Australia's long-standing love affair with the Diggers has blinded us to the dark side of the Anzac legend.
Bad Characters is a book that will do something no other book has tried to do. It will tell the story of the Australian soldiers in the Great War who were not heroes: soldiers who committed offences and crimes; those who malingered, deserted, robbed and murdered their comrades; those who took part in riots, strikes and mutiny.
The term 'bad characters' was used by the army to refer to those who caused unrest or were disobedient: their crimes ranged from avoiding battle, absenteeism, desertion, disobedience and self-inflicting wounds and contracting venereal disease, to the more extreme charges of murder and mutiny.
Bad Characters travels from the outbreak of the war through the agonising course of the conflict to its end and beyond, to the memory of the larrikin Digger that has survived in folklore and anecdote to this day. The AIF's first and greatest historian Charles Bean thought that the finest tribute we could pay to the men that he knew was to tell their story straight.
Based on extensive research, Peter Stanley's honest, unflinching, humane and respectful book recounts dramatic, and often tragic, stories of the AIF's dark side, many for the first time, and in doing blends 'true crime' with 'war history'. More importantly, it fosters a truer understanding of who these men were, what they did in the war, and what this terrible war did to them.
About the Author
Dr Peter Stanley migrated with his family from Britain aged ten in 1966. He has become Australia's leading military-social historian, the author of twenty books, including Tarakan: an Australian Tragedy, White Mutiny: British Military Culture in India 1825-75, For Fear of Pain: British Surgery 1790-1850, Quinn's Post, Anzac, Gallipoli, Invading Australia: Japan and the Battle for Australia, 1942 and A Stout Pair of Boots: a Guide to Exploring Australia's Battlefields. He is also the author of Commando to Colditz (Murdoch Books, 2009). Peter worked for the Australian War Memorial from 1980 to 2007, where he was Principal Historian, and is now Director of the Centre for Historical Research at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra.