Huge losses on Western Front remembered

The Western Front Diaries, by Jonathan King (Simon & Schuster, RRP $40):

When we think of Anzacs and war, for most of us our minds immediately go to Gallipoli but the Western Front campaign also had a huge impact for New Zealand and Australia.

Five times as many soldiers swerved on the Western Front than Gallipoli, five times as many died there and more than five times as many battles took place.

Australian author Jonathan King has written 25 books on his country’s history, including three on the Gallipoli campaign. This is his first on the Western Front, a part of the war that isn’t perhaps as well known. He has taken personal accounts, historical documents, letters and diaries and created something breathtakingly honest and moving.

The book’s timeline takes the reader through the whole terrifying and brutal campaign, battle by battle, with eyewitness stories giving colour to a war that marked the coming of age of the Anzac nations but also left a list of casualties that is almost unbelievable.

Don’t be put off by the fact this is penned by an Aussie historical writer: King has made this a comprehensive account of the miserable conditions, bravery, camaraderie, fear and loyalty that marked this time in our nation’s history.

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