Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Battle Culls Nation's Manhood

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Battle Culls Nation's Manhood

Article excerpt

ALLORA FARMER: Mick Hassett, a 22-year-old farmer from Allora, enlisted in the 1st AIF in 1915. His unit took part in the Battle for Pozieres.

CLEAN-UP TIME: An Australian solider wearing a souvenired German helmet has a shave in a rear area after being relieved from the front line.

IT was a strange coincidence when Scott Bennett's excellent book about the exploits of Australian soldiers at the World War I battlefield of PoziE res landed on my desk.

Titled PoziE res: The Anzac Story, this book takes a no-holds-barred examination of part of one of the most costly battles in the history of the world and which resulted in a massive culling of a nation's young manhood.

The remarkable coincidence was that this Anzac Day I will be treading the battlefields of France, retracing the steps of my great-uncle, Michael Joseph Hassett, a 22-year-old farmer from Allora who joined the AIF in 1915.

He was with the 6th Field Ambulance, a part of the 2nd Australian Division which carried a fair load in the battle for PoziE res.

Many have called the Great War a C[pounds sterling]War of UnclesC[yen] and this is no better illustrated than in Bennett's highly readable account of PoziE res.

He wrote the book after visiting the Great War battlefields in 2003 on a pilgrimage to retrace the steps of his great-uncles who had fought there.

Their experiences mirrored the example of my great uncle, a young inexperienced farmer from a small country town who went off to fight for his country, but came back a shell-shocked, quiet man who never married and carried the scars of his experiences for the rest of his life.

Bennett's treatise uses the letters and thoughts of the men who were there to expose the futility of the battles and the huge price Australia paid for a few acres of mashed up mud and holes in the ground.

He uses the words of the soldiers, journalists and officers to show the uselessness of the whole exercise while inept leadership, struggling with the concept of a war ruled by machine guns and artillery, kept their distance from the mud and blood. …

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