Lost Boys of Anzac, NewSouth, Sydney, 2014
Australians remember the dead of 25 April 1915 on Anzac Day every year. But do we know the name of a single soldier who died that day? What do we really know about the men supposedly most cherished in the national memory of war?
Peter Stanley goes looking for the Lost Boys of Anzac: the men of the very first wave to land at dawn on 25 April 1915 and who died on that day. There were exactly 101 of them. They were the first to volunteer, the first to go into action, and the first of the 60,000 Australians killed in that conflict.
Lost Boys of Anzac traces who these men were, where they came from and why they came to volunteer for the AIF in 1914. It follows what happened to them in uniform and, using sources overlooked for nearly a century, uncovers where and how they died, on the ridges and gullies of Gallipoli – where most of them remain to this day. And we see how the Lost Boys were remembered by those who knew and loved them, and how they have since faded from memory. (blurb)
Among the interesting aspects of the book are the number of non-Australian born among the 101, their diverse backgrounds, the conflicting accounts of how they died and of how far inland they penetrated on that first day, and the extent to which the classic Bean account of the landing focuses on officers rather than enlisted men. Among the saddest parts of the book are the details of how few of the 101 have marked graves and of how their families hoped against hope that they might be found alive, despite all the evidence that they were dead. The professionalism of the Red Cross searchers and (for the most part) the Base Records team is also highlighted.
The author uncovers lots of new information but his key message comes at the end of the book: ‘They [the Lost Boys] should no longer remain as abstractions in Anzac Day addresses’. They were real people, with characters, flaws and strengths, not embodiments of an Anzac legend. In other words, they were human beings – like us.