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Gallipoli in Popular Culture

After the War

After the War
'The Pals at Suvla Bay' by Henry Hanna

In the years following Gallipoli many of those who had taken part in the campaign published written accounts of their experiences. Often these books were authored by the leading military figures in the campaign. Foremost among these was Sir Ian Hamilton’s two volume, Gallipoli Diary, published in 1920. Hamilton had been recalled from Gallipoli in September 1915, and many blamed him for the failure of the campaign. While his book recalled in detail his daily routine at Gallipoli, it was also an attempt to deflect the criticisms that had been made against him.

In an Irish context the most important work on Gallipoli was actually published while World War One was continuing. The Pals at Sulva Bay was written in Dublin by Henry Hanna and published in 1917. Based on discussions with people who had been in D Company of the 7th Royal Dublin Fusiliers, and letters that he received, Hanna reconstructed their experience of Gallipoli from landing in early August until their departure at the end of September. A further Irish account of the Gallipoli campaign, also published during the war was J.H. Patterson’s With the Zionists in Gallipoli. Patterson was from Ballymahon in Co Westmeath, and had joined the army in 1884. He was a keen advocate of Jewish participation in the war, and was given command of the Zion Mule Corps at Gallipoli. The most visual account of the campaign was produced by Norman Wilkinson in 1916. Wilkinson had served as the official war artist in Gallipoli, and his published diary with lavish illustrations, The Dardanelles: Colour Sketches from Gallipoli, was a bestseller of the period.

While there a number of war journalists at Gallipoli through the duration of the campaign, only one was armed with the relatively new technology of a film camera. Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett worked for Fleet newspaper at the time of the war, and wrote for the Daily Telegraph. He went ashore on the evening of the first day of the campaign, and apart from one absence when he returned to London, he was present in Gallipoli until the end of September. Ashmead-Bartlett became increasingly critical of the campaign and its human cost, and it was because of his stance he was asked to leave Gallipoli. His critical commentary on the campaign was published widely, and his journalism is credited with playing a key role in the creation of the ANZAC legend. His film of the campaign was shown privately after the war, but received its widest audience when it was digitally remastered by Lord of the Rings movie director, Peter Jackson.

Throughout the 1920s there were a number of movies, mostly silent, that were made around World War One themes. The majority of such films concentrated on the experience on the western front, or else glamourised the efforts of pilots during the war. The bulk of these films were made in the U.S. or Germany and include Wings (1927), All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), and the German film, Westfront 1918 (1930). One of the few British films made in the inter-war period that dealt with the war is also unique as it depicts the Gallipoli campaign. Tell England was released in 1931 and was directed by Anthony Asquith and Geoffrey Barkas, with the latter having fought at Suvla Bay. The film tells the story of two young men who join up together and go on to fight at Gallipoli. The film was shot in Malta, and is remarkable for its depictions of the beach landings at Gallipoli. The scenes of the landings at V Beach, with soldiers being killed as they emerge from the SS River Clyde are particularly powerful.


There are many songs about Gallipoli, but three in particular have resonance in the Irish context: Gallipoli, The Foggy Dew and And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda. The Fureys recording of Gallipoli is highly evocative and tells the story of a young man, aged eighteen, leaving from Dun Laoghaire to fight in the War. The man is killed, and the only letter that is sent home from Gallipoli is the one that informs his parents that he has been killed. The song also serves to relegate the position of Irish service in the war as something that was misjudged and unnecessary. As the song concludes: ‘You fought for the wrong country, you died for the wrong cause. 'And your ma often said that it was Ireland's great loss, all those fine young men who marched to foreign shores to fight the war when the greatest war of all was at home’.

The Foggy Dew was written by Canon Charles O’Neill around 1920 and was informed by his response to the numbers of Irishmen serving in the British forces during the war and the events of Easter 1916. O’Neill uses the song to illustrate how wasted the lives of those killed in the War were, and that the truer sacrifice was one that was made by those who took part in the Rising. The song demonstrates the rapid shift in Irish public opinion following 1916, and the complex issues surrounding those who had gone to fight in the War for the British and how they should be remembered and honoured. The lines that juxtapose Gallipoli with events in Dublin make clear where O’Neill believed young Irishmen should have fought: ‘Right proudly high over Dublin Town they hung out the flag of war, 'Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky than at Suvla or Sud-El-Bar’. The song has been performed by numerous artists with the best known renditions including those by the Clancy Brothers, The Dubliners, The Chieftans and the Wolfe Tones.

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda was written in 1971 by the Scottish singer Eric Bogle. The song is one which focuses on the Australian experience of the Gallipoli campaign, and narrates the passage of one man through his journey from Australia, his experience of fighting, the injury that causes him to lose a leg and his eventual return home. The song ends on ANZAC day, and as the man watches the parade: ‘I see my old comrades, how proudly they march.  Renewing their dreams of past glories. I see the old men all tired, stiff and worn, Those weary old heroes of a forgotten war. And the young people ask "What are they marching for?" And I ask myself the same question’. Despite being a song with an Australian focus, it has always been one that Irish recording artists have covered including Liam Clancy, the Dubliners, Ronnie Drew, Johnny Logan, Christy Moore and, perhaps most famously, The Pogues. The song was on their 1985 album, Rum, Sodomy and the Lash, but became a staple in their live shows and brought Bogle’s song to a whole new audience. 


