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Nation, Memory and Great War Commemoration

Mobilizing the Past in Europe, Australia and New Zealand


Shanti Sumartojo and Ben Wellings

The Great War continues to play a prominent role in contemporary consciousness. With commemorative activities involving seventy-two countries, its centenary is a titanic undertaking: not only ‘the centenary to end all centenaries’ but the first truly global period of remembrance.
In this innovative volume, the authors examine First World War commemoration in an international, multidisciplinary and comparative context. The contributions draw on history, politics, geography, cultural studies and sociology to interrogate the continuities and tensions that have shaped national commemoration and the social and political forces that condition this unique international event. New studies of Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific address the relationship between increasingly fractured grand narratives of history and the renewed role of the state in mediating between individual and collective memories. Released to coincide with the beginning of the 2014–2018 centenary period, this collection illuminates the fluid and often contested relationships amongst nation, history and memory in Great War commemoration.
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The Sinking of the Marquette: Gender, Nationalism and New Zealand’s Great War Remembrance



On 23 October 1915, the British transport ship Marquette was torpedoed in the Aegean Sea by a German submarine. Among its cargo of troops, ammunition and mules, the Marquette was also carrying the No. 1 New Zealand Stationary Hospital (hereafter New Zealand Hospital). Of thirty-two New Zealanders who lost their lives, ten were nurses from the New Zealand Army Nursing Service.1 This chapter investigates how a narrative of the Marquette sinking was constructed, retold and commemorated as a case study for the formation and reformation of collective remembrance.

Collective remembrance is the process through which communities construct and maintain a collective memory of an event.2 This chapter argues that the construction of the initial narrative of an event is influential to these collective memories. Narratives developed around the Marquette sinking were influenced by contemporaneous discourses on gender and nationalism. New Zealanders’ ideals of masculinity and femininity during the Great War were intertwined with ideas of ‘Britishness’ and commitment to Empire. The nurses who died were paradoxically constructed as both ideal imperial women and honorary men. This memory narrative in turn influenced instances of collective remembrance. Both geographic and collegial ← 225 | 226 → communities sought to show their connection to the event through remembrance services and monument building. However, without active retelling and ‘rehearsal’ a collective memory can fall into oblivion.3 These retold memories are not fixed but become products of their contemporary setting as well as evidence of the past. As flexible narratives these...

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