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Bardia: Myth, Reality and the Heirs of ANZAC, by Craig Stockings

Sydney: University of New South Wales Press/Chicago: Independent Publishers Group, 2009. Pp. xv, 481. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $48.95. ISBN: 1921410256.

In Bardia, Dr. Stockings (University of New South Wales), author of several books on Australian military history, including  ANZAC's Dirty Dozen: 12 Myths of Australian Military History, examines the investment and capture of the vital Cyrenaican port by the Australian 6th Division on January 3–5, 1941, the first operation in World War II by Australian forces. 

Stockings, opens by reviewing the traditional version of the operation, a glorious victory of Australian valor and skill over a well-armed, numerically superior, yet inept, cowardly, even “inferior” foe.  He argues that not only is this version of events wrong, but it is to a considerable extent deliberate, based on a desire to sustain the myth of Australian military prowess born during the Great War. 

The book is divided into three parts, the first setting the stage, which actually begins with the raising of the 6th Division, taking it from the training camp to the Western Desert where Bardia was to be its first significant action.  The second part is a very detailed account of the 55 hour battle, with some very vivid accounts of often grueling combat.  The third part, about a quarter of the text, is a comparative analysis of the two sides in which Stockings notes that if the attackers were fewer than the defenders, they were also much better-supplied, fresh, healthy, and mobile. 

Bardia is an essential read for those interested in the Australian military experience and the North African Campaign.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   


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