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OPINION, 15 October 2006

An Undeserved VC - or was it?
by Ian MacFarlane, webmaster of Defending Victoria website

 

Years ago I bought a copy of The New Zealand Wars by James Belich. Reading it, I remember
exclaiming 'What!' every few pages. The book seemed to be upending all the established sources
about the wars. There was a strange anti-British and pro-Maori undertow, which seemed out of
place in a scholarly volume.
 
Upon re-reading the book, I decided to check the references. I picked the book's description of
the 1860 battle at Waireka and, in particular the attack on Kaipopo Pa. During this action, a small
naval brigade from the ship HMS Niger, led personally by her Captain Peter Cracroft, attacked
Kaipopo Pa. Coxswain William Odgers won the first VC in New Zealand for his part. James Belich
argued that this was a 'fictional triumph' and a myth. He concluded that the Kaipopo
Pa was little more than a camp. Only four old Maori men, cooking a chicken, were in the pa when
it was attacked by the 60-strong Niger naval brigade, and its three militia scouts.
 
As a result of my humble endeavours, I wrote to Penguin Books in Auckland in 2004 complaining
about the handling of Kaipopo in The New Zealand Wars. In my lengthy letter, I went through all
the references presented for which, it was claimed in the book, there is substantial (p. 87),
decisive (p.87) and conclusive (p. 333) evidence, 'but the evidence produced is in fact far from
conclusive' I told Penguin. 'Most of it is, in fact, hearsay evidence. Hearsay evidence is not real
'evidence' at all, and has no legal value'.

I found it strange that only people who had not been present at the battle were quoted in the book.
I wrote, 'It is simply not good enough to rely on what somebody (who was not there) told somebody
else (who also was not there). That is just gossip'. The publisher at Penguin replied, saying he
would pass on my letter to Professor Belich who might respond to me. He didn't.
 
Later, while surfing the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography I came across the entry for William
Odgers. Relying on The New Zealand Wars as its principal source, it stated 'Odgers's award was
announced in the London Gazette in fulsome terms: 'conspicuous gallantry at the Storming of a
Pah…having been the first to enter it under a heavy fire, and having assisted in hauling down the
enemy's colours'. However, it seems now that the importance of the Waireka engagement was
grossly exaggerated. The pa was not heavily fortified and there were few occupants'.
 
I corresponded by email with the DNZB people complaining about this entry. I even sent a fact
sheet I had compiled which listed some of the many problems about the Waireka battle in The
New Zealand Wars. This is a copy of the document (Word doc) I emailed to the Ministry of
Culture and Heritage (a portfolio then under NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark).
 
In a reply dated 26 October 2005, it was stated, 'We take suggested changes to DNZB bio-
graphies seriously and, as I am sure you will understand, we conduct our own very thorough
research before any changes are made. Now that we have your comments, this research
process can begin but changes, if made, will not be in the immediate future due to the small
number of staff we have currently working on the DNZB project'.
 
Many years later, the entry still has not been adequately updated or corrected (as of 1 Aug 2017).
Remember, this
is an official NZ government website, which purports to present authentic
historical
biographies. You can read the entry by clicking here (remote site).
 
The denouement to all this came late in 2005 with the publication by NZ archeologist and
eminent historian Nigel Prickett of Maori Casualties of the First Taranaki War, 1860-61.
The booklet showed that Kaipopo Pa, in fact, had been a defeat for Maori insurgents.
 
I wrote to the Publisher of Penguin Books in Auckland, 'You probably won't remember, but I
wrote a long letter to you about three years ago strongly complaining about 'The New
Zealand Wars'. In particular I was critical of the handling therein of the action at Kaipopo Pa
during the battle of Waireka in March 1860. A Victoria Cross was won at Kaipopo, although
much belittled in 'The New Zealand Wars'.
 
I continued, 'Nigel Prickett's recent 'Maori Casualties of the First Taranaki War, 1860-61'
demonstrates that Kaipopo, far from being a 'fictional triumph' and myth, was a victory. A few
Chiefs and lesser chiefs of the Taranaki and Ngati Ruanui Tribes, and several of their warriors
perished or were wounded there.
 
'If you have not seen this booklet yet, you will gasp with shock when you see Dr Prickett's
simple references. When combined with various criticisms of 'The New Zealand Wars' in
Maxwell's 'Frontier' and Ryan/Parham's 'The NZ Colonial Wars', I wonder if your Penguin
book can any longer be regarded as a reliable reference.
 
'At the very least, one would think, an errata slip is now required regarding Waireka and
Kaipopo', I concluded.
 
