In recent weeks, Cranky Lizard’s attention has been captured by the public comments and media debate about the changing of history.
“ History “ is defined in the Oxford Dictionary, in part, as “ the study of past events, especially human affairs. “ – as opposed to ‘ archaeology ‘ which is a study of ancient affairs – and, somewhere in the halls of academia there will a person who will know, or claim to know, when history stops and archaeology starts ! But, we should not trouble ourselves about that here !!
There are other definitions and other interpretations, because History lends itself, not always accurately, to subjective definitions.
History is the story of us. It is who we are, where we come from, why we do the things we do and why we hold onto the rituals that define our society.
The history of Australia , as we know it to be, contributes substance and strength to the fabric of our National story – not all of our stories are good, some probably do not reflect what actually happened because no Australian alive today, can speak with any authority on events that occurred 200 years ago or thereabouts. No one can.
History’s credibility and authority comes from evidence. Evidence comprises written records compiled at the time, drawings and sketches of events as they occurred, preserved artefacts and relics that bear silent witness of their use, very old photographic records, old newspaper cuttings and records, diaries and logs from farming communities , sheep and cattle station records and, obviously, anecdotal evidence [ basically stories and folk tales passed from one to another over time, including the oral traditions of Australian Aboriginal people.]
All of this mass of evidence, assessed objectively and dispassionately, by credible observers lead us to form conclusions about what actually happened, where it happened, who gained, who lost, and, how those events at that time affect our communities as we know them today.
That is how, in the opinion of Cranky Lizard, our society can form its view of the world in a sensible context, based upon the existing evidence of past events.
So what ? You may ask ?
Well, it is accepted that humans have always been inclined to ‘ gild the lilly ‘, so to speak ; to tweak the stories to make them reflect our view of events in a more complimentary light from our point of view, to right what some consider to be past wrongs, not actual wrongs, mind you, just an opinion from one or two people of what they consider to be past wrongs !!
We accept, in cynical terms, that, in wartime, ‘ the winners write the history ‘, and so it is, but the damning and irrefutable evidence of the war cemeteries counter acts the more hysterical claims of war historians.
And, in the month of April, Australia commemorates hugely significant events in our Nation’s story.
This is a day, in the life of our Nation when we reflect on terrible events that occurred during World War 1, in Europe and in Turkey ; events that brought widespread death and mourning to our young Nation, but, events also, that by the passage of time, have served to define us as Australians.
We know about this, because military records from that time detail the events, the personalities, the sheer horror, the brutality and the heroism of Australian men and women enduring these terrible times.
For example, we know the story of Villers Bretonneux – how the advancing German Army was halted by Australian troops ; we know how the Australians fought ;we know how the French feel about that and we know that one man, an Australian military leader was responsible for devising and implementing new methods of a applying military force.
We know that these new tactics gave our troops tremendous advantage on the battlefield ; all of this is a matter of history.
We also know that this leader was General Sir John Monash. An engineer from Melbourne. Due to his expertise on the battlefield he was Knighted by the King of England, a signal honour in those times and he was promoted to the rank of full General, a rank few men & women anywhere ever hold, and a rank, within the military, that carries enormous respect, enables command of Armies and places the holder of that rank well and truly in the upper echelons of our National society.
All of this occurred in 1918. One hundred years ago. Monash, his achievements, his life with its strengths and weaknesses, has been detailed in our written military history and we can, as we should, reflect on his story with pride.
But we have now, some opinion pieces in the national media, commenting that Monash deserves further reward. Agitation for further promotion for Monash, to the rank of Field Marshall is occurring – some give it credence some do not !!
Cranky Lizard maintains that you can’t change history. In his life, Monash received the accolades of a grateful nation, what now, can be gained by further promotion one hundred years down the track of life ??
Is it to right a wrong ? Cranky Lizard asks what wrong was done, to whom ??
Australia never had a Field Marshall during World War 1, we simply did not have enough troops under arms to warrant an officer of that rank.
There was another Australian Army leader in that terrible war who distinguished himself and his men with brilliant leadership and who held, equal rank and knight-hoods as General Monash.
That man was General Harry Chauvel, the leader of the Australian Light Horse and the man who took Beersheba in a cavalry charge of audacity and daring that reflected not only upon him, but also upon the superb men he commanded and the magnificent horses they rode – The Walers !
Both of these Australian leaders were acknowledged by the British military as exceptional officers which is why they were both Knighted and promoted to the rank of full General.
Both men have been credited with positively affecting the outcome of World War 1, in their respective spheres of battle, one in the deserts of the Middle East, the other on the battlefields of France.
Cranky Lizard points out that if we, as a Nation, begin to hand out further military promotions one hundred years down the track, then logic and common -sense tells us that we are obliged to consider that case of General Harry Chauvel of the Australian Light Horse as well : he is equally deserving.
And, let’s say, we as a Nation did that, we would then have two Field Marshalls from a War that never provided one at the time…and that would be ridiculous.
Cranky Lizard strongly believes that history should remain undisturbed, we live with what we have, that is our story, good, bad, indifferent or whatever ??
That is who we are and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Cranky Lizard quietly suggests that as a consequence of fiddling with history we may well see the awarding of post- humous life membership to the Committee of the local bowls club ; now wouldn’t that be some- thing ??