Carl Bridge, King's College London Professor of Australian Studies, spoke in a panel on ‘Gallipoli: Australia’s Western Front’ at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on 8 October. Other panellists were Rachel Billington whose new novel, Glory, is set during the campaign, and Peter Hart, from the Imperial War Museum, whose Gallipoli is a seminal history.
Carl explained that the roots of the Australian Anzac myth were in the nineteenth century Bush legend and how and why Anzac Day in Australia had moved from marking personal grief at the loss of family members and friends to a celebration of the idealised national character with which all Australians might identify. This transition was anticipated in Sir Sidney Nolan’s Gallipoli paintings in the 1960s and confirmed by prime minister Paul Keating’s words on the interment of the Australian Unknown Soldier in 1993, ‘He is all of them. And he is one of us’. The last of the Australians who landed at Anzac died in 1997.