Australian Battalion Commanders in the Second World War

Australian Battalion Commanders in the Second World War

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In Australian Battalion Commanders in the Second World War, Garth Pratten explores, for the first time, the background, role and conduct of the commanding officers of Australian infantry battalions in World War II. Despite their vital role as the lynchpins of the battlefield, uniting the senior officers with the soldiers who fought, the battalion commanders have previously received scant attention in contemporary military history. This book redresses the balance, providing a gripping, meticulously researched and insightful account that charts the development of Australia's infantry commanding officers from part-time, ill-prepared, amateurs to seasoned veterans who, although still not professional soldiers, deserved the title of professional men of war. Drawing on extensive and original archival material, Pratten recreates battle scenes and brings to light many diverse personalities. It is a story of men confronting the timeless challenges of military leadership - mastering their own fear and discomfort - in order to motivate and inspire their troops to endure the maelstrom of war.
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Table of contents

Acknowledgements; List of maps; List of tables, Charts and figures; Abbreviations and terminology; 1. 'A battalion commander, he's everything'; 2. 'Completely untrained for war': battalion command in the pre-war army; 3. The foundations of battalion command: forming the AIF, 1939-1940; 4. 'We were learning then': the AIF's Mediterranean campaigns, 1941; 5. Desert epilogue: El Alamein, 1942; 6. Victims of circumstance: battalion command in the 8th Division; 7. 'No place for half-hearted measures': Australia and Papua, 1940-1942; 8. 'There is no mystery in jungle fighting': New Guinea 1943-44; 9. 'Experienced, toughened, competent': 1945; Conclusion: 'The CO is just one of a team'; Appendix 1: The demographics of battalion commanders 1939-1945; Appendix 2: Periods of command; Bibliography.
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About Garth Pratten

Garth Pratten is a senior lecturer in the Department of War Studies at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst who has previously worked for both the Australian Army and the Australian War Memorial, and also taught history at Deakin University. He is a graduate of the University of Melbourne and Deakin University, and received his PhD from the latter in 2006. Dr Pratten has also been a member of the Australian Army reserve for seventeen years. He has served, as both a soldier and officer, in a variety of units, and is currently serving on exchange with 3rd Battalion, The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment. The grandson of a veteran of the siege of Tobruk, Dr Pratten's principal historical interest is the Australian experience of the Second World War, with a particular focus on the conduct of military operations. In 1995, Dr Pratten edited Still the Same: Reflections on Active Service from Bardia to Baidoa. He has also contributed to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Defence: Sources and Statistics, two volumes of the official history of Australian ground operations in Vietnam, and the upcoming official history of Australian peacekeeping and post-Cold War operations. Dr Pratten is an intrepid explorer of the battlefields on which Australians have fought and has visited such in Crete, Egypt, Gallipoli, Libya, Singapore and Malaysia. The insights gained have partly informed this book. Dr Pratten has also explored the sites of former prisoner of war camps in Thailand, and former Australian bases and training areas in Great Britain. In April 2006, Dr Pratten was awarded the Australian Army's C. E. W. Bean Prize for Military History.
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