March 17, 2024

Rawness and honesty

Voices of Australian Veterans resonated with me straight away. My father's uncle Alan Jones was a NZ serviceman during WWII. He was only 18, when captured, thirty six hours out of Auckland Harbour, becoming a POW. To imagine what that must have felt like for him, impossible! To read the very personal stories from the 18 war veterans in Brian’s book made me very emotional and appreciative. The rawness and honesty that Brian has captured, is priceless. Each veteran, recounting their stories, overcoming personal fears, holding onto mateship while dealing with immense stress and personal pain. The strength of character and a genuine belief that what they were signing up for, was in the interests of their loved ones, freedom and peace. Sadly, I don’t believe that this level of selflessness would happen in today’s world.

The book is well researched and provides an historical record not just for war enthusiasts, but would be of interest to a wider range of readers like myself. I have already promised to lend my copy to a 94yr old customer named Don. He said he would enjoy the book immensely and I will continue to recommend this book, Brian to other people.

Thank you for allowing me to give my feedback. Well done on a brilliant, thought provoking, piece of writing, I loved it!

Toni McIntosh

March 12, 2024

Resourcefulness and larrikinism of Australians in the services

Brian is an accomplished author with many books to his credit. He is a long serving member of The Forest Lake & Districts RSL Sub Branch and a local resident. As a young man in the early 1950s he was conscripted into the First Battalion, Gordon Highlanders and after a sojourn in Demark was posted to Cyprus during the “Cyprus Emergency” 1955-1959, a rebellion against British Rule inflicting losses of some 370 British Military personnel. It was his service with the Gordon Highlanders that led to the publishing of his military experience in his book, “A Gordon for Me” ISBN: 978-190154-46-9. Over the years he has published many books as an educator in Scotland, the Solomon Islands. Papua New Guinea, ultimately settling in Australia.

Brian recognised that ‘veterans’ of the Club covered a broad experience of military service within the Navy, Army and Air Force, encompassing conflicts from WW2 to Vietnam. Over the past few years, he has compiled the accounts of eighteen members who served in those conflicts. Each account is preceded with an introduction by the author followed by a first hand detailed description of the individual’s thoughts and experiences of their involvement, making the accounts more meaningful and informative. Many of the anecdotes described by the veterans relate to everyday life both in and out of the services, how they developed their post schooling skillset, entry into the services, and their subsequent return to civilian life. Capitalizing on their service knowledge, they interfaced into the community and their post-service employment. Brian preyed on the resourcefulness and larrikinism of the individuals, an asset that Australians use to their advantage, particularly in the services.

Check with your local book store for copies of Brian’s books.

Mal Lynch

March 10, 2024

Interesting and Enjoyable

Having served in the Royal Australian Navy in the 1960s, I can understand much of the lingo of the three Services, Navy, Army and Air-force and their stories are being told with some of that lingo where we all know of its meanings.

This does make their stories much more interesting to the readers and enjoyable, I’m for much more of these stories as they need to be told, sadly some may never be told, for so many reasons.

I too thank each of them for their service for this great country of ours and not forgetting the authors work with the narrative, very well done each and all.

Tas Browning

March 07, 2024

I enjoyed Voices of Australian Veterans

Brian, I feel compelled to write to you and express how much I have enjoyed your Voices of Australian Veterans. It is an excellent example of all those who have served in our Armed Forces for Australia in many different areas and ways.

You outlined which areas they served in, either Navy, Army or Air Force and then their return to civie street. It was of great interest how they adjusted after serving. Most of course, married and started to produce the next batch of veterans! I was able to introduce you to some of those who served before you wrote the book and their inclusion in it, was very much appreciated by them. I have also met many other veterans who served and all appear to be well adjusted and enjoying life with all its ups and downs since serving their country.

You are to be complimented on the way you have presented the service of these eighteen individuals and their adjustment back into civilian life. Voices of Australian Veterans does this very well and I hope I assisted you in some small way to complete the book. My help in the production of this book makes me very proud.

What a privilege it was to have met you through our sub-branch of the RSL many years ago and now able to present, with you, Voices of Australian Veterans.

