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A Pencil in Every Knapsack: Digger Poetry of WWI

In the nine months of the campaign almost half a million Allied troops were deployed at Gallipoli, many of them decimated by death, disease and injury.

The Anzac legend forged from the deeds of Australian soldiers at Gallipoli signified for many the birth of Australian nationalism.  In the public imagination the idealised Anzac soldier was fearless, tough, inventive, loyal and gallant and a bit undisciplined, with a healthy disrespect for the British officer.  Tall and lean, a typical ‘bushman’ – the Anzac enjoyed a laugh, good company and a beer, but was modest and shy with women.

The Anzac legend was shaped largely by the literature of war, composed not only by war correspondents and poets at home but also on the battlefield.  Such was the extent of Anzac literature that it was held that every soldier had a poet’s pencil in his knapsack.

Visit this exhibition of poetry which shaped the Anzac legend, composed on both the battlefield and the homefront and illustrated with contemporary sketches, cartoons and photographs.  On display until 31st July during Library opening hours, Rare Books & Special Collections foyer, level 1, Barr Smith Library.

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