Reviews and comments on book and other literature

Hidden Battlefields – New Guinea

I recently came across the following poem in Jungle Warfare – With The Australian Army In The South Pacific (1944) and as I read, its verses struck me as not only timeless, but also somehow relevant to our world today. In it, the author ponders the overgrown state of the tropical jungles he has encountered, and as he observes the shattered palm battlefields he sees the ghosts of those who fought there, and feels the weight of their sacrifice and the obligation it carries – to never again be repeated. His poetry delves into the simple and often primal feelings that drive ordinary men and women feel to serve their countries in times of war, yet yearns for a world where such sacrifice is not necessary.

It was penned during 1944 in New Guinea by Maurice Lindsay Bull, a Victorian soldier with the Australian Army.

Hidden Battlefields – New Guinea

I came – as yet I knew not battle’s roar –
To view the scenes of conflicts gone before,
And thought to find, throughout this rugged land,
Destruction, debris, death, on every hand.
But this I saw –

A climbing, twisting, trailing mass of vine,
Through foliage fresh and branches intertwined,
A living cloak of variegated green,
That covered o’er the sight of what had been,
And one thing more –

For here and there, like sentinels of Mars,
Stood stately palms, beheaded, thick with scars
Of bullet, bomb, and shell, and all the rest
Through which men fought and bled, yet stood the test
Of total war.

And then I pondered how we might repay
The sacrifice of men who passed this way,
And realized if we could somehow bring
To this sick, war-torn world those simple things
They struggled for –

The very right to work, the right to play,
To live and love and hope, the right to pray,
To keep secure the greatest of all joys –
The carefree laughter of their girls and boys;
They asked no more.

If we in times to come forsake our greed,
And grant, to rich and poor, to every creed,
Those rights, then all the toil the fear the pain
And death they suffered, shall not be in vain,
And they once more

Will rise in glory, and, like sentinels,
Stand quiet guard, while over hill and dell
The foliage fresh of peace will gently rest,
And men with freedom, love and hope be blest
For evermore.

 – Maurice Lindsay Bull

Lady of the WAAAF (Harold Freedman)

Lady of the WAAAF by Harold Freedman

The Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) was formed in March 1941 after considerable lobbying by women keen to serve and by the Chief of the Air Staff who wanted to release male personnel serving in Australia for service overseas. The largest of the Second World War women’s services, the WAAAF It was disbanded in December 1947. A new Australian women’s air force was formed in July 1950 and in November became the Women’s Royal Australian Air Force (WRAAF).

The WRAAF was disbanded in the early 1980s and female personnel were absorbed into the mainstream RAAF. Australia’s first female air force pilots graduated in 1988 and today, with the exception of the airfield defence units, there are few jobs within the RAAF barred to women.

From The Library.

Airscrews (Eric Thake)

Airscrews by Eric Thake.

Per Ardua Ad Astra

They were born to fly –
Fly upward to the stars;
To loop and turn and dive and climb
Around the throne of Mars.

This was their heritage –
The young Australian men –
To hold within their valiant hearts
A splendid cause; and then

To work, and fight, and die,
If this the cause must ask.
And we who hold their cause as dear,
We also have our task:

The desk, the store, the bench –
Far from the throne of Mars –
Yet these we know, because with them
We struggle to the stars.

– Section Officer D. M. Blakers

From The Library.

To The Parachute Section

  To The Parachute Section

Will you remember when you are folding
Each silken ‘chute and pack,
We who wore them for a little space,
Who smiling passed, not turning back.

Will you stay those nimble hands a while,
To see us in memory passing by,
Who passed here in our toiling,
Upward and onward to the sky.

For those who on their outward journey
Went beyond the far-off clouds,
Sleep softer ‘neath the far horizon,
Pillowed on those silken shrouds.

So when the last long day is passed,
Long after the last flight’s run,
After the last ‘chute is folded,
With peace and the setting sun,

Remember, we knew you in our passing,
For in the heart of everyone,
We knew you stood beside us
With each task a job well done.

 – ‘David’

Dedicated to our friends at the Pacific Paratrooper blog, check it out.

Dowsett’s War, Part 2

For the other chapters of Dowsetts War, click here.

Once I had the tip from my mother that my great-grandfather may have served in the Boer War, I went hunting for any records.  Sadly, I found no record of him in any of the records at either the National Archives or the War Memorial.  There were, however, other items at the Memorial that related to other Dowsetts, a handful from both of the World Wars.  It didn’t surprise me that there were others, but there were two Dowsetts that both saw active service at Gallipoli so I kept looking around.  There was an Arthur (Jack) Dowsett from a relative’s Ancestry tree that I had seen, and now I had come up with a citation for Jack Dowsett at the Memorial and war records for a J A Dowsett at the Archives.

After sifting through the records for his enlistment details and any family information, comparing data from a few public Ancestry trees to verify home address, parents, birth date and correct first name, it became clear.  Jack Arthur Dowsett, born December 15, 1895 in Paddington NSW, was my great-grand uncle – the brother of Frederick, whom my mother thought may have been a Boer veteran.  I was amazed – Jack had not only enlisted with the legendary Light Horse, he had been at that most infamous of Australian battlegrounds – Gallipoli.  A whole new vista of research into the Great War era had opened up, right at the time the nation was preparing to commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli landings.

When it came to Gallipoli and World War I in general, I had to admit a naive kind of ignorance.  Sure, like many, I had read many books and seen many films about World War II – almost to the point of over-saturation.  It was an incredibly fast-paced, dynamic, complex and truly global conflict with no end of military and geopolitical angles to consider.  At the time, though, I simplistically viewed World War I as somewhat quaint – not in terms of human loss, of course – in terms of war and military hardware. I could not have been more wrong.

$_35Reading the accounts of the 7th Light Horse in Gallipoli and beyond into Sinai and Palestine also coincided with receiving Anzac Treasures – ‘The Gallipoli Collection of the Australian War Memorial as a Christmas gift from my beautiful wife.  An incredible tome, this book not only photographically displays the Memorial’s Gallipoli Collection but takes the reader on a narrative journey through the time the Australians spent dug-in on that far away peninsula.  As one would expect, the gripping and harrowing stories I was now getting into from this war completely changed my view of it.  No longer seeming quaint, it was now revealed as an epic grind of complex warring alliances giving rise to a modern, rapidly mechanizing type of battle pitching men, metal, gunpowder and chemicals at each other.