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'This is my story, but it is also the story of thousands of Australian veterans from Iraq, East Timor, Afghanistan and other conflicts who bare similar emotional scars. This is what becomes of those men and women we send off to war, pay little attention to, then forget once they are home.'

As a country boy from Queensland, John Cantwell signed up to the army as a private and rose to the rank of major general. He was on the front line in 1991 as Coalition forces fitted bulldozer blades to tanks and buried alive Iraqi troops in their trenches. He fought in Baghdad in 2006 and saw what a car bomb does to a marketplace crowded with women and children. In 2010 he commanded the Australian forces in Afghanistan when ten of his soldiers were killed. He returned to Australia in 2011 to be considered for the job of chief of the Australian Army. Instead, he ended up in a psychiatric hospital.

Exit Wounds is the compassionate and deeply human account of one man's tour of the War on Terror, the moving story of life on a modern battlefield: from the nightmare of cheating death in a minefield, to the poignancy of calling home while under rocket fire in Baghdad, to the utter despair of looking into the face of a dead soldier before sending him home to his mother. He has hidden his post traumatic stress disorder for decades, fearing it will affect his career.

Australia has been at war for the past twenty years and yet there has been no stand-out account from these conflicts—Exit Wounds is it. Raw, candid and eye-opening, no one who reads this book will be unmoved, nor forget its imagery or words.


This is a valuable book—and a limited number of books are valuable in this way.

Gerard Windsor, The Saturday Age

Cantwell never fails to convey a sense of the heroic in his soldiers. His pride in the troops is unwavering.

Portia Lindsay, The Weekend Australian

This well-written, highly readable account...is a chronicle of Australia's recent involvement in world conflicts and how our soldiers suffered...

Michael Roser, Chronicle

A gripping and captivating account brimming with stories covering the full range of emotions from excitement to anger to elation, to despair and to love. Cantwell pulls no punches in revealing his inner thoughts and fears and in describing his many trials and tribulations.

Dr John Blaxland, Australian Army Journal

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    October 1, 2012

    Melbourne University Press

    388 pages

    RRP $34.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
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    • Books Kinokuniya
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    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

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Exit Wounds Updated Edition
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