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Dark Secrets

The True Story of Murder in HMAS Australia

A dark secret lurked aboard HMAS Australia, the flagship of the Royal Australian Navy. In 1942, with a Japanese invasion looming, those aboard the ship were shocked and completely unprepared to deal with the brutal murder of a young sailor by two shipmates who were allegedly part of a homosexual group on the flagship. A swift military investigation and court martial were conducted. The officers faced a difficult, almost impossible task. How were they to prove the guilt of sailors accused of murdering a shipmate without exposing the motive for the crime, which would unleash embarrassing propaganda onto the world for the enemy to exploit? This would prove to be one of the most controversial events in the history of the Royal Australian Navy and trigger unprecedented legal and political events. But the real victim in this tragic story was the young sailor who was stabbed to death on the deck of Australia. He was a faceless victim, lost to the pages of history after he was buried at sea. However, family photographs now put a face to his name, and telegrams and letters reveal the full extent of this tragedy for his family. The full details of the murder, the names of the sailors involved in an alleged homosexual group on the flagship and the dark motive for his murder have been buried for more than two generations in the National Archives. The ultimate fate of the sailors convicted of his murder has also been hidden for far too long. It is well past time that the full story of the three sailors and what happened on board Australia that dark night on the Coral Sea in 1942 and afterwards is finally told.

Robert Hadler lives in the inner Melbourne suburb of Richmond. He is a former award-winning economics journalist who has worked in the Commonwealth Public Service, as a political adviser, a lobbyist for industry groups and senior executive roles in multinational companies. Since he retired in 2015, he has been a Director on Government, corporate and not-for-profit boards. However, his passion is writing about Australian history, and in particular controversial events that sparked military, legal and political challenges and triggered reforms that changed the future direction of the nation.

* Comparable title: The Drowned Man by Brendan James Murray (2016), Murder on HMAS Australia by Judith Crossland (2016). * Target audience is those interested in military and local Australian history as well as organisations and venues including Australian Centre of Armed Conflict and Society (Canberra), The National Archives (Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney), The Australian War Memorial (Canberra), Naval Historical Society of Australia (Sydney), The Shrine (Melbourne) etc. * The story remains important today because it explores the use and abuse of power by the military, bureaucrats and politicians – key issues still at play in Australia and overseas. It shows how our political and military leaders can do bad things to protect a country against perceived or real threats to the ‘national interest’ or the reputation of the military. It also shows how individuals, through timing, circumstance and ill-considered action can become hostage to bigger events and suffer at the hands of our political and military leaders. * Despite further legal reforms over the last 70 years, the Australian Constitution still gives important rights to the British Monarchy over Parliament and our military, and our alliance with the United States has put Australia at the front line in a strategic confrontation with China even though it is our major trading partner. This book shows that giving control over our legal and military affairs to other nations can have dire and unintended consequences for individuals and the country. The lesson is that we need to control our own destiny. * Targated Media: National Press Club to launch the book at an online or live event, COVID-19 dependent. * Coverage across Nine Media, SBS, ABC and SkyNews. * Extracts in News Ltd and Fairfax publications. *


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