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This review is taken from PN Review 53, Volume 13 Number 3, January - February 1987.

ARMS AND THE POET The War Diaries of Kenneth Slessor, edited by Clement Semmler (University of Queensland Press) £25.00

Kenneth Slessor (1910-1971) will live by his poetry, and made his living by his journalism for Australian newspapers. The present volume is direct evidence for the workaday side of his career and throws only sidelong light upon the poet. It presents the diaries Slessor kept for the period when he was official war correspondent for the Australian Ministry of Information, between 1940 and 1944. With elements of the Australian Imperial Force diverted from passage to the Middle East to beleaguered Britain, he travelled in convoy to Europe and remained in England between June 1940 and January 1941, when the danger of invasion was obviously over and the Australians sailed to join the main force in the Middle East. From then on, and as punctiliously as he had done in London and elsewhere during the German blitz, he carried out his duties in Egypt, Greece and the Middle East until 1943. By then the Australian forces, with the German fire in the Middle East on the point of extinction, had been transferred to New Guinea to join the Americans in countering the Japanese onslaught. Slessor remained in this Pacific area as correspondent until he resigned, from fatigue and exasperation, in April 1944.

Slessor was scrupulous and efficient in all that he did, and this attitude to his job as war correspondent left him neither the time nor the energy for the writing of poetry. The diaries themselves, though highly interesting and especially so to one who served in ...

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