The Gallipoli Evacuation
Manly, NSW: Living History, 2020
Paperback 312pp RRP$35.99
Reviewer: Mike O’Brien, November 2020
If there was triumph for the allies in the Gallipoli campaign, it was the withdrawal. Mat McLachlan (an Australian battlefield guide, now promoted to military historian) has commissioned Peter Hart to assemble this oral history of the evacuation.
Peter Hart was the oral historian for 39 years at the Imperial War Museum, during which time he interviewed thousands of veterans. He has written several books on the First and Second World Wars, including Gallipoli, many of which are held in our library.
This is a well-presented book with well-placed quotations by veterans – sadly now solely from written accounts. It gives us a sequential account with the background to the campaign, its stalemate, the change of command, decisions to evacuate, the planning and the phased withdrawals from Anzac and Suvla and then Cape Helles. The maps are clear and helpful. The bibliography reveals the depth of research: while principally through the Imperial War Museum and Australian War Memorial sources, Hart has ranged wider. For example, he quotes one Second Lieutenant Stan Savige – his writing was in a 1932 issue of the RSL magazine Reveille.
Hart’s book is clear about many of the misconceptions about the campaign, pointing out, for example, that French casualties at Gallipoli were greater than those of Australia and New Zealand combined. He gives die credit to the detailed planning genius of Brudenell White, whose successful approach to evacuation broke with practice and doctrine.
Living History seems to be a new publisher. Perhaps their proof-reader changed the appointment of Principal Military Landing Officer throughout to ‘Principle’.
This is a well-balanced account of the First World War’s Dunkirk. It should be widely read.
The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.