The Australians and Americans whose WWI victory changed modern warfare
July 4, 2018 will see the 100th anniversary of the World War One Battle of Hamel, fought on the Somme on American Independence Day, an Allied victory, achieved in a staggering 93 minutes, which introduced tactics that dramatically turned the tide against the Germans and changed the way that war is fought.
The battle of Hamel was remarkable for its speed, the tactics employed, numerous acts of extreme bravery, and the fact that for the first time in history American troops fought under Australian command.
The Battle of Hamel, explores the preparations and ramifications for this blitzkreig and the parts played by six men in particular:
· General John Monash, a former Melbourne engineer who had risen through militia ranks to become the first Australian corps commander of WWI, and who put his career on the line by conceiving and commanding the bold Hamel assault, implementing it despite the reservations of his British superior and the interference of American commander General Pershing and Monash’s own Australian prime minister, Billy Hughes.
· Australians Private Henry Dalziel and Lance Corporal Jack Axford, who both won the Victoria Cross (VC) for their gallantry during the battle, and Sergeant Ned Searle (who is related to Stephen Dando-Collins), who set out to win a Victoria Cross during the battle.
· Colonel Joseph B Sanborn, at 64 supposedly much too old for front line service, yet who, as commander of the American 131st Regiment, defied the orders of US commander General Pershing to lead his men into battle alongside the Australians. On General Monash’s recommendation, Sanborn was awarded the British Distinguished Service Cross (DSC).
· American Corporal Thomas Pope, who won America’s highest gallantry award, the Medal of Honor (MOH), for his part in the Battle of Hamel, becoming the first member of the US Army to be awarded the Medal of Honor in World War One. Pope would live to 94, becoming the last WWI Medal of Honor winner to pass away.
“Stephen Dando-Collins' book shows the triumph that the Battle of Hamel was for General Sir John Monash and the Australians. He gives even greater prominence in the narrative to the involvement of the Americans, their relationships with the Aussies, the easy camaraderie that soon grows up between the two forces, and the machinations of Monash to keep the Americans in the fight.Dando-Collins is a more conventional writer than FitzSimons and his is a more traditional book. It is a very good book. Its account of the men and the battle is comprehensive and thrilling.”
Michael McKernan, The Sydney Morning Herald
“Dando-Collins details Monash's ideas and, importantly, the stories of the men doing the fighting ... an excellent retelling of the battle.”
Jeff Maynard, The Herald Sun
“A gritty and captivating read that takes those of us who have experienced conflict back to the war zone. Stephen Dando-Collins reveals the shocking truth of battle through soldiers’ eyes, and gives us an insight, at both ends of the chain of command, from soldier to commander, into the ‘Ninety-Minute Battle’ that excited the Allies and shocked the enemy. A battle so sudden and devastatingly perfect that it formed the basis for modern strategic warfare.”
Major Nicholas Chantler, AM, Australian Army Intelligence Corps (ret’d).
“Rejoice, history readers! There is a new literary giant in the land!”
Lt-Colonel Dave Grossman, US Army (ret’d), bestselling author of ‘On Combat’ and ‘On Killing’
“A clear, easily read and dramatic account of the 93-minute battle and its aftermath. Dando-Collins uses soldiers' personal letters to explain individual initiatives in hand-to-hand trench combat that pushed 5km into enemy territory.”
Marea Donnelly, The Daily Telegraph
“A gripping read that takes us into the lives and minds of its characters at war.”
David Anthony, Atherton Tablelander
Nib Military History Prize
2018 • Nib Military History Prize