Palestine Diaries: The light horsemen’s own story, battle by battle
Scribe, $39.99 pb, 448 pp, 9781925322668
Australia’s role in the war against the Ottoman Empire from 1916 to 1918 is much less widely understood than its contribution to the doomed campaign in the Dardanelles or the muddy slog on the Western Front. It is one aspect of Australia’s World War I that has not been overwritten by historians (loosely termed), and thus offers Jonathan King considerable scope to make a meaningful contribution to Australia’s popular understanding of World War I. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly given how much pulp history the centenary of World War I has generated, the result is farcical.
There are endless possibilities that could have been considered in a book such as this. How did the experience of warfare for the Anzacs fighting in the Mediterranean differ from that of those fighting on the Western Front? How did the soldiers react to conquering the Holy Lands? Did they regard themselves as modern-day crusaders crushing the heathens, or as agents of the British Empire, vanquishing the Ottomans? How did they react to the landscape, and to the variety of inhabitants that they encountered, whether Arab, Turk, or Jew? How important were they to the overall result, and thus to the making of the modern Middle East?