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Lonesome Pine - The Bloody Ridge

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Every Australian knows of Gallipoli and its significance for Australians, but we do not necessarily know about the individual battles that took place.

Simon Cameron’s Lonesome Pine – The Bloody Ridge is a very detailed account of the battle for Lone Pine. The introduction provides background information about the thinking behind the Allies’ strategy for landing on Gallipoli. In retrospect, it is easy to see its flaws, but there was a certain logic to the plan (if the Turks had shown no resistance and the Allies were victorious).

Cameron’s vivid descriptions of the soldiers and their conditions places the reader at the scene, and you can’t help but become involved with what those men went through. The sad thing is that just as you are getting to know a soldier, a Captain or a VC winner, inevitably they are killed in the next paragraph.

As Australia commemorates Remembrance Day this week, this book certainly brings home the appalling plight of so many young men and that their loss was for very little gain.

Lonesome Pine - The Bloody Ridge, Simon Cameron, Big Sky Publishing, $29.99

Lonesome Pine – The Bloody Ridge, Simon Cameron, Big Sky Publishing, $29.99

Lonesome Pine is a story of courage and mateship, but also ingenuity and innovation in adversity. As if it wasn’t bad enough living in trenches shared with rats and the bodies of fallen soldiers, being regularly shot at by machine guns from higher ground, facing hand-to-hand combat with bayonets, or having to jump on grenades and bombs with large overcoats in an attempt to smother them before they exploded, the Australian troops were fighting back with homemade bombs made from jam tins.

Supplies of ammunition, weapons, clothing and food were constantly in short supply, so whenever the soldiers were told to go forward to capture an enemy position, it was always done by malnourished, exhausted men. It is amazing to think of what they achieved in such appalling conditions; how they could keep going is staggering.

It is no surprise that diarrhoea, dysentery, and “heat, malnutrition, sniping and shrapnel without relief sapped their spirit”. Cameron makes it clear that lice were also a problem, just as they were on the front, but it wasn’t possible to be deloused at Gallipoli and it was impossible to eat without swallowing flies.

Amid all the horror – including a soldier in no man’s land calling out, “Christ, won’t someone finish me off” – Lonesome Pine describes the courage, bravery and resilience of soldiers in horrific conditions. There are personal anecdotes such as that of Robert Massie, who was to be Australia’s best left arm bowler but received a shoulder wound, and Lt Corporal Leonard Keyser, who, back in Australia, had his Victoria Cross stolen in a burglary (it was returned with a note saying that the burglar couldn’t return the other things due to his financial circumstances).

Simon Cameron describes the battle for Lone Pine as “the greatest A.N.Z.A.C. success of the Gallipoli campaign”, because seven Victoria Crosses were awarded for one four-day battle. Given the chaotic conditions at Gallipoli, I find it incredible that so much detail was recorded: in Lonesome Pine, Cameron has collated a detailed account of the battle for those who want to know of the historical statistics and military stratagems involved, but there are also the personal accounts that make this book informative, intriguing and a rewarding read.


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