Take a look at the video from Session Three of this year’s symposium “Poppies, Propaganda and Passchendaele: Australia, Belgium and the First World War.” On 23 July 2015 the State Library of New South Wales hosted the symposium that explored Australia’s complex and little-known relationship with Belgium during the Great War. In the presence of the Ambassador of Belgium to Australia, H.E Jean-Luc Bodson, leading scholars delivered presentations on the conduct of the war in Belgium, the interpretation of the war in Australia and memories of the war in both countries.
Australia’s relationship with Belgium during the Great War has long been overshadowed by the Gallipoli campaign and the Battle of the Somme. Yet, the Australian connection to the small European nation during 1914-18 was close and compelling. In addition to Australian military operations on Belgian soil, including Passchendaele (the bloodiest of all the Australians’ engagements during the war), the sufferings of ‘Poor Little Belgium’ provoked moral outrage and promoted thousands of men to enlist for service abroad. Australians were also among the most generous donors to Belgian relief funds. Come the end of the conflict, thousands of Australian diggers spent months billeted around the Entre Sambre-et-Meuse region awaiting demobilisation. Australia and Belgium had a spiritual bond born of shared suffering that endured for decades.
Session Three: The War and Postwar Landscapes
Australians and Belgians at the Great War’s end: A case of friendly occupation (December 1918-May 1919), Laurence Van Ypersele, Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve
‘Gazing on strange and terrible lands’: Official war art and the Australian experience of the First World War in Belgium, Margaret Hutchinson, Australian National University
Video courtesy of the Australian Public Affairs Channel. Thank you for allowing us to capture this exciting symposium.