian-summer morning with a blue sky so clear that aviators would refer to it as “severe clear,” close to 3000 people died—on planes crashing into the Twin Towers, a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon. People died from smoke inhalation, by stabbing, from blunt force trauma, and by incineration. Ranging in age from 3 to 85, the victims died deaths so gruesome that they would once have been relegated to the realm of the unimaginable, at least in the context of the everyday actions these individuals were performing at the time of their deaths. While that failure of imagination can at least be partially traced to a form of interventionist, colonial Western privilege, that suggested such events only happened “elsewhere” and caused Americans to ask, with dumbfounded surprise: “Why do they hate us?” Western privilege only served to magnify the epistemological nature of the rupture caused by the puncturing of the illusion. Perhaps the innocence that was lost was entirely illusory and should never have existed in the first place, but that did not make its loss any less deeply felt. At Marvel, that loss proved particularly resonant. As Paul Jenkins, a writer for Marvel, pointed out, “The Marvel and DC offices were both in New York. All of our friends, the people that we cared about, people that we were in the industry with, we wanted to make sure that everybody was ok and everybody was not ok. Some people dealt with their grief really differently.”20 In other words, Marvel had to contend with the loss as imagined and real.

Location, Location, Location: New York, New York Comic books have always had a fascination with cityscapes, from their aspirational skyscrapers reaching toward the heavens to the grit and dirt of their streets. Superman soars above Metropolis, while Batman hovers atop the gothic architecture of Gotham City. Nonetheless, despite the ubiquity of the cityscape throughout the DC universe, there it remains determinedly fictive, recognizable but not clearly identifiable. By contrast, the Marvel Universe has, from its beginnings, been firmly and undeniably rooted in New York, in terms of both its fictional creations and its creators, who work and live in this city. The reach of the superheroes extends throughout its boroughs: Spiderman (Tom Holland) hails from Queens, Luke Cage (Mike Colter) from Harlem, Daredevil (Charlie Cox) from Hell’s Kitchen, and so forth. As Stan Lee explained, “Instead of having them live in a fictional place like Metropolis or Gotham City I plunked them right down in New York City because I knew New York City, I could write about New York City, and I figured why not let them live in a real place?” It appeared that the humanized characterizations Lee had crafted with Ditko and Kirby necessitated an equally recognizable universe. As Benton states, “New York was the home of the comic book.”21 That recognizable universe proved to be a mixed blessing in Marvel’s attempts to formulate a response to 9/11. On the one hand, it provided Marvel



with a direct vantage point from which to respond to the events. On the other, the risks of doing so were considerable in economic, creative, and political terms. In print, Marvel responded with two special issues, Heroes (in December 2001) and A Moment of Silence (in February 2002). Heroes is populated with characters like the Incredible Hulk and Captain America but also the more traditional heroes of that day, such as firefighters, first responders, and police officers. Of A Moment of Silence, which further blurs the line between the imagined and the real, Stephanie Diekmann of The Guardian wrote: Shifting the focus from fictive characters to NYC officials is thus understood as a transition from the heroes of everyone’s childhood to those of everyday life, from the realm of fantasy to that of the “real world”, and from the age of naivety to that of responsibility. No more Spiderman and Hulk for we who have encountered the first challenge of a new millennium; the stories collected in the book will deal with ordinary people showing extraordinary bravery, setting an example for a nation that braces itself for the conflicts to come.22

On the page, Marvel had quickly staked its claim in responding to the events of 9/11. On the big screen, however, the matter was more complicated. Stephen Prince observes: Osama Bin Laden knew that the airplane attacks of September 11 would be photographed and videotaped and that these images would be broadcast around the world, making the event into a horrifying theater of mass destruction. This symbolic value, achieved by modern media and the manner in which they would inevitably collude to emphasize the theatricality of the attacks, was of tremendous importance to Al-Qaeda.23

Finding a way to contend with the attacks in a medium which had been deliberately exploited to amplify their effect, would, in other words, prove challenging. At first, Hollywood responded with mimetic strictness. While the Twin Towers had frequently functioned as a cinematic synecdoche for Manhattan, both within the skyline and without, following 9/11, footage depicting the towers was cut or digitally altered. Sex and the City, Law and Order: SVU, and The Sopranos, all removed shots of the towers from their opening credits, for example. Similarly, the ending of Men in Black II (Sonnenfeld, 2002), originally set at the World Trade Center, was re-shot. The marketing team of Spider-­ Man thus found itself recalling teaser posters, which had already been shipped, depicting the towers. Similarly, the trailer, which likewise featured the towers had to be re-shot, as did portions of the film. As J.K.  Simmons, one of the film’s stars explained, “I remember having a conversation with Sam [Raimi], the director. He was talking to the marketing people and saying, ‘Maybe we just leave it.’ But the decision was made to deal with the reality and the aftermath.”24 In its final release, widely interpreted as a love letter to New York, the Green Goblin is pelted with rocks by New Yorkers, one of whom yells, “You



mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.”25 The film’s brand of catharsis ended up grossing over US$800 million.26

