FIRST WORLD WAR SEMINARS
ACADEMIC YEAR / ACADEMIEJAAR 2019-2020
THURSDAY 16 JANUARY 2020
Ieper, 7 p.m.
Matt Haultain-Gall (Université Catholique de Louvain) ‘An elegy of mud, blood and darkness’: Australian war writing and the third battle of Ypres’
‘The year 1917 had been one of disaster for our arms in all save the Messines attack’ wrote the Australian ex-serviceman G.D. Mitchell in Backs to the Wall. Few of his comrades would have disagreed. The Australian Imperial Force (AIF) lost far more men in the battles for Bullecourt (France), Messines and Passchendaele than at their 1915 baptism of fi re in the Dardanelles or their infamous 1916 engagements at Fromelles and Pozières. Consequently, 1917 and the third battle of Ypres especially – the bloodiest of the AIF’s 1914–18 campaigns – sat uneasily within the dominant interwar narrative of the Great War in Australia, the Anzac legend, which drew unabashedly on the language of high diction, emphasizing the elements of honour, bravery, sacrifi ce and salvation. Analysing the writings of returned men published during the interwar period, this paper will explore the various strategies Australian writers used to reconcile the traditional Anzac legend with notions of futility that permeated their accounts of the third Ypres campaign.
Location: Research Centre, Reading Room, In Flanders Fields Museum, Sint-Maartensplein 3, 8900 Ieper, 7 pm