Archive | July 2016

New book explores Indigenous military service in Australia


Defending Country:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Military Service since 1945

By Noah Riseman and Richard Trembath

Published by University of Qld Press
RRP $34.95 in paperback
ISBN 9780702253997

Link here for purchase

In the preface, the authors, both established historians, set out their expectations of this work – to facilitate further conversations about Indigenous contributions to Australia’s defence, past and present. They are not claiming the work as a complete history of post World War II military service by Australia’s first people.

Few Australians realise the extent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in the military. Many enlisted before they had the right to vote, to drink alcohol or even to receive equal wages, and certainly well before constitutional recognition of Indigenous people as citizens.

This book explores how military service impacted the lives of Indigenous recruits. It also reveals how Indigenous involvement in Australia’s defence contributed to the advancement of their rights. There is an interesting chapter on the RSL’s approach to Indigenous veterans who did not, at the time, have the same rights as their white counterparts.

The book examines what motivated Indigenous people to sign up, their experiences of racism, the challenges in returning to civilian life and the role of the Australian Defence Force in promoting Reconciliation. Defending Country is an important addition to Australia’s military history studies and offers a fascinating insight into little understood Indigenous military experience.


Conference: Charles Bean’s Legacy


Conference: Friday 29 July and Saturday 30 July 2016

Location: Seminar Room 4, Building 32, Australian Defence Force Academy Northcott Drive, Campbell ACT

Topic: Charles Bean’s Legacy

The Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society (ACSACS) is holding a two-day conference. to examine the life and letters of one of Australia’s leading public intellectuals and most important historians, Dr Charles Bean.

For information or assistance with registration:

Andrew Blyth
M: 0466 402 415


You’ll Be Sorry: How WWII changed women’s lives


You’ll Be Sorry
How World War II changed women’s lives
By Ann Howard

Published by Big Sky Publishing
RRP $29.99 in paperback
ISBN 9781925275841

First published in 1990, this edition is an augmented copy of two books previously written by Ann Howard, “You’ll be Sorry” and her follow up book “Where Do We Go From Here”. Highly praised when first released, these books capture the difficulties faced by women in their struggle to be given the right to join the armed services.

Eventually the authorities relented and women recruits were reluctantly integrated into the three services. This move was so successful that by mid-1945, 66,000 women were serving in the military.

Through a series of interviews, Ann Howard has been able to assemble an absorbing account of the experiences of these women. All were volunteers who were employed in a myriad of jobs.

Experiences varied but the enjoyment and satisfaction they derived from their jobs was a consistent message conveyed to Howard. Many remarked on their new found confidence gained from mastering their work tasks. But most important to them was the sense of comradeship that developed among the women.

Then Minister for the Army, Frank Forde, could see no reason for retaining women in the service and so all were demobbed at war’s end.

The sense of comradeship felt by these women soon evaporated as they returned to their former lives. Some married but found the isolation and lack of female company difficult. Coping with traumatised returning men was also a great challenge for many women. Others who had held responsible positions during the war were forced to take menial work because returning soldiers were accorded priority for the more progressive jobs.

This splendid book delivers an insightful account of the Australian Women’s Army Service.

New book asks ‘Who Bombed the Hilton’?


Who Bombed The Hilton?
By Rachel Landers

Published by NewSouth Publishing
RRP $32.99 in paperback
ISBN 9781742233512

On the 13th February 1978 a bomb exploded in the back of a garbage truck outside the Hilton Hotel in Sydney, during the first Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting (CHOGRM). Three people died as a result of this explosion – rubbish collectors, Alec Carter and William Favell and NSW Police Officer Paul Birmistriw; eleven others were injured. In response, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser called out 1,500 Australian Army troops, armoured personnel carriers and helicopters to provide security for the CHOGRM conference. In the period following the bombing the powers of the security forces were expanded.

