THE Anzac spirit has taken a knock following a Kiwi journalist’s comments that Australian World War I soldiers were bludgers and thieves.
The comments, by journalist Jock Anderson, were made during a Radio New Zealand panel discussion about a new book by former Australian Army officer and Department of Veterans Affairs historian Graham Wilson.
In Bully Beef and Balderdash, Wilson questions myths surrounding Australia’s all-volunteer forces who fought in WWI and WWII – including the legend of the Australian bushman who transformed into natural warrior on the battlefield.
Anderson said that was absolutely a myth.
“The Aussies have been reluctant soldiers at the best of times, and they’ve been essentially lazy bludgers, some of them – excellent black-marketeers, scavengers, poachers and thieves,” he said.
“Occasionally, they’ve actually been quite good soldiers, but there was no way that they can hold a candle, in my opinion, to the Kiwis.”
Fellow panellist Josie McNaught said she was sick of hearing the claim Australia’s national identity was forged on the battlefields of WWI, calling it a “ridiculous cliche” which was “based on very little”.
Queensland Returned and Services League chief executive Chris McHugh, a former Royal Australian Air Force navigator, said Anderson’s comments were offensive.
However, “Australians have thick skins” and he didn’t think anyone would be really hurt by the opinions of one man, Mr McHugh told Paul Henry on Network Ten’s Breakfast program on Monday.
When Henry said there’d been a suggestion that Australia’s official war historian Charles Bean had “essentially made yarns up”, Mr McHugh said Bean’s historical accounts had stood the test of time and it remained to be seen whether Wilson’s book would.
“Jock’s made those comments and his co-host made those comments and they need to support what they’re saying, rather than basically having a go at people like me,” Mr McHugh said.
“I’ve served with New Zealanders. I thought they were great and they thought we were great.”