Johnnies and Mehmets: A personal view from Harvey Broadbent

Harvey Broadbent is the author of four books on Gallipoli; former Senior Research Fellow and Associate Professor at Macquarie University and director of the Gallipoli Centenary Research Project, a partnership between the University, the Australian War Memorial and the Australian Research Council.

In this centenary year of the Gallipoli Campaign there have been many commemorations across Australia and, of course, stretching to the Gallipoli homeland of Turkey, itself. Turkey has been marking the centenary in its own way, too, with significant ceremonies and publications. With all the media coverage of commemorations, TV series and movies recounting the Gallipoli experience nationwide and more books published to add to the scores of books on the subject, the perennial question of recent decades arises: what is there new to say about Gallipoli, even at its centenary?

Russell Crowe’s film The Water Diviner and Channel 9’s Gallipoli television series, even though both take liberties with historical accuracy, have tried to infuse new angles of pathos as well as realistic and confronting detail into the story.

Crowe has made an important point in talking about his film. He points out we can’t understand Gallipoli without the story from the other side. He is right. That has always been my own aim in writing my Gallipoli books. More than that, even, the main theme of The Water Diviner, is not an accurate depiction of the battles of Gallipoli, but much more the effects and impact of the campaign’s outcomes on the loved ones of the fallen and their communities both in Australia and in Turkey. The film, and my books to a certain degree deal with the wider theme of a shared experience of great loss.

The Johnnies and Mehmets project now adds to these efforts to fill the gaps that exist in our perception of Gallipoli’s historical events and their shared legacy for both Australians and Turks. Knowing events and motivations on both sides of a conflict means one gains a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of that conflict and its effects. Johnnies and Mehmets goes further. In examining the legacy at the community level it sets out in both a practical and sensitive way to bring a collective empathy and strengthen the message of peace that lies in Australians’ and Turks’ acceptance of a peaceful reconciliation between former foes who have shown how to become friends.

Harvey Broadbent

Further information :
Gallipoli Centenary Research Project:
Harvey Broadbent’s books include:
Gallipoli, the Turkish Defence (Miegunyah Press/MUP, 2015)
Defending Gallipoli (Melbourne University Publishing, 2015)
Gallipoli, the Fatal Shore (Viking/Penguin 2005)
The Boys Who Came Home: Recollections of Gallipoli (ABC Books, 1990, 2000)