Archive | October 2017

The Secret Code-Breakers of Central Bureau


The Secret Code-Breakers of Central Bureau

How Australia’s signals-intelligence network helped win the Pacific War

By David Dufty
Published by Scribe
RRP $49.99 in hardcover
ISBN 9781925322187

Prior to the commencement of the Second World War, Australia had little expertise in signals intelligence and relied upon Britain for any relevant international intelligence. But with the outbreak of war with Germany and the impending entry of Japan, Australia was forced to ramp up its capabilities.

The result was the creation of the Central Bureau located in Brisbane and Melbourne. Its task was to monitor Japanese radio traffic and ultimately, break their codes. While this was achieved very early (an Australian, Eric Nave working with British intelligence in Singapore, actually cracked the Japanese air force code before Japan had entered the war), the Japanese, like all countries, changed their codes on a regular basis and so the work was ongoing.

David Dufty’s absorbing book reveals how Australia built a large sophisticated intelligence network from scratch and how their code-breakers played a vital role in the Battles of Midway, Milne Bay, the Coral Sea, Hollandia and Leyte. He introduces us to some fascinating characters such as Florence Violet McKenzie who founded the Women’s Emergency Signalling Corp, an organisation whose sole aim was to provide signals training for women.

And it was these women who eventually became the nucleus of the navy’s special signals workforce. A fascinating book.


Peter Stanley’s The Crying Years: Australia’s Great War


The Crying Years

Australia’s Great War

By Peter Stanley
Published by NLA Publishing
RRP $44.99 in paperback
ISBN 9780642279057

Not your usual examination of the Great War. Historian Peter Stanley collaborated with the National Library (NLA) to access elements of their collection from that period in time. Stanley believes that the Great War was much more than just the battles at Gallipoli or the Western Front and had far reaching effects on all Australians.

In this interview, published on the National Library’s website, Peter Stanley describes the birth of this book and the pleasure he found in researching little used archives of the National Library. LINK HERE FOR THE INTERVIEW.

Stanley believes that the material he has chosen illustrates that “the Great War meant many things for Australians: triumph and tragedy, unity and division, success and failure, loyalty and disloyalty, idealism, pragmatism, opportunism, principle, creative endeavour and many other aspects of humanity that emerge under the stress of extreme experience”.

Using a broad range of items from the NLA’s collection (cartoons, posters, photographs, leaflets, newspaper items etc), Stanley has woven a fascinating narrative around these images. The images illustrate how divided Australia became as the war progressed. He connects the war overseas (battles at Gallipoli, Fromelles, Passchendaele etc) with the equally bitter war at home over the referendum on conscription. The war “killed at least 60.000 men directly … and ruined the health and happiness of many more and brought division and bitterness lasting decades”.

This is a beautifully constructed book, written with sensitivity and accompanied by wonderful imagery.

Images from Shrine of Remembrance Light Horse exhibition

Commemorating 100 years since the Battle of Beersheba, The Light Horse: Australians in the Middle East explores the myths and realities of the legendary Australian light horsemen.

Exhibition Dates: 20 October 2017 to 20 October 2018

Where: Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne

Shrine of Remembrance exhibition honours Light Horse in Middle East


New exhibition opening at the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne

Exhibition Dates: 20 October 2017 to 20 October 2018

Further information:

Commemorating 100 years since the Battle of Beersheba, The Light Horse: Australians in the Middle East explores the myths and realities of the legendary Australian light horsemen. Their dramatic campaign against the Ottomans in the desert wastes of Sinai, Palestine and Syria was an operation that captured the nation’s imagination.

Official historian, Henry Gullett, described the light horsemen as, ‘…the very flower of their race … the most restless, adventurous, and virile individuals of that stock.’ This bold spirit provided inspiration for many well-known artistic luminaries of the day and beyond. Work from artists such as George Lambert, Sidney Nolan and current day Bendigo-based painterSusan McMinn, are featured. Each piece tells its own story of the campaign: the triumph, the hardship and the special bonds forged between the men who served and their horses.

