With To Hell and Back, historians Susanna and Jake De Vries shed new light on Sydney Loch, author of the acclaimed The Straits Impregnable, a firsthand account of the horrors he endured as a soldier in Gallipoli originally released in 1917 but pulled from the shelves shortly thereafter by military censors due to its raw, unflattering depiction of the bloody conflict.
Shane Nagle’s inviting tone and distinguished performance does justice both to De Vris’ revelatory biography of Loch, and the original text of Straits, which is included in full in this must-listen for military history buffs.
Sydney Loch's experiences in the war shaped his life afterwards. With his wife, Joice, he went on to work in refugee camps in Poland and Palestine and his many subsequent book set in war-torn countries reflected his humanitarian beliefs.
In To Hell and Back historians Susanna and Jake de Vries have recovered and edited Sydney's book for a new generation of readers and listeners and have written a biography of his remarkable life.
Sydney Loch was a runner in an artillery brigade, and so was necessarily out on the edges of the action most of the time. Unlike a soldier in the infantry, Sydney Loch's unit and role meant he had few frontline experiences with any close mates, so his account is somewhat detached compared to those of a typical infantry digger. His role, though, meant he had frequent contact with officers, as well as awareness of media reports and information describing the broader theatre. This makes for an interesting, and quite engaging, account of a Gallipoli eyewitness who is able to articulate what he sees in a context that wouldn't normally be available to a soldier on the frontline.
The full presentation of To Hell and Back is somewhat compromised by the inclusion of a biography of Sydney Loch that seems to concentrate excessively on his romantic exploits and is altogether much less interesting than Loch's own writing. The narration, while conveying a broad range of characters quite well, occasionally irritates with too much moisture on the palate.
For Sydney Loch's own account (and with a moisture-less narration), I would have given it 5-stars for its entertaining and engaging narrative. Despite not being a "typical digger's story", it is none-the-less still a worthwhile account of Gallipoli and one worth listening to.
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