Although 10 years have passed since the first edition of Richard Pelvin's compilation of images depicting (mostly) Australians in WWII it is well worth a second look.
This edition, which appears to be identical to the first including the rather clunky foreword by the then Australian War Memorial director, Steve Gower, has been nicely timed to coincide with next year's centenary of Anzac and the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII.
It should appeal to a fresh new generation of readers who have come of age since it first hit the shelves as well as those who may have missed it last time.
I found, despite having looked through it years ago, that once picked up it is hard to put down.
The principal reason for this is that Pelvin has a remarkably good eye for a photo with the result that each and every one of the more than 500 photos scattered across about 260 pages is a winner.
It is unfortunate that because as many as six, but most often two or three, pictures are published to a page they are not always displayed as effectively as one might like.
That decision would have been the publishers', not Pelvin's, however, and he deserves credit for having brought together a series of images that tell much of the story of Australia's participation in a relatively seamless narrative.
As the 7th Division advanced on Lae overland from Nadzab, the 9th Division disembarked from a landing ship's tank at Lae, Papua New Guinea, on September 5, 1945. Lae was the first Australian amphibious operation since Gallipoli.
His ability to pick a photo that tells a story is understandable given he was the curator of official records at the Australian War Memorial from 1997 to 2002.
This experience shows and while Second World War does not qualify as an official Australian War Memorial publication it is probably the next best thing.
While guns and gadgets, planes and bombs and ships and boats abound, an inevitable result of trying to document the first mechanised war, the best photographs are those that zoom in on some of the millions of individuals whose lives would never be the same again.
A prime example of this is the picture of two battle-hardened Diggers reproduced opposite the foreword and itself a detail of a shot of three men published full frame (pic No. 395) in the latter part of the book.
Gaunt and weary, the soldiers are looking through the camera to a point that appears distant in both space and time.
Pelvin's caption says all that needs to be said: "The thousand-yard stare. The strain of close combat shows on the faces of the infantrymen of the 2/12th Battalion. They had just helped to silence a Japanese mountain gun on Mt Prothero [in New Guinea] on January 22, 1944"...
- The thousand-yard stare: The strain of the close combat shows on the faces of the infantrymen of the 2/12th Battalion. They had just helped to silence a Japanese mountain gun on Mount Prothero on January 22, 1944.
- Nursing sisters were evacuated from Singapore before the capitulation but this was to lead to tragedy - as shown by the fates of these sisters of the 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station, 8th Division photographed at Tangog, Singapore, on January 20, 1942.
- Pilots being trained on De Havilland DH-82 Tiger Moths at No. 6 Elementary Flying Training School, Tamworth.
- As the 7th Division advanced on Lae overland from Nadzab, the 9th Division disembarked from a landing ship's tank at Lae, Papua New Guinea, on September 5, 1945. Lae was the first Australian amphibious operation since Gallipoli.