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The cruiser HMAS Australia II and the Pacific War on Japan

The cruiser HMAS Australia II and the Pacific War on Japan

In 1924 the grand old battle cruiser HMAS Australia I, once the pride of the nation, was sunk off Sydney Heads. She had saved Australia from a German attack in the Pacific in World War I, but after the war she was a victim in the race to disarm. There was a day of national mourning when they blew the bottom out of her.

In 1928 the RAN acquired a new ship of the same name, the fast, heavy cruiser HMAS Australia II, and she finally saw action when World War II began, patrolling the North Atlantic on the lookout for German battleships.

By March 1942 Australia had returned home, where the ship was stunned by a murder. One night one of her sailors, Stoker Riley, was found stabbed and bleeding to death. Before he died, he named his two attackers, who'd tried to kill him because, he said, he'd threatened to expose their homosexual activities. At a hastily arranged court martial, the two men were found guilty and sentenced to death under British Admiralty law.

Only weeks later Australia fought in the Battle of the Coral Sea near Papua New Guinea, the first sea battle to stop the Japanese advance in the Pacific. She was heavily attacked and bombed from the air but, with brilliant ship-handling, escaped unscathed. In 1944 she took part in the greatest sea fight of all time, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which returned the American General Douglas MacArthur to the Philippines. She was struck by a kamikaze bomber, killing her captain and 28 other men. The next year, she was hit by no fewer than four kamikaze planes on four successive days. She was, in fact, attacked by more kamikaze aircraft than any other Allied ship in the war, and in the end this finished her war.

She retired gracefully, laden with battle honours, and was scrapped in 1956 – the last of her name, for the navy no longer uses Australia for its ships. In this riveting book, with his inimitable panache and flawless research Mike Carlton tells the story of Australia, which encompasses the era's fascinating naval and social history.

Reviews

Author and broadcaster Mike Carlton has a lifelong commitment to Australian naval history. Flagship is his third book in a magnificent four-part series ... Meticulously researched, finely written and well-structured ...utterly absorbing. Carefully placed in historical context by Carlton, our naval exploits during World War II are intertwined with fascinating individual life stories ... Carlton also deals in sensitive detail with a number of Japanese admirals and commanders, as well as their crew and families.

Ross Fitzgerald, Australian

Mike Carlton is now distinguished by his own efforts with the pen as an able chronicler of the Royal Australian Navy ... [his] skills -- together with his empathetic assessments of our naval traditions -- are again prominent in his new book, Flagship ... an impressive book in a number of dimensions ... Carlton moves briskly and purposefully, with a clear determination to tell not only the story of Australia and her sister ships, but of the RAN at that point in our military history when imperial reliance upon Britain evolved into the challenge of alliance with the emerging power of the United States.

Stephen Loosley, The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Why is there such a blind spot in the general knowledge of the RAN’s role in the Pacific? What accounts for this national amnesia? It may owe much to the lack, until now, of one good book which is available and easily read by any who wish to learn what happened to Australian sailors at war in the Pacific. Australia’s naval history in World War II is a significant part of the nation’s story and deserves to be formally taught to each generation. Flagship is the book every school could use for this purpose.

Australian Naval Institute

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Formats & editions

  • Hardback

    9780857987778

    August 1, 2016

    William Heinemann Australia

    656 pages

    RRP $49.99

    Online retailers

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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9780857987792

    August 1, 2016

    Random House Australia

    656 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
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    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo
  • Trade Paperback

    9780857987785

    August 14, 2017

    William Heinemann Australia

    656 pages

    RRP $34.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

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The Last of Her Kind

Mike Carlton introduces the incredible story of the Flagship HMAS Australia II.

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Floating Past

Breathtaking Australian naval histories told by journalist Mike Carlton.

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