Reviews

ISBN 9781921555831 $29.95

‘These stories are from a world that is almost unrecognisable to the one we live in today, about a community that no longer exists.’

Another book about World War II, Shadows of War on the Brisbane Line tells the story of Graham Smith’s family living in Goombi — a town on the Darling Downs, about 20 kilometres west of Chinchilla — during the war. Goombi does not exist any more, but Smith’s memories of the town remain strong. In the first half of the book, he remembers how life was before World War II — difficult, but simple and happy. He recalls bush fires, rabbit hunts, cricket games, broom throwing contests and the howl of dingoes at night.

The second half of the book is of Smith’s memories of World War II. Smith was just a young boy when Australia joined with its allies to fight in the war. Smith’s book has the tender perspective of how he saw the war as a child, focusing on such things as how easter eggs disappeared as a result of sugar rationing, how petrol rationing forced his family to swap their Ford for a horse and cart, and how he was taught to count with questions such as ‘How many convoys did you see over the weekend?’. However, his writing is also retrospective, as he recalls the situations with the knowledge of the years gone by. He recalls the radio programs that were used for Japanese propaganda, the significance of the Prime Minister’s denial of the Darwin bombing, and the contemporary explanations of military activities that baffled him as a child.

There are numerous photographs throughout that illustrate the people and situations Smith describes, and he has also included such quaint details as appendices on how a spare tyre was replaced and repaired in those days — using large stones to chock the wheels.

Smith wrote this book so that his grandchildren might always remember his stories, but his book has much broader scope than for his family alone. While the stories are specific to Goombi and Smith’s childhood, this book represents a generation of children who grew up in rural Australia during the war, witnessing these vastly important and dangerous years through their young eyes. The world Smith describes is a very different Queensland to the one in which we live today. Shadows of War on the Brisbane Line captures a lost era, and will serve as a snapshot of this time for future generations.

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Nina Atkinson

ISBN 9781921555893 $29.95

‘For three years during World War II, submarines sailing from Brisbane were at the forefront of the war against Japan… Brisbane’s role has been overshadowed by the larger Pearl Harbor and Fremantle task forces. This is unfortunate, as the story of Brisbane’s submarine war is a proud one and deserves to be remembered.

’So begins Subs Down Under, in which David Jones and Peter Nunan tell, for the first time, the complete story of the U.S. Submarine task force that was based in Brisbane for three years during World War II. The activities of these submarines were highly secret during the war and remain little-known today — a fact that Jones and Nunan hope to alter. They have drawn on many years spent researching historical facts and military data to create this informative book.

There were three American submarine bases in the Pacific — one in Pearl Harbour, one in Fremantle and one in Brisbane. While the other two bases receive more attention, the Brisbane base played an important role in the conflict. The Allied submarine forces were responsible for sinking over half of the Japanese ship fleet, and the Brisbane submarine force sunk 10% of this overall number. The submarines arrived in Brisbane in time for the battle of the Coral Sea — a critical time for the defence of Australia. The U.S. Navy resources were stretched, which meant the submarine force were the only branch of the navy that were able to carry out offensive operations against the Japanese. They were the only force who were able to go out and meet the enemy, and they were the only branch of the armed forces who were heading out from Brisbane, and returning to Brisbane following the battles.

As well as undertaking direct conflict, the submarine force supported coast watch and command boats that were operating behind Japanese lines, undertook reconnaisance of enemy beaches, rescued civilians from the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, and helped train the local submarine forces.

Jones and Nunan have also drawn on the personal experiences of individual sailors who were involved in the conflict, allowing the reader to gain an understanding of what life at sea was like during these dangerous times. The mutually beneficial relationship between the United States and Australia meant that these young men — many of whom had left America for the first time — were warmly welcomed by the people of Brisbane, and the veterans interviewed for this book still fondly recall the friendships they developed during their time in Brisbane.

Jones and Nunan have created an informative and interesting book through which they aim to broaden readers’ knowledge about the significant role the Brisbane-based submarines played during the war. Subs Down Under is an important book that sheds new light on the history of Brisbane’s involvement in World War II.RRP: $29.95

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Nina Atkinson