The “Avengers Assemble”: Populating the Marvel Cinematic Universe The multifaceted nature of the MCU is due, in large part, to the diversity of its characters and the ways they relate and respond to the acts of terrorism which occur in the world they occupy. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert, Downey, Jr.) is a weapons dealer who places his faith in technology and the government. Natasha Romanova/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is a spy, first for Russia and now the United States, an embodiment of the uneasy tension between the two nations in the period following the Cold War, but before the culmination and convergence of far-right political trends in the phenomenon of Trumpism. Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) is a patriotic idealist, literally frozen in time, and struggling to navigate a reality that is decades removed from the clearly delineated moral universe of World War II.  Bruce Banner/the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is a scientist, caught between the government, the military, and his own pursuit of knowledge. Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is a low-ranked soldier (grunt), taking orders from whoever is giving them, whether it is the Avengers or the villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is a God (a fact that does not appear to necessitate an alter ego), whose power emanates from his hammer and ultimately himself, but who struggles to develop a mature moral code to match that power. In other words, each character represents a different facet of the debate surrounding the “war on terror.” More importantly, each of these characters is positioned as a protagonist. The inevitable tensions that consequently arise are framed within this positionality, forcing the viewer to sympathize with the characters and engage each of their individual viewpoints. The villains, by contrast, are often two-­ dimensional and alien, reminiscent more of the creatures populating the 1950s science fiction b-films, than nuanced, dimensional beings. In The Avengers (Whedon, 2012), the first film in the MCU to assemble the superheroes in a single movie, the source of evil is the Tesseract, an extraterrestrial cube housing one of six infinity stones, which are scattered throughout the MCU.27 First discovered alongside Captain America, in the icy depths where he crashed his plane at the end of World War II and has remained frozen since, the Tesseract brings darkness into the world. That this discovery is intertwined with the resurrection of the MCU’s most overt embodiment of patriotism is no coincidence but rather a foreshadowing of the multiple ways in which that trope will be challenged throughout the MCU.  When Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) tells Cap that his uniform has been modified for the current day, Cap asks, “Aren’t the stars and stripes a little old fashioned?” Coulson responds, “Everything that’s happening, the things that are about to come to light, people just might need a little old fashioned.”



Nonetheless, this nostalgia is later juxtaposed with a questioning of the very concept of freedom, as evidenced when Loki tells Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), “Freedom is life’s greatest lie. Once you accept that in your heart, you will know peace.” Fury replies, “Yeah, you say peace. I kinda think you mean the other thing.” Though these moments occur prior to the film’s climactic, almost hour-long, “Battle of New  York,” they nonetheless evoke the complexities of the post-­ 9/11 landscape, in which Middle Eastern cab drivers are forced to adorn their vehicles with American flags for fear of hate crimes and a war killing hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern civilians is branded, with more than a hint of Orwellian doublespeak, as “Operation Enduring Freedom.” The film, originally called Avengers Assemble, is structured around the assemblage of its heroes, with the first third of the film introducing the main characters and uniting them into the fold of SHIELD (Strategic Homeland Intervention and Logistics Division). The second third reveals the tensions between them, and the final third shows the superheroes uniting to fight both the villain Loki and the threat of an invasion by shape-shifting extraterrestrials known as the Chitauri in the epic “Battle of New York.” In many ways, this is a film we have seen before. Since King Kong first climbed atop the Empire State Building, the filmic landscape has been filled with the rubble of destroyed cityscapes, particularly New York. Explosions, collapsing skyscrapers, and terrified civilians fleeing the destruction were part and parcel of our cinematic vocabulary long before 9/11. As film scholar Stephen Prince succinctly puts it in Firestorm: American Film in the Age of Terrorism, “In pursuing visions of epic destruction, filmmakers got there first, well before Al-Qaeda did.”28 However, despite a small handful of Hollywood efforts following 9/11, the attacks effectively suspended the production of action-based disaster movies for a decade. After the real-life disaster movie, which had unfolded in an endlessly repeating loop on television, a fictive representation appeared superfluous. As Jean Baudrillard wrote in The Spirit of Terrorism: Only symbolic violence is generative of singularity. And in this singular event, in this Manhattan disaster movie, the twentieth century’s two elements of mass fascination are combined: the white magic of cinema and the black magic of terrorism; the white light of the image of the image and black light of terrorism.29

