WWII Letters: A Soldier’s Odyssey – The Life of Marcus Edwards
by Ian Edwards
This biography of Marcus Edwards is an astonishing chronicle of the life of a soldier on the frontline in WWII.
Written by Marcus Edwards’ nephew, Ian Edwards, the work draws largely on the soldier’s correspondence and diary notes from the Second World War in particular. The letters provide revelations about conditions of living in the major war zones of Europe and North Africa.
Edwards enlisted as a gunner soon after the declaration of war in 1939, and fought on several fronts in the 2/2 Field Regiment of the Royal Australian Artillery before being taken prisoner in 1941.
When he left Australia he was a newly-wed, recently married to the later prominent pianist and composer, Miriam Hyde. He was soon plunged into the frontline of fighting in North Africa, holding the rank of lieutenant in his artillery regiment.
After a successful campaign against Italian forces at Bardia and then Tobruk, Marcus saw action in Greece before his regiment was evacuated to Crete in 1941. He was captured there in June 1941 and transported to Germany as a prisoner of war, from where he was released in 1945.
His description of his last days in the combat zone of Greece is shocking, as he and his mates faced a barrage of German dive-bombing and machine-gunning.
‘They came over in massed waves, one after the other. Their casualties must have been colossal and still our men held them … Their tanks, again in masses, made our one armoured division look laughable. You see, we had neither the men nor the equipment …,’ he wrote.
This life story of Marcus Edwards is underpinned by his extraordinary war correspondence, intact and never before published, which was discovered by the family.
Author Ian Edwards explains the origins of the biography:
‘A long letter which Marcus wrote on his way home from the war was discovered and transcribed. I was so impressed by it that I decided that his life story must have priority. The subsequent discovery of further correspondence to his wife and his parents, and their letters to him, made the task much easier.’
Ian Edwards acknowledges generous assistance from Marcus’s daughter, Christine Edwards, in transcribing and preparing the correspondence for inclusion in the life story of his uncle.
‘One real strength of this book is inclusion of primary documents, particularly letters. Edwards often allows the past to speak for itself. As a result, the reader is allowed enticing insights into Marcus’s character: his love of music and poetry, his affection for his family, and wry humour.
‘WWII Letters: A Soldier’s Odyssey is a labour of love – affectionate, detailed and thoroughly researched. Studies such as this provide valuable glimpses at the lived experiences of individuals in a time that occupies a significant place in the cultural memory of Australia.’
April Bertels-Garnsey, from The Glebe Society Bulletin 2015.
The biography of Marcus Edwards by his nephew, Ian Edwards, is published by Sydney School of Arts & Humanities. For more information contact the Director, Dr Christine Williams, on 02 8084 4136 or 0432 289 311 or email firstname.lastname@example.org