Australians At The Great War – 1914-1918, by Peter Burness

The rough and ready fighting spirit of the Australians had become refined by an experienced battle technique supported by staff work of the highest order. The Australians were probably the most effective troops employed in the war on either side.’ Major General John O’Ryan, US 27th Division.

Between 1914 and 1918, 250,000 Australians joined up to fight alongside soldiers from the Allied nations. 60, 000 of these men never came pack, and countless others were wounded. As Australia marks the one hundred year anniversaries of these terrible years, Australians at the Great War – 1914-1918 brings them to life with a stunning collection of photographs, paintings, diagrams and other images, along with commentary to help understand their significance.

There are pictures of destruction and misery, but also glimpses of quieter times, as well as maps, posters and more. This is an excellent visual resource, compiled by historian Peter Burness.

Australians at the Great War – 1914-1918, by Peter Burness
Murdoch Books, 2015
ISBN 9781743363782

Available from good bookstores and online.

Eventual Poppy Day, by Libby Hathorn

Eventual Poppy DayShooting stars, kisses, grenades and the lumbering tanks. And the shrieking skies and the shaking comrades: ‘Up and over, lads!’
And I know it is time again to go into madness.

Even though he s only seventeen, Maurice Roche is determined to enlist, to follow his older brothers off to war and do his bit. It will be an adventure, an opportunity to see the world . Against his parent’s wishes, he signs up, leaving behind his parents, his younger siblings, his proud aunts and a girl, Rosie, who he is sure will wait for him. But war is not the adventure Maurice imagined. At Gallipoli and, later, on the Western Front he faces unimaginable horrors. It is only the mates fighting at his side, an occasional opportunity to sketch and draw, and his love for Rosie, that keep him going.

A century later, Oliver Day isn’t all that interested in his great-uncle Maurice, who he never met. But his great-grandmother, Dorothea, wants the world to know about her big brother, who died before she was born. It is especially important to her that Oliver hear Maurice’s story.

Eventual Poppy Day is an emotional tale of war and its impacts both on those who fight and those who are left behind, often across generations. The alternating stories of Maurice and Oliver are supplemented with scenes, letters and diary entries from other characters, to give a broad perspective of their emotions and motives. As the novel progresses, readers have an opportunity to connect deeply with the family.

A touching story.

Eventual Poppy Day, by Libby Hathorn
Angus & Robertson, 2015
ISBN 9780732299514

Available from good bookstores and online.

Seasons of War, by Christopher Lee

I was young then. I remember the landing on the beach and the days of my time on the peninsula and returning home from the war, the past and the present coming together over the years. I remember the beauty of the ugly place.

Michael is a teenager off on an adventure, having joined up to keep his beloved brother Dan company. Their friends Knobby, Mack and Hughie are there too, and together they land at Gallipoli where they quickly realise that this campaign is like nothing they could have imagined.

From Australian screenwriter Christopher Lee, Seasons of War is a slim volume recounting one fictional soldier’s Gallipoli campaign. At the same time, it covers the major events of the whole campaign including insights into the workings of the British command (particularly General Hamilton), the tactics and statistics of all the major battles and the actions of the Turkish enemy. Michael’s story, though, is central, and as a first person narrator he is blunt about the horror of his experience, and of what goes on around him.

In amongst the great number of books released to mark the 100 year anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign, Seasons of War could easily be missed because it is a small book with an understated, though moving, cover  and it is not a comfortable read. But that’s the point. We need stories of war which paint the horror and the waste explicitly so that we understand as nearly as possible what happened.


Seasons of War, by Christopher Lee
Viking, an imprint of Penguin, 2015
ISBN 9780670078837

Available from good bookstores and online.

The Last ANZAC by Gordon Winch ill Harriet Bailey

On a cold winter’s day James and his dad stepped off a plane in Tasmania.

James was going to meet Alec Campbell, the last living Anzac. The year was 2001.

On a cold winter’s day James and his dad stepped off a plane in Tasmania.

