Nationalism and the First World War Centenary: Post 22

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Steve Marti of the University of Delaware brings H-Nationalism another monthly update on nationalism and the commemoration of the First World War.  Please feel free to respond to this post. Interested in contributing to this series? Drop Steve a line at


On November 11th, 2016, the English and Scottish football teams defied FIFA by wearing armbands with poppies during a World Cup qualifier. The Irish and Welsh teams, which also played matches that weekend, abided by FIFA’s ban on political or religious symbols by wearing plain black armbands. The British Legion defended the English and Scottish footballers with an open letter to FIFA, arguing that the poppy is neither a religious nor a political symbol. Robert Fisk took a very different stance by writing a strongly-worded editorial calling the poppy a symbol of racism. The Guardian offers a summary of recent poppy-related controversies, to provide context for the conflict with FIFA. The Guardian did not include viewers’ reactions to Cookie Monster wearing a poppy for his appearance on BBC’s The One Show. The Peace Pledge Union reported record sales of their white poppies, breaking last year’s record of 110,000 poppies sold.


Australia’s News 9 wrote a story following the saga of Chris Fox, the entrepreneur behind Camp Gallipoli (mentioned extensively in this series) accused of pocketing $1.5 million dollars in profits from events meant to benefit veterans’ organizations. The News 9 article briefly mentions legal protections on uses of the word Anzac for commercial ventures. Catherine Bond, professor of law at the University of New South Wales, wrote a summary of regulations on the use of “Anzac” for the Conversation. Paul Daley wrote an editorial for the Guardian on the commemoration of the Battle of Beersheba, a notable Australian victory during the British advance to Jerusalem in October 1917. Daley cautioned against Zionist narratives that trace a causal link between the Australian victory and the establishment of the state of Israel.


New Zealand historian Vincent O’Malley wrote an editorial on the commemoration of the New Zealand Wars, a series of conflicts between British and Māori during the 19th Century. O’Malley contrasts the popularity of Anzac Day, which commemorates an overseas war, with the difficulty of reconciling conflicts fought in New Zealand. Geoff McMillan, a New Zealand historian, won his battle to have New Zealand soldier Cecil John Braithwaite’s name added to the Shot at Dawn Memorial, at the National Memorial Arboretum in England. The silhouette of Captain Alfred Shout, a New Zealand officer awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War, will replace the standard green silhouette on pedestrian crossing signals near the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, in Wellington.


Centenary commemorations of Verdun and the Somme continue. On October 24th, France’s defence minister Jean-Yves le Drian attended a ceremony commemorating the French re-capture of Fort Douaumont, a turning point during the battle of Verdun. A public art installation titled “Shrouds of the Somme,” originally displayed in Exeter over the summer, is being exhibited in Bristol for Remembrance Week. The installation presents 19,240  miniature shrouds laid out to represent the number of British soldiers killed on the first day of the Somme offensive. A ceremony in Vannes, France commemorated the Battle of the Somme with a musical performance featuring Highland bagpipes and a Breton Bagad, playing music composed in 1916 by musicians from Scotland and Brittany. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission gave away the last tickets for ceremonies commemorating the end of the Battle of the Somme on November 18th.


The Scottish Poppy Appeal unveiled the Every Man Remembered statue in Glasgow on November 1st. This is the first time the travelling statue was displayed in Scotland. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took part in the #IRemember campaign, organized by Forces TV and British Forces Broadcasting Services, by posting a video to social media. Tom Sear, a PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales, contributed an essay on the role of social media in Remembrance Day commemorations.


Canadians observed National Aboriginal Remembrance Day on November 8th, two days before Remembrance Day. First Nations students in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia cut 12,000 poppies out of suede, leather, and sealskin to honour the approximately 12,000 Indigenous soldiers who served with Canadian forces in wartime. On November 11th, David Mitsui helped unveil a new plaque commemorating the wartime service of Japanese-Canadians. Mitsui’s grandfather fought with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in France and led a post-war campaign to extend the provincial franchise to Asian veterans in British Columbia. At a Remembrance Day ceremony in Calgary, Rob Eberly, dressed as his drag persona Mz. Rhonda, daid a wreath commemorating the service of LGBTQ soldiers. Eberly/Rhonda’s gesture is thought to be the first public recognition of LGBTQ military service in Canada.