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5.0 out of 5 starsA tribute to our heroes.
Reviewed in the United States on April 30, 2017
A very clear and eye opening first hand recording of events in WWI.
5.0 out of 5 starsA gripping introduction to the Australian World War 1 experience!
Reviewed in the United States on March 16, 2014
4½ stars. The best Australian WW1 account I've read so far.
This one is apparently only offered as an audiobook read by the author (at least in the US). The author, Andrew Dunkley, is the grandson of Stan Dunkley and wrote this narrative based on his grandfather's experience as a Lewis Gun squaddie in the last two years of World War 1 in the 18th Battalion of the 2nd Australian Division. Andrew Dunkley is an Aussie broadcast journalist so that coupled with the fact that this is not a straight memoir written by Stan makes this a very well written/produced account of trench warfare!
Dunkley joins the AIF at the age of seventeen against his fathers' wishes. He eventually heads to England where he undergoes more training as a Lewis gun squaddie and briefly trains as a medic, though he supposedly doesn't perform as one until the end of his combat career. After a few hold-ups, he finds himself in France and Belgium in the fall of 1917. Dunkley and his fellow soldiers are eased into combat but when they are at the front, they start undergoing all of the horrors of trench warfare - shelling, gas attacks, lice, disease, the terrible elements and a close yet unknowable foe only popping up for milliseconds to look across no-man's land. As the title suggests, Dunkley's life is consumed by mud, a material that evolves and changes into many different miserable forms as the autumn weather changes to winter and then to spring/summer in 1918. Despite this miserable environment, Dunkley talks of many positive things, mostly his strong bonds forged with his fellow soldiers.
Though Dunkley is at first general with the combat when first arriving to the front, his experience becomes more and more involved, going on patrols, making large company/brigade-size advancements and skirmishing frequently with the enemy. Dunkley is open and explicit on his own actions, which range from rifle/grenade duels to hand-to-hand combat to spotting for the Lewis gunner of his squad. He also details (and later even dresses) wounds that are accumulated by other soldiers and this aspect of the war is not toned down.
The writing is very modern, which is understandable and probably why the book was so engaging and accessible to me, especially as an American, unfamiliar with the Australian role in WW1. At times this has its hiccups, for example, adrenaline rushes are mentioned, something that wasn't well known to the early 1900s Australian soldier (for all I know). But that's the most irksome anachronism, to be honest, and the concept of having a rush from battle was a well-known phenomena, just I doubt soldiers were aware of the physiological terminology of the feeling.
But I digress. At the end of the book, Andrew Dunkley gives a brief biography and brief overview of how he pieced together this account and it seems he followed the same process as the authors of SHIFTY'S WAR and FIGHTING WITH THE FILTHY THIRTEEN. However those two works are also based on conducted interviews with the soldiers they are written for while this account is mostly based on some notes written by Stan, his letters home, stories told to Andrew and his family by Stan when he was alive and battalion histories and diaries of other soldiers the the same formation as Stan.
Still! A great combat account, vivid and well delivered/written - definitely one of my favorite WW1 accounts, so that makes this a 4½ stars memoir! Also, there are some mentions of another soldier named Joe Maxwell, an officer who won the Victoria Cross and served in the 18th Brigade with Stan. Maxwell has a memoir that I hope to read soon entitled, HELL'S BELLS AND MADEMOISELLES.
5.0 out of 5 starsThis book is one of the best I have read relating to Astralians in the great ...
Reviewed in Australia on November 30, 2016
A well written and very beliveable story of Andrew's grandfather. What these blokes went through is unbeliveable. This book is one of the best I have read relating to Astralians in the great war. Definitely worth the read and definitely 5 stars.