Accessibility Tools

  • Content scaling 100%
  • Font size 100%
  • Line height 100%
  • Letter spacing 100%

Robin Prior

It is ironic that I am writing this review on the tenth anniversary of the comprehensive defeat of the Republican referendum in 1999. This book by Craig Wilcox sets out to tell us that the British army (the Red Coats of the title) was much more popular in the colony than we had hitherto thought. Indeed, on the evidence, it was more popular in Australia than it ever was in Britain, which, even in the nineteenth century, had no love for standing armies.

... (read more)

Much Australian writing about military subjects reminds me of the recent film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which started in adulthood and rapidly progressed into adolescence. From the evidence of this work, it is showing no signs of growing up. This book purports to have discovered an event about which Australians have remained deeply ignorant for the last ninety years: the charge of the Light Horse at Beersheba in the Middle Eastern war against the Ottoman Empire, in 1917. Only someone long exiled on a desert island could call this event ‘forgotten’. We have had a famous film about it (Forty Thousand Horsemen, 1940), a good book about the Light Horse by Alec Hill (1978), extensive work on the subject by Ian Jones, and a plethora of books by British historians about the Middle Eastern war that include this incident. The author, Paul Daley, must be one of the few Australians who had not heard of it. Is this reason enough to write a book about it? Possibly – but not this book.

... (read more)

Our fascination with Gallipoli is probably at a peak. Like other symbolic events, it rises, falls and rises again in public esteem and curiosity. In the last quarter of a century, beginning when Anzac Day was at a low ebb, books and documentaries about Gallipoli have flooded bookshops and television stations. This new book by Professor Robin Prior, a specialist Australian historian of World War I, argues that the flood tide has almost drowned us in myths. The subtitle of his book is ‘The End of the Myth’. It is doubtful whether one able historian can terminate the myths, but this is a brave attempt.

... (read more)

In the days of the Great Anzac Revival, it is unusual to find an Australian VC who has not been the subject of a biography. Here we have one of the most famous of them all – Arthur Blackburn (1892–1960). I was surprised to find that this is the first biography of him.

... (read more)

Stoker’s Submarine by by Fred and Elizabeth Brenchley

August 2001, no. 233

I remember reading a book entitled Deeds That Won the Empire at primary school. Mainly, it seemed to be about the slaughter of various groups of native races by the superior technology and organisation of the West, always personified by focusing on an intrepid leader called Carstairs or Hethington-Bloggs, or some such name. Even in the 1950s, the book had a desperately old-fashioned feel to it. This type of writing, one felt, could not last.

... (read more)
Page 2 of 2