Daughters of Mars by Thomas Kenneally
Daughters of Mars by Thomas Kenneally

There has been a mass of World War One literature but, compared to the western front, Gallipoli has rarely featured as a topic in works of fiction. As with many other representations of Gallipoli it is the Australian story that lies at the heart of the relevant literature. This is because Gallipoli did serve, in part at least, as the foundation myth of the modern Australian state. As one writer noted, the experience in Gallipoli of the Australian soldier is a powerful one as he is recalled as ‘a citizen soldier representing an egalitarian (and hence non-British) society, with a heightened sense of mateship’. The story of Australians came into the literary mainstream in 1979 with the publication of Roger McDonald’s 1915 which he based, in part, on interviews with ANZACs who had been in Gallipoli. This was followed by Jack Bennett’s Gallipoli which informed the basis of the script for the movie of the same name, and also featured in Bryce Courtenay’s Solomon’s Song and Brenda Walker’s The Wing of the Night. More recent reworkings of the Gallipoli story include On Dangerous Ground by the Australian academic Bruce Scates, and Thomas Keneally’s Daughters of Mars which explores the campaign not through the lives of male combatants but through the stories of women serving as nurses in Lemnos. One of the few recent novels that attempts to broaden the focus beyond that of the Australian experience has been Louis de Bernières Birds Without Wings that focused instead largely on the Turkish story of Gallipoli. In a similar vein, the Turkish writer Buket Uzuner’s The Long White Cloud intersperses Turkish and New Zealand narratives to produce a two sided view of the campaign. To date there has been no major work of literature that has taken an Irish view of Gallipoli, and it has equally been absent from much British writing where the idea of World War One literature is restricted to a view of the western front that largely ignores the campaign in Turkey.  


The Gallipoli campaign has been the focus of a number of documentaries, particularly in Australia and New Zealand where there has been an almost ceaseless interest in the ANZAC contribution. Television dramas have featured Gallipoli. In 1985, and for the seventeith anniversary of the campaign, Australia’s ABC produced a five part mini series Anzac. In Britain the BBC produced All the King’s Men, starring David Jason, in 1999. The drama focused on the disapperance, allegedly into a strange fog on the battlefield, of the 1/5th Territorial Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment which included a large density of men who worked at the royal Sandringham estate.

The single most famous movie about the campaign is Peter Weir’s Gallipoli which was released in 1981. Starring Mel Gibson (as Frank Dunne) and Mark Lee (Archy Hamilton) as two sprinters who meet at an athletics meeting, and decide to join the army together. Once enlisted the men are trained and transported to Cairo prior to landing at Gallipoli. Dunne is part of the infantry and serves as a messenger in Gallipoli, while Hamilton enrols with the Light Horse regiment. The film concludes with Hamilton going over the top from his trench to attack the Turks, while Dunne is frantically running through the trench network with a message to halt the attack. Prior to going over the top Hamilton pens a last letter home. In it he offers his family a vision of Gallipoli which is one that he fully understands is untrue. While awaiting his own slaughter, he wrote: I know you haven't forgiven me for running off, but I'm sure in my own mind I was right. So would you if you were here. We're getting ready for an all-out assault on Johnny Turk, and we know we're going to give a good account of our country. Everyone is terribly excited. There's a feeling we're all in an adventure that's larger than life.

Dunne fails to get the message to the Light Horse in time, and Hamilton is cut down as he runs across no man’s land. The film was a box office hit, especially in Australia where it regular ranks as the most important Australian film ever made. The film can be broadly understood as an anti-war film, but one which also valourises the youth, innocence and masculinity of those ANZACs who volunteered to serve their country.

Recent years have also seen an upsurge in interest in Gallipoli in Turkish made films. Between 2013 and 2014 six separate Gallipoli (named Canakkale in Turkish) films were produced and released by Turkish studios, including Canakkale Cockuklari (Children of Canakkale), Canakkale 1915 and Canakkale: Youln Sonu (End of the Road). The Turkish films concentrate on the experience of defenders and depict the campiagn as a glorious victory, achieved at great human cost, which will lead, in part, to the creation of the modern Turkish state in 1923. The centenary of the Gallipoli campaign also led to the production of new dramas, such as Gallipoli on Australia’s Channel 9, Deadline Gallipoli on Foxtel, while the BBC offered up Gallipoli which tells the story of Rupert Murdoch’s father. The major movie relating to Gallipoli released for the centenary, which again concentrates on an Australian theme, is Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner. The movie focuses on the years after the War when a father travels from Australia to recover the bodies of his three sons who were reported as killed there.


Follow the stories of the Irishmen who fell at Gallipoli from a century ago via their personal stories, ephemera, archive material, census details, military archives and diaries.

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