Our Great Hearted Men
The Australian Corps and the 100 Days
By Peter Brune
Published by Harper Collins
RRP $49.99 in hardcover • ISBN 9781460756515
Australian troops had been involved in the Great War since their baptism at Gallipoli but it was not until August 1918 that the AIF confronted the German forces as a ‘… united corps, under its own experienced, astute leadership and commanded by an Australian general’.
In a 100 day period between early August and November 1918, the Australian Corps consisting of five elite divisions under the command of Lieutenant General Sir John Monash played a critical role in forcing Germany to the negotiating table. Brune believes that the emergence of Australian nationalism that resulted in the unification of the five divisions and the right to fight under their own command and administration was borne out of the bitterness and frustration and perceived waste of Australian lives at the battles of Fromelles, Pozieres, Bullecourt and Passchendaele.
Peter Brune has made good use of personal diaries in charting this campaign. This brings an intimacy to the story.
In his diary, Corporal Cliff Geddes writes on 13 August after the launch of the Allied offensive, ‘We have to capture a wood. By jove, they are making it hot, we’ll have hardly any men left soon. Oh, well, I shall hope and pray for the best as usual. One can only trust in Providence.’
In his concluding chapter, Brune writes that while Gallipoli is proclaimed as the birth of a nation, surely these 100 days ‘mark the military coming of age of the First AIF. It was indeed their finest hour.’