Books catch up: Stealth Raiders, more myths of the AIF and the military & tropical medicine

 

Stealth Raiders
A few daring men in 1918

By Lucas Jordan
Published by Vintage
RRP $34.99 in paperback
ISBN 9780143786634

This book is adapted from Lucas Jordan’s PhD thesis, supervised by award-winning historians Professor Bill Gammage (ANU) and Dr Peter Stanley (UNSW), both of whom will be familiar names to readers of Australian history, military and non military.

This book tracks stealth raids, their evolution and their extreme effectiveness which turned the tide of battle on a number of occasions. They were a distinctly Australian phenomenon which relied on the bush skills and bush ‘ethos’ for success.

In 1918 a few daring low-ranking Australian infantrymen, alone among all the armies on the Western Front, initiated stealth raids without orders. These stealth raiders killed Germans, captured prisoners and advanced the line, sometimes by thousands of yards. They were held in high regard by other men of the lower ranks and were feared by the Germans facing them. Using their firsthand accounts, as well as official archives and private records, Lucas Jordan pieces their stories together.

The last word on this book should go to Bill Gammage: ‘Depressingly often we see books promoted as “the forgotten story” or “the untold story” yet Stealth Raiders tells such a story, of a few daring Australian infantry who . . . so demoralised their opponents that they feared to enter the line against them’.

 

Lessons Learned
The Australian Military & Tropical Medicine

By Geoffrey Grant Quail
Published by Big Sky Publishing
RRP $34.99 in hard cover
ISBN 9781925520224

Geoffrey Grant Quail is certainly well qualified to write this book. In 2014 he was awarded a PhD from the University of Melbourne for his work on tropical disease and the Australian military. For many years, he was a senior consultant and Unit Head at Monash Medical Centre and held academic appointments at Melbourne and Monash universities for over fifty years. In 2014 he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to Medical Education.

This book recognizes the efforts of both individuals and the Army’s Tropical Disease Research units since Federation in helping the Army succeed in the battle against tropical diseases. He urges governments to be cognizant of the past and appreciate the need for continuing army medical research so that the welfare of troops sent on deployment in the tropics is preserved and not seriously affected by familiar and emerging diseases.

My own late father could attest to the impacts of malaria (which he caught in New Guinea during WWII). A very debilitating disease.

 

Bully Beef & Balderdash Vol II
More myths of the AIF examined and debunked

By Graham Wilson
Published by Big Sky Publishing
RRP $34.99 in hard cover
ISBN 9781925520323

The late Graham Wilson delighted in his self-appointed role as the AIF’s myth buster. Sadly he passed away on 17 April 2016 after battling pancreatic cancer for some years.

In this, his second and final volume of Bully Beef and Balderdash, he tackles another eight popularly accepted myths, exposing the ‘Water Wizard’ of Gallipoli who saved an army, dismissing the old adage that the ‘lions of the AIF’ were led by British ‘donkeys’, debunking the Gallipoli legends of the lost sword of Eureka and ‘Abdul the Terrible’, the Sultan’s champion marksman sent to dispose of AIF sniper Billy Sing, and unravelling a series of other long-standing fictions.

Finally, he turns his formidable forensic mind to the ‘lost’ seven minutes at The Nek, the early cessation of the artillery barrage which led to the slaughter of the Light Horsemen immortalised in Peter Weir’s film Gallipoli.

Wilson’s crusade to debunk such celebrated fictions was born of the conviction that these myths do very real damage to the history of the AIF. To demythologise this nation’s Great War military history, he argues, is to encourage Australians to view the AIF’s record on its own merits.

This book is a tribute to Graham Wilson’s extraordinary passion for truth and fact and his drive to set the historical record straight.

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