'They were fifty miles to victory and defeat, fifty miles to collapse and renewal, and fifty miles to a new place for Australia among the nations of the world. They were among the most significant fifty miles in our history.'
March, 1918. The young Australian nation is struggling to cope with the Great War, now in its fifth year – the strain of maintaining huge armies halfway across the globe, the bitter divisions over conscription, anxiety from the rise of Communism in Russia, and the creeping influence of the War Precautions Act. And, above all, the country-wide grief over the death of its men on a scale never before seen or even imagined.
The five Australian divisions have recently been combined into an all-Australian Corps, fighting as one unit in France. They need a commander and Major-General John Monash is a leading candidate, but rose through the ranks as a part-time militia officer rather than as a professional soldier, and is of German-Jewish background at a time when xenophobia is at its height. Before the issue can be settled, German supreme commander Erich Ludendorff resolves to launch a massive offensive, seize Paris and win the War . . .
The Last Fifty Miles is the riveting account of how, when it mattered most, Australia stood up to play a critical role in one of the most decisive victories of World War One. Told with immediacy, lyricism and a clear-eyed focus by a brilliant new talent in history writing, it relives an extraordinary, neglected chapter of Australia's past.
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