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The Empire Has An Answer

The Empire Air Training Scheme as reported in the Australian Press 1939-1945

‘If we do not win the battle of training, we shall win no other battle in the air.’ In 1943 the Royal Air Force recognised that training a vast amount of aircrew for a high attrition war was essential to an Allied victory, and that the key to winning the ‘battle of training’ was the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS). 37,576 Australian aircrew graduated from the EATS. Over 300 were killed whilst training for war and 9874 aircrew were killed or listed as missing while on active duty. Those who fought under this scheme during World War II amounted to just 6.7 per cent of Australian service personnel serving overseas yet the aircrew losses amounted to almost 25 per cent of all the Australian fatalities during the war. This made serving in EATS among the most hazardous duties of the war. The Empire has an Answer was researched using more than 35 000 articles, from 150 metropolitan, regional, and district newspapers, and what materialised was a story of one of, if not, the greatest training programs the world has seen. Follow the journey from the conception and implementation of the scheme, through recruitment and basic training, flight training, and then into combat. The individual accounts woven into the narrative provide a first-hand experience of the triumphs and trials of typical airmen and airwomen who performed extraordinary feats in a time of great need. The significant achievements and success of the Empire Air Training Scheme has for the most part been overlooked in our history, until now.

Tony was the inaugural winner of the RAAF Heritage Fellowship in 2014 and wrote his debut book The Empire has an Answer in fulfilment of this award. The book, based on more than 45,000 newspaper articles from the period, draws on the lived experience of numerous men and women to paint a picture of life in the Empire Air Training Scheme during World War II. It is no surprise that Tony was drawn to the life of historian and military history. Born in Singleton NSW where his father served in the Army, Tony can trace his family’s military history from his four-times great-grandfather, a Marine Private on the First Fleet, through his grandfather in the Light Horse at Gallipoli and Egypt to his father’s service in the Malay Emergency. Other family served in Viet Nam, including in the AATTV, one, a convicted horse-thief, was a jockey in the first Melbourne Cup, and another was the first dual winner of the Stawell Gift. In 1980, aged sixteen, Tony joined the RAAF as a technical apprentice and served as an Airframe Fitter and then Photographer. He continued his photography in civilian life before completing a Bachelor of Social Science in 2008 and an award-winning PhD in 2013. Though Tony has published articles in an array of academic journals this is his debut book. Tony’s previously published work focusses on post-colonial Australia and examines training for purpose. His works include an award winning PhD on the Rural Schools of Queensland, an examination of the difficulties faced by school teachers educating the children of Prison Warders on a prison island, the history of the Sheffield Shield and the importance of Queensland’s first win in the summer of 1994/95, and the attempt by two brothers to create ‘New Australia’ in Paraguay and how this led one brother to train colonial school children in the new methods of agriculture.