To cut a long story short, neither Penguin nor the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography seem
to think it urgent to correct this injustice to William Odgers and his devalued VC. I even
provided Penguin with information that Captain Cracroft of HMS Niger's journal was
progressively published in 'The Nautical Magazine' of 1862-3 (although not mentioned in the
bibliography in The New Zealand Wars nor in any previously published account of the wars).
The journal provides strong additional information that easily refutes The New Zealand War's
strange account.
 
Penguin replied on 16 February 2006, among other things, by saying 'Reviews of the book and
letters such as your own go into a file. Obvious errors of fact are corrected. But submissions
such as your own which require another historian's careful attention are not acted on. I realise
that this will be unsatisfactory to you, but we do not feel that as publishers we can do anything
else'.
 
In a response to which there was no reply, I stated 'I disagree with your academic panel's
'warts and all' advice. This means mistakes can be on sold in deference to the memory of
revered historians. I daresay that a panel of general readers, unencumbered by such thinking,
would in every case opt to fix the mistakes.
 
'The middle course, in such cases, would be to footnote passages and interpretations that are
now disputed or which have been adversely criticised. This leaves the original work unchanged
but alerts the modern general reader to be on their guard.
 
'Australian Prof BJ Dalton in the mid 1960s was highly critical of the NZ wars literature then
available. Among other things he recommended 'A thorough scholarly history of the wars,
which their importance and the dignity of the historical profession in New Zealand alike
demand, will necessarily be a work of great labour and of many hands. A century after the
event, it is surely time to begin'. In my humble opinion, we are all still awaiting the great
scholarly history he imagined', I finished off.
 
Even though the New Zealand Wars are a touchy subject in NZ, I doubt that Maori or Pakeha
would feel very satisfied by this pathetic outcome. There is one well-known Maori VC winner
of WWII, Moananui-a-Kiwi Ngarimu - and another Haane Manahi who was very highly
recommended for a VC. No one these days is in favour of war. But where a VC has been
awarded for Valour, whether to Maori or Pakeha recipients, quiet respect is the least we can
offer them.
 
Somewhere in eternity, William Odgers VC is waiting for apologies from James Belich, Penguin
Books and the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. I hope he doesn't have to wait long.
 
Eventually, as I once wrote to the Publisher of Penguin Books in Auckland, 'I hope you will agree
with me that a nation's history is fundamental to how that nation views itself today. If that history
is flawed, as it seems to be here when the action at Kaipopo is considered, a regretable disservice
... has been done'.
_______________________
Award winning, and eminent historian, Professor James Belich has a fiercely loyal following.
Critics can get overly enthusiastic (Click for an example, remote site).
I would be happy to post brief responses here from any of the following: James Belich, Penguin
Books and the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

 

Books relevant to visitors to this site:





 

The Victorian Naval Brigades
by Lieutenant Commander Arthur Bleby RN
 
$A 54.95; £20 UK - Whittles Publishing
Available in Australasia through Inbooks

Reviewed by Ian MacFarlane

Despite its title, this is not a book about the naval brigades of the Colony of Victoria, Australia. Colonial Victoria provided naval brigades in two early wars (New Zealand in 1860-1861 and, around federation, to China), and there were shore-based naval brigades too, but this book is not about them.

However a photograph appears late in the book with a caption that states this was 'the Governor of Victoria addressing the British Contingent' for the Boxer Rebellion in China. But this is an image of the front of Parliament House Melbourne, Australia, with the Old Treasury building in the background, and the Victorian colonial naval brigade formed up outside. These were proud Australians and not the 'British Contingent'.

'The Victorian Naval Brigades' details eleven campaigns during the reign of Queen Victoria which involved Royal Navy naval brigades. The book does not include, perhaps closer to our hearts here in this part of the world, the several battles in New Zealand involving naval brigades, but rather the much better known major campaigns like Crimea, the Indian Mutiny, the 1878 Zulu War, the Siege of Khartoum, the first and second Boer Wars and the Boxer rebellion in China.

The book itself is a splendidly produced publication and a tribute to the skills of the publisher. There are few litterals. It is well bound. There are crisp but romantic illustrations and some portraits (mostly from the Illustrated London News), and lots of maps and diagrams which strangely are unattributed.

As well there is no index, and it seems this is an amalgam of articles originally published in the British Naval Review. Readership of such periodicals is relatively small and closeted--and such articles do not always translate well to a worldwide audience. At the end of each chapter (detailing a campaign) a short bibliography appears. The book therefore is based on secondary sources rather than primary.

