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Our daily bread: the field bakery and the Anzac legend

Etcell, Pamela M. (2004) Our daily bread: the field bakery and the Anzac legend. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The First World War and the Australian Imperial Force have generated thousands of books and articles. Many studies adhere to the emphasis of C.E.W. Bean, and recount the history of the infantry or a particular infantry battalion. Others examine both the short term and long-lasting effects of the war on the Australian psyche. Some historians have acknowledged that a particular group of non-fighting combatants has been neglected, but generally, this group has been employed in dangerous and difficult pursuits. Very few historians have studied the roles of non-fighting combatants whose contribution is considered as lacklustre, such as the Australian Field Bakeries.

When I began my research, I could not understand why the Australian Field Bakeries did not play any part in the historiography of World War One. An examination of the Anzac legend revealed an emphasis on the characteristics of the Anzac, especially masculinity and heroism. I argue that the bakers' employment might be considered as being situated within the woman's sphere and therefore unmasculine, whilst that same employment did not offer the chance for acts of heroism. Because of an emphasis on the exciting exploits of the infantry within Anzac historiography, the Australian Field Bakeries and their role as support troops have been ignored and omitted.

Comparing demographic statistics and the war experiences, values and attitudes of the Australian Imperial Force and the bakers, I conclude that the bakers of the Australian Field Bakeries were extraordinarily similar to the men of the Australian Imperial Force. Only those experiences and statistics directly related to the two groups' specific fields of employment are significantly different. I argue that specialised skills and a perceived lack of masculinity and heroism have seen the men of the Australian Field Bakeries excluded from all existing Anzac historiography.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Sturma, Michael
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