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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Yourview@ theaus­tralian.com.au

JMW Turner’s paint­ing (‘‘Painter of light’’, Fe­bru­ary 2-3) is in­ter­est­ing not only be­cause of his use of colour but also be­cause of Turner’s choice of sub­ject. The Te­meraire is be­ing towed by a steam tug to the breaker’s yard. It is the end of the line for the square rig navy. Some art his­to­ri­ans see this paint­ing as sym­bol­is­ing the era when sail gave way to steam. I WISH some­one had told us in May 1942 that the Ja­panese did not in­tend to in­vade Aus­tralia (James Prior, News & Views, Fe­bru­ary 2-3). As an 18-year-old, I trav­elled by bus from Ar­mi­dale to Grafton along a road guarded by the Vol­un­teer De­fence Corps. From the train to my home near Kempsey, I saw mili­tia in gun-pits in the sand dunes at Coffs Har­bour, guard­ing the rail line. At home, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Na­tional Emer­gency Ser­vice out­lined plans for a scorched earth pol­icy to deny sus­te­nance to an in­vader. We were all very scared. We now know that Al­lied in­tel­li­gence had cracked Ja­panese naval codes and by mid–1942 un­der­stood an in­va­sion was un­likely. Prime min­is­ter John Curtin and gen­eral Dou­glas Macarthur knew this but to have told the pub­lic would have risked re­veal­ing their sources. So we were al­lowed to panic and suf­fer un­nec­es­sary dis­tress for most of 1942. On the other hand, if they had not pre­pared us for the pos­si­bil­ity of in­va­sion, our lead­ers would stand con­demned by his­to­ri­ans for com­pla­cency — as they have been for the un­pre­pared­ness of Dar­win. THANK you for giv­ing Ni­co­las Rothwell the space to re­view the Pa­trick Leigh Fer­mor bi­og­ra­phy prop­erly (‘‘Bril­liant buc­ca­neer’’, Jan­uary 12-13). Fer­mor’s books meant a great deal to me when I was a young grad­u­ate stu­dent in Ger­many and Italy in 1958-63, and some of his re­flec­tions and mem­o­ries still res­onate pro­foundly in cen­tral Europe. One may not like ev­ery­thing in Re­view, but you do seem to take se­ri­ously the topics you choose by giv­ing them rea­son­able space. I say this to con­trast it with your di­min­ished com­pe­ti­tion — how sad. To be con­sid­ered for publi­ca­tion, let­ters must con­tain an ad­dress and tele­phone num­ber for ver­i­fi­ca­tion. Let­ters may be edited for length and clar­ity.

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