Historian Lucas Jordan has had a lifelong passion for history, which has led to his first book, Stealth Raiders, about a special group of Australians fighting on the frontline in World War One.
Where did you spend your formative years?
I was born in Geelong but I did my first two years of school in Hong Kong, as my father was working for a company called China Light and Power. Later we moved to Western Australia and took up a hobby farm about 180 kilometres south of Perth. I went to St Michael’s Primary School in Brunswick Junction and then to Bunbury Catholic College.
What is important about the story of the Stealth Raiders?
The Stealth Raiders embodied the finest characteristics of the Australian soldier. Stealth raids also defeated the enemy at no great cost and inspired some decisive victories during the last crucial summer of the war. In the book I argue that the “bush ethos” was a distinctively Australia trait, inspiring some men to act without orders. This reflected the Australian civil society before and during the war, making a mixture of exciting adventure stories, and biographies of men that tell us a great deal about the Australian digger in 1918 at the peak of his powers.
Stealth Raiders is a story of daring and adventure but there is also pathos and humour. As one digger wrote of 1918, ‘there was strain all the time’. When I reflect on the book, I remember a digger recalling burying his mate, a stealth raider writing about war weariness, and the exhilaration of six men taking on dozens of German machine gun posts and turning a battle, as stealth raiders did at Chipilly Spur on 9 August 1918.
You have taught many students history—is there still a strong interest in the subject?
I’ve been really privileged to be a teacher. It ‘s not uncommon to hear undergraduates say, “Why weren’t we taught this at school?” This is especially so in regards to Aboriginal history. At the moment I’m teaching recently arrived refugee students at a secondary school in the western suburbs of Melbourne. I’m constantly inspired by their interest in Australian history.
What was the most interesting aspect of your research for Stealth Raiders?
Immersing myself in the diaries, letters and memoirs written by men of the lowest ranks who took part in stealth raids. I learned about what motivated stealth raiders and why they initiated this independent and personal type of warfare. Stealth raids were a way to avert formal raids, rescue mates, avenge mates, and collect souvenirs and war trophies, or a means to express skill and initiative, and speed up the end of the war. Stealth raiders considered all of these motivations to be virtues.
It was also thrilling to walk through the fields of France where the actions described in the book took place because it allowed me to view the ground and get a sense of the landscape and indeed the weather conditions as they experienced it in 1918.
Who do you think the book will appeal to?
Readers who enjoy untold stories will like this book. Stealth Raiders is a narrative history of adventure, daring and audacious true tales of the Australian soldier in 1918. The book will appeal to readers interested in the social history of Australia. The emphasis on independence, mateship and skills acquired in the bush, meant some Australians were uniquely suited to stealth raiding. Stealth Raiders relies on first hand accounts, the reader will get a sense of the skill and determination of these men, their colourful characters, and their search for meaning in the carnage of the Western Front.
As told to Julie Houghton
Great gift for Father's day. Read our review of Stealth Raiders