History is Complicated – SOE in Burma

Reading time: 7 minutes
It was estimated by Force 136 that they recruited around 20,000 indigenous personnel for operations in Burma. A few hundred of them are on my Men of SOE Burma page, compiled by going through several files of training cards. While the research for that page has provided excellent insight into a cross section of the many Burmese peoples who served with SOE, most of the 20,000 will remain unaccounted for because there is no record of them. Sadly, this means that their service will never be recognised outside of their own families.

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Australians in the Mediterranean during WW2 eBook

Thousands of Australian soldiers saw combat in a series of battles in the Mediterranean and North Africa. Their service is less well known as it has tended to be overshadowed by the later battles in New Guinea and the Pacific. History Guild has created and published this eBook which tells the stories of the determination, resilience, bravery and sacrifice of the Australians who served in the Mediterranean theatre of the Second World War. It is available as a free download below.

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X Troop – The Secret Jewish Commandos of WWII

Reading time: 8 minutes
When we hear ‘Jewish’ and ‘World War II’ in the same sentence, our minds often lead directly to the Holocaust. The extent of Jewish resistance to the brutal treatment on their own was limited due to the extent of their persecution by Nazi or Nazi aligned governments. These governments generally had the broad support of the populace, making it hard for small groups of Jews within these societies to fight back. One exception to this were the Jews of Poland, the X Troop commandos were another.

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39th Militia Battalion and the Kokoda Track – Part 2

Reading time: 10 minutes
After the retreat from Kokoda, the battered survivors of B Company, 39th Battalion regrouped at the small village of Deniki. Major Allan Cameron, a 30th Brigade staff officer, arrived shortly after at Deniki on 4th August.  Disgusted by the apparently ‘unsoldierly’ appearance of B Company, he jumped to the conclusion that these men must have run away from the fighting and had abandoned Kokoda for no reason. He sent them further back to Isurava in disgrace, depriving the remainder of the 39th of the only troops with battle experience. This wouldn’t be the last time that a textbook tactical withdrawal would be mistaken for cowardice. Cameron then decided that Kokoda must be recaptured.

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Dispatches from Red Square: reporting Russia’s revolutions then and now

Reading time: 9 minutes
“No news from Petrograd yesterday”, was the headline in the Daily Mail on March 14, 1917. The story – or non-story – which followed, was only a few dozen words: “Up to a late hour last night the Russian official report, which for many months has come to hand early, had not been received”, it ran. So why publish it? The non-appearance of the daily news bulletin from the Russian government had led the Mail’s writer, trying to prepare a report in London, to suspect something was going on.

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The Battle of Crete, WW2 – Video

The Battle of Crete saw around 40,000 Allied troops, including over 6,500 Australians, defending against a German airborne invasion. The Allies fought valiantly, but were eventually overcome by the German paratroopers. However, they inflicted such severe casualties on the Germans that they never again used their airborne forces on a large scale.

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Social and Cultural History

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Plague Ahoy! Maritime quarantine in the 18th century

Reading time: 8 minutes On 23 August 1720 at the Council Chamber in Whitehall, the Privy Council issued an order to the commissioners of His Majesty’s Customs ‘to prevent the landing any goods, passengers, or seamen from on board any ships coming from the Mediterranean’. Diplomats and statesman had been in correspondence for weeks about the worrying state of affairs developing in the south of France. Writing to Secretary of State James Craggs, the diplomat Robert Sutton related ‘the melancholy news of a pestilential distemper being crept into Marseille by the infection of some bales of cotton brought from Sidon (in modern day Lebanon)’. Other letters reported that the seamen on the said voyage had died, with many others taken sick and transported to infirmaries. Four porters, who had opened the goods carried on the ship, died suddenly as the distemper spread from ship to shore killing as many as 24 people in one street. Quarters of the city were barred up and houses and their contents were burned. The plague had hit Marseille.

History Audiobooks

A Voyage Towards the South Pole and Round the World – Audiobook

On his first journey Cook mapped the east coast of Australia, on his second the British Admiralty sent him into the vast Southern Ocean. Equipped with one of the first accurate chronometers, Cook pushed his small vessel not merely into the Roaring Forties or the Furious Fifties but become the first explorer to penetrate the Antarctic Circle, reaching an incredible Latitude 71 degrees South, just failing to discover Antarctica.

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History Guild would like to acknowledge the Boonwurrung people, the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we are based, and pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.