Anzac and Aviator

Author(s): Michael Molkentin
Published: 2019


The story of extraordinary Australian, Ross Smith, who rode to war at Gallipoli on horseback and by the end of the war, was one of the most highly awarded fighter pilots.

'He was courageous. He was ambitious. He was skilled. He was visionary. He could be ruthless. He was someone born of a new nation. But he was of a time now long past. And yet in the language of a later generation it could be said he had the "right stuff"… Michael Molkentin captures [Ross Smith] brilliantly.' - Andy Thomas, NASA Astronaut (Retired).

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Occasional Paper Series No. 9 - Social Mobilisation in a Contested Environment

Author(s): Peter Layton
Published: 2019


This paper tackles an important and interesting question: how should governments approach the new global battle space where ideas, ideologies, information and misinformation are weapons and where the battlefield is society and its support or otherwise for government action.

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Retreat from Moscow: A New History of Germany’s Winter Campaign, 1941-1942

Author(s): David Stahel
Published: 2019


A gripping and authoritative revisionist account of the German Winter Campaign of 1941–1942

Germany’s winter campaign of 1941–1942 is commonly seen as its first defeat. In Retreat from Moscow, a bold, gripping account of one of the seminal moments of World War II, David Stahel argues that instead it was its first strategic success in the East. The Soviet counteroffensive was in fact a Pyrrhic victory. Despite being pushed back from Moscow, the Wehrmacht lost far fewer men, frustrated its enemy’s strategy, and emerged in the spring unbroken and poised to recapture the initiative.

Hitler’s strategic plan called for holding important Russian industrial cities, and the German army succeeded. The Soviets as of January 1942 aimed for nothing less than the destruction of Army Group Center, yet not a single German unit was ever destroyed. Lacking the professionalism, training, and experience of the Wehrmacht, the Red Army’s offensive attempting to break German lines in countless head-on assaults led to far more tactical defeats than victories.

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Someone Else’s War: Fighting for the British Empire in World War I

Author(s): John Connor
Published: 2018


"John Connor’s accessible and illuminating reinterpretation of World War I presents that conflict as a fundamentally imperial phenomenon. This was a war fought and ultimately won not only in France, Belgium and Palestine, but in East Africa and New Guinea; in the Indian and Pacific Ocean as well as the Dardanelles and the North Sea; and on the farms of the Canadian prairies, the cattle ranches of Argentina and the sheep stations of Australia, as surely in the munitions works of Britain. Someone Else’s War is a capacious global history of a crisis poorly understood if viewed through a Eurocentric lens.’ Frank Bongiorno, Professor of History, The Australian National University "

Occasional Paper Series No. 8 - Why did Australia go to the Great War

Editor(s): Peter Stanley
Published: 2018


The Great War, in which hostilities formally ended just on a century ago, remains a subject of active interest in Australia, both among academic historians and even more among a substantial minority of the population which researches family history, visits battlefields and cemeteries, purchases (and perhaps reads) popular histories and watches documentaries.

The significant academic interest in the Great War generally and UNSW Canberra’s work in particular explain why we held a symposium under the auspices of the Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society at UNSW Canberra on 8 May 2018.

The paper includes the following contributions:

  • Peter Stanley – Introduction
  • Greg Lockhart – Effacing the nation: the imperial romance and its persistence in Australian Great War history
  • John Mordike – Outlining national-imperial tensions in the development of the Australian Military Forces, 1901-14
  • Douglas Newton – Choosing war, and choosing war aims: British and Australian decision-making, 1914-1918
  • Gerhard Fischer – The Little Welshman’s dream: the war aims of William Morris Hughes
  • John Moses – Between truth and polemic: comprehending imperial Germany’s war-aims 1914-18
  • Robert Stevenson – ‘Why Australia Went to the Great War’: Commentary

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Mass Violence in Nazi-Occupied Europe

Editor(s): David Stahel, Alex J.Kay
Published: 2018


Mass Violence in Nazi-Occupied Europe argues for a more comprehensive understanding of what constitutes Nazi violence and who was affected by this violence. The works gathered consider sexual violence, food depravation, and forced labor as aspects of Nazi aggression. Contributors focus in particular on the Holocaust, the persecution of the Sinti and Roma, the eradication of "useless eaters" (psychiatric patients and Soviet prisoners of war), and the crimes of the Wehrmacht. The collection concludes with a consideration of memorialization and a comparison of Soviet and Nazi mass crimes. While it has been over 70 years since the fall of the Nazi regime, the full extent of the ways violence was used against prisoners of war and civilians is only now coming to be fully understood. Mass Violence in Nazi-Occupied Europe provides new insight into the scale of the violence suffered and brings fresh urgency to the need for a deeper understanding of this horrific moment in history. For details please click

Occasional Paper Series No: 6 - ‘We Need to Talk About Marine A’

Author(s): Lieutenant Colonel Tom McDermott DSO MA
Published: 2017


The story of ‘Marine A’ is a complex one. Blackman’s case is a microcosm of the human and societal impact of fifteen years of persistent war - a tragic theatre of lessons that reaches in ‘breadth, width and depth’ from the hidden ethical risks of Counter Insurgency (COIN) tactics, through the psychological influence of constant combat, and as far as strategy and the relationship between a society and its military.

