‘… a brave and tenacious enemy’
It is sometimes said that ignorance is bliss. When you do not know any better, you can hold all the prejudices and misconceptions you like. Once you know someone or something, so often it is hard to go on accepting your old ideas, for now you can judge things on the basis of your own experience rather than rely on hearsay or prejudice. Such was the case on Gallipoli. As the weeks went by after the landings, the men from all nations learned that the pre-battle propaganda they had received about the ‘beastly’ enemy was largely wrong. This chapter explores these changes in perception.
In chapter three we learned that few men on either side had any clear idea about the troops they would be fighting. For most men, the stereotypical enemy soldier was Godless, cruel and bloodthirsty. Virtually every country at war attempts to construct such a picture of its opponent in order to make people hate the enemy so much they are willing to sacrifice their lives or the lives of their loved ones rather than submit to, or make peace with, the dreaded foe. The Gallipoli campaign was no different to other wars: the men of both armies strode into battle, their heads filled with a strong sense of self-preservation and a deep hatred for the enemy. As one Australian put it in his diary: ‘[We sailed] … off to death and “Glory”. What fools we are, men mad. The Turk he comes at one, with the blood lust in his eyes, shouts Allah! Australian like, we swear “Kill or be killed …”’ 1 Just how mistaken one could be about the enemy is shown by the cry of an Australian as he fired on the first day: ‘Take that you black b…..s.’ 2
It took some time for these preconceptions to fade. All sorts of