Archive | March 2015

Australia on Horseback by Cameron Forbes

Australia on Horseback

Australia on Horseback

Australia on Horseback
The story of the horse and the making of a nation
By Cameron Forbes
Published by Macmillan
RRP $44.99 in hardback
ISBN 9781742614168

When I first saw this book, I immediately recognised one of the cover images – Bailed Up by Tom Roberts, the original of which hangs proudly and permanently in the Art Gallery of NSW. The second painting I did not know but I could identify the subject – the Australian Light Horse of World War I.

I thought immediately: well, there you have it: two very well known uses for the horse in Australian history – as a facilitator of bushrangers and as a means of mobility in war.

The first horse set foot in Australia in 1788, one of seven aboard the First Fleet’s Lady Penrhyn. From then on, horses carried explorers who opened up the country to settlement; they carried Aboriginal mounted police; they carried men to war and they made pastoral expansion possible. Some 120,000 horses were sent to World War I battlefields: only one was brought home.

Cameron Forbes, author of the acclaimed Hellfire and The Korean War, uses the motif of the horse to tell the wider Australian story of settlement, exploration, dispossession and warfare. He also includes some interesting little snippets like the preference of King George V for Australian walers. He rode Rupert, a magnificent black, as he led the funeral procession of his father Edward VII.


Is it a furphy? I want the dinkum oil!

Is it a furphy? I want the dinkum oil! This statement could quite easily have been made by an Anzac during the First World War, according to Amanda Laugesen, who is the brains behind this little treasure from Oxford University Press.

Furphies and Whizz-Bangs: ANZAC slang from the Great War

Furphies and Whizz-Bangs: ANZAC slang from the Great War

Furphies and Whizz-Bangs
ANZAC Slang from the Great War
By Amanda Laugesen
Published by Oxford University Press
RRP $32.95 in paperback
ISBN 9780195597356

I had heard of many of the terms, but others were quite new to me. Only an Australian would use the term ‘shrapnel gully’ and we can imagine what a Kangaroo march is.

This is intended to be a serious project but I can’t help smiling at some of the words and their meanings.

Dr Amanda Laugesen is an historian and Director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre at the Australian National University. Obviously just the right person to bring this together.

Well done, Don Watson

The Bush Travels in the Heart of Australia

The Bush
Travels in the Heart of Australia

The Bush
Travels in the heart of Australia
By Don Watson
Published by Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Books
RRP $45.00 in hardcover
ISBN 9781926428215

Don Watson’s book The Bush: Travels to the Heart of Australia, which was published late last year, has been named overall winner in the annual Indie Book Awards, which are voted on by more than 170 independent bookshops. The book is a personal, historical and sociological account of Australia outside its cities. Watson also won the non-fiction Indie.

It has been widely and enthusiastically reviewed which is not surprising for someone of Watson’s stature as a writer. The environmental damage he catalogues is eye-opening. A good choice for the Indie winner indeed.

Why are Australians so attached to a military event that happened 100 years ago, asks author Carolyn Holbrook

ANZAC: The unauthorised biography by Carolyn Holbrook

ANZAC  The unauthorised biography
by Carolyn Holbrook

The Unauthorised Biography
By Carolyn Holbrook
Published by New South
RRP $34.99 in paperback
ISBN 9781742234076

The catalyst for this book, writes Carolyn Holbrook, was the overarching question: why are Australians of the twenty-first century so emotionally attached to a military event that took place nearly one hundred years ago? She also observes that political commemoration plays an increasingly significant role in shaping our opinions of the Great War. Tellingly she writes that we should ‘remain vigilant against the selectivity of our memories and constantly seek to measure the distance between memory and what actually happened’. She urges readers to ‘put aside the commemorative frenzy’. Some political leaders have attempted to do so. Paul Keating attempted to switch the emphasis from an ill-starred landing on the Turkish coastline to the battle to stop the Japanese advance along the Kokoda Track. This I might add resonates more strongly with me since my father was part of that fight. As Carolyn Holbrook writes, there was a strong reaction from the Bruce Ruxton-led RSL to Keating’s attempts to rebalance the national importance of these events. We owe the present style and enthusiasm for Anzac commemoration to an almost unbroken line of political patronage, according to Holbrook. She certainly makes a compelling case for it.

Wakefield Press: So what is Ashley Mallett spinning now?

In our Military Books Australia issue of March 2015, which we released yesterday as a digital newsletter, we got a nice ‘thank you’ from Wakefield Press of Adelaide for our mention of They Hosed Them Out .

The Diggers' Doctor – The fortunate life of Col. Donald Beard, AM, RFD, ED (Retd) by Ashley Mallett

The Diggers’ Doctor – The fortunate life of Col. Donald Beard, AM, RFD, ED (Retd) by Ashley Mallett

This small independent South Australian press has some other titles that might be interest. And some interesting authors, including former Test cricketer Ashley Mallett who has over 30 books to his credit now, including

The Diggers’ Doctor
– The fortunate life of Col. Donald Beard, AM, RFD, ED (Retd)
by Ashley Mallett
Link for details

Other books in this genre include:

Silver Lies, Golden Truths
Broken Hill, a gentle German and two world wars
by Christine Ellis
Link for details

One Common Enemy
The Laconia incident: A survivor’s memoir
Jim McLoughlin, David Gibb
Link for details

Arthur Blackburn, VC
An Australian hero, his men, and their two world wars
By Andrew Faulkner
Link here

Marks of War
War neurosis and the legacy of Kokoda
By John Raftery
Link here

Remnants of War
Retracing the sites of conflict and reconciliation
By Paul Skrebels
Link Here

For warbird lovers: Hidden Warbirds II

Hidden Warbirds II  by Nicholas A Veronico

Hidden Warbirds II
by Nicholas A Veronico

Hidden Warbirds II
By Nicholas A Veronico
Published by Zenith Press, USA
RRP $39.99 in hardback
ISBN 9780760346013

This book is definitely one for anyone fascinated by vintage aircraft. If you hang out in hangars and spend hours restoring old aircraft, I think this book will be right up your alley.