Despite the passing of nearly 40 years, trials and mistrials, appeals and acquittals, enquiries, inquests, investigations and conspiracy theories we still do not know “Who Bombed the Hilton?”

Dr Rachael Landers makes an impressive attempt to make sense of 400 boxes of documents stored in the NSW State Records Archives. She has crossed referenced her research with documents held in numerous other locations including the National Library and Australian Archives but has stuck to a promise she made to herself that she would “not trust the living” perhaps to the detriment of this book.

Landers draws no firm conclusions and fails to answer the question posed by the title of her book.

However “Who bombed the Hilton?” is a thought provoking, thoroughly researched, well written and sometime humorous account of a crime that saw Australia join the “bomb club”.

Guest blogger Kylie Leonard reviewed this book.

Note: This is not really military history which is the main focus of this blog, but every now and again we deviate from the theme for the interest of our readers.

The Lost Airman


The Lost Airman
A true story of escape from Nazi-occupied France

By Seth Meyerowitz with Peter F Stevens
Published by Atlantic Books, UK; Dist. by Allen & Unwin
RRP $49.99 in hard cover
ISBN 9781782398936

This book tells the story of the remarkable survival of U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Arthur Meyerowitz, who was on his second air mission over France when he was shot down in 1943. He was one of only two men on the B-24 Liberator known as Harmful Lil’ Armful of the 448th Bomb Group, who escaped death or immediate capture on the ground.

How this book came to be written is interesting also. It is written by Seth Meyerowitz, (with Peter F Stevens). Seth Meyerowitz is Arthur’s grandson. He used a chance invitation to visit friends in Spain as a springboard for his research into the story of a grandfather he never knew.

After escaping the wreck, Meyerowitz knocked on the door of an isolated farmhouse, whose owners hastily took him in. Fortunately, his hosts not only despised the Nazis but also had a tight connection to the French resistance group Morhange and its founder, Marcel Taillandier. Meyerowitz and Taillandier formed an improbable bond as the resistance leader arranged for Meyerowitz’s transfers among safe houses in southern France, shielding him from the Gestapo.

In fact, Seth Meyerowitz was lucky with his timing. His first major research discovery was his grandfather’s recently declassified government file and debrief, an excellent starting point for his extensive research into the French Resistance.

The story that emerges in The Lost Airman is tense and riveting. Like many who escaped, he did so by using a variety of cover stories, enduring the inevitable hair-raising journey over the Pyrenees and finally a voyage aboard a fishing skiff with U-boats lurking below.

In telling this story, Meyerowitz feels he has repaid a debt to the French people who risked so much to save his grandfather’s life.


Coventry: Thursday 14 November 1940


Thursday, 14 November 1940

By Frederick Taylor

Published by Bloomsbury; Distributed in Australia by Allen & Unwin
RRP $35.00 in hardcover, 368pp
ISBN 9781408860267

On the evening of Thursday, 14 November 1940, a 400 strong, heavy-laden mass of German bombers departed their base on the south coast of Brittany in France, heading for the English Midlands city of Coventry. What followed was an eleven hour night of destruction resulting in hundreds of casualties and widespread damage to the city, and in particular, to the many factories engaged in the war production.

This attack on Coventry was the first real example of a civilian population being specifically targeted in a war situation.

As Fredrick Taylor writes in his introduction, “the attack raised the central issue: how much damage to civilian as well as military targets could be inflicted, on what scale, and how indiscriminately, without the supposed legitimacy of such a military method coming into question … In this process, the national protection of civilians – always a somewhat dubious proposition – was inevitably all but abandoned”.

The bombing of Coventry heralded a wave of such attacks on London and on Coventry again but the repercussions for the German civilian population were to be immense. The subsequent Allied attacks on Berlin and Dresden in 1944-45 were on an unimaginable scale.

Respected author Ian Thomson has written a lengthy review of this book in The Spectator. You can read the review here online.


