Seumas Spark reviews 'The Shadow Men: The leaders who shaped the Australian Army from the Veldt to Vietnam' edited by Craig Stockings and John Connor

First, a quibble. In the first paragraph of his introduction, John Connor writes that few Australians could ‘name a significant figure of the Australian Army’, John Monash and Simpson (and his donkey) aside. I am less sure. A generation after his death, Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop remains a familiar name. Two of the past three governors-general, including the incumbent, served in the highest ranks of the army. The governor of New South Wales is David Hurley, another former general. David Morrison had not long retired as head of the army when he was named 2016 Australian of the Year. Ben Roberts-Smith, Australia’s most highly decorated living soldier, is chairman of the National Australia Day Council. In recent years, Australians have moved closer to Americans in their veneration of all things military, and with this development the nation’s bravest and most senior soldiers spend more time in the public eye. The army does not want for attention in modern Australia.

This book presents potted biographies of the ‘shadow men’, ten high-ranking soldiers who were influential in shaping the form and character of the Australian army, but whose careers are largely forgotten. Some lurk deeper in the shadows than others. Students of Australian history may know of William Bridges, who helped found the Royal Military College (Duntroon) in Canberra and who in 1915 was shot dead at Gallipoli; most probably will not have heard of Edward Hutton, who moulded the forces of the six Australian colonies into a national army. The editors have chosen their subjects well. The ten ‘shadow men’ include officers whose influence was exerted away from the battlefield, while the fact the biographies cover the period from the time of Federation to the end of the Vietnam War is a pleasing reminder that Australian military history is more than Gallipoli and Kokoda. I did not expect to learn so much about early twentieth-century Australia.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are already a subscriber, click here, or on the ‘Log In’ tab in the top right hand corner of the screen, and enter your username and password to log in. If you have logged in but are still seeing this message your subscription to ABR Online may have expired. Please contact us or click here to renew your subscription to ABR Online. More information about ABR Online can be found on our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.