Category Archives: ANZAC

‘Best We Forget: The War for White Australia 1914-1918’

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2018, 272p

There are some books whose time has come, and I think that Peter Cochrane’s latest book falls into that category. Released by Text – a general publisher as distinct from an academic one – it comes at the end of a five-year tsunami of books and features about World War I and our ‘birth as a nation’ and ‘ANZAC character’.  These tropes have been pushed very heavily by governments, particularly (but not exclusively) by the present conservative government. But in this book, with its cleverly twisted title, Cochrane argues that the seeds of Australia’s involvement in World War I began in the half-century before 1914, when a self-governing and increasingly prosperous Australia began to feel the chill of its geographical location so far from ‘mother’ England, and the ominous size of the Asian populations that surround this island nation. It’s almost impossible to read this book today without a consciousness that, with the rise of China in the 21st century and the United States led by an erratic president, there is much in common between us today and the politicians and leaders of 1914.

Cochrane’s  book starts and finishes with a discussion of myth-making. Much of the popular ‘birth of a nation’, ‘mateship’ and ‘ANZAC character’ rhetoric springs from the writings of war-correspondent Charles Bean. But as Cochrane points out, Bean had been developing his argument that the Australian was a new type ‘hammered out of old stock’ and imbued with all the qualities necessary for military greatness, particularly mateship, long before World War I (p.7).  The true ‘Australian native’ was a clean man, a cleanness found ‘in the blood’ of the Anglo-Saxon race. He took this mental template with him to his WWI reporting and to his magisterial The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 which shaped Australia’s view of WWI for decades after. As he notes in his closing chapter, Bean’s characterization has strongly influenced popular memory, most particularly the shock jocks, right-wing politicians and allied intellectuals (and I would add, ambitious Directors of the Australian War Memorial as well) ever since.

But, Cochrane argues, this is not the whole story. It’s a rather uncomfortable fact that the first issue that the newly federated Commonwealth of Australia dealt with in Parliament was the Immigration Restriction Act, more popularly known as the White Australia policy.  Australia had passed race-based legislation right from the 1850s, in response to Chinese migration, and in 1901 as its opening act, it reasserted its identity as a ‘white man’s country’. This could be, and was, framed as an pledge of loyalty to the British Empire, but Britain for her part, by now had her own strategic interests in encouraging and protecting her relationship with Japan instead.  And as Germany became more bellicose and Europe more volatile, Britain proposed outsourcing responsibility for the security of the Indian Pacific to Japan – Japan!!- as a well-resourced ally instead. Cochrane argues that Australia’s willingness to fight in Europe was a way of proving our loyalty to Britain, to whom we were tied by race and culture, and leveraging that loyalty to ensure that Britain continued to look to the interests of her daughter Australia, and not the new ally, Japan.

As Cochrane argues

…this idea of Australia as an Anglo-Saxon citadel, the last bastion of the purest and finest white blood, entirely ‘clean’, shaped defence thinking in Australia from the late colonial period onwards, in company with the fear that Australia might be left to fight an Asian invader alone. More importantly, this fear was the strategic concern behind Australia’s commitment to the First World War. The primary objective, of course, was the defeat of Germany, the survival of Britain and the empire, and the maintenance of those strategic, economic and sentimental ties that most Australians cherished. But most Australians also cherished their racial purity and that too was at stake, or so it seemed in the years before the war and during the war itself. (p. 9)

We are uncomfortable with the Immigration Restriction Act today, but at the time Australian politicians on all sides – liberals, conservatives, labour interests- saw racial purity as fundamental to upward progress of this newly federated nation.

The White Australia policy was not merely about keeping other types out. It was a desirable end in itself, racial homogeneity being a precondition for social reform and a high standard of living, for the constitutional vigour of the race, the high ideals, the upward evolutionary trajectory associated with the new Commonwealth. There was a vast reservoir of emotional investment in the coming nation.  ‘Race pollution’ was akin to ruin, while race purity was embraced as a positive ideal, the indispensible prerequisite for the principles on which white Australian social and political life was based. (p.46)

