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WE BAND OF BROTHERS

REVIEWS AND COMMENTS

Dr Peter C D Southern
Head Master, Christ’s Hospital, Horsham, West Sussex, United Kingdom
Website: www.christs-hospital.org.uk/

...that excellent book We Band of Brothers, which I have enjoyed immensely. Needless to say, nearly everything in it is foreign territory to me, but it is written in such a direct and matter-of-fact way that even those who have never shared such an experience cannot fail to be moved by it. I have been reading Edmund Blunden’s Undertones of War with my Little Erasmus historians* and there are many points of contact and similarity.

I have no doubt that pupils and many others will encounter We Band of Brothers in the school library and find that it makes a deep impression on them.

*thirteen- year-olds studying history at Christ’s Hospital.


Review by J.H. Farrell
Editor
Australian & NZ Defender Magazine
Issue No 33

Vietnam is finally getting the close attention it deserves in Australia. Perhaps enough time has elapsed to allow for a less emotional discourse on the war.

Most writings on the Australian Defence Force’s role in Vietnam have concentrated on text, but Brian McFarlane’s excellent We Band of Brothers differs from the rest in the quantity and quality of the assembled images within its pages.

We Band of Brothers is a multi-role publication, ostensibly a record of the military service of Brian McFarlane, but with an excellent Tour Book of Charlie Company 6RAR during the battalion’s first tour of Vietnam in 66/67.

McFarlane was conscripted in 1951 but was soon sent into officer training. During his 25 year stint he served in Malaya with 2RAR, conducted two tours of Vietnam and time in PNG with the Pacific Islands Regiment and the Oman Gendarmerie – all up a very exciting life.

What makes We Band of Brothers exceptional is the images. McFarlane really packs them in. The book is worth the cover price for the pics which are outstanding.

McFarlane’s writing is nice and sharp and he tells the story well, bouncing from happier moments to the serious story of staying alive during 6RAR’s intensive Ops in the 66/67 period.

We Band of Brothers is self published, but the production quality is excellent and well worth it for any serious student of the Australian Defence Forces during the post WW2 period.


Robert O’Neill
Infantryman, and formerly
Chichele Professor of the History of War
All Souls College – Oxford

Congratulations on the production… It is a splendid account of an era that we have both lived through, and I have enjoyed seeing the faces of many old friends and reading of their exploits in the Army, both in peace and war.

You have brought off a very ambitious project with great skill. It succeeds both as a personal story and as a mirror of the Army during the Cold War-Hot War period. You must have worked very hard at it – the text is so comprehensive, yet easy to read – and the illustrations excellent – not least the two end paper maps which took me back to recce patrol days in a flash, with sweat pouring out of us, ruining our maps unless we had covered them in plastic. I can see a little of the red earth of Phuoc Tuy under the tape on the 1:50,000 sheets inside the front cover. I still use one of mine with similar embellishments when lecturing on the Vietnam War.


R.R. (Ross) Harding
Army Aviator

Digger James puts it very well in the foreword and I would not disagree with any of it. My time in Vietnam was with a US Army Combat Aviation Battalion in the Delta… I spent most days watching the Vietnamese soldiers and their US Army advisors climbing aboard my Iroquois and then leaping out into a "hot" area. Usually in the afternoons. We would extract others. A number of the lightly wounded were sometimes among them and, less frequently, we had to take out our own crews. Twice I was one of the latter. Yet, except when working through the night, we were always back in our relatively comfortable barracks – some of them air-conditioned – when the day was done. Reading your accounts has reinforced my impression of me being a lucky chap. More importantly, the clarity of your story-telling offered an opportunity, tinged with awe, to appreciate and admire the Australian Infantryman. This is not in any way to imply that the remainder of your book is not well worth the reading, but having been an infantry trainee in the AIF, it is the Army part of your book that sharpens my focus.

...You certainly deserve the accolades of those whose written opinions are already available. I am chuffed at having a copy on my bookshelf and hope for an opportunity, with due deference, to request that you sign it for me one day...


