“After 100 years of breeding in the slums, the British race is not the same, and it can’t be expected to be the same, as in the days of Waterloo. It is breeding one fine class at the expense of all the rest.
The only hope for it is that these puny, narrow-chested little men may, if they come out to Australia, NZ or Canada, within two generations breed men again. England herself, unless she does something heroic: Cannot hope to.” – Charles Bean 29th August 1915 in his personal diary.
Charles Bean here accurately describes the state of affairs for the English at the turn of the 20th century, a hyper-urbanised existence in fervent wealth disparity had lead to a small, landed aristocracy that absorbed all the wealth and energies of the nation – the average Englishman had become a “narrow-chested little man” compared to the Australian, who in a “rural democratic atmosphere” retained his masculinity.
Towards the end of the first world war, it was written that Australian soldiers thought “Life was very dear, but life was not worth living unless they could be true to their idea of Australian manhood. Standing upon that alone, when help failed and help faded; when the end loomed clear in front of them, when the whole world seemed to crumble and the heavens to fall in, they faced its ruin undismayed.”
Australian men where universally regarded as ‘physical perfection’ – An English journalist named Ashmead-Bartlett wrote: “I do not suppose any country in its palmiest days ever sent forth to the field of battle a finer body of men than these Australian, New Zealand and Tasmanian troops. Physically they are the finest men I have ever seen in any part of the world. In fact, I had no idea such a race of giants existed in the 20th century. Some of their battalions average 5″10 and every man seems to be a trained athlete.”
The second World War saw Erwin Rommel write: “If I had to take hell, I would use the Australians to take it.” when facing off against Australians in North Africa. John Masefield wrote: “[The Australian Troops were] the finest body of young men ever brought together in modern times. For physical beauty and nobility of bearing they surpassed any men I have ever seen; they walked and looked like kings in old poems, and reminded me of the line in Shakespeare: ‘Baited like eagles lately bathed.'” Keith Murdoch described Australian troops; “Faces like the classical statues of ancient gladiators, these magnificent Australians give the impression of noble, young manhood.”
Billy Hughes our prime minister said in the Parliament of 1919 “WE are more British than the people of Great Britain, and we hold firmly to that great principle of White Australia. We believe in our race and in ourselves, and in our capacity to achieve our great destiny, which is to hold this vast continent in trust for those of our race who come after us.”
It seems abundantly clear that the Australian native was raised and built in the best of circumstances for the propagation of gladiators, an Australian legion of hoplite. Australians espoused principles and strengths which were at the time believed to be ‘British’ but were in-fact purely Australian. The national consciousness remembered the great Britishers of the 18th century and enshrined their identity into a mythology of honouring, pioneering and conquering. These principles nowhere to be found in 19th century Britain and beyond.
Johnson was thin when he came to Solong; he had landed in Australia a living skeleton, he said, but he filled out later on. The democratic atmosphere soothed his mind and he soon loved the place for its unconventional hospitality. He worked hard and seemed to have plenty of energy—he said he got it in Australia. He said that another year of the struggle in London would have driven him mad. He fished in the river on Saturday afternoons and Sundays, and, perhaps for the first month or so, he thought that he had found peace.
Henry Lawson, “Barney Take me Home Again.”