Cochrane’s book traces through the increasing anxiety from the 1870s onwards as Europeans moved into the South Pacific, evoking fears that a foreign power such as France, Germany or Russia might use Pacific islands as a launching pad for attacks, or worse – invasion, of Australia. British garrison troops were withdrawn from Australia in 1870, and Britain remained largely unmoved by Australian pleas to annex New Guinea, the New Hebrides, and the Solomons, as they had done with Fiji. Britain by this time was more concerned with European stability. Australia’s fear of Asiatic races was long established, burnished by the veneer of Social Darwinism.  The Anglo-Japanese commercial treaty of 1894 gave Japan, a powerful nation state with its own imperialist visions, honorary membership of ‘civilized Europe’ (p.41)  This set up an immediate conflict between the new Commonwealth of Australia, which saw itself as the last citadel of Anglo-Saxon race purity in the Pacific, and Great Britain which wanted its ally and business partner Japan exempted from the Immigration Restriction Act.

This anxiety over Japan explains Australia’s willingness to expand its military preparedness prior to World War I, introducing its civilian military scheme, and its panting readiness to assist Britain as a show of good faith. It’s as if Australia were the jilted child, jealous and edgy when a new adopted child is showered with favours. There is a strong sense that Australia was being ‘played’ by Britain.  While not sanitizing Billy Hughes as such, the book does make sense – if you accept the White Australia premise- of Hughes’ desire to introduce conscription to keep the troop numbers up, in order to bolster Australia’s position in the Pacific in the post-war carve-up at Versailles.

At the domestic level, politicians made no secret at all of the anxiety over Japan and Asia. It’s right there in their speeches, alongside fear of Germany and distress over Belgium. It was voiced on all political sides, and often. Cochrane doesn’t have to look hard to find examples, although just a quick survey of the newspapers of the time on Trove highlights that Germany was portrayed as the more potent foe. As with other histories that pack a punch, once a historian has alerted the reader to a phenomenon, it suddenly seems to be everywhere, hidden in plain sight. There seemed to be no embarrassment about proclaiming and defending whiteness and ‘cleanliness’ at the political level. However Cochrane does not conflate this political rhetoric at a national level, with the personal motivation that an individual soldier might have felt to enlist.

Cochrane does not deny the potency of the other spurs to military action, like fear of Germany and disgust over Belgium, but he does raise the question over why the anti-Asiatic rhetoric has been expunged from our popular memory of World War I.  This is a theme that he returns in the final chapter of the book, especially in the light of the Centenary of WWI:

Best We Forget is an ironic title. We do well to remember the Great War: the battlefield ordeals and the soldiers’ sacrifice. Yet, in the course of bringing a nation into being and fostering it to maturity, sacrifice takes many forms. We might also remember that nations are built as much in peace as in war; negotiators and conciliators count as much as warriors; inventors and visionaries have shaped Australia’s evolution as least as decisively as have the great generals; and, thankfully, debate and compromise have done more to shape our political culture than have the bayonet or the gun. (p. 229)

I think that, especially coming at the end of a long period of historical reflection, this book will be a stayer. Once alerted to the anti-Asian racism that underpins much of Australia’s war rhetoric, you can’t unsee it.  Nor can you sing ‘Advance Australia Fair’, written in 1878, without remembering that the word ‘fair’ can  (and at the time, did) have racial overtones.

This is an important book, well written as all of Cochrane’s work is, accessible and controversial. It places the war within a continuum of Australian history, rather than as a purely external disruptive event, and forces us to expand our view of ‘loyalty to the Empire’ to encompass uncomfortable truths.  Perhaps it’s not so much ‘Best to Forget’ but certainly ‘Best to Recognize’.

Sourced from: Yarra Plenty Regional Library

My rating: 9/10

 

 

‘The Crying Years: Australia’s Great War’ by Peter Stanley

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2017, 239 p. & notes

It’s a rather touching thought that even a historian as steeped in knowledge of World War I as military/social historian Peter Stanley could be inspired by a cache of Great War images.  After all, his thirty five year career spawned thirty publications, he worked at the Australian War Memorial for 27 years and has been involved in many of the debates about Australia’s military heritage.  But, as he explains in the introduction, he was introduced to a collection of images – many of which he had never seen before- in a talk given to the Canberra Great War Study Group by Nicola Mackay-Sim, the Pictures Curator at the National Library of Australia in 2012. The NLA featured many of those images in its Keepsakes exhibition in 2015, but this book, The Crying Years is not, as Stanley is at pains to point out, a catalogue of that exhibition.  Instead, this book that Stanley wrote in conjunction with the  NLA, draws on other images and artefacts held by the National Library of Australia and integrates them into an informed and nuanced chronological account of the Great War seen through the eyes of Australians as

civilians and soldiers, men and women, adults and children, rich and poor, pro- and anti- conscription, powerful and powerless, white and black, at home and overseas. (p.vi)

