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23 January 2014

Anzac troops airbrushed out of WWI commemoration

Britain has been accused of airbrushing the role of Anzac troops out of this year's First World War commemorations in favour of soldiers from developing nations.

Reports in Australia claim no 100-year anniversary events have been planned by Britain that specifically recognise the sacrifice made by Australia and New Zealand.

Instead, it has been suggested Whitehall officials in London have been briefed to push the efforts by the so-called 'New Commonwealth' nations.

This is despite 62,000 Australians and 18,000 New Zealanders who died in the Great War fighting for the British Empire. Another 156,000 from Australia were wounded and 41,000 from New Zealand.

According to News.com.au, British government sources have confirmed internal briefings on commemorations have not mentioned Australia or New Zealand once.

It is claimed the civil service has been told to concentrate on other British Empire contributions by soldiers from countries such as Nigeria and other dominions in West Africa, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Reports say the push is to promote 'community cohesion' and link younger generations of ethnic Britons today to the war fought by their forefathers.

It is also seen as high-level support for old colonies like India which is experiencing a booming economy.

A government insider told said: 'It's basically to remind Britons the First World War wasn't just soldiers from here fighting in France and Belgium but involved people from Lagos, Kingston and the Punjab,'

'There has been no mention of old Commonwealth Allies like Australia or New Zealand but more interest in celebrating the role from New Commonwealth countries. I think it's fair to say Commonwealth ties are being frayed a little on this one.'

The British Department For Culture, Media and Sport, tasked with First World War anniversary events, confirmed there were no plans to have any specific events recognising Australia's contribution to the British Empire's cause.

'I don't think there is anything specific at this stage for individual countries,' a spokeswoman said. 'It is obviously a four-year program so there may well be specific things as we go along but nothing specific at this stage.'

British author and commentator Murray Rowlands said it was a disgrace Australian and New Zealanders were being ignored.

He said: 'There is nothing in (British Prime Minister) David Cameron's program of commemoration that mentions these countries,' he said.

'The British pretty much lost the war in July 1918, they were in retreat and it was the Australians and New Zealanders who got put into the gap, they were the ones that held up the Germans in places like Hamel (Somme, northern France), with the Americans too but basically the well-trained Australians, pretty battle hardened by then, who stopped the Germans.

'If they had got to Amiens the game would have been gone because that was where the British communication system were. That needs recognition.'

Australia's Department of Veterans Affairs and the Australian High Commission in London are planning a series of Australian-specific events in the UK this year and next year, the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli.

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