Australian Light Horse – The Campaign in the Middle East, 1916−1918 by Phillip Bradley – Book Review

There are many books about the Light Horse campaigns in WW1, but this one has the advantage of including illustrations on almost every page, many of them being rarely-seen photographs from private collections.

Allan & Unwin 2016 Paperback 208pp RRP: $39.99
Allan & Unwin 2016
Paperback 208pp RRP: $39.99

Author Phillip Bradley covers the Sinai, Palestine and Syrian campaigns from 1916-1918 in a larger-format softcover book of 208 pages. He has referred extensively to 45 diaries and 24 photo collections, as well as the more-usual official sources. The new sources are individually identified in a special annex, giving a brief biography and photo of each soldier.

Bradley’s account of the campaigns against the Turks is written in an easily-accessible style for the general reader, but in sufficient detail to provide a reasonable feel for the rigors of life in Chauvel’s Desert Mounted Corps. There are several clear and useful maps.

Along the way, he provides descriptions of the classic battles: Romani, the Es-Salt raids, Beersheba, the fall of Jerusalem, Megiddo and the great ride to capture Damascus (many hours before Lawrence of Arabia arrived). These are enlivened by frequent quotes from soldiers’ diaries.

When considering the aftermath of the war, Bradley specifically discusses the infamous Surafend incident (9 Dec 1918), expressing the view that British action to control the local Arabs after Turkish rule ended had been inadequate – too little, too late. He then wryly points out that despite having castigated the Australians after Surafend (and cancelled previously-earned military awards), the British nevertheless later relied upon the Australian Light Horse to help put down the March 1919 Egyptian rebellion.

This book provides a very good general introduction to the subject. Its many illustrations and quotes make it a worthy addition to any Light Horse library collection.

Reviewed for RUSIV by John Boyce, February 2017

Contact Royal United Services Institute about this article.

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