By widening the lens in this way, Stanley is arguing that the popular idea that the war can be equated with the AIF’s part is “egregiously mistaken” (p.vii). You’ve seen the shelves of such weighty paperback books that see the war solely in terms of men and battles overseas,( probably moved closer to the front of the store for Father’s Day), where the name of the male author is as big as the particular wartime battle that he’s choosing to focus on.  Instead, Stanley is one of several prominent historians, who under the Honest History umbrella, promote the precept of ‘not only, but also’.  The Honest History website proclaims that “Australia is more than ANZAC, and always has been”. Likewise, the Great War is more than men and battles, and it was here in Australia as well as overseas, and this approach underpins this book.

The book is arranged in six chapters, one for each year of the war.  He includes 1919, and extends beyond that year to touch on the soldier settlement schemes and ANZAC commemoration in succeeding years.  This approach is similar to Joan Beaumont’s Broken Nation, and indeed this book forms an excellent illustrated companion to Beaumont’s book.  Not only does a year-by-year structure emphasize the length of the war, but it also captures the emotional swells of the wartime experience as the news from the front filtered ‘home’ and the media and organs of power acted in concert to promulgate ‘unity’ in patriotism.  The tenor of the text closely follows the lines of Stanley’s section of The War at Home, in an even more accessible  format.

The text weaves between images of photographs, maps, letters, cartoons, newspaper articles, posters, artwork and ephemera, with bracketed numbers directing the reader to the image on that or the succeeding page.  In coffee-table books like this one (although the designation ‘coffee-table’ seems terribly inappropriate) the text and images often can become separated, but in The Crying Years the connection is maintained well.

There are breakout boxes that focus on some 28 Australian individuals who lived at the time, and whose affairs were affected by the Great War to varying degrees.  Walter and Marian Griffin’s vision of Canberra, for example, was challenged by the Government’s focus on the war and German internees; Sir John Hubert Murray was administrator in Papua; Justice Henry Bournes Higgins (of the Harvester case) was grief-stricken when his son was killed in Sinai in 1916 at the age of 29; the ‘bohemian’ writer Zora Cross wrote the poem ‘Elegy on an Australian Schoolboy’ after the death of her injured brother from the meningitis epidemic that swept the AIF, from which the ‘the crying years’ of the title for the book is taken.  Some of the people he has chosen seem rather tangential to the war, but this underlines his point that the war did not touch ‘every family’ directly (p. 182). Others selected for breakout treatment, like  ALP politician and anti-conscriptionist James Catts, demonstrate the complexities of political thought and allegiances of the time.

The quality, clarity and diversity of the images is impressive.  These are not your usual WWI warfront photos: instead, they are uncensored photographs taken by the soldiers themselves.  There are jarring photographs of the different manifestations of patriotism at home, like the Aboriginal children from the Point Pearce mission dressed up as ‘a Band of Loyal Workers’ as Japanese, nurses, policemen and sailors, brandishing a large Union Jack.  It is quite clear that not all men of fighting age enlisted, as the photograph of shearers playing two-up outside a shearing shed shows.  I have read about ‘button days’ as children and young women sold patriotic buttons as fundraisers, but I have never before seen such a variety of them.

This is a beautifully curated book, where the text is every bit as important as the images.  Even if you’ve decided to steer clear of all the World War I commemoration tsunami, you could read and look at just this one book alone and gain a nuanced, rounded and informed perspective on the war, not just on the front but in the suburbs and small towns of Australia as well.

Source: Review copy courtesy of NLA through Quikmark Media.

