Bardia: Myth, Reality and the Heirs of Anzac
University of New South Wales Press, $59.95 hb, 496 pp
With the sun’s morning rays glinting off their bayonets, the Australian soldiers rushed headlong towards the Italian fortress of Bardia in Libya. They sang as they advanced. Although there were isolated pockets of resistance, within hours the Australians had broken through the perimeter and Italian troops were beginning to surrender in their thousands. The capture of the supposedly ‘impenetrable’ fortress of Bardia in early January 1941 by the 6th Australian Infantry Division, fighting its first battle, was a major success that led to the capture of more than 40,000 Italian soldiers. The resounding victory by these sons of the original Anzacs was held to prove the inherent combat prowess of Australians. Major General Iven Mackay, the 6th Division’s commander, afterwards commented there was the notion ‘that the Australian is a born soldier and that, once given the weapons, he is alright’. Or so the myth goes.