The Gallipoli Landing of 25 April 1915 is arguably Australia’s best known battle. It is commemorated each year with a national holiday, services, parades and great media attention. 2015, the centenary of the Gallipoli Campaign, was marked by great publicity and the release of many books, articles, films, documentaries and television series. Despite this attention, the Landing is still a poorly understood battle, with the historiography colored by a century of misinformation, assumption, folklore and legend. The Landing in the Dawn: Dissecting a Legend - The Landing at Anzac, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, reexamines and reconstructs the Anzac Landing by applying a new approach to an old topic – it uses the aggregated experience of a single, first-wave battalion over a single day, primarily through the investigation of veteran’s letters and diaries, to create a body of evidence with which to construct a history of the battle. This approach might be expected to shed light only these men’s individual experience, but their accounts surprisingly divulge sufficient detail to allow an unprecedented reconstruction and reexamination of the battle; it effectively places much of the battlefield under a microscope. The use of veterans’ accounts to retell the story of the Landing is not new. Anecdotes have for many years been layered over the known history, established in C.E.W. Bean’s Official History of Australia in the War, The Story of ANZAC, Volume I, to color narrative. Here, detail extracted from an unprecedented range of primary and secondary sources, is used to reconstruct the history of the day, elevating participants’ accounts from anecdote to eyewitness testimony. This shift in the way evidence is used to redraw the foundation of the day, rather than simply painting it into the existing canvas, changes the way the battle is interpreted. Even though more than 100 years have passed since the Landing, and well over 1,000 books written on the campaign, much can be learned by returning to the “primary source, the soldier.” The Landing has not previously been studied at this level of detail. This work complements Bean’s, by adding new evidence and digging deeper than Bean had the opportunity to do. It potentially rewrites the history of the Landing. This is not exclusively an Australian story – for example, one third of this battalion were born in the British Isles. This book has been described as a ‘major contribution’ that will change the way people view this historic battle, and is the most up to date work and the most comprehensive study on the subject since Bean’s major work of 1921.
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James Hurst was born in Perth and studied at the University of Western Australia. He has since worked at the Universities of Western Australia and New South Wales and for the Department of Defence. For many years he has researched the Gallipoli Campaign in general and the 11th Battalion in particular, visiting the peninsula five times for research purposes. He has written a number of articles on the subject and produced an interactive CD-ROM guide to the campaign.
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