Not long ago I reviewed a book by Ian Townsend about an unknown, and horrifying, event in Rabaul during the second World War. Now here is another Ian writing about another aspect during that same war, equally unknown, and unsung. This time it is the “story of the Australian men and boats that helped win the war in the Pacific”. Just what did they do, and how can such a claim be justified? Another quote succinctly answers both questions. The Small Ships carried “supplies to Allied bases in the area bounded by Darwin, Port Moresby, Milne Bay and Townsville and Cairns.”
The troops stationed in those regions needed ammunition, food, supplies of all descriptions designed to halt the steady Japanese advance. In the long view, once this was accomplished such items would be used to expel the enemy. Sailing under the American flag, small vessels from around Australia were manned by men under 18 and over 50, or those deemed not fit enough to be admitted to the services. They served us well, many of them sacrificing their lives for their country. They remained civilians, wore no uniforms and their ships retained their British registrations. They truly were a “ragtag” lot.
It was not until 2009 that our Government recognised the service rendered by these men and boys who put themselves into peril, as they enabled our forward troops to survive in their hostile environments. Ian Shaw, through the experiences of some of these sailors, brings the whole tale to life, adding yet another chapter to the heroism, previously unknown from this dangerous time in the history of our Nation. THE RAGTAG FLEET by IAN W. SHAW
PUBLISHED by HACHETTE for a recommended $32.99