THERE’S been countless books about the daring exploits of Australian troops in World War II, but what about the unsung heroes back home?
Perth author Gary Mentiplay shines a light on the resilient Aussies who coped with years of shortages and rationing in his latest book Australia in the 1940s – Life on the Home Front.
“One of the motivations in writing the book was to record something of the home front for the benefit of the younger generations in the 21st century – the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the World War II generation,” he says.
“They will then gain an idea of the environment that existed during the 1940s in Australia.”
Written in chronological order from 1939-1948, the book meticulously documents the austerity measures that affected Australia, including an acute rubber shortage from 1942-46 that prevented motorists from buying tyres, and the continuation of petrol rationing after the war.
Mentiplay takes a look at motoring, road and rail transport issues that have not been covered in great detail in the past.
Being at war didn’t stop natural catastrophes like bushfires, floods and droughts wreaking havoc in Australia.
And in 1945 there was a tragic plane crash in Perth, just months before the war ended.
At the time it was one of the worst air disasters in Australian history.
“There were ten US servicemen and three US Red Cross women on board,” Mentiplay says.
“There was bad fog and shortly after take off from Guildford airport the DC-3 crashed into Gooseberry Hill and everyone on board was killed.
“The plane crashed only a few hundred metres from an occupied house.”
Mentiplay, 69, is a retired security officer who previously wrote BMC Leyland in Western Australia and spent more than two years researching his latest tome.
“My parents served in the Australian armed forces during the war: my father was in the army and my mother was in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force,” he says.
“Their generation had grown up and lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s, which hit Australia particularly hard.
“They were used to shortages and ‘making do’ – hard times produce resilient people.”
The book mostly focuses on the home front, but also includes war briefs and war news inserts to give perspective on the state of the war at that time.
Mentiplay will give a talk on his book, Australia in the 1940s – Life on the Home Front, at ANZAC Cottage in Mount Hawthorn next Sunday (August 30) 1.30pm-4pm.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK