Saturday 20 April 2013

My Australian Story: Gallipoli

My Australian Story: Gallipoli by Alan Tucker (Scholastic Press)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-693-5
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

On the 25th of April, 1915, in one of Australia’s most well-known military campaigns, Allied forces landed on the Gallipoli peninsula and attempted to push back the Turkish defenders.

Gallipoli tells this story of Victor March, who, along with his new mates, Robbo, Fish and Needle, is among the first wave of soldiers to land at Anzac Cove. Desperate to leave world of the mines where he works as a pickey-boy, fourteen year old Victor views the war as an escape. He grabs the opportunity as a chance to travel, have adventures and do his bit for his country. With his parents permission he lies about his age and enlists in the 10th Battalion of the AIF. What he finds changes him and everything he thinks about the world.

Written in diary form, Gallipoli is an intimate account of Victor’s experiences, while the addition of letters from home also gives an insight into life in Australia at the time. The writing is straight forward and Victor’s voice is down to earth and genuine with just a trace of humour. These things keep the story from becoming too heavy or depressing which is a good thing as the author does not shy away from the realities of war or the horrors of the trenches – the lice, the dysentery, the confusion, the stench, the killing, the fear and especially the growing realization that the Turks in the enemy trenches were just boys like them. One of the most poignant moments for me was that after passing notes and food between the trenches, the ANZACs and the Turks had to go back to shooting at each other.

An engrossing and well-written story about Australia’s history is a great way to learn about our past. This story is both. It shows the mundane problems which affect soldiers, such as seasickness and boredom, as well as the shocking and bloody battles. Gallipoli is a balanced story which depicts the awakening consciousness of young men faced with the realities of war, along with the growing realisation that the line between right and wrong, good and bad, is never clear.

I would urge young boys in particular, from twelve years to read this, but I think adults would enjoy this and learn much from Gallipoli as well.

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