Editor's note: Based on Leonard Mann's own wartime experiences (he was seriously injured at Passchendaele in October 1917), Flesh in Armour is widely regarded as the finest work of fiction about the First AIF. Mann originally published the novel himself, in which obscure edition it remained until the favourable climate of the Second World War, when it became an instant bestseller after being published by Robertson & Mullens. Trying to balance a celebratory nationalism with a realistic portrayal of the crushing impact of battle, Flesh in Armour begins in London, with scenes of Diggers on leave. The Western Front awaits.
From Chapter I: In London Town (5-6, 9-10)
Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of
yOn the War-Path : An Anthology of Australian Military TravelOn the Warpath : An Anthology of Australian Military TravelRobin Gerster
Carlton:Melbourne University Press,2004Z11087882004anthology prose autobiography extract poetry criticism diary essay travel war literature 'This anthology reveals the many ways in which going to war has formed a cultural bridge between Australia and the world. From the Sudan in 1885 to Afghanistan in 2001, the connection of war to travel is illustrated by writers and reveals how the experience of war has both broadened and refined (and sometimes distorted) Australian views of the world.' From cover of On the War-Path : An Anthology of Australian Military Travel (2004)Carlton:Melbourne University Press,2004
'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)