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Wise, Nathan: Anzac Labour

Wise, Nathan

Anzac Labour: Workplace Cultures in the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2014

Anzac Labour explores the horror, frustration and exhaustion surrounding working life in the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War. Based primarily on the letters, diaries and memoirs of Australian soldiers, this book traces the history of work and workplace cultures through the training camps of Australia, the shores of Gallipoli, the fields of France and Belgium, and the desert sands of the Near East. The reader is guided through soldiers’ experiences of digging through dead bodies in the trenches of the Western Front, the tension surrounding carting supplies through sniper fire on Gallipoli, and the weariness experienced by light-horsemen on long patrols through the unforgiving Egyptian desert. Anzac Labour describes how, over several long years of conflict, Australian soldiers committed their minds and bodies not only to combat but also to the daily slog of military work, truly earning their tag as “diggers”. (blurb)

‘If we are to truly understand’, the author says, ‘the significance of the experience of war, we need to begin to place the lives of soldiers within a broader historical context, cast aside the historical obsession with combat and consider the history of work within the military’.

The book is reviewed for Honest History by Paddy Gourley, who says:

In absolute and relative terms this may be the worst thing this country has ever suffered. Wise’s attempt to bring to light and better appreciate the all-round experience of those most intimately involved is wholly worthwhile history.

Another review by Aimee Fox-Godden is forthcoming (April 2015) in the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research.