- Book reviewer
- WWII operations, Book reviews, Naval Engagements, Operations and Capabilities
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2006 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Forgotten Fleet 2
By Bill and Ruth Lunney
Forfleet Publishing, Medowie NSW 2318.
ISBN 0 9751683 0 4.
rrp $50.00 plus $8.00 p&p.
Available from the publisher at 7 Wade Cres., Medowie, NSW 2318
(may be available in some bookshops but priced much higher).
Reviewed by LCDR Ron Robb, RAN (Rtd)
When Macarthur began his long march up to Japan it was obvious that his supply train could be in trouble. There would be a voracious need for everything from biscuits to bombs and most of it would have to be lifted by sea, but the war in Europe had priority. Moreover, much of the Pacific island-hopping would be across shallow beaches and inlets, often uncharted, and through narrow passages.
So began a bizarre press-gang trawl up the East Coast of Australia for anything small that could float. The impressment included anything from family motor launches up to coastal steamers. Their skippers ranged from weekend pleasure sailors to fully ticketed Merchant Navy Master Mariners. They were offered a non-refusable deal, usually on the spot: sell us your boat at the price we suggest or we’ll take it anyway. The crew were then usually signed-up as employees of Uncle Sam.
To get this arrangement up-and-running was basically the job of a couple of Officers of the US Army Transportation Corps (Water Division) but nearly all the crews were Australian. The main base for operations was Walsh Bay around the corner from Sydney Harbour Bridge. McHale’s Navy may well have had it genesis in the events and people described in this book.
The first couple of chapters give a useful overview of the whole saga, explaining why the organisation came into being and how it was established. The body of the book is then a well organised collection of ‘scrapbook’ items, recollections, and vignettes with a linking narrative to give a coherent progression. Maps help reader orientation and the list of ships and people is incredible.
Bill Lunney was himself part of the story, having falsified upwards his age of 15 to get involved in 1943 and 1944, so he writes with authority and inside knowledge. Ruth is a professional history teacher so understands the discipline of recording history.
This publication can be as desired, from a ‘pick-up-and-browse’ book to a serious detailed reference for the topic it covers. There are so many illustrations that the photographic record alone is useful and would in itself make a good book, but at the same time can provide a few minutes leisurely scanning to fill-in time over a cup of coffee. There is a comprehensive index and it is hard to imagine any worthwhile detail that may have been missed. Anybody familiar with, or interested in small boat operations and clandestine activities, especially in confined waters, will find plenty in this important record to engage their attention.