Secondary sources are usually a relatively safe research starting point, but can sometimes lead to the recycling of errors. I was struck in the first chapter about the Crimean campaign to find mention of a Victoria Cross winner simply referred to as "Mr Hewitt, Mate, RN".

This individual was in fact later Vice Admiral Sir William Nathan Wrighte Hewett (whose surname as Commodore Hewett is later correctly spelled in the Second Ashanti War chapter, and as Admiral Hewett in the Tel el Kebir chapter). On the day his Crimea VC was won, he was Acting Mate of HMS Beagle and he was thereupon elevated to Lieutenant, perhaps promoted in the field.

Author Lieutenant Commander Arthur Bleby RN introduces each campaign rather well, although not everyone will agree with his summaries entirely. His difficult task of chronicling the subsidiary role of naval brigades is generally smartly handled. This is especially noticeable in his division of the separate campaigns of the HMS Shannon naval brigade and that of HMS Pearl during the Indian Mutiny. So too, his descriptions of the three naval brigades that served separately early in the second Boer War.

Arthur Bleby is a gifted storyteller. His writing style is easy, smooth and economical. From time to time he summarises intricacies in a cleverly chosen word or sentence.

In his preface, he outlines what a naval brigade generally then was:

A generic term used to define a body of seamen and Royal marines drawn from their ship or ships and landed for active service under the orders of an Army Commander. Numbers were immaterial since a Naval Brigade was not comparable with an Army Brigade, indeed it was not often even of battalion strength. Generally the armament of a Naval Brigade was made up of what was available from the parent ships from which the brigade was drawn.

Not everyone would agree entirely with this description either. Naval Brigades occasionally acted on their own, without Army commanders. And marines were not always available. But for the major campaigns chronicled here, the description is appropriate.

Valuably, in a short epilogue, Arthur Bleby sets out the end of the naval brigade era and its brief replacement, in time for WW1, by the Royal Naval Division. It is perhaps fortunately not within his purview to describe the wretched fate of the RND at Gallipoli, or how it at first supported the landings at ANZAC with a diversion and reinforcements. This vital support is not yet properly acknowledged in Australia or New Zealand.

The hugely expensive rescue of British hostages in 1867-1868 from the almost impenetratable fortress of Magdala in 'Abyssinia' is next described. Abyssinia is of course today's Ethiopia, but this is not mentioned in the book.

The same applies to the Second Ashanti War 1873 - 1874, said to be fought on Africa's Gold Coast. That war theatre is today's Ghana which nowadays loudly bemoans its long history of colonial exploitation and slavery. Describing where battles took place by also giving them a modern geographical location is always a boon for readers.

When refering to Britain's 1st West India Regiment during the Second Ashanti War, the author refers to them as 'negroes' which today would raise eyebrows. Contemporary secondary references may so describe them. But in our British Commonwealth of Nations today, which is one of harmony, respect and tolerance, it seems innappropriate to mention racial origins or colour at all. That people of the West Indies generally are of African extraction is obvious to all. This was an unfortunate slip-up. So, too, was a later reference to 'Chinamen' in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900.

Which brings up a very sticky point. How can modern histories which celebrate one nation's past victories over others be inoffensively written? Most probably they can't, without deep knowledge and empathy for the defeated peoples. In this case, Britain's West India Regiments, as British Colonial troops (and later as the British West Indies Regiment during WW1) had a racially sad, heavily poignant yet proud history.

With the Zulu War of 1878 mention is made of the catastrophic British defeat at Isandhlwana (not involving naval brigades), but no details of this grand military disaster are presented. Those details would have provided a 'bigger picture' context for the campaign. Instead, we are taken on the trek to Eshowe where a strong camp was set up with naval brigades sortying out in valiant fashion. Zulu 'Impi' are mentioned, and their classic horned attacks. But how was an Impi constructed and what were its fighting aims? We know from this book what a naval brigade was, but not what an Impi was.

Gatling guns were used in 1878 against the Zulu at Elundi with devastating effect. Arthur Bleby says this was 'the first time a Gatling was used in battle'. He means, of course, this was perhaps the first usage of such weapons by the British in battle. It is generally acknowledged that the Union army of the American Civil War first used the gun at the siege of Petersburg, Virginia, in 1864-1865, and that they were extensively further used during the wars against native Americans.

Because of the relative brevity of the book, most of the main characters come across as one-dimensional or wooden. Some British Commanders were most distinguished as people as well as commanders. With Arthur Bleby's skills in summarising campaigns, perhaps mini-biographical summaries could have helped.

