Reviewed by Rama Gaind.
By Lucas Jordan, Vintage Books, $34.99.
It’s his first book, but history teacher Lucas Jordan has produced a remarkable record: painting vibrant images of World War I – from the perspective of frontline soldiers.
What’s even more noteworthy is Stealth Raiders is adapted from his PhD thesis and is supervised by award-winning historians Professor Bill Gammage and Dr Peter Stanley.
It brings to life the outposts of 1918, through the diaries and letters of the men closest to the enemy. It unveils the success of these stealth raids and the Australian larrikins who participated in them.
As Jordan points out at the start: “The enduring images of the First World War are of trenches, barbed wire, machine guns, shellfire and mud, images intimately connected with the battles of the Somme in 1916 and Flanders in 1917”.
However, during the crucial summer of 1918, battles were fought on rolling farmlands. This change in landscape, with its open fronts, foiled the allies’ existing tactics. In response, a few daring men instigated what would be one of the most impressive gambits of the Great War – stealth raids.
Jordan then goes on to tell the story of Australian diggers who earned notoriety through their unorthodox and highly successful combat methods in this new terrain.
It throws new light and provides a much deeper understanding of the Australian achievement in 1918.
The period covered in this book – from 13 April 1918 to 18 September 1918 – is as the Australians made their penultimate advance in the Aisne.
“… a few daring Australians attacked enemy posts without orders, often in daylight and with only the weapons in their posts, and from July 1918 onwards schooled others in the British Army in their methods.” These men are called stealth raiders in this book.