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THE WARRAMUNGA'S WAR



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The Warramunga’s War is a sweeping narrative of the friendship that forms between a young Australian army officer, Jamie Munro, and an educated half-caste Warramunga aboriginal NCO, Jack ‘Jacko’ O’Brien, during the Syrian campaign against the Vichy French in World War II. Jacko rescues a wounded Jamie after which they are conscripted in Cairo by MI6. Here, Jamie and Jacko learn about the seamy side of war in counterespionage as they track down German spies. The principal fictional characters interact with actual historical figures and events throughout the story. 

As the desert war escalates to the west of Cairo, the MI6 team confuses the enemy with misleading radio messages using German codes and using local entertainers as undercover agents. On one of his day leaves, Jacko meets a beautiful young Syrian-French girl and a strong romantic bond forms between the two during his time in Cairo. 

Following the end of the desert war, Jamie and Jacko are assigned to wartime intelligence work in Southeast Asia. After the end of the Pacific war, they initiate the Darwin operations of the CIS, the Commonwealth Investigation Service. On the trail of two suspected wartime German agents, they discover the agents have formed a dangerous criminal gang with an individual they had known during their time in Cairo. The tracking skills of the Warramunga are needed to finally catch up with the murderous gang in Western Australia’s Kimberley region.

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ISBN: 978-0-6481607-4-8
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 302
Genre: Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins


Author
- Greg Kater

Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published:  2018
Language: English


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Author Biography 

Greg Kater is an Australian-based author. He lives in Sanctuary Cove, Gold Coast, Queensland and has recently retired from a 55-year international career in the resources industry. The Warramunga’s War is his first work of fiction.

The principal fictional characters interact with actual historical figures and events which have been rigorously researched. The subject of the novel is partly inspired by the experiences of the author’s father during the war in the Middle East, and partly by his own experiences in northern Australia where he worked extensively throughout the Northern Territory and the Kimberley. The Warramunga’s War is the first of a trilogy.

For Anne .... with love

CHAPTER 1 

Zap! Zap! Zap! The machine gun bullets thudded into Jamie’s knapsack, which protruded just above the jagged limestone rocks where he was sheltering. The bag was disintegrating under the onslaught.

“Bloody hell! Bloody hell! Bloody hell!” Jamie muttered to himself through the limestone dust and gravel that partly covered his mouth. Just as well I’ve got no grenades in it! he thought.

Lieutenant James Munro was part of the army engineers’ unit attached to the 2/5th Battalion currently fighting the pro-Nazi Vichy French in Syria and Lebanon. He and Sergeant Jim Brennan had set out in early July 1941 ahead of the main Australian force near the Wadi Damour south of Beirut. Their task was to reconnoitre enemy positions to coordinate artillery targets; however, they had come under heavy fire from a machine-gun position manned by French Foreign Legion elements of the Vichy French armies.

Sergeant Brennan had been hit and was probably dead behind him. Now, Jamie lay flat behind the low limestone rocks, not daring to move.

“Bloody hell, bloody hell!” Jamie lay as still as he could in the prickly heat, pinned down by the accurate fire. Insects and sweat competed for space on his hands, face and inside his shirt. His knees and arms were skinned and bleeding a little from throwing himself flat onto the rough limestone gravel. He shifted his position slightly to restore the circulation to his limbs. This movement not only accentuated the discomfort of the sharp rocks under his chest but also brought new intensity to the machine gun fire pinning him down.

He knew his rifle was about four feet away to his right – just out of reach. He dared not move so there was no chance of using it anyway. He estimated he’d been under fire for a couple of hours and it would now be about noon, so he figured he would have to stay very still in this position for another six or seven hours when nightfall would allow him to retreat under cover of darkness. As several flies and ants began crawling up his nose, he wasn’t looking forward to the rest of the day.

Suddenly Jamie sensed rather than heard another presence beside him on his right.

A low voice said, “G’day, Captain, how you goin’?”

Jamie slowly moved his head so that he could make out a handsome brown-skinned soldier whose black eyes studied him with a slight twinkle of amusement as machine-gun bullets whined overhead, sending splinters of rock flying or zapping into Jamie’s knapsack.

Jamie managed to croak out, “How did you manage to get here?”

“I was told you were up here somewhere, and when I saw where you were I squirmed along like a snake so that the Frenchie up there wouldn’t see me.”

Jamie asked, “Are you from one of the Indian units around here?”

“Naw! Don’t let the tan fool you, Cap. I’m as Australian as you are, or even more so. Name’s Corporal Jack O’Brien but you can call me Jacko, Cap.”

In spite of his relief at seeing a friendly face, Jamie felt a slight irritation. “I am not a captain and you can call me Lieutenant Munro.”

“Okay, Cap. Anyway, we’d better do something about this shootin’ Frog.”

Jamie watched as his companion slowly turned on his back and drew his .303 Lee-Enfield rifle on top of him. Gradually, Jacko lifted the rifle with his hands and one foot to point roughly in the direction of the intermittent machine-gun fire.

Jamie was mystified and asked, “What are you trying to do?”

“Listen, Cap. Just pick up that stick near your right hand and slowly raise it above the rocks somewhere between us. I want the Frenchie to see movement and figure he has a new target.”

“Okay, but for Christ’s sake, don’t call me Cap!”

Slowly Jamie clutched the stick and brought it forward until he was able to wiggle the end of it above the rocks. This was greeted by a renewed burst of fire just to Jamie’s right and the next moment he was deafened by the boom of the .303 rifle, which recoiled backwards with Jacko holding onto the strap. The machine-gun fire sprayed the rocks in front of them with renewed vigour.

