The Military Historians War on the Anzac Legend - Quadrant

An elitist attack on Anzac and the Digger legend explicitly dedicated to destroying the popular view of traditions held by Australians is being led by a cadre of academics, media apparatchiks, and some disaffected ex-army officers, in Canberra.

This is the view of Mervyn F. Bendle writing in the March 29 2014 issue of Quadrant.

Bendle writes that looking through the books credited to the contributors to Zombie Myths (Peter Stanley) and Anzac’s Dirty Dozen (Craig Stockings ed.), they are frequently notable only for their obscurity or unavailability. On the other hand, innumerable works of military history by authors like Les Carlyon, Paul Ham, Patrick Lindsay, Bob Wurth, Peter Thompson and Peter FitzSimons are extremely popular and readily available.

“The published and public spheres of Australian military history … are landscapes of legend [and] minefields of misconception”, according to Stockings in Anzac’s Dirty Dozen.

Bendle writes that Stanley is also happy to unburden Australians about the threat of Japanese invasion during the Second World War. In his chapter in Zombie Myths, “Dramatic Myth and Dull Truth”, he claims this is a myth fed on unfounded fears and fostered by the state.

“The Australian Government actually and actively fostered alarm. Its information and propaganda campaigns fuelled the conviction that Japan’s forces” were heading for Australia, and this myth was subsequently resurrected by those politicians and others promoting “the novel but quite spurious notion that a ‘Battle for Australia’ was fought in 1942”.

This was augmented, Bendle adds in Quadrant, by “misleading folk beliefs or hoaxes” associated with troops who served in New Guinea, along with “superficial” histories like 1942: Australia’s Greatest Peril (2008) by Bob Wurth, with whom Stanley has been losing a running battle.

Photos: Bob Wurth on the Kokoda Track in the 1970s. Injured Diggers on the Track in the Kokoda campaign.

For the full Quadrant article see:





The driver in India for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for decades, Joseph Madan, with his wife Celine - brought to Australia by former ABC correspondents, the ABC and the Australia-India Council - climb the arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, July 2010, during their memorable first visit to Australia.


 Joseph Madan (left) with Peter Munckton and Willie Phua, Taj Mahal, Agra, in 1978.

 By Bob Wurth.


A New Delhi driver who has witnessed more of India’s tragedies and triumphs than most of his countrymen made the long journey to Australia as a special guest at the launch of the book Capturing Asia in July 2010. Joseph Madan has been the driver in India to numerous ABC correspondents since he was first employed by correspondent Peter Munckton in1978.

He made the trip to Australia with his wife Celine. It was an emotional arrival on July 8. They were met at their Sydney hotel by Peter and Ann Munckton, Willie Phua and Cindy Phua and a group of former correspondents and their partners. Willie and Joseph - who had seen so much drama in their work in India, hugged and broke down and the tears flowed freely throughout the whole group.

[Pictured from left, back row: Celine Madan, Ann Munckton, Joseph Madan (with stuffed 'roo), Peter Munckton, Willie Phua, Ian Macintosh, who organised the visit to Australia, and Bob Wurth. Bottom row, Jenny Wurth, Cindy Phua and Steve Sailah.]

It was the first trip outside India for Joseph and Celine and their first flight. In Sydney they met many of the former ABC correspondents and their partners who had worked in India. A highlight in Sydney was their walk in beautiful sunny weather over the arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Friday, July 16, followed by a helicopter trip over Sydney the following day (pictured below).

Joseph had always wanted to see kangaroos in the wild and he and Celine got their wish in Canberra. They were hosted in Singapore by Joe Phua and in Sydney and Canberra by former ABC correspondents in India. The trip was sponsored by a group of the former ABC foreign correspondents, the ABC and the Australia-India Council.

Ian Macintosh was the principal organiser of the visit. With Joe Madan and wife Celine now safely back in New Delhi, Ian had this to say to all his made the trip possible:

"You know, whilst the time Joe and Celine spent with us may have been life changing for them their presence here also had a profound effect on their many hosts.

"The humility, enthusiasm, gratitude and sheer joy of our visitors was more than infectious, it was a reminder that friendship and respect know no boundaries or time limits.


"Many thanks to all involved, but especially to Joe and Celine for coming to Australia!"

