In 1922 Eric Feldt reluctantly left the Royal Australian navy (RAN) to go and see the world, in search of the adventure he could not find in the Navy. Little did he know at the time, his adventure was going to last for many years and make a massive difference to the outcome of the Japanese Invasion of the Pacific during World War II.
In the years after World War I wise men, mainly with ties to the RAN noted the activity taking place in New Guinea and the surrounding areas. They considered this was a serious concern based on Intelligence reports uncovered from WWI, which noted the ease in which hostile forces could very easily land on Australian shores, as the vast stretches of coastline were largely uninhabited.
A scheme was created by Naval Intelligence to utilise many of the people already living and working in New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and other smaller Islands to report any activity they may notice that was not normal. It was to be a voluntary force drawn from Postmasters, harbour masters, school teachers, plantation owners and many more.
They would report in on their radio sets or directly to the Post Master Generals Department in their area. They eventually became known as the Coast Watchers. At that time were never meant to be drawn into the theatre of war, but more than ten years after their formation, War came to the Pacific and these men, led by Eric Feldt, their Founder and Mentor, came to be a massive body of intelligence gathering for the Australian and American forces fighting in the Pacific.
Largely unrecognised by or in Australia, their story has been hidden in the archives gathering the dust of time. Michael Veitch has with great care and attention, researched the history of these brave men and woman, who often gave their lives or sanity, facing serious hardship, depravation and danger to send intelligence on the Japanese invasion of the Pacific region, which enabled so many times, successful missions to be launched by the Australian and American Air forces, downed airman to be rescued and bought to safety, and many civilians evacuated who had stayed on their plantations or Missions far too.
That their story is now being told is paying a long overdue tribute to men and women who asked for nothing but gave their all. Australia’s Secret Army presents in great style a slice of Australian history, like so much, that has long gone unrecognised and is a must read for anyone who has an interest in history, World War II or simply enjoys an excellent non-fiction read.