Great Britain’s declaration of war against Germany after the latter’s invasion of Belgium in August 1914 elicited an enthusiastic response in Australia. Without any official request from the British government, the dominion eagerly committed twenty thousand young men to the war effort. All around the country, young men rushed to recruiting stations while community groups organised fundraising events to collect money for schemes, such as Belgian relief. Four years later, Australia had lost some sixty thousand soldiers and another one hundred and fifty thousand had been wounded on distant battlefields. Closer to home, the commonwealth had witnessed two bitterly contested conscription referendums and mass strikes. The Great War left Australia a deeply divided nation and yet the conflict also gave birth to one of the nation’s most powerful narratives: the Anzac legend.
The aim of this presentation by the Australian Matthew Haultain-Gall is to outline Australia’s involvement in the First World War as well as consider the enduring appeal of the Anzac legend, which portrays 1914–18 in a far more romantic light than the dominant European narratives with which we are familiar today. He will also highlight the links that formed between Australia and Belgium during and after the conflict, paying particular attention to how the Australian Imperial Force’s major engagements in the Ypres salient– the battles of Messines Ridge and Third Ypres – have been commemorated over the last century. Matthew Haultain-Gall is a scientific collaborator at the Université catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve (UCLouvain), Belgium. His research focuses on the cultural and social impacts of the First World War. In 2017, he completed a PhD at the University of New South Wales (Sydney) in which he traces the memory of the First Australian Imperial Force’s battles in Belgium.
- Starts at 7.15 p.m.
- Location: Kenniscentrum, Ieperstraat 1 B-8980 Zonnebeke
- €5,00 per person (drink included)
- Cash payment upon arrival
- English presentation