Militarisation of Australian and New Zealand schoolboys and World War I


This video says about itself:

World News: Somalia‘s Child Soldiers | The New York Times

14 June 2010

More and more children are being recruited to become soldiers by Somalia’s transitional government, which is partially funded by the U.S. taxpayer. Some of them are as young as nine years old.

By Margaret Rees and Linda Levin:

The role of Australian schools in World War I

25 April 2015

Soldier Boys: The Militarisation of Australian and New Zealand Schools for World War I by Maxwell N. Waugh, Melbourne Books, 2014

During the past year—and until November 11, 2018, the centenary of the end of the mass slaughter that was World War I—Australian involvement in the war is being celebrated by an outpouring of propaganda and myth-making, reaching frenzied proportions in the lead up to Anzac Day, April 25, the centenary of the Allied landing at Gallipoli. No section of the population is being spared, including, or, more accurately, especially school children. They are being bombarded with curriculum material and activities all serving to glorify war.

Soldier Boys book

Soldier Boys: The Militarisation of Australian and New Zealand Schools for World War I, published in 2014, demonstrates that the precedent for the indoctrination and priming of a generation of youth for war was initially established by the forebears of the current Australian political establishment in the years prior to World War I.

Written by Dr Maxwell Waugh, a retired former teacher, school principal, and lecturer in the History of Education at Deakin and Monash Universities, Soldier Boys is a valuable book that punctures the prevailing myths. It demonstrates that, by 1911, Australia had become a veritable military training camp for the British Empire. It corrects the conception, long promoted by government, media and the film industry, that the boys and young men who enlisted to fight, did so spontaneously and voluntarily as raw, untrained recruits.

In reality, the vast majority who joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), including the “Anzacs,” were the product of a harsh and punitive system of compulsory military training, in both public and private schools, and in the Citizen Military Forces (CMF), aimed at preparing young boys “to be used as ‘cannon fodder’ in the killing fields of Gallipoli and on the Western Front, where 60,000 were killed in action or died of wounds, 150,000 were wounded, and countless survivors of the horrors of trench warfare were left to wrestle with their ‘personal demons’ for the rest of their lives.”

Reviewing his motivations for researching and writing the book, Waugh recalls in the introduction his sense of shock as a teenager in Melbourne upon seeing the powerful 1930 anti-war movie, All Quiet on the Western Front, and then reading the book of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque. Most of all, he recalls “the repugnance I felt that the German education system had been used so blatantly to recruit the cream of their youth to fight in such a needless war.”

Later, as a teacher, Waugh writes, “I would discover that many thousands of Australian and New Zealand lads had been coerced into enlisting in this brutal conflict, through the respective state education departments and the private school system, in much the same way as their German counterparts.”

“It’s no wonder,” Waugh continues, “that many thousands of young Australian recruits responded so readily to ‘Mother England’s call’, for here was a ready-made army in waiting. They were an army of fit and disciplined patriots, thanks largely to the schools that helped prepare them for the terrifying, bloody and mindless conflict that was the Great War.” No such system of compulsory military training existed in Britain or any other countries of the British Empire, except New Zealand, in the period leading up to or during the war.

Pulteney Grammar School, South Australia, cadet unit training, circa 1911

Soldier Boys’ author explains that the major force behind the establishment of the mandatory cadet system was the Australian Labor Party. Prominent Laborite William Morris (Billy) Hughes, who was to become wartime prime minister, had been agitating for a form of military conscription as early as 1901, and members of the Labor Party were prime movers in an unsuccessful attempt in 1903 to establish the compulsory military training of all boys aged 14 to 17.

Following Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War, elements from both Labor and the conservative parties joined together to form the Australian National Defence League, in order “to demand stronger defence alliances with Britain and closer co-operation with other British Empire colonies, such as New Zealand.” While Japanese warships had rapidly become the most powerful fleet in the Pacific, regarded by the burgeoning Australian ruling elite as a potential existential threat, Britain was preoccupied with the growing industrial and military challenge posed by Germany.

In September 1905, as a founding member of the League, Hughes seconded a motion establishing its charter, which called for “Universal compulsory training (military or naval) of the boyhood and manhood of Australia for the purposes of National Defence …” He continued to agitate for a compulsory cadet service in Australian schools, and in 1908 the federal Labor Party adopted this as party policy.

In 1909, the short-lived first Labor government of Prime Minister Andrew (November 1908–June 1909) demanded “the 10 to 18 year old component of the Swiss model” of compulsory military training. Later that year, the Labor Party gave its full support to the conservative Deakin government’s enactment of the 1909 Defence Act, which, for the first time in an English-speaking country, required the compulsory military training of all boys between 12 and 18 years of age.

The Australian government had invited the British field marshal, Lord Kitchener, to “advise” on the country’s military preparedness and unsurprisingly, after a two month tour, Kitchener’s report declared that Australia was “inadequate in numbers, training, organisation and the munitions in war.” He came to a similar conclusion about the situation in New Zealand.

