Farewell, Dear People: Biographies of Australia’s Lost Generation
Farewell, Dear People: Biographies of Australia’s Lost Generation retrieves the lives of ten Australians of outstanding potential who exemplify their nation’s lost generation of World War I. Featuring prodigious research and acclaimed writing, the extended biographies bring to life these special but long forgotten Australians for the first time. They include an internationally renowned medical scientist, an Antarctic explorer, a Rhodes scholar, a barrister, a winemaker, a footballer, a rising Labor star and a popular farmer who inspired the film “Gallipoli”.
Publisher: Scribe Publications Pty Ltd
Available in: Hardback, Amazon Kindle, Apple iBook
Published: March 21, 2012
Praise for Farewell, Dear People: Biographies of Australia’s Lost Generation
The book, drawing on first hand sources, provides a fascinating glimpse into the Australia of the late 19th Century and then the first decade before the conflict that engulfed Europe and drew in the British dominions. It also tells the reader a great deal about how the war was actually fought on the ground by those present on the Western Front and at Gallipoli. Particularly moving are the accounts of how the families of these young men responded to their deaths. Many of them never fully recovered, and the memory of this lost generation was an ever-present shadow over Australia in the 1920s and 1930s. This is a powerful and important contribution to Australian history.
Do not for a second think of this book as military history only or mostly. In the life of Robert Bage, for example, two-thirds or more of the story relates to his membership of Mawson’s Antarctic expedition … McMullin has the knowledge and skill to tell the story of Mawson’s expedition through the life and experiences of an almost neglected member of the group …
The picture of Duntroon in its first years is unusually interesting and extraordinarily well researched … From Duntroon we move to the Carlton Football Club in Melbourne and to George Challis, a Tasmanian recruit and a very fine footballer. McMullin writes as well about sport as he does about war, or medical research, or wine-making, or Antarctic exploring. Such is the range and scope of this book and such were the skills required of its author. Nor does McMullin leave the story of each young man at the moment of his death, as has been so commonly done in military history. He takes us forward into lives that are attempting to cope with grief …
This is a rich book, to be sure. One that I read with such pleasure and admiration. It is a wonderful tribute to the 10 men whose lives we discover for the first time, an extraordinary account of Australia from about the 1870s and into the 1930s, and deeply moving. Ross McMullin makes a powerful case: Australia lost grievously in losing these men and we forget them to our great loss.
Ross McMullin is a first-class historian, having won deserved acclaim for his centenary history of the Australian Labor Party, The Light on the Hill, and a thoughtful, enlightening account of Chris Watson’s first national Labour government, So Monstrous a Travesty. His earlier military biography, Pompey Elliott, is justly regarded as a convincing assessment and clear portrait of one of Australia’s best and most revered military commanders of the Great War.
But Farewell, Dear People may prove to be an even greater contribution to Australian military history, for its overwhelming humanity. It is undeniable that McMullin has been deeply touched by the loss of those irreplaceable lives he chronicles, and rather than suppress such emotional engagement, he has allowed this to inform the book. Farewell, Dear People is all the more powerful and persuasive for this emotional commitment being clearly evident …
C.E.W. Bean, our foremost historian of the Great War, [believed] that the sacrifices of the lost generation should inspire Australians to do great things in the peace. McMullin’s heroes would all have been mighty contributors to the Australian post-war future, had they lived.
Ross McMullin would once have been placed in the Charles Bean tradition of military history. Now, McMullin is the Bean tradition. This is a remarkably good book, with its tapestry of battle, its chronicle of wasted talents and its evocative descriptions of the impact of loss upon Australian families, especially on women. Farewell, Dear People has elevated the study of Australia’s involvement in the Great War to a new dimension.