British officials are defending their plans for
commemorations of World War I amid fears recognition of New
Zealand's role could fall victim to an "Anzac whitewash".
A spokeswoman for the British Department for Culture, Media
and Sport said the UK would be commemorating the "huge
contribution and sacrifices made by members of Armed Forces
from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and other Commonwealth
countries" during centenary events over the next four years.
British First World War Commemorations Minister Helen Grant
recently met High Commissioners from both New Zealand and
Australia to discuss the commemorations, the spokeswoman
"We are clear that Britain could not have prevailed without
the contribution of our Commonwealth partners and our plans
for the centenary will fully reflect that."
There are fears domestic politics could drive British
officials to gloss over New Zealand's role in World War I, in
what some are calling an "Anzac whitewash"
British government sources confirmed that internal briefings
on World War I commemorations did not mention Australia or
New Zealand once. Instead, staff from departments and Cabinet
offices had been told to concentrate on other British Empire
contributions by soldiers from countries such as Nigeria,
India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Australian media reports the "Anzac whitewash" is driven by a
bid to win political and economic favour in multicultural
"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," a
government insider told News Corp. "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."
British author and commentator Murray Rowlands is quoted as
saying it was a disgrace New Zealand and Australia's efforts
were being ignored.
"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."
Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson who is in
charge of New Zealand's commemorations said he had met his
British counterparts a couple of times, "and nothing of the
sort's been raised". However he added that if they intended
to "whitewash us out of history" they were unlikely to tell
Former Labour Defence and Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff
said he hoped New Zealand wouldn't be ignored in Anzac
Mr Goff said with about 100,000 New Zealanders mobilised
during the war out of a population of barely a million at the
time, of which 18,000 were killed and 60,000 wounded, "there
was scarcely a family left untouched in New Zealand and we
imagine the British will be fair and acknowledge that point".
RSA national president Don McIver said that with centenary
preparations he had been involved in "there has been a strong
spirit of co-operation and understanding between all those
nations who were involved in the conflict".
Massey University military historian Glyn Harper said he felt
the News Corp report was an overreaction.
Lest we forget ...
British World War I centenary commemorations
• Begin with "Memories of August 1914" which takes place in
late July in Liverpool.
• A national series of commemorative events starts on August
4 with a service for Commonwealth leaders at Glasgow
Cathedral, an event at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
St Symphorien Military Cemetery in Mons, Belgium, and a
candlelit vigil at Westminster Abbey.
• The English Premier League is to build a football pitch in
the Belgian city of Ypres, the site of one of the war's major
battles, by November 2014. The pitch will host a tournament
marking the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Truce in 1914.
New Zealand commemorations
• Begin in earnest on April 25, 2015, with a commemoration of
the Anzac landings at Gallipoli.
• Te Papa will hold a major exhibition starting this year
including a 200sq m reconstruction of trenches at Gallipoli.
• A centenary programme at Auckland War Memorial Museum
including online projects, annual programmes and
• A Field of Remembrance project with white crosses to be
placed at sites throughout the country to commemorate the
fallen. They will be brought together in 2018 at Wellington's