Gallipoli, by Peter FitzSimons (Random House, RRP $57)
Sydney Morning Herald journalist Peter FitzSimons takes readers into the heart of the chaotic and devastating Gallipoli campaign in this insightful and comprehensive book.
On 25 April 1915, Allied forces landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in present-day Turkey to secure the sea route between Britain and France in the west and Russia in the east. After eight months of terrible fighting, they would fail.
Turkey regards the victory to this day as a defining moment in its history, a heroic last stand in the defence of the nation’s Ottoman Empire. But, counter-intuitively, it would signify something perhaps even greater for the defeated Australians and New Zealanders involved: the birth of their countries’ sense of nationhood.
Every Anzac Day, increasing crowds at services around the country show just how important this day is in the minds and hearts of Kiwis.
As the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign approaches, the facts of the battle are often forgotten or overlooked. In the scheme of things, it was minor when compared to the scale of World War I: fewer than a sixth of the Australian deaths on the Western Front, in fact. However, that is still too many deaths.
The execution of the campaign was flawed, which meant the allied troops were forced to evacuate in the darkness, and nearly 44,000 allies died. There were also 86,000 Turkish deaths.
The book focuses on the Australian soldiers involved in the campaign but the New Zealand contingent is also covered.
FitzSimons has written more than 20 books and is Australia’s biggest-selling non-fiction author of the past ten years. He has done a cracking job of telling the story of this tragic campaign in an engaging manner that is as detailed on facts as it is on emotion, leaving the reader feeling both proud and sad.