85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History
Landscapes of War and Peace
April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky
Each paper highlights the complexities involved in the process of remembering the war and the politics at play in each national context. Tim Clarke explores the racialization evident in the Colonial Administration's placement of the Native War Memorial, and the rhetoric surrounding its unveiling in 1920s Mombasa. Jennifer Zoebelein explains how and why the D.C. War Memorial is the only District memorial situated on the National Mall, illustrating how plans for the Mall shaped the memorial's design and placement. Margaret Hutchison examines Australia's official war art scheme as a key commemorative practice of the First World War, focusing on how artists represented the war for audiences at home.
The centenary of the First World War has sparked a rethinking of the ways in which the conflict has been, and continues to be, remembered. In exploring the tension inherent in the commemoration of the war in Africa, America, and Australia, this panel addresses significant issues such as how and by whom memories of the war were constructed, and provides new insights into the debate on the politics of war remembrance.
What is most striking about the D.C. War Memorial, however, is its location. Despite the "memorial mania" of the last several decades, it remains the only war memorial in West Potomac Park and the only District memorial on the National Mall. This paper will explain how and why this occurred, considering both the importance of placement regarding memorial construction as well as the early history of the National Mall itself. I argue that a strong sense of civic pride drove District residents and the memorial's commission members in their choice of location for the D.C. War Memorial. They were aided by the Commission of Fine Arts, who sought to implement plans laid out in the 1902 Senate Park Commission. In this unique way, the collective memory of the D.C. memorial is linked to the development of the National Mall, with artistic design and structural placement taking on greater importance than in other urban centers.
In Mombasa, as a bustling hub at the coast end of the Uganda Railway, public spaces operated at the intersection of a powerful Indian merchant community, influential Arab trading enclaves, a substantial centre of transient African workers, and the second largest colonial administrative core in the Colony. As such, the Colonial Administration served as mediator between the varied interests of each community, while also abiding by the dictates of the Colonial Office in Britain. This manifested in a concerted effort to racialize Native War Memorials, reasserting white dominance over and responsibility for the Native African community, while omitting the role of Indians and Arabs. I argue that this racialization is visible in both the placement of the monument and the rhetoric surrounding its unveiling in 1926. Ultimately, as the Colonial Administration took responsibility for the monument from the Imperial War Graves Commission, the politics of memory contributed to an idiosyncratic formation of Whiteness in Kenya.
This paper will examine the role of the slouch hat as a material and visual trope in Australian narratives of the First World War. With its broad brim and high pinched crown, the slouch hat provided excellent protection in arid theatres, such as the Gallipoli Peninsula and Palestine. This functional design also called back to the arid environment of Australia and distinguished Australian soldiers from other contingents of the British empire. This paper will demonstrate how Australian visual narratives of the First World War were revised to feature the slouch hat, in order to argue that the slouch hat provided an essential visual device to communicate the environmental narrative of the Anzac Legend. The slouch hat became a prominent symbol in Australian official war art and in the exhibits of the Australian War Memorial, which supported the narrative of Australian martial masculinity. The appearance of the slouch hat in memorials and cenotaphs in France, Belgium, and throughout Australia ultimately plant this environmental narrative back into the landscape.