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The Glass Soldier

Not All of Him Shall Die

(15 customer reviews)
Authors: Don Farrands
155mm x 230mm

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“A gripping true yarn about Australian courage,comrades and compassion!” – Mark Donaldson VC

About the Book

This is the true story of a young Australian soldier whose life of opportunity was cut down by trauma yet revived by strength and providence.

Nelson Ferguson, from Ballarat, was a stretcher-bearer on the Western Front in France in World War I. He survived the dangers of stretcher-bearing in some of Australia’s most horrific battles: the Somme, Bullecourt, Ypres and Villers-Bretonneux. In April 1918, at Villers-Bretonneux, he was severely gassed. His eyes were traumatised, his lungs damaged.

Upon his return home, he met and married Madeline, the love of his life, started a family, and resumed his career teaching art. But eventually the effects of the mustard gas claimed his eyesight, ending his career. Courageously enduring this consequence of war, he continued contributing to society by assisting his son and son-in-law in their stained-glass window business. Advances in medicine finally restored his sight in 1968, allowing him to yet again appreciate the beauty around him, before his death in 1976.

The story of this Anzac will stir your soul. It is a story of war and bravery, pain and strength, hope and miracles.

“Remarkable… intensely personal.”

– Barry Jones AC

“The Great War changed everything. This true story shows what wonders can be born of such horrors. And it reminds us that we must never forget.”

– Julian Burnside AO, QC

‘Let there be light! Farrands’ truly visionary book is as fine on the miracle of sight as John Hull’s masterpiece Touching the Rock – or the masterful writings of Oliver Sacks’.

-Phillip Adams AO

“This inspiring soldier’s life fills the reader with the broader history of the ANZAC generations and reveals the power of endurance, hope and the bonds of family.”

– Kate Darian-Smith 

Professor of Australian Studies and History University of Melbourne

“Like NH Ferguson, my grandfather, Horace Stott, returned damaged from World War I. He was also a ‘timeless believer in peace’. The Glass Soldier blends wartime horror with peacetime beauty. This remarkable story shows that hope and courage and beauty can survive almost anything.”

-Natasha Stott Despoja AM

“Profoundlymoving, vivid and informative.”

– Nigel Westlake, composer

“Grandly told but touchingly revealing, this ANZAC story reminds us of the horror of war; of personal legacies; of ‘mateship’; and the power of unswerving love. I wish I had known the Glass Soldier.”

– Derek Guille, broadcaster

“When you restore a person’s sight, you restore their dignity and independence. The Glass Soldier is a heart-warming reminder of the trauma of the loss of sight, and the miracle of its return when made possible.”

-Gabi Hollows AO The Fred Hollows Foundation

Don Farrands

Don Farrands

Don Farrands is the grandson of the Glass Soldier, NH Ferguson. Don is a commercial lawyer, chartered accountant, and director. He has significant and varied experience in law, commerce, the arts, and community organisations including in the disability sector.  He lives in Melbourne.

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15 reviews for The Glass Soldier

  1. This is a “ripping yarn” and, being a true story, it’s all the more remarkable. I felt the whole range of emotions as I read this book and when I finished was all the more proud of the ANZACs and the spirit they showed – both in war and peace. An amazing man and an amazing story about him.

  2. The Glass Soldier review: Don Farrands’ lovingly told story of war and peace Nelson Ferguson’s story – the subject of Hannie Rayson’s play with the same title – is a remarkable one. In 1915 he went to war as a medic and was initially stationed in England. He applied to go to France where he witnessed the catastrophe of World War I hauling stretchers through most major battles, ending up at Villers-Bretonneux in 1918 where he was gassed, which severely impaired his sight. What makes his story remarkable is what comes after. He taught art until the early ’60s, when his sight went. Meanwhile his son and son-in-law started a stained-glass firm, with Ferguson as guiding spirit. In 1969, medical science restored his sight and he saw the glass creations for the first time. Don Farrands uses his grandfather’s diaries to recreate the tale lovingly, like one of the windows.

  3. Nelson Harold Ferguson enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in July 1915. He was a young art teacher from Ballarat who joined up to be part of the adventure of war. Serving as a stretcher-bearer on the frontlines in Europe, his adventure rapidly became a nightmare. He returned home in January 1919 suffering debilitating injuries and facing an uncertain future. Later in life, Ferguson founded a stained glass business in Melbourne, earning himself the sobriquet the glass soldier. This book is by Ferguson’s grandson and draws extensively from his wartime diaries and letters. It’s a story of determination, faith, and love, and a reflection on the tragic human cost of war. Royalties from sales of the book are being donated to The Fred Hollows Foundation.

  4. “A gripping true yarn about Australian courage, comrades and compassion!”

  5. “Remarkable … intensely personal.”

  6. “This story shows what wonders can be born of such horrors…we must never forget.”

  7. “A truly visionary book as fine on the miracle of sight as John Hull’s masterpiece Touching the
    Rock or the masterful writings of Oliver Sacks.”

  8. “Profoundly moving, vivid and informative.”

  9. “Reveals the power of endurance, hope and the bonds of family.”

  10. “This remarkable story shows that hope and courage and beauty can survive almost anything.”

  11. “Grandly told but touchingly revealing … I wish I had known the Glass Soldier.”

  12. “A heart-warming reminder of the trauma of the loss of sight, and the miracle of its return.”

  13. This is an engaging story, well written and informative. It gives a very human face to the enduring sacrifices made during wartime.

  14. The Glass Soldier is well written and tells an epic story of World War I from the perspective of a single young soldier from Australia. Although Nelson’s war ended more than 100 years ago, it is as relevant today as it was then to help us understand what is happening to soldiers right now. It exposes the lies that drive us to glorify war and downplay the invisible suffering that can last a lifetime for soldiers and their families.

    It’s a deeply human story about courage and fear, the mess that is war, about stoicism and determination to persevere under dreadful conditions, and later to deal with disability while still having a wonderful family and good work. There is the bittersweet triumph when Nelson Ferguson regains his eyesight as an old man. For those who want to understand and appreciate the people of Australia, the story of Nelson is a great introduction.

  15. I really enjoyed this book. Written mostly in the first person. It is well researched. A must read.

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