Archive | February 2016

Fremantle’s Submarines – World War 2 variety


Fremantle’s Submarines
How Allied Submariners and Western Australians helped to win the war in the Pacific
By Michael Sturma
Published by Naval Institute Press
RRP USD $32.95 in hardcover
ISBN 9781612518602

As submarines are the topic du jour, I thought it timely to blog about a book that extolls the value of submarines in the Pacific theatre in WWII.

Back in 2012, Professor Michael Sturma of Murdoch University spoke about his research for this book, saying that Fremantle was underappreciated for its impact in the Pacific theatre.

‘A lot of people aren’t aware of what an important base it was during the war. Around 170 submarines were based there at various times, and they conducted more than 400 war patrols,’ he said.

He said that while there weren’t any Australian submarines, American and British submarines carried a large number of Australian commandos, dropping them behind enemy lines in Borneo, Malaya, Java and the Philippines.

His research has now come to fruition with the publication of this book by the Naval Institute Press of Annapolis, MD.

Part historical and part social history, Fremantle’s Submarines seeks to emphasise the importance of the Western Australian port as a forward operating base in the Pacific War.

While not the US Navy’s first choice because of the distance from the American Patrol areas and supply lines, Fremantle compensated by having an excellent harbour and ironically, by being outside the range of land-based Japanese aircraft.

Sturma also believes that the local civilians played an important role in fostering the close bonds the community developed with the Allied submariners. From the standpoint of morale, Sturma contends these bonds helped make Fremantle ‘arguably the most successful military outpost of World War II’.

Sturma reveals that Fremantle-based submarines ‘sank some 377 ships totalling 1,519,322 tons, with US submarines accounting for 340 of these ships’. These submarines effectively cut off the enemy’s supplies of raw materials, thus severing the logistic lines of Japan’s war machine.

I’m sure this book will have broad appeal, especially to anyone interested in WWII naval operations in the Pacific.




New books: Hospital Ships and A Civilian Surgeon in Vietnam

Hospitalships  Civiliansurgeon

I’ve had two titles come onto my review bookshelf recently from small Australian publisher Boolarong Press. These are:

Hospital Ships
Manunda, Wanganella, Centaur, Oranje
By Rupert Goodman
Published by Boolarong Press
RRP $29.99 in paperback
ISBN 9781925236491

This book was first published in 1992. It tells the story of hospital ships which saved the lives of many casualties of battle but also cost the lives of the men and women who went down with their ships while performing their humanitarian role of caring for the sick and wounded. There are four ships of World War II which Goodman covers in some detail: Manunda, Centaur, Wanganella and Oranje.

A Civilian Surgeon in Vietnam 1961-1968
By Vicki R H Holman
Published by Boolarong Press
RRP $29.99 in paperback
ISBN 9781925236293

Having first written her mother Vicki Sale’s story in A Glorious Adventure, Vicki Holman then turned her attention to her father’s story in her latest book, which is a remarkable account of the trials and tribulations of the Australian Surgical Team, sent from Queensland to Bien Hoa, Vietnam, from September 1967 to September 1968. These dedicated doctors and nurses used their skills to alleviate the suffering of the war-weary Vietnamese civilians.

Vicki Holman’s father, Dr Tom Sale OBE, MB,ChB, FRCS (Edinburgh), AM (Singapore), FRCAS, FRACMA, FACRM, Medical Superintendent of the Rockhampton General Hospital, was appointed Leader of the team. While in Bien Hoa, as well as fulfilling his duties as leader, he also found time to write a monthly report that was sent back to Australia.

The story of how Vicki came to write the book appeared recently in the local newspaper, The Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, linked here.


Fear Drive My Feet: a classic of WWII Australian literature


Fear Drive My Feet
By Peter Ryan
Published by Text Classics
RRP $12.95 in paperback
ISBN 9781925240054

This book was republished in 2015, not long before author Peter Ryan passed away at the age of 92. He was for many years a columnist for Quadrant magazine – you can read his obituary here.

Fear Drive My Feet is his account of his time patrolling isolated regions of New Guinea during World War II, a story he wrote on his return to Australia. As he writes in his introduction:

‘It struck me that very few soldiers of eighteen would have been sent out alone and untrained to operate for months as best they could behind Japanese lines; that few indeed would have passed their nineteenth and twentieth birthdays engaged in such a pursuit.’

This book was first published in 1959, after the manuscript came to the attention of Ida Leeson (Mitchell Librarian 1932-1946) who pitched it to Angus & Robertson (that great name long gone from the ranks of Australian publishers).

When it was first published, Fear Drive My Feet was hailed as a classic war story, written while the memory was still fresh. It was clearly a suitable candidate for Text Publishing’s excellent initiative in reviving out of print books.

It is really worth looking at the page of Text Classics – a wonderful project by this small Australian publisher to bring back to life out-of-print Australian classics. I think Text management is to be applauded for this decision. The cover designs are outstanding, says my wife, who has an eye for these things.

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