Review Blog

Feb 12 2018

1918 by Libby Gleeson

cover image The Great Australian War series. Scholastic, 2018 ISBN 9781743622513
(Age: Middle school) Highly recommended. Themes: War. The Great War. World War One. Villers-Bretonneux. Western Front. The last in the series, The Great Australian War, 1918 is written by Libby Gleeson who also wrote the first in this fine series, 1914.
Aiming to introduce a new generation of readers to Australia's involvement in this brutal war, each in the series gives a different hero and his perspective of Australia's involvement in the war. Set during the last year of conflict, the main character is Ned from Gilgandra, one of the young men caught up in the Cooee March, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowball_marches) fighting for his life in the trenches that make up the Western Front. Too late to land at Gallipoli, he was sent to Northern France where they have dug their way in and out of trenches for two years. At this stage the Russian Revolution has occurred and the new government has withdrawn Russia from the war, allowing the German forces to concentrate on getting to Paris.
Ned and his weary soldier mates are sent into battle at the small village of Villers-Bretonneux. They have been told that a win here will end the war, but this has been said before, all these men want to do is get it over and done with and head back for home. Ned wants to survive, particularly after meeting a young nurse, giving Gleeson the opportunity to explore how nurses fared in this conflict, while discussing the theme of bravery, treatment of the wounded, and key events including the fallout from the the aftermath of the conscription referendum of 1917. I enjoyed reading about the nitty gritty of the men at war, the letters from home, their opinion of those in charge, washing their uniforms, sneaking out at night to meet the nurses. All gives a reality which younger readers will appreciate, as they learn of the actions of their forebears fighting in the Great War.
Gleeson takes the readers through the final stages of the war, the mopping up campaigns, minor skirmishes, and hope for peace. Rumours abound in the last few months, at the front and at home, and it is a relief to all of them that Armistice is finally signed. Gleeson shows her young hero fighting a battle within himself about his paralyzed brother and this plays out against the backdrop of war.
Readers will learn a great deal about the strategy of war, and Australia's heroic commander, Monash, along with the ordinary people at the front.
Fran Knight

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