Beyond the ANZAC Myth: Relative Technological Advantage and the Battle Of Bardia

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Issue: Volume 12 - Number 1
Article ID: 12-1-6
Published: March 2009
Subject: history

Abstract. The Battle of Bardia was the first significant engagement by Australian ground forces in World War Two. It was also an outstanding success. At a cost of 130 killed and 326 wounded, the Australians netted around 40 000 Italian prisoners along with large quantities of arms, rations and equipment. Traditional explanations as to how an inexperienced Australian formation, outnumbered by an Italian force more than twice its size, achieved such a victory have generally fallen victim to ethnic stereotyping or the obscuring effect of the national (Anzac) mythology. Popular misconceptions about indomitable, iron-willed Australians trouncing innately craven, incompetent or even effeminate Italian soldiers prevail—and have done so for more than 60 years. This article seeks to provide a more objective explanation for the battlefield outcome at Bardia by investigating the issue of relative technological advantage on behalf of the attackers over the defending Italian troops. Battles like Bardia won and lost according to the combination of cold, objective, military actualities—not by misguided notions of disparate national characters. In this case one of those factors concerned a serious mismatch in battlefield technology.

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