General Charles George Gordon, or 'Chinese' Gordon as he became known after exploits there, could have done with a much broader biographical sketch. He was sent on an impossible mission to Khartoum, there to be betrayed and almost abandoned by the British government. Arthur Bleby explains a little of this, but without the context of the reasons for Gordon's popularity. It was people power in Britain that led to the relief mission. Too little, too late, Gordon was murdered just before rescue came.

A little research into Gordon would have revealed several interesting facts. He had earlier in China used gunboats effectively to help suppress a rebellion. The paddle-steamers, referred to in this book as part of the relief expedition to the seige of Khartoum, to help him out, were originally his idea.

Ironically, given Arthur Bleby's ability to pick pithy quotes that summarise so well, the final words on 'Chinese' Gordon are left to General Redvers Buller VC. About the demise of Gordon, Buller simply stated, 'The man wasn't worth the camels' [that died during the expedition].

In the very next chapter, about the Second Boer War 1899-1901, Buller's own flaws as a leader are amply revealed. He was a fore-runner of the British generals who expended life so carelessly in WW1.

But these are all relatively minor considerations. What of the other contents? Arthur Bleby demonstrates the value of naval brigades as commanders in the field would have seen them then. The naval brigades were able to provide accurate artillery and rocket support in early campaigns. The rockets particularly had a terrific 'shock and awe' effect on primitive 'savages'. As well, the naval brigades and marines, undisciplined, roisterous and drunken as they sometimes were, could be used effectively as devastating shock troops in an attack. Cold steel, whether cutlasses or bayonet charges, gained the immediate attention of the foe.

Wisely, Arthur Bleby doesn't make too much of this. He seems to have a quiet and thorough regard for these sailors and their considerable accomplishments ashore. There is nothing here of the overblown 'Boy's Own History of the British Empire' style. Careful understatement seems to underlie his themes.

The first casualty of the 1878 Zulu campaign was eaten by a crocodile. As it happens, this was a naval brigade member, but Arthur Bleby points out this was the conclusion reached when the man was swept away during a river crossing. Perhaps he simply drowned.

This is by no means the first book dealing with Britain's naval brigades. Among others, Richard Brooks's The Long Arm of Empire. Naval Brigades from the Crimea to the Boxer Rebellion was published in 1999. Brooks's The Royal Marines. 1664 to the Present followed in 2002.

The Victorian Naval Brigades is not devoid of small errors. Taking the introduction to the chapter on Abyssinia (Ethiopia) as a small sample, 'King Soloman" is Solomon; Emperor Theodore is in fact Theodore II and so forth. Experts in the various campaigns may well spot larger problems.

Overall, this is a very worthwhile book. Purchasers of it will be getting an admirable general introduction to the subject of Queen Victoria's Royal Navy naval brigades. They will also get shorthand versions of the major campaigns that highlight those naval brigades. General military histories often neglectfully omit this naval component which many times provided strong light infantry or artillery support. The bluejackets and marines were able to manhandle their field pieces to commanding positions that could not, or would not, be attempted by army artillery units.

Arthur Bleby's introduction to this important and neglected subject demonstrates that the full and glorious story of the Imperial Naval Brigades has yet to be written.

That full story would include, among many other highlights, the March 1860 story of how Captain Peter Cracroft of HMS Niger, acting alone, led his 60-strong naval brigade to a victory at Kaipopo Pa at the battle of Waireka near New Plymouth, New Zealand. A few lesser Chiefs of the Taranaki and Ngati Ruanui Tribes and some warriors perished there. The first VC won in this part of the southern hemisphere was achieved there.

A few days later, Niger accurately bombarded coastal pa at Warea forty kilometres southwards with cannon and rockets, where the defeated Maori force defiantly had regrouped.

Unlike India, Crimea and South Africa, New Zealand was as far removed from 'home' as it was possible to be. There was no back up possible. These commanders were on their own and their later battle accomplishments and disasters at Rangiriri and Gate Pa in the Waikato War are still largely unrecognised in the annals of Britain's naval brigades.