A dream comes true...

When the ABC’s South Asia correspondent Sally Sara told the New Delhi driver that he was finally going to Sydney, they both wept with joy because visiting Australia had been Joseph’s previously unobtainable dream.

Driving Australian correspondents and cameraman over the years has at times has been fraught with danger. One of Joseph’s worst experiences was to witness the genocide against Sikhs in New Delhi that followed the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, gunned down by her two Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984. 

Over a thousand Sikh men and boys were slaughtered, many of them burnt to death. 

“I never thought that life could make us see all this,” he recalls. “There were people burnt and dead all around, which was so sad to watch … people blindly hitting each other. It was all very sad to see that caste-ism was more important for the mob rather than an innocent individual’s life.” 

Twice in the New Delhi mayhem, screaming mobs rocked and almost turned his small car over. On both occasions ABC cameraman Willie Phua handed over blank videotapes as substitutes for the real pictures he had shot to help calm the rioters.  

On the first occasion journalist Bruce Dover, now head of the ABC’s overseas TV service Australia Network, wielded a hockey stick to keep the rioters back. Finally, a young Brahman priest on a motorcycle came to their rescue. 

On the second occasion cameraman Phua, on an overhead footbridge in the Old Delhi district, was filming a cinema being fire-bombed when another mob descended on the ABC car. “I got out a blank video and they snatched it”, Phua says, “but still they wouldn’t leave us alone. They were pointing to the camera.” This time an old man, obviously well respected, came along and spoke sternly to the crowd, allowing Joseph Madan to drive off.  

As one of the newsmen in the car, I can report that we were afraid, because time and again we had seen police on the streets walk away from the violence, refusing to intervene. We went to the city morgue, where a police sergeant lowered his rifle and threatened to shoot Bruce Dover.

The horror of the 1984 Sikh genocide...

Travelling with our ABC crew, but then writing for the Melbourne Herald, Dover was horrified at what he saw:

 “Trucks loaded with bodies were parked, and more truckloads of bodies were still being brought in. Many of the dead were dreadfully contorted. Just heaps of limbs and burnt bodies because the mobs had been burning the Sikhs alive. Therewere kids as well. Big army trucks were bringing them in. There was no more room inside the morgue building so they were just stacking them like firewood. There were hundreds.”  

In 1980, Joseph Madan drove correspondent Geoff Heriot and two Indian social workers to a village in the Merauli area, outside New Delhi. Heriot was producing a radio feature about the harassment of local harijans (‘untouchables’) by higher castelandowners and hired thugs.

A group of men appeared from behind a roadblock made of large rocks and began attacking the ABC car with long knives, axes and steel-tipped staffs. They cut and bashed and screamed. Joseph rammed the rock barricade while driving with one hand and using the other to fend off an attacker who had opened the driver’s door.

Heriot leaned over to the rear seat, clutching the legs of a social worker who was pulled part-way out of the car, while another of the gang slashedat him through the passenger window. The car strained against the roadblock, eventually bumping over it. All escaped, although bloodied and bruised. 

Over years the quietly spoken Madan was also present as correspondents reported on India’s enormous growth and expansion. “Australians are great to work with”, he says, “I have always felt like a family member rather than an employee.” 

After hiring Joseph in 1978, Peter Munckton and his wife Ann, along with other members of the wider ABC family, continued to make occasional contributions to raising Joseph's second daughter, who was named Ann after Ann Munckton. The contributions assisted with the girl's education and her dowry. Ann Angel Madan is now 29 years old, has a five year old daughter, and is a human resources professional in India’s health care industry. 

Speaking in New Delhi before leaving on his adventure, Joseph said he couldn't can’t wait to get to Australia and meet his old friends:

“With so many years of experience with the ABC, and having worked with so many Australian correspondents”, he says, “I have always heard from them about Australia as such a beautiful country.”


Foreign correspondents honour faithful driver.

TONY EASTLEY: When ABC correspondents sign off from far flung places - not so much London - there's never time to also acknowledge all the assistance they get from local office staff and minders.

On the sub continent Joseph Madan has been protecting and advising Australian reporters for decades. He's been the ABC's driver, and so much more, in India for 32 years. He's worked with dozens of ABC correspondents including myself and camera crews, covering some of the most dramatic events in India's history over the past three decades.

