Those who have lived and worked at Fort Queenscliff or in the locality will find this a most interesting book. Even the general reader will still find it a rattling good murder mystery, complete with swirling theories of wartime black market criminality, signs of possible Japanese penetration, and suspicion of a botched Australian commando exercise, all wrapped up in a puzzling lack of response by the authorities. Or was it all covered up?
One soldier was murdered in May 1942 some miles away while hitch-hiking back from Geelong at night, then a few months later in September the other disappeared from his night sentry post at Crow’s Nest close to the fort. A military pistol of the same calibre had killed each, neither has ever been found. My own father happened to be stationed with the anti-aircraft guns near there when the second body was found ten days later, down at the beach. He told me of a wide-eyed soldier’s report and that the mystery was never solved.
Author Dr Bob Marmion is a local historian as well as a former police detective. He has extensively researched the incidents, including interviews with some locals and soldiers who were there at the time. He also went to the archives, but found that the police and military files are (suspiciously?) missing. His book is illustrated with some useful sketch maps and many contemporary photos. It has endnotes but no index.
Unfortunately, in presenting the story and the accounts by individuals it has become difficult for Bob Marmion to maintain a consistent direction in the narrative and to present a clear picture of what really happened and why. He believes he knows who did it (as did the police back then), but is constrained by lack of formal evidence. At the end, we are given his most likely theories as to what occurred, but much is still left shrouded in mystery.
Reviewed for RUSIV by John Boyce, November 2016
Contact Royal United Services Institute about this article.