‘The War at Home’ by John Connor, Peter Stanley and Peter Yule

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2015, 240 p& notes

It might seem a bit strange, but I’m starting off this review at the very last chapter of this book, where Peter Stanley talks about a book that could well be seen as a forerunner of this present volume. That earlier book was Ernest Scott’s Australia During the War, published in 1936 as part of the twelve-volume Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, edited by Charles Bean. Having a volume devoted to the war at home as part of this huge undertaking was a bit of an afterthought, but Charles Bean was happy to accommodate it because it meant that he didn’t have to worry about all that political stuff happening back ‘at home’ in the volumes that he was writing. Historian Ernest Scott was brought in to write it after the first draft penned by the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald was felt to be lacking.  Although exhaustive, apparently it’s a very politics-based approach, penned as it was some five or so years before G.M. Trevelyan’s English Social History (1942) had suggested that a social history could be written ‘with the politics left out’.

So why am I talking about a book written 81 years ago? Like that earlier volume, The War at Home is written as part of a five-part series: in this case, the ‘Centenary History of Australia and the Great War’ by Oxford University Press.  The other four volumes all sound rather militaristic (Vol 1 Australia and the War in the Air; Vol 2 The War with the Ottoman Empire; Vol 3 The War with Germany; and Vol 5 The Australian Imperial Force) and they hold little appeal for me. But I’m preparing for a presentation in December on the conscription referendums from a very local (i.e. Heidelberg) perspective, and I’ve been enjoying the work that has been done in Melbourne this year related to Conscription (i.e. the Serenading Adela choir, and the Anti-Conscription conference I attended in May). I feared that this book might be full of Anzackery, but my fears were groundless. In fact one of the authors, historian Peter Stanley, admitted  -perhaps a little regretfully? – that his own work had contributed to the conventional interpretation of Australia’s Great War as a major and formative experience for both individuals and the nation.  The authors have deliberately chosen to talk of ‘the war at home’ rather than ‘the homefront’, which they explain was a term used at the time to talk about Germany, not Australia.

The book is divided into three parts, each denoted by a single word (Economy: Politics: Society) and written by a different historian. Within each of these themes, the chapters are arranged roughly chronologically. Part I, ‘Economics’ was written by Peter Yule and opens with ‘The Australian Economy in 1914’ and closes with ‘The Australian Economy in 1919′. I didn’t really expect to enjoy this section as much as I did, given my aversion to numbers, but I found it fascinating. He took some time to describe Billy Hughes’ actions  in trade negotiations- something that I hadn’t considered previously.  Nor had I wondered why all those bags of wheat were stacked up, being eaten by mice? (Answer: it was because Britain had ordered up all Australia’s wheat crop when it seemed that the Canadian crop would fail- and when it didn’t, they just left the wheat here rotting), or thought about why the Zinc industry became prominent in Tasmania in 1916? ( Answer: it was because a replacement needed to be found for the German supplies). This topic could be dry, but I liked the way that he interwove human stories into his analysis: the wealthy mining industrialists based in Collins House; the town of Warrnambool cheering the opening of the woollen mill; Leonard Dyer eking out an existence on a soldier settler farm in the Mallee.

Part II ‘Politics’ was written by John Connor, a historian whose work I’m not familiar with, I must admit. Although it is the most relevant section to my own Conscription Campaign project, it didn’t sparkle for me in the way that the other two parts did. This section followed the chronology of the war fairly closely, from the perspective of the different parties, exploring the personalities and political machinations that ran through WWI domestic politics. He spends considerable time on the conscription referendums, and the narrative is clear and insightful.

Part III ‘Society’ by Peter Stanley was organized thematically, with each chapter heading starting with a gerund (see…learning another language has been useful after all- who knew that there was such a thing as a gerund!)  e.g. ‘Cheering: Outbreak, Shots and Loyalty’, or ‘Understanding: Faith, Propaganda and Culture’. There is a chronological progression here too, moving from Cheering to Mobilizing to Enduring to Remembering etc. and within each theme there is a chronological progression as well. Although it doesn’t identify itself as such, this section is very much a history of the emotions of a community whose men are so far away fighting and I very much liked it.  I was surprised that by the end of this section, Stanley seemed to be distancing himself from the Capital Letter War approach that he, among many other military historians, had championed:

Even if the war is not interpreted as a great national epic, as Charles Bean’s official history portrayed it, it is seen as a great human drama, or as a great national and human tragedy. There is much to commend these views, and abundant evidence of how the war actually was a profound, tragic and deeply significant event  in both the life of individuals caught up in it and in the story of the nation, for which it represented a major – even a formative- experience. This is the conventional interpretation of Australia’s Great War (and I have myself contributed to creating it).