George Churchward

February 29, 2024

Very informative and interesting

Congratulations to Brian on this very informative and interesting look into those men who have served their country in very different ways.

The use of oral testimony is particularly informative and really highlights these ordinary men who have lived through, and participated in, some of the most extraordinary times of the 20th Century. Service in the military is such a personal experience and is remembered differently by veterans and so it is in Voices of Australian Veterans; there is danger, stress, and horror, along with the laughter and much lighter moments which make their memories so rich.

Brian has pulled together memories of joining and serving in the Australian ADF, along with the historical and economic background which is clear and concise in its recording of our military history. These featured men have gone on to lead happy and productive lives in their post military years and acknowledged the part their training and service played in their post RAAF and Army successes.

I wish Brian every success with this well written and researched memorial to these men, and all who have served.

Dr Sharron Spargo PhD
Author of Birdies: The Australian Fleet Air Arm
Historian and Author

February 29, 2024

Voices of Australian Veterans need to be heard

Brian Robertson, in his new book, Voices of Australian Veterans, has captured the essence of an extraordinary group of men who fought for Australia from WWII, onwards through the occupation of Japan, the Korean War, the Malaysian uprising, the nuclear testing by Britain in South Australia, to the Vietnam war.

The stories have been retold to Brian, and he pays homage to each man by adding a covenant to their true stories – these men who stood up for all Australians. Brian also adds some additional information in accompanying histories of the how’s and why’s of each war.

“We were taught to hate with a passion, and we did,” are the words of one of the soldiers. This sums up why we go to war. On reflection, many things come to mind – not only the horrors of war - but the resilience of these men. Some incidents in the forces are amusing to the men. One incident where a moustache was burnt off the face of a soldier whilst setting fire to bitumen. The aftermath of war – the civilian lives - tell success stories. One stands out how one man became an international dog judge – as far from war as you could possibly imagine.

Voices of Australian Veterans, need to be heard.

Judith Flitcroft

February 29, 2024

Fascinating Collection

We are fortunate indeed that Brian Robertson made the effort to compile this fascinating collection of Voices of Australian Veterans.

It is a primary source of information about the everyday experience of individual soldiers in times of war.

The dialogue is crisp and clear, and the veteran’s voices ring true.

Kenneth Price

January 31, 2019


Having as a 7 year old child being told stories by my late grandfather of service in WWI, of battles where weapons were frozen, of him carrying wounded onto the beaches for the boats, running under fire with wounded across his shoulders of once being yelled at, “why are you carrying that”, only to find that the patient upon his shoulders had been hit a second time and had no head. I often wondered why his son my uncle Lionel Victor (Vic) Kearns stories of his service in WWII were muffled whispers and never once from his mouth, why he never spoke of his service and why I was sternly advised to not question him of his time. Why as the family story went that each ANZAC day he would lock himself away.

As I grew to a young teenager of around 13 and being obviously at that age a man of the world and full of bravado I asked uncle Vic on one of his rare visits to the bush about his time in the Army. We were on our own and he quietly told me a short story. All I remembered was a story of escaping into the jungle and finding a decomposing goat which he and his mates ate and of rice and rice. No more was I told.

Years later I joined the ADF, RAAMC and spent 15 years as a medic, after which I decided to research my family history upon uncovering military records I was most surprised to find my grandfather Victor Lionel Kearns served as a stretcher bearer with the 7th light horse regiment (under an assumed name John Thomas Kerr) and his son my late Uncle Vic as a medic in the AAMC, coincidence or sub conscious?

Uncle Vic’s records were obtained from NAA and the revelation of his JIA POW slowly started to bring back memories and possibly answered some of my childhood questions. Research into his unit the 2/10th Aust Gen Hosp and other AAMC official diaries provided next to no data. Slowly I uncovered snippets of information and received much appreciated information from Peter Winstanley of and Terry Manttan of Critically this information gave me my most significant clue-Changi, the Burma Tai Railway and L Force.

