Last night Major General John Cantwell launched Watson’s Pier at the State Library of Victoria. General Cantwell had combat experience in Iraq in 1991 and again in 2006 and later led Australian forces in Afghanistan. He suffered PTSD and wrote a raw and moving account of it in his book Exit Wounds. I was genuinely touched by John’s reading of the book and his words last night.
With no experience of battle myself, I wrote scenes in Watson’s Pier that try to capture the physical and psychological burden of battle, the struggle each soldier faces to keep their emotions in check under such duress, and the devastating consequences of war. When General Cantwell read some of those words to the audience and said that they were real to his experience of battle and of the emotional consequences of war I felt a great release that Watson’s Pier was true to the experience of past and present Anzacs.
Writing Watson’s Pier I struggled to balance a fictional account of individual soldiers throughout war with the lack of emotion required to succeed in battle. In his speech General Cantwell said that reading Watson’s Pier had opened up the emotional impact of the Gallipoli campaign. Please look out for the video posting of General Cantwell’s full speech at watsonspier.com.