BOOKSHELF – Vetaffairs August 2023

The following books, often self-published, have been written by, for and with veterans. Their authors and others have asked that we bring them to readers’ attention. If you have a book for a subsequent edition, please email vetaffairs [at] dva.gov.au, noting that we may not have room to include it in the print edition, but will include it in the online version. Please provide the following: title, name of author, blurb (short description that we reserve the right to edit), publisher (if any), price, how to buy it, and image of the front cover.

Please note that the following are not reviews or promotions of the books. DVA takes no responsibility for the accuracy of their content or the opinions expressed in them.

Mentions in Despatches

By Doug Arrowsmith

Mentions in Despatches book cover

This book is a highly illustrated day-by-day account of an Australian Infantry Platoon’s 12-month tour in the first year of the Task Force at Nui Dat, Vietnam. A coffee-table, quality A4 art paper book with 30+ maps, 500+ images and 250+ Australian War Memorial images. Visit the website www.sabbenmidbook.com to see sample pages, read the Foreword, Preface, Contents, Index and more, and to order your book(s).

Tom’s Law: A Life Fit for Living

By Tom Law OAM 

Tom’s Law: A Life Fit for Living book cover

An autobiographical snapshot of a boy who grew up to be a qualified electrician and then went on to have a colourful and varied life. Stories of fun that was had, some sadness, plenty of adventures, wonderful family and a lot of luck to have made it to 67 years age. After 21 years in the Australian Army and having been awarded an Order of Australia Medal for his services to training, Tom went back to civilian life. For the past 20 years, he has continued to learn about and work in the field of health, wellness and personal training. Today he works in his own fitness business, Tom's Law.

  • Pages: 234
  • Cost:  $25 plus postage
  • To buy: Amazon or tomslaw [at] hotmail.com

Half a Mile in Thirty Years – From Duntroon to Russell

By Peter Evans

Half a Mile in Thirty Years – From Duntroon to Russell book cover

Peter writes: ‘This book is not intended as a rigorous history but the tale of a simple soldier and a very proud member of the Royal Australian Corps of Signals. My career spanned much of the Cold War, extensive social and political change and almost unbelievable technological advancement, so this story may be of some interest to more than just my immediate family’.

  • Pages: 131
  • Cost: from $10
  • To buy: available as an e-book only through Echo Books and Amazon

Survivor – Life in the SAS

By Mark Wales

Survivor – Life in the SAS book cover

Over four deployments of intense warfighting in Afghanistan, Mark Wales watched the line between right and wrong become blurred. When he left the SAS he was adrift, crippled by guilt. Told with gripping suspense, humour and touching warmth, Survivor is Mark’s extraordinary life in and out of the SAS, a story of resilience and a testament to the power of transformation.

  • Pages: 368
  • Cost: $26.94
  • To buy: Amazon

The Mystery of AE1 – Australia’s Lost Submarine and Crew

By Kathryn Spurling

The Mystery of AE1 – Australia’s Lost Submarine and Crew book cover

In 1914, Australia's first submarine AE1, went on patrol from Rabaul Harbour in search of German shipping and was never seen again. The loss of AE1 with her entire complement of three officers and 32 sailors was the RAN’s first major tragedy which marred an otherwise successful operation to seize the German colonies in New Guinea and the South Pacific In December 2017 a new search, using the vessel Fugro Equator, located the wreck of AE1 in 300 metres of water off the Duke of York Island group.

  • Pages: 200
  • Cost: $15 plus $10 postage
  • To buy: kspurling48 [at] gmail.com

Like Shadows in the Corner – the Forgotten Wives of Australian Vietnam Veterans

By Helen Townsend-Austin

Like Shadows in the Corner – the Forgotten Wives of Australian Vietnam Veterans book cover

This book contains a wonderful, shared pool of memories from the wives of Australian Vietnam Veterans. How privileged we are to be invited into their precious moments – the terrible losses, the good, and the sad. These memories are historical and etched in their minds forever – we now know how it was for wives waiting at home. The writers of the stories you will read now have an average age of 70+ years. For all this time, wives have carried these memories in their hearts and minds. They now share their memories with us, giving an incredible window into their lives by inviting us to be part of their history.

