CoveTalk | Australia's Secret Army

Michael Veitch delivered a special address surrounding his research and book 'Australia's Secret Army', the story of the 'Coast Watchers' of the Second World War. These unsung heroes of Australia's intelligence network reported on naval activity in the Pacific Islands and along Australia's coastline during the Imperial Japanese advance and occupations.

Following World War I, the Coast Watcher organisation was formed from European planters, missionaries and patrol officers living in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. All volunteers, they were tasked with keeping an eye on Australia's porous northern border and providing early warnings via radio.

Book cover of 'Australia's Secret Army'

When World War II came to the Pacific, however, overnight the Coast Watchers found themselves no longer just observers but spies operating behind enemy lines. Besides evading the enemy's desperate efforts to hunt them down, the Coast Watchers battled exhaustion, tropical diseases and malnutrition, as well as the ever-present spectre of capture, torture and death. Yet without the Coast Watchers' crucial courage and intelligence, key moments of the Pacific War may have turned out very differently.

"A Coastwatcher's work is... to sit in hiding like a spider, right in the web of the enemy, unseen and unheard. We became the eyes and ears of the Pacific."
– Reg Evans, Coast Watcher

Michael discussed his research into Australian WWII Forces in the South West Pacific with members of Holsworthy Barracks on Tuesday, 22 August 2023. The key focus points were on understanding what worked, what did not work for the personnel who were involved, and what Australia might learn from this, going forward.


Picture of Michael Veitch

Michael Veitch began his career in the 1980s writing and performing in television comedy with programs such as the D-Generation and Fast Forward before working as a newspaper columnist and regular broadcaster for ABC radio in Melbourne and Tasmania. Between 2005-2010 he presented the national TV arts program on ABC Television, Sunday Arts.

In addition to numerous television, film and theatre credits, Michael has published eleven books on subjects including travel, history, marine exploration and military history. His most recent work, Australia’s Secret Army was released in late 2022.

Michael is also the author of three plays, Flak, Mystery in the Air and Hell Ship which have each toured extensively across Australia. In 2020, Michael Veitch was admitted into the RAAF as a Special Capability Officer, joining the History and Heritage Branch as a Community Liaison Officer with the rank of Squadron Leader.