More on ‘Scorched Earth’: link to author site

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 11.20.05 AM

I thought readers might be interested in this link to Sue Rosen’s website – with some interesting material on her new book ‘Scorched Earth’:

What is fascinating about this book is that, in reproducing the actual documents, it captures the language and thinking of the government planners of the day. It demonstrates just how seriously the threat was viewed.

With the benefit of hindsight, modern historians have re-interpreted history, downplaying the likelihood of a Japanese invasion, suggesting there was an uninformed hysteria among the general population.

A full scale attack may seem improbable now but for those caught up in it, including my late mother who remembered clearly the Japanese submarine attack on Sydney Habour, the threat was very real and of great concern.





Scorched Earth – Australia’s secret plan for total war under Japanese invasion in WW II (including smash your vacuum cleaner)


Scorched Earth

Australia’s secret plan for total war under Japanese invasion in World War II

Edited by Sue Rosen
Published by Allen & Unwin
RRP $32.99 in paperback • ISBN 9781925575149

Hidden for 75 years, the top-secret government documents outlining preparations for a Japanese invasion of Australia in 1942 have finally been discovered.

Only a few copies of these plans were ever produced. Heritage consultant and author Sue Rosen came across them unexpectedly in government archives when researching an unrelated topic.

The Forestry Commission file she unearthed – Wartime Activities of the Forestry Commission – revealed the plans for implementing in New South Wales the ‘scorched earth’ policy adopted in 1942 by the Curtin Government.

Rosen has reproduced the documents following a timeline that begins in late 1941 with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour and ends with the 11 June 1943 announcement by Prime Minister John Curtin that Australia is no longer at risk of invasion.

Rosen prefaces each chapter with a short introduction. The original documents have been retyped to make them legible but retain the layout and style of the original.

The detail of these plans is eye watering including what to do with vehicles without petrol, a direction that motors of vacuum cleaners be smashed and wireless valves destroyed.

Altogether the plans reveal the lengths to which Australia would go to thwart a Japanese invasion.

1941 – Fighting the Shadow War: How Britain and America came together for victory



Fighting the Shadow War: How Britain and America came together for Victory

By Marc Wortman
Published by Atlantic Books
RRP $39.99 in hardback
ISBN 9781786491152

Reviewed by guest reviewer Kylie Leonard

Long before the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States of America was already at war.

Through the astute and possibly constitutionally questionable leadership of President Roosevelt the USA waged a clandestine war against Nazi sympathisers, German and Japanese spies on home soil and in South America.

FDR was forced to be creative with his assistance to the Allied forces to avoid breaking the Neutrality Acts while contending with growing isolationism and anti-Semitism.

“Unsure which way to turn, a divided America stumbled, argued, and fought, while searching for its place in a world at war.”

With the appalling loss of life and huge monetary cost experienced during the Great War many in the American power structure were vehemently opposed to involving the USA in another global conflict. Others, however, saw supporting England and her allies as the only way to stop Hitler’s advance towards the US.

In 1941: Fighting the Shadow War Marc Wortman investigates the period from the start of World War 2 to the bombing of Pearl Harbour.

This is a highly entertaining and very readable book, which weaves the stories of ordinary people with the machinations of those in power. – Kylie Leonard

Phantoms of Bribie: The jungles of Vietnam to corporate life and everything in between

BSP Phantoms of Bribie Cover RGB 300dpi

Phantoms of Bribie
The jungles of Vietnam to corporate life and everything in between

By Ian Mackay
Published by Big Sky Publishing
RRP $23.99 in paperback
ISBN 9781925275575

Fifty years ago on the afternoon of 17 February 1967, an Australian force found itself facing defeat in a thick patch of jungle near the coast of Phuoc Tuy province.

In just over five hours of fighting eight Australian soldiers were killed and another 27 wounded. This battle became known as Operation Bribie, one of Australia’s worst days in the Vietnam War.

Major Ian Mackay (Rtd) was the Officer Commanding when his outnumbered ‘B’ company 6 RAR were primed for a quick short attack on a company-sized Viet Cong force.

Mackay remembers the chaos of the battle: “The conditions were appalling, in stinking heat with many almost blinded by the smoke from fires, in a fight to the death against a determined, efficient enemy near the village of Hoi My in Phuoc Tuy Province. The action was so close at times that any attempt at movement meant that you were shot or shot at.”

Mackay has written a detailed blow-by-blow account of the progress of the battle and the difficulties he faced as well as a brief analysis of the outcome.

On leaving the Army, he excelled in the business world but it is his Vietnam experiences that will interest military history readers.

The Long Road: Australia’s train, advise and assist missions


The Long Road
Australia’s train, advise and assist missions

Edited by Tom Frame
Published by UNSW Press
RRP $39.99 in paperback
ISBN 9781742235080

Helping neighbours and partners stabilise their political systems while working towards peace and prosperity is a core activity for the Australian Defence Force as well as other government departments and agencies.

