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Mutiny on the Western Front 1918

Authors: Greg Raffin
Military History, World War I
C Format

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On 21 September 1918, with retreating German forces on their last legs, the 1st Battalion of the AIF was ordered to return to the front just as they were being relieved and preparing for a well earnt rest.  It wasn’t just the Germans who were on their last legs; the Australians were depleted and exhausted.  In what was the largest such instance of mass ‘combat refusal’ in the AIF’s history, the men of one company in the 1st Battalion defied the order.  The ‘mutiny’ spread to other companies, and when the battalion did eventually comply with the order, over 100 men were absent.

The circumstances surrounding this mutiny have long been a matter of embarrassment for the AIF, and of fascination for military historians.  While historians have approached the issue in purely military terms – the men as soldiers, over-extended service, rates of wounding, promotions, and so on – this book approaches these 100 plus men as human beings.  Mutiny on the Western Front traces how these events played out in the context of the exhausting demands placed upon a unit that had seen practically continuous front-line action for weeks, if not months, in the war’s final, decisive stages.

Author Greg Raffin considers what happens to men’s hearts and minds in the course of a prolonged conflict like the Great War.  This story, which will surprise readers – is not just about a group of exhausted and war weary Australian soldiers in 1918, it is a story about humanity in war: about what men do in war, and what war does to men.

Greg Raffin

Greg Raffin

Greg Raffin’s early interest in history led to post-graduate studies in the subject and a lengthy career as a History Head teacher. In 2005 he was awarded the Premier’s Military History scholarship and travelled to SE Asia to study the Burma-Siam “Death railway”. He is also the author of, Australia’s real baptism of fire which […]

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1 review for Mutiny on the Western Front 1918

  1. This book was released in September 2018 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the mutiny. The book includes fourteen B&W photographs together with two very helpful maps. It also has eight pages of very useful Appendices mostly about command structures, commanders, and battles in France in which the Australian Corps was involved) but also including a table showing the number of death sentences and executions for each country involved in the First World War. (Interestingly 121 Australian soldiers were sentence to death but none were executed while 28 New Zealanders were sentenced to death and five were executed.)

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