Against his mother’s wishes, John Charles Barrie joined the Australian army in 1909. Five years later, he was on his way to Egypt as an officer with the Australian Imperial Force. He survived the war to write his memoirs, which were kept by his family for 80 years.
Made public for the first time, this book gives first-hand accounts of Barrie’s wounding at Gallipoli on that fateful first Anzac Day, his recuperation in England, and the friendships he made there. It chronicles his escape from rehab so that he could return to the war in France, and his fighting for days on end, waist-deep in mud in the trenches.
Memoirs of an Anzac tells of the horrors of war, but it is also lightened with the good humour that resulted from thousands of young Australian men being thrown together in dire circumstances. This is not a history textbook, nor is it a series of diary notes and letters — it is a gut-wrenching, heart-warming true story that will move you.
‘[Barrie’s] account of trench warfare is deeply personal, detailing friendships, discomfort, disagreements and mischief. Barrie wrote his story in the 1930s, but it was never published. His granddaughter rescued the manuscript. We are in her debt.’
Tim Hilferty, Adelaide Advertiser
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‘An easy read, combining details of the action with an account of the personal side of the soldier’s life both in the trenches and out and a fair amount of humour thrown in … a good way to learn about World War I without feeling bogged down in a history text.’
‘[Barrie’s] memoirs go far deeper than Gallipoli, talking about his rehab in England, his desperation to return to conflict and his fighting in the trenches in France … While war is a horrifying topic, the one stand-out (not surprisingly) is the way the Australians dealt with it, with humour thrown in to Barrie’s desire to get back out there and fight, despite the fact physically it would be unwise … A wonderful way to appreciate an important part of Australia’s history.’
Alex Fair and Sue Stevenson, Launceston Examiner
‘[Judy Osborne, Barrie's granddaughter] said she fell into the story on her first reading and returned to the manuscript in recent years determined to share her grandfather’s witty and poignant account of Australian wartime … a striking style that balanced the horrors of war with the very unique brand of Australian wit and humour that seemed to emerge from the battlefields of Europe.’
Simon McCarthy, Inverell Times
‘One of the positive side effects of the excesses of the ‘‘centenary of Anzac’’ will be … new sources giving us fresh insights into a war we thought we knew. John Barrie’s memoir of his service on Gallipoli, in Britain and on the western front is, I hope, a harbinger of more to come.’
Peter Stanley, Canberra Times