By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Pozières: The Anzac Story
By Scott Bennett (Scribe, $36.95, softcover, 398 pages)
This is an astounding tome of military history that will not only force readers into asking questions about the Pozières campaign, but it challenges the many ‘truths’ built around the Anzac legend.
Pozières needed to be written and offers a new, comprehensible viewpoint of an epic battle, complete with references.
When one million men fought in the first battle of the Somme, victory hinged on their ability to capture this small village. The British called in the Anzacs to complete this seemingly impossible task and on 23 July 1916 thousands of Australians stormed and took Pozières.
However, Scott Bennett finds it “hard to believe that it was ever worth fighting and dying for”. He says there was nothing to suggest that it had any strategic importance.
For Bennett, this book was not primarily a military dissection of the Pozières battle, but the battle was the backdrop for him exploring “the motivations and emotions of those involved”.
He tries to make sense of the events by connecting with those men who had fought there by reading their fragile diaries and letters, held in libraries and museums.
“Tellingly, their diaries cast doubt upon the many ‘truths’ that Australians have been fed about the Anzacs – a legend that has shaped our country’s cultural identity,” he says.
The diaries also do not explain why the “bloody and controversial military engagement on the Western Front” has been largely neglected by Australians while the Gallipoli campaign has etched itself upon the national psyche.
There was a “frightful cost” of 23,000 casualties and nearly 7000 young Australians died at Pozières.
Why is it that Gallipoli has become a place of pilgrimage when there is little at Pozières to signify its importance to Australians?
One reason? “Gallipoli symbolises the nation’s coming of age, while Pozières exposed the darker, uglier side of war.”
Bennett also has a personal reason for writing this book as its consequences have reached across four generations of his family.
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.