Actual film footage of the 1942 Coral Sea battle

There are a number of photographic images that show the moment when, on 7 May 1942, the mixed Australian-American squadron under command of Rear Admiral Jack Crace, RN, came under Japanese air attack in waters off the eastern tip of Papua, during the first day of the...

Falklands War revisited

While on a holiday cruise around Cape Horn last month, I happened to find myself at Stanley in the Falkland Islands on Australia Day – booked on an excursion to take in the sites of conflict from Britain’s 1982 war with Argentina over possession of these forlorn...

Sweden’s near-miss as co-founder of modern Australia

One of the more remarkable stories that emerged while researching my 2015 book Olof’s Suitcase (about my Swedish grandfather, Olof Johanson) concerned a scheme by the Swedish king Gustav III to establish a colony in Australia 230 years ago – at exactly the same time...

The military art of Tom Roberts

On 2 January 2016, two months before we departed Canberra to move to Melbourne, we took the time to catch the latest major exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia. This featured the art of Thomas William (“Tom”) Roberts (1856-1931), who is described as a...

Reflections of the Vietnam War

This time last year (mid-December 2015) we went on a sea cruise of Southeast Asia. While the principal attraction for us was the opportunity to embark on an overland excursion to Cambodia to see the impressive 12th century religious capital of the Khmer empire at...

The many lives of the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial

On Christmas Eve, 1956, an angry crowd gathered on the quay at the northern entrance to the Suez Canal at Port Said in Egypt, to watch the 10-metre tall bronze statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps (the French developer who built the canal) blasted off the pedestal from...

James Oswald Watt of Mt Eliza

It can be wonderful and weird how freakish coincidences sometimes spring out from the writing projects on which I have been engaged over the years, never moreso than with my recently published biography of Oswald Watt, the man who turned a pre-World War I personal...

Postscript for Admiral Clarkson

It has sometimes happened that I have finished a writing project leaving some minor aspect of the research not fully resolved, when time constraints or the apparent complexity of what may be only an incidental issue anyway determines that the matter must be left to a...

Army’s first Aboriginal unit: men from Lake Tyers

One of the intriguing stories encountered last year, while working on a project for the War Memorial in Canberra on Indigenous service in Australia’s armed forces, arose from a series of images located in the Memorial’s pictorial collection that appeared to record the...

First Federal Fortress at Albany

In mid-September my brother Brett and his partner Del arrived back in Melbourne from a holiday in Western Australia, having just completed a trip to Albany on the south coast. That place has long been on my list of planned destinations, for no other reason than it has...