Pens and Bayonets
Letters from the Front by soldiers of Yorke Peninsula during the Great War
Pens and Bayonets gives voice to the young Australia soldiers who volunteered to fight for our freedom in the Great War. They answered the call willingly, with many thinking it may be all over before they got there. How wrong they were. South Australia, and Yorke Peninsula in particular, were proud to provide soldiers for their country.
The letters were written during quiet periods and give us an insight and sometimes graphic account of the day-to-day encounters during the Gallipoli campaign and various offensives on the Western Front and Palestine.
Communication options abound in the modern age, but imagine the challenges of 100 years ago, with your son, brother, uncle or nephew on the other side of the world, fighting in what we now know to be horrendous conditions, writing a letter home.
It would take months for the letter to arrive. With the letter came a connection with family that gave a belief that their loved ones were safe and, importantly, the needed hope that the end of the Great War would bring them home.
The letters the soldiers received, many weeks after being written, gave comfort and solace to these men, and provided their only contact with loved ones.
Don Longo has gathered many of these moving letters, and set them in their historical context, to bring these soldiers back to life.
Praise for Pens and Bayonets
'A significant piece of work. Though it's related to the Yorke Peninsula, I think all South Australians - all Australians - can relate to it. It's fascinating in the sense that it's an important historical work. It's personal, it's poignant. It's humorous at times. It's certainly compassionate.' - Graeme Cornes, 5AA
'If I had to sum up this great book in one word, it would be "poignant" ... I often struggle with epistolary works which lack the formal structure of standard non-fiction. These letters however have been carefully selected to provide a soldier's perspective to the campaigns and battles in which these local identities were involved. I'm certain that the editor would have been tormented at having to limit himself to including only two or three letters per battle or theatre but in doing so, he has created a highly readable and very interesting book.' - Rob Welsh, ReadPlus
Donato (Don) Longo is a graduate in history from the University of Adelaide (1980) and completed his doctorate at the Université de Paris VIII (1985). He worked at Adelaide University from 1985 until his retirement, in university management, languages and multicultural policy, and teaching modern European history. He has written on 20th century French and German history, Australian immigration since the 1920s and World War I. Recent publications include Terra Lasci, Terra Trovi: From Molinara to Adelaide: The History of a Southern Italian Community in South Australia, 1927-2007 (Lythrum Press, 2010) and 'The Ties that Bind': Southern Yorke Peninsula and the Great War 1914-1919: The War Diary and Letters of Sidney P. King, of Koolywurtie, SA (Ardrossan RSL, 2015).