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, edited by Phillip Bradley
Allen & Unwin, 2014
Available from good bookstores and online.
The Victoria Cross (VC) is only ever awarded in times of war to people who risk their own lives to save others – the most heroic act imaginable. This is why the Victoria Cross is held in such high esteem.
The Victoria Cross is not given out lightly. Only ninety-nine Australians, of the one and a half million who have fought in wars, have been awarded the honour, twenty-six of them posthumously. So, whilst most adults would know about the award, it is important that its significance, and the actions of its recipients, are explained to younger Australians.
For Valour, subtitled Australia’s Victoria Cross Heroes is a useful tool in doing both of those things. Beginning with an explanation of the award, its significance and history and even its deign, the book then moves though the major conflicts in which Australians have fought, and shares the stories of selected VC recipients. Other recipients are listed. There is also a brief explanation of each conflict outlining its origins, locations, and Australia’s involvement.
Text is accessible, and explanations are child-friendly but not sanitised. Illustration is by way of historical photographs.
A useful resource for exploring an important topic.
For Valour, by Nicolas Brasch
Black Dog, 2013
Available from good bookstores or online.
Whilst this is a historical text and, as such, necessarily documents dates, places and details of campaigns, it is also a very human account, with Rees making extensive use of letters, diaries, memoirs and interviews to tell the stories using the words of men (and, occasionally, women) who were there.
The two World Wars were just a generation apart. It was not uncommon to find sons following fathers to fight, like them, in the desert. To some observers the Australians were madmen; others thought they treated war as a bit of a lark. But there there is no doubt that the Australians as soldiers won respect.
Of the many stories told of Australians’ involvement in the two World Wars, there seem to be fewer about their battles in the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East than about Europe, the Pacific and, of course, Gallipoli. Whilst some famous actions are well documented -such as the siege of Tobruk – others are relatively unknown. In Desert Boys author Peter Rees redresses this imbalance by focussing on the stories of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought in the desert campaigns of the two wars, providing a detailed and moving account of their actions.
Whilst this is a historical text and, as such, necessarily documents dates, places and details of campaigns, it is also a very human account, with Rees making extensive use of letters, diaries, memoirs and interviews to tell the stories using the words of men (and, occasionally, women) who were there. It is this that really takes the reader into the midst of the action and of its very rel human toll, with final letters home, recounts of key events, amazing stories of survival and equally moving tales of those who did not survive.
At over 700 pages in length, including notes and acknowledgements, this weighty offering is a must for lovers of military history and inspiring for any reader.
An Excerpt From a Letter
The weather is getting very hot here now and between the flies in the daytime and mosquitoes and several other insect pests at night a fellow gets a fairly lively tmie of it. I thinka ll the plagues of pharoah’s time are still here. We killed a couple of snakes just outside out tent a couple of nights ago and talk about dogs, there are thousands of the mongrels here of every size and colour. It is quite a common thing to wake up in the night with a great big mongrel dog sniffing in a fellow’s ear, but there are not so many lately as they make good targets to practise on. Frank Willis, 1916
Desert Boys: Australians at War from Beersheba to Tobruk and El Alamein, by Peter Rees
Allen & Unwin, 2011
This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
More than just a record of the battles in which Australia and Australians have been involved, The Encycopaedia of Australia’s Battles, provides an intresting insight into Australia’s history as a whole.
As well as detailing the many battles Australians have joined on war fields overseas, the book details the many battles fought on Australian soil in the two hundred years since white settlement. These include battles fought between European settlers and Aboriginals resisting colonization and battles such as those on the goldfields, including the Eureka Stockade.
The book includes chronological entries of over 300 battles in which Australians or Australian troops have been involved – at sea, in the air and on the ground. Each entry provides the date and location, the main units and commanders involved and an account of the course of the battle. ENtries are illustrated with maps, drawings and photographs.
The author, historian Chris Coulthard-Clark is an expert in Australian defence history. A graduate of Duntroon and the Australian Defence Force Academy, he has worked as a government policy analyst, historical consultant and a research editor.
The Encyclopaedia of Australia’s Battles is an outstanding resource for historians, writers, teachers, and anyone with an interest in Australian history.
The Encyclopaedia of Australia’s Battles, by Chris Coulthard-Clark
Allen & Unwin, 2001