Mr Google then identified another from the AAMC who served in Changi, the Railway and importantly for me L Force. A book titled Diggers Story by David Barrett and Brian Robertson. I immediately made contact with Brian and told him of my late uncle and a desire to purchase the book. Brian’s reply was immediate and carried a huge surprise, my uncle Vic was a mate of David’s and he was included in Digger’s book. The two were part of the “Filthy Seven” all medics, all Army mates, all incarcerated and all suffering brutality, horrors and hardships. All suffered together and as only army mates do lived for each other, for without mates, you aint!

As an ex army medic myself this book is a fantastic read, this is reality and Diggers story tells the story of army mateship and the will to survive and to never let the bastards win.

Paulatim is the motto of both the AAMC, Australian Army Medical Corps and the latter RAAMC, the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps, The filthy seven wore the AAMC badge on their slouch hats I wore the RAAMC badge on mine. Paulatim means little by little and this corps motto fits so well with Diggers Story and their journey.

Ray Wooster
Family historian, past professional soldier (medic) of the RAAMC & nephew of one of the filthy 7, Vic Kearns medic of the AAMC & L Force. RIP Diggers

January 31, 2019


I have found your book un-put-down-able!!

As an 83 year old I was too young to for war service but my neighbour and life long friend Harry Sharland, from Sidcup in Kent, (UK) spent much of his war at Kanchanaburi and as a result I have an abiding interest in that particular phase of the war. I have since met and befriended a number of other men who were on the railway. …

Harry was a bank clerk before the war and he used his experience to sneak out of the camp at night and meet Boon Pong, who exchanged officers’ cheques for medical supplies and food. And all those cheques were honoured after the war. Page 105 (Digger’s Story) tells me that you (David) had similar dealings with Boon Pong: maybe you and Harry were known to each other?

Roger Dracup
Sorrento, Western Australia

January 31, 2019

Review from Fellow Digger Jim Ellwood

I am writing to let you know how much I enjoyed it (the book Digger’s Story) and how impressed I was by his extraordinary experiences. What a man he was and how I wish I’d known something of his history when we were together. Tribute has also to go to Brian Roberson, for doubtless he had a part in producing an account which is a cut or two above, indeed well above, the generality of the genre, which of course is not to detract one whit from David’s input—his amazing experiences.

I loved the imaginary cricket account —what an imagination, truly inspired. And I was intrigued at the distinction made between guards who had been at the pointy end of the war from the others —a valid point though it hadn’t occurred to me —the Kempeitai on Timor were ex-China almost to a man, I believe, not that that made them any less objectionable. … And I was interested in David’s take on the Japanese soldiery as having been “brainwashed”, which it took me most of my life post-war to realize, though I think brutalisation during training, indeed throughout service at or near the bottom of the heap played a part also. The command cannot be excused however: witness e.g. the rape and pillage inflicted by order, on the population of Manila, by Imperial Japanese Naval personnel. But who will ever really understand the mindset?

I am also deeply appreciative of the excellent Endnotes, perhaps Brian’s handiwork, but both fascinating and useful to me at least.

Jim Ellwood
Jim Ellwood was also a POW of the Japanese. He accompanied David and a few other ex-POWs to Japan in early December 2011 at the request of the Japanese POW Friendship Program.

January 31, 2019

A Case Study in Tenacity and Aussie Fighting Spirit

There is history with a capital H, which is dates and times and famous men and then there’s history at the personal level, fashioned from the lives of individual people.  And in many ways this is the most difficult to get in a written form. It is the sort of history that mostly disappears with the death of the teller. So in many ways we are really fortunate that Dave “Digger” Barrett ran into someone with the ability to put it on paper: Brian Robertson.

Barrett was born in 1922 and, like so many of his generation of Australian men and women, his life was shaped by the events of World War II. He signed up and joined the 2/9 Field Ambulance. Sent to Malaya 1941, it wasn’t long before he was caught up in the military farce that was the fall of Singapore.

From there it was years of horror and inhuman treatment as a prisoner of the Japanese Army in Changi. And, as if things weren’t cruel enough, he was eventually sent to work on the infamous Thai Burma railway. He was in Kanchanaburi when the bridge over the Mae Klong (River Kwai) was bombed.

