The ‘Fair Dinkums’ were those who, once the initial rush to enlist was over, and the scale of casualties at Gallipoli had become apparent, joined the army from a considered sense of duty and patriotism.
The letters of author Glen McFarlane’s great uncle Alf Layfield, ‘a man whose decency in a world gone mad shines through his own words’ and one of the Fair Dinkums who did not return from the War, were the inspiration for this book of almost 400 pages. Published in time for the 100th anniversary of the battles of Fromelles and Pozières, Fair Dinkums was 20 years in the planning.
This is an important social history of the 152 men of the 8th Reinforcements of the 7th Battalion AIF. Some of these men also went on to form part of the new 59th Battalion. Although not a military history as such, the experiences of the Fair Dinkums are followed through their training and the battles at Gallipoli and on the Western Front.
The Fair Dinkums were a diverse group of men from urban and rural Victoria. Their experiences, achievements and also their human failings are faithfully recorded. Most of the men were single, and some lied about their age to join: After basic training in Victoria at Seymour and Broadmeadows, the Dinkums sailed from Port Melbourne aboard the Enchases in August 1915.
The adventures of the Dinkums are described in detail, but the detail is always interesting, and never feels excessive.
The book is divided into three parts: the Dinkums, the Diggers and Discharge and the Days After. There are endnotes, an afterword and a complete list of the Fair Dinkums showing the 35 who died or were killed in action. There are many photographs of the Dinkums, showing their names, and also uncaptioned photographs at the beginning of each chapter.
Reviewed for RUSI by Roger Buxton, July 2016
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