Quinn's Post: Anzac, Gallipoli

Quinn's Post: Anzac, Gallipoli

Quinn's Post: Anzac, Gallipoli

Quinn's Post: Anzac, Gallipoli

Synopsis

Delving into a key part of the Anzac line during World War I, this historical analysis illuminates what it was like to live, fight, and die at Quinn's Post for a succession of Australian, New Zealand, and British units.

Excerpt

Quinn’s Post was on the front-line at Gallipoli in 1915 and, in the words of one general, ‘our most dangerous and difficult post’. Originally a scrubby hill, its scrub was soon blown away by the enemy’s explosives, or uprooted by the soldiers’ digging and burrowing. Soldiers too were blown away. Quinn’s at times was almost surrounded by dead bodies.

Here the Allied and Turkish lines faced each other, not quite parallel, with a gap ten yards wide in one place and 40 yards in another. New Zealanders were the first to occupy the post, and their description lives on. In their words, the no-man’s-land separating the Turkish and Allied trenches and dugouts was ‘the width of a Wellington city street’. From the day of the landing at Anzac Cove to the day of the evacuation, eight months later, the street and its surrounds were a hub of fighting. Here prevailed a military stalemate even more rigid than that on the Western Front in France and Belgium.

When I began to read this book by one of Australia’s most skilled military historians I thought it would be a fluent and perceptive version of the old, old story, already told 60 times. Moreover Peter Stanley tells the history of only one small patch of the battlefield. And yet by focusing on this patch, by dissecting a vast assemblage of records, and depicting the Anzacs’ fears and hopes, sickness and nostalgia, sounds and stench, mistakes and successes, he illuminates the war day by day in an arresting way. We read about 26-year-old Quinn who came from Charters Towers and died at his post; we observe a soldier who in one month walked nineteen times from Quinn’s to the sea just for a swim and another who was formally sentenced to death for falling asleep at his lookout; we learn how the soldiers likened Gallipoli to a piece of home—it seemed like Tasman Bluffs (NZ) or the Eyre Peninsula (SA) or other hilly spots—and we feel in the end that we have almost lived at Quinn’s Post. Along the way we see myths exposed and insights unveiled on the whole Gallipoli campaign.

Here, the reader is always in the company of individuals. Perhaps this is the distinctive merit of a book which chooses one place. Thereby the individual soldiers are allowed their space to live in, and so they themselves become the war.

Geoffrey Blainey Melbourne . . .

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