Hundreds of Australian first-person narratives of World War I have been published, but none more riveting than this one.
The wartime letters and diaries of Pompey Elliott, Australia’s most famous fighting general, are exceptionally forthright. They are also remarkably illuminating about his volatile emotions. Pompey not only wrote frankly about what happened to him and the men he was commanding; he was also frank about what he felt about both. Having arranged a no-secrets pact with his wife for their correspondence before he left Australia in 1914, he adhered to that agreement throughout the conflict.
Moreover, Pompey expressed himself with vivid candour in his diaries and other correspondence. He wrote rapidly and fluently, with fertile imagery, a flair for simile, and an engaging turn of phrase. His extraordinary letters to his young children turned even the Western Front into a bedtime story.
Pompey was prominent in iconic battles and numerous controversies. He was wounded at the Gallipoli landing, and four of his men were awarded the Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery at Lone Pine. No one was more instrumental than Pompey in turning looming defeat into stunning victory at both Polygon Wood and Villers–Bretonneux. No Australian general was more revered by those he led or more famous outside his own command.
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