 

 


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RESEARCHERS PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE OR CITE REFERENCES FROM THIS WEBSITE

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THE AUSTRALIAN
ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA
OF THE BOXER REBELLION
available from Slouch Hat
 
Some years ago Slouch Hat Publications produced the acclaimed Australian illustrated
encyclopedia of the Boer War. Now you can read an authoritative compendium
of Australia's part in the Boxer rebellion in China. With these two volumes, a
comprehensive picture of the military beginnings of nationhood can be discerned.
The new Boxer Rebellion volume was launched on 9 April 2001 by Victorian
RSL president Bruce Ruxton at ANZAC House, 4 Collins Street, Melbourne at
11 am. All welcome. RSL Secretary Johm Deighton, a former company command-
er with 4 RAR in Borneo, will launch Our Secret War: 4 RAR: Defending Malaysia
against Indonesian Confrontation, 1965-1967. The book. also by Slouch Hat Pub-
lications, is by Lt Col Brian Avery.
The Boxer volume costs $ 52.25, and Our Secret War is $ 49.95 (incl. GST).
 
email slouchat@surf.net.au


 

 
 
Book Review
CARVING UP THE MELON
Lt-Col Neil C. Smith. AM, Mostly Unsung Military History
 
Here is a book that means business. It starts off with a chronology that brings the
reader to the centre of the action. The author, Lt-Col. Neil C. Smith, isn't mucking
around. He is on to a good story and he knows it. In a surge of Chinese nationalistic
feeling and the involvement of 'Boxers' (a martial arts cult), missionaries had been
slaughtered and foreign diplomats assassinated. Foreign legations in Peking (Beijing)
has been placed under seige. The date was 1900.
The Anglo-Boer War in South Africa had claimed much of Australia's military
strength, but that left the Naval Brigades remaining in the Australian Colonies with
little to do. The South Australians took their own ship Protector. The rest caught the
liner Salamis to Hong King.
The book begins with a background to the conflict in China. and goes on to describe
the involvement of Naval Brigades from South Australia, Victoria and New South
Wales. The terrifying thing is that that the Chinese had the potential to easily wipe
out the forces from eight nations, including those from Australia. One reason may
have been that the 'Boxers' claim to be immune to foreign bullets proved false.
This may have held back planned massed attacks.
 
Cover jacket
One of the first sights seen by the NSW and Victorian Naval Brigades while travel-
ing up the Pei-Ho River were hundreds of floating Chinese corpses. The Australians,
despite every effort, could not manage to get into action. Instead they acted as police
in the city of Tientsin and patrolled the district.
'Life in China for the Australian garrison troops was not pleasant or safe', the author
summarises. 'Tension was high. The troops saw massacre, unrest, rioting and cruelty
among the Boxers and inhabitants'. The contingent returned home in 1901.
Colonel Smith has provided a valuable service by identifying the past and future
service of the Australians who served in China. There is a photo of one of these
servicemen at Gallipoli.
The book is expertly researched and sparingly written.
 
Reviewed by Ian MacFarlane
Paperback: 76 pp: Illusts: maps: index: $22: plus postage: available from Mustly Unsing Military History,
box 7020 Gardenvale, LPO Brighton, Victoria 3186, Australia. Phone/fax: 03-9555.5401
 
Book Review
WE WERE THE 46th
The History of the 46th Battalion in
the Great War of 1914-1918
 
One approaches any book dealing with Australian diggers in the First World War
with gloomy apprehension. This book--the first history of the 46th--is no exception.
Statistics presented at the end of the history tell the story: 574 dead, 1720 wounded
and 221 gassed. These soldiers had fought bravely at battlefields whose names still
resonate in Australia today: Pozieres, Bullecourt, Messines, Dernancourt and Mont
St Quentin.
'Some men had been away from Australia for four years, and during this time had
lived a continuous nightmare of hellish sights and sounds . . . They had held the hands
of dying mates and tried to be strong for them as they slowly faded from the horror
that they lived . . . These survivors were the ones who were to make the ANZAC day
pilgrimages to the shrines and cenotaphs around the country, until they too rejoined
their mates from long ago'.
The book also contains some fascinating diversions. It explains why the 47th
Battalion was among those disbanded before war's end to make up numbers in
depleted battalions like the 46th. This all stemmed from the failure of two referenda
on conscription at home. And who would now volunteer to leave Australia and go into
hell?
The book is mostly moderate about the often culpable foolishness of those that devised
and directed battles and experiments, and the sacrifice of young lives that resulted.
But at Bullecourt, the 46th was launched twice at the enemy. Before the second attack
and 'unknown to them, they were now part of one of the most criminally negligent acts
of the war in France, which was to bind the survivors into one of the finest fighting
forces that the allies possessed'.
The experiment at Bullecourt had been the premature use of mechanically temper-
amental British tanks. From the disgrace of Bullecourt the reader is later taken to
the great feat of arms at Bellenglise where the 46th became the first unit to capture
high ground from which the German Hindenburg Line could be shelled.
Author Ian Polanski has combed all the usual research channels well. He says the
book was a 'labour of love' and it shows. I rather liked the quirky presentational style.
This includes mentioning the civilian employment of some individuals while describing
a battle. McBean's official history also includes this sort of information, but as foot-
notes.
There are other tiny quibbles, but overall this is a splendid battalion history. There
are plenty of details, some interesting potted biographies and lists of promotions and
medal-winners as and when they happened. There is a nominal roll by Battalion
number. Descendants will find 'We Were the 46th' indispensible. It could also be
useful in senior school classes.
The book is well illustrated and has a small index. It sells for $35.95 for a paperback
and $45.00 for a limited edition hardback. Available from Ian Polanski, 8 Durnley Crt,
Rasmussen, Queensland 4815, Australia.
Reviewed by Ian MacFarlane
 