The Defence Act, which came into operation in July 1911, mandated military training of Junior Cadets (12–14 years old) and Senior Cadets (14–18 years old) in every state. It also required compulsory membership for all 18–25 year olds in the CMF. Under the New Zealand Defence Amendment Act of 1910, (amending the 1909 Act following Kitchener’s tour of New Zealand in March 1910 and his subsequent recommendations) nearly identical conditions applied. In the first year, 92,000 boys had commenced training in Australia. In New Zealand, the numbers in 1911 were around 30,000 Senior Cadets and 22,000 “Territorials” (aged 18–25).

Beechworth State School cadets. Photo courtesy Beechworth Primary School and Max Waugh

Waugh explains that the second Fisher Labor government (April 1910–June 1913) decided to escalate its war preparations following a briefing by Britain’s foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey, in the wake of the 1911 Imperial Conference in London. The Labor government delegation, comprising Prime Minister Fisher and his defence and external Affairs ministers, concluded that by 1915 Europe would be at war with Germany.

Waugh describes the ideological campaign developed throughout the school system to promote the British Empire and militarism as compulsory military training was being introduced. “Perhaps the most effective means of inspiring a sense of pride in the Empire to school children,” he writes, “was through the monthly school magazines, such as The School Paper in Victoria, the Children’s Hour in South Australia and New Zealand’s the School Journal, among others.”

As well as “patriotic narratives, poems and songs,” included in the “Empire Day” edition of The School Paper in May 1910, was “An Empire Catechism,” which children had to learn by rote, with questions and answers including:

Query: What do you mean by the British Empire?

Answer: That portion of the earth’s land surface, which is under the authority of King Edward the Seventh.

Query: What proportion of the earth’s surface does the British Empire cover?

Answer: About one-fifth or 21 percent.

Query: What proportion of the inhabitants of the earth are the subjects of King Edward?

Answer: About one-fifth, or about 22 percent.

Central to mandatory training was the disciplining of Australian youth. To become a cadet, a boy had to be at least 4 feet 6 inches in height and undergo a compulsory military examination. Junior cadets had to undergo 96 hours of training each year for two years and senior cadets, 90 hours per year, for four years, followed by another seven years in the CMF. Training included physical training on each school day, and marching drill.

Boys over 14 who had left school, or those unable to attend a school with authorised prescribed cadet training, “were required to attend training under military instructors at designated places and times” including during evenings, weekends and holidays.

Schools were granted allowances to establish miniature rifle ranges, and cadets were required to become proficient at loading and shooting their rifles. Senior cadets had to wear supplied uniforms on parade and were “subjected to an Annual Inspection by a regular army officer.” Each boy was allotted to a military district upon leaving school, or encouraged to apply to join the naval training scheme, for which the minimum height was 5 feet 2 inches.

Volunteer senior cadets in camp Langwarrin, Victoria, 1910. Photo Australian War Memorial (P00151.011)

Penalties for evading service could range between £5 and £100 (a huge amount, equivalent to between three weeks and more than a year’s wage) or imprisonment.

One of the strengths of Soldier Boys is the emphasis Waugh places on the extent of non-compliance with the system of mandatory military training for youth. Even before the outbreak of the war, 27,749 prosecutions were handed down under the Act, resulting in the detention or imprisonment of 5,732 boys. In 1912–13, 265 per week were prosecuted, rising to 269 per week in 1913–14.

One of the reasons, as Soldier Boys points out, was the far more onerous requirements imposed by the system on working-class boys, who had to work and then attend training and drills, whereas their counterparts in the elite private schools could simply extend their school day.

Waugh cites the court transcript of one typically heart-rending case in Chatswood, Sydney in 1912 before the Police Court magistrate. Charles Osborne, a Senior Cadet, pleaded for exemption:

Osborne: I would sooner go to jail than do the drills.

Magistrate: It is very unwise to speak like that.

O: I mean it. I have a good character from my employer. I do my work faithfully, and I have long hours. My father is dead. My mother died only four months ago. I and my brother are the sole support of the family… I have eight brothers and sisters, all under 16, to look after.

M: It may be hard but I have to administer the Act.

O: I am trying to better myself, and I wouldn’t be able to carry out my studies if I had to drill. If the court orders me to do the drills, I won’t do so. I will put up with the consequences.

M: That is a matter for yourself. You are ordered to make up the 28 hours deficiency, and I will give you three months to do it. You will also have 24 hours in which to pay the 6/- costs.

O: I can’t pay them.

M: I won’t discuss the matter.

Another critical aspect of the book is its sympathetic treatment of the various individuals, groups and organisations that opposed compulsory military training on the basis of their hostility to militarism and war. These included religious groups, but the majority were secular and socialist organisations.

By the time war was declared in August 1914, for example, the anti-conscription Australian Freedom League, founded by two Quakers in South Australia in 1910, had some 55,000 members.

Opposition was particularly strong among left-wing opponents of the Labor Party, including the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which was to win growing support in the working class against Laborism, militarism and conscription during the war, before being brutally repressed by the Hughes Labor government.

Waugh quotes the Socialist, the newspaper of the Victorian Socialist Party, which denounced the training of boys so that “they may know how to fight as soldiers, and shoot down or bayonet the lads of other countries… Now is the time to protest against the folly of this compulsory training in organised murder. Now is the time to make up your minds NEVER TO TAKE THE MILITARY OATH which deprives you of your will and conscience.”

