Urban Reptiles

Urban Reptiles

Too Many Battles For One Man

Captain William Valentine Herbert, Light Horse and Australian Flying Corps


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More Information
By Kathryn Spurling
Format Paperback / softback
Book Size 235 x 153 x 20 mm (H x W x D)
Imprint New Holland Publishers
Release Date 22 May 2024
Subject Classification History / Military history
William Herbert’s life reflected that of an exceptional few, and of a nation.

As a youthful member of the Australian Light Horse, he landed at Gallipoli before being evacuated back to Australia. Unwilling to accept defeat he transferred to the Australian Flying Corps and piloted RE8 aircraft in dangerous operations over the Western Front.

He succeeded as a grazier in the lands around Adaminaby. He survived countless battles during World War I but like so many of his fellow veterans he could not survive the battle to overcome the affect on a man’s psyche of war.

William Valentine Herbert was born in Ocean Grove, Geelong, Victoria, on 28 July 1894 to Charles and Florence Herbert. Family prosperity enabled him to attend the prestigious Melbourne Trinity Grammar School. The sons of Australian gentlemen commonly assumed a working life as clerks or those who preferred to be free of office confines invariably took up positions on properties. Herbert was one for the wide- opened spaces and endless horizons of Australia. After twelve months study at Dookie Agricultural College, he worked as a jackaroo on the New South Wales, Cootamundra property, ‘Bongalong’.

He was soon appointed overseer. Some 10,000 sheep were sent to the Coolemon Plains area in the moun- tainous Kosciuszko National Park. His supervising the Autumn mustering introduced him to a district with which he would have a lifelong love and to which he would return to live and to partake in his be- loved trout fishing. But this future was first interrupted by war and the challenge to survive.

Kathryn Spurling

Dr Kathryn Spurling served with the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS). Her late father FO Maxwell Norris (RAAF) served with RAF Bomber Command during WWII. After securing her PhD in military history Dr Spurling tutored history and strategic studies and guest lectured in history at the University of New South Wales, Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra.In 2012 she was appointed a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University, Canberra and in 2014 became an Adjunct Visiting Research Associate with Flinders University. She has lectured extensively overseas on military issues.

Most significant: First Australian invited to speak at NATO HQ, Brussels, on women in the military; First Australian Summer Military History Fellow, United States Military Academy, West Point; Guest lecturer at the Dutch Defence College, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Keynote speaker at the Women’s Research and Education Institute ‘Women in Uniform Conference’, Washington DC, four times. Keynote speaker, Australian Women of the Year National Congress, Canberra. Keynote speaker ‘Women in the Australian Defence Force’, Chief of Defence Force Conference on Women in Security and the ADF. Speaker at Crime and Justice Challenges for the Contemporary Military Conference, Onati School of Sociology, Spain. Commemorative address, RAN Centenary Ceremony for the Loss of AE1 and crew, Rabaul, New Guinea.

Dr Spurling's media appearances have included features on ABC's The Drum; 4 Corners and Insight.

She has written ten books, including for New Holland Publishers:
  • Cruel Conflict: the triumph and tragedy of HMAS Perth I, New Holland, 2008. Launched by Minister for Defence onboard HMAS Perth III.
  •  A Grave too Far Away: A Tribute to Australians in Bomber Command Europe, New Holland, 2012.
  • HMAS Canberra: casualty of circumstance, New Holland, 2016.
  • Abandoned and Sacrificed: Rabaul, Lark Force and the Montevideo Maru, New Holland, 2017.
  • Upcoming - Fury To Hell, New Holland, 2022.