This book, the outcome of The Long Road: the Future of Indigenous Capability Development conference, hosted by The Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society (ACSACS) and the Defence Science and Technology Group (DST Group) in 2016, analyses Australia’s ‘Train, Advise and Assist’ TAA missions over the past fifty years, including Iraq, Afghanistan, PNG and others.

It offers a comprehensive summary of the Australian experience. The book reflects upon those experiences and suggests way to enhance or improve the conduct of these missions. There is a stellar cast of contributors to the book.

In Chapter 23: Assistance Missions and Contractor Support, Aspen Medical’s Glenn Keys writes about the issues of private contractors supporting defence operations overseas. He calls for specific reforms in relation to service providers attached to deployments. He especially calls for both sides to work together more closely and to focus on collaboration rather than just contract compliance.

Verdict: Essential reading for anyone whose role encompasses the ADF’s future planning.

Re-published: Ray Ollis’s 101 nights – for Bomber Command enthusiasts


101 Nights

By Ray Ollis; Edited by Robert Brokenmouth

Published by Wakefield Press
$29.95 in paperback
ISBN 9781743054055


ABOUT THE BOOK: The bombing campaign to destroy Hitler’s Nazi Germany was waged by Allied flyers from not only England and the US, but also with many Australian men like Ray Ollis. Flying as a navigator, Ray was assigned to 101 Squadron operating the famed Lancaster bomber, fitted with the latest electronic warfare measures. This book – Ray Ollis’s lightly fictionalised record of his own experiences flying over the heart of Germany at night – provides a gripping account of this critical phase of history.

This book was first published in 1957. In this 2016 edition, editor Robert Brokenmouth discovered that, despite its official status as ‘fiction’, this book had found its way into the collections of several Bomber Command veterans.

As Brokenmouth says, ‘here was a novel written by a veteran unable, at the time, to describe his actual experiences. Fiction allowed Ray Ollis to tell his story in a way that non-fiction would not, could not allow.’

According to Brokenmouth, ‘there are so many things in 101 Nights which are described, as near as my research can tell, very accurately indeed, one is drawn to the conclusion that 101 Nights is less fiction than a sort of ‘fictionalized memoir’.’

What readers of the new edition will find helpful are the extensive notes and glossary which provide important background to many aspects of the book. These notes are intended, I believe, to give readers unfamiliar with the Bomber Command role and activities important information that will enhance their understanding of the story.

I know there will be many readers delighted to know that this long out of print book is available once again.


New Books Roundup: Australia’s first military pilot, contemporary war reporting and an orphan of the First World War

Just trying to catch up on my book review bookshelf before it gets completely out of hand. Here are three recent titles that were in danger of getting overlooked, but shouldn’t be.


The High Life of Oswald Watt
Australia’s First Military Pilot

by Chris Clark
Published by & available from Big Sky Publishing
ISBN: 9781925275797 • $29.99 in paperback

This book has a well-credentialed author. Chris Clark graduated from the Royal Military College 1972 and served in the Australian Army Intelligence Corps until 1979. He then worked in various Commonwealth departments before completing a PhD at the Australian Defence Force Academy. From 2004, until he retired nine years later, he was RAAF Historian and Head of the Office of Air Force History.

Variously described as the ‘Father of the Flying Corps’ and ‘Father of Australian Aviation’, Oswald (“Toby”) Watt died in tragic circumstances shortly after the end of the First World War. He had become the Australian Army’s first qualified pilot in 1911, but spent the first 18 months of the war with the French Air Service, the Aéronautique Militaire, before arranging a rare transfer to the Australian Imperial Force. Already an experienced combat pilot, he rose quickly through the ranks of the Australian Flying Corps, becoming a squadron leader and leading his unit at the battle of Cambrai, then commander of No 1 Training Wing with the senior AFC rank of lieutenant colonel.

This extensively researched book attempts to establish the true story of Watt’s life and achievements, and provide a proper basis for evaluating his place in Australian history.

Note: It was fascinating to learn that one of the most recent recipients of the Oswald Watt Gold Medal awarded for “A most brilliant performance in the air or the most notable contribution to aviation by an Australian or in Australia” was Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston (ret’d) for his leadership in directing the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 as well as his work to recover Australian passenger remains from MH17 shot down over Ukraine.


Young Digger

By  Anthony Hill
Published by Viking/Penguin Books
$29.99 in paperback • ISBN 9780670079292  BUY HERE

The book was first published in 2002. As Anthony Hill writes in his introduction, he was touched by the heartfelt response to the first edition, which brought forward new sources of information. A Melbourne reader found old photographs in his late father’s album, one of which has been reproduced on the cover of this new edition.

A small boy, an orphan of the First World War, wanders into the Australian airmen’s mess in Germany, on Christmas Day in 1918. A strange boy, with an uncertain past, he became a mascot for the air squadron and was affectionately named ‘Young Digger’. This solitary boy was smuggled back to Australia by air mechanic Tim Tovell, a man who cared for the boy so much that he was determined, however risky, to provide Young Digger with a new family and a new life in a new country, far from home.

