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Sword and Baton

Senior Australian Army Officers from Federation to 2001

Volume Two: 1939 to 1962


Justin Chadwick

Newport, NSW: Big Sky Publishing, 2023

Hardcover    752pp    RRP: $36.99


Reviewer: Rob Ellis, May 2024


This book contains short biographies of 109 officers who held the rank from Brigadier-General to General in the Australian Army in the period from 1939 to 1962 which spans the Second World War, the Korean War and the Malayan Emergency. Many of the great names in the Australian Army's history have been included in Volume 1.

This book contains 698 pages of text, which cover 109 biographies, varying in length from two to sixteen pages. Consequently, each is short, and gives only the bare details of each officer's service. in some cases, in as little as 400 words with the longest estimated at 4,800 words. It is not easy to condense the careers of senior officers, who in most cases served in both World Wars, into such a limited space. That the author has done so shows that a great deal of care has gone into researching this book, and the 20 pages of bibliography indicate a wide range of sources has been consulted to gather the vast amount of information that provides guidance for the reader.

This is a book for the reader who is intent on understanding both the need for the senior officer to have a breadth of experience and expertise and a focus on his role in the Army, whether in peacetime or at war.

The individual papers on each senior officer provide an excellent start point for any reader interested in the way a senior officer's career is structured, and particularly how the need for specialisation is paralleled by the need for an understanding of the role other officers with whom the individual comes into contact, and so understand the importance of the breadth of knowledge that each senior officer must have, to perform his own tasks and inter-act with those both senior and subordinate to him.

It is not a book that can be picked up and read from beginning to end. It is a book that can be kept handy, for tracing the service career of a particular officer or as a reference, when research requires the reader to check on the relationships and interactions of his subject with others in similar roles and positions in the wide range of situations that will confront a senior officer throughout his career. In this situation, Sword and Baton is a valuable start point. It should be held by anybody interested in the development of the service careers of leaders of the Australian Army.

Companion volumes, tracing the careers of senior officers of the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force [if not already available] would be of significant value to future researchers.



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

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