Gallipoli has inspired countless non-fiction books and documentaries, but relatively few works of fiction, either in print or on screen.
Here’s a selection of the best books and films about Anzac.
The Anzac Book, written and illustrated by the men of Anzac
A unique insight into the lives of Australians and New Zealanders on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. Anzacs contributed snippets of writing, poetry, jokes and drawings for this officially-sanctioned collection, which became an instant bestseller on its release in May 1916. Some 10,000 Anzacs had already died by the time editor Charles Bean called for contributions, but the soldiers – writing in the most trying conditions – focused good-humouredly on food, fleas and fun.
A Fortunate Life, by Albert Facey
This autobiography is about more than the Gallipoli campaign but the spirit of Anzac permeates every page. Facey came from an impoverished background, had only a passing acquaintance with the education system, and laid no claim to be a hero. Yet this simply but powerfully told story is a window on how Australians thought and fought a century ago.
The Anzacs, by Patsy Adam-Smith
This accessible, well-written book about the men who sailed off to the “Great Adventure”, only to endure Gallipoli and the horrors of the Western Front, was The Age Book of the Year in 1978. Photos and artwork added a lot to the original edition, but are sadly absent from Penguin’s new reissue. Adam-Smith tells the history, but her best work was in trawling through thousands of soldiers’ letters and diaries. Their words of optimism, fear and anguish are still powerful.
Anzac to Amiens, by C.E.W. Bean
As the AIF’s war correspondent on Gallipoli, Bean recognised the epic dimension of what he witnessed. Bean followed the course of World War I (literally taking a bullet on the way) and established much of the “Anzac legend”. He wrote the multi-volume official history of Australia’s role in World War I. This book is a much shorter read, but the Gallipoli section is pretty comprehensive and has the benefit of being written by an eyewitness.
Gallipoli, by Robert Rhodes James
This 1965 work by a British historian remains a definitive account of Gallipoli. It focuses more on tactics (and where the British went wrong) than the day-to-day life of soldiers in the trenches. Another strength is that the author talked to some of the campaign’s leading participants.
Gallipoli, by Les Carlyon
Ever since Charles Bean, journalists have been drawn to World War I in general and Gallipoli in particular. Journo Les Carlyon’s 2001 bestseller is long and opinionated, but moving and very readable.
The Last Anzacs: Lest We Forget, by Toby Stephens and Steven Siewert
“They shall not grow old…” but the men featured in this 1996 book by journalist Toby Stephens and photographer Steven Siewert did. All these last Anzacs have since faded away, but Siewert’s photographs of their wrinkled faces, and the old soldiers’ insistence that all they did at Gallipoli was dig in and hold on, make this an interesting counterpoint to other Anzac literature.
On Dangerous Ground: A Gallipoli Story, by Bruce Scates
This book, written by a historian, was published in 2012. It’s set in three time periods – 1915, 1919 and 2015 – with some real-life characters (including official war historian Charles Bean). The plot centres on a lieutenant who vanished at Gallipoli in 1915, the nurse who loved him, Bean’s journey back to the peninsular in 1919 to investigate rumours of the desecration of of Anzac graves, and some modern-day political intrigue. Worth a read.
Fictional films about Gallipoli started being made shortly after the landing.
In 1915 two silent films came out. Neither was filmed anywhere near Turkey.
Within Our Gates, Or Deeds That Won Gallipoli, a melodrama made by Australia’s J.C. Williamson Company, re-enacted the Gallipoli landing at Sydney’s Obelisk Bay. A few seconds of footage are all that survive.
The other, The Hero Of The Dardanelles, included scenes of real-life training at the Liverpool training camp, in Sydney’s southwest. The landing was re-enacted at Tamarama Beach.
In 1928 The Spirit of Gallipoli came along, which pirated some of the Hero Of The Dardanelles footage.
There are various scraps claiming to be old Gallipoli footage online, but it’s hard to sort fiction from fact. Any moving images that purport to show the Gallipoli landing aren’t genuine, because there’s no film of that event.
However, the Australian War Memorial has 20 minutes of footage that was filmed on Gallipoli between May and August 1915 by English journalist and amateur cinematographer Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett. It was restored several years ago with the help of New Zealand film-maker Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital company.
In 2007 the War Memorial announced it had found another 50 seconds of Gallipoli footage: it shows British soldiers at Suvla Bay, and appears to have been shot by Ashmead-Bartlett.
Gallipoli (director Tolga Ornek, 2005)
For his documentary, Turkish filmmaker Tolga Ornek used letters and diaries of Turkish and British and Anzac soldiers to tell the tale of what happened in 1915 from both sides. The visual dimension comes from archival footage, photos taken at the time, plus modern footage and re-enactments.
Gallipoli (director Peter Weir, 1981)
Mark Lee and Mel Gibson are WA country boy Archie and larrikin Frank, friends even before they sign up to see the world. Russell Boyd’s photography makes war and peace look utterly ravishing and Jarre’s mysterious, prickling music strikes exactly the right note. The film’s first half is set in Australia, and it’s the perfect scene-setter for the Egypt and Gallipoli sections. The end is extremely moving. You can’t help wondering if the film caused a seachange in Australians’ attitude to Gallipoli, moving the campaign out of the cupboard of dusty history and making the nation proud again.
Anzacs (directors John Dixon, George I. Miller, Pino Amenta, 1985)
This five-part Australian TV series, starring Paul Hogan, Jon Blake and Andrew Clarke, was a ratings hit for the Nine Network. The first episode focused on the enlistment of dozen men, their training in Australia and Egypt, and their time on Gallipoli. The other four episodes see them move on to Western Front.