DVA media release
 
ABORIGINAL VETERAN FAMILY HONOURED
Wednesday 31 May, 2000
Canberra's tallest building today will be officially renamed in honour of an
Aboriginal family that has made a considerable contribution to the defence of
the nation. In all, 19 members of the immediate family have seen service across
both World Wars as well as in Japan, Korea, Vietnam and East Timor.
Veterans' Affairs Minister Bruce Scott and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Affairs Minister Senator John Herron said the newly-named Lovett Tower at Woden
would be a prominent tribute to Australia's Indigenous and veteran communities.
The Lovett family is from the Gunditjmara people in Victoria. Hannah and James
Lovett saw five of their sons serve overseas during WWI, including frontline action
in France, Gallipoli and Palestine. Four of them later volunteered for service in WWII
and a grandson served with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan in
the post-war years. Other family members have served in Korea and Vietnam and most
recently with Australian troops in East Timor.
The Ministers today will attend a ceremony during which Governor-General Sir William
Deane will officially rename Woden Tower, the headquarters of the Department of
Veterans' Affairs (DVA) and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission
(ATSIC).
"The Lovetts have a proud record of service to this nation, encapsulating the story
of Australia's wartime history during the past century. This one family demonstrates
how the Anzac tradition, born during WWI, has been passed down from generation to
generation and endures today," Mr Scott said.
Senator Herron praised the Lovett family for its significant contribution to its community
both in war and peace time.
"All Australians would be very proud, as I am, of the leading roles Lovett family members
have played in their communities throughout Victoria. It is fitting that their name should be
given to the headquarters of the Federal Government's key Indigenous and veterans'
affairs organisations. I commend the ATSIC Board for its initiative in naming this building,"
Senator Herron said.
Mr Scott said the tribute to a family of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans
reflected the Government's commitment to the Indigenous veteran community.
"My department is currently conducting a nationwide search for Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander veterans and their families, to make sure they are getting the pensions and
other benefits available to the Australian veteran community. DVA is also working closely
with ATSIC and other agencies throughout the country to identify veterans and improve
the delivery of services to the Indigenous veteran community," Mr Scott said.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans, their partners and widows are encouraged
to contact their local DVA State office to find out more about their eligibility for pensions
and health care benefits.
 
DVA media release
 
THE GREAT SEARCH YIELDS HIDDEN TREASURES
Wednesday 31 May, 2000
The Great Search, a nation-wide search which commenced earlier this year for
wartime memorabilia items that could possibly be used in the new television
series Australians at War, has yielded more than 1400 responses from across
Australia, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Bruce Scott, said today.
Australians at War is an eight part television documentary that covers the
participation of Australians in wars and conflicts since Federation and
explores how the Australian experience of war has helped shape the
nation. The series is planned for broadcast on the ABC from around Anzac
Day next year (2001).
"Response to The Great Search to date has been very good indeed. However
there may be many Australians who are not yet aware of The Great Search.
To those Australians, I encourage you to take look amongst your family
treasures, large or small. You may just have something that could contribute
to this outstanding project," he said.
"The Great Search has seen letters, diaries and photographs from all wars
and conflicts in which Australians have served, brought out of cupboards and
drawers and offered for possible use in the television series, the companion
book, or on the supporting website.
"Among the items is a signaller's copy of the telegram sent by the Supreme
Allied Commander, Marshal Ferdinand Foch (pronounced Forsh), in World
War I notifying allied forces that an Armistice would come into effect at 11am
that day, 11 November 1918. This is a very special item given its historical
significance," Mr Scott said.
 Mr Scott said, "The large number of responses has clearly shown there is
wide interest in the community in sharing their memorabilia items, especially
for a project of this nature."
"However, where there is no longer anyone to whom to pass a family's
memorabilia items or if the desire to keep them has faded, DVA can assist
in helping to find a suitable permanent home for the material," Mr Scott said.
While the response to the Great Search has been outstanding, there may be
others who have memorabilia they would like to offer for use in the television
series, on the supporting Internet site or in the accompanying book. These
people should call the Australians at War documentary project team at DVA
on 133 254, for the cost of a local call, and ask for an information collection
form to be sent to them.
DVA media release
 