As the prosecutions intensified, the Socialist began supporting individuals and groups of defaulters. Broken Hill, the mining town with long-standing militant union traditions, became a centre of much opposition to the Defence Act. The father of one boy, Alfred Giles, was prosecuted for refusing to let his son register as a cadet. Alfred was imprisoned for two weeks. On his release, the Amalgamated Miners Association presented the boy with a gold medal to commemorate his principled stand.

In New Zealand, opposition among the youth themselves was even more vocal. A number of young men of military age formed a group calling itself the “We Won’ts,” which became known as the “Passive Resisters Union.” With a membership of socialist leanings, it published Repeal, a monthly paper, and so widespread became the opposition, that, according to Waugh, only the outbreak of World War I saved the mandatory military training system from abolition.

In the 1914 federal election campaign, held as the war began, Australian Labor Party leader Fisher campaigned for the defence of the British Empire “to the last man and the last shilling.” When war broke out, a contingent of over 20,000 was offered up as the first cannon fodder.

Waugh makes clear just how central the schools were in propagating the avalanche of political propaganda that was manufactured by the government in support of World War I. The school syllabus was modified for the duration of the war, with teachers placed under relentless pressure to inculcate the pro-imperialist, pro-war message.

Every issue of Victoria’s monthly The School Paper for senior grades was devoted to war material designed to indoctrinate students in patriotism and the glories of the British Empire. It became “a major source of war articles, stories, poems and patriotic songs, all designed to brainwash young minds and encourage recruitment into the armed forces.”

The September 1914 issue, the first after the war had broken out, began with a banner headline “Britain at War,” followed by an extract from King George V’s speech declaring war on Germany.

In the following editions, the ongoing reports on military confrontations listed German losses, but make no mention of any of the Allied casualties. Soldier Boys carries photographs of some of the pages of the magazine, with illustrated articles such as “Brave Deeds at Gallipoli”, “How a Victorian won the Victoria Cross”, “Simpson and his Donkey at Gallipoli” and others. The New Zealand School Journal featured similar material.

Many of the boys who “voluntarily” enlisted, were products of this compulsory military training scheme and the propaganda that went with it. Groups of private school students featured prominently, and, while there were still very few public secondary schools, those that did exist matched the private schools in enlistments and, subsequently, in the growing number of casualties.

Military recruitment in Melbourne

Given the level of pro-war indoctrination in the schools, it is unsurprising that hundreds of under-aged Australian boys enlisted illegally in the AIF, some of them as young as 14.

Nevertheless, by 1916 the euphoria had dissipated as the reality of the extent of the catastrophes at Gallipoli and on the Western Front had begun to emerge. Opposition to both the war and the Hughes Labor government started to grow, expressed in the defeat of two referenda on conscription—one in October 1916 and the other in December 1917—promoted by Prime Minister Billy Hughes.

In an important section on the destruction of democratic rights during the war, Soldier Boys details the victimisation of German-Australians and their schools, especially in South Australia, where many families of ethnic German background lived and their children often attended Lutheran schools. South Australian legislation requiring the closing down of these schools was passed in late 1916. All the teachers and principals were dismissed, and found it impossible to obtain other employment. And there were many cases of internment. The Queensland state government also closed down its Lutheran schools, as did the government of New Zealand. Like all other schools in Australia, however, the Lutherans had been obligated to conduct compulsory cadet training.

Soldier Boys dispels the myth that it was the spontaneous rapture for adventure that led so many young Australians to sign up in 1914. It irrefutably demonstrates how Australian and New Zealand governments in the lead up to the war consciously worked to prepare through the schools, a compliant, trained and indoctrinated young population and then assemble the military force pledged by Labor leader Fisher in his notorious election commitment to Britain.

On the hundredth anniversary of the Gallipoli disaster, today’s powers-that-be are utilising similar methods, centred once again in the school system, to prepare and condition a new generation of Australian youth to sign up for war.

Author Maxwell Waugh is not a Marxist, and his deeply felt opposition to World War I remains at the level of moral outrage and indignation at the terrible waste of young lives. But his historical research provides a significant and compelling addition to the historical record of Australia’s role in the war, providing information that has not been readily available before. Soldier Boys is a book well worth reading.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Australian sports reporter Scott McIntyre sacked by SBS over ‘despicable’ Anzac Day tweets …

Australian broadcaster Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) have dismissed sports reporter Scott McIntyre after he made “despicable” comments about Anzac Day on Twitter.

Marking the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War, the day commemorates those who lost their lives in the conflict.

McIntyre greeted the centenary of the Gallipoli landings by criticising what he said was the ‘cultification [sic] of an imperialist invasion’.

In a flagrant attack on freedom of speech, the state-owned Special Broadcasting Corporation (SBS) has sacked sports journalist Scott McIntyre for making twitter comments critical of the April 25 Anzac Day commemorations. McIntyre is a respected reporter on international football and has covered two Fifa World Cups and four Asian Cups. His tweets are followed by some 33,000 people: here.

