News & views
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.