G.D.W. (Jock) Irvine
Infantryman

I have just finished reading We Band of Brothers and I would like to pass on my thanks for a thoroughly engrossing read. I agree with all that your reviewers have said on the dust-cover and would add that, personally, it revives so many memories which otherwise have faded, if not disappeared entirely, in their detail. You have done a magnificent job and have made that part of military history come alive as opposed to being a mere record of facts...

... I should also add that much of the book fills in gaps in my knowledge of some events. Needless to say, I found these to be of particular interest and I am therefore also indebted to you for these revelations.

A passing, and very general note, concerns National Servicemen. I share your admiration for them, in particular, their reaction to Vietnam service...


David Black
Son of a member of
C Company 6RAR

... My father is Mal Black who served with you in Charlie Company in Vietnam. I am writing to you after having finished your most enjoyable book, We Band of Brothers...

... Until I read your book I have had very limited knowledge of Dad’s service and what took place in Vietnam, particularly at a section level. Through your writing I learnt that Dad was a very professional soldier as he is a role model for my brother and I...

In my opinion your book was very well written. It is humorous, descriptive and for a civvy very easy to understand. Thank you for bringing to the fore some of the things my father did. I have always been very proud of Dad and what he achieved as a soldier and I see him now in your light and not so much in mine

Finally congratulations on your excellent book and I wish you all the very best for the future.


P.N.D. (Peter) White
Infantryman

I read We Band of Brothers with great interest and enjoyment. As a fellow infantryman who served in many of the places you mention, in particular Malaya, Vietnam and Papua New Guinea, your writing gives a wonderful picture of the trials and tribulations of the Australian soldier. Your Vietnam section of the book was outstanding. It is a great credit to you.


D.E. (Don) Campbell
National Service Infantryman

I enjoyed your book immensely. It was a great effort.

Your 2kg tome landed on my doorstep the Friday before Christmas – lucky my foot wasn’t in the doorway – and I spent the next week immersed in it, almost to the exclusion of the rest of the family at Christmas. “Who is this man” they wanted to know “And who the heck is Charlie Company? Why write a book?” And like many of the other C Company boys I'm glad you did...


J.C.S. (Paddy) Hallinan
Infantryman

Have recently finished reading We Band of Brothers. I enjoyed it very much and I thought you would welcome some favourable feedback.

It brought back many memories of days gone by, some very good and some not so good. It all seems like such a long while ago now.


J.C. (John) Harding
Infantryman

What a magnificent effort! I thoroughly enjoyed We Band of Brothers and you reminded me of many people and events I had long forgotten. What a daunting task to even contemplate, let alone complete...

Congratulations once again on a wonderful effort. I can't remember the astronomical amount you made me pay for it but it was worth every cent. I hold you in the highest admiration.


Grant McFarlane
18 year-old son of a national service member of
C Company 6RAR
(No relation to the Author)
Writing in the 6RAR Association quarterly magazine Stand To

We Band of Brothers by Brian McFarlane is not your typical book about war. It does not focus on how many soldiers died, how many ships were sunk or how many aircraft were shot down, instead it focuses on the mateship and camaraderie amongst a group of young men who with no choice in the matter were put into a foreign country to fight a war they knew little about.

Brian McFarlane traces his life from growing up in Sydney to joining the army and serving in Malaya, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam. Along the way he recalls various events such as operations in Vietnam, his dislike for authority and various humorous events such as him losing his beer when he fell into a trench and a hundred infantry soldiers dropping their pants in the jungle to remove leeches from a sensitive part of the body.

Of particular interest to me was learning that Australian soldiers served in Papua New Guinea during the 1960’s and at various places in Malaya during the same period. Also it was insightful to learn of events in Australia while the soldiers were away in Vietnam such as the “punch a postie” campaign and “write to the local member” for more toilet paper in Vietnam for the soldiers.

By reading We Band of Brothers it has provided an insight into what army life was like in the battlefield which was interesting for an outsider like me.