Joseph has always been our man on the ground, but that's about to change, because for the first time in their lives, Joseph and his wife Celine will be boarding a aircraft and setting off for a reunion with old ABC colleagues in Australia.

South Asia correspondent Sally Sara in New Delhi found herself in the odd position of staying behind for once and seeing Joseph leave town.

SALLY SARA: Sometimes, in the middle of all the chaos, good things happen to good people. Joseph Madan has been the ABC's driver in New Delhi since 1978 but, this morning, Joseph will be in the passenger seat. After years of driving other people to the airport, today is his turn. Joseph will finally be fulfilling his dream to visit Australia.

JOSEPH MADAN: It has all come true. I don't know. It's a miracle. I still can't believe that this miracle for me, you know. It's very hard to say. It's so wonderful to see.

SALLY SARA: A group of former foreign correspondents decided the visit was long overdue. Several owed their lives to Joseph's courage and quick thinking.

Former correspondent Bob Wurth covered the brutal aftermath of the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1984.

BOB WURTH (archival recording): The crowd is surging forward. Many of them have been crying 'blood will avenge blood'.

SALLY SARA: Bob Wurth, ABC cameraman Willie Phua and Joseph were surrounded by the crowd as members of the Sikh minority were murdered.

BOB WURTH: Sikhs were being dragged out of their homes, men and boys and they were being covered in oil, they were being set alight. Their legs would be broken so they couldn't run away. They were just being killed before our eyes.

SALLY SARA: Several protesters tried to open the fuel tank of the ABC car and set it on fire. Joseph Madan stepped in, on one of the darkest days he can remember.

JOSEPH MADAN: It's very emotional times you know. People kill each other you know. They are all innocent. Unnecessary. It was very painful, those days.

SALLY SARA: Bob Wurth says Joseph Madan deserves thanks and recognition for his courage and hard work.

BOB WURTH: Yes, he's a quiet, unassuming, intelligent fellow and his calmness probably helped save the day. Yes, he was something of a hero.

SALLY SARA: So, it's no surprise that donations flowed from former correspondents, to allow Joseph to visit Australia. The Australia-India Council and the ABC got on board too.

When Joseph received the good news, he sobbed with joy. He and his wife have never been outside India, never been on a plane, and until a couple of months ago, didn't even have passports. Joseph and Celine will be special guests at the launch of Bob Wurth's biography of cameraman, Willie Phua.

Joseph Madan says he doesn't want to miss a thing.

JOSEPH MADAN: It's unforgettable things. I want to see everyone. Every one of them. I don't want to miss anybody.

SALLY SARA: This is Sally Sara in New Delhi for AM.

TONY EASTLEY: He has not only nursed correspondents over the years but a series of old ABC cars as well.









Driver Joseph Madan and cameraman Willie Phua embrace in an emotional reunion in Sydney on Joseph's arrival in Australia. The Indian driver and the Singaporean cameraman had covered many hazardous assignments together across India with ABC correspondents.

Heading to the launch of the book Capturing Asia. Joseph Madan and Willie Phua outside the ABC in Sydney, July 9, 2010.


Willie Phua filming Indira Gandhi in 1980.

Joseph Madan photographing the Sydney Opera House from a helicopter.

Joseph t he shutterbug high over Sydney...

...And along the coast outside the heads.

Joseph Madan, Willie Phua and correspondent Trevor Watson at the Khyber Pass.

Joseph Madan gives Indian boys in Rajastan empty beer cans from the boot of the ABC's ambassador, c 1982. The boys were eager collectors, having never seen beer cans before.

Willie Phua films Peter Munckton reporting outside the Indian Parliament, New Delhi.

Ian Macintosh, key organiser of the Madan adventure to Australia, with Willie Phua, subject of the book Capturing Asia.

On more familiar turf. Joseph Madan, long-time ABC driver at the Taj Mahal in Agra in 2009 photographed by Browen Kiely.

ABC bureau chief in Asia, Tony Eastley, with Joey and Willie Phua, c 1988.

Tony Eastley (right) at the launch of Capturing Asia with (from left) Bob Wurth, Peter Munckton, Willie Phua, Tammy Pinkstone and Ann Munckton.