But there is another way of thinking of the experience of the Great War, without denying the power, the significance or the poignancy of the conventional interpretation. For many people, possibly even an actual majority, the war was neither a great personal tragedy nor an experience that shaped life for decades to come. For many- those who did not enlist, those who did not become involved, those whose immediate family did not enlist or did not return wounded, those whom the war passed by those who actively opposed it- the war was not central to their lives or their collective history. These people have been largely overlooked in the war’s historiography, which remains seriously skewed towards the drama of conflict; partly because the records of organized violence are better arranged and preserved. (p.228)

I very much enjoyed this book- far, far more than I expected I would. The chapters were short, mostly 8-9 pages in length, and the book was well illustrated. I’m sorry that in a field dominated by male historians, a female historian could not have joined the triumvirate. Although women are mentioned, especially in the third section, they tend to still tend to form an amorphous other, with a special section devoted to them in Section III under the chapter ‘Supporting’.  The book has footnotes but they are not obtrusive, and there’s an informative bibliographic chapter at the end which points out the most significant literature.  It seems to meet that sweet spot where it is engaging for the general reader, but with sufficient grunt and referenced support for the academic reader as well.

Sourced from: La Trobe University Library (yes, I’ve finally activated my alumni account there!)

My rating: 9/10

 

‘Refurbishing’ memorials

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The memorial in 2005 . Image source: Wikimedia

So, I see from a report in the Guardian (16/6/17) and on the Honest History website that the Ataturk memorial in Turkey is undergoing ‘refurbishment’.  Australians have often felt a warm inner glow when contemplating Ataturk’s words, previously emblazoned on the Ataturk memorial  at ANZAC Cove, Wellington and in Canberra:

Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives…
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly Country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land
They have become our sons as well

Except, as the Honest History website has been discussing for some time, there is real doubt whether Ataturk ever uttered these words at all.  I have always been impressed and surprised at the generosity of the Turkish government in accommodating the hordes of Australian and New Zealand tourists who flock to ANZAC Cove, although I’m sure that their tourist dollars are welcome. I can’t, however, see the generosity being reciprocated if the descendants of an invading force wanted to commemorate their battles on Australian land.

It will interesting to watch the politics of this- on both sides.

Recordings for ‘Democratic Opposition to War’ conference

You might remember that a fortnight ago I attended a conference hosted by the Brunswick-Coburg Anti Conscription Centenary people (among others).  When I hear about a conference that I would have liked to have attended, I’m always delighted when the presentations are put online afterwards. That’s the case with this conference, so if you thought it sounded good, have a listen yourself!

Details of the recordings can be found at

https://brunswickcoburganticonscription.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/recordings-democratic-opposition-to-war/

A book launch at Trades Hall

Tonight I went to the Melbourne launch of the The Conscription Conflict and the Great War, edited by Robin Archer, Joy Damousi, Murray Goot and Sean Scalmer.

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And who should be there to launch it than Bill Shorten, the ALP Leader of the Opposition, with a very fine speech. He started by drawing some parallels between Billy Hughes in 1916 with the present day…a new Prime Minister, unable to take his party along with him, who changed his mind on a political stance that twelve months ago he had vehemently attacked and who foisted onto the people an expensive opinion poll in the form of a referendum.  Sound familiar?

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While not at all disputing or undermining the recognition of the sacrifice at the front, he pointed out the international uniqueness of the referendum as a way of resolving the conscription question. In the setting of the oldest operating Trades Hall in the world, he noted that this was the geographic, political and emotional centre of the ‘no’ vote in  a debate that certainly did not exemplify the much-lauded ‘golden age of civility’. To the contrary, it was bitter, vindictive and spiteful and far worse than what passes for debate today.  It was really an excellent speech, (whether he wrote it himself or not) – I wish I’d taken notes- and it was very well-delivered. Excellent. [Update: here’s the speech]

He was followed by Robin Archer, one of the editors.  He emphasized that WWI was not, as has been promoted, a period of consensus.  Far from being ‘the birth of a nation’, there was already existing in Australia a precocious progressive environment. Nor was ‘mateship’ on the front a uniquely Australian phenomenon, even though the referendum was.

Then a couple of songs from the Trade Union choir, including Eric Bogle’s ‘The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ and ‘I Didn’t Raise My Son to Be a Soldier’.

