From Gallipoli to Coopers Creek
Cate's father's diaries from the First World War came to light when the family home was being cleared our following the death of the last of his siblings. Although his entries were very terse, after reading them many times she felt that there was a story here that should be told.
Non-fiction / World War One / Biography
Horizon Publishing Group
ISBN 9781922238245 (pbk.)
This is the story of one soldier of the so-called Great War. There was nothing particularly outstanding about this man. He went to the war late in 1914 as a Private, full of high ideals to save Mother England and put the rest of the world on the right path. Twice he refused promotion to the rank of officer, probably because he was aware of so much mismanagement, miscalculation and poor leadership in th hierarchy of the army. However, he accepted the third offer, and I believe regretted this for the rest of his time in the army. Many years later when he was called up to fight in the Second World War, he did not reveal his status as a soldier because he was not prepared to take the responsibility of being an officer.
He became aware of this problem as soon as he set foot on the beach at Gallipoli. The stench of hundreds of rotting bodies permeated the atmosphere. Many had been lying there since the first landing a month earlier. All his high ideals disintegrated as he faced the reality of the horror of war. When he does go into battle, he recalls the first shot he fired. He had fired a gun many times before to kill marauding animals, but this was the first time he had fired at a human being with the intention of killing him.
The evacuation of Gallipoli and the inept defeat at the 1st Battle of Gaza made him realise that he had to become a completely different person, just to be able to carry out the orders that were given. At the 1st Battle of Amman, a lieutenant twice refused to accept the order to attack because he could see that it would be suicide to do so, but the third order to attack at all costs came and he had no option but to do so. The men did not know it at the time, but that leader was killed as soon as he went over the ridge. When Bruce went over, he was not killed, but he was rendered a paraplegic and had to be carried out on a camel cacolet. It was 11 days before he got to a hospital that was able to treat him.
Returning home was rather like being ordered into another battle because he had no idea of whether he could fit into society again - he was no longer the man who went to war five years previously. When he went to war, he was expecting to come home to wedding bells, but his fiancee could not go through with this. She felt he had become a total stranger.
This biographical novel is about Bruce's struggle to overcome all these adversities and lead a normal life. He finally falls in love with a woman who has also been adversely affected by the war so has her own problems to deal with. Between them, they manage to carve out a happy and meaningful life on the block of land Bruce was allocated as a Soldier Settler. It is a heartwarming story about the legacy of war and the power of love.