As a fit young man and a medical orderly, Barrett had the job of burying many of his mates, fellow prisoners and forced labourers. Fortunate to still be alive at the end of the war, he refused to come home straight away and spent time with the War Graves Commission identifying the final resting places of many other Diggers.

This is as real as history gets.


Ian Barry
The Courier Mail - 11th August 2012

January 31, 2019

Pattie Wright Review

While I was reading toward the final pages of ‘Digger’s Story’, the book’s author was dying. After living to a great age, David Barrett had no final opportunity, no few hours left, to read the review he had asked me to write. No chance to read my comments about what a good and important book he had written with his friend, Brian Robertson.

Timing is everything in life: I think few would disagree. Therefore, in taking the glass half full attitude to David’s loss - as he was an optimist - happily he was able to live long enough to see the publication of the collaboratively written story of his life. And, with even more satisfaction, Brian Robertson and David knew they had done a good job; a fine job of telling David’s remarkable story as a Medical Orderly in the 2/9th Field Ambulance of the AIF from the fall of Singapore to the end of the war, via the Thai Burma railway.

David’s story is very broad and almost unbelievable. He begins it in Singapore when the great ‘fortress’ was lost. His fascinating insights only add to the ignominy of the loss in human life that the British Empire allowed to take place. David’s time then spent at Changi is high lit by the very Australian story of his invention of an ‘imaginary cricket’ game in order to assuage some of the horrors of war for the shell shocked soldiers in his care. Only an Australian would think of that, and only David would have it work. It was however, the long, long months spent existing during the inexplicable horror of the Thai Burma railway as a POW in L Force, one of the worst Forces on the Line, where David’s risk-taking and trading nature came to the fore. Not forgetting his utter tenacity in staying alive. L Force were gathered together by the Japanese in Changi as a small medical unit to be sent to the Thai Burma railway to stop the diseases that were wiping out the ‘romusha’, the indentured Asian slave labourers co-opted to build the Line. David was only 22 when he found himself in a disease-ridden hospital at Kanchanaburi where he eventually personally helped bury 11,000 forgotten people. Digging graves was just about all David could do on the Line. As he recounts with such pathos;

Digger never once saw any romusha patient receive treatment for his condition in the death house or in the cholera house. As a medical orderly in the cholera ward, all that Digger was permitted to do was to get the patients, if they were fit enough, to kneel with their bare backsides facing him in a row, and he would spray their arses with a liquid given to him by the Japanese. Digger expected this was just salt water. No romusha ever recovered in these wards.’

At war’s end, and after the horrors of the Line, David volunteered to return with a small, Commonwealth War Graves group to find, site and map as many of the Allied graves as was possible. By that stage in his survival, David showed what little time he had for either friend or foe if they had an officer’s uniform on. David writes of this attitude on his return to the still dangerous hell of Thailand and Burma; ‘He saluted no one, spoke to the officers on an equal basis and just got on with his job of attending to the sick.’ David was the last of this small, but dedicated group of men.

David was only 24 years of age when he returned home, and hardly done with life, even after so much living, and dying. The post-war years that followed were of determined foresight in the fight for POW reparation benefits and his own reconciliation with the Japanese. Natural tenacity, pig-headedness and determined manipulation of his life in those POW years had taught David much, but sadly he could never quite figure out how to grab onto those few extra hours to read of how I admired him and of how I both laughed and cried after reading, ‘Digger’s Story’. Thankfully, for Australia’s history, he did write the book; so we all can read it, talk about it. And value it.

One of David’s comments to make me smile, a jewel that should not go un-noted in this book was recounted by him about the time Singapore fell. David thought it more sense to think the best as he had, after all, ended up, ‘butter side up….still managing to knock up a bit of fun’. This quip says a great deal about what the Japanese had to look forward to in corralling our soldiers, but even more about David Barrett.

Pattie Wright
Author of ‘The Men of the Line’ (MUP-Miegunyah Press, 2008) and ‘Ray Parkin’s Odyssey’ (Pan Macmillan, 2012)

January 31, 2019

Glued to the Pages

I spent every spare moment with my nose glued to the pages. Digger's character is very strong indeed, and his sense of humour which undoubtedly helped him through horrendous times also assists in alleviating the reader's distress. However much one has read or heard about the horrors of the Japanese camps over many years, to read about them again is still gut-wrenching!

