Left to ruin: we must preserve our forgotten wartime defences

Reading time: 5 minutes
Australia built a number of coastal defences to help protect the country from any enemy attack during the second world war. Now, almost 80 years later, some of the physical remnants of those historic facilities lie forgotten and decaying.

These monuments to the nation’s home defence are in desperate need of preservation. While their condition varies greatly, too many have faded into obscurity.

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Protecting country: Indigenous Australians in the defence of the north

Reading time: 5 minutes
Notions of ‘protecting country’ have, anecdotally at least, been a key motivation for Indigenous people to participate in Australia’s defence services since World War I. It may well be one reason they have been joining the army reserve’s Regional Force Surveillance Units for the past 30-odd years. The youngest of the three units, 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment, even has as its motto Ducit amor patriae, ‘The love of country guides me’.

Given that it’s been almost three decades since we last considered the defence of Australia’s north, it’s time to think about whether there are new ways to involve Indigenous people in that endeavour.

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From the bookshelf: ‘The Scrap Iron Flotilla’

Reading time: 4 minutes
Mike Carlton has emerged as a gifted historian of Australia’s outstanding naval contributions in two world wars. He polishes this reputation in his new book, The Scrap Iron Flotilla: five valiant destroyers and the Australian war in the Mediterranean. Carlton has always been persuasive in print. His earlier books, Cruiser on the wartime record of HMAS Perth, and First victory 1914, detailing HMAS Sydney’s destruction of the German raider Emden, suggested both the enthusiasm for and appreciation of Australian naval history which the author has in abundance.

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The Battle of the Beachheads – Podcast – Part 3 Added

By late 1942, the Allies had pushed the Japanese forces back along the Kokoda Track and were now down on the coastal plains of northern New Guinea. The Japanese may have been retreating, but they intended to hold the vital beachheads from Gona down through Sanananda to Buna. The fight to take the beachheads would be bloody and brutal, but first the Australians and their American comrades had to get there.

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The Scrap Iron Captain: Hector Waller DSO and Bar – Podcast

While serving within the Royal Australian Navy as a Signals Officer, Captain Hector MacDonald Laws Waller served with distinction aboard several warships of the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Navy during both the First World War and the Second World War. Having graduated from the fledgling Royal Australian Naval College during the First World War, his posting would be to the Royal Navy Battleship HMS Agincourt, and would predominately perform escort duties for the duration of the war.

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The Chungking Legation: Australia’s first diplomatic mission to China, as soon to be wartime allies

Reading time: 6 minutes
Gough Whitlam’s visit to China in 1971 is an iconic moment in the history of Australia-China relations. As prime minister, he officially recognised the People’s Republic of China the following year, heralding a new era of engagement with China.
But Whitlam’s visit overshadows an earlier and equally significant moment in Australia’s relationship with China.
On October 28 1941, Australia opened its first diplomatic mission in China, a legation in the wartime capital of Chungking (Chongqing) in central Szechwan (Sichuan) province.

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Recognising the warriors

Reading time: 7 minutes
It was a sudden and unexpected announcement. Late last week, the chairman of the Australian War Memorial, Brendan Nelson, declared the governing council had decided to develop a much broader, a much deeper depiction and presentation of the violence committed against Indigenous people, initially by British, then by pastoralists, then by police, and then by Aboriginal militia.

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Japan’s Pacific War – Podcast

This podcast episode was commissioned by History Guild as part of our support of THE BLOODY BEACHHEADS: THE BATTLES OF GONA, BUNA AND SANANANDA – ONE DAY CONFERENCE. Angus Wallace, creator of the fantastic WW2 Podcast is joined by Peter Williams, author of Japan’s Pacific War: Personal Accounts of the Emperor’s Warriors.

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The Australians who Captured Rommel’s Intelligence Unit, Company 621

Reading time: 5 minutes
Though the North African campaigns of World War 2 have a reputation for mainly being fought by tanks, both sides relied as much on spying as they did on cold, hard steel. When the 9th Australian Division captured the German signals intelligence unit, company 621, right before the first battle of El Alamein, they dealt Field Marshal Erwin Rommel a fatal blow.

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RESTORING ONE OF THE WORLD’S RAREST MAPS

Reading time: 4 minutes
In 1663, Europeans called Australia ‘New Holland’, New Zealand was considered one land mass and Tasmania had only been sighted by Abel Tasman – it would be another hundred years before Europeans would set foot there.

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The Scrap Iron Flotilla – Speaker: Mike Carlton via Zoom

Live Presentation via Zoom August 17 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm AEST (UTC+10)
When war broke out in the Northern Hemisphere in 1939, the British called upon their Australian allies for support. The Australian government responded by sending five navy destroyers – HMAS Stuart, Vendetta, Vampire, Voyager and Waterhen.

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Broodseinde Ridge – Podcast

On the back of the victories of Menin Road and Polygon Wood, the 1st Anzac Corps pushed on towards the dominating feature of Broodseinde Ridge. This time though, they would have the men of the 2nd Anzac Corps fighting alongside them. The Battle would see the Allied troops looking down upon green pastures for the first time in three years, bringing hope that the war may soon be over.

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Polygon Wood – Podcast

Following on from the success of the Battle of Menin Road, the 4th and 5th Australian Divisions took over from the 1st and 2nd Divisions to launch the attack at Polygon Wood. But the day before the battle is to commence, a strong German counter attack seized the ground which elements of the 15th Brigade were to attack from. It was a precarious situation which needed to be rectified immediately or else the whole attack could be thrown into confusion.

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Menin Road – Podcast

In 1917, General Haig began what would become known as the Third Battle of Ypres, with the intention of capturing the village of Passchendaele. But getting to the village would require a series of bite-and-hold battles. In September, the 1st and 2nd Australian Divisions, along with British and South African Divisions, launched the third in the series of assaults, at Menin Road. For the first time in history, two Australian divisions would be fighting side-by-side. If they were to ever have this chance again, they would have to prove just how formidable they could be.

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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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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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