by Peter Plowman
Kentwurst, NSW: Rosenberg Publishing/Portland, Or.: International Specialized Book Services, 2013. Pp. 290.
Illus., maps, tables, appends., biblio., index. . $34.95 paper. ISBN: 1922013536
Getting the ANZACs to Gallipoli
Although the story of the Australians and New Zealanders at Gallipoli has been often told, this work addresses how these troops got to Gallipoli. Australian maritime historian Plowman, who has previously written immigrant ships, luxury liners, and even the movement of Australian and New Zealand troops to wars from 1865 through the Vietnam War, does an excellent job.
He opens with an overview of the naval balance of power in the Pacific, in which a powerful, albeit greatly outnumbered German cruiser squadron briefly threatened to impede any movement of troops to distant shores, prompting a wide ranging sea chase by Japanese and Commonwealth forces. This prompted the raising of the first troops, who were quickly dispatched to garrison critical island installations against possible German raids and to seize German colonies such as Samoa, New Guinea, and the Solomons, during which some troops first saw action in small fights now long forgotten.
As these operations were unfolding, Plowmen discusses the preparations by the two Dominions to dispatch troops to Britain, the first of whom began moving aboard improvised troop transports under escort for Europe even as the final act of the naval campaign unfolded, as the German cruiser Emden was finally run down and destroyed by her nemesis HMAS Sydney. These convoys arrived in Egypt, where they were to train and then depart for Europe, but were detained for another mission, Gallipoli. Plowman covers the very improvised preparations and training the troops received for the Gallipoli operation, and the book ends with the movement of the Antipodean expeditionary forces from Egypt to Gallipoli.
Plowman uses numerous excerpts from diaries, letters, and newspapers to give us a look at the men who volunteered and their experiences, in training, aboard ship (where conditions were often very hard, with poor food, inadequate sanitary facilities, and little diversion), and ashore in the various places they were permitted to land. This is an unusual addition to the literature not only of the Great War, but of war in general, as the transoceanic movement and experiences of troops during major modern wars is a largely unexplored subject.