Anthony's Military Books
At the end of 1998 Anthony left Government House to become a full-time writer. His new book Soldier Boy was inspired by a visit he made to Gallipoli in 1995 with the Governor-General for the 80th anniversary of the Anzac landings.
Struck by the number of young people present, Anthony looked for a story that would speak to them about the Gallipoli campaign and the nature of war. Two years later he heard about 14-year-old Jim Martin, who told the great lie and said he was 18 ... went to Gallipoli ... and lived for only seven weeks before dying of disease.
He put Jim in the Governor-General's speech, stood up at his desk and said loudly "There's a book in you." Anthony drew on the resources of the Australian War Memorial, the National Archives and interviews with members of Jim's family to write his book, which has gone on to be the most successful of all his works, selling over 80,000 copies to date.
Soldier Boy won the Ethel Turner Prize for young adults in the 2002 NSW Premier's Literary Awards and was another CBCA Honour Book. It continues to be widely read not only in schools but across all ages.
This book is a model of historical writing for young (and old) readers ... a significant contribution to the nation's culture... (NSW Judge's report).
THE WESTERN FRONT
Anthony was already working on his next military book, Young Digger, even before Soldier Boy had been published. A friend at the AWM pushed an envelope of faded newspaper clippings across the lunch table and said, 'Here's your next book, Tony.'
Indeed it was! Reading the poignant stories of Henri, the little French war orphan who was adopted as a mascot by some Australian airmen, nicknamed 'Young Digger' and smuggled back home in a sack at the end of the Great War, Anthony realised it was the ideal companion book to Soldier Boy:
Gallipoli and the Western Front. Anzac and the Armistice. Leaving, and coming home. Death, and finding love amid the ashes of war. The stories of these two boys stand like bookends to the history of Australia's involvment in the First World War.
Published in 2002, Young Digger was short-listed for the NSW Premier's History Awards and was another CBCA Notable Book for that year.
Anthony's third military book, Animal Heroes, followed directly from the other two. At the launch of Young Digger, a friend said he should write the story of Horrie the 'Wog Dog' – another orphan mascot who was smuggled back to Australia during the Second World War.
‘But that story has already been told,’ he said. ‘The authorities destroyed Horrie at the end of the war.’ But his friend replied, ‘I mean you should say what really happened.’ And breaking the silence of 60 years she whispered a whole new secret ending to Horrie’s ‘tail.’
Realising that there are many other animals who have served with Australia’s fighting forces whose stories have yet to be told, Anthony put them together in this book. Some like Simpson’s Donkey are well known, but most are largely forgotten…
The gallant steeds of the Light Horse, only one of which came home … the brave carrier pigeons two of whom won medals … the faithful tracker dogs who were left behind in Vietnam … the mules, mascots, pets, military dogs, and even the dolphins who worked alongside Australian Navy divers in Iraq … All are Animal Heroes with a place in history.