By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Arthur Blackburn, VC: An Australian hero, his men, and their two
By Andrew Faulkner (Wakefield Press, $45.00, softcover, 498 pages)
It is astonishing that this is the first biography of one of Australia’s “greatest diggers”—Gallipoli hero and Victoria Cross recipient Arthur Seaforth Blackburn.
As Andrew Faulkner points out: “Superlatives are cheap, but Blackburn was an uncommon man. Weary Dunlop said he was ‘legendary’.”
The brigade commander, conqueror of Damascus and defiant antagonist of the Japanese, was a remarkable soldier.
The skinny solicitor from Adelaide, having gone as a private, was one of the first ashore at Gallipoli, where he served for most of the campaign. Almost defying belief, he led an assault on a series of German strong points in France in 1916.
By the time the war ended, he was one of less than 10,000 survivors of the original AIF contingent of 30,000 men.
Telling the story through the eyes of his comrades, Arthur Blackburn VC details the famous battles that shaped Australia, including many from his battalion who survived the horrors of the Burma Railway. Also included are photographs taken by Blackburn that have never been published before.
“His lean life, devoid of excess and dominated by devotion to duty, is emblematic of a period that, while just a few generations back, feels as distant as a stretch of Turkish water called the Narrows was to Blackburn and his cobbers on 25 April 1915.”
Blackburn led an extraordinary life. Between the wars, as a politician, RSL leader, and key player in the formative years of the Legacy Club, Blackburn was a committed advocate for his returned comrades and their families.
This comprehensive account also features the soldiers’ tributes to their commander at the end of the book.
Faulkner takes great pleasure in having met the men who served with Blackburn and at the same time honouring their “sacrifices and showing how wars are not won by VC recipients alone”.
Edition 405, 15 April 2014
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.