It is the second in the series from aviation historian Nicholas A. Veronico. The long-lost aircraft featured in this much-anticipated sequel include a Hawker Tempest being restored in Texas; the sole surviving Brewster F3A Corsair, rescued from a swamp; and a Junkers 88 recovered from the icy waters of Norway. Throughout the book, Veronico provides a history of each aircraft, as well as the unique story behind each discovery and recovery, all accompanied by incredible documentary photographs. There are over 150 of these photographs, depicting more than 20 warbird stories spanning the world.

The cover photograph depicts the Do-17Z being raised from the sea in an area known as Goodwin Sands, approximately four miles from the English coast in June 2013. The recovery operation is described in detail. One section entitled Where Did All the B-24 Liberators Go? asks American readers to fill in the blanks of the fate of aircraft donated after World War II. A fascinating read for anyone interested in saving old warbirds.

The Making of Australia by David Hill

The Making of Australia, David Hill's latest book

The Making of Australia, David Hill’s latest book

The Making of Australia
By David Hill
Published by William Heinemann (Random House)
RRP $34.99 in paperback
ISBN 9781742757667

This is a bit of a diversion from the usual subject matter of books on my blog – but I do make a few exceptions – this time for Australian history.

In his latest book, David Hill traces our nation from the first European landing through to Federation. He notes that the research for this book was vast, ‘more than was the case for all four of my previous books’, which is not surprising, given its scope.

He does not gloss over, as earlier historians might have, the adverse impact of European settlement on the indigenous population. Of his earlier books, 1788 was a terrific read – and I think this latest work will engage readers keen to be re-familiarised with 19th century Australian history, without having to read a book of encyclopedic proportions.

Company Man – Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA

Company Man: Thirty Years of controversy and crisis in the CIA by John Rizzo

Company Man: Thirty Years of controversy and crisis in the CIA by John Rizzo

Company Man Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA By John Rizzo Published by Scribe RRP $29.99 in paperback ISBN 9781922070845 For some reason this book got buried and should have seen the light of day in my blog much earlier. Company Man, by former top-level CIA insider John Rizzo is filled with revelatory stories about the US government’s intelligence program. In 1975, fresh out of law school and working in a mind-numbing job at the US Treasury, John Rizzo took ‘a total shot in the dark’ and sent his résumé to the Central Intelligence Agency. In a 30 year career Rizzo witnessed and/or participated in virtually all of the significant operations of the CIA’s modern history. He was the agency’s top lawyer in the years after the 9/11 attacks, and oversaw actions that remain the subject of intense debate today. In the book, Rizzo charts the CIA’s evolution over the course of his career, and offers a direct window into the organisation during some of its biggest controversies. There are longer reviews of this book that will give you greater insight – as one reviewer points out, the title is not ironic. Rizzo is indeed a company man. New York Times: Sydney Morning Herald:

Revival: Australian Prisoners of War by Patsy Adam Smith


Australian Prisoners of War
By Patsy Adam Smith
Published by The Five Mile Press
RRP $39.95 in hardcover
ISBN 9781760062781

This book was first published in 1992 by Penguin Books. The Five Mile Press has revived this book with republication in late 2014. The author Patsy Adam Smith was an Australian author, historian and servicewoman. She was a prolific writer on a range of subjects covering ‘history, folklore and the preservation of national traditions’, and also wrote her autobiography in two parts. In addition to these autobiographies, her most notable works include The Anzacs (1978), Australian Women at War (1984) and Prisoners of War (1992), which was the earlier title for this new edition. She wrote the book after interviews with many veterans of World War I, World War II and the Korean War. It is good to see this iconic book republished for today’s readers. It is nicely presented in a suitably retro style. It would make a nice gift. Sadly the author Patsy Adam Smith passed away in 2001. The book is well priced on at the present time.

From Cambridge: The Outbreak of the First World War

The Outbreak of the First World War, published by Cambridge

The Outbreak of the First World War, published by Cambridge

The Outbreak of the First World War
Structure, Politics and Decision-Making
Edited by Jack S Levy and John A Vasquez
Published by Cambridge University Press
RRP $41.96 in paperback ISBN 9781107616028

Among the many books still on my review bookshelf, I thought this book might be of interest to current students of history.

We know the First World War had profound consequences both for the evolution of the international system and for domestic political systems, but how and why did the war start? Offering a unique interdisciplinary perspective, this volume brings together a distinguished group of diplomatic historians and international relations scholars to debate the causes of the war. Organised around several theoretically based questions, it shows how power, alliances, historical rivalries, militarism, nationalism, public opinion, internal politics, and powerful personalities shaped decision-making in each of the major countries in the lead up to war. The emphasis on the interplay of theory and history is a significant contribution to the dialogue between historians and political scientists, and will contribute to a better understanding of the war in both disciplines.

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