- Book reviewer
- History - general, Ship histories and stories, Book reviews, Naval Engagements, Operations and Capabilities
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2008 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Across the Sea to War.
By Peter Plowman.
Rosenberg Publishing Pty Ltd (2003). ISBN 1877058 06 8
Reviewed by Sandy Saunders
An interesting publication which describes in great detail the multitude of ship voyages involved in the transport of Australian military units to and from overseas conflicts, covering the period from the Sudan Campaign in 1885, through to the end of Australia’s involvement in Vietnam, in November 1972.
A thoroughly readable book, clearly directed at the historians of individual military units, but with the story related in an interesting and informative manner, which should make it appeal to a much wider range of readers.
It provides in great detail information on the ships which comprised individual convoys, the military units allocated to each ship, the sailing and arrival dates and in many cases, illustrates the text with photographs of these ships in harbour, before their departure from Australia.
The readability of the book is greatly enhanced by comments on the living conditions encountered by the unfortunates embarked on these ships for very long periods, in the most trying of tropical conditions, during the trooping voyages; conditions which will no doubt come as a revelation to those whose experience of ocean travel is limited to the cruise liners of today.
From the graphic descriptions provided by a personal friend, the reviewer can attest that a voyage across the storm tossed war zone of the Atlantic Ocean in the Queen Mary in 1943, among countless thousands of other servicemen, was an experience never to be forgotten, not because of the war in process outside the hull, but rather because of the sheer press of humanity within, coupled with the more or less continuous queuing for meals, which occupied most of the day.
I believe this book will prove to be a valuable addition to any research library, collating as it does in one convenient volume the details of Australian involvement in warlike activities overseas, over many years, in many places.
It also supplies an index of Naval ships involved in the various operations, together with an index of Military units embarked in each transport ship.
Certainly the photography showing large requisitioned liners such as the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Mauretania, Aquitania, and the Nieuw Amsterdam, to name only a few of the great ships entering and leaving Sydney Harbour during WWII, must recall these memorable events to the citizens of this great port.
The importance of such engineering complexes as the Cockatoo shipyard in Sydney, the graving docks at Singapore and Sydney and similar installations in other ports, in modifying these civilian liners for war service, is also highlighted.
I commend this book to anyone with an interest in Australian maritime and military history.