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To Hell and Back
By Susanna and Jake de Vries

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To Hell and Back

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To Hell and Back
The Banned Account of Gallipoli by Sydney Loch
By Susanna and Jake de Vries
ISIS Large Print, 2008
ISBN : 978-0-7531-5689-6
Genre: World War I, Biography

Reviewed by Herbert White - December 9, 2008

Sydney Loche was a London born, Australian emigree, who joined the Australian Imperial Force shortly after the start of World War I. Loch was to see action during the Gallipoli Campaign with the Anzacs. During his war service Loch kept a war journal, and after falling seriously ill with typhoid fever, Loch was evacuated from Gallipoli. He eventually returned to Australia after spending four months in a hospital in Egypt. After returning to Australia, Loch turned his journal into a narrative history of the war. It was published in 1916 under the title, The Straits Impregnable, and under the penname, Sydney de Loghe. It was also published as a work of fiction, in part in order to circumvent the military censors and War Precautions Act (something akin to the modern day Official Secrets Act). The book was an instant bestseller. However, the book soon came to the attention of a military censor who ordered the book withdrawn. The second edition of the book, which was in the works, never saw the light of day. Worse the book was all but forgotten by the fog of war and tragedies that were to follow...

That is until, now. In To Hell and Back, historians Susanna and Jake de Vries have resurrected Loch's book. Within the pages of this historic text, the de Vries have included a negligibly abridged version of The Straits Impregnable, along with annotations on the text, a concise biography of Loch, and the history of his book. The Straits Impregnable was an important book, not only because it gives one of the few first hand accounts of the battles of Gallipoli and the deadly toll that they took on the Australian continent, but also because it provides keen insights into how Australians viewed the War to End all Wars, and the far reaching consequences of censorship in the name of 'national security'.

To Hell and Back is an important addition to the body of works available that chronicles the military aspects of the First World War - from the viewpoint of a common solider. Also, by reintroducing The Straits Impregnable to a modern audience, the authors have once again made a work of high literary and historical value accessible to readers. They have also provided a long overdue biography of Sydney Loch, which details his life from his childhood in England, his life in Australia, his work helping refugees during World War II, and his death in Greece in 1954. Sydney Loch was an exceptional man, and it is time that his story was told.

I highly recommend To Hell and Back to anyone with an interest in military history, World War I, or literary history and the role of censorship. I also recommend this book as an outstanding read that will fascinate anyone with an interest in war stories.


To Hell and Back can be purchased directly from Ulverscroft, the parent company of ISIS Large Print.


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