There is sadly no happy ending of a long, well lived life for Young Digger but this is nonetheless a heartwarming story of love and commitment.

Hack in a Flak Jacket

Wars, Riots and Revolutions – Dispatches from a Foreign Correspondent

Peter Stefanovic
Published by Hachette  BUY HERE
$29.99 in paperback • ISBN 9780733638787

We tend to take reporting from contemporary war zones for granted as the images appear on our nightly news bulletins, beamed into our safe and peaceful homes in Australia. But it’s worthwhile taking a pause to understand the lengths to which foreign correspondents must go to bring us those stories.

For almost ten years Peter Stefanovic was Channel Nine’s foreign correspondent in Europe, the US, Africa and the Middle East. During that time he witnessed more than his fair share of death and destruction, and carried the burden of those images – all while putting his own personal safety very much in the firing line.

This is a thrilling and revealing account of a life lived on camera, delivering the news wherever it happens, whatever the risk.

Exhibition: Nerves and Steel: The Royal Australian Navy in the Pacific 1941-45


The Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne, is pleased to announce the opening of Nerves and Steel: The Royal Australian Navy in the Pacific 1941- 45. This special exhibition will be launched on Friday 21 July, 3pm by Rear Admiral Guy Griffiths AO DSO DSC. It will be located in South Gallery within the Galleries of Remembrance and will open to the public at 10am on Saturday 22 July, 2017.

The exhibition explores the role played by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in the ultimate Allied victory of the Second World War (1939-45). Specifically, it celebrates the achievements of RAN sailors between December 1941 and September 1945.

The war in the Pacific was essentially a naval struggle. Allied war aims hinged on the destruction of Japan’s powerful navy and the severing of sea communications between Japan and its far-flung Asian and Pacific conquests. The major actors in history’s greatest naval conflict were the immense fleets of Japan and the United States but the RAN played a significant and active role.

Features of the exhibition include

  • paintings on loan from the Australian War Memorial,
  • original memorabilia from the Shrine collection;
  • the RAN Heritage Collection; and
  • living Second World War veterans—HMAS Perthsurvivor, David Manning, and former corvette gunnery officer James Paizis. Both veterans will be attending the launch of the exhibition.

The Shrine of Remembrance will also be holding a panel discussion Words from Our Navy Veterans on Wednesday 9 August, 12pm where the last surviving Second World War navy veterans Jim Paizis, David Manning, Norm Tame, Hiram Ristrom, Ray Leonard and Pamela Nicholls of the WRANS recount tales from their service.

Forthcoming event: The DDGs in Vietnam & Lessons for the RAN

HMAS Brisbane

DDG HMAS Brisbane

Seminar: The DDGs in Vietnam & Lessons for the RAN Seminar

Date & Time:  Thursday 17 August 2017, 1.00pm to 5.00pm

Where:  UNSW Canberra at ADFA, LT12, Building 32, Northcott Drive, Campell, ACT

Marking the 50th anniversary of the RAN involvement in the Vietnam War, the Naval Studies Group of the Australian Centre for Armed Conflict and Society will hold two seminars – the first is ‘The DDGs in Vietnam & Lessons for the RAN’ to be held at UNSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy on Thursday 17 August 2017. The second will be the RAN Helicopter Flight in Vietnam in October 2017.

Just two years after the first of three Charles F. Adams class guided missile destroyers (DDGs) entered service in the RAN, HMAS Hobart sailed for the Vietnam War. This seminar examines the impact of the DDGs on the RAN, their role in the Vietnam War, logistics and technical issues as well as the human dimension. The papers will be presented by a distinguished array of speakers, including five admirals with a deep understanding of the destroyers service in the Vietnam War.

Further Information:

Dr Rita Parker
Tel 02 6268 8906
Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society,
University of NSW, Canberra


Registration is free.


The Shadow Men: The leaders who shaped the Australian Army from the Veldt to Vietnam


The Shadow Men
The leaders who shaped the Australian Army from the Veldt to Vietnam

Edited by Craig Stockings & John Connor

Published by New South
RRP $34.99 in paperback • ISBN 9781742234748

Many Australians would be aware that Monash and Blamey were important Army Generals in the First and Second World Wars but there were many such influential leaders who served this country with distinction but were unknown to all but the historians.

Some did their work behind the scenes while others were once important figures but have been forgotten in the mist of time. The title of this book is thus quite apt because the men chosen for this study have truly become the shadow men.

Craig Stockings and John Connor have assembled a stellar cast of contributors, which includes the late Jeffrey Grey, to review the ten chosen leaders. These men range from Australia’s earliest army leader and this country’s only General Officer Commanding, Major-General Edward ‘Curley’ Hutton, up to the man who managed the army’s withdrawal from Vietnam, and then guided the army “through an intense period of reorganisation”, Lieutenant-General Mervyn Brogan.

In his introduction, John Connor writes that “The shadow Men aims to bring back to light ten men who played key roles in shaping and moulding the Australian Army”.

By any measurement I believe this book achieves its aim.

%d bloggers like this: