'Colonize. Pioneer. Bash and slash': Once on Chunuk Bair and the Anzac myth

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle

Abstract

Once on Chunuk Bair, Maurice Shadbolt’s play about the fatal events involving the New Zealand Infantry Brigade in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign of 1915, premiered in April 1982 with publication of the script the same year, almost 70 years after this catastrophe. The play’s setting is Chunuk Bair, the crest of the Sari Bair ridge, the highest point on the peninsula that was the gateway to the Dardanelles, and so one of the keys to the campaign; its focus is on the Wellington Infantry Battalion’s brave assault, and brief moment of glory in holding the ridge on 8 August 1915, awaiting promised reinforcements from British troops in Suvla Bay which never arrived. This disastrous miscalculation was well known, but not in a form likely to appeal to the public imagination. Shadbolt’s dramatization of the pointless but heroic sacrifice by the famous commander, Lieutenant-Colonel William G. Malone (called Connolly in the play) and his men, the Wellingtons, who held the ridge, and the play’s contention, drawn from the Anzac myth, that this marked the birth of the nation freed from the shackles of British colonialism, was widely acclaimed by critics. At its first production at the Mercury Theatre in Auckland on Anzac weekend, 1982, it was praised for its ‘monumental’ stature and ‘architectonic power’, while Shadbolt’s revival of the legend that New Zealand came of age that day on Chunuk Bair was considered a 'belated act of restitution'.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)27-53
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of New Zealand Literature
Volume34
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

Keywords

  • Maurice Shadbolt
  • Once on Chunuk Bair
  • Gallipoli
  • Col Lt Malone
  • ANZAC
  • memorialization
  • World War I

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