The 7th Australian Infantry Division fought in some of the most famous battles of Word War II. Yet, while these battles and the places they were fought – including Tobruk, Milne Bay and the Kokoda Trail – have remained well-known, few Australians would realise the part the 7th Division played in them. It is this lack of public recognition, even during the division’s active days, that led to its members coining it ‘the silent 7th’.
Now, historian Mark Johnston chronicles the history and achievements of the division in an illustrated hardcover volume: The Silent 7th. With over 200 photographs, some official but most unposed, the volume provides an in depth view of the conditions in which the soldiers fought and lived. As well as maps, there are two appendices which detail casualties suffered by members of the division and honours and awards won.
This is an important book, because it fills a gap in the written history of Australia’s military campaigns. It will be of interest to historians and military enthusiasts, but is also accessible to anyone with an interest in Australia’s past.
The Silent 7th: An Illustrated History of the 7th Australian Division, by Mark Johnston
Allen & Unwin, 2005
Best known as the ‘Rats of Tobruk’ for their involvement in that well known seige, the Australian 9th Division was one of five volunteer AIF divisions raised in Word World II. From its formation in 1940 until it was disbanded in 1946, the division fought in Tobruk, El Alamein, New Guinea and Borneo, being widely praised and gaining more fame than any other Australian division.
In That Magnificent 9th author and military historian Mark Johnston traces the history of the division. Whilst there are plenty of facts, figures and maps, the focus is on providing a visual record, with hundreds of photographs providing unique insight into the life and feats of the members of the division. Whilst there are official and press photographs, some of the most telling and personal come from the private collections of veterans.
Of course, the photographs themselves are well supported with Johnston’s well-researched commentary, providing a detailed history of all aspects of the Division’s entire existence. There are detailed tables of the Divsion’s casualties and of bravery awards bestowed on members of the Division.
Not light reading, this is instead informative but accessible, sharing an important part of Australia’s history to those who may not know it, and providing greater insight for those who do.
That Magnificent 9th, by Mark Johnston
Allen & Unwin, 2002, this edition 2005