Did the wind blow the flies away? Plus history retrieved, and Spurr revisited.

Yesterday afternoon we copped what apparently was the tail end of the super storm that had hit southern Australia earlier – particularly Adelaide and Melbourne. Yes, the wind did howl:


Parts of Sydney were much more affected: Cars crushed and power cut to thousands in windstorm in Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

This morning I noticed that the annoying flies that bothered me so in my morning walks the last few days seem to have almost all gone. Blown away to somewhere north of here?

History retrieved

I thought this was great: Eric Geddes: Sole survivor of WWII RAAF aircrew wins fight to erase historic slur over Savo Island bloodbath.

An Australian World War II veteran’s long campaign to clear a slur against his air crew is finally over, after United States Navy historians sent him a letter clearing him of not alerting the Americans that Japanese ships were heading towards Solomon Islands.

Two years ago, 7.30 told the story of Eric Geddes, who served as radio operator and gunner on an RAAF Lockheed Hudson based in Milne Bay, New Guinea during WWII.

On August 8, 1942 his crew spotted and reported a Japanese attack fleet heading towards the US Marines force that had just landed at Guadalcanal.

That night, the Japanese went on to rout Allied ships off Guadalcanal, sinking four cruisers, including the HMAS Canberra, killing more than 1,000 sailors.

The battle of Savo Island, as it became known, was the Allies’ worst naval defeat of the war.

An influential US historian, writing after the war, falsely accused Mr Geddes and his crew of failing to promptly report their sighting.

In his 15-volume account of the US Navy’s World War II actions, Rear Admiral Samuel Morison wrote: “The pilot of this plane, instead of breaking silence to report, as he had orders to do in an urgent case, or returning to base which he could have done in two hours, spent most of the afternoon completing his search mission, came down at Milne Bay, had his tea, and then reported the contact.”

The implication was that the Australian crew’s tardiness contributed to the effectiveness of the surprise Japanese attack…


Mr Geddes received a letter from the Naval History and Heritage Command, within the US Department of the Navy.

I wanted to be able to assure him that there’s a lot of history out there that provides a very different take and interpretation of events regarding the Hudson and sightings.

Greg Martin, assistant director of the US Naval  History and Heritage Command

It contains these vital lines: “A new generation of naval historians is questioning previous works, such as that of Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison, often written too close to the end of a recently completed campaign … RADM Morison’s criticism, in particular, was unwarranted.”

The letter is from Greg Martin, the assistant director of the US Naval History and Heritage Command, in Washington.

See program and transcript.

ERIC GEDDES: It was the first communication that anybody in the States ever sent me, the one and only communication. And I wrote a lot of letters.
ADAM HARVEY: It’s taken this long because at the heart of the Savo Island disaster is an uncomfortable truth.
CHRIS CLARK: They were outfought by the Japanese; it’s as simple as that. The Japanese were a better navy than the American Navy or the Australian Navy at that time.
ADAM HARVEY: And with this letter, Eric Geddes’ war is finally over.
ERIC GEDDES: I look at life this way: we all have an Everest to climb. I’ve climbed my Everest. And on the other side, it’s all downhill, it’s slippery and it’s fast. I think I can go with a smile on my face.

Media Watch does Barry Spurr

An excellent sequel to my earlier posts: “The row surrounding Barry Spurr’s emails published by New Matilda promises to be a landmark case with important implications for the media and the public.”

So what will happen? Well, when the battle over Spurr’s emails returns to court in December, it’s possible we’ll discover that the media’s freedom to publish material that’s private but in the public interest is much more restricted than we thought.

And then … Professor McDonald says perhaps a little optimistically

… the case may go up to the High Court:

… and the court may well consider whether there should be a broader public interest defence in Australia, as there is in the UK, and effectively change the law.

— Professor Barbara McDonald, Australian Law Reform, Statement to Media Watch, 24th October, 2014