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Anzac Sons

Mateship, Bravery and Sacrifice

(12 customer reviews)
Authors: Allison Paterson
WWI, Western Front
153mm x 230mm

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…Well dear Jim it breaks my heart to write this letter. Our dear [brother] was killed yesterday morning at 5.30. The bullet killed him instantly and he never spoke a word. I had just left him and gone down the trench to see the other lads when I was called back. Oh Jim it is awful … Oh I do hope he is the last …

It is April 27, 1918, Jim’s brother writes from the battlefields of France. Of five brothers serving on the Western Front, three have given their lives; another has been hospitalised. Six agonising months of brutal warfare were yet to be endured …
World War I was a senseless tragedy. Its long shadow darkened the four corners of the world. In Mologa, Victoria, once a bustling community, stands a lonely stone memorial. Etched within the granite are the names of the Marlow brothers and their mates; a testament to ordinary people who became heroes.

Anzac Sons is composed from a collection of over 500 letters and postcards written by the brothers who served. From the training grounds of Victoria, Egypt and England, to the Western Front battlefields – Pozieres, Bullecourt, Messines, Menin Road, Passchendaele, Villers-Bretonneux and the battles of 1918 – this compelling true story was compiled by the granddaughter of a surviving brother. She takes us on her journey as she walks in the footsteps of her ancestors.

This is a story of mateship, bravery and sacrifice; it is a heartbreaking account of a family torn apart by war. It is a pledge to never forget.

Allison Paterson

Allison Paterson

Allison Paterson is the author of the 2016 ABIA and CBCA longlisted title Anzac Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front, the children’s version of her adult non-fiction title Anzac Sons: the Story of Five Brothers in the War to End All Wars. She has written four other children’s books, Granny’s Place and Shearing Time […]

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12 reviews for Anzac Sons

  1. Five of six sons from the Marlow family volunteered to serve in The War To End All Wars, World War One – on the other side of the planet. Separated from each other, and distant from their family, letters and parcels from home were gold.

    So, to their families, were their letters, which bore precious proof that, at the time of writing, each boy was still alive.
    The author of Anzac Sons, descendant of the Marlow family, has created an account of WWI by interspersing letters from the boys to their family, with the real-world contexts of their experiences – from signing up and training camps, to shipboard life en route to the Front, occasional leave, and life in the trenches.

    The boys write carefully, not just because the censors read every word, but because they seek to comfort and reassure their family that all is well. Independently, each creates the illusion, using the language of the era, that they’re off having a bit of a lark, a cheerful, eternally optimistic agenda to push ‘Fritz’ back where he came from. Brutal battles are ‘stunts’, and nothing’s too much of a bother if the ‘tucker’s good’.

    The author provides context between the letters that tells the other side of the story, and between the two narratives – the grim realities, and reading between the lines of the boys’ letters – Anzac Sons slowly paints a detailed picture of a family caught up in a nightmare for ‘King and Country’.

    It’s this gradual accumulation of details that reveals the characters of the young men, their wistful hopes and dreams, their frustration and anger toward ‘shirkers’ – those who refused to volunteer, and a picture of the life at home they miss so desperately.

    When tragedy strikes, the boys and their companions think of others first, and do so as best they can with extremely limited means – words, and small but important gestures. The good hearts of these young men are tested beyond reason in the horrors of an often ineptly prosecuted war. Never do they falter.

    In a nation where every small town carries its own simple War Memorial, bearing a list of initials and surnames and dates, it’s easy to forget they even exist. They can fade to the background as a token of events that once happened to others in another place. After reading Anzac Sons – the stories of those who paid a price I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy – I’ll never take these monuments for granted again.

    An affecting and poignant book.

  2. I just wanted to let you know that as I finished the last page of your astounding book, Anzac Sons, I found myself saying, “Well done, Allison!” You have documented an important part of your family history and in doing that you have given readers an amazingly authentic insight into the experiences of an Australian family going through World War One. I found it very moving as well as informative.

  3. This is just to let you know how very much I am enjoying your Anzac Sons. I love how you have used minimal editing of spelling and grammar, to let the boys’ voices shine through. And what a story, starting with the discovery of that cache of 500 letters inside that magical house, a story in itself. What a close family they were, such great boys, and such prolific writers. It’s great to see their memory honored, along with others from around the Mologa District, and the district itself. I love the asides to explain the minor characters. It must have been a huge job, putting it together the way you did.

    Having now finished reading, I can say it showed me how Grandad lived, far better than any dry military history has ever been able to do. It’s the raw honesty of those letters. And it explained little details – Grandad’s liking for egg and chips, his feet always cold in winter thanks to his time in the trenches, he’d never eat rice (‘had enough in the war to last me a lifetime’), he too preferred the openness of sleeping in a sleep out.

    Mostly though, it was his fatalism. ‘When your number’s up, your number’s up’ was his motto, which liberated him to live relatively worry free. As a young teenager I once tipped over a hay baler, behind the tractor I was driving over uneven ground, and his calm reaction was a good natured laugh: ‘Ah well, that’s a trick for young players.’ The one time we saw him slightly rattled was after the 1968 Merredin earth tremor. It was not until 2018, when I was researching a talk about the unsung war heroes of this area, that I wondered whether the roar and rumble preceding that tremor had taken his mind back to the terrible noise of the Western Front.

  4. An authentic insight into the experiences of a family going through the First World War. The scale of the destruction of human lives, the tragedy experienced by countless families and the stark reality of the day to day lives of the Australian soldiers is captured in this moving account. The letters of the five Marlow brothers are framed within the context of place, time and events and, together with the extensive research by Allison Marlow Paterson, create a fascinating narrative of the young soldiers’ tragically short lives.

  5. WW1 brought much sorrow to so many Australian families. This is the story of one family, sourced from hundreds of letters sent back from the front, stored in a cupboard for decades, eventually discovered and rescued. Well researched and beautifully written.

  6. ‘Anzac Sons’ is the epic true story of five brothers who served in the First World War. The story is woven around the transcriptions of letters they sent from the front. The author has linked the letters and provided context to them with a sensitive, meticulously researched narrative. It’s a moving and informative personal account, and a fabulous resource for anyone wanting to understand more about the history of the war.

  7. Wow, what a tragic story these letters tell. So many letters from so long ago, unbelievable.

  8. Very well written.

  9. Read your fabulous book Anzac Sons and believe that your book is the best manuscript of events of WW1 that involved Australia. Recently I visited the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and want to say to you that your book sits along with the history recorded in the War Memorial. Thank you for compiling such a wonderful record of your heritage.

  10. A terrific read, very moving at times and certainly enlightening. A must for anyone interested in Australian History. The people you will read about, genuine and candid, are the ones who gave so much to give us the freedoms we now enjoy. A MUST READ!

  11. This book is worthy of a place in every home and library. It is an authentic experience of WWI and Allison, you have done your family proud!

  12. An incredible book containing over 500 letters, cards, photos and diary entries. ANZAC Sons tells the story of 5 brothers from Victoria caught up in the First World War. A challenging and fascinating read.

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