by Lucas Jordan
Why our Staff Love Stealth Raiders: In the centennial deluge of books about World War I, it is easy to believe that every stone has already been overturned, every story already told. Lucas Jordan’s Stealth Raiders surprises by magnifying the footnotes to find many more forgotten or overlooked heroes. In 1918, Australian infantrymen, frustrated with the slow trench tactics and suicidal waves over the line, took it upon themselves to carry out small raids upon the enemy. These were quiet runs of a handful of soldiers, sneaking up on German machine-gunners - without orders or fanfare. Hugely successful in taking territory, these commando-style tactics were a radical change in engagement, defying and embarrassing British protocol.
Lucas Jordan uses soldiers’ private diaries, official accounts, and asides by historians such as C.W.Bean to tell the stories of soldiers who fought at hand-to-hand combat against greater numbers. These raiders were often denied honours or acknowledgement, with their gains attributed to their British superiors. Jordan wonderfully highlights the humble, no-nonsense pragmatism of these Australians, a larrikin resourcefulness born in the bush that surprised both the Germans and British.
Stealth Raiders is a fascinating, shocking and often sad read. The losses of WWI are unfathomably huge, but this book redresses and reframes the narrative. Jordan writes clearly, and without hyperbole, and the audacious heroism of the AIF raiders will stun you. I thoroughly recommend this book. It may well be the best book on a team “leading from the bottom” that you’ll ever read.
Book Description:A vivid exploration of the audacious, generally unauthorised, stealth attacks of Australian infantrymen on the German front line of 1918.
In 1918 a few daring low ranking Australian infantrymen, alone among all the armies on the Western Front, initiated stealth raids without orders. Stealth Raiders: A Few Daring Men of the Australian Infantry 1918 examines this distinct but neglected group. Stealth raiders killed Germans, captured prisoners and advanced the line, sometimes by thousands of yards, and almost always without command on either side knowing.
They were held in high regard by other men of the lower ranks and feared by the Germans facing them. Since Charles Bean laid down his pen in 1942, historians have not considered the distinctive character and motivation of these men.
Who were these stealth raiders and why did they do it? How significant were their actions and what made the Australian so distinctive in this independent and personal type of warfare? Using their first-hand accounts, official archives and private records Lucas Jordan pieces their stories together.
The book considers the stealth raiders’ war experience and training, the unprecedented topographic and environmental conditions at the front, and the quality and morale of the German Army in 1918. It also goes beyond these to consider the influence of Australian civil society and in particular the “bush ethos”. It demonstrates that bush skills gave some stealth raiders an edge and that the bush ethos, with its high premium on resourcefulness and initiative, contributed to making stealth raids a distinctively Australian phenomenon.