Jacko whispered, “I think I was a little high with that shot, Cap.”

Jamie rasped back, “Did you honestly think you could hit him that way, Jacko?”

Jacko nodded. “We’ll just try it again, Cap. Get ready with what’s left of your stick.”

Jacko slowly worked the butt of the rifle onto the toe of his boot and, after cocking it, lifted it carefully with his hands.

“Wiggle your stick, Cap.”

Again the machine-gun fire was directed at the position of the moving stick end and Jacko squeezed the trigger. Boom! Then silence.

“I think we got him that time, Cap.”

Jamie sat up cautiously and saw the distant gunner slumped over his machine gun and his Syrian assistant trying to pull him off to free the gun.

“Great shot, Jacko.”

“Thanks, Cap.”

“You can call me Cap or whatever you like after that.”

“Okay, Cap.”

Jamie threw off the remains of his knapsack, picked up his own .303 and shot down the other figure at the machine gun.

With a big smile Jacko said, “Good shot, Cap.”

“Yeah, but at least I could see the target.”

Jacko pointed at the knapsack. “Do you want to bring that along?”

“Bloody hell no! It’s only full of lead sandwiches now.”

He and Jacko then worked their way a few miles forward until they were looking down from the heights onto a Vichy French encampment beside the Damour River.

Jamie was still stunned by the recent events and just had to ask, “Jacko, that was the most amazing shot I have ever seen. Where the hell did you learn to shoot like that?”

Jacko thought for a while and replied, “Well, I wasn’t actually taught by anyone to shoot like that. It’s just that I’ve got a good sense of direction, probably inherited from the black side of my family.”

“The black side?”

“Yeah. You see, I’m half Warramunga. My family come from around Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. When my mother was young she met a government geologist name of Paddy O’Brien helping the gold-diggers around the Tennant in the 1920s. I was the product of that meeting, you might say. Later, in the mid-1930s, Mr O’Brien, my dad, was back to help a one-eyed prospector with some of his gold claims and my mother introduced him to his son – me! Paddy was a good fella. He obviously didn’t want this situation to disrupt his tranquil family life in Darwin, but he also wanted to do the right thing, so with Mum’s blessing he sent me to boarding school in Charters Towers in Queensland where they belted education into me. But I think I’ve still got some of the old Warramunga so-called mystic skills. My grandfather can put a lump of bark on the ground, walk around behind a large boulder and hurl a spear over the boulder dead centre into the bark. Never misses. That’s a real sense of direction.”

Jamie slowly shook his head. “I can well believe that now. Just amazing, Jacko.”

“You’ll have to visit my family one day after this war. My people have the best corroborees in the whole of Australia. The Warramungas are the masters of song, dance and spectacle and our corroborees are accompanied by costumes and fire which lights up the sky. You’ve never seen anything like it.”

Jamie was intrigued and becoming more than curious. “Jacko, it really sounds great. Is it a sort of war dance?

“No, Cap. Nothing like that. We are not Red Indians, although some people in the big smoke think we are. Our corroboree is a merry celebration in honour of the spirits and the animals, which keep the tribes alive. It’s hard to explain.”

“Okay, Jacko. You’ll have to tell me more, later. In the meantime I’ve been making a list of the map coordinates of all the enemy installations down there. I’d like you to take these back to our lines so they can direct some artillery to stir up those Froggies down there before the main attack. I’ll stay here to observe and I’ll see you later.”

“Okay, Cap. No problem.”

Jacko was quickly gone and Jamie settled down to wait in the heat, shaking his head at his good fortune. Being able to brush the flies and other insects away added to his relief. He thought about Jacko’s accurate shot without being able to see the target and shook his head again. Must truly be mystic or something like that, he thought, or as Jacko had said, just an incredible sense of direction.

Nothing much seemed to be happening in the Vichy encampment below. Vehicles were coming and going mainly along the road extending to the north towards Beirut. He knew that other battalions of the Australian 7th Division would soon be closing in on that city, which everyone hoped would bring about the final surrender of the Vichy French forces in the Middle East.

Hungry now, Jamie remembered his rations that had been chewed to pieces by machine-gun bullets.

After a few tedious hours, he saw a couple of spotter planes high above the valley and the whine of artillery shells passing overhead filled the air. Shells falling in and around the encampment caused a lot of confusion and people were running in all directions. One of the shells hit a fuel dump raising a cloud of black smoke over part of the area.

Jamie watched the spectacle for a while and then decided to withdraw and get back to his lines. However, he hesitated when he heard several voices from the steep slope in front of him and realised he might have been spotted earlier.

“Damn and blast!” he muttered, quickly retreating behind a large rocky outcrop and cocking his rifle. Four heads rose above the ledge of the hill with rifles at the ready and he recognised the language as French. As they came nearer, Jamie realised they would eventually find him and he would have to fight it out.

Carefully he took a bead on the nearest soldier and squeezed the trigger. As he fired, the others dropped behind several rocks and began returning fire at his position from different directions. The enemy soldiers called out to others who were still climbing the hill and Jamie realised he would be facing a much larger number than he originally thought.

“Bloody hell! Bloody hell! Bloody hell ...” Then he noticed one of the Aussie spotter planes circling overhead and after a short while the ground erupted just in front of where he was hidden. The spotter was obviously directing artillery fire at the enemy company climbing the heights towards his position, probably not knowing that he was there. He lay flat on the ground up against the rocks and held his arms over his head.

The ground was shaking and the noise was deafening. Amongst it, he could hear loud screams and shouts in French and Arabic to his north as more shells fell close by. Suddenly the whole world seemed to erupt around him and he could only mutter, “Bloody he...” as he lost consciousness. 

 

 

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