Out into the twilight we went, stopping to admire the replica banners that adorn Trades Hall at the moment.  There’s a picture here of Trades Hall in 1917 festooned with banners.

And here’s the 2017 version:

And you’ll just have to wait for my review of the book!

‘Victoria at War 1914-1918’ by Michael McKernan

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2014, 221 p.

I always think it’s interesting when a writer returns after many years to something that they had created much, much earlier in their career, and takes up the topic again with the benefit of years of experience, reading, and later research.  This is the case in Michael McKernan’s book Victoria at War which was commissioned by the (then Liberal Party) Victorian Government of Victoria to mark the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign in 2015.  McKernan had written Australians at War over thirty years earlier (which I reviewed here), a book that had been reissued unchanged in 2014 albeit with the author’s own awareness of its inadequacies, but no major rewriting.

However, with this 2014 book, McKernan had the opportunity to revisit his earlier book, within the specific context of Victoria and in the wake of the deluge of World War I research that has been undertaken in recent years, especially leading up to the Gallipoli centenary.  Not only was the scope and purpose of the book different, but he himself as a historian and writer would have been influenced- as have most of us- by the trend of using smaller stories to tell larger ones and the emphasis on emotions.  I finished this book with a deep sense of what a good writer McKernan is; something that did not particularly strike me with the earlier, more utilitarian, book.

McKernan starts this history by reminding us that, at the time war was declared, Melbourne was the capital city of Australia.  The parliament sat  here; the governor lived here and the federal bureaucracy was based here.  This, perhaps combined with early twentieth century ‘liberalism’, may have contributed to  a deeper commitment to the war effort in Victoria than in other states- something McKernan hints out but does not state definitely. Certainly the school effort was strongest here, and Victoria did vote ‘yes’ at the first conscription referendum (alongside Western Australia and Tasmania) although it rejected it by a small majority in the second 1917 referendum.  Melbourne was also the home of Archbishop Mannix, the most prominent anti-conscription voice.

Although Victoria may be more closely settled than other Australian states, with the seat of political power based in  Melbourne, McKernan places much emphasis on small Victorian towns and the impact of enlistment on the emotional and economic life of small country towns.  In particular, he looks at Casterton as a microcosm.  He brings forward the stories of specific families where several sons enlisted, or where older men left several children.  There are urban vignettes as well, but it is probably the country ones that seem most plangent. He notes the role of the local clergy who were charged with delivering the telegrams bearing bad news, and your heart sinks at the thought of families receiving two, three, four such visits.

It hadn’t really occurred to me that battalions were broadly geographically based, most particularly the 14th Battalion.  He follows Victorian volunteers to the army camps surrounding Melbourne, most particularly Broadmeadows, and across to the theatre of war. His book does trace the progress, or lack thereof, of the Victorian battalions, but most particularly in regard to how the news was received back home.

He places much emphasis on the role of the Red Cross, which was organized through Government House, and for some reason I found this description of ‘comforts’ brought me to the verge of tears:

How a man living in the barbaric conditions of the dugouts of Anzac responded when he received a parcel from one of these groups can only be imagined.  His normal food was hardtack biscuits, bully beef and tea- when there was water available.  Imagine opening a parcel from the Red Cross or the Australian Comforts Fund, to find clean, hand-knitted socks, a couple of lice-free, for the moment anyway, pairs of underpants, a fruitcake, possibly some tobacco or cigarettes, some dried fruit and ‘sweeties’, and writing paper for a letter to the folks at home.  The love and commitment that was poured into these parcels would have provided, to even the hardest lag on the Gallipoli battlefield, the whiff of home and of peacetime civilities, the gentler ways of life. (p. 121)

This is a beautifully presented book.  The idea of a coffee-table WWI book seems a bit glib, but the beautiful layout of the book and the large, crystal clear photographs that adorn nearly every page are a form of tribute in themselves.   The end of each chapter is marked by a khaki-coloured,stand-alone reflection on an individual or a specific theme.  Most of all, this book is marked by its respect for individuals, some of whom we have encountered several times in various places throughout McKernan’s narrative.  Their sacrifice is noted with humility and a sense of shared humanity, but not ‘celebrated’ with chest-beating or overt sentimentality.  It is a mature, thoughtful, appropriate response.