WHATLEY, Bruce (illus.) Jackie French (text) The Beach They Called Gallipoli 2014 unpaged $24.99 ISBN 9780732292263 SCIS 1687764
Facing the reader, from the front cover is, in the foreground, the figure of an intense, armed digger standing against a beach and a hilly background. This is obviously ANZAC cove: as so many images have made familiar to even readers who have not been humbled by attending a memorial service at the beach (now more on the hillside itself). It is an oft-told story; but it is worth repeating the words of a Turkish official on an occasion of remembrance, ‘We have not been glorifying war: we have been celebrating friendship between two nations.’ This book is yet another way of doing just that, by drawing in clear but dramatic prose the events of 24 April 1915 and the tragic aftermath, along with realistic pictures adorned with reminders such as the endemic poppy, but also memorabilia such as a souvenir Gallipoli Letter Card and, more startling, a multitude of images of dead bodies, barbed wire, and even a Trumpet Call poster glorifying the armed forces. But then there are the rows of medals reminding us, ‘Lest We Forget Australia’s Heroes -Gallipoli April 5th 1915.’
Perhaps among the plethora of Anzac reminders it is necessary to heed the words of both author and illustrator: To ‘Pa Jack’, who was there: at last we have remembered. -JF and: ‘We dare not forget. -BW. It is far too easy to be swept up by idealism or to be betrayed by commercialism. This book is realistic. It is historically accurate and supported by maps, sketches and detailed images and drawings. Perhaps young readers need to be faced with the grim realities of what we must not forget: not only guns and bullets; but putrid conditions as here recorded: ‘Summer breathed heat on shattered hills. Flies feasted in the corpses. Rats fed, fat as puppies. Men’s insides turned liquid. Disease killed more than bullets now.’
This is what war can truly be like: not only at Gallipoli, but in the jungles of New Guinea, and other more recent theatres of war. The young, now more than ever, need to be reminded of the realities of war so that they will fight against propaganda and brain washing that is as insidious as it is evil.
reviewed by Maurice Saxby