SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 9th October 2004 Review by Graham Williams
Brian Walpole’s war was fought in the jungles of New Guinea and Borneo in elite commando units. Walpole is now in his 80s and his ‘as told to’ story has to be taken on trust. There are claims that seem extraordinary but in the world he describes even the everyday is barely credible.
Walpole’s special talent was his capacity to win the trust of the Sea Dyak natives of Borneo, with whom he worked in small raiding squads which created fear and uncertainty among the occupying Japanese.
The accounts of raiding parties, ambushes and the privations of the hostile environment are the strengths of Walpole’s account. His boys-own-adventure style, which finds challenges to be triumphantly overcome, and his complete lack of moral uncertainty, are engaging. His admiration for the courage and skill of the Dyaks shines through and his lack of colonial racist attitudes is remarkable.
His account of his peacetime activities is similarly untroubled. He apparently found an almost unlimited supply of “lovely ladies” eager to comfort a man in uniform. He writes of these encounters with a simple gallantry which is delightful. They, like his wartime exploits, seem never to have caused him the slightest moral doubt. It is a view of the world which seems strangely old-fashioned but one which is a pleasure to encounter.
MEN’S STYLE issue 6, October/November 2004 Review by Daniel Murphy
A zippy account of life as an Australian WW2 commando in New Guinea. Rips into the action in the first five pages: Japs, Yanks, headhunters, ladies. Cracking stuff.
THE BIG ISSUE no.228, May 2005 Review by Peter Ascot
Brian Walpole wa s 20 when he took his knuckleduster knife into the jungles of New Guinea to face the Japanese army in 1943. His vivid account of commando operations under the distinguished soldier George Warfe provides a valuable insight into this campaign, not least because Walpole talks now as straight as he shot then.
But even more interesting, perhaps, is his account of months spent recuperating from malaria in Victoria. Far from a dour city of rationing and brownouts, Melbourne was brimming with girls determined to cheer him and themselves up. In the hands of the likeable Walpole, this is no boastful kiss-and-tell segment, but one portrait of the nation during wartime.
As a member of the Z Special Unit, Walpole then served in Sarawak, recruiting Sea Dyak headhunters to harass and terrify the Japanese contingents. If war is gruesome, war where you pay a bounty for the heads of your enemy must be doubly so. But among the ambushes and gore, an authentic and credible voice of an individual soldier emerges, with enough humour and scepticism to counter the insultingly homogenised stereotypes our ‘leaders’ prattle about today.
QANTAS: THE AUSTRALIAN WAY inflight magazine, November 2004 Review by Paul Robinson
It’s an apt title, for seldom is war as intimate and personal as it got for Brian Walpole in World War II. First as a commando in New Guinea, then as a member of the elite Z Special Unit in Sarawak, Walpole delivered his own brand of lethal attrition to the Japanese.
His matter-of-fact narrative style reveals a man born for the job. At the age of 20, Walpole’s life was one of solo reconnaissance patrols in the fetid jungle, the enemy often just metres away, unseen in the thick bush.
The striking factor throughout is his absolute confidence. Whether at war – paying Sea Dyak headhunters a bounty for Japanese heads – or back in Australia, availing himself of the many women only too willing to pleasure a soldier on leave, he has no regrets. A fascinating, if disturbing, insight into the concentrated, cold mind of a true warrior.
LAST magazine issue 29, April 2005 Review by David Benson
My War goes far beyond any similar works I have read about the commando units who fought a covert and dirty war against the Japanese in the occupied South Pacific, well after the war had officially ended. Walpole, a man of unusual grit and conviction, is not into big-noting himself but he does have a fantastic story to tell.
Unlike other men of his generation, he’s not afraid to reveal just how highly sexed that generation was, despite being outwardly reserved. Brian reveals that his stint at home after working as a commando in Papua New Guinea was rewarding in many ways, as there were plenty of forward, open-minded women with husbands and boyfriends in the service to play with. Walpole has his fair share of liaisons right throughout the book but, to his credit, remains a gentleman about it.
But it is his wartime exploits that really get the pages shuffling. He was attached to a commando unit so secretive and highly influential that he was able to outrank a major for the last seat on a plane from Melbourne to Brisbane. He was posted to Borneo in 1945 and befriended the Sea Dyak people, who were headhunters. They were willing accomplices in Walpole’s manoeuvring against the Japanese, whose cruelty was meted out to all native peoples in the countries they occupied during the latter days of the Second World War.
Walpole’s distaste for their barbarism gradually consumes him and he allows the Dyaks to souvenir the heads of Japanese soldiers. Soon the Japanese themselves are the victims of clinical and brutal killings. Even though some readers might find his hatred for the Japs somewhat pungent, Walpole is nothing if not honest about the anger that motivated him to wage a literal one-man war against them.
Brian Walpole is an unflinching example of the true war hero. Even now, aged in his 80s, he swears by vodka, pretty women and living life to the full. Most of his comrades are long dead, but Walpole is a breathing example of a real Australian soldier, who followed orders and barely saluted his superiors unless he thought they deserved it.