Australians at War (School/Home Viewing)
Australians at War is an eight-hour television series that examines the effects of war on the lives of Australians and how this nation has been shaped by those experiences.
Episode 1 - We're on a Long Trek Now
Chronicles our involvement in the Anglo-Boer War. The conflict took thirty-one months to resolve, far longer than anyone expected. During that time the Australian colonies federated and our first national military force was formed – The Australian Commonwealth Horse, and for the first time the upturned slouch hat and the rising sun hat badge became part of our military uniform. But the war became unpopular back in Australia. The hit-and-run guerrilla tactics of the Boers, and the creation of concentration camps by the British to contain Boer women and children made it hard to find defining moments of national pride. Nonetheless, the Australians by and large performed well and exhibited admirable qualities of courage and resilience. We were awarded six Victoria crosses during the Boer conflict and at the same time, managed to create a myth from the murderer Breaker Morant.
Episode 2 - Who’ll Come A-Fighting the Kaiser With Me?
Episode Two of Australians at War looks behind the legend of Gallipoli, our first real test of war, and puts a human face on a great Australian symbol. It’s always been difficult for contemporary Australians to gain a real sense of what it was like on Gallipoli. By using young Australian actors, on-screen and delivering unsentimental and powerful performances of these long forgotten words, we are placed back in that time of heroism and futility. Alongside those young faces are centenarian Australians, witnesses to the story. People like Lance Corporal Ted Smout, who was to endure even greater horrors on the Western Front.
Episode 3 - Mateship Was The Greatest Thing
It was in France and Belgium where thousands of Australians would die as great armies were thrown against each other in an endless circle of mud, cold and death. Episode Three has at its core the on-camera stories, opinions and statements of some of our last survivors of that terrible campaign. They tell of the madness to which men descended and the bravery and endurance they exhibited, as the casualty lists jumped by thousands and the relentless lottery of trench warfare became all a man could consider. At home, Australia was gripped by two bitterly divisive conscription referendums, when the government of Billy Hughes tried desperately to provide the Empire with more Australian soldiers.
Episode 4 - Here We Go Again
Bobby Gibbes was one of almost a million Australians who served in the Second World War. From the safety of today’s Australia it is hard to imagine why so many of them willingly crossed the world to defend the Empire and all it stood for. But this was a different world, a world of loyalty to Britain and Empire. Of men and women hardened by the experience of economic depression and memories of the First World War. This episode vividly recreates their experience of war - from the heroism of Tobruk to the calamity of the fall of Singapore. Their gripping first hand accounts are blended with powerful archival footage of campaigns from North Africa to Malaya. The episode climaxes with the sinking of HMAS Perth, as the Japanese push relentlessly towards Australia at the start of 1942.
Episode 5 - The Thin Khaki Line
Episode Five of Australians at War is a deeply moving story of the Second World War told through the eye witness accounts of surviving veterans. They bring to life that moment when, for the first time, Australia faced a struggle for its own survival. It was Kokoda that came to symbolise our vulnerability. This precipitous track through the frightening jungle of the Owen Stanley Mountains was the scene of horror and bravery in the face of a fanatical enemy. Our veterans remind us that Australia was ill prepared for the Japanese threat. Loyalty to the Empire had left our forces divided across the world. Our airmen in Bomber Command were suffering appalling losses flying against the Germans, our troops fought with distinction at El Alamein. Many thousands more were enduring the brutality of Japanese prison camps.
Episode 6 - The Forgotten War
Episode six of Australians at War, “The Forgotten War”, looks at the remarkable courage, endurance and tenacity of the Australians who served in the Korean War and the subsequent insurgencies in Malaya and Indonesia. Despite noisy protests by a small group of Communists in their own country, all believed it was their duty to uphold the traditions and values of the forebears and all were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to do so. For many this was the essence of what it meant to be Australian.
Episode 7 - Trying Not to Remember
Episode Seven of Australians at War, “Trying not to remember”, looks back at the issues surrounding the Vietnam War, including the protest movement and the conscription debate, but most importantly provides first-hand accounts from individuals who risked everything to fight in a “dirty war” they either believed to be right or were conscripted to serve in. Tragically, returned servicemen all too often continued to suffer upon their return home, where Australia’s citizens had become deeply divided over key aspects of the war. But their trauma was not always the result of anti-war sentiment, the stress of combat, the effect of injury or exposure to defoliants such as Agent Orange.
Episode 8 - Faith Enough For All of Us
Episode Eight of Australians at War “Faith enough for all of us”, examines the strong resurgence of interest in the Anzac tradition and its values amongst today’s Australians. It provocatively raises the recurring question that confronts us all every Anzac Day – what have we done with the peace that has been won for us? Australia’s century of involvement in wars, always other people’s wars, has been at the cost of 102,000 lives. The concept of sacrifice is an inspiring one and as a grateful population we have acknowledged this sacrifice in many different ways. Episode 8 looks at the small town memorials, the massive city mausoleums and tracks the return to Australia of the remains of an unknown soldier from the battlefields of the Western Front to a final resting place in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Australia now has a significant international profile and reputation as a successful “peacekeeping” contributor. Not only is this something we do well, it seems an entirely appropriate future direction for our fighting sons and daughters of Anzac.