Archive | August 2015

New book from Robert Macklin: Warrior Elite

WarriorElite copy

Warrior Elite
Australia’s Special Forces – Z Force to the SAS; Intelligence Operations to Cyber Warfare
By Robert Macklin
RRP $35.00 in paperback
Published by Hachette
ISBN: 9780733632914

Robert Macklin started the round of promotional activities for his new book in Canberra last night, with the official launch of the title at the excellent Paperchain bookstore in Manuka – If ever you’re in Canberra, this is a bookstore you must visit.

Peter Jennings, a well known figure in Defence circles and currently Director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, has written a foreword to the book which he describes as a ‘lively study into the history and future of Australia’s Special Forces’. He says that Macklin’s book is unique because he has ‘tumbled to the reality that few people outside the office ‘national security community’ understand: the practical definition of what constitutes Australia’s Special Forces has widened to include not only the SASR and the commandos but also Australia’s intelligence agencies.’

So Warrior Elite, which begins its narrative with World War 2, is much more than an account of Special Forces operations – it includes the roles of ASIS, ASD (Australians Signals Directorate) and ASIO, so don’t let the cover fool you. This is a well researched book produced in Macklin’s highly-readable style that covers a substantial topic in considerable detail. It is not simply a book about the high octane life of a special forces operative.


Fancy a trip to WA? If you are interested in war memorabilia, the destination just went top of your list!

I was absolutely stunned when I came across this story on the ABC website this morning. Take a look at this collection. The owners John and Kathryn Shapland have amassed an unexpected treasure trove of military artefacts in their Recollections of War private museum, which is located up an unsealed country road on their family farm between Albany and Denmark in Western Australia.

This collection is vast


The collection includes over 3,500 books

There are some really good photos of the collection with the story on the ABC site.

John Shapland began collecting WWII and aviation memorabilia after attending an airshow in his childhood home of Sussex. Visitors find them through word of mouth mostly so I imagine that their visitation numbers are going to rise after this.

Here is the link to the story on the ABC site: pass it along to your like-minded Western Australian friends. I’m sure they’ll be interested.

For political junkies: The rise and fall of the Australian Democrats


The Rise and Fall of the Australian Democrats
An Eyewitness Account
By Bev Floyd

Published by Boolarong Press
RRP $29.95 in paperback
ISBN: 9781925046304

There may be some readers of this blog who do not remember the Australian Democrats or know about the influence they once exercised in the Senate. The party was started by disaffected Liberal Don Chipp in the 1970s.

Australian Democrats insider Bev Floyd has written an eye witness account of her time in the party, which included a stint as president of the Queensland Division. In researching the book, she interviewed many of the Australian Democrat Senators on the role they and the party played while they held the balance of power in the Senate. Notable names on the list of interviewees include Meg Lees, Cheryl Kernot, Andrew Bartlett and Aden Ridgeway.

My wife Judy spoke with Bev at Dymocks at Carindale recently and came away impressed with her passion to tell this important story in Australia’s political history.

It is available from the publisher’s website – link here – or from good bookstores.

Historian Lynette Silver has uncovered notorious military fakes – ABC Conversations with Richard Fidler

Judy listened to this podcast this morning – she tells me it is fascinating. It’s inconceivable to me that anyone can construct a totally false war history for themselves and use that to gain public recognition.

Lynette Silver is certainly a wonderful sleuth when it comes to ferreting out long forgotten stories and discovering the truth about these matters.

The link below will take you to the podcast which is worth listening to. Lynette also has her own website where you can survey the full quantity of her work –

Historian Lynette Silver has uncovered notorious military fakes – ABC Conversations with Richard Fidler.

Dangerous Games: Australia at the 1936 Olympics


Dangerous Games
Australia at the 1936 Nazi Olympics
By Larry Writer

Published by Allen & Unwin
AUD $32.99 in paperback
ISBN 9781743319383

A change of pace here with Dangerous Games – a new book about the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games in which a team of 33 Australian athletes competed. Compared with today’s athletes, the team was poorly prepared with limited support – and politically naïve.

As Larry Writer says, this was the Olympics with a ‘rancid underbelly’ meant to demonstrate Aryan superiority except American athlete Jesse Owens rained on Hitler’s parade, so to speak. Writer describes the 100m men’s final in detail, ending with just one sentence: ‘Hitler and his party rose and left the arena.’ Jesse Owens had just run 10.3 seconds to equal the world and Olympic record and stunned the Fuhrer into silence.

This is indeed a tale of innocents abroad and a tale too of Olympic ideals subsumed by the tyranny of the Nazis. It was to be 1948 before the Olympics were held again.

New book on Vietnam: Long Tan, by Harry Smith, launched today by MAJGEN John Cantwell AO, DSC (rtd)


Long Tan officers given honours at soldiers’ expense, claims former commander.

This book is being launched today at the RSL in Hervey Bay, Qld, by MAJGEN John Cantwell AO, DSC (retd) – you’ll remember Cantwell’s revealing book Exit Wounds. The author Harry Smith was interviewed this morning on ABC Radio by Michael Brissenden – this is the link to the interview

Harry Smith pulls no punches in the interview – it’s worth listening to.

Book details:

Long Tan
The start of a lifelong battle
Harry Smith with Toni McRae
Published by Big Sky Publishing
ISBN: 9781922132321
$29.99 in paperback

What the Dambusters did next. Warning – you’ll need a free hour!

I actually set out to write about John Nichol’s book:


After the Flood
What the Dambusters did next
By John Nichol
Published by William Collins; Dist. by Harper Collins
RRP $29.99 in paperback ISBN 9780008100841

And then I discovered that the book arose from John Nichol’s involvement with the TV documentary What the Dambusters Did Next.