In 2011, Alexander Blackman was a 37 year-old elite Royal Marine commando with thirteen years’ experience. He was combat hardened, having served in Iraq three times, and Afghanistan. The Supreme Court would later describe his service prior to the incident as ‘exemplary’. With over a decade under his belt, Blackman landed in Helmand Province facing a challenging tour in a highly contested and kinetic area. Five and a half months later, Blackman was filmed deliberately killing a wounded Afghan insurgent by firing his pistol into the man’s chest; he and others were subsequently charged with murder.

In November 2013 Blackman (known at the trial as ‘Marine A’) was convicted of murder; the others were acquitted. A psychiatric defence was not pursued by Blackman’s legal team, but basic psychiatric analysis was submitted as part of mitigation for sentencing; successfully influencing the leniency of the Court. Blackman was sentenced to life with a minimum term of ten years, and dishonourable discharge from the Royal Marines. A 2014 appeal to the Supreme Court, based on the extreme stress that Blackman was under at the time of the killing, reduced this minimum term to eight years.

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Occasional Paper Series No: 4 - Intelligence analysis: what is it good for? The problem with probabilistic forecasting

Author(s): Dirk Maclean
Published: 2017


There are a number of challenges associated with trying to measure the value of intelligence analysis. One current solution that has gained popularity is to focus on predictive intelligence, and to use statistical techniques to test predictions against the actual course of events. I will to demonstrate that this approach is not only fundamentally flawed in terms of method it is also dangerous because it gives priority to idle speculation about unknowable futures. I want to show that intelligence analysis is best measured by its ability to give decision-makers the broadest set of options and that its value resides in the outcomes of the actual choices that are made. My arguments and conclusions are based on two case studies: the Battle of Kursk during 1943 and the 2012 Malian coup. This approach will assist senior managers and strategic direction setters across intelligence agencies whose output includes predictive intelligence. It will be especially helpful to officials grappling with the problem of how to measure the quality and value of their intelligence analysis. 

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Occasional Paper Series No: 3 - Australian Political Perceptions of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin

Author(s): Stephanie James
Published: 2017


On Easter Day 1916, the radical Irish Republican Brotherhood launched a rebellion against British rule with support from the Irish Volunteers. In the hope of inspiring a mass movement across they country, the rebels occupied a number of key buildings across Dublin including the General Post Office. The ‘Rising’ was largely confined to the Irish capital and quickly defeated by British military forces. The leading rebels including Thomas Clarke, Sean MacDermott and Patrick Pearse were summarily executed. This occasional paper examines Australian political perceptions of the Easter Rising. While the British Government considered the Rising to be a serious wartime threat to the British Empire, Irish-Australians were less than convinced. While many non-Irish Australians saw the Rising as sedition, their attitudes changed in the wake of the executions and the continuing brutal suppression of republican spirit in Ireland.

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Joining Hitler's Crusade: European Nations and the Invasion of the Soviet Union, 1941

Editor(s): David Stahel
Published: 2017


The reasons behind Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union are well known, but what about those of the other Axis and non-Axis powers that joined Operation Barbarossa? Six other European armies fought with the Wehrmacht in 1941 and six more countries sent volunteers, as well as there being countless collaborators in the east of various nationalities who were willing to work with the Germans in 1941. The political, social and military context behind why so many nations and groups of volunteers opted to join Hitler's war in the east reflects the many diverse, and largely unknown, roads that led to Operation Barbarossa. With each chapter dealing with a new country and every author being a subject matter expert on that nation, proficient in the local language and historiography, this fascinating new study offers unparalleled insight into non-German participation on the Eastern Front in 1941. For further details please click

America's Vietnam War and its French Connection

Author(s): Frank Cain
Published: 2016


hat America was drawn into the Vietnam War by the French has been recognized, but rarely explored. This book analyzes the years from 1945 with the French military reconquest of Vietnam until 1963 with the execution of the French-endorsed dictator, Ngo Dinh Diem, demonstrating how the US should not have followed the French into Vietnam. It shows how the Korean War triggered the flow of American military hardware and finances to underpin France’s war against the Marxist-oriented Vietnam Republic led by Ho Chi Minh. For more details please click:

Occasional Paper Series No: 2 - Nobility Down Under: How the Duchess became an Australian

Author(s): Professor Tom Frame
Published: 2016


The loss of HMAS Voyager after a collision with HMAS Melbourne off Jervis Bay on 10 February 1964 left 82 men dead and created a serious operational problem for the RAN. On completing her work-up, Voyager was due to return to South East Asia with HMAS Vampire for service in the Strategic Reserve. With the loss of HMAS Voyager, it seemed the best solution was to order Vendetta to accompany Vampire to the Strategic Reserve in May. HMAS Quiberon, which was to pay off, would remain in commission. She would be refitted in early June at Williamstown Naval Dockyard and relieve Vendetta at the end of the year. This action was subsequently agreed by the Naval Board. Yet, the RAN was still one destroyer short of what it needed to fulfill extant strategic demands and long-standing operational commitments. A crisis was looming.

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Great White Fleet to Coral Sea : naval strategy and the development of Australian-United States relations, 1900-1945

Author(s): David Lee, Russell Parkin
Published: 2008


On the 100th anniversary of the visit to Australia’s shores of the United States Atlantic Fleet, known as the ‘Great White Fleet’, the commemorative publication compiled by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Great White Fleet to Coral Sea: Naval Strategy and the Development of Australia–United States Relations, 1900–1945