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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sydney Siege and Loss of Innocence by John Tognolini

In the tragic aftermath of the Sydney Siege in the Lindt Café. Our prime minister Tony Abbott, has called it “our brush with terrorism.” It was not terrorism but a criminal act by a lone gunman suffering from mental illness with a history of violence against women. Some in the media have compared it to the 9/11 attacks and the London Bombings, a few have called it Sydney’s loss of innocence.

With all due respect to the victims of siege at the Lindt Café, Sydney lost its innocence back in 1788 when the first boat people arrived in chains and British Crown raised its flag and took the ancestral lands of the Indigenous Peoples under the lie of Terra Nullius. It says a fair bit about Aboriginal People that amongst the moving floral tribute from thousands of people in Martin Place to Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson who were killed by Man Haron Monis, that a smoking ceremony took place to cleanse the area of bad spirits

Sunday, December 07, 2014


Brothers by John Tognolini is the first of a projected quartet of novellas dealing with the war experiences of four of Tognolini’s uncles during WW1, beginning with those of Stephen and Andrew Tognolini, working-class men in their early twenties, at Gallipoli. In many ways the book breaks from the dominant narrative enshrined in popular retellings of the Anzac/Gallipoli experience, beginning with the Tognolini brothers, city-industrial workers, not bushmen, and of Italian and English/Irish descent, not pure Anglos. Indeed, the Gallipoli of Tognolini’s account is peopled with ‘others’: the Allied invaders fighting the Turks are not just Australians and New Zealanders (ANZACS), but also British, French, Canadian Newfoundlanders, Canadians, British Indians (from the future India, Pakistan, Bangladesh), while in the Australian ranks are people of Aboriginal, Chinese, Japanese, German, Italian, West Indians descent--not only the pure Anglos who tend to people populist accounts.


Russell Crowe is Right About Gallipoli by John Tognolini

Russell Crowe said in an interview promoting his new film The Water Diviner, that Australia invaded a sovereign nation" at Gallipoli and that it was time to stop celebrating the mythology of the military campaign.

"I think we should be mature enough as a nation to take into account the story that the other blokes have to tell," he said.

"For all the heroism you want to talk about, you know, for me, a fundamentally more important conversation is the waste of life and these things should, you know, we shouldn't celebrate the parts of that mythology that shouldn't be celebrated."

He's right. That’s one reason why I wrote my historical novel Brothers Part One: Gallipoli 1915.
This is one part from my book about the Islamic truce took place at Gallipoli between Australian and Turkish soldiers.

"There were some rumours from intelligence officers that the Turks wanted to mark the Islamic sacrificial feast of Kuban Bayrami on October 19th with a general attack. At Courtney’s Post and Quinn’s Post an unofficial truce took place for thirty minutes.

Thomas, O’Brien, Sands, Smith and Carboni were trying to communicate with the Turks standing with them in no-man’s-land. 

O’Brien said, “Let give him some bully beef”.

Sands said, “Jim, it’s a truce, you don’t give them bully beef. So what if they’ve been trying to kill us, what have they done to deserve bully beef? That’s cruel.”

One of the Turks said, “We take, we try, you want coffee?”

“Yes, please”, said Sands.

Another Turk offered Smith olives. “Thank you”, said Smith.

Thomas asked the Turkish soldier who spoke English, “Why is there a truce today?”

“Kuban Bayrami, our Allah, God, yes”, the soldier replied. “We give the poor meat. It’s for when Abraham sacrificed a ram to Allah, God, instead of his boy, son, yes.”

“I had the nuns teach me that story, back in Collingwood.” said O’Brien.

“We want no war today. Take holiday.” said the Turk.

“We’re happy with that.” Thomas agreed.

The truce ended and they went back to their respective trenches. From the Turkish trench an open can of bully beef was thrown back and landed between O’Brien and Sands. 

“I told you not to give them the bully beef.” Sands said."

I’ve used the fiction style of a novel to convey the all-too-real historical events, conditions and characters in war, whether it be:

- the savage nature of the fighting and the major battles;

-that some senior Australian officers were just as good as their British counterparts at causing the slaughter of their own soldiers in futile charges against machine guns;

-that what little drinking water there was at Anzac Cove tasted of petrol from the cans it was carried in;

-that dysentery ran rampant, and that it and other illnesses took 1000 soldiers off the peninsula each week;

-that some of the Anzacs were of German, Japanese, Chinese, Polish, West Indian and Italian decent, some were Aboriginal and others were just mere boys;

-that some played two-up with two-headed coins and ran bets on what hymns or psalms would be used on church parades.

In this story I have attempted to show the horror of war for what it is. It has been my intent to show the hardship and suffering endured at Gallipoli. I had two uncles there, Stephen Tognolini, Military Medal and Bar, 21st Battalion and Andrew Tognolini, 24th Battalion. They would be joined by their two other brothers John/Jack Tognolini, 57th Battalion Military Medal and Henry/Harry Phillips 60th Battalion on the Western Front in France and Belgium.

John/Jack Tognolini was killed in action on 25th April 1918 at the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux in France. The army had his age as 24 years old. As he was born in 1900 he was either 16 or 17.

About the Front Cover

This photograph is of Sergeant Stephen Tognolini, (back) Military Medal and Bar and Corporal Sergeant Major George Campbell Hunt, (front) Distinguished Conduct Medal was taken on June 27th 1918 in Querrieu, France. It is part of a group photograph of the 21st Battalion’s Non-Commissioned Officers. Both served at Gallipoli. George Campbell Hunt was killed in the Battle of Hamel on July 4th 1918.

I will be writing three future volumes to Brothers dealing with the Western Front in the years 1916, 1917 and 1918.

John Tognolini 25th February 2014

Available from Writers and Ebookshttp://www.writersandebooks.com/bookshop/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=92