Important layers of workers and young people attended the Socialist Equality Party’s anti-war meetings yesterday in Sydney, Melbourne and Wellington in New Zealand in defiance of the barrage of militarist propaganda throughout the media and political establishment surrounding Anzac Day: here.

Further evidence has emerged of the role played by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the chain of events leading to Sunday’s sacking of Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) sport commentator Scott McIntyre for posting tweets critical of the glorification of the April 25 Anzac Day centenary. Despite a growing volume of letters and petitions condemning its decision, SBS has refused to reinstate McIntyre, who has worked for the state-owned corporation for 10 years and is considering legal action: here.

German professor praises drones, poison gas


This 1 April 2015 video from the USA is called Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars • FULL DOCUMENTARY FILM • BRAVE NEW FILMS.

By Johannes Stern in Germany:

German professor Herfried Münkler: Combat drones and poison gas are “humane” weapons

16 April 2015

About two weeks after the German and French governments decided at a joint cabinet meeting to manufacture combat drones in Europe, Humboldt University Professor Herfried Münkler praised such drones as “humane” weapons in a long interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung (FAZ). He drew a historical parallel to poison gas, which was used for the first time in the First World War, describing it also as “humane.”

When the FAZ noted that poison gas is perceived “as especially terrible,” Münkler replied, “There is this striking paradox. Between three or four percent die in poison gas attacks, while the death toll from artillery wounds is around fifty percent, and the rate of mortality from rifle or machine gun fire thirty percent. That means that you could actually say that gas is a rather ‘humane’ weapon, because it has a relatively low death toll.”

Münkler added that in drone attacks the operators “have much more time for observation than the pilot of a fighter bomber,” and “the collateral damage of drone attacks” is “clearly lower than that from fighter bombers.”

It is difficult to say which is more repulsive: Münkler’s trivialization of poison gas attacks in the First World War, or his plea for combat drones today.

This video says about itself:

Deadly Battles of World War I – Ypres the Gas Inferno

7 November 2014

Poison gas killed 80,000 soldiers in World War I. Nearly a million more were victims who suffered its lingering effects. Initially the wind distributed chlorine gas across the battlefields of the western front but an arms race quickly developed until one in three shells contained some form of toxic gas.

It’s not the statistics, however, that make this a successful documentary. A surprising amount of black-and-white footage and interviews with survivors and relatives of key players tell a compelling tale of motivations and consequences. For those who adhere to the maxim that history repeats itself, it’s worth noting that despite an international convention banning chemical weapons, both sides of the Great War deployed poison gases with few reservations. As one interviewee puts it, patriotism defeated morality.

The Johannes Stern article continues:

The hundredth anniversary of the first use of poison gas as a weapon of mass extermination is just under a week away. On April 22, 1915, German troops used chlorine gas in the battle at Ypres.

The Deutsche Welle published an article a year ago that described how a yellowish cloud of 180 tons of chlorine gas wafted out of the German trenches to the enemy lines: “There began the horror. The enveloped soldiers stumbled around, turning red, blind and coughing. Three thousand of them suffocated and an additional seven thousand soldiers, who were badly burned, survived.”

In an escalating gas war, in which more and more effective chemical weapons were put into use, “about 120 thousand tons of 38 types of warfare agents were deployed, about 100 thousand soldiers [died] and 1.2 million men were wounded,” according to a paper published by the Federal Agency of Civic Education.

Science historian Ernst Peter Fischer commented on the first poison gas attack in Ypres in the Deutsche Welle account. “At that moment, science lost its innocence,” he said. Until then, the goal of science consisted of easing the conditions of life of human beings. “Now science provided the conditions for killing human life,” Fischer said.

Fischer cited the example of the Berlin chemist Fritz Haber, who founded and headed the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electro-chemistry. Haber placed his entire scientific ability in the service of mass extermination. This proved no hindrance to his career. After the end of the war, the “father of gas warfare” won the Nobel Prize for chemistry and sat on the supervisory board of the chemistry giant I.G. Farben, which later produced the poison gas Zyklon B for the gas chambers in Auschwitz. Haber, who was himself Jewish, emigrated in 1933 and died shortly thereafter.

The use of poison gas, which Münkler praises as a “humane weapon,” was not just a new method for slaughtering millions of soldiers. Its use was then and remains today a war crime. It contravenes the Hague Convention of 1907 and was once again explicitly forbidden in the Geneva Protocol of 1925. In the war in Iraq and as part of the war threats against Syria, imperialist propaganda used the actual or alleged use of poison gas in these countries as sufficient grounds for war.

For this reason, Münkler’s parallel between poison gas and drone warfare is particularly significant. The comparison is apt, not because they are both “humane” methods of war, but because both exemplify the development of new stages in imperialist brutality.

The US-led drone wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen not only violate international law, but have taken the lives of thousands of innocent victims (Münkle’s “collateral damage”) in recent years. According to research carried out by the London based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the US military has wiped out between 2.4 and 3.9 thousand people in “targeted killings” in Pakistan alone. These victims of combat drones are not infrequently women, children or innocent participants at birthday parties, weddings or funerals.

