'No ordinary history book'
Historian Major General Gordon Maitland (rtd.), who served in World War Two, writes:
"This is no ordinary Australian history book and every Australian owes to himself or herself to read it.
"Only now, 70 years after the momentous events of the Second World War that the book describes¸ is the full balanced story able to be read. It is quite a different story from that foisted on the Australians for all those 70 years... after reading the book you will never again regard Curtin as Australia’s perfect war time leader."
National literary award (below):
"...an important contribution to Australian historiography..."
‘Battle for Australia’ wins first prize in national literary award
The Battle for Australia published by Pan Macmillan has won Bob Wurth first prize for Excellence in Non-Fiction in the National Literary Awards of the Fellowship of Australian Writers in Melbourne.
The judges said in part: “The Battle for Australia makes an important contribution to Australian historiography. Well researched and beautifully written this outstanding book adds much to our understanding of Prime Minister John Curtin and Australia's role in World War Two. It is a very worthy winner.”
The award and the $1,000 prize were presented at a FAW function in Melbourne in April 2014.
The judges highly commended Malcolm Knox for his book ‘Boom: The underground history of Australia from gold rush to GFC, published by Viking (Penguin Books). Commended was Iain McCalman’s book, The Reef: A passionate history, also by Viking.
Bob Wurth receives his award from Gail Blundell of the Fellowship of Australian Writers in Melbourne.
Foreword to The Battle for Australia
by the then Governor General:
In his fifth book, Bob Wurth has turned his attention to the history of Australia and its political leadership in the dark days of World War Two.
Here we find the compelling story of a leader fraught with anxiety and a nation in peril. John Curtin is depicted with all his human frailties – a man weighed down by physical and emotional illness, while being only too aware of the immensity of the military threat faced by Australia in 1942.
Few men would have been so tested as Curtin was during that time. Yet for all the heartache he endured, what shone through were his courage and vision. His foresight in appreciating that we could no longer depend on the United Kingdom for our national security led to his announcement of “an outstanding departure from Australia’s international relations that would ring through future decades” – the alliance with the United States of America that remains the cornerstone of Australia’s strategic and defence policy settings to this day.
The carefully researched content of this book fills an important gap in our knowledge of this critical period of Australian history. For, seventy years after the bombing of Darwin and the invasion of New Guinea, we are still learning about what happened and just how beleaguered we were.
The Battle for Australia is also an outstanding political biography. The portrait of Curtin is evoked with drama and sympathy, and there is a fascinating counterpoint with Churchill that gives us new perspectives on the leadership of the time.
This is a significant addition to the annals of Australian history. I congratulate Bob Wurth on a scholarly but eminently readable book.
- Quentin Bryce, AC CVO, Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia, 2013.
Churchill thought Japan would make bases in north Australia
Winston Churchill thought Japan would attempt to establish bases in northern Australia, according to evidence produced in The Battle for Australia.
Churchill said there was no doubt that the Japanese would do its utmost to threaten and alarm Australia and “to establish lodgements and bases on the northern part of Australia” in order to lock up Allied forces on the continent.
According to The Battle for Australia, the British prime minister was speaking on 23 April 1942 to a closed and secret session of the House of Commons in London. Churchill’s secret comments came months after the British leader had repeatedly disparaged and ridiculed fears of a Japanese invasion being expressed by Australian Prime Minister John Curtin
Bob Wurth also discovered, from Royal records kept at Windsor Castle, that Churchill had told King George VI (below) at Buckingham Palace of his own fears of an invasion of Australia, when he earlier said on 24 February 1942: “Burma, Ceylon, Calcutta and Madras in India, and part of Australia, may fall in to enemy hands.”
Click on the first small book cover at top of the page for more information on
The Battle for Australia.
John Curtin's depression:
Planning for when the music stops
- Jeff Kennett writing for the Herald Sun, Melb., Feb. 5, 2014.
Herald Sun: John Curtin died in office from absolute
exhaustion and the inability to take sufficient time off
from work to recover his good health.
