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‘The bravest thing God ever made,’ said a British officer of the insubordinate Aussies at Gallipoli. And before the Normandy invasion, Field Marshal Montgomery’s chief of staff remarked, ‘I only wish we had the Australian 9th Division with us this morning’. But there is more to the Australian experience of war than heroic endeavour and bravery. Jim Haynes has rediscovered stories that are as harrowing as they are uplifting, as strange as they are brutal and as heart-breaking as they are humorous.
From Federation to the Vietnam War, from our first VC winner to our hundredth, this sweeping overview of Australia’s military adventures both overseas and at home is a guide to understanding how this nation’s role in the twentieth century’s major conflicts unfolded as each war ebbed and flowed. These stories have formed Australia’s collective memory of war. Some battles and campaigns are household names, although their historical significance may have been lost. Others are barely remembered now but are part of our history and deserve to be retold.
These are the accounts, recollections and legends that explain Australia’s wartime reputation. They demonstrate the extraordinary courage, resilience, stoic humour, personal heroism and sacrifice that created the mythology of the Aussie ‘digger’ – the soldiers, sailors, nurses and flyers who did things their own way and earned the undying respect of both their allies and their enemies.
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