Gallipoli was a campaign that has been condemned as a useless waste of lives and resources in a war that is generally regarded as a costly battle of attrition. For any one action at Gallipoli to be seen as a significant disaster, it had to be unusually costly and pointless. The author tells the story of Hugo Throssell, son of a former Premier of Western Australia, a volunteer and recipient of the award of a Victoria Cross. Highly Recommended.
NAME: Gallipoli Victoria Cross, The Price of Valour, The Triumph and Tragedy of Hugo Throssell VC
AUTHOR: John Hamilton
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword, frontline
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: The Great War, WWI, World War One, First World War, Gallipoli, Nek, Light Cavalry, Trench warfare, machine guns
DESCRIPTION: Gallipoli was a campaign that has been condemned as a useless waste of lives and resources in a war that is generally regarded as a costly battle of attrition. For any one action at Gallipoli to be seen as a significant disaster, it had to be unusually costly and pointless. The author tells the story of Hugo Throssell, son of a former Premier of Western Australia, a volunteer and recipient of the award of a Victoria Cross. Highly Recommended.
The author has written a number of books on the Great War. This is the third and a very able account of Hugo Throssell. In a collection of tragedies, Throssell stands out, not just for his exceptional bravery in the face of the enemy, but in the post war tragedy as he turned against war, which was an unpopular view in Australia, and eventually killed himself. His funeral, the day after his death, was accorded military honours but attended only by seventy people, including two fellow VCs. As with so many brave men who had fought in WWI, he had difficulty in adjusting to the peacetime life and his heartfelt views on the futility of war were not unusual but also not what many wanted to hear. When he sat in a deckchair on his veranda, took out his service revolver and shot himself , it was not a suicide but death from wounds.
Gallipoli is a strange campaign that followed a good naval reconnaissance exercise that should perhaps have been left at that. In the event, a Government and military desperately looking for a positive campaign to set against the increasingly costly Western Front battles, Gallipoli looked like a soft opportunity. There then followed a series of mistakes and command failures that turned a possibly fruitful campaign into an unwinnable exercise in futility. At this point the commanders were in denial, and the campaign continued beyond the point where withdrawal should have been undertaken. The result is that a succession of courageous actions by British troops led to nothing but high casualties were suffered and much of these were borne by the Australian troops who made a large percentage of the British force. The Light Cavalry at Nek, in many respects, compared with the charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War. The author has written a fine book on the charge, and this account of Hugo Throssell compliments the book on the battle itself.
Light cavalry traditionally provided the scouts for an army searching for the enemy. They were fast, lightly armed and ideally suited to a war of movement. They were also suitable for lightning charges, as in the Crimea, to take the enemy by surprise and disable gun batteries. In the Crimean War the British Light Brigade came very close to success and the real failure was to back up the charge and exploit its opportunity. All those decades later, the Australian soldiers of the Third Light Horse never really stood a chance. They provided unmissable targets for the Turkish machine guns and were mowed down before they even reached the Turkish trench line. It was one of those horrendous military failures that saw the greatest gallantry for the least result.
The account of what Throssells did to earn his VC provides a picture of the outstanding acts on the field of battle. His courage was recognized deservedly, but there were many acts of great bravery that went unnoticed. As with most VCs, the recognized personal bravery justifies the award but also reflects across the many who took part in the battle and gave of their best.