Archive | January 2015

My Vietnam War: Scarred Forever by Dave Morgan

This book was released in September 2014. It is Dave Morgan’s story yet it is typical of many young men who went to Vietnam and whose lives were never the same again. Unprepared for the war they would fight and for the often hostile public reception on their return, the veterans of this conflict paid a heavy price. After Vietnam and the freedom of ‘home’, Dave tried to live a normal life but the horror he’d experienced finally caught up with him. Towards the back of the book, he records the early deaths of many Vietnam mates. Those that survived ended up on disability pensions scarred forever by their experiences. We now have a name for what he suffered: post traumatic stress disorder. As publisher Denny Neave says, “Dave’s determination that ordinary Australians from all walks of life should understand the trauma of PTSD is not only the mark of true courage; it is a crucial step in our understanding of what is a national issue. We need more Dave Morgan’s and we need to listen to them and care for them — that right at the very least they have well and truly earned.” The sad thing is that we have a new generation of similarly damaged soldiers. Let us hope we have learned something from the past and that help will be more readily available. This is a link to a Q&A with Dave Morgan: Published by Big Sky Publishing ISBN 9781922132772  RRP $29.99 You can buy online from


Tomorrow We Escape by Tom Trumble

In the author’s note at the beginning of Tomorrow We Escape, Tom Trumble describes how he came to write this book – he first saw Ian Busst (pronounced Bewst) on the ABC’s televised broadcast of the 2013 Anzac Day Parade in Melbourne. He was immediately hooked by Ian’s story and his insider’s view of combat, imprisonment, escape, adventure and ultimate survival. Through 60 hours of interview, he has pieced together Busst’s extraordinary story.

Equally extraordinary is the fact that Ian Busst spoke at the book launch in July last year. This video can be viewed via this YouTube link:

Tom Trumble’s earlier book Rescue at 2100 hours was well received and widely reviewed. It was also published by Penguin. Tom has spoken widely on military history and writing to a variety of groups.

You can follow his blog here.

This book is available from RRP $29.99. It is also available as an ebook.

Flight Command by Air Commodore John Oddie

I was looking along my overflowing review bookshelf this morning and I noticed this title that was released in August last year.

Flight Command is a memoir from AIRCDRE John Oddie who, as a farm boy in western Victoria, watched RAAF jets pass overhead as he ploughed the paddocks, wondering what it would be like to fly such machines. Thirty-five years later – having flown Hueys, Chinooks, Hercules, jets and C-17s in a range of operations – John had risen to the rank of Air Commodore.

His is an interesting story.

Toward the end of his service, John sat for a portrait by war artist Ben Quilty which became part of a widely-toured exhibition. It was the public’s response to those revealing images of people in the military that encouraged John to paint a more complete picture of his career by writing a memoir.

He has spoken about his career and his book on the ABC Radio program Conversations with Richard Fidler. To hear the interview, click here.

The book is published by Allen & Unwin RRP $32.99

Stoker’s Submarine by Fred & Elizabeth Brenchley – Updated edition, including the story of AE1

On 25 April 1915 – the day the Anzacs landed at Gallipoli – Lieutenant Commander Dacre Stoker set out as captain of the Australian submarine AE2 on a mission to breach the treacherous Dardanelles Strait with the intention of disrupting Turkish supply lines to the isolated Gallipoli peninsula. Facing dangerous currents, mines and withering enemy fire, Stoker and his men succeeded where British and French submarines had come to grief.

Stoker’s achievement meant much in military terms, and even more emotionally in boosting the morale of embattled Allied troops. But what was proclaimed at the time as ‘the finest feat in submarine history’ has since sunk into oblivion. Few Australians even know their country had a submarine at Gallipoli, much less that it achieved daring feats, torpedoed an enemy craft, and possibly played a pivotal role in Anzac troops staying on the beachhead for eight months.

Now, finally, Stoker’s Submarine tells the story of a remarkable naval hero and the men under his command. And AE2 herself, still lying intact on the floor of the Sea of Marmara, is celebrated as the most tangible relic of Australia’s role at Gallipoli.

The final three chapters of this new edition continue the saga. In 2007, the AE2 Commemorative Foundation, the Submarine Institute and other sponsors conducted a joint Turkish–Australian expedition workshop, survey and dive on the AE2, with the aim to conserve, preserve and protect the wreck – which, it turns out, is in surprisingly good condition even after 100 years – and to tell the story of the brave crew. The Turkish government has recently approved the project and plans are now well advanced to bring this major project to fruition.

The final chapters of the new edition are about the AE1. The story of Australia’s other World War One submarine is shorter but equally dramatic and even more tragic.

Both the AE1 and the AE2 were deployed in action against the Germans in New Guinea very soon after the submarines had arrived in Australia in 1914. They were part of the Australian Navy’s successful demolition of a German wireless command station for the Pacific. Both submarines patrolled off Rabaul in September 1914. On the AE1’s first solo seek-and-destroy mission, the submarine vanished with the loss of all thirty-five crew.

Sadly, co-author Fred Brenchley died aged 67 in 2009.

This latest edition is published by ATOM (Australian Teachers of Media) in conjunction with the AE2 Commemorative Foundation.

The book is available from the Education Shop – click to go to the site – for $34.95.

The Fight for Australia by Roland Perry

I get a lot of books through the year and somehow this one – The Fight for Australia by Roland Perry – slipped off the radar. It was published previously in hardback under the title Pacific 360. Roland Perry is a prolific writer across a number of non fiction genres including biography, politics, espionage and history (WW1 and WW2) so I am sure his name will be familiar to you.

