This volume completes a ‘trilogy’ now held by the Royal United Services Institute – Vic Library. Geoffrey Boss-Walker’s Desert Sand and Jungle Green: A Pictorial History of the 2/43rd Australian Infantry Battalion (Ninth Division) in the Second World War, published in 1948 and Frank Ligertwood, Tom Gilchrist and Gordon Combe’s The Second 43rd Australian Infantry Battalion 1940-1946 published in 1972 (and a second edition in 1992) have sat on the shelves waiting for Mark Johnston’s recently-released eleventh work.
As a result of Johnston’s 30 years’ extremely patient and impeccable research, the reader is able to ‘live’ with three soldiers (Gordon Combe, Allan Jones and John Lovegrove) who commenced the Second World War with the 2/43rd Battalion − experiencing their highs and lows, fears and regrets through to their final discharge at the end of hostilities. Based on diaries, letters and interviews, the author has produced a non-stop account from enlistment and basic training, the Western Desert campaign against Rommel at Alamein, returning to Australia to train for jungle warfare in both New Guinea and Borneo.
This work is an outstanding testament to the very deep and fastidious research done by Mark Johnston. There are extensive Notes, Bibliography and Index, and nine simple, but adequate maps accompany the appropriate text. The characters are made real through letters, diaries and photographs (a number of which appeared in Boss-Walker’s pictorial history). Military history becomes alive when readers can embed themselves in a narrative that has a marked degree of personalization woven through it.
Reviewed for RUSIV by Neville Taylor, September 2018
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