ABORIGINAL WAR MEMORIAL
REDEDICATED ON CAPE BARREN ISLAND
A memorial on Cape Barren Island, honouring the service
of the island's Aboriginal veterans, will be rededicated on
Anzac Day, Tuesday 25 April.
Vietnam veteran Rodney Summers and Cape Barren Island's
oldest surviving World War II veteran, Ben Maynard, will lay
wreaths during the ceremony, which will be attended by
leaders of the Cape Barren Island community and Tasmanian
Aboriginal elders.
When World War I broke out, 21 members of the island
community volunteered for service six lost their lives in battle.
A memorial carrying an honour roll of the island's WWI
veterans was erected in 1937.
The Cape Barren Island community has now refurbished and
updated the memorial to include the names of island veterans
who served during World War II and the Vietnam War.
The new honour roll list 23 WWII veterans and merchant
mariners, Mr Summers as the island's only Vietnam veteran
and two current serving members of the Australian Defence Force.
The memorial has been upgraded with the support of the Federal
Government's Their Service - Our Heritage commemorative
program, which provided a grant of $1500 towards the cost of a
new bronze plaque.
The Australian Army provided expertise, labour and materials
to refurbish the memorial and prepare the site for the new plaque,
which will be mounted facing north-east towards Flinders Island,
in recognition of the strong ties between the island communities.
The re-dedication of the memorial comes as the Federal Government
is encouraging indigenous veterans and their families to check their
eligibility for pensions and health care available through the
Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA).
It is estimated there may be as many as 7000 indigenous veterans,
widows and dependants in the veteran community.
  
New BOER WAR book
WORDS OF WAR (8 April 2000)
Based on letters and interviews with more than 40 soldiers from the
Inner West of Sydney, this illustrated 126-page book was supported
by the Federal Government's Their Service, Our heritage program.
It costs $20 plus $4.50 postage and handling and is available from
author Geoff Howe at 2F Stiles St, Croydon Park NSW 2133.
Educating 3 million younger Australians about ANZAC
Minister Bruce Scott on 16 March 2000 said:
As Anzac Day 2000 approaches it is important that we encourage
younger Australians to understand why we have Anzac Day as a
National Day of Commemoration.
The ANZAC legend was born on April 25, 1915 when the Australian
& New Zealand Army Corps landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula. It
was the start of a campaign that lasted eight months and resulted
in some 25,000 Australian casualties, including 8000 who were
killed or died of wounds or disease.
Gallipoli was a defining moment for our fledgling nation that helped
to shape our national identity. It was the first time Australia had
taken its place on the international stage as an independent country.
The Anzacs forged a reputation for courage, determination and
mateship in the face of overwhelming odds. That reputation has
endured generations of Australians through to the present day.
Today there are only two surviving Australian Gallipoli veterans.
The continuing relevance of Anzac Day to Australians rests not
on the shoulders of those two men, but on all of us.
So my Department, the Department of Veterans' Affairs, has
forwarded almost 11,000 copies of the Anzac Day 2000 Education
Resource Pack to Primary and Secondary schools across Australia.
The packs will be of benefit to some three million students.
The pack contains material that will assist students to understand
the impact of war on the people of Australia, as well as the sacrifice
and service of Australia's veterans.
As a nation, we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our veteran
and service personnel. Anzac Day is one way each of us can show
our appreciation for Australia's servicemen and women, their service
and sacrifice.
This year Anzac Day falls during the school holiday period and I have
asked for the pack to be sent to youth organisations such as the YMCA,
and Scouting and Guides Associations in the anticipation that they will
incorporate the Anzac legend into their holiday programs.
 

Media contact: Mark Croxford 02 6277 7820 or 0401 145 787

NEW HISTORY OF THE 23rd

Forward Undeterred, the history of the 23rd Battalion
(another Victorian unit) will be launched at the new Rosebud
Public Library at 2pm on Wed 11 November. The public is welcome
to attend. The book will be available from us at $47.50 post free
to personal buyers within Aust, plus postage for o/seas orders.
(Slouch Hat Publications, PO Box 174, Rosebud, 3939, Australia.
Slouch Hat have developed a Home Page.
 
