Aussie newspaper issues huge correction after error-riddled Anzac article

Australian newspaper The Age issued a lengthy correction after publishing an inaccurate article.
Australian newspaper The Age issued a lengthy correction after publishing an inaccurate article. Photo credit: Twitter/Alessandro Antonello

A prominent Australian newspaper has been forced to issue a lengthy apology and correction after printing an article about the Anzac troops which was riddled with historical errors.

On April 21, The Age published an article by Jonathan King, an Australian historian and author of 30 books.

Mr King has written extensively about the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps of World War I, and is generally regarded as an expert on the topic.

The article, entitled 'The little-known battle led by Australians which turned the tide of World War I', detailed a counter-attack on April 25, 1918 by Australian forces to take back the French town of Villers-Bretonneux, which had been seized by the Germans.

After its publication, the story was found to contain a number of errors - so many that The Age issued a correction and apology that was about as long as a typical article.

The printed correction and apology in the April 28 issue of The Age.
The printed correction and apology in the April 28 issue of The Age. Photo credit: Twitter/Alessandro Antonello

In the corrective amendment, which was published a week after the original article on April 28, the newspaper said that Mr King had claimed that Major-General John Monash motivated the Australian soldiers with an "impassioned pep talk" before the counter-attack.

"In reality, General Monash played no part in the battle for Villers-Bretonneux, neither in the planning nor the execution," The Age reports. "He gave no speech to troops before the attack."

In fact, General Monash led Australian troops to victory in a completely different village six kilometres away from Villers-Bretonneux on July 4 - more than two months after the April 25 counter-attack.

Mr King had also reported that two other generals had led their troops north and south, when actually both generals remained at their headquarters during the assault.

He claimed soldiers in General Harold Elliott's troop encountered Germans with machine guns hiding in dark woods, which The Age said never happened.

Mr King said that the celebrated Lieutenant Clifford Sadlier, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his efforts in the counter-attack at Villers-Bretonneux, was in the 15th Brigade attacking from the north of the town.

He was in fact in the 13th Brigade attacking from the south.

In addition, Mr King asserted that Lieutenant Sadlier successfully overpowered an enemy machine-gun alone while injured in the "early dawn", when in fact this event took place before midnight.

The Age's extensive correction provoked both anger and amusement on social media, with many questioning why Mr King's article had not been fact-checked.

This is not Mr King's first brush with controversy over misreporting. In 2002, while employed as a history correspondent for The Australian, he was accused of misrepresenting what was said at a conference in Turkey.

He reported that the attendees had concluded that the famous Battle of Gallipoli was an "unmitigated disaster" and that Australia should apologise to Turkey for invading their country, which provoked some outrage from both Australians and New Zealanders.

Fellow historian Jenny Macleod alleged in the 2007 book New Zealand's Great War that Mr King had wrongly attributed a quote in his reporting on the conference, and that he had misrepresented the conference's findings.