Captive ANZACS: Australian POWs of the Ottomans during the First World War by Kate Ariotti – Book Review

The experience of Australian prisoners of war captured in the Great War has been far less written about than those of the Second World War. Those taken by the Ottomans have received much less attention – until this book. The ‘Turks’ captured around two hundred Australians – sailors, soldiers and airmen. The enemy captured them in the Dardanelles (HMAS AE2), at Gallipoli, in the desert battle of Sinai and Palestine and Mesopotamia.

Cambridge University Press, 2018
Hardback 215pp RRP: $59.95

In this book, derived from a PhD dissertation, Kate Ariotti has examined the experiences of the prisoners in a logical sequence – from capture, transport, treatment, incarceration, employment by the Ottomans, medical conditions, their support from allied and neutral authorities, effects on families, release, movement back home, treatment by the ‘Repat’ and remembrance. She has centred her study on how the prisoners themselves felt about their capture and the challenges of their imprisonment. This approach is a great advantage for the book – it is a compassionate and very readable account.

This comprehensive treatment is backed by extensive archival research in Australia and UK. There is a very useful appendix listing all the prisoners (including those who served with British units) with their date and place of capture and a listing of those who died in captivity.

The Australian Army History series published by Cambridge University Press consists of volumes produced to the highest standards. They are well illustrated, well documented and have intelligent and useful indexes. Kate Ariotti has kept to this standard and has written a pioneering and engaging work on this important topic. Put it on your reading list!

Reviewed for RUSIV by Mike O’Brien, August 2018

Contact Royal United Services Institute about this article.

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