Very moving to me is Chapter 19 about the health of Ex—POWs. David's self analysis is a brilliant piece of writing. What a pity that it was not available years ago to all those families closely associated with ex prisoners who in attempting to adjust to their normal lives tried to lock down their memories and refused to discuss them openly, or who, worse still, tried to discuss the horrors of these years and who were told to forget them and get on with things! I fear this happened a lot, as it did more recently when the troops came home from Vietnam.

Okay, will wipe away my tears, put Digger's Story aside and have a strong cup of coffee. Congratulations to you both for a very fine book that deserves to do well and should be read by all the younger generation, who don't really know how lucky they are.

Barbara L'Herpiniere
Perth, WA

January 31, 2019

Justice and Compassion

David’s strong sense of justice is closely intertwined with his humane compassion. His continuous search for justice for former POWs of the Japanese Imperial Forces, even decades after the war, has moved many people, not only his fellow former POWs, but also Japanese supporters, including myself.

Professor Yuki Tanaka
Research Professor, Hiroshima Peace Institute

January 05, 2018

A Stunner!

Now finished ‘your book’ a few days ago Brian. It is a stunner!

A real ‘Jocks’ read. Easy to read and understand with great detail, laughs and true sadness.

Some of the names and events I am conversant with and the pictures jumped out at me.

I will pass on my thoughts to anyone who will listen in the hope they will get the same thrill and enjoyment that I have.

A huge well done and a even bigger thank you for your efforts and sharing it with us all. I thank you and stay well Bydander.

Mick Mackie Capt. retired
via The TA Gordon Highlanders Facebook Page

January 03, 2018

Authentic and true

A Gordon for me, what an excellent read, really down to earth and I am sure many National Service men who served in Cyprus will be very impressed as it is so authentic and true to the many who served there.

It is in my view the best down to earth book ever written, I will keep my copy as a memento.

Peter Knott
via the Cyprus Veterans Website

December 13, 2017

Mixin his doses

Enjoying ur book, found this part funny, pure jock banter at its best lol.

“Jesus, Corporal,” he said to Kevin with a very pained look on his face, “A hope ye can help me. I’ve bin mixinmadoses.” He promptly opened his fly and thumped his huge thick and bloody member onto the table right next to Kevin’s plate. Kevin jumped a mile.

“For Christ sake, Jock. What the hell is that?”

Turned out it was a raw turkey neck Jock had come across in his kitchen duties. This was the time of the dreaded rabbit disease myxomatosis. Mind you, Jock really had ‘mixed his doses’ in the past which made the situation all the more plausible.

Willie Stone
via The TA Gordon Highlanders Facebook Page

November 25, 2017

National Serviceman in Cyprus

The book is an excellent read, giving an account of the author’s earlier years before being called up for National Service and then finding himself in Cyprus – a whole different world for a 19 year old. I was able to relate to some of the places mentioned, such as Aberdeen Camp (Xeros), and others, having visited these areas while doing my own research. It seems the Gordon Highlanders in fact introduced the name Aberdeen Camp. It was interesting to note that Brian had said there were many of the servicemen who really had no idea why they were in Cyprus and what was going on and they just carried out their duties because they were ordered to do so.

In later years Brian thought a lot about the situation in Cyprus all those years before and has been able to glean a lot more information of what was actually happening. This is also included in his book and like many others, the experience made him a lot more worldly-wise and probably helped him to understand many things that may have come across his path, as he grew older, from a different perspective.

There are certain accounts of happenings in Cyprus by British servicemen, which surprised me, although I had heard of some accounts from other sources and was not sure at the time of their authenticity.

Brian’s book is dedicated to the 16 Gordon Highlanders who lost their lives in Cyprus, 13 in a forest fire in the Troodos Mountains, where 8 servicemen from other regiments also lost their lives.

