How the 1st AIF performed in the climactic phase of the fighting on the Western Front, in August- September 1918, provided evidence for exactly what the Australian people had been longing to hear for many-a-year: that when in uniform their young men were the best-of-the-best.
Having been expertly trained in state-of-the-art infantry tactics, and under the command of John Monash, in 1918 they performed spectacularly well on the battlefield. But such had not been the case when they first went into battle, on 25 April 1915. Then their training had been no better than basic, and they had a risk-averse command. It is little wonder that the Gallipoli landing failed to achieve its strategic objective – a fact disguised by heroic newspaper reports by Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett and Charles Bean, which had a limited basis in reality.
It was these reports that laid the groundwork for the original Anzac Legend: that the character of Australian troops and their skills, and ultimately their successes, were determined by their “Bush” background. In broad terms, Bean had already advanced this very proposition, before the war, and he proceeded to elaborate the Legend in Australia’s Official History of the war.
A significant portion of the lecture is devoted to Charles Bean, explaining how his own experiences and preconceived ideas are central to an understanding of how the Anzac Legend took shape. And, as a case study, the 25 April 1915 Gallipoli landing is used.