Author Cate Davis first discovered her father's diaries from World War One when the family home was being cleared out following the death of the last of his siblings. Although the entries were very terse, after reading them many times Cate felt that there was a story in them that should be told.
The forthcoming book, From Gallipoli to Coopers Creek, is a reminder of the devastation of war, and through diary entries tell the story of how Lieutenant Bruce Campbell, like many other men in this era, struggled with fitting back into a society where the civilians were still thinking in terms of their pre-war society.
Bruce records his first shot in his diary - far from the first time he had fired a gun, but it was the first time he had deliberately fired a shot with the intent of killing another human being. The evacuation of Gallipoli, then the inept defeat at Gaza and the realisation that he had to become a completely different person to be able to obey the orders he was given weighed heavily on his soul. And upon his return, being left by his fiancée who no longer recognises the man who left for War.
This biographical novel is about his struggles to overcome all these adversities. Bruce finally falls in love with a woman who has also been adversely affected by the war and has her own obstacles to overcome. Between them, they carve out a happy and meaningful life on the block of land Bruce has been granted under the Soldier Settlement Scheme. From Gallipoli to Coopers Creek is a heart-warming story about the legacy of the war and the healing power of love
For many years, Cate Davis worked as a Senior High School music teacher and during that time, she was co-founder of the Border Music Camp which is held annually at Albury. Although this had a very shaky beginning, it is now approaching its 42 years of activity. She directed this Camp for 18 years and received an Australia Day Award for her work. Cate was also a conductor for the Albury/Wodonga Choral Society, the Border Youth Orchestra and a Regional Schools Orchestra for many years.
Unfortunately, because of the onset of tinnitus, she had to give up music. Needing some outlet for her creativity, she turned to writing, and this is her third book. Her first book was a children's book, Polly Platypus, which was made available to charities and has raised over $15,000. Her second book, Great Granny B was a biography of her husband's aunt who was the first Welfare Officer to be appointed for migrants after the Second World War.
From Gallipoli to Coopers Creek
Author: Cate Davis
Question: How would you describe From Gallipoli to Coopers Creek?
Cate Davis: From Gallipoli to Coopers Creek is about the effect World War I had on my father, Bruce Campbell, and his struggle to achieve his goal in life. He was a very ordinary person, a Bank Teller at the time of his enlistment. But I don't think he ever had any aspirations to make the Bank his career, I think he always wanted to be a grazier.
Because he was a very competent horseman, he had no trouble getting into the Light Horse. This at least fulfilled part of his dream because would spend most of his time on horseback, and as a bank teller, he was not able to do that.
I believe he returned to Australia suffering from Post Traumatic Stress, but that affliction did not even have a name then. The only good thing about his having fought in World War I was that when he returned he was granted a Soldier Settlement Block of land. It was very run down and none of the Soldier Settlers were granted sufficient funds to develop their land properly, but he put everything he had into making this block of land profitable. Then the Depression came. He could no longer afford his repayments so he had to sell nearly one third of his land in order to meet these payments. By this time, he had also married and had a young son, but they were never threatened with starvation as many were, because the land was atleast able to provide them with all the food they needed.
Thanks to the wool boom that followed World War II he was able to buy this land back and eventually became a very successful grazier.
Question: Can you talk about how your father's diaries from World War One inspired From Gallipoli to Coopers Creek?
Cate Davis: His diaries were not what I would normally expect from a diary because there was seldom any expression of emotion. They only contained the briefest possible outline of his activities. For the First Battle of Gaza where they were ordered to withdraw when the had virtually won, he says -Attack failed in the afternoon'. Because it was so brief and terse, I felt I wanted to fill in the gaps and embarked on research here in Australia as well as in Egypt and Jordan, and I feel I have been able to fill in most of the gaps
Question: What did you learn when reading these diaries?
Cate Davis: I got an outline of where he had been and which battles he had fought, so I was able to confidently research where he had fought. After reading them many times, I was also able to detect a rising anger about the mismanagement of this war.
Question: What message do you hope readers take away when reading From Gallipoli to Coopers Creek?
Cate Davis: I would like my readers to take away an understanding that although the ANZACs fought with great bravery, there was little about this war that was heroic. Nearly 60,000 Australian men died in this war, and that was one in five of the men who enlisted. In the following ten years another 60,000 of these veterans would die, bringing the death toll to 40%. Many of those who died following the war committed suicide, and many of the remaining turned to alcohol. The remaining 60% did grow old, but not as we normally grow old - they were haunted by the memories of a mismanaged war. Age did weary them and the passing years condemned them to live with these memories. Let us not forget to remember these men as well as the men who were killed.
Interview by Brooke Hunter