Gallipoli has a particular importance for Antipodeans. 25 April is our Remembrance Day, a national holiday, when flags are raised and lowered, services held and the war dead from all conflicts are honoured for their sacrifice. Even today, 100 years later, most young New Zealanders in Europe on their ‘overseas experience’ will visit Gallipoli, gaze on Suvla Bay and reflect. This year for the centenary the interest in attending the ANZAC day service at Gallipoli was so great that over 10,000 people applied for the 1,900 places allocated to New Zealanders and a public ballot was held to assign tickets.
Unsurprisingly, in the bookshop our Gallipoli shelf is mushrooming. Peter Hart’s Gallipoli is a good place to start to gain an overview of this tragic conflict. For an alternative view, Edward Erickson’s Gallipoli: the Ottoman campaign provides a closer examination of the opposing forces.
Pen and Sword’s Dispatches from the Front is a really interesting series which reproduces the official communications written at the time by the men on the ground. Clearly the very nature of the documents colours what is or isn’t included, and an official report is very far from the whole story. Nevertheless these provide a fascinating read. The volume Gallipoli and the Dardenelles includes all the dispatches sent by General Sir Iain Hamilton, the Commander of the Allied Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, a man who simply refused to accept that his operation was flawed from the outset and who continued to maintain that victory was possible despite the tragic reality unfolding before his eyes. Contrast this with the view of the men on the ground provided by Richard Van Emden and Stephen Chambers’ Gallipoli. (I know, every single one of these books is titled Gallipoli – if you want to retrieve a particular title make a note of the author.) Van Emden takes extracts from the diaries, letters and reports of the men who served and arranges them into a coherent account which because it uses the words of the men themselves manages to convey the emotional landscape of the conflict. This particular edition is movingly illustrated with over 150 sepia photographs, many never published before. Continue reading »