Vi­tal lit­tle feat in France

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

men into bat­tle: by July 1918 they were yet to at­tack the en­emy. Per­sh­ing was aim­ing for a vic­tory in 1919.

So the plan by Monash, in­stalled as Aus­tralia’s corps com­man­der in May 1918 (de­spite the cam­paign against him by war cor­re­spon­dents Charles Bean and Keith Mur­doch), was for­mu­lated so per­fectly and launched at such an ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal junc­ture that it changed the course of his­tory. Monash’s tac­tics were repli­cated in bat­tles led by the Aus­tralians that smashed through the Ger­man lines in Au­gust and Septem­ber, be­fore fi­nally achiev­ing vic­tory.

Ini­tially, this book dis­ap­points a lit­tle. It be­gins rather bizarrely with a pro­logue about the sink­ing of the Lusi­ta­nia, a well-known event that pro­vides lit­tle in­sight into what fol­lows. It feels at first like a re­hash.

The ocker style is laboured in the early chap­ters, and the ins and outs of the Bean and Mur­doch cam­paign to un­der­mine Monash go on for too long.

But as the nar­ra­tive gath­ers mo­men­tum to­wards “Z-Day”, July 4, FitzSi­mons’s writ­ing tight­ens up and the story be­comes com­pelling.

It’s sig­nif­i­cant that this is FitzSi­mons’s first mil­i­tary his­tory since re­unit­ing with pub­lisher Matthew Kelly of Ha­chette, who pub­lished his phe­nom­e­nally suc­cess­ful Kokoda. Kelly is a real de­tails man, a firm be­liever that it’s the nitty-gritty that keeps read­ers’ eyes glued to ev­ery page.

And FitzSi­mons (along with a small pla­toon of anony­mous re­searchers) has done a great job of min­ing the Aus­tralian and Ger­man ar­chives and a wide range of sec­ondary sources to pro­duce count­less nuggets that are wo­ven to­gether to make this a grip­ping

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