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Dadswell Family

The Two Days in Your Life, by Toz Dadswell

Cover of

When Navy pilot Toz Dadswell was retiring from the Navy, he was asked the obvious question: "What are you going to do now?" His reply was usually that he was on his way to the Victorian goldfields to do some prospecting and to make his fortune.

But should that venture fail, his plan was to write a book. The hoped-for gold nuggets proved hard to find (nigh impossible, actually) so he turned to his second plan and took up his pen. That was 20 years ago and this month his first novel emerged from the printers.

The Two Days in Your Life is a work of fiction centred on a team of Australian Army signallers battling not only their battlefield foe but the challenges of lives being lived in strange lands, far from home.

The seeds which germinated into this Anzac-centenary year novel began during the author's childhood days. Toz Dadswell was the third child of Henry and Jessie Dadswell who lived on a grape-growing property at Red Cliffs in northwest Victoria.

Red Cliffs was known not just for its grapes but also because it was a major soldier settlement, a patchwork of farms developed on land allocated to those who had survived the horrors of World War One, returned to Australia, and had sought to settle down to a 'normal' life on the land in their home country.

Growing up among former soldiers inevitably meant there were stories to be heard by the author throughout his childhood. His father Henry, a former Army signaller, did not speak often about his experiences. Until, that is, he met up with former comrades, and then the stories would flow easily.

They were a source of fascination to Toz Dadswell, and were supplemented much later in life when his father wrote in detail of his experiences, recording life from the day of his enlistment to the time of returning to the community back in Australia. Those writings ultimately led to publication of Diary of a Sapper in 2010.

The stories and the diary were the inspiration that would lead eventually to a plan to write a work of fiction which told something of the life of Australian signallers in the 1914-18 conflict.

Like his father before him, Toz Dadswell did not use a typewriter but laboured with pen and pad over 20 years deciding on the elements which would tell the stories of the ordinary people who were called on to do extraordinary things - live the life of a signaller in the days before wireless communications.

These were soldiers who ran telephone lines between Australian units, often over open country in full view of enemy soldiers including snipers. It was extraordinarily dangerous work, and many paid the ultimate price of losing their lives.

The dangers and the critical need for communications led to mateship among the soldiers that was tested to the limits of human endurance. It also led to the soldiers learning about 'the two days' which is reflected in the book's title. The 'two days' philosophy would help them face each day in battle, even when they feared it might be their last.

The book is a dramatic re-telling of some of the war's dramas, dangers and despairs. It is also about the personal concerns of men far from home and loved ones. Above all, it is a story about human decency.

The Two Days in Your Life, a 478 page novel, is available from the author at .

Synopsis: The Two Days in Your Life, by Toz Dadswell

This is the story of 'Bluey' Dowson, a red-headed country boy who joins the Australian Army in 1916. The story opens with Dowson reminiscing on the advice given to him and his companions by Corporal Al Wilson, just before their first day under enemy fire. His signaller companions are now gone, and now Dowson - in dire straits - accepts his own death will soon occur. As he awaits the end, he recalls the events that lead him from the farm in Victoria to his present predicament.

It was in recruit camp that Dowson and Ronald Johnston met, and both men took an instant dislike to the other. This dislike has far reaching and tragic consequences in the trenches of the Western Front.

Dowson and the other eight members of his signal section formed a formidable group. On arrival in France, they come under the command of Corporal Wilson. It is here that they are introduced to the philosophy of the "Two Days" - a philosophy to help men face possible death on the battlefield.

The bloody war sees the group suffer its first casualties and a personal vendetta develop between Dowson and some Bavarian snipers. Further problems arise when Ronald Johnston, by now an officer, joins the staff. A particular incident, brought about by the officer's incompetence, has dire consequences.

The vengeful Johnston, now in charge of the section, manages by a combination of malice and ineptitude, to abandon Dowson in "no man's land" to await almost certain death at the hands of the Germans. Even if he can be rescued, Dowson's now obsessive hatred of Johnston would almost certainly cost him his freedom, just as peace is declared.

During the peace celebrations at the Australian Headquarters, Ronald Johnston falls, or is pushed, from an upstairs window. He is killed by the fall and the reader is left to ponder on what might have occurred.

This is a story of ordinary Australians from a variety of walks "giving their all" for their country although the reader at times will question the stupidity of some of the fatal events. It is a story of the tragedy of war. It contains action, humour, romance and mystery but most importantly the story reminds the reader of the strong bonds of comradeship that develop between men when under stress, and their determination not to let their mates down.

The Two Days in Your Life, a 478 page novel, is available from the author at .

Further information

Returning to 'Naval Service'
Diary of a Sapper, by Henry Dadswell

- Report by Harley Dadswell, April 2015

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