by Hurst James
Solihull, Eng.: Helion / Philadelphia: Casemate Publishers, 2018. Pp. xvi, 260.
Illus., maps, appends, notes, biblio., index. $79.95. ISBN: 1911512463
An Australian Battalion at Gallipoli
Using a highly innovative approach, Dr. Hurst, who has written several works on the Australians at Gallipoli, takes a fresh and insightful look at the landings through the experience of the men of the 11th Australian Battalion, which spearheaded the landings at Ari Burnu on April 25, 1915.
In preparing this work, Hurst gathered what appears to be every possible shred of primary evidence that could be found, and while most of the material derives from the Commonwealth side of the story, he was able to secure some important papers from the Turkish side. The materials collected included not only official papers, ships’ logs, after-action reports and the like, but also diary entries, film, medical records, memoirs, letters, photographs, unit rosters, promotion lists, and more.
By cross-referencing, places, events, persons and times, Hurst offers an account of the 11th Australian Battalion that is often at variance with earlier treatments of the operation, while clearly throwing new light on what happened, often literally minute by minute, cutting back-and-forth between various participants. Where the evidence is hazy, or confusing, Hurst does not hesitate to point out where the how it might suggest more than one interpretation of how events unfolded.
Some of Hurst’s chains of evidence are quite impressive and convincing. For example, in examining the fate of Lt. Mordaunt L. Reid, who disappeared during the battle, and his body was never found, Hurst not only managed to develop a picture of the man’s apparent movements during the fighting, but was also able to make a reasoned conclusion about his ultimate fate.
The Landing at Dawn, a volume in the series “Wolverhampton Military Studies”, is an invaluable read for anyone interested in the Gallipoli operation, but also for those seeking to understand combat, in any conflict.