In this book he covers the most critical phase of the war, from Australia’s viewpoint, focusing on Curtin’s insistence, against the Allied leaders, on bringing home Australian troops from the Middle East to defend Australia against the threat of Japanese invasion.

He was interviewed last year by Gillian O’Shaughnessy on the afternoon program on ABC Radio South West WA. Click on the link to listen to the audio.—roland-perry-1.mp3

The book is published by Hachette, in paperback, RRP $32.99

Follow the Flag: Australian Artists at War 1914-15 at NGV Australia Federation Square

This is not actually a book but an exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria intended as an ANZAC tribute. The exhibition will open on Friday 24 April. See details below. This should be well worth seeing if you’re in Melbourne during the exhibition.

Follow the Flag: Australian Artists at War 1914 – 45
From ANZAC Day, Friday 24 April, 2015 at NGV Australia at Federation Square
The exhibition comprises over 150 works sourced Australia-wide from public and private collections. Artists include Arthur Streeton, Russell Drysdale, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester, Sidney Nolan, Frank Hurley and Max Dupain, shown alongside works by soldier artists and unknown makers
A highlight includes George Lambert’s A sergeant of the Light Horse 1920, which was recognised as an image that captured the spirit and character of the Australian soldier (shown here).

Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson – war, deceit and imperial folly

This book spent seven weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. It has been widely acclaimed with critics describing it as ‘magisterial’ and a ‘masterpiece of detachment about a subject that defies easy acceptance’.

The author sets the scene for what is to come within the opening pages where we see the famous T E Lawrence refusing a knighthood from an astonished King George V with a furious Queen Mary looking on.

Background: The Arab Revolt against the Turks in World War One was, in the words of T.E. Lawrence, ‘a sideshow of a sideshow’. Amidst the slaughter in European trenches, the Western combatants paid scant attention to the Middle Eastern theatre. As a result, the conflict was shaped to a remarkable degree by a small handful of adventurers and low-level officers far removed from the corridors of power.

At the centre of it all was Lawrence. In early 1914 he was an archaeologist excavating ruins in the sands of Syria; by 1917 he was battling both the enemy and his own government to bring about the vision he had for the Arab people. Operating in the Middle East at the same time, but to wildly different ends, were three other important players: a German attache, an American oilman and a committed Zionist. The intertwined paths of these four young men – the schemes they put in place, the battles they fought, the betrayals they endured and committed – mirror the grandeur, intrigue and tragedy of the war in the desert.

Watch the video of Scott Anderson talking to his brother Jon Lee Anderson about Lawrence in Arabia

Comment: This is a book for a rainy afternoon. It will require concentration and effort but it will reward the dedicated reader. The book is published by Atlantic Books, distributed in Australia by Allen & Unwin – RRP A$35.00.

Les Carlyon books republished in hardcover Centenary editions

Two popular Les Carlyon books – Gallipoli and The Great War have re-appeared in hardcover in centenary editions (pictured).

Les Carlyon, AC, was born in northern Victoria in 1942. He was an editor of The Age, editor-in-chief of the Herald & Weekly Times, and the Graham Perkin Australian Journalist of the Year in 1993. Gallipoli was published in 2001 to vast critical and commercial success and became a number one best-seller in Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain. Acclaimed worldwide as a landmark chapter in histories of the First World War, it is now considered the definitive account of the campaign. The book’s best-selling sequel, The Great War, was published in 2006 to widespread critical praise.

Royal Australian Navy International Fleet Review – Celebrating 100 years

On 4 October 2013, HMAS Sydney led an armada of international warships through Sydney Heads to commemorate the arrival of the first RAN Fleet (led by the flagship, the battlecruiser HMAS Australia) one hundred years earlier. As on that day, many thousands of spectators lined the foreshores of Sydney Harbour to witness the fleet entry and ceremonial review. As a tribute to the Royal Australian Navy, Big Sky Publishing has produced an impressive book to record the occasion.

But the book is much more than that. It is divided into five sections: RAN History; RAN Establishments; Today’s Fleet; the International Fleet Review, and, finally ‘Our People’, (which might have more accurately been renamed ‘Our senior officers’).

This is a nicely presented book with some interesting photographs. I can see that it would be a much-cherished gift for any member of the RAN, past or present or for family members keen to know more about the RAN. For anyone keen to identify Australia’s naval vessels out on the water, it is invaluable too, since it gives a detailed description of the current fleet.

Celebrating 100 Years of Pride in the Fleet: Royal Australian Navy – International Fleet Review

Published by Big Sky Publishing

RRP $149.00 (Limited Edition Hardback); $49.99 in paperback

ISBN 9781922132932 / 9781922132949

Check out to buy the book – it comes in a paperback version or in a presentation version.

Capricorn Link – distributors of some interesting international military history titles

Just when we thought Christmas was over and done with, an unexpected late arrival landed on my desk: a box of books from Capricorn Link, a stalwart of local book distribution. It’s always exciting to delve into a box like this. Of the eight books, the most highly desired by serious historians will be Volume 2 of ‘A History of the Mediterranean Air War: 1940-1945’. It comes with a pretty hefty price tag ($100), which is to be expected. This is a book for those people who love detail and statistics.

Like Santa's sack, we never know what we'll find in a box of books from Capricorn Link, local distributor for many international publishers

Like Santa’s sack, we never know what we’ll find in a box of books from Capricorn Link, local distributor for many international publishers

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