Email link to Slouch Hat Publications
 
Click here to visit Defending Victoria's Virtual Bookshop
 

Another fine book from Gary Presland

Gary Presland has done it again! Another great book--this time about the Aboriginal
trackers who helped the Victoria Police in their search for Ned Kelly and others.
"For God's sake send the Trackers' is published by Victoria Press, PO box 263,
Brunswick, Victoria, Australia 3056. As usual, the book is full of endnotes and
scholarly research. This is work near the boundaries of archival research, where few
clues exist, yet Gary Presland has managed to produce a clever overview of the
subject. The book has a significant undercurrent--the relationship between Police
and Aboriginal People, not always the most successful aspect of European and
Aboriginal co-existence. What became of the trackers is mostly recorded
in the book. (which is available for about $ 17.95--check with Victoria Press).
 

AE2 Found after 80 years

A Turkish diving team has located what is believed to be the Australian
E-class submarine AE2 scuttled off Turkey in mud 72 metres down. The
vessel was the first allied ship to breach the heavily guarded entrance to
the Dardanelles. Extensively mined, two alliedsubmarines had already been
sunk attempting to breach the defences. AE2, five days after entering
the area came under heavy fire from a Turkish gunboat and was scuttled
to prevent the capture of the submarine. It is apparently in relatively good
condition. AE1 was lost with all hands off Papua New Guinea and
has never been located.
[Herald-Sun Friday 24 July 1998]
 
NEW BOOK -- Defence at Nepean
 
Nepean Peninsula defences between 1802 and 1998 are the subject
of the new book Defence at Nepean by Barrie Follows AM. Mr
Follows describes the book as a 'road map' of defence and
associated events. It was launched at the Rye Hotel. Cost is
$ 15 (plus postage) from Nepean Historical Society, PO bo 139,
Sorrento, Victoria 3942 or phone 5984.0255.
 
 BOER WAR RECORDS TO BE RETURNED TO AUSTRALIA:
 
Records showing the burial or memorial sites for 500 Australian
casualties of the Boer War are to be returned to Australia. The
records will be looked after by the Office of War Graves upon
their return from South Africa. [Herald-Sun, Melb.: 18. 3. 98: p. 13]
 
 NEW LIGHT HORSE BOOK -- FAVOURABLY REVIEWED !
 
'Maygar's Boys' is a new biographical history of Lt-Col Leslie
Maygar and the 8th Light Horse Regiment, AIF, in WW1.
The 8th was formed in Melbourne in 1914 with soldiers from
Victoria and New South Wales, with more than half of the
2500 coming from country districts. During five years of service,
the regiment fought at Gallipoli in 1915 where it was decimated
at 'The Nek' losing its first CO, Lt-Col A. H. White. Written and
published in hardback by Cameron Simpson, the book costs $ 57.50.
It is available from the author, 19/62 Bowen Road, Rosslea,
Queensland ... 4812. In his preface, Simpson writes:
 
I regret that this work was not attempted many years ago. If
it had, these men would have known that their own deeds, and
those of their fallen comrades, had been recognised by a
grateful nation.
 
[Herald & Weekly Times, 29 April 1998]
 
Naval History
HISTORIC US WARSHIP TO BE SALVAGED ?
 
 USS Monitor, which overturned and sank in a storm off Cape Hatteras
in 1862, was discovered by divers in 1973. Now there is a $ 22M plan
to raise the historic ship which ended the era of wooden ships.
 
'This is an American icon, like the Statue of Liberty', says project leader
John Broadwater, who hopes Congress will finance the delicate salvage
operation. Some historians believe that USS Monitor was the decisive
factor in the outcome of the American Civil War.
 
Built in New York, she engaged and defeated CSS Virginia (formerly
USS Merrimack). Their four hour duel off the mouth of Chesapeake
Bay on 9 March 1862 ended when Virginia was holed below the water
line and had to retire.
 
[The Age, Melbourne, 9 May 1998, p. 25]
 
 
 Excellent new Bob Nicholls book 
 
Colonial Guns. Australian Military History Publications (13 Veronica Place Loftus NSW) July 1998. ISBN 1 876439 06 8 ($25.00). This profusely illustrated book covers the range of artillery found in the Australian colonies from the time of first white settlement until Federation . . .
Bob Nicholls is a well known military and naval author of books like The Colonial Volunteers,
The Defence Forces of the Australian Colonies. Allen & Unwin Sydney 1988 ISBN 0 04 302003 8.
Bob is currently preparing The Three Headed Monster. An account
of the Breastwork monitor HMVS Cerberus.
 
 
  

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