James was going to meet Alec Campbell, the last living Anzac. The year was 2001.

James and his dad travel to meet Alec Campbell, the last living Anzac. James is bubbling with questions about all sorts of aspects of war. He wants to know whether Campbell was injured, whether he was scared, what he and the other soldiers ate. Interspersed with the questions from James, the story of Alec Campbell’s war service is explored. Illustrations swap between the present and 1915, with the latter images shown either full page or surrounded by a border, a bit like an old photo. The last ‘present’ image, with Alec Campbell and James together is also presented as a photo, perhaps suggesting the lasting memory of their meeting.

The Last ANZAC is based on a true story of the meeting between James and Alec Campbell. It’s not easy to share the enormity of a war with young readers. Gordon Winch has put the reader in the story in the form of a character, James, who is about their age. This way James can ask the questions that a young reader might ask. Illustrations also present more information sure to generate more questions and opportunities for discussion either at home or in the classroom. ‘The Last ANZAC’ offers an introduction to WWI for early primary readers, showing them Gallipoli through the eyes of someone who was there. Endpapers include copies of wartime letters, postcards and envelopes.


The Last ANZAC, Gordon Winch ill Harriet Bailey New Frontier Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925059298

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Charles Bean's Gallipoli Illustrated, edited by Phillip Bradley

25 April 1915
12 Midnight: The ships have sailed from Lemnos. I have a cabin, the last in the passage, with a porthole opening onto the well deck. Outside on the deck, amongst all sorts of gear and under some of the horse boats to be used in landing, are some of the men of the 1st Battalion tucked into corners in their overcoats.
I must not oversleep – this night is too good to miss.

From the journey towards Gallipoli, through the landings, the terrible losses, the battles, and the evacuation, Charles Bean recorded the ANZAC experience at Gallipoli in extraordinary detail. Australia’s official war correspondent, he wrote and sent home newspaper articles, and also filled notebooks with copious diary entries. He went behind the lines across the peninsula, lived among the troops, and photographed what he saw. After the war he used his work as the starting point for Australia’s official war history.

From this extraordinarily detailed record of the war, this new offering diaries the eight months of the Gallipoli campaign. With notes from the editor, the text is stunningly illustrated with photographs from Bean’s collection and from the collections of others who were there, including the private collections of soldiers, bringing the campaign to life in startling detail.

A wonderful production to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the campaign in 2015.


Charles Bean's Gallipoli

Charles Bean’s Gallipoli, edited by Phillip Bradley
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781742371238

Available from good bookstores and online.

From the Trenches: The Best Anzac Writing of World War One, edited by Mark Dapin

Under a grey October sky
The little squads that drill
Click arms and legs mechanically,
Emptied of ragged will!

Of ragged will that frets the sky
From crags just ragged Pines,
a wayward immortality,
That flies from Death’s trim lines. (Walter J Turner)

Many books have been written about the experiences of Australians and New Zealanders at war, but From the Trenches offers a book now just about those who served, but also written by them, in the form of a collection of writings from World War One. Including poetry, letters, diary entries and recounts, the books serves as a reminder of the very human face of the war, its toll on those who fought and served, and its impact on all Australians and New Zealanders.

Grouped chronologically and geographically from the time of joining up, to Gallipoli, the Middle East and Western Front and beyond, to epitaphs and the time beyond returning home, the writings range from the intensely personal, to the reportage of the facts and even to humour. Readers could choose to read the book cover to cover, but equally could dip into readings.

Suitable for history buffs, lovers of literature and more, From the Trenches offers a touching, accessible insight into the times.


Book Cover:  From the Trenches: the best ANZAC writing of World War One

From the Trenches: The Best ANZAC Writing of World War One, edited by Mark Dapin
Penguin, 2013
ISBN 9780670077816

Available from good bookstores and online.

