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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A TALE OF REMEMBRANCE, ADMONITION, AND DESPAIR: ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT

Reading time: 6 minutes
The vivid and graphic imagery of the First World War has indeed become a potent symbol of the need for everlasting commemoration, and a continuous reminder of armed conflict’s futility. Yet with the inevitable passing of time, direct links to the “War to end all Wars” have regretfully vanished, with all veterans who served in the trenches now gone. This most special group of soldiers may now be physically silent, but their haunting messages of warning remain.

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Jamaica’s Morant Bay Rebellion and it’s brutal repression

Reading time: 11 minutes
On 12 October 1865, John Davidson, a magistrate in the east of Jamaica, wrote to the island’s Governor, Edward John Eyre:
‘The people at Morant Bay [on the island’s southeast coast, St. Thomas-in-the-East parish] have risen, burnt down the Court-house, released all the prisoners, murdered several white people.’

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Five myths about the partition of British India – and what really happened

Reading time: 6 minutes
This August marks 75 years since the partition of the Indian subcontinent. British withdrawal from the region prompted the creation of two new states, India and Pakistan.
The process of transferring power grossly simplified diverse societies to make it seem like dividing social groups and drawing new borders was logical and even possible. This decision unleashed one of the biggest human migrations of the 20th century when more than ten million people fled across borders seeking safe refuge.

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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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Finding ‘Forgotten’ Allies

Reading time: 8 minutes
Although it is difficult to calculate exactly how many Burmese personnel were recruited by SOE for operations within the country, we do know that it was in excess of 20,000.  Those personnel represented at least fourteen different ethnic communities, from the majority Burman (Bamar) and well known Shan, Karen, Kachin, Chin, and Arakanese (Rakhine) peoples, to the less heard about Palaung, Kuki, and Lahu.  Also included were nationalities who had large populations in Burma, such as the Gurkhas, Indians, and Chinese.  Add to this the Anglo-Burman, Indo-Burman and other mixed ethnicity personnel, for example Shan-Kadu, and it is clear that there was a huge contribution made to Force 136 operations by non-Caucasian peoples.  As my research for the Men of SOE Burma page has revealed, finding out about Asian Special Forces personnel in Second World War Burma has many obstacles.  

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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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