Münkler’s justification for warfare with poison gas and combat drones is utterly cynical. He accuses the opponents of gas and drone warfare of clinging to the ideal of a long bygone “heroic” age.

“The criticism of gas warfare and the criticism of drone warfare are connected in that they both have to do with the ethos of the fighter. The astounding thing is that drones are criticized in a post-heroic society, but with the arguments of the heroic society, which demands the struggle of man against man,” explained the professor.

By “post-heroic,” Münkler means that war is no longer fought man to man, but rather that soldiers and civilians of less developed states are slaughtered in cold blood by their adversaries—at the mercy of remote-controlled drones or poison gas, which soldiers cannot defend themselves against.

“We are observing the transformation of war into policing,” he said in the FAZ. “Goals are being pursued in a way that can be understood as making investments in the future of the area of intervention by minimizing losses. Hegel called the weapon ‘the essence of the fighter’—drones are the typical weapon of post-heroic society. There is no ethos or aesthetic of war. There is only effectiveness of battlefield management.”

It requires the intellectual degradation of a German professor to try to use Hegel for the purpose of celebrating combat drones as an “effective” category of weapon above any ethical or moral criticism.

Münkler’s argument is an insult to the intelligence of the vast majority of the population which opposes combat drones, but not because of any longing for a “heroic” age or a preference for fighting wars with the sword “man against man.” Rather, drones are hated because no other weapon is more closely associated with imperialist aggression, war crimes and the suffering of civilian populations.

Münkler also introduces social Darwinist arguments to justify drone warfare. The “post-heroic society” is characterized “by two elements,” he said in the FAZ interview: “A low rate of reproduction in the population. There is no longer a surplus of young men for the battlefield. And the idea of self sacrifice at the ‘altar of the fatherland’ is completely foreign to us.”

Two years ago Münkler had already presented an argument against ethical and moral objections to modern weapons of destruction. At the fourteenth annual foreign policy conference of the Green Party affiliated Heinrich Böll Stiftung, he gave a lecture titled: “New fighting systems and the ethics of war.”

At that time Münkler warned: “Post-heroic societies such as ours should be very careful when they talk about the ethics of war. They are playing with fire, especially when they use ethics to demand more from soldiers than they would demand of themselves.”

He then told the politicians and foreign policy experts in attendance: “The ‘citizen in uniform’ is much closer to war drones than the soldier of a classical army, and he prefers their use to the deployment of light infantry in hostile terrain, with the goal of eliminating an actual or supposed threat in direct contact with the enemy. To express it pointedly: in the criticism of drones, the ethics of a pre-bourgeois society is giving voice to heroic ideas in a nostalgic form. This is a critique that has not been thought out to the end.”

Irrespective of how “thought out to the end” is his own overblown pontification, the stance of the professor is very clear—his standpoint is highly militaristic. In a situation in which neither the population nor the majority of soldiers favors being slaughtered in open warfare on the battlefield, he recommends drones to the ruling elite as a suitable means of achieving the ends of German imperialism through military means.

The fact that Münkler now places poison gas in the same category as drones shows that inhumane and militaristic attitudes are once again running rampant in ruling circles in Berlin 70 years after the end of the Second World War. The report of the Böll Stiftung on the conference two years ago concluded that Münkler’s presentation of “controversial combat drones as a positive new stage in weapons technology from an ethical point of view” was seen as a “minor provocation.”

Since then, Münkler’s “minor provocation” has become a dangerous reality. The Böll Stiftung campaigns for a confrontation with Russia, the German government is acquiring combat drones and Münkler himself is giving a seminar at Humboldt University under the title “Theories of war: new wars, humanitarian interventions, drone wars.” In his new book, Macht in der Mitte (Power in the Middle), Münkler demands that Germany once again “play the difficult role of ‘taskmaster’” in Europe. The German government is working on this too!

New Zealanders shun governmental World War I propaganda


This music video about Australia and the first world war is called The Pogues – The band played Waltzing Matilda.

The lyrics are:

When I was a young man I carried my pack
And I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murray’s green basin to the dusty outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over

Then in nineteen fifteen my country said Son
It’s time to stop rambling ’cause there’s work to be done
So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun
And they sent me away to the war

And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we sailed away from the quay
And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers
We sailed off to Gallipoli

How well I remember that terrible day
How the blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter

Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well
He chased us with bullets, he rained us with shells
And in five minutes flat he’d blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia

But the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we stopped to bury our slain
We buried ours and the Turks buried theirs
Then we started all over again

Now those that were left, well we tried to survive
In a mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
But around me the corpses piled higher

Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over tit
And when I woke up in my hospital bed
And saw what it had done, I wished I was dead
Never knew there were worse things than dying

For no more I’ll go waltzing Matilda
All around the green bush far and near
For to hump tent and pegs, a man needs two legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me

So they collected the cripples, the wounded, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla

And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where my legs used to be
And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity

And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
Then turned all their faces away

And now every April I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me
And I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reliving old dreams of past glory

And the old men march slowly, all bent, stiff and sore
The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, “What are they marching for?”
And I ask myself the same question

And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men answer to the call
But year after year their numbers get fewer
Some day no one will march there at all

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me
And their ghosts may be heard as you pass the Billabong
Who’ll come-a-waltzing Matilda with me?

