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Because Our Fathers Lied

From Boer to World War: Australia’s Baptism by Fire


Paula Astridge

Warriewood NSW : Woodslane Press, 2022

Paperback    220pp  RRP: $24.95


Reviewer: Rob Ellis, February 2024


This book appears to be, on first inspection, a short biography of Major-General Reginald Spencer Browne, and of his military and civil life and careers, and a long-standing association with several of the most distinguished senior officers of the Australian Imperial Forces during both the Boer War and the First World War. It includes (p.275) an Author's Note: ‘This is a work of fact-backed fiction, small parts have been fictionalised to link characters, times and events.’

However, the main thread of the book is an account of Browne's wartime service in the two wars mentioned above, and of his friendship with, in particular, General Sir John Monash, General Sir Harry Chauvel and General Sir Cyril Brudenell White, as well as his 'acquaintance with several other distinguished Australians’ - including Field Marshal William Birdwood, General W T Bridges and Major Andrew "Banjo" Patterson. The trio of Browne, White and Monash was dubbed ‘The Three Musketeers’ in this book, with Sir Harry Chauvel playing the 'd'Artagnan' role. However, there is little or no evidence in other sources to indicate that such a close association existed, and this, it would seem, is part of the 'fact-backed fiction' to which Ms Astridge refers. No reasons are given for this partial fictionalisation.

While Spencer Browne's life, as soldier, journalist and author, is the main thrust of the book, it also covers some of the involvement of Australian Forces in the two major wars in which Browne served, and of the influence of some senior British officers and notable citizens,. The presence of these some of people appears to be padding within the book but does little to widen the reader's knowledge of the central character's life and military service. The actual text is marred by some errors in fact, and descriptions of incidents which may not have actually taken place.

It is an interesting book, but the reader should realise that it is to some extent partly fictional, and consequently gives a distorted picture of Monash, Chauvel and Brudenell White, three of Australia's most distinguished military officers, and of Browne's military career.


The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.

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