Reviewed – ANZAC Fury

Peter Thompson’s work on the Battle of Crete in 1941 is simply excellent. If you find military / political history fascinating, this is the type of book that you’ll start and not want to stop till you’re done.

Thompson’s 2008 work, Pacific Fury, was brilliant – and this is no different. To his credit, he focuses on the strategic decisions that led to the Australian and New Zealand forces being on Crete in the first place, and I learned much of the military-political machinations that led to these troops being sent to the island.

There is plenty of detail, though the Kindle e-version shows its limits because it’s so much harder to go back to the maps and see what / where things were happening, compared with a well-thumbed hard copy.

I knew little of the Battle of Crete and this book really puts it into perspective. In the days of Twitter and instant communication, the manner in which the Australian and New Zealand governments and their senior field commanders were kept in the dark by Churchill seems incredible – but it happened. What Thompson does well is not just tell the big picture stories; he paints a series of vivid descriptions of soldiers’ and sailors’ experiences and expertly creates a narrative that is neither academically /militarily ponderous or based on small-scale actions.

Thompson shows how the invasion by the German airborne forces nearly failed, and in fact, it was the last time German airborne units were used in the war. It was indeed a very closely fought and contest battle and the book outlines this well.

Of note in the book are the scenes of men who are told that there are no more ships coming to evacuate them – the poignancy, urgency and then some of the attitudes of ‘right, let’s make a decision and go with it’ make you feel as if you’re there. And while we focus on the loss of life to Allied and German protagonists, Thompson also ensures that the cost of lives to the local people on Crete is not forgotten. The writing here is factual and the brutality of these massacres of civilians is stark.

ANZAC Fury is a very good read by an author whose work I’ve respected in the past. It shows that Crete was no ‘sideshow’ and in our national military-social history psyche, it’s part of World War II that has, somehow, escaped us.

Highly recommended.

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