By Tom Peters in New Zealand:

New Zealanders shun Camp Gallipoli WWI celebration

10 April 2015

The Australian-based Camp Gallipoli Foundation announced the cancellation on Monday of its New Zealand event, telling the media that by April 1 it had sold just 102 tickets. It had aimed to attract 10,000 people to an overnight camp-out at Auckland’s Ellerslie Racecourse on April 24 to celebrate the centenary of Australian and New Zealand (Anzac) troops landing at Gallipoli in the First World War.

The abysmal ticket sales are a debacle for the foundation and the co-sponsors of the event—the Returned and Services Association (RSA), the state broadcaster TVNZ, and the New Zealand government, which had promoted the camp as part of WWI centenary commemorations.

Considerable effort had gone into promoting Camp Gallipoli. It was to feature entertainment by pop-rock band Evermore and reggae group 1814 with appearances by TV psychologist Nigel Latta and former All Blacks rugby coach Sir Graham Henry. The camp’s “ambassadors” included players from the Black Caps national cricket team and the Breakers basketball team.

Despite these high-profile celebrity endorsements the public shunned the event, which was aimed at glorifying one of the bloodiest battles of WWI. The organisers ran up against widespread and deep-seated anti-war sentiment among workers and young people, the vast majority of whom regard World War I as a never-to-be repeated catastrophe.

Camp Gallipoli Foundation CEO Chris Fox lashed out at the public for failing to buy tickets. He told Monday’s Dominion Post: “You didn’t get off your backside… I’d check your pulses to make sure that you’re still breathing.”

This prompted a deluge of 167 comments to the newspaper’s web site, most of them expressing hostility to Fox and his insulting comments.

Several readers denounced Camp Gallipoli as “tacky,” with one describing it as “an appalling ‘commercial event’ purely designed to make money out of an event in history that saw tragic losses of life on both sides.”

While advertised as “not for profit,” the camp had numerous corporate sponsors, including TVNZ, Australia’s Bendigo Bank, and the top sports bodies of Australia and New Zealand. Profits from ticket sales were to go to the RSA.

Many comments expressed revulsion at the event’s glorification of militarism. One described the camp as “rather bizarre and not my way [of] remembering thousands of senseless deaths in a war started by crazy leaders who were more than willing to send multitudes of young men to their deaths.”

“Why don’t we stop commemorating war and death?” asked Clinton Jackson. “We invaded another country. While the memory of the brave lads who were forced to kill for the pleasure of European royalty should be honoured, the actual battles should be confined to history along with its causes, religion and the narcissistic royal families.”

“I 100% agree with Clinton Jackson’s comments,” said another reader, who described WWI as a “crime” and added: “NZ was never at risk from WWI. Our young men were encouraged to go and fought for the ‘mother country’ and were told it was their duty… If you ask a lot of kiwis what they reflect on over ANZAC Day it’s most likely to be the futility of war and mankind’s continued view of it as a way to solve problems.”

Joannie similarly wrote: “I remember all our war dead on Anzac day including my dead son who served his country but to me this Gallipoli hysteria is just so over the top that it is becoming crude. Gallipoli was a disaster caused by the British which slaughtered thousands on both sides. Best buried in History I think.”

Another reader bluntly stated: “Kiwis and Aussies were used by the English masters as cannon fodder in an invasion that history tells us would have not made any difference anyway. We should not be celebrating this, but we should never forget.”

The 1915 invasion of Gallipoli, in Turkey, was a failed attempt by Britain and its allies to gain control of the shipping lanes through the Dardenelles. The fighting killed more than 87,000 Ottoman soldiers and 44,000 Allied troops, including 8,500 Australians and 2,779 New Zealanders. Hundreds of thousands more were maimed or became sick.

As a junior partner of British imperialism, New Zealand’s ruling class joined WWI to expand its wealth and seize more Pacific island colonies. In the course of the 1914–1918 war, 18,500 New Zealanders died and 40,000 were injured, out of a country with a population of about one million. In other words, approximately 6 percent of the population were killed or maimed in WWI.

Successive Australian and New Zealand governments have recast the catastrophe of Gallipoli as an occasion for nationalist celebration. The April 25 holiday, Anzac Day, is at the centre of the WWI centenary campaign, which promotes the battle as central to the “national identity” of both countries.

Several comments denounced Camp Gallipoli as an Australian import, with one declaring that “Australia have turned ANZAC day into some jingoistic fervour.” In fact, while Fox’s organisation has managed to sell many more tickets to its events throughout Australia, there are other signs of public hostility to the celebrations of militarism. Channel Nine was compelled to “burn off” its much-publicised Gallipoli television series after audiences turned off. An article berating the public for failing to watch prompted a stream of angry responses.

The Camp Gallipoli fiasco reflects widespread, albeit still latent, opposition to this intensifying militarist and nationalist campaign. At the same time, the comments to the Dominion Post indicate that there is little understanding of the purpose of the WWI commemorations.

