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To Hell and Back by Susanna De Vries

To Hell and Back

Biography / Autobiography   World War One Literature   eBook Favourites   

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Everyone should read this. It’s a raw, descriptive eye witness account from Sydney Loch, a young soldier in 1914-16 in the battlefields of Gallipoli. In it he writes less of the camaraderie and group behaviours of war, and shows us more, the lonesome, unique experiences of the self in wartime in a way that is both mesmerising and humbling to contemplate. It’s hard to imagine not being effected by Sydney’s account of the landings at Anzac Cove, it rips through your senses, in nightmarish proportions.

It is somewhat ironic that Sydney’s determination to bring us his truth met with a ban that lasted over 90 years but finally, triumphantly, Sydney’s account came out into the open, the ban was lifted. We have historians Susanna and Jake de Vries to thank for recovering and editing the book for a new generation of readers and for framing it with their personal tributes. - Eva Le Bon, author of Bring Down the Moon.


Where reading can take you. Footprints in the sand - A true story in this year of remembrance.

An amazing thing happened. An English reader with a special interest in World War 1 History was casually reading Sydney Loch’s: To Hell and Back, and was somewhat surprised in finding a personal link to the story. He read, in the opening chapters, of the author’s unrequited love with the beautiful Laura..and found her name ringing a bell. An aunty had been housekeeper /companion to Laura’s brother. This lead the reader to approach Harper Collins in order to see if any relatives of Laura could be tracked down as there was a box of World War1 memorabilia that they would wish to pass on. Harper Collins passed the message to Susanna de Vries, who in turn passed the message on, and the box was sent on its travels.

There were so many moving gestures in this sequence of things that happened. At any point, the story might have been broken/lost but instead at each stage the links were made. It was so kind for someone so clearly interested in the War to go to such trouble, all the way from Queensland! If Sydney had not taken the brave step of writing his sadness into the book none of this would have happened. - Eva Le Bon, author of Bring Down the Moon.


To Hell and Back by Susanna De Vries

The book the military censors banned As a young soldier in the battlefields of Gallipoli, Sydney Loch witnessed the horror of war first-hand. On his return to Australia he detailed what he saw in his book, The Straits Impregnable. Hoping to avoid military censorship, his publishers dubbed Sydney's book a novel. But as the war ground on and the numbers of casualties grew, the publisher inserted a note saying the story was factual. The book, which had enjoyed huge literary acclaim, was immediately withdrawn from sale by the censors. Sydney Loch's experiences in the war shaped his life afterwards. With his wife, Joice, he went on to work in refugee camps in Poland and Palestine, and his many subsequent books, set in war-torn countries, reflected his humanitarian beliefs. In To Hell and Back, historians Susanna and Jake de Vries have recovered and edited Sydney's book for a new generation of readers and written a biography of his remarkable life.

About the Author

Susanna de Vries is an art historian who lectures at the University of Queensland. She has been the recipient of a Churchill Fellowship to study Renaissance art in Italy, and has written extensively on art and history both here and overseas. She was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1996 'for services to art and literature'. Susanna is the author of many books, several of which have won awards. In 2001 she was awarded a Tyrone Guthrie Fellowship to write in Ireland by the Literature Board of the Australia Council. Her most recent book was To Hell and Back.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th November 1999


Susanna De Vries

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Biography / Autobiography
World War One Literature
eBook Favourites



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