World War II pilgrimages add new life to the Anzac legend

Anzac Journeys: returning to the battlefields of World War II

Anzac Journeys: returning to the battlefields of World War II

A new book by Monash University historians traces the pilgrimages of remembrance to World War II sites and their impact on the lives of service men and women.

Every year, tens of thousands of Australians make their pilgrimage to the battlefields and cemeteries of World War Two. They trek through the jungles of New Guinea and South-East Asia, seek out abandoned airfields in Britain and Northern Australia and explore the mountains of Greece and the deserts of North Africa.

Anzac Journeys: returning to the battlefields of World War IIretraces the history of these pilgrimages and charts Australia’s growing interest in World War II battle sites and shows how the stories of HMASSydney and Bomber Command, Crete and Kokoda, Hellfire Pass and Sandakan have added new life to the Anzac legend.

Leading Monash University historian and author, Professor Bruce Scates, Chair of History and Australian Studies at the National Centre for Australian Studies said the book fills a gap in studies of war and remembrance as it is the first substantial study of World War II sites of pilgrimage undertaken.

“In the past Australian’s have made pilgrimages to the battlefields of France, Belgium and Gallipoli, but we are now seeing growing interest in visiting Crete, Papua New Guinea and South East Asia,” Professor Scates said.

“Through our research we found they travel in search of the stories of lost loved ones, to mourn the dead and to come to grips with the past. These stories suggest a reinvention of the Anzac Legend.”

Professor Scates, along with fellow researchers and co-authors Dr Keir ReevesDr Damien Williams,  Alexandra McCosker and Rebecca Wheatley used surveys, interviews, extensive fieldwork and archival research to provide insights into the culture of loss and commemoration and the hunger for meaning so essential to the experience of pilgrimage.

“It is important that we capture these stories, especially those of the surviving service men and women who fought during the Second World War,” Professor Scates said.

“It is also important we understand the personal as well as political uses of the past and the enduring pain of war for those who lost their loved ones.”

Anzac Journeys: returning to the battlefields of World War II will be launched on Thursday 26 September at the Shrine of Remembrance starting at 6.00pm.

Bookings can be made through the Shrine of Remembrance website

Everyone is welcome. Gold coin donation

Anzac Journeys: returning to the battlefields of World War II is available through Cambridge University Press.

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