I’ve written three Anzac-related books:
Photographs in the Mud set on the Kokoda Track,
Lighthouse Girl set on Breaksea Island in Albany and in the Middle East
Light Horse Boy, about the men and horses who travelled in the 1st AIF convoy from Albany to the Middle East and Gallipoli.
About the books
November 1st, 2014 will mark 100 years since the first convoy of Australian and New Zealand troops left Albany to join the First World War. Soldiers, nurses and horses sailed from ports across Australia to gather in King George Sound. There were 36 troopships with three escorts. Two ships carrying Western Australian soldiers with the Japanese Ibuki joined the convoy at sea off Fremantle.
Before the convoy sailed, some soldiers signalled to Fay, the Breaksea Island lighthouse keeper’s daughter, asking her to relay their messages to loved ones. In April 2005 I read an article by Ron Crittall mentioning Fay’s son Don and his memories of the postcards that were sent to Fay from grateful soldiers in the Middle East. The postcards were addressed simply to ‘the little girl on Breaksea Island, Albany, Western Australia. I wanted to find out more…
After four years of research, writing and editing, Lighthouse Girl was published in 2009. By then I’d also become fascinated with other aspects of WW1. I found evocative photographs of the soldiers’ animal mascots. They took a menagerie of creatures, including kangaroos and one poor koala! I also learnt that of the approximately 136,000 horses that left Australia, only one returned. That horse was Sandy, the favourite charger of Major General Bridges. I wanted to write a story linked to him. Three years later, in 2013, Light Horse Boy, a partner book for Lighthouse Girl was published. Brian Simmonds stunning charcoal illustrations bring both stories to life alongside dozens of archival photographs and WW1 articles.
I don’t come from a military family and am not sure why I have written three books with a war setting. Perhaps it’s because war brings out the best and worst in people. For an author, that’s an interesting thing to explore.
Photographs in the Mud, my first picture book is set along Papua New Guinea’s Kokoda Track in 1942. The story explores war from the perspectives of two soldiers; one Australian and one Japanese. In 2002 I walked the Kokoda Track with a small group linked to a WW2 veteran. Whilst passing a burnt out stump, I heard the true story of a soldier who hid there after crawling from a ditch where he fell with an enemy soldier. The incident inspired the following scene, the pivotal moment in my story.
Over the next few months I will be adding Anzac-related news to my blog.
“In Conversation” – author panel
November 1st 2014, Albany Entertainment Centre
I was part of a panel with four other Australian authors and personalities: Peter FitzSimons, Ross Coulthart, Roland Perry and Ted Egan. Afterwards we all did some signing – they were tall…
Don Watson (son of Fay), and I spoke on radio together. Then we visited the poppies.