'Leonard Mann privately published his first novel, Flesh in Armour, in Melbourne in 1932, after he was unable to place it with a publisher in Australia or England. The novel was an immediate success, and Mann was subsequently awarded the Australian Literature Society's gold medal for outstanding book of the year. The book's merits then established, it was republished in England and Australia in 1944.
Drawn in part from the author's combat experience in France during World War I, Flesh in Armour is an exploration of the lives of soldiers in the Australian Imperial Force from the Ypres campaign in 1917 until just before the Armistice. The novel follows the actions and evolving attitudes of three soldiers in the same battalion—a naive and handsome raw recruit eager for combat, a schoolteacher whose intellect and anxiety have led to disillusionment, and a courageous warrior-hero who remains undaunted by battle despite being wounded.The novel bears an unmistakable Australian point of view, particularly in its wry sense of humor in spite of the dark subject matter and in its vehement disdain for British commanders.
Nearly 420,000 Australians enlisted during World War I, and more than half were killed, wounded, or captured. The conflict was the most costly in Australia's history. In the fates of his protagonists—one dies valiantly, one dies in an abject and mentally unhinged state, one survives—Mann pays tribute to the sacrifices of his countrymen and reminds readers of the unforgiving test of character found in war then and now. ' (University of South Carolina Press website sighted July 2010)
In this paper, Richard Nile attempts to 'locate Flesh in Armour within the context of a different taboo subject - the treatment of the dead in war.'