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The Cowra Breakout

The compelling untold story of the only World War II battle

fought on Australian soil.


Mat McLachlan

Sydney, NSW: Hachette, 2022

Paperback   320pp   RRP$32.99


Reviewer: Mike O’Brien, January 2023


Let’s start with the title. There are 89 books in our collection with ‘untold’ as part of their title. And there’s even more with ‘unknown’. A book title is sometimes chosen by a publisher to enhance sales. I think both terms are greatly overused.

There have been several books on the Cowra escape. McLachlan, once a battlefield guide, later a battlefield guide writer and television presenter, has now debuted as a military historian, already promoted to its leading rank. He acknowledges the ‘definitive account(s)’ of the late Harry Gordon (stretching ‘untold’ somewhat). 

The book does include some new material. Some of it derives from the Gordon papers in the National Library. A great deal is derived from an unpublished manuscript by Masuru Moriki. Because the book has footnotes collected as ‘references’ and lacks a bibliography, the provenance of this document remains a mystery. If McLachlan is to retain his leading historian rank this sort of omission needs to be redressed.

Nevertheless, this is an easily readable if somewhat racy book. Since the other books on the topic are out-of-print, this book is welcome.



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

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