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Book DetailsISBN: 9780731813551
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Book Review: Gallipoli Diaries: The Anzacs' Own Story Day by Day by Jonathan King - Reviewed by ausross (07 Jan 2011)
Jonathon King's preface nicely sets the tone as an introduction to this book. Some years ago he interviewed the few remaining survivors of the first AIF, for a documentary, The Last Anzacs. From that grew a desire to record more of the Gallipoli story in the words of the men themselves, from diaries and letters held by the Australian War Memorial, other institutions and in private collections.
Good, assessable history features people, making it a living thing. It is hard to see how much more personalised a book can be than to tell the story straight from the words of the actual participants.
A problem with this approach, something regularly commented on by Charles Bean in developing Australia's World War 1 Official Histories, is that the man in the trench does not always get the facts right. His view is limited to what he can see and experience, plus what he hears from others - the infamous furphy. King has been careful to place things in context, avoiding this trap Bean warned of.
Diary entries and letters come from the very top, General Sir Ian Hamilton, down to privates huddled in places like the trenches at Lone Pine.
A real story unfolds, showing young men being rapidly sobered by the horrors of what turns out to be a nasty war. Yet their naivety also comes through, complaining of Turkish artillery, little realising how very much worse it was going to be on the Western Front.
Some of the writers were naturally better than others in their expression, the description. Captain Bill Knox, an articulate captain in the artillery, becomes an interesting case study in how he was changed during the experience, ultimately railing against senior officers, declaring he was in danger of becoming a Socialist.
In all the hyperbole that all too often surrounds the Australians and New Zealanders in the Dardanelles, it is refreshing to read what the actual participants thought.
Highly recommended reading for anyone wanting to know the real story of our troops at Gallipoli.
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