BUYING OPTIONS: If you are located in Australia and interested in buying this book, the best place to go is the distributor Allen & Unwin – at this link where it is $35.00. I mention this because other sites have the US edition for sale at a higher price, whereas Allen & Unwin has the UK edition.



Advance notice: New book ‘False Flags’ explores role of disguised German raiders


False Flags
Disguised German Raiders of World War II
By Stephen Robinson

Published by Exisle Publishing
RRP $39.99 on hardback
ISBN 9781925335156

PRE-ORDER: This book is due for release in early August 2016 – you can pre-order your copy from this link:


In 1940 the raiders Orion, Komet, Pinguin and Kormoran left Germany on a mission to attack the British Empire’s maritime trade on a global scale. The four raiders voyaged across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans as well as the Arctic and Antarctic, with clandestine support from the Soviet and Japanese navies. They sank or captured 62 ships in what is now an often forgotten naval war.

The Orion and Komet terrorised the South Pacific and New Zealand waters before Pearl Harbour at a time when the war was supposed to be far away.

The Pinguin sank numerous Allied merchant ships in the Indian Ocean before mining the approaches to Australian ports and capturing the Norwegian whaling fleet in Antarctica.

The Kormoran, perhaps the best known of the raiders to contemporary readers, raided the Atlantic but will always be remembered for sinking the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney off Western Australia, killing all 645 sailors on board in tragic circumstances.

The author Stephen Robinson, who studied Asian history and politics at university, undertook extensive research for this book in the German, British, Australian and New Zealand naval records. He uncovered never-before-accessed eyewitness accounts and declassified intelligence reports, which have helped him piece together this epic story.

This short YouTube video gives some insight into how the ships disguised their armaments and how they repeatedly changed their appearances to fool Allied ship captains.

This is a fascinating book. The story is well supported by historic photographs, maps and the use of eyewitness reports. Many of the crews and passengers of the ships targeted by the raiders ended up as prisoners of war, while others were set adrift in life rafts.

This book is fascinating too for the insight it gives us into the efforts by the RNZN and the RAN to protect home waters. It wasn’t just the threat of the raiders, of course, but the problem of the minefields they laid that posed an additional hazard to shipping.

The last word on this book should go to the highly-respected historian Professor Peter Stanley who believes this book ‘works superbly on all levels – giving both the admiralties’ ocean-wide perspectives, as well as insight into the minds of the captains of the ships involved.’






Bombing Europe – New book on Fifteenth Air Force


Bombing Europe
The illustrated exploits of the Fifteenth Air Force
By Kevin A Mahoney

Published by Zenith Press. Distributed by Allen & Unwin
RRP $45.00 in hardcover
ISBN 9780760348154

Beautifully illustrated with over 200 compelling photos, this book is a follow-up to Mahoney’s previous work, ‘Fifteenth Air Force against the Axis’.

The US Fifteenth, based in Southern Italy, began operations on 1 November 1943 and comprised 210 B-17 Flying Fortress and 90 B-24 Liberator bombers escorted by P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustangs.

The Fifteenth was tasked with covering the areas that Allied bombers based in England could not easily reach and during their time, attacked strategic targets over a wide geographical area from France to Bulgaria. Mahoney follows the trials and tribulations of the bomber groups where death and injury were an ever-present passenger.

The B-24 Liberator bombers were particularly susceptible to catching fire when hit by flak and with the Germans employing a concentration of three flak batteries with four guns in each battery, the Fifteenth lost more than 2,000 aircraft during its one and a half years in combat.

Despite these losses, the Fifteenth never wavered from flying the next mission. Their campaign took them over the nations of southern, central and eastern Europe and Mahoney’s book is a fitting tribute to the many young Americans who never made it home.

One reviewer has described this as a ‘wonderful photographic essay’ which I think sums it up nicely.

This is definitely a book for those aviation tragics whose first love is WWII military aircraft and their operations. The pictures are stunning.

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