Arabella Teniswood-Harvey, Reconsidering the Anzac Legend: Music, National Identity, and the Australian Experience of World War I, as Portrayed in the Australian War Memorial’s Art and Photographic Collection

According to its website, the Australian War Memorial’s mission “is to assist Australians to remember, interpret and understand the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on Australian society.” Its total collection includes over 30,000 artworks and more than 800,000 photographs, along with military heraldry, film and sound recordings, and printed programs. The Memorial’s collection of imagery relating to the performance of music by―and for―military personnel during World War One includes artworks by Official War Artists attached to Australian forces such as Frank Percy Crozier and Will Dyson, as well as European artists including Jean-Emile Laboureur and George Grosz; recruitment posters; magazine illustrations and caricatures; and documentary photographs. Subjects include performances by organized military ensembles, musicians in prisoner of war camps, musical entertainment for soldiers in hospital wards and music-making by soldiers at leisure.
This paper examines firstly the meaning of music within the Australian experience of World War One, as portrayed in this imagery, and secondly how this material portrays and perpetuates ideas about the spirit of Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps). As Peter Stanley explained on the Australian War Memorial website in 2002: “Anzac came to signify the qualities which Australians have seen their forces exhibit in war. These attributes cluster around several ideas: endurance, courage, ingenuity, good humor, and, of course, mateship. These qualities collectively constitute what is described as the Anzac spirit.” In recent years scholars and critics have questioned the Anzac legend.