Newsletter

January 2018

Olof Johansson rehabilitated
In November last year I was delighted to receive a copy of a book from Sweden to which I had contributed a chapter about my maternal grandfather, Olof Emanuel Johanson (or Johansson to give the usual Swedish spelling). The 2000-word essay appeared in a volume of local history of the community around the town of Markaryds in Småland, southern Sweden, where grandfather Olof spent the last years of his life before he died in 1955. The book was the 25th in a series published regularly since 1990, but will be the last numbered volume to appear until the local history group receives enough material to publish again.

My piece, titled “Olofs Resväska” (Olof’s suitcase), told the story of the visit my brother and I made to Sweden in 2014 to find our grandfather’s grave, and explained what prompted the writing of the book about the thirty or so years that Olof spent in Australia from 1914 until about 1948. Having discovered that no-one in Sweden today knew very much at all about Olof, or his involvement in the extraordinary “Lasseter’s reef” tale about a mythical gold find in central Australia, it seemed especially appropriate that the people of Markaryd community should at last be finding out the story of one of their countrymen who lived in obscurity among them.


“The High Life of Oswald Watt” repackaged

New edition of Oswald Watt biography
My 2016 biography “The High Life of Oswald Watt” was republished at the end of November by one of Britain’s leading military history publishers, Pen & Sword Books, and is now available in hardback for £20.00 (plus postage). The new edition has been retitled “Combat over the Trenches: Oswald Watt Aviation Pioneer”, a move no doubt intended to enhance its appeal in the UK’s highly competitive militaria market. While I hope the change is a success, the new title might mislead some buyers into thinking the book is exclusively (or primarily) about “Toby” Watt’s flying service in World War I. My original choice of title was meant to reflect the attention I also gave to researching his pre-war life among the social elite in Britain and Australia, in an attempt to get to the bottom of the many myths and misunderstandings about his colourful career. It is also a considerable disappointment that the publisher allowed the misspelling of the author’s name as “Clarke” on not just the dustjacket, but also the title page!

For people in Australia who are interested in obtaining copies, the book can still be found on the website of Sydney publisher Big Sky Publishing (go to http://www.bigskypublishing.com.au/Books/Military/The-High-Life-of-Oswald-Watt/1148/productview.aspx), but readers in England or Europe may find it easier and cheaper to obtain the Pen and Sword edition – check out https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Combat-Over-the-Trenches-Hardback/p/14054.

Vale Jacques Uljee (1935-2018)
On 7 January we were sitting in the airline lounge at Los Angeles, waiting for our flight home after our Caribbean and Panama Canal cruise, when we received news that our dear friend Jacques passed away earlier that day. For the past 16 years we have visited Banora Point, on the southern end of the Gold Coast, to spend Christmas and other significant occasions such as birthdays in company with Jacques and his partner, so it was with immense sadness that I agreed to speak at a private service held in his memory on 20 January.

It was also sad to reflect on the fact that the last time we saw Jacques was when we spent a weekend last August filming a segment of the Lasseter documentary at Tabulam, New South Wales. I still vividly remember the delight in Jacques’ eyes as he explored the antique furnishings and décor of Stannum House, a restored Victorian-era mansion in Tenterfield where we had breakfast after staying with other friends in the town. Everybody who knew Jacques will remember his love of nice things and eye for quality art, silver, ceramics and glassware. Farewell, old friend. Banora Point will never mean the same for us without you.