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Review: Gilbert Wong

"Scraps of shattered bodies obtruded from the obscene earth. The country became more and more abominable, more and more desolate. Steel helmets, rusted rifles, part of equipment, broken iron stakes, lengths of barbed wire were mingled with the tormented soil." Walter Hubert Downing's account of what he witnessed as an infantryman with the 7th battalion of the Australian Imperial Forces is what prose should be. Direct, tough and unflinching, his words bring home the terrible reality of trench warfare.

Downing, a Melbourne law student, was too short to enlist. He had his friends use weights to stretch him and he went to war.

When first published in 1920 this book won the Dublin Prize, awarded by Melbourne University for achievement in arts and sciences, and was widely regarded as the finest and most graphic description of the battles for the Western front.

Downing's account, as gripping and readable as when first penned, easily stands the test of time.