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Introduction by Ross McMullin
Edited by Elvala Ayton
Philip Owen Ayton was working on the Sydney tramways when the call to join the fight against Germany came. Keen for action, he found himself in the First Field Company Engineers in the First Division of the Australian Imperial Forces.
Shipped to Egypt, Ayton soon after took part in the Gallipoli landing. ‘I would not have missed this for anything,’ he wrote to a friend. Badly injured, he was sent to England to convalesce and from there joined the campaign in France, where he saw out the war.
From the start, Ayton kept notes of his experiences, which he would write up in a diary. Plucky, charming and self-deprecating, this son of the new nation records the horrors of trench warfare and his off-duty adventures in Cairo, London and Paris.
This remarkable story is now published for the first time, a century after the war’s end. Accompanied by a postscript by one of Ayton’s sons and Ayton’s poem about the Gallipoli campaign, A Hell of a Time is a vital and compelling account of the Great War.
‘There is no shortage of diaries and memoirs recording the day-to-day experience of soldiers in World War I…[But] Ayton’s diary is an outstanding example, distinguished both by the vividness of its descriptive writing and by its artless candour…With the story of Gallipoli increasingly veiled in patriotic mythology, it is all the more valuable to be able to see the controversial campaign afresh through the eyes of an Australian soldier who was there.’