July 4th, 2018 is about more than parades and fireworks celebrating the Declaration of Independence. This year, the Fourth of July is also the 100 year anniversary of the Battle of Hamel in World War 1, in which American and Australian soldiers fought together for the first time and formalized the US-Australia relationship, often referred to as Mateship. To commemorate this milestone, the Australian embassy is featuring an art exhibit entitled “Diggers and Doughboys, The Art of Allies 100 Years On,” which celebrates the history of the US-Australia relationship.
The exhibit opens with a tableau telling the story of the Battle of Hamel. General Monash, who led the battle and was the first non-American to command American troops, chose the Fourth of July for the offensive in order to pay respect to the US soldiers in his command. Thanks to Monash’s strategy, which coordinated tanks, airpower, and infantry in a new and innovative manner, US-Australian forces won the Battle of Hamel in just ninety-three minutes. This victory was a pivotal moment in the First World War.
Next to the wall describing the Battle of Hamel is a tableau that defines Mateship as, “1. A code of conduct among Australians that embodies equality, friendship, and solidarity; 2. Friendly feelings and behavior; 3. Friendship, loyalty, often forged in adversity; and 4. The quality or state of being a mate.” It is fitting, then, that the term is used to describe the enduring bond between the U.S. and Australia. Since first joining in arms during the adversity of World War I, the US and Australia have continued to foster a relationship rooted in mutual respect and support. After the First World War and the Battle of Hamel, Australia has supported every major US military effort, from the Second World War, to the Gulf War, to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Although the US-Australian relationship had its origins in war, the relationship has also persisted in times of peace. For example, the exhibit noted that Australia helped to put a man on the moon in 1969, and that today Australian scientists still work with NASA to support the Deep Space Network. Similarly, Australian and American researchers work together on medical research that has the potential to save lives. The embassy’s choice to use an art exhibit to highlight the history of the US-Australia military alliance also highlights the importance that both countries have placed on artistic and cultural exchange- even in times of war. Many of the paintings on display in the embassy bring to life the personal bonds that US and Australian soldiers forged on the battlefield, while others capture similarities in American and Australian experiences on the home front.
This summer is a time for Americans and Australians alike to reflect on the significance of the first 100 years of Mateship. The Australian embassy is hosting a series of events to commemorate the anniversary, with the “Diggers and Doughboys” exhibit on display June 18-August 29th 2018.