Photo source: News Limited.
"I FINISHED reading last week a wonderful book by Australian author
Bob Wurth titled The Battle for Australia.
It is a highly researched book about how prime minister John Curtin handled the leadership of Australia at what was perhaps its most critical time, the Second World War. At times Curtin was, through his oratory, magnificent, but at times the job simply overwhelmed him. As a result of a life hard lived, and many recurring illnesses, including bouts of depression, he had to hand over the leadership of the country to his deputy, Frank Ford.
Interestingly, the cause of much of Curtin's mental anguish was the way Winston Churchill, prime minister of the United Kingdom, with whom Curtin corresponded almost on a daily basis, treated Curtin's requests for military assistance and the return of Australian servicemen fighting in the Middle East to defend our coastline with almost disdain.
Churchill, perhaps more so than Curtin, was tortured by serious depressive illness throughout his life, including when directing the conduct of the war.
Curtin, sadly, died in office on July 5, 1945, from absolute exhaustion and the inability to take sufficient time off from work to recover his good health. The Japanese, the source of so much of his pain and anxiety, surrendered two months later.
Photo: Jeff Kennett.
Depressive illnesses can affect anyone at any time. Some, with help, can manage their illness, but many who do not seek professional help often only compound their problems until in many cases they simply break down.
This week we were confronted with the news that Ian Thorpe has been admitted to hospital. Sadly, he is just the latest in a long line of sportsmen and women who suffer depressive illnesses.
Be assured for every Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett and any other sports person you have heard of experiencing a depressive illness, there are dozens, maybe hundreds, who suffer in silence, many not seeking help, or not getting public attention because they never reached the heights of success of an Ian Thorpe.
Many factors contribute to a sports person's depressive condition. Expectations from an early age from family, coaches and themselves. Then expectations from a club and the public.
But there is another factor that I think has seriously added to the number of athletes suffering anxiety and depression while involved in their sports and when they hit the brick wall when their sporting careers end.
Sport today has become so professional, the monetary rewards so tempting, that once a junior athlete is identified with talent, they are increasingly placed in an artificial cocoon; where their sporting code or club increasingly looks after their every need.
Not long ago, athletes held down a normal day job. They stayed in touch with their friends and progressively learnt skills that would carry them through life when their sporting days were completed. Today, for most, all of that is lost when an athlete boards the treadmill of success.
We can't turn the clock back and lessen the professionalism of sport but we can insist academic or trade training be a compulsory part of any sporting contract.
This will help athletes have a better balance in their lives, help prepare them for life after sport and give them a better understanding of their worth to society when the merry-go-round of sport stops, often so abruptly.
This will not help every individual but it will certainly help.
Sadly, for many when the music stops, their generally inflated salaries stop, they have no qualification, or time-earnt experience, and they simply cannot handle the transition.
In AFL football, and at Hawthorn where I can speak with some authority and knowledge, we have a welfare officer employed to help young men deal with stress and expectation. We insist all players involve themselves in some serious educational training.
This certainly does not apply in all sports, and it should. The leadership of all sports and clubs must see that young athlete as a member of their family. It is part of the duty of care that boards and officials should accept as a serious part of their responsibilities.
Beyondblue has many sporting partnerships. We try and educate athletes and their administrations about stress, expectations, anxiety and depression. We try to leave the message that it is all right to seek help if an individual has issues with stress or worse. We try to spread the message that we should not discriminate against people who do have issues, but encourage them to seek help to return to good health as quickly as possible.
But it is also about addressing a culture we have allowed to develop where professionalism and success have often become more important than an individual's welfare, where many administrators think their sole purpose is to deliver success.
Not so. Their responsibility extends to the welfare of all and does not start when a person's career is about to finish but when a child is ushered into their cocoon.
Churchill or Curtin, Thorpe or Hackett, all are entitled to have their lives respected, and be educated and assisted to lead fulfilling lives."
