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Wednesday, May 12, 2021
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Book talk: 3 books for Anzac Day

Jeff Popple reviews three books of wartime service for Anzac Day. More of Jeff’s reviews can be found on his blog: murdermayhemandlongdogs.com

Secret & Special by Will Davies

Vintage, $34.99

Will Davies’ Secret & Special provides the first popular history of the operations undertaken by the secretive Special Reconnaissance Department (SRD), and its lethal Z Special Unit, during World
War II. Inspired by the success of the British Special Operations Executive in Europe, Prime Minister Curtin established the SRD in 1943 as a way of better directing secret, subversive,
behind-the-lines operations against the Japanese. Over the next two years, the unit bravely terrorised the Japanese with daring raids throughout South East Asia, sometimes with tragic results. Drawing on classified reports and first-hand accounts, this is an absorbing read about a very special unit.

Failures of Command by Hugh Poate

NewSouth, $32.99

On 29 August 2012, Private Robert Poate and two other Australian soldiers were killed by a Taliban sleeper who had infiltrated the Afghan National Army. It was a terrible event that understandably devastated the families of those who had lost their lives. Robert’s father, Canberran Hugh Poate, was shocked by what he found out after the attack and of the paucity of the Army’s internal investigation report. Dismayed by the actions of the ADF, he set out to discover the truth behind his son’s death and, in the process, uncovered a labyrinth of excuses, cover-ups, incompetence and lessons not learnt. A moving and important book about Australia’s war experience in Afghanistan.

The Changing of the Guard by Simon Akam

Scribe, $60

The Changing of the Guard is a major book that provides the first serious analysis of the effectiveness of the modern British Army. Drawing on widespread documentary research, field reportage and extensive interviews, journalist and former soldier Simon Akam delivers a fulsome examination of the state of the British Army and how it has not adapted to the changing nature of warfare in the 21st century. With a particular focus on the failure of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he gives a brunt assessment of the Army as an institution and its role in society. There is lots of interesting material here and some relevant lessons for Australia.

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