I would recommend We Band of Brothers to anyone.


R.F. (Ray) Stuart
Infantryman

Have just finished reading your We Band of Brothers. Congratulations! You have done the Army a great service, and you have certainly done me and many other of your colleagues and friends from Army days a great service. It was a most evocative read, particularly in a small but significant way for me as an ex-Sydney-sider: I related well to your early days, having served with 2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, straight after graduation at Holsworthy 1960-61, before going to the Pacific Islands Regiment. A magnificent photo of me incidentally on page 174! I too cannot place the “unknown” in this photo.


Review by Corporal Jonathan Garland
Army Newspaper
Edition 1031
19 July 2001
Page 24

A LIVELY PERSONAL HISTORY

We Band of Brothers, subtitled A True Australian Adventure Story, is essentially one man’s memoirs. A large part of it concerns the Australian Army because a large part of the author’s life has been intricately intertwined with the military but this book could be described as the collection of one man’s personal history for the education and benefit of his family.

As the author says about his grand-nieces and -nephews, “It strikes me that the poor little things will never know what a lively past their old great-uncle had unless I leave a record”.

And a lively past it is. There is a great deal here to interest the soldier or military historian as well. The author had a long career in a variety of interesting postings and writes about them in a manner that is informative and interesting.

He describes WW2 from his perspective as a boy, going on to talk about his days as a Nasho, at OCS Portsea, various postings within Australia and deployments to Malaya, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam.

This is a pretty big book. It looks more like a reference work than an adventure story and that was the frame of mind in which I first approached it. But while there’s much here that could be used as reference, that isn't the way it's written.

The author has written a story based around the thread of his life – where he was, what he saw, when it happened and who was there. At the same time, he has provided the background to events on a national and international scale. One of the most interesting touches for me was the occasional mention of popular songs of the day.

Many former soldiers will find they have a link to events in this book, such as places they have been, people they have known or even situations they recognise from their own past. Many non-soldiers will find here a window into service life and a well-written modern history from the perspective of one man, rather than an impersonal reference text.

We Band of Brothers is too big to read in one sitting, which doesn’t matter. It’s worth visiting more than once.


Review by Bruce Plummer
in the RSL Magazine - Reveille
The Voice of New South Wales Ex-Servicemen and Women
Volume 74, No 5, Sep/Oct 2001

This very large book is an extremely detailed autobiography by a man who set out to enter the priesthood, but instead became a career soldier. Not only is it a personal story but it is an accurate historical Australian military record which is also well illustrated. While McFarlane’s story is entertaining it will become a valuable reference source in your library as well.

Much of the book is devoted quite naturally to the training and active service of the Australian Army in Vietnam, where he served as OC Charlie Company of 6RAR. His descriptions of the actions with which he was associated expose us to an unprecedented insight into our part in this war. One cannot help but feel completely drained mentally after reading this incredible ball by ball description of the battle of Long Tan, where a massive force of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese were poised ready to annihilate the Australian base at Nui Dat. You will agonise over the plight of the unfortunate D Company, pinned down and taking heavy casualties, and you will marvel at the subsequent outcome where an impending disaster was converted into a massive defeat of the enemy on a scale which must make Long Tan a victory of the utmost importance in the annals of Australian military history.


M.L. (Mick) Folkard
Infantryman

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Lesley says she has not heard me have such hearty laughs for a while. I will certainly be recommending it to all my former Army associates.


G.R. (Graham) Lovegrove
Armoured Corps

I am reaching the end of a slow but most enjoyable read of We Band of Brothers. ... I have found it interesting, thought provoking and instructive. ... I enjoyed the pre-OCS chapters every bit as much as those dealing with your Army life. I had a copy of the book placed in the Nambucca Heads Library... I know that Brian Ranking, Gerry Salom, Don Atkinson, and Paul York of course, have read it and no doubt Jock Jenvey, David Drabsch, Ross Buchan, and Bob Hagerty (of the black umbrella in the book), who all live locally, will read it if they have not already done so.


