Many public figures are fated to be remembered for a single incident rather than a lifetime’s work (think of Gough Whitlam’s ad-libbing outside Parliament house, or his nemesis’s trousers, forever lost in Memphis). Often, almost perversely, it is one event that stays in the mind. For Keith Murdoch (1885–1952), that phenomenon was the so-called ‘Gallipoli letter’ of 1915. Most Australians know about the young journalist who wrote a letter exposing the Dardanelles campaign as a disaster where soldiers were dying in their thousands due to incompetent British leadership. The allied armies were soon evacuated. The ‘Anzac spirit’ was born.
However, Murdoch’s role was darker, more nuanced, and far more interesting than the legend . . .
See my review of Tom DC Roberts’ Before Rupert in this month’s issue of Australian Book Review.