  • Pages: 218
  • Cost: $20 (including postage)
  • To buy: helhilt [at] bigpond.com

Porky’s People

By Karl Metcalf

Porky’s People book cover

This book is an illustrated history of the Seventh Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (7 RAR) during its first tour in South Vietnam in 1967–68. The book primarily uses images to tell this story, whether they be photographs, artwork, maps, or newspaper cuttings. The book covers the period from the raising of the battalion through to the time it returned to Australia and the immediate aftermath.

  • Pages: 765
  • Cost: $200 (including pack and post)
  • To buy: Tony Keech at porky_seven [at] bigpond.com or 0418 624 211

We Who Are Left to Grow Old: Stories to Mark a Centenary of Legacy

By The Legacy Club of Brisbane

We Who Are Left to Grow Old: Stories to Mark a Centenary of Legacy book cover

This book is a collection of stories from Legacy’s Brisbane war widows. Legacy supports thousands of widows who lost their loved ones and have been affected by their partner’s service in the Second World War, the Korean War, Malayan Emergency and Vietnam War. Many of these ladies came to Legacy as young widows, still raising their children and struggling with their grief. To celebrate Legacy’s centenary in 2023, The Legacy Club of Brisbane wanted to capture these stories of resilience and achievement before they were lost.

  • Cost: free + $15 postage
  • To buy: online via www.storiesofremembrance.org.au or contact Legacy Brisbane, 07 3029 5600, communications [at] legacybrisbane.org.au

The Promise

By Rob Redenbach

The Promise book cover

From the trenches of the First World War to special forces operations in Afghanistan's Chora Valley, The Promise explores the limits of courage and the legacy of sacrifice. Written by ADF veteran Rob Redenbach and illustrated by Ben Pronk DSC, all profits from The Promise are donated to Cor Infinitus – a veteran-lead charity that provides dignity and respect to the families of those who have served Australia and have taken their own life. ‘The Promise is such an important story. Beautifully written, it brings history to life.’ (Melissa Doyle AM, author of 15 Seconds of Brave.)

Australian Tri-Service Contingents: Somalia 1992–1994

By Gary Conquest

Australian Tri-Service Contingents: Somalia 1992–1994 book cover

This book encompasses 212 members of groups of four Tri-Service Contingents as part of the Australian Service Contingents UN Operation in Somalia (ASC UNOSOM: Operation IGUANA) from 1992 to 1994. The task of ASC UNOSOM was to ensure the movement control of food, water and people by road, sea and air, so that it reached the Somali people during a ravaging famine in the country. The Mogadishu International Airport was under the complete control of RAAF Air Traffic Controllers from 1993 to 1994.Individual stories tell the tale of their deployment in a country that the whole world was watching and helping during the years of famine.

  • Pages: 288 – softcover book in landscape orientation
  • Cost: $70 plus $13.50 parcel post, with $100 insurance and a tracking number
  • To buy: Gary Conquest at admin [at] veteransofsomalia.au

Dreadful Lady over the Mekong Delta – RAAF Canberras in the Vietnam War

By Wing Commander Bob Howe (ret’d)

Dreadful Lady over the Mekong Delta – RAAF Canberras in the Vietnam War book cover

This book looks at the men of No 2 Squadron and the operations they flew in the Vietnam War in their Canberra bombers. From April 1967, the squadron spent four years attacking enemy targets, many of them in the Mekong Delta region, and contending with the politics, weather, and ‘fog’ of war. Bob Howe arrived in Vietnam in 1969 as a youthful Canberra navigator/bomb-aimer, but much of his time was spent as a specialist in bombing operations. The book describes how crews overcame the difficulties of operating in an intense Asian war in an aircraft that was designed for a completely different environment.