Jeff Kennett is a former premier of Victoria.
John Curtin, a flawed & stressed war leader
Photo: Curtin at a loan rally at Martin Place Sydney. Fairfax, The Sydney Morning Herald of 18 February 1942.
A prime minister stranded on the
Nullarbor as Japan moves southwards
Bob Wurth on Curtin's depression and Churchill on the Japanese threat...
Research into The Battle for Australia has revealed new information on Prime Minister John Curtin, specifically Prime Minister Winston's Churchill's real thoughts about the importance of the war in the Pacific and also on the chances of a Japanese invasion of northern Australia. The book also closely examines Curtin's ongoing depression during the war.
The persona of Prime Minister John Curtin as the resolute Australian war leader thundering in demand of a greater war effort and guiding the nation to victory over Japan is imperfect. Curtin did successfully rally Australians. But the picture of the leader in control is flawed and so was the man.
There are other images of Curtin in the book which are equally accurate; visions of Curtin wrapped in a rug, nerves on edge, energy sapped, deeply brooding in the dark of his temperance hotel room. Or of the national leader in January 1942 fleeing from the centre of the nation’s defence operations in Melbourne at one of the most critical times of his prime ministership in January 1942 to take a slow train home to Western Australia to rest, in what one wartime army officer called ‘sheer desertion’.
[Curtin, left, pictured with a secretary in one of the luxury carriages he used when crossing the Nullarbor by train (right). Curtin photo: JCPML.]
And the spectre of the nation’s war leader on his way home stranded by floodwaters in the barren wilderness of the Nullarbor connected to the world only by the dots and dashes of a railway Morse code, while the Australian territory of Rabaul in New Guinea fell that day to a massive Japanese invasion and as the defence of Malaya crumbled.
Or Curtin, on 17 February 1942, two days after the fall of Singapore, addressing a huge rally in Sydney’s Martin Place, (pictured at top), virtually shouting at the throng, warning ‘our fighting forces stand between us and the invasion of our country’. The masked image is that the Prime Minister is in acute pain, close to collapse and within the hour will be in St Vincent’s hospital with nervous strain, a Perth newspaper accurately reporting Curtin ‘overcome temporarily by the weight of war responsibility’.
How accurate that report turns out to be. Behind the façade of the war leader is the black dog of depression, afflicting Curtin since his younger years as a campaigner against military conscription in the First World War. Yet ironically the image of Curtin as the formidable war leader is also at the same time uncannily accurate.
The imagery of Curtin rarely changes: the man tensely monitoring the great battles to keep Japan from Australia’s
Terry Sweetman in The Sunday Mail, Brisbane:
'Churchill’s duplicity' & 'new insights on invasion threat'
'Page turner' & one for history buffs
"Page turner. History fans will devour this story about Australia's fight for survival in the darkest days of the Second World War…” – Sunshine Coast Daily & The Gympie Times, Qld.
Insight into our leader in dark days - The Senior
"FORMER ABC foreign correspondent Bob Wurth tells the story of Australia’s fight for survival in World War II and gives an insight into the man who led us through those dark days in The Battle for Australia: A nation and its leader under siege.
"The book is also the story of Prime Minister John Curtin who Wurth describes as “far from the perfect leader” who “nevertheless successfully did the job that Australia needed...
“He was ‘for Australia’ when it mattered and when some other Australians, influenced by thoughts of Empire or of self-indulgence, frankly weren’t,” he writes. - The Senior.
Hear Bob Wurth interviewed by David Wood, Ultyra 106.5 FM. Click below:
Hear Bob Wurth interviewed by Steve Austin on 612 Brisbane:
Hear Bob Wurth interviewed on ABC CoastFM by Jasmin Midgley:
Bob Wurth addressed the Royal United Services Institute of NSW in Sydney with a lecture on the Battle for Australia on October 29, 2013.
John and Elsie Curtin at the Lodge. This is the last photo of Prime Minister John Curtin before his death in 1945.