Larrikins in Khaki
Tales of irreverence and courage from World War II Diggers
By Tim Bowden
Published by Allen & Unwin
RRP $32.99 in paperback • ISBN 9781760528546
Tim Bowden’s name will be familiar to many. He is an acclaimed oral historian, broadcaster, and radio and television documentary maker for the ABC.
When I saw this book, I was immediately reminded of my own father’s wartime stories of escapades and hijinks. But there were stories too of the horrors of the Kokoda Track and the fear of Japanese snipers hiding in the jungles of New Guinea.
In this book, Bowden has collected together those very same stories from men whose memoirs were mostly self-published and who told of their experiences with scant regard for literary pretensions and military niceties.
Most of these men had little tolerance for military order and discipline (my father fitted that bill!) and NCOs and officers who were hopeless at their jobs were made aware of it – that rings true as well.
And, yes, Bowden is right. They laughed their way through the worst of it by taking the mickey out of one another and their superiors. Australian soldiers were certainly an irreverent lot but loyal to their comrades in arms.
In this book, we hear their voices again and can recapture the spirit of the World War II diggers, now mostly gone from within our midst.