The myth of Anzac was promulgated to enable Australians to live with the otherwise unbearable carnage of WW1
Somethings never change Jackie/But perhaps they never will/While the bloodless fools in Whitehall/ They sit in judgement still/
Martin Simpson (final lines from Jackie and Murphy)Martin Simpson's song Jackie and Murphy is not just a magnificent tribute to John Simpson Kirkpatrick and his donkey Murphy. It is a song that speaks forgotten truths about the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.
In recounting the life story of John Kirkpatrick Simpson, the song describes the horror and carnage of the Gallipoli campaign (where Simpson was a stretcher bearer for 4 weeks before he was killed). The song also demonstrates the ways that the history of the campaign and the terrible suffering of ordinary soldiers is used to serve political and military agendas.
When I was at primary school the story of Simpson and his donkey was used to indoctrinate us about the history of the Gallipoli campaign and to conceal the truth about Australia's invasion of a sovereign nation and the horror of war. We were schooled into an interpretation of Gallipoli that affirmed a contemporary and conservative view of Australian identity.
As Joan Beaumont argues this emphasis on Gallipoli and a particular view of the Anzac legend is a distinctive and powerful part of Australia's political culture.
'The Anzac legend today serves particular purposes. One is to reinforce those values which court the Anzac legend such as endurance, sacrifice, mateship. Those values continue to be very important to Australian governments who are trying in a very materialistic and secular and individualistic society to still persuade Australians to be willing to volunteer for war or even to serve as police officers or fire fighters'
'This was very obvious during the Iraq intervention of 2003, when the then-prime minister John Howard made it difficult to criticise the war because it was suggested you would thereby be criticising those who chose to serve. With that goes a silencing of debate about the reasons that those soldiers are being deployed, and that is a concern to a number of commentators.'Joan Beaumont has a new book out Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War which challenges the way that Australia's war experience is presented as the predominant historical narrative.
A review of the book by Marilyn Lake is here.
You can listen to a live version of Martin Simpson's song here:
Jackie and Murphy by Martin Simpson
(copyright Martin Simpson)
There's a statue of a donkey on Southshield sea front
He's a decorated donkey
and with him stands a man
Give a dog a bad name Jackie
Well I signed up for this army Murphy
But we didn't sail to England Murphy
You and me are mockers here Murphy
Jesus you know I am tired Murphy
Did you hear the machine guns rattle?
Give a dog a bad name Jackie
While the bloodless fools in Whitehall