Alison Marlow Paterson is a teacher-librarian and the granddaughter of Alan Marlow, one of the two Marlow sons who returned from the Western Front in July and November of 1919.
Written for children in the mid-primary to mid-secondary level, it provides an easy-to-follow account of one family’s sons. It commences with their enlistment, through to the different battles they participated in on the Western Front, their deaths and the impact they had upon the family. Woven through the family narrative are the critical dates, places and events that involved the AIF for the duration of the War. These have been cleverly presented in ‘noticeboard form’ and other attractive-to-children formats. Decades later in the family home a suitcase produced in excess of 500 letters or postcards from the sons and this has provided the primary source for the family narrative.
The Marlow familyhad seven sons (one of whom died as a baby), lived in the small northern Victorian country town of Mologa and was proud of the new home they had built in 1912. Being farmers, and the ‘war would be over very quickly’, the three eldest sons did not attempt to enlist until July 1915 when reinforcements for Gallipoli were being sought.
George enlisted in 7th Battalion and later transferred to the 2nd Light Trench Mortar Battery of the First Division. The other four brothers all served with the 38th Battalion and all became Lewis gunners. Albert, the youngest brother, was killed at Messines in July 1917. Shortly after, George was able to meet his remaining three brothers for the first time since leaving Australia. In September, he was wounded in the Battle of Menin Road and died the following day. Allan and Charlie were promoted to lieutenant and sergeant respectively early in 1918. Charlie was killed by a sniper’s bullet at Villers-Bretonneux on 26th July. At this stage the remaining twin brothers were carefully managed by their Commanding Officer, who wanted to reduce the chance of another Marlow son becoming a casualty.
The narrative concludes with the unveiling by Allan and his mother Sarah of Mologa community’s War Memorial in 1920. Twenty-two men went to War and ten of them paid the supreme sacrifice.The three successive ‘Marlow’s on the Honour Roll certainly bring home to even young readers the incredible price paid by families and small communities. On return Allan built a home of handmade bricks and named it Passchendaele.
As a book for children, this is a most readable account of not only of a family of boys, but also of the key events and battles that was the Great War. The stark Australian statistics of the loss of life in the conflict paints the scenario of what is to follow. A world map and a timeline of ANZAC battles fought put the four years into perspective. The narrative being broken into yearly portions means a young reader or a teacher reading aloud to a class can ‘serialize’ the book if desired. Recruiting posters, the Marlow’s ‘dog-tags’, posed photographs of pipe-smoking brothers, the family home, postcards, letters, embroidered Mother’s Day and Christmas cards and the desolation of battlefields all serve to bring to lifehow it was both at home and abroad during this period. Of special interest to children is the segment devoted to the rebuilding of the Villers-Bretonneux school as a result of Victorian school children’s generous donations.
Whilst designated a children’s book, ANZAC Sons provides an accurate and worthwhile short read for any adult who does not wish to plow through a comprehensive military history. Allreaders will realize it is to these soldiers we owe a debt of gratitude for the legacy they have left us.
“The Royal United Services Institute of Victoria Library wishes to thank the publisher for providing a copy for review.”