The Empire has an Answer
The Empire Air Training Scheme
as reported in the Australian Press 1939-1945
Tony James Brady
Big Sky Publishing 2019
Paperback 340pp RRP $34.99
Reviewer: Mike O’Brien, September 2019
The RAAF started the Second World War with a strength of over 3489 men. By the war’s end it had expanded to a strength of 183,822. The Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) was the key to this very large expansion in size and capability.
This is the first book-length treatment of the EATS, though it has been the subject of a 2010 thesis. The book delivers more than the title promises – it is implied that it consists of the Australian press coverage. While there are many quotations from the press, the book is indeed a wider historical examination reliant on many other sources.
There are chapters dealing with Australia’s entry into the war and its consequences for the RAAF; the inception of the Scheme; the magnitude of the training task; how training progressed; how the Dominions worked together and the resultant issues and a very useful squadron by squadron operational summary. This provides a very comprehensive overview of the Scheme. Newspaper sources and several interviews add an important personal dimension.
This book has a very useful index. Its bibliography is large and unconventional, listing each of the newspaper issues examined. The author acknowledges the contribution of the National Library of Australia’s Trove digitisation project which enabled the convenient access to this valuable information source
May I draw on one episode reported in this book. It states that radio broadcasts of the 19 February 1942 bombing of Darwin were heavily censored, omitting the loss of lives incurred. It quotes a regional Queensland newspaper (the Northern Miner from Charters Towers) as giving a much fuller account including the loss of life. All this is true, but it can be seen as tending to add veracity to the strongly held view that the results of the bombing were concealed from the public at large. It is a fact that major newspapers, such as the Brisbane Courier Mail, carried quite reasonably accurate details of the raid and its results in the day after the raid.
There were over 300 aircrew killed while under the EATS. It is a pity that their names could not have been included in this book. Their graves are spread over several nations and their contribution to the war effort is deserving of better recognition.
The RAAF has rightfully supported this book as part of its History and Heritage. It is a very good thing that we now have this comprehensive account.
We are grateful to the publisher for this review copy.