“Australians on the Western Front 1918” by David W. Cameron
Thursday 26 apr 2018
As a student and daughter of two veterans, I was fascinated by history. Despite my enthusiasm for learning about times gone by, I found my school textbooks to be dry and tedious. These sterile accounts of battles, campaigns and events were basically dot points and timelines with no real filling. The Australian soldiers were of critical support in the battles of Dernacourt, Villers-Bretonneux and Hazebrouck, but how did they feel? How did the French react? What was life like for these men? How did they talk? What was important to them? All of the questions I had gone unanswered until I picked up David W. Cameron’s “Australians on the Western Front 1918”.
Honestly, this is what my high school textbooks should have been.
Cameron’s meticulously researched and highly detailed account of the battles before mentioned is gripping. The excerpts from diaries and war records put numerous voices into the account, creating a clear and colourful picture of the events and the lives of the soldiers during this time. Though I would recommend that anyone who is not familiar with the topography of the battle landscape track down a map to keep beside them to refer to, otherwise you may find yourself a little overwhelmed with information.
This novel, the first in a two-part series, expresses the spirit of the ANZAC’s like no textbook ever could. Cameron doesn’t just tell us they were larrikins with hearts of gold, fearless, positive, friendly and a bit more than a little cocky, he shows us. He demonstrates the effect on moral, the personality of the soldiers and what life was really like with excerpts from diaries of locals, other soldiers and command.
“Fini retreat, Madame – beaucoup Australians ici / No more retreat madam – many Australians here.”
David W. Camron’s “Australians on the Western Front 1918” is the most in-depth and inclusive retelling I have come across. If you’re studying this particular era or just want to gain some more information about these battles, then I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book. It should be part of the school curriculum.
Thanks to Penguin Books Random House for the chance to review this novel.
- Reviewed by Ashayla Webster