Generally speaking, the very model of a modern war historian

Historians in the News

SOME seed must have been planted for Dale Blair to become a war historian, because he began his life's work as a child.

His father, in the navy at the time, had helped put together young Dale's first Airfix model, of the HMS Revenge. There were visits to the War Memorial in Canberra. Dale was like so many little boys who climbed on the Japanese submarine and wondered at the grimness of the dioramas with all the little men gathered shabbily on broken, fire-lit ground.

The television, black and white, ran hot in those days with the US Combat series and shoot-outs between cowboys and Indians. He was just one of many kids running around the neighbourhood playing at war....

While Blair has written articles about the Civil War, he made his name in Australia with a challenging analysis of the Anzac myth called Dinkum Diggers, which was actually his PhD. Released in 2001 by Melbourne University Press, the book was received in serious circles as a welcome dose of reality at a time when the myth of the Anzac as bronze superman was gaining fresh purchase in the public imagination. Blair's thesis touched on the taboos of human frailty and even cowardice.

He says now: ''It looked at the universal truths of soldiering.''

The sadness and regret he felt when beholding the slaughter yard at Gettysburg is the same that he feels for the Diggers in Turkey and France....

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