Gallipoli, by Alan Tucker

The attack has been timed to the minute. Thirty minutes from now we’ll climb down the rope ladders into the lighters and find our seat. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve been chosen as one of the 500 men from my battalion who will be in the first wave to land. The Turks won’t know what’s hit them…

Victor Marsh longs for adventure. Not looking forward to a a career as an underground miner, he jumps at the chance to enlist and fight for his country – even though, at just 14 years of age, he has to lie to be able to enlist. Soon, with his new friends Fish, Needle and Robbo, he is trained and sailing for Egypt then on to Gallipoli where, over eight torrid months, he fights not just for his country, but for survival, learning just what war really means, the value of friendship, and just how much courage is needed to carry on.

Gallipoli , part of Scholastic’s My Australian Story records the events of 1915 from the first person perspective of a young soldier, through diary format and the letters he sends to and receives from his mother. Whilst the story is not new, this diary format and the young age of the protagonist, allows the child reader an insight into the realities of the Gallipoli campaign and of war in general. The sub plot of Victor’s ‘gut’ friend Hans, an elderly family friend who, because he is German, is interned for the duration of the war, adds an element which may be less familiar to young readers, and a story which needs to be told.

A valuable educational tool but also simply an absorbing story.

Gallipoli (My Australian Story)

Gallipoli , by Alan Tucker
Scholastic, 2013
ISBN 9781742836935

Available from good bookstores or online.

Lone Pine, by Susie Brown & Margaret Warner

Lone Pine is a touching reminder of the events of Lone Pine, and of the true story of how a mother commemorated her lost son, and all who fell in that battle. It is also a reminder of the personal and national impact of war.

The soldier slips the pine cone into his pocket. It is a reminder of this sad day.
Then he keeps searching for his brother.

As he searches for his brother on the battlefield after the Battle of Lone Pine, a soldier finds a pine cone. He pockets it, and later sends it home to his mother. Bereft at the loss of one of her boys, the mother plants seeds from the cone, two of which grow into saplings. Determined to help people remember the Battle and the soldiers who died, she sends one tree to Inverell, where her sons grew up, and the other to Canberra. Nearly 100 years later one of those trees still survives in Canberra. In Inverell, a tree planted from the seeds of the first grows.

Lone Pine is a touching reminder of the events of Lone Pine, and of the true story of how a mother commemorated her lost son, and all who fell in that battle. It is also a reminder of the personal and national impact of war. The story manages a gentle balance between the horror of war, the sorrow of those left behind and the importance of remembering, and the illustrations, in chiefly sombre tones mirror the serious nature of the topic, with lovely touches of light offering hope, especially in th beautiful final spread showing the tree which has weathered many storms to survive. This spread is also used as a lovely contrast to the opening spread which shows the tree against a black stormy sky being thrashed by a storm. Back of book notes offer information about the battle, the trees and the family on which the story is based.

A beautiful story, suitable for classroom or private reading.
Lone Pine

Lone Pine, by Susie Brown & Margaret Warner, illustrated by Sebastian Ciaffaglione
Little Hare 2012
ISBN 9781921541346

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Quinn's Post, by Peter Stanley

Whilst there are many, many books available about Gallipoli – the campaigns fought there, the men who fought them and the impact they had on the course of Australia’s history – this latest book offers a different perspective, by focussing on the Gallipoli campaign as it played out at Quinn’s Post, a tiny patch of ground on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Quinn’s Post is a name which many Australians will be familiar with, but few know much about it or understand why it is famous. Historian Peter Stanley attempts to remedy that situation by providing a unique insight into the history of the post. Rather than presenting a chronology of facts, Stanley’s emphasis is on the stories of the men who fought at Quinn’s, with individual accounts woven into every page of the text .

This is an accessible history, with plenty of human interest and language that laymen can understand. It is not, however, either simplistic or idealistic – Stanley recounts the events frankly, and using personal accounts adds to that honesty.

Quinn’s Post is a fascinating read.

Quinn’s Post, by Peter Stanley
Allen & Unwin, 2005