Book Review: Gallipoli by Jenny Macleod

Hardcover: 280 pages
Publisher: OUP Oxford (23 July 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 019964487X


Gallipoli, it’s a name most know, but few can pronounce, let alone fully appreciate. In the centenary year a great drive has been made to understand its place in the history of the nation’s who fought it, and therefore get a better grasp of why it matters, why it resonates still. A slim volume, with an attractive cover, 191 reading pages in all excluding the preface and introduction, notes etc, it’s not a cut and dry battle story.

Although each book in the Oxford Great Battle’s series includes (as they must) a description of the battle in question for perspective, the focus of the series realistically lies in the investigation of how the event is passed on and remembered.
These slim volumes are rich in detail despite being less than roomy for in depth discussion or narrative. Gallipoli by Jenny Macleod follows the set pattern laid down so far.
It begins with a fairly typical account of the campaign, detailing the mistakes of the allied General’s, the suffering of the troops, the heroism of the varying national contingents and the much more creditable performance of the Turkish commanders. This section takes up just under half of the book. Hindsight is deployed to present a coherent overview, and as with such studies it is necessary to focus on the decisive elements of the action in question.
The ANZAC legend looms large over any account of Gallipoli. Modern scholarship has tried to squeeze it back into its proper place. Macleod presents the conflict from a multinational standpoint, but because the legacy of the main players is what the book is really about, there is no doubt that the British, Australians and Turkish are the central nations examined. This as a consequence marginalises the Indian contribution to the Empire forces, though they are mentioned in the account of the campaign, it may be that there has been so little recognition of the Indian story that it did not merit its own chapter later on.

The legacy of Gallipoli, from then to now, is what primarily concerns the author and should be the main selling point of the book. I highly admire this series for its excellent idea to highlight the tricky subject of how a legend gets passed down to us. The second half of the book is split in three, dealing with the legacy of the Australian and New Zealand participation, that of the British and Irish experience, and that of Turkey.

I feel this book will be a must for those seeking to find out why Gallipoli should be remembered. People who saw and liked the Water Diviner will I think enjoy it. People interested in how Battles can influence the history of nations, apart from their military significance should definitely consider it, as it is a greatly enlightening read.

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