For those who are interested in military history and in particular British servicemen in Cyprus in the 1950s, you will definitely like reading this book which can be obtained from Ringwood Publishing online shop, Waterstones online and is also available from Amazon, Booksource and Bokus.

Margaret Shread

July 23, 2014

I can see the resemblance...

As a young reader, I saw the book and it appealed to me instantly.

After reading the first short story I could not put it down.

I am in Australia right now with my grandparents and I can see the resemblance between the characters and them, (are you sure the book isn't based on them?).

It is nice to have a window into my grandparents daily life. Lots of laughs within the many short stories.

In the car I was passing Woolworths the other day and I shouted "THAT WAS WHERE GABRIEL WAS SHOPPING! WOW!".

So nice to have some associations from the Riotous Retirement Book.

All The Best with this book, looking forward to another funny journey.

Sophie B

July 16, 2014

Fun Reading

Thank you for riotous retirement - villages are a mine of stories and characters.

I loved reading this, amusing, lovely light reading.

Brisbane River Terraces

April 01, 2014

Great Bedtime Reading

If you are looking for bedtime reading, look no further. Riotous Retirement is the answer!

I thoroughly enjoyed the escapades of all the characters at Burnside village and, having acquainted myself with Gabriel and Helga, well, I just wanted the stories to go on and on!

It is an easy read, well complemented by the skilful cartoons and verses.

This book has a real 'feel good' factor and I highly recommend it.

Helen Sumner
Whitehaven UK

March 22, 2014

Almost as good as the Broncos match

Thank you to those who have written and produced this hilarious Retirement Village book. It is lovely weekend reading and I only put it down to watch the Broncos’ match.

There would be replicas of the characters in any village.

Brenda was so clever in convincing Gabriel to make the move. (This part is often left to the wife). She must be a saint to live with him, but he does grow on you as you read on. I loved the tale of the dinner and car trip home with Susan and Duncan. (Good for you Susan.)

There are too many characters to mention but all the stories were enjoyable.

What can one say about Helga? I wonder what is happening to young Terry, the locum. And I’ll keep in mind about how to deal with the little so and SOS the next time they invade our village. (Idea on hold for now!)

If I see any garden gnomes in our village, I hope no one catches me standing outside laughing. (Hard to explain)

I also loved the Cartoons especially the front cover. I will remember about it when I get my motorised scooter.

Thank you for helping me to find something to laugh at this weekend. This is important!


Thelma Williams
Peninsula Park, Rothwell

March 17, 2014

My Appreciation

A light & easily readable insight into Retirement Village living. Most enjoyable and amusing.

Greg Coleman
The Terraces Forest Lake

March 05, 2014

And this lady hasn’t even read the book yet!

How wonderful. I got an unexpected but very much appreciated deadly surprise today in the mail.

Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness, and a first edition signed by the authors too.

I will treasure it and can’t wait to read it.

I am going to guard it with my life as the authors have signed it, and over the coming years as it becomes one of the highest selling books of all time and the reprints keep selling out, after Oprah interviews Brian and Ronnie, it’s translated into 23 other languages and made into a fabulous box office hit by Woody Allen or the like - it will be worth a small fortune.

Thank you.

Deborah Davis

March 02, 2014

Riotous Retirement

Slam !! Bang !! oops—sigh……….

A smile a minute fun read as an outburst of chaotic humour abounds when newly retired over 55’s adapt to a new lifestyle and different friends when downsizing to “Burnside Retirement Village”, all under the eagle eye of Manager Helga (they do not know what they are in for).

Hilarious cartoons, eye catching cover and end of chapter limericks bring the stories to life.

Brian and Ron deserve a courage medal for this pearl.

Mary Campbell

February 27, 2014

Loved your book

I loved your book - I feel I know Gabriel and Brenda (in fact I think they raised me). I have always thought life in a retirement village was a scary thought but you have changed my mind - I laughed out loud, smiled and even cringed at the action of some of your characters.

I loved the pink dog story - My parents are no longer with us but I am sure I could hear my father agreeing with Gabriel and my mother feeling sorry for Brenda.

Thank you for a very enjoyable read - Looking forward to the next one.

Lynne Sobansky
Winston Hills NSW