  • Pages: 268
  • Cost: $19.99
  • To buy: Simon and Schuster, Booktopia, Google Books, Angus and Robertson

Lost and Found

By Michael Tyquin

Lost and Found book cover

This novel is a story about the experiences of a traumatised Afghanistan army veteran, Greg, and an unexpected mentor he found in an older man, Frank, a recently widowed former officer. Between them, they come to grips with their own personal demons and together emerge, if not unscarred, then at peace with themselves and the world. The novel shows their developing, sometimes stormy relationship over 12 months. Through helping the other to understand their trauma and grief, Greg is restored and able to deal with his nightmares; while Frank has found a new friend and meaning in life.

  • Pages: 84
  • Cost: $4.99 (e-book) $12.99 (soft cover)
  • To buy: Xlibris

Broken Lives – A War that Shattered Soldiers and a Whole Society

By Kenneth N Price

Broken Lives – A War that Shattered Soldiers and a Whole Society book cover

Go into the trenches with the Australian troops of the 9th Battalion. Follow the exploits of Lieutenant Peter Bowen and Sergeant Craig Williams during the major battles of 1917 and 1918. Then go to the streets of Paris and London and observe the impact that the Great War had on the civilian population of these great cities. Follow Sister Ann Copley as she works selflessly to nurse the casualties of war. Observe some of the changes that took place at this time regarding the relationships between men and women as they struggled to make sense of the upheaval to their society, which was happening all around them.

  • Pages: 192
  • Cost: $24.95
  • To buy: Booktopia, Angus & Robertson, Googlebooks, Amazon

The Tiger Has Many Lives – The Story of Rod Wells, POW Survivor

By Pamela Wells

The Tiger Has Many Lives – The Story of Rod Wells, POW Survivor book cover

Rod Wells grew up on a dairy farm at Dhurringile, and from early childhood keenly experimented with and explored many avenues of science. In 1939, Rod enlisted for war service and was sent to Malaya as a young lieutenant in 8 Division Signals. After the fall of Singapore, he was sent as a POW to Sandakan, North Borneo and later arrested by the notorious Kempeitai for building a clandestine radio receiver. After many months of severe torture, interrogation and deprivation, Rod narrowly escaped execution and spent the last months of the war at Outram Road Gaol, a place which very few prisoners survived. When Rod returned to civilian life, he was determined to put his POW experience behind him.

Call Sign Vampire: The Inside Story of an Australian Field Hospital during the Vietnam War

By Rod Searle, Denise Bell, Paul Danaher and Gregory Anderson

Call Sign Vampire: The Inside Story of an Australian Field Hospital during the Vietnam War book cover

‘The 1st Australian Field Hospital played a vital part in Australia’s war in Vietnam. Its facilities saved countless Australian lives and played a vital part in the medical organisation during the conflict. Call Sign Vampire sets out, and achieves, a comprehensive investigation of the workings of a field hospital. Personal memories from those who served and who were patients combine to create a very evocative book that are complemented by hundreds of images. This lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced book is a deserving commemoration of those who served in Vietnam. Call Sign Vampire is highly recommended, and the authors deserve congratulation.’ (Justin Chadwick in Sabretache – Journal of The Military Historical Society of Australia, June 2022). Published and distributed by 1st (Aust) Field Hospital Association.

  • Pages: 280 hardback (with slipcase)
  • Cost: $149.99 (includes local postage for Vetaffairs readers)
  • To buy: email Paul at book [at] callsignvampire.com.au

One Man’s Road to Tol Plantation: The Life and Death of Private Hector Kay

By Ross K. Hall

One Man’s Road to Tol Plantation: The Life and Death of Private Hector Kay book cover

The massacre of more than 150 unarmed Australian soldiers on the Pacific island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea, in 1942 forms the central rupture in this story of one soldier, Private Hector Kay, who died there. Through detailed research of family correspondence, photographs and other documentary evidence, Private Kay’s nephew Ross Hall recounts the events preceding the attack. From Kay making his noble and ethical decision to join up amid the clouds of war, to the soldiers’ journeys north and their adjustment to camp life in Rabaul, Hall’s history brings the eventual tragedy into shocking relief by giving focus to the life and death of one ‘thoroughly decent’ man. This underscores the immense grief that followed for the countless families and friends of so many fallen soldiers.