The Vietnam Veteran Newsletter

September 2001

A remarkable, well researched, account of life for the diggers on the battlefields of Vietnam. Brian McFarlane takes us on a journey from cradle, to call-up as a National Serviceman, then on to officer training, and into service in Malaya, Papua New Guinea, then to the command of C Company 6RAR in Vietnam. Woven into this story is the compelling detail of life in the Royal Australian Regiment, with a new generation of National Servicemen, and the Regular Soldier, side by side, in battle. Both a detailed historical work, and an adventure of one man's life, Brian McFarlane succeeds in removing the boredom of historical analysis with a clever blend of his own experiences, and the stories of others he met along the way. He treats major battles such as Long Tan, and the Minefield fiasco with obvious truth, and comments in hindsight.

His very readable story is a fascinating account of Army life before, during and after war. It will interest many, from the ranks who were there, to the average person with no military training or background at all. A must for students wishing to explore and investigate a period of twenty years of Australia's involvement in South East Asia.

Six years in the making, the book is a grand, A4 size, hard cover, coffee-table presentation and includes 375,000 words, with 550 photographs, some in colour.


WARTIME
Australian War Memorial Magazine

Issue 16

Summer 2001

Despatches: A magnificent band of brothers... Another wonderful project of a member of The Australian War Memorial ANZAC Foundation has come to light. Brian McFarlane, of Bowral, NSW, has produced a magnificent book, We Band of Brothers - A True Australian Adventure Story. One is not supposed to be able to judge a book by its cover, but the generous dimensions of this book’s hardcover and the 12 photographic images on it, speak volumes. For there is nothing small about it. Containing 450 pages, a 28 page index, 12 maps and countless photographs, it is a magnum opus...


Brian Kelly
Infantryman

We Band of Brothers. What a great read. I thoroughly enjoyed every word... Your depiction of the personalities I knew was quite exceptional. This was one of the great pleasures of the book for me. ... Congratulations on a beautifully edited and presented book.


W.T.C. (Wally) Thompson
Infantryman and erstwhile Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army

We Band of Brothers is well worth the read... The book gives coverage of the history of soldiering in the fifties and sixties by following a young Australian through his military career from school cadet to commanding a rifle company in war. As seen through the eyes of an infantryman, the Vietnam chapters are pure insight into the war and the calibre of the men who fought it. The professionalism and bravery described, and the wonderful “digger” humour are an inspiration to any reader.


K.M. (Kevin) McDonald
Royal Australian Corps of Signals

I have just read We Band of Brothers. Congratulations on a terrific read. Not only that of your own career and the many familiar names, but the very moving account of an infantry company in and out of operations. Your retention of detail and depth of research are prodigious.


J.S. (Mick) Rooney
Royal Australian Corps of Signals

I purchased your book We Band of Brothers prior to Christmas. I must say I enjoyed reading it and congratulate you on its scope and excellence. Having had a few non-corps postings, I knew many of the characters you wrote about. I particularly enjoyed reading the story of your “welcome” to the Officer Cadet School at Portsea and the game that was played out by the staff. I arrived at OCS the week after the start of the first course and participated in the “welcoming” of five more courses. Each time, the same game was played out... Once again, a great book!


Rodney T. Knott
Royal Australian Navy
Co-author with Noel Payne of “The Vung Tau Ferry”

... I have nothing but praise for the effort you have put in to make this a wonderful contribution to the book world in general and to the military history of the nation in particular. BZ is the highest praise you can receive from a naval person and my BZ comes in spades.


R.L. (Ray) Burnard
Infantryman

I have just finished reading my Christmas present from Eileen, which I found enthralling, entertaining and so very readable. Congratulations on writing and producing such a superb book. You must be delighted that the time, effort and money you devoted to the book have resulted in such a great success. I hope many young soldiers read your book as it encapsulates so clearly the ethos of the Australian infantryman in the Vietnam era.