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The First at War

This is the story of the men of the 2/1st Australian Infantry Battalion 1939 – 1945

The men of the 2/1st Australian Infantry Battalion have given permission for a second print of their book, “The First at War”. This is the story of the men who were first to volunteer for Australia in 1939 and fought the enemy in North Africa, Greece, Crete, Syria and over the Kokoda Trail. It is a story of tough and determined men and their leaders who were still engaging the enemy when the war ended in August 1945.

This book will make a wonderful Christmas / Birthday gift and would be a reminder to the families of all Australians of the debt that is owed to these men.

Available from 15th October 2010.

Members special rates available.

To order your copy please send cheque / money order to:
Mike Waldron
P O Box 134, WANGI WANGI NSW 2267

0425213045

‘Dr. NX22 -Memoirs of an Australian Doctor in Peace and War’ – C.H. ‘Tom’ Selby
ISBN 9780980-681925

RRP $35.00 Available from Roger Selby, 7 Woodford Street, LONGUEVILLE,
NSW 2066 – Email roger@selbyonline.com
Review by Lex McAulay

This book will have special significance for those original ‘Second Firsters’ from 1939-41. Tom Selby was the RMO through the early years from formation of the battalion, sailing on the first convoy, to Bardia, Tobruk, Greece and Crete. The book is worth reading for these events alone.

Tom Selby qualified as a doctor in 1933, then went to England to acquire extra experience and qualifications, returned to Australia and enlisted when war was declared, with the very low regimental number of NX22. He ended the war as a Lieutenant Colonel commanding a Field Ambulance in the Wewak campaign. He then went into private practice in North Sydney, retired in 1985 and died in 1996.

All his life, Tom Selby was interested in ships, and part of the memoirs describe his voyages on the pre-war liners, through to wartime journeys, to his love of sailing on Sydney Harbour. He made his way to England, and returned, by volunteering as a ship’s doctor. In those days, part of the fun was being at sea on what was a ship, rather than the floating hotel-palaces of today.

Another interesting part of the book is that the aspects of State Heath bureaucracies Tom Selby criticised in the 1970s and 1980s remain today! Here again the book is worth it for this segment alone.

Many years after the war, one of Tom Selby’s commanders remarked that he never understood why Selby did not receive the decorations for which he was recommended. When Defence files were available to the public, Tom Selby requested a copy of his file and found that recommendations for awards to him, approved by senior officers including the division commander, had been down-graded personally by General Blamey to MID. This was pay-back from some of the pompous incompetents in the senior ranks of the RAAMC who had been shown to be both liars and incompetent by Tom Selby. The records showed that Tom Selby had been Mentioned in Despatches four times.

One of Tom Selby’s ‘accomplishments’ was that all Allied maritime unloading and construction work at Milne Bay was halted and all work force available was placed under his command, despite his junior rank, until adequate field latrines and sanitation had been constructed to his standards. In later years he was introduced as the man who had everything stopped until the shithouses were built….

So I can recommend this book for several reasons. First, for the link to all members of the Association, and especially for those originals of the 2/1st still with us, and secondly for the account of the experiences of a suburban GP. But thirdly, this is a window into a society now gone. This is its real value. The book is available from Tom’s son Roger, at the address above.

(Disclosure: I edited the memoirs for Benn. Lex McAulay)