Red Storm Horizon

By Navy veteran Charles Back

Red Storm Horizon book cover

Dan Coltrane finds himself in pursuit of a young African scammer who has taken millions of dollars from elderly Australian retirees. He follows him to Egypt in order to find the brains behind this money-making scheme, but instead uncovers a much bigger business concern. *Charles has published a number of other books, including Outlander Run, Ebbtide Crossing and Breakwater Bay.

  • Pages: 363
  • Cost: from $5.00 – $42
  • To buy: Amazon, Kobo or charles.back [at] hotmail.com

Volcanic Winter – A Climate Change Thriller

Volcanic Winter – A Climate Change Thriller book cover

The Vice President of the USA, struggling for relevance with voters, takes charge of a military plan to create volcanic winter and defeat climate change. He finds instead that he has declared war on humanity and lost control to the President. How will he save the planet?

  • Pages: 286
  • Cost: $8.80 (e-book), $31 (paperback)
  • To buy: Amazon

The Mutiny at Long Phuoc Hai

By Jack Twist

The Mutiny at Long Phuoc Hai book cover

This novel tells the stories of five young Aussies called up to serve in the Vietnam War. Their experiences come together when they’re posted to serve in the same platoon in 1971. One of the young soldiers, selected for officer training, is assigned as platoon commander and the other four serve under him. Tensions build between officers and men and on their last day of active service ‘outside the wire’, with the war by then unpopular at home and all but over for Australia, the men refuse to follow an order. 

  • Pages: 118
  • Cost: $2.99
  • To buy: Amazon

Weaving of Worlds: a Day on Île d'Yeu

By Greg Lockhart

Weaving of Worlds: a Day on Île d'Yeu book cover

One day in 2012, Greg Lockhart, a Vietnam veteran, visited Île d’Yeu, the French island in the Bay of Biscay. While there, he came across stories from the island's past that linked him back to ANZAC and to his experience in the Vietnam War: occupation by British Red Coats in the distant past, a German U boat attack off its coast in 1917, the dramatic crash of a British Bomber Command aircraft in 1942, and the Vichy leader Marshal Pétain’s exile and imprisonment in its fortress. The dispatch of the French Expeditionary Force, which initiated the 'Thirty Year War’ in Vietnam, is woven into the travel story too. (Published by Reading Sideways Press in Leiden, The Netherlands.)

Slips, Trips and Stumbles in the Adventurous Life of a Serial Careerist

By former naval officer Mark Otter

Slips, Trips and Stumbles in the Adventurous Life of a Serial Careerist book cover

In this deliberately incomplete and selective memoir, the author relates experiences from his extraordinary life of travel around the world. All the stories are exotic and fun, and completely true. Some of the stories are of extraordinary experiences of nature, humanity and even geo-politics that the author has been amazingly privileged to experience. There are stories from about 50 countries and there are still many more (stories and countries) to come.

  • Pages: 262
  • Cost: $25 (including postage in Australia)
  • To buy: Email the author at mark.otter09 [at] gmail.comtarget="_blank"

The Competitor

By Frank O’Brien with Max Carmichael

The Competitor book cover

The Competitor – A Life of Service at Home and From South Vietnam to Beirut is the autobiography of Frank O’Brien. After joining the Australian Army as a boy soldier/Army Apprentice in 1964, Frank went on to experience a range of duties and challenges in a career lasting three decades. That career saw service in South Vietnam as a soldier/interpreter, a sergeant armourer in Singapore, a warrant officer/artificer armaments in West Germany and Australia, prior to a second career as a general service officer. Frank’s “Boy’s Own” story continues today in Vietnam as an entrepreneur conducting private rail tours.

Pages: 200

Cost: $34.00 (including postage and handling)

To buy: Amazon or contact Frank at frankosvietnam [at] yahoo.com.au