26 September 2023

The Anzacs

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Patsy Adam-Smith, Penguin Books, $12.99.

The Anzacs remains unrivalled as the classic account of Australia’s involvement in the First World War. Gallipoli was the final resting place for thousands of young Australians.

On Anzac Day, we do honour the service and sacrifice of all our past and present Australian service men and women.

Death struck so fast there was no time for escape or burial. And when Gallipoli was over there was the misery of the European Campaign. Patsy Adam-Smith read over 8,000 diaries and letters to write her acclaimed best-seller. These are the extraordinary experiences of ordinary people — and they strike to the heart. To put it simply, the years have not diminished the recollections of ‘lost comrades and the horrors of war’.

Arguably unequalled as the definitive version, Patsy’s commended best-seller recounts experiences that are an assault on the senses. This award-winning account of the men who gave birth to the Anzac legend is of ordinary men who have participated in some exceptional encounters. Peel away the surface shine and learn to handle the realities of combat since warfare is ‘hell’.

Patsy puts forward a valid point about looking at the bigger picture: “… in our attempt to denigrate it, to outlaw it, we must remember not to castigate the victims of war — and every man who fights is a victim. We must remember that the hand that holds the weapon is not he who plans or benefits from the battle”.

Certain information she’s gathered is not meant to hurt or embarrass those who took part in the war. The Anzacs is not your average military history, but as Gallipoli was the final resting place for thousands of young Australians, it doesn’t lessen the immortality that the men’s endurance made legendary.

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