Featuring memorabilia belonging to the family of Lieutenant-General Harry Chauvel, and other now legendary light horsemen, the exhibition presents the contrast between the idealised perceptions of the emu-plumed warriors and the stories of the privations the soldiers endured. The Light Horse draws associations between place, time and sentiment providing modern audiences with some insight into what it must of have been like for those who served 100 years ago and whose young lives were shaped by their experiences.


Defusing IEDs: Painting the Sand


Painting the Sand
One man’s fight against the Taliban bomb-makers of Helmand

By Kim Hughes GC
Published by Simon & Schuster
RRP $32.99 in paperback
ISBN 9781471156717

I still remember enjoying the British TV series “Danger UXB” which followed the trials and tribulations of a team of British servicemen whose job it was to defuse unexploded ordnance in London during the Second World War. Well, fast forward to 2009 and in real life we have a British team of bomb disposal operators serving in Afghanistan, whose job was to defuse IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices).

And one of the experts in this field was Warrant Office Class 1 Kim Hughes, who, during a six month tour of duty in Helmand province, defused 119 IEDs despite, on many occasions, being subjected to Taliban ambushes.

The title of this book is apt as the humble paintbrush is a bomb disposal operators most treasured possessions. The paintbrush, used to dust the sand and grit off the IEDs, is described by Hughes as “a fundamental piece of our equipment in Afghanistan”.

But his most arduous day was 16 August 2009 when his team was called upon to clear a minefield where men lay dying.

He dismantled seven IEDs with his bare hands and, for his service and bravery that day, was awarded the George Cross Medal and his actions were described as “the single most outstanding act of explosive ordnance disposal ever recorded in Afghanistan”.

A truly amazing story of bravery and courage.



The Killing School
Inside the world’s deadliest sniper program

By Brandon Webb
Published by Quercus. Distributed by Hachette Australia
RRP $32.99 in paperback
ISBN 9781786487513

Brandon Webb, a SEAL sniper and combat veteran, was tasked with revamping the US Naval Special Warfare (SEAL) Scout/Sniper School, incorporating the latest advances in technology to create an entirely new course. In this absorbing book, Webb takes readers through every aspect of the elite training.

But don’t be lulled into thinking this is just another dry instructional manual. Webb’s opening sentence reads: “I have an unusual relationship with death … For me, the face of death is as familiar as the barista at my local coffee shop”. And this sets the stage for a journey following four elite special operation snipers as they move from childhood to battlefield missions, incorporating these techniques developed by Webb.

Webb uses the experiences of Rob Furlong, Jason Delgado and Nick Irving, all experts in their field, to illustrate how this training plays out in real-life combat. Irving, a US Army Ranger, is credited with 33 kills in a single three month tour in Afghanistan. Webb uses this statistic to reinforce his belief in the value of the elite sniper, “a single sniper can sow confusion and insecurity in the minds of thousands of enemy troops”.

The Killing School is a very revealing book.

Revised edition: the story of HMAS Diamantina


HMAS Diamantina
Australia’s Last River Class Frigate, 1945 -1980

By Peter Nunan
Published by Boolarong Press  BUY HERE
RRP $29.99 in paperback
ISBN 9781925522358

First published in 2005, this revised edition traces the voyage of HMAS Diamantina from its commissioning in 1945 through to its decommissioning in 1980 and subsequent return to Queensland where it is on permanent display at the Queensland Maritime Museum in Brisbane. Diamantina is Australia’s largest surviving World War II warship and the last of the world’s steam driven River Class frigates.

Although commissioned not long before the end of the war, Diamantina saw active service, providing fire support to the Army on Bougainville from mid-1945, and is believed to have fired the RAN’s last shots of World War II. She also carried the Japanese high command to surrender at Torokina and hosted the signing of surrender documents for Nauru and Ocean Islands. After the war, Diamantina was recommissioned as an oceanographic research vessel undertaking tasks in the Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans. Along with her sister ship, HMAS Gascoyne, she was instrumental in discovering the greatest depth then recorded in the Indian Ocean.

If you have a family member with connections to this historic ship, the book would be a marvellous Christmas Present.

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