Two Photos and a Medal…‘a Cerberus story’ – by Janette Williams – Book Review

This substantial and impressive volume describes the service life of William George Monteith – the author’s late husband’s grandfather. The title – Two Photos and a Medal – comes from the three mementos that the author had in her possession and from which her journey of discovery began. The sub-title relates to the fact that the book begins and ends with the Cerberus.

Privately Published; 2015; 365 pp.; ISBN 9780646946870 (hardcover); RRP $45.00
Privately Published; 2015; 365 pp.; ISBN 9780646946870 (hardcover); RRP $45.00

William Monteith served from 1886 until 1922 – a period of significant change in Australian naval forces. Monteith enlisted as a Training Seaman in the HMVS Cerberus and worked his way through the ranks to Commissioned Gunner in HMAS Protector. During the First World War Warrant Officer Gunner Monteith served in the light cruiser HMAS Pioneer which “although obsolete and too light for anything but minor work” proved her worth as “the most actively engaged vessel of the first Australian Fleet Unit.” Monteith experiences included serving in two wars and a period of remarkable growth and technical development leading to the emergence of the Royal Australian Navy.

Drawing from a wide range of sources Williams provides a great deal of detail on the naval technical and organisational matters, as well as context with coverage of political and social issues of the time. In all, the book is an assembly of a tremendous amount of information.

Two Photos and a Medal includes 250 black and white as well as colour images. There are numerous ‘breakout boxes’ and tables that provide additional detail and context to the main body. Thirty maps assist the reader to visualise the geography of events. End notes, a list of sources, and a bibliography will allow other researchers to follow the trail of history. A comprehensive index will see that this becomes a valuable reference book.

Williams is an avid historian and co-author of two previous books. Two Photos and a Medal will be of interest those with an interest in colonial and federation era naval forces in Australia.

Contact Peter Fielding about this article.

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