(John Nichol, incidentally, was a navigator with the RAF and he was shot down over Iraq in the first gulf war and taken prisoner by Saddam Hussein’s henchmen.)

So having read that tidbit about the documentary in the acknowledgements to the book, I then thought – well, what’s this documentary about and has it been shown in Australia?

So getting completely sidetracked from the book, I found the full documentary on YouTube (see here) – but a warning, it’s 1 hour 7 minutes long so make sure you’re comfortable when you start. If you’re planning to watch it at work just turn down the audio or put on ear phones.

About the book: On the 17th May 1943, 133 airmen set out in 19 Lancasters to destroy the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams. 56 of them did not return. Despite these catastrophic losses, the raid became an enormous propaganda triumph. The survivors were feted as heroes and became celebrities of their time.

They had been brought together for one specific task – so what happened next? Of the 77 men who made it home from that raid, 32 would lose their lives later in the war and only 45 survived to see the victory for which they fought.

Few are aware of the extent of the Dambuster squadron’s operations after the Dams Raid. They became the ‘go to’ squadron for specialist precision attacks, dropping the largest bombs ever built on battleships, railway bridges, secret weapon establishments, rockets sites and U-boat construction pens. They were involved in attempts on the lives of enemy leaders, both Hitler and Mussolini, created a ‘false fleet’ on D-day which fooled the Germans, and knocked out a German super gun which would have rained 600 shells an hour on London.

So, here’s a treat for you: an excellent book and an excellent TV documentary. The lawnmowing can wait!

Gallipoli from the Turkish perspective: Broadbent points to ‘the folly of others’


The Turkish Defence
By Harvey Broadbent

Published by Melbourne University Publishing
RRP $89.99 in hardback
ISBN 9780522866643


Defending Gallipoli
The Turkish story
By Harvey Broadbent

Published by Melbourne University Publishing
RRP $32.99 in paperback

DefendingGallipoliISBN 9780522864564

Harvey Broadbent has actually produced two books on the Gallipoli campaign from the Turkish perspective this year.

The publishers, Melbourne University Publishing, have said that Gallipoli: The Turkish Defence, which was released in Feb 2015, is the academic/specialist version of Defending Gallipoli, which is really intended for a broader audience (at a much lower price point).

Harvey Broadbent was interviewed on ABC Radio in March by Eleanor Hall and I have included a link to the page.

There is a short version of the interview and a longer (30 minute) interview that delves into Broadbent’s approach and understanding of the campaign from the Turkish point of view.

In answer to one of Eleanor Hall’s question about who he refers to when he talks of the ‘folly of others’, he does not discriminate between the sides: ‘I’m referring,’ he said, ‘to every person who was responsible for instigating that campaign and carrying it out in a way which led to all those deaths.’

Broadbent has clearly put a tremendous effort into researching and writing these books.

You can listen to the extended interview with Harvey Broadbent on ABC Radio at this link:

The World Today, Eleanor Hall, ABC Radio, 2 March 2015

New book: The Man who saved Smithy


The Man who saved Smithy
by Rick Searle
Published by Allen & Unwin
RRP $33.00 in paperback
ISBN 9781760113407

I got this book late last month from the publishers Allen & Unwin. I know this is not the usual military history fare, but it keeps popping up – this book featured in the latest editions of both Australian Flying and Flightpath magazines. (My wife Judy is publisher of both those magazines as well as Australian Defence Magazine.)

Steve Hitchen, the editor of Australian Flying, is full of praise for the book, especially as Steve attended the announcement by the Aviation Hall of Fame that P G Taylor, the man who is the subject of the book, is to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.

As a fighter pilot during the First World War, Patrick Gordon ‘Bill’ Taylor was awarded the Military Cross and discovered a life-long passion for flight and air navigation. Returning to Australia after the war, he became a close friend of Charles Kingsford Smith; they went on to form an incredible flying partnership, setting records around the globe.

It was on a flight across the Tasman in Smithy’s famous Southern Cross that Taylor earned the Empire’s highest award for civilian bravery, the George Cross. With one engine out of action and another fast running out of oil, Taylor repeatedly climbed out of the cockpit to transfer oil to the stricken engine and keep the Southern Cross flying – all this while suspended over the sea in a howling slipstream.

After the deaths of his friends Charles Ulm and Kingsford Smith in separate accidents, Taylor became Australia’s greatest surviving aviator, pioneering vital new trans-oceanic air routes during the Second World War and receiving a knighthood in honour of his services to flight.

The Man Who Saved Smithy is a terrific read and clearly a book that’s going to appeal to a wide cross section of the aviation fraternity.

Colour Sergeant Kailash Limbu’s story of life as a Gurkha

Gurkha copy

Better to Die than Live a Coward: My life with the Gurkhas
By Colour Sergeant Kailash Limbu

Published by Little Brown; Dist. by Hachette
RRP $ 35.00 in paperback
ISBN: 9781408705360

In the summer of 2006, Colour-Sargeant Kailash Khebang’s platoon was sent to relieve and occupy a police compound in the town of Now Zad in Helmand. He was told to prepare for a forty-eight hour operation. In the end, he and his men were under siege for thirty-one days – one of the longest such sieges in the whole of the Afghan campaign.

Kailash Khebang, who describes himself as an ordinary hill boy from Nepal whose ambition was always to be a Gurkha, recalls the terrifying and exciting details of those thirty-one days – in which they killed an estimated one hundred Taliban fighters – and intersperses them with the story of his own life as a villager from the Himalayas. He grew up in a place without roads or electricity and didn’t see a car until he was fifteen.

Kailash’s descriptions of Gurkha training and rituals – including how to use the lethal Kukri knife, which he initially learned as a young boy – are fascinating.

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