On 17 December 1915, the day before the mass evacuation under cloak of darkness of the 20,000 remaining ANZAC troops from Anzac Cove was completed, an impromptu cricket game at Shell Green was played. As the pages of history would record, it was as much for the benefit of the soldiers’ morale as it was for the propaganda that war photographer and correspondent Charles Bean was producing.
The premise of the game was to convince the Turkish troops that life on the ANZAC-held territory maintained its status quo. The photograph above shows an officer wielding a bat and a tight ring of fielders wearing service caps and slouch hats at Shell Green, the only flat section of land within the ANZAC perimeter. The patch of grass took its name from the heavy hail of Turkish artillery that regularly rained down on it from the overlooking hills.
As expected, the luxury of recreation time for the exhausted ANZAC troops was restricted to a few games of footy along the sanctuary of the beachfront sonthe idea of a game of cricket on the green was met with excitement. Even though the practical propaganda value of the photo opportunity can never be fully assessed, the fact that the successful removal of troops that took place over two nights without loss of life while the Turkish forces remained largely oblivious would indicate it was a success.
The significance of the photograph above was galvanised 86 years later when then Australian Cricket Test captain Steve Waugh led his 2001 Ashes touring party for a pre-campaign visit to the Gallipoli Peninsula.
At the site of Shell Green, where the original ‘game’ had been abandoned after several minutes due to enemy artillery fire and now overgrown with thick bushes, the Australia players re-enacted the famous photo with Waugh filling the role of Officer Macarthur-Onslow. Whilst a legendary photo in cricketing history, it’s irony didn’t escape cricketing fans as it was used in the same vein as the original, for promotion and propaganda.
Today, ATC Cricketers played an exhibition match leading into the Lord Mayor’s 11 cricket match, a tradition at the Brookfield Showgrounds on ANZAC Day. The match commemorates the infamous 1915 game and we extend our thanks to all Ambrose Treacy College students for participating and paying their respects to our fallen Service men and women.