As a consequence of this collision, the distinction between the symbol and the referent collapsed, with countless New Yorkers likening the collapse of the towers to a disaster movie, and disaster movies finding their imaginary worlds overtaken by reality (see Figs. 20.1, 20.2, and 20.3). The Avengers pries open a discursive space within this contradiction, embracing the moving image, while reckoning with its real-world referent. The cityscape destroyed by the battle between Loki and the Chitauri, on the one hand, and the Avengers, on the other hand, is neither fictive nor removed from the events of 9/11. It is a cityscape which no longer features the Twin Towers



Fig. 20.1  Screenshot from The Avengers, 2012 film, directed by Joss Whedon

Fig. 20.2  Screenshot from The Avengers, 2012 film, directed by Joss Whedon

but is recognizably Manhattan nonetheless. Though never explicitly stated, it is clear that the traumatized New Yorkers witnessing the attack on Midtown Manhattan have seen this movie before as well, while the manner in which they are framed similarly evokes 9/11 for the viewer. In other words, while the film embraces the formula of the action disaster movie, it does so in the context of 9/11, both for the characters and for the viewer, not in spite of it. The skyward glances, the plumes of smoke belching from skyscraper windows, and the fiery airplane flying past a tall office window are all sights we have seen before (see



Fig. 20.3  Screenshot from The Avengers, 2012 film, directed by Joss Whedon

Fig. 20.4  Screenshot from The Avengers, 2012 film, directed by Joss Whedon

Figs.  20.4 and 20.5). Like the Avengers of the past, who occupied a world defined by Fascism, Communism, Civil Rights, and so forth, the Avengers of the present are not separate from the social and political forces of their time but exist within and navigate the tensions created by these forces, while formulating a narrative alternative to an untenable reality. The conceptualization of trauma as a sort of rupture of the psyche can be traced to Freud, who posits that the victim of trauma is compelled to psycho-



Fig. 20.5  Screenshot from The Avengers, 2012 film, directed by Joss Whedon

logically return to that trauma time and again in an effort to make that which has been broken whole. Nigel C. Hunt, in Memory, War and Trauma, described this striving as a desire for “narrative cohesion,” stating, “Recovery from trauma means making sense of it all again, learning to understand the world as it is in the light of the traumatic event, incorporating the new trauma-related information into one’s own narratives.”30 Theater, comics, and film, all reliant upon narrative, offer a site upon which to practice and fulfill that desire toward cohesion, an opportunity to fictively make whole that which has been broken in reality. At the end of The Avengers, it is Iron Man, whose selfishness has been his guiding principle throughout, who makes the “sacrifice play” that enables this narrative cohesion. With a nuclear warhead sent by the military to New York to destroy the Chitauri, but also threatening countless civilians (calling the scrambling of fighter jets to intercept United Airlines Flight 93 on 9/11 to mind), Iron Man intercepts the warhead and guides it toward space, destroying the Chitauri spacecraft. The bluish-white beam emanating from the hole created by the Chitauri is reminiscent of the “Tribute in Light” installation, a memorial consisting of two shafts of light emanating from the hole where the towers once stood, and which first appeared in March 2002 and has shone on every anniversary of 9/11 since. Iron Man’s fall to earth is as flailing and helpless as that of those who jumped from the towers, fleeing the smoke and fire. However, the point here is not merely to evoke 9/11, but to narratively reverse it. Here, Stark survives, the Avengers triumph, the Chitauri are (at least temporarily) defeated, and Loki is returned to his home planet, Asgard, for trial (see Figs. 20.6 and 20.7).



Fig. 20.6  Screenshot from The Avengers, 2012 film, directed by Joss Whedon

Fig. 20.7  Screenshot from The Avengers, 2012 film, directed by Joss Whedon

The news images panning across the screen at the end of the film once again evoke 9/11. However, here, the first responders survive, people celebrate in the streets, and fireworks are ignited. In other words, disaster has been averted. The Avengers even unwind by silently eating shawarma in an after-credits scene, a moment which hovers awkwardly between cultural appropriation and breaking bread with a foreign culture. Like Captain America punching Adolf Hitler, the A