The film “Gallipoli” directed by Peter Weir is an entertaining view of the events leading up to and during the Gallipoli campaign, but it misrepresents history in some important areas. The film does however have an accuracy of detail that makes it seem true and it provides some similar views to those provided in “ANZAC to Amiens” written by C.E.W Bean (a former Australian Official War Historian) and to veterans interviewed in the documentary “The Fatal Shore”. These two sources show that it genuinely and correctly represents the reason for enlisting and the spirit and character of Australian troops, but misrepresents aspects in the Battle of the Nek.
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The film “Gallipoli” portrays the realistic and authentic reasons for enlisting in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF). Going to war was “a call to adventure” and an honorable duty to fight and die for your country and mother country- Britain. Many men had never left the country or even been on a ship so they saw this as a perfect opportunity to accomplish something new. In “Gallipoli” the families which were not represented by at least one male going to serve in the war were looked upon as cowards and disgraceful. The film portrays different reasons why the men wanted to enlist. Frank’s mates, Snowy, Billy and Barney believed that “there was nothing better to do” and when they were to return from the war, if they ever did, they would be treated with great respect and be looked upon as hero’s. Archie believed that it was a sense of duty to sign up and no one was going to change his mind. However some men believed that it was not there duty to serve in the war against the Turks and put their own lives at risk to die considering “it wasn’t even our war” . Some of these men like Frank himself were persuaded by others and felt left out from all the attention that the new troops were receiving so decided to enlist. The same reasons for enlisting are echoed in the other source “The Fatal Shore”. Both sources showed that the reason for enlisting was partly for adventure and partly because they felt obliged to. A veteran from “The Fatal Shore” felt at the time that “If you didn’t do something, you would know your whole life that you failed”. One difference between “Gallipoli" and “The Fatal Shore" is that because “Gallipoli" was set in the bush- the hometown of Archie and his family, only countrymen were shown to enlist, where as in “The Fatal Shore” both country and city men signed up. When “The Fatal Shore” and “Gallipoli” are compared, the reasons for enlisting are very similar. The accuracy of “Gallipoli" is accounted for in regard to the reasons why men enlisted in the AIF.
The film represents the spirit and character of the Australian soldiers with great precision and accuracy. Both the film “Gallipoli” and veterans from “The Fatal Shore” described the ANZAC’s as tough and good fighters. In the film “Gallipoli” it appears that the Australians were there to have a good time and by doing so caused various problems. The Australian soldiers at times consumed excessive amounts of alcohol and dealt with prostitutes. During their training time in Egypt, Frank and his mates were disrespectable towards the British and took advantage and mocked the local Egyptians. This behavior was proven when they did not salute the British officers. A similar view is presented in “The Fatal Shore”, according to war veterans the British perception of the Australians was “rough and ready undisciplined colonials”. “Gallipoli” generalizes the Australian behaviour and in some parts my have exaggerated but the basic actions of the Australians is still present. All the soldiers were of the finest physique and were great fighters. A British general, General Hamilton described the Australians as “Gladiators with the eyes of children” . They were young men willing to fight but were inexperienced of war. This fighting spirit was evident in the film when an English officer described the Australian soldiers as “very enthusiastic” during the training fight at Cairo. C.E.W Bean also described the ANZAC’s as “eager fighters that didn’t hesitate at crucial moments”. Although most of the ANZAC troops were full of courage and determination, Bean told of some cowardness amongst the troops, “Some Australians shot their fingers off so they didn’t have to fight”. The discussion of such behavior in C.E.W Bean’s account was restricted to some extent due to the expectations of his readers. The true spirit and character of the Australians during the Gallipoli Campaign is represented in the film “Gallipoli” and supported by C.E.W Bean and the veterans from “The Fatal Shore”.
The film does, however, provide an incomplete interpretation of the charge at the Nek on August 15th 1915. The amount of lines of soldiers, which emerged from the trenches at Gallipoli, is altered in the film. According to C.E.W Bean “The attack was to be made by four lines of 150 men”. The movie “Gallipoli” only showed three lines of Australian troops charging the Turkish trenches. In “Gallipoli” Frank doesn’t return in time to prevent the last line from charging. The British General in charge of controlling the trenches in the film “Gallipoli” simply presumed it was time for the third and final line to charge, so he gave the signal. In C.E.W Bean’s account an officer accidentally gave the charge. “The fourth line was held for half an hour, while a further decision was sought. But at that stage apparently there reached the waiting troops on the right an officer who knew nothing of this and asked why the men had not gone forward. Believing that the charge had been ordered to continue, the men there clambered out” . Bean explains that Colonel Anthill of Australia ordered the charge at the Nek to continue, not a British officer as shown in “Gallipoli”. The film also misrepresents the reason for the charge at the Nek. It suggests that the reason for the battle was to distract the Turks to allow a safe passage for the British to land at Suvla Bay. Charles Bean wrote “the attack on the Nek effected its purpose of holding temporarily near Baby 700 at least part of the Turkish reinforcements which were just then streaming northward towards Chunuk Bair”. No mention of Chunuk Bair was made in the film.
Charles Bean’s account shows that the film “Gallipoli” misrepresents important aspects of the battle of the Nek. Its version of the charge at the Nek is incomplete and suggests the British were to blame for the right to charge and therefore seen as the enemies. It is a misleading view of the battle.
The two sources, “ANZAC to Amiens” written by Charles Bean and veterans in “The Fatal Shore” show that the film “Gallipoli” correctly and realistically represents the reasons for enlisting in the AIF and the character of the Australian Soldier, however changes important facts about the Battle at the Nek.
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