For the ruling elite, the Anzac centenary is not simply a historical commemoration. On the contrary, the government and the corporate media are seeking to suppress anti-war sentiment and promote unquestioning respect for the military in order to condition the public, especially young people, to support future imperialist wars.

The National Party government, with the support of Labour and all the parliamentary parties, is spending more than $150 million on WWI related projects, including a new National War Memorial Park and major museum exhibitions.

A government-produced book, universally praised in the media, hailed New Zealand’s participation in WWI as “largely successful and profitable.” It endorsed the police state measures put in place during the war and covered up the opposition to the war that emerged in the working class.

Today, the world situation increasingly resembles the cauldron of inter-imperialist tensions that dominated in the period prior to World War I. The US has launched non-stop wars and interventions over the past two and half decades in a bid to counter its economic decline through military means. The National government is currently preparing to send New Zealand troops to join the renewed US-led wars in Iraq and Syria.

At the same time, the government and opposition, along with the pseudo-left organisations, have endorsed the Obama administration’s confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, and Washington’s strategic “pivot” to Asia—aimed at a military build-up against China.

The mounting popular opposition to war finds no expression in the political establishment. Every political party supports the military and intelligence alliance with the US. In 2003, tens of thousands of people marched in New Zealand against the invasion of Iraq

The celebration of WWI must be taken as a warning that the ruling elite will not hesitate to drag the country into a Third World War to defend its predatory interests. While anti-war sentiment revealed by the Camp Gallipoli fiasco is significant, unfocussed hostility will not halt the drive to war. What is required is the building of an anti-war movement of the international working class to put an end to capitalism—the root cause of war.

Turkish World War I commemoration abused for militarist propaganda


This music video about Australia and the first world war is called The Pogues – The band played Waltzing Matilda.

The lyrics are:

When I was a young man I carried my pack
And I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murray’s green basin to the dusty outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over

Then in nineteen fifteen my country said Son
It’s time to stop rambling ’cause there’s work to be done
So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun
And they sent me away to the war

And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we sailed away from the quay
And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers
We sailed off to Gallipoli

How well I remember that terrible day
How the blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter

Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well
He chased us with bullets, he rained us with shells
And in five minutes flat he’d blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia

But the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we stopped to bury our slain
We buried ours and the Turks buried theirs
Then we started all over again

Now those that were left, well we tried to survive
In a mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
But around me the corpses piled higher

Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over tit
And when I woke up in my hospital bed
And saw what it had done, I wished I was dead
Never knew there were worse things than dying

For no more I’ll go waltzing Matilda
All around the green bush far and near
For to hump tent and pegs, a man needs two legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me

So they collected the cripples, the wounded, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla

And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where my legs used to be
And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity

And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
Then turned all their faces away

And now every April I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me
And I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reliving old dreams of past glory

And the old men march slowly, all bent, stiff and sore
The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, “What are they marching for?”
And I ask myself the same question

And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men answer to the call
But year after year their numbers get fewer
Some day no one will march there at all

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me
And their ghosts may be heard as you pass the Billabong
Who’ll come-a-waltzing Matilda with me?

By Halil Celi in Turkey:

Centenary of the Gallipoli Campaign: Turkish elite commemorates imperialist bloodbath

25 March 2015

Turkey marked the 100th anniversary of the naval battle at Çanakkale last week.

During the 1915 battle, also known as the Gallipoli Campaign or the Dardanelles Campaign, Ottoman artillery held off British and French warships from taking the capital Constantinople (later renamed Istanbul). This would have given the Allied powers control of the Bosphorus and entry into the Black Sea, securing access to Russia against Germany.

The main ceremony was held in Çanakkale, attended by Turkish politicians, including Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, and military and civil officials from Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

Official ceremonies were held in other cities, including Istanbul, Ankara and Diyarbakir, attended by Turkish military officers, representatives of the political parties and civil society organisations. The Religious Affairs Directorate organised prayers across Turkey for those who died, who were described as martyrs.

As well as those killed in battle, thousands died from infection, enteric fever, dysentery, diarrhea and various fly-borne diseases. Others were burnt to death in out-of-control scrub fires. Some drowned in sewage, and others died from poor food and disease. While the exact number of casualties in the Gallipoli Campaign, which lasted about 10 months, is not known, one estimate puts the number of casualties on the Ottoman side at 250,000, with a similar number from the Allied forces. It was one of the most horrific slaughters of World War I.

In a Twitter post on March 18, Richard Moore, the British ambassador to Turkey, “congratulated the people of Turkey for the victory.”

In an attempt to cover up and sanctify the imperialist slaughter, he wrote, “Both the parties bravely fought during the war and Turks deserved the victory, Çanakkale is impassable!”

This was no different from the official propaganda, launched by the Turkish media weeks ago, that branded the imperialist slaughter of the Gallipoli Campaign as the beginning of the Turkish people’s struggle for independence.

Speaking during the ceremony at Çanakkale, Prime Minister Davutoğlu blessed the martyrs and said, “Turkish soldiers from different origins, including Kurdish, Bosnian and Circassian, started and won Turkey’s war of independence in unity and brotherhood.”

