Audio transcript for The Gallipoli Letter: 100 Years Later Speakers: Anne-Marie Schwirtlich (A)

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Audio transcript for The Gallipoli Letter: 100 Years Later
Speakers: Anne-Marie Schwirtlich (A), Nat Williams (N), Ryan Johnston (R), Imants Tiller (I)

Location: National Library of Australia

Date: 14/10/2015
A: Distinguished guests and dear friends, good evening and welcome to the National Library of Australia. I'm Anne Marie Schwirtlich, the Library’s Director-General. As we begin I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, I thank their elders past and present for caring for this land that we are now privileged to call home.
A hundred years ago the Dardanelles campaign was still underway and the men of all involved nations were still enduring terrible conditions, a campaign that is now referred to simply as Gallipoli is a military campaign that rightly or wrongly is emblematic of the Australian experience of the Great War. An early example of amphibious operations and trench warfare much has been written about the campaign’s perceived failures and the inadequacies of command. Arguments abound about its role in developing a sense of nationhood and nation-building in Australia, New Zealand and modern Turkey. It was also a brutal campaign. With the campaign’s bloodiest battles already fought, the daily conditions taking their relentless toll and the approaching deadly winter set to claim even more lives Keith Murdoch highlighted the folly of the position in the now famous Gallipoli letter. The Gallipoli letter is an 8,000 word document written by Murdoch to Prime Minister Andrew Fisher in 1915 and is one of the National Library’s treasures. It is widely thought to have helped bring the Gallipoli campaign to an end. Thank you all for joining us to mark a hundred years since the Dardanelles Committee met in London to discuss Keith Murdoch’s letter to Prime Minister Andrew Fisher, an event that led to the decision to evacuate the Peninsula.
This evening in association with the Australian War Memorial the Library’s own Nat Williams, who is the inaugural James and Bettison Treasures Curator, along with Ryan Johnston, Head of Art at the Australian War Memorial, and acclaimed Australian artist Imants Tillers will discuss the letter that changed attitudes to Australia’s most famous military campaign and Tillers’ most recent artistic response to it, Avenue of Remembrance which is in the Memorial’s collection. The tapestry, commissioned in 2014 through a generous donation from the Geoff and Helen Handbury Foundation in conjunction with the Australian Tapestry Workshop, is a commemorative response to the centenary of the First World War which also makes reference to the Gallipoli letter. Tillers’ poetic landscape painting is reminiscent of the wartime roads on the western front and the many avenues of remembrance planted around Australia. Layered over the top are words from the Gallipoli letter and a selection of names of the many places where Australians were buried during the First World War. So I’d like you to welcome my three speakers this evening, Nat Williams, Ryan Johnston and Imants Tillers, and the first to speak this evening is going to be Nat Williams. Welcome all.

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