Stephens, David: Book received: South Africa to Afghanistan: Lifting the Curtain, by Bill Edgar

David Stephens*

‘Book received: South Africa to Afghanistan: Lifting the Curtain, by Bill Edgar’, Honest History, 20 February 2020

This book came to Honest History courtesy of the author (and publisher, as Tammar Publications). The book, published Perth, 2020, has the sub-sub titles, Australians at War and Personal Accounts from Behind the Scenes, and it is so new that it does not yet appear in the National Library catalogue (though it does have an ISBN).

Two of Bill Edgar’s previous books, a biography of Brigadier Arnold Potts and a history of the Australian 16th battalions, are in the NLA catalogue. There’s also Dr Edgar’s The Primitive Shadow: Power – Its Uses and Abuses – Lessons from History. Dr Edgar has written for Honest History on the national history curriculum, Western Australian convicts, and Gallipoli.)

South Africa to Afghanistan grew from interviews with returned men, and the bulk of the book is in the first person – and it is mostly Western Australians doing the talking. There are 14 chapters in all, taking us from 1899 to 2009 – although half the chapters are on World War II theatres –  with lots of interesting and pertinent illustrations. (The bold font throughout the book is likely to be heavy going for some readers, though.) The foreword is by Graham Edwards, retired federal MP and Vietnam veteran.

The author argues persuasively for the importance of primary sources – in this case, the recollections of those who were there – to be set against the works that academics and others put together later. He is right, of course, and the book will be an interesting read for military history buffs. Even this non-buff found six chapters with links to the service of members of his family.

Copies of the book are available from Tammar Publications, PO Box 60, Innaloo WA, 6018 or by emailing tammar@westnet.com.au. Those buffs would benefit from the author placing on the Tammar Publications website a listing of chapters, and perhaps the preface of the book. To go on with: West Australia Hill, The Nek, the Western Front, the Peloponnese, HMAS Canberra, RAAF air crew, HMAS Yarra, Syria/Kokoda/Gona, Syria/Milne Bay, POWs, Korea, Vietnam (twice), Cambodia/Timor/Iraq/Afghanistan.

* David Stephens is editor of the Honest History website.

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