He used the centenary of the Gallipoli Campaign to make broader and more topical political points, saying threateningly, “Turkey is not a country that would succumb to either internal or external threats. It has the ability to immediately respond to any kind of treachery.”

Davutoğlu’s words followed the Prime Ministry’s Directorate General of Press and Information accreditation ban on media outlets critical of the government, including the Cihan news agency, one of the largest news agencies in Turkey, and the Zaman daily.

The centenary of the Gallipoli Campaign gave the Turkish government and the media a welcome opportunity to deflect the mounting anger of working people away from the burning social and economic problems at home, as well as to legitimise Turkey’s embroilment in the imperialist interventions and civil wars in the Middle East, in North Africa and potentially—as a NATO ally—in Ukraine.

As part of this broader campaign to distract working people’s attention away from deteriorating living conditions and prepare Turkish public opinion for impending military interventions in Iraq and Syria, all the bourgeois parties and media have joined in the official campaign of rewriting the history. There have been a series of activities, including conferences, lectures, films, and sporting and cultural events, with millions of dollars of government funding.

Ankara has used its best endeavours to rewrite the history of the Gallipoli Campaign to glorify the Turkish nationalist officers who years later waged the War of Independence against Britain and Greece, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal, later known as Atatürk, founder and president of the Turkish republic. Ataturk first rose to prominence as a commander during the battle at Gallipoli.

Thus, the Turkish ruling elite has promoted the glorification of the imperialist bloodbath of Gallipoli as “the defence of the motherland.”

The pretence that the position of the Ottoman Empire in the Gallipoli Campaign was “the defence of the motherland” is bogus. The Gallipoli Campaign of March 1915-January 1916 was not a part of the Turkish national liberation war of 1919-1922. It was a tragic episode in the imperialist slaughter of World War I for raw materials, markets and geostrategic interests that resulted in the deaths of millions, in which the Ottoman Empire, albeit not itself an imperialist power, actively participated on the side of the Central Powers.

By the eve of World War I, the Ottoman Empire, described by Tsar Nicholas I as the “sick man of Europe,” had been weakened by economic crisis and military defeats by the imperialist powers, rival dynasties and national liberation movements. It had become a semi-colony of German imperialism, which enthusiastically supported the Young Turks’ regime led by the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), since 1908.

Germany provided significant financial aid and investment, training and re-equipping its army. In December 1913, Germany sent a military mission to Istanbul, headed by General Otto Liman von Sanders, who would serve as adviser and military commander for the Ottoman Empire during the war, and organise and lead the defence of the Dardanelles.

On July 30, 1914, only two days after the start of war in Europe, the CUP decided to accept Germany’s offer of a “secret alliance” against Russia. On October 27, the alliance was put into practice when two German warships set sail for the Black Sea and bombarded the Russian navy in Odessa. Three days later, the Ottoman Empire, with a view to recovering territories it had lost in previous wars in the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East, officially entered the war on the side of the Central Powers led by Germany.

In early 1915, Tsarist Russia, then in combat with Ottoman forces and the German military in the Caucasus, appealed to Britain for relief. With the Western Front deadlocked, the British government decided to mount a naval expedition to bombard and take the Gallipoli Peninsula on the western shore of the Dardanelles, the narrow and strategic sea-lane near Istanbul separating the Aegean and Black Seas. The aim was to capture Constantinople, knocking Turkey out of the war, and link up with its tsarist ally.

The first attack on the Dardanelles began February 19, 1915, when a strong Anglo-French task force began the bombardment of Ottoman artillery along the coast, launching their main attack on March 18, 1915. The slaughter reached its peak as imperialist troops landed on April 25, after the failure of the naval attacks, commemorated by Australians and New Zealanders every year as “Anzac Day.”

In the following months, little progress was made and the Ottoman army took advantage of a British hiatus in the campaign to bring as many troops as possible onto the Peninsula. In a speech in April 1915, Atatürk told his soldiers in the 57th regiment, “I do not order you to fight, I order you to die. In the time which passes until we die, other troops and commanders can come forward and take our places.”

Few of the regiment survived the war.

The standstill was to lead to a political crisis in London in which the Liberal government was replaced by a coalition.

The deadlock in Dardanelles dragged on into the summer amid disease-ridden conditions. Nevertheless, the British government continued its attacks. It decided to end the campaign only after the unsuccessful landing of early August, finally evacuating the troops in January 1916.

In November 13, 1918, almost three years later and after the deaths of hundreds of thousands of soldiers from both sides, the Allied Forces would occupy Constantinople in accordance with the Armistice of Mudros that ended Ottoman participation in the First World War, as they hoped, a prelude to the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire and Turkey itself.

The Gallipoli Campaign was one of the most tragic battles of the imperialist slaughter, a war worthy not of glorification but of condemnation. It should act as a spur to opposition in Turkey and internationally to the ongoing eruption of imperialist militarism and war-mongering.

Erdoğan plan for super-presidency puts Turkey’s democracy at stake. The Turkish president’s attempted power-grab is slated from within his own party as divisions between the country’s executive and legislature deepen: here.