My uncle’s books

A couple of years ago, after my uncle passed away I inherited Dad’s side of the family’s books. These were the pre-Bond, post-Biggles boys’ own that my father and my uncle (who was ten years older than Dad) received. There were books given to my late grandmother, dated 1908. Imagine – 1908! Dad’s second cousin’s communion book, my grandfather’s tomes from the 1930s including the eerily prescient ‘Must Australia Fight?’. All are there, all silent reminders of eras past, when there was no TV, no I...
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693 reasons why MTR was always up against it

Melbourne Talk Radio, or MTR 1377, is no longer. The fact that the station hasn't worked is hardly a surprise when you consider that in the Melbourne radio market, history repeats itself. Firstly, let's recognise that as the station closes, people lost their jobs and any reflection about the station isn't about their work or their abilities. This post is about about, well, beating 3AW by trying to sound like 3AW. As history has proven, many have tried - and in my radio listening life (30 plus...
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Reviewed – MacArthur’s War; Invasion: Alaska; and Neue Europa

Counterfactual history is a genre based on the question ‘what if?’. It's one of my favourite types of fiction, combining creativity based on historical events. Some prominent authors include Australian John Birmingham, with his series Axis of Time, and American Harry Turtledove (though I’ve passed his series on aliens invading the world). Invariably, the parallel universe in a counterfactual novel is based on changing one of the quirks of a major historical event and then broadly continuing on...
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Gettysburg – a reflection three years on

January 2012: Three years ago this week I visited the east coast of the US as part of my holiday so I could attend President Obama's Inauguration. On the way from New York to DC I detoured via Antietam and then, on the Sunday before Inauguration on the Tuesday, to Gettysburg. I've often thought of this place since then. The brutality of the Civil War, the biography read of Joshua L Chamberlain. Gettysburg signifies so much more to America, and those of us fascinated by its history, than a bat...
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Reviewed – Beyond Band of Brothers (Major Richard D Winters)

This review coincides with the first anniversary of the passing of Major Richard Winters. Major Winters died in January 2011, aged 92. I was given this book for Christmas and finished it on New Year's Day. Beyond Band of Brothers was first published in the US in 2006, only a few years after the TV miniseries aired. It is a poignant, sad, reflective, and well-written book that at 290 pages is not a long read. It is a superb, moving book. Richard Winters was a ordinary man by his own standards,...
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Reviewed: Down to the Sea

As someone who reads widely across history, and has an interest in military history, I approached this book not knowing much about the subject. By the end of the book, I felt incredibly sad, I felt angry, and I felt relieved knowing that it would very unlikely anyone I knew would have to go through what the sailors described in this book went through. A non-fiction work by Bruce Henderson, Down to the Sea describes the men who made up the crews of three US Navy ships in World War 2, and their ...
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Reviewed – Strong Armed Men

Robert Leckie’s tome on the United States Marines’ battles in the Pacific is intense as it is detailed – nearly 600 pages – and covered in a way that I found at times shocking, but also captivating. This book looks at the battles the Marines fought, often in great detail, from their landings on Guadalcanal all the way through the central Pacific, and finally to Okinawa. Though Leckie fought in the Marines (his book With the Old Breed I read after having watched the miniseries Pacific), this is...
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Reviewed – Given Up for Dead – America’s Heroic Stand at Wake Island

Wake Island sits alone, an atoll in Pacific Ocean, in the middle of the nowhere, unimportant - at least it was until the US foresaw a coming war with Japan and moved (very slowly) to fortify it and establish it as a forward base. Given Up for Dead - America's Heroic Stand at Wake Island by Bill Sloan explains the background, and then we're introduced to the men central to the events that occurred there - US Navy, Marine and civilian. This book's value is how it moves seamlessly from strategic...
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Reviewed – ANZAC Fury

Peter Thompson's work on the Battle of Crete in 1941 is simply excellent. If you find military / political history fascinating, this is the type of book that you'll start and not want to stop till you're done. Thompson's 2008 work, Pacific Fury, was brilliant - and this is no different. To his credit, he focuses on the strategic decisions that led to the Australian and New Zealand forces being on Crete in the first place, and I learned much of the military-political machinations that led to the...
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The village by the river

By any measure, it was just another small town, nestled below the hills, next to the Murray River. But to me a few weekends ago, it was a place I had to visit; a town I wanted to see; to somehow try and sense. To get a feeling of the men - a particular man - who once, many years ago, left this place on his own accord, and leaving his family behind, went off to war. He was killed in Tobruk. That bloke from Walwa. Walwa. It's not a name of a town that may necessarily mean much to you, and like...
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