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.
Now approaching its centenary, the Gallipoli campaign, commemorated each year on Anzac Day, reverberates with importance as the origin and symbol of Australian and New Zealand identity. As such, the facts of the battle – which was minor against the scale of the First World War and cost less than a sixth of the Australian deaths on the Western Front – are often forgotten or obscured. Peter FitzSimons, with his trademark vibrancy and expert melding of writing and research, recreates the disaster as experienced by those who endured it or perished in the attempt.
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Like Lambs to the Slaughter
I don't normally listen to books over 20 hours in length because I find myself losing interest. Not the case with this book. I finished it over a five day period and found myself disappointed that it was over. It is an incredible story, Sure, there have been tons of books on this campaign, but I found this one to be among the best. The author did an excellent job working personal accounts in with the overall history. I also enjoyed the Ottoman perspective as well. It gave a much richer picture of what happened.
One of my favorite individuals in this tale, surprisingly, was Mustafa Kemal (later to be known as Ataturk). His statement to his men "I am not ordering you to attack. I am ordering you to die" should go down in history as one of the greatest quotes of all time. He seemed to know exactly what to do at decisive points in the battle, unlike some of the Allied Commanders.
The author's description of Cairo and its environs is rich indeed and one could close their eyes and imagine themselves there as the narrator describes it. Great non-fiction should, like great fiction, be able to paint a picture of what is going on. The author definitely accomplishes that. Perhaps that is why some of the best history is written by journalists rather than historians. The former know how to tell a story.
If you have even a casual interest in The Great War, get this book. Today.
Must read for every Anzac descendant