The late Graham Wilson delighted in his self-appointed role as the AIF’s myth buster. In this, his second and final volume of Bully Beef and Balderdash, he tackles another eight popularly accepted myths, exposing the ‘Water Wizard’ of Gallipoli who saved an army, dismissing the old adage that the ‘lions of the AIF’ were led by British ‘donkeys’, debunking the Gallipoli legends of the lost sword of Eureka and ‘Abdul the Terrible’, the Sultan’s champion marksman sent to dispose of AIF sniper Billy Sing, and unravelling a series of other long-standing fictions. Finally, he turns his formidable forensic mind to the ‘lost’ seven minutes at The Nek, the early cessation of the artillery barrage which led to the slaughter of the Light Horsemen immortalised in Peter Weir’s Gallipoli. Wilson’s crusade to debunk such celebrated fictions was born of the conviction that these myths do very real damage to the history of the AIF. To demythologise this nation’s Great War military history, he argues, is to encourage Australians to view the AIF’s record on its own merits. Such are these merits that they do not require any form of embellishment to shine for all time. This book is a tribute to Graham Wilson’s extraordinary passion for truth and fact and his drive to set the historical record straight.
Graham Wilson was passionate about myth-busting. While the author of Bully Beef & Balderdash and Dust, Delusions & Donkeys passed away on 17 April 2016, his last work, the second volume of Bully Beef & Balderdash, has been published posthumously and, in true Wilson style, launches itself bodily at another collection of famous myths of the AIF. A childhood spent reading his grandfather’s books on World War I produced a love of military history that gradually shaped Graham Wilson’s life. He never boasted lofty qualifications in military history, asserting instead that his extraordinary knowledge and determination to correct historical inaccuracies were the result of an ability to think critically and question assumptions developed during his lengthy military career. He combined these with an inherent curiosity and a mania for the truth. The business of debunking myths was a source of obvious satisfaction to Graham Wilson and his delight is clearly evident in his last hurrah, his second volume of Bully Beef & Balderdash. However he emphasises from the outset that his aim is not to disparage the AIF. Quite the reverse, in fact, and among the last words he penned was a final salute to the AIF of which he was undoubtedly proud: ‘Finally, I acknowledge with the most profound respect the men and women of the AIF who, from a chaotic beginning, built one of the finest fighting machines of the twentieth century and whose story does not need and never has needed myth to bolster it.’ Vale Graham Wilson to whom Australians owe an enormous debt in returning the men of the AIF from the realms of lesser gods to the ranks of ordinary humans who lived and died in the service of their country.