Karl James

Karl James

Karl James is a Senior Historian in the Military History Section, where he has worked since 2006. A graduate of the University of Wollongong, he has specialised in Australia’s involvement in the Second World War. He has worked on several exhibitions, including the refurbishment of the Second World War galleries, and more recently was the curator for the special anniversary exhibition, Rats of Tobruk, 1941 on display during 2011. He is also a member of the editorial staff for the Memorial’s magazine Wartime. From 2013, Karl became a Departmental Visitor with the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies at the Australian National University, Canberra.

Karl’s first book, The hard slog: Australians in the Bougainville campaign, 1944–45 was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012 as part of the Australian Army History Series. He is currently writing a new history of the siege of Tobruk, while continuing his research on the Kokoda campaign. Please feel free to contact him if you have unpublished documents relating to either of these topics.

Selected publications


The hard slog: Australians in the Bougainville campaign, 1944–45, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, 2012

Book contributions

“‘I hope you are not too ashamed of me’: Prisoners in the siege of Tobruk, 1941” in Joan Beaumont, Lachlan Grant and Aaron Pegram (eds), Beyond  surrender: Australian prisoners of war in the Twentieth Century, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2015

“The Salamaua magnet” in Peter J. Dean (ed.), Australia 1943: The liberation of New Guinea, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, 2013

“On Australia’s doorstep: Kokoda and Milne Bay” in Peter J. Dean (ed.), Australia 1942: In the shadow of war, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, 2013

“Winnie the war winner” in Nola Anderson (ed.) Australian War Memorial: Treasures from a Century of Collecting, Murdoch Books, 2012

“The unnecessary waste: Australians in the late Pacific campaigns” in Craig Stockings (ed.), Anzacs dirty dozen: Twelve myths of Australian military history, NewSouth Publishing, Sydney, 2012


“The Kokoda Trail”, Australia: the story of us, 3, 2015, 58–65

‘Taking MacArthur back’, Wartime, no. 68, 2014, pp 60–65.

“The war that shaped Australia”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 September 2014; The Age, 5 September 2014; The Canberra Times, 6 September 2014: [http://www.smh.com.au/national/the-war-that-shaped-australia-20140904-10c1wx.html]

"Spitfires on the Continent”, Wartime, 66, 2014

[With Lachlan Grant], “The liberation of Australian New Guinea”, Wartime, 64, 2013

General Clowes of Milne Bay”, Wartime, 59, 2012

“Desert war”, Capital, 52, 2011

“The great siege”, Wartime, 54, 2011

“The Grecian disaster”, Wartime, 54, 2011

“The six year war”, Capital, 48, 2010

“Those ‘army-navy freaks’“, Wartime, 51, 2010

“The first kill”, Wartime, 49, 2010

“The greyhounds of Kokoda”, Wartime, 48, 2009

Kokoda ‘Track’ or ‘Trail’?”, Wartime, 48, 2009

Hell was let loose’: The RAN Beach Commandos at Balikpapan, July 1945”, International Journal of Naval History, 8, 2, 2009

“‘The track’: a historical desktop study of the Kokoda Track”, report commissioned by the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra, Australian War Memorial, 2009

“Soldiers to citizens”, Wartime, 45, 2009

Gallant fighter”, Wartime 43, 2008

“Australia’s other Asian wars”, Wartime,41, 2008

“The ‘atmosphere of the place and the spirit of the people’: Why historians visit battlefields when writing operational history”, Sabretache, 48, 2007

“The army’s ugly duckling”, Wartime, 37, 2007

“Hell at Porton”, Australian Army journal, 3, 2005–06

“A ‘prend’ indeed”, Wartime, 33, 2006

“‘Uncle Stan’ and the Staff Corps”, Sabretache, 45, 2004

“‘White, black, and brown’: attitudes to race as reflected during the Bougainville campaign, 1944–1945”, Alpheus 1, 2004

Conferences and seminars

“‘Australian has got to play her part’: Australia’s late Pacific campaigns, 1944–45”, public talk, BAE Systems Theatre, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, ACT, 2 December 2014

"The Kokoda campaign and key military battle sites", Kokoda military heritage workshop, Kokoda Initiative, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra, 11 November 2014

"The 7th Division on the Kokoda Trail", 7th Australian Division AIF Association, 7th Division Memorial Wall, Bass Hill, Sydney, NSW, 25 October 2014

"They also returned–Australians in the liberation of the Philippines", public talk, BAE Systems Theatre, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, ACT, 21 October 2014

“Not just ‘mopping up’: Australian aspirations and frustrations in the Pacific war, 1944–45”, 1944: Seventy years on: an international conference, The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Camberley, Surrey, United Kingdom, 14–17 April 2014

“‘I hope you are not too ashamed of me’: Prisoners in the siege of Tobruk, 1941”, Prisoners of war: A conference on the Australian experience of captivity in the 20th century, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, 5–6 June 2013

“A terrible experience: the battle of Eora Creek”, Kokoda: beyond the legend, international conference, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, ACT, 6–7 September 2012

Tour historian, 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion Association Java pilgrimage, Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours, Java, Indonesia, 23–29 July 2012

“Morshead at Gallipoli”, talk, AWM/IWM Gallipoli Study Tour, Lone Pine Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey, 24 May–3 June 2012  

“On Australia’s doorstep: Kokoda and Milne Bay”, In the Shadow of War: Australia 1942, Military History and Heritage Victoria, Melbourne, VIC, 21–22 April 2012

“Resources on the war in the Pacific at the Memorial”, War in the Islands: the Second World War in the Pacific, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, 9 February 2012 

“Australia’s Thermopylae: the Kokoda Trail”, The International Conference on World War II: From Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal, The National WWII Museum, New Orleans, LA, United States of America, 7–9 December 2011

“The Rats of Tobruk”’, History Teachers Association of NSW State Conference 2011, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, 22–23 July 2011

“The ‘immortal Kokoda Trail’: The riddles of Kokoda”, Contested memories: case studies from the World Wars, University of Queensland, QLD, 20 November 2009  

”Heroes and villains: Australian militia battalions in the Kokoda campaign, July – August 1942”, Constructing the past: Australian Historical Association Conference, University of the Sunshine Coast, QLD, 30 June – 3 July 2009

“Hell was let loose’: Making order from confusion. The RAN Beach Commandos at Balikpapan, July 1945”, 2007 Naval History Symposium, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD, 20–22 September 2007

(with Kazuhiro Monden) “Return to New Guinea: comparing Australian and Japanese memories of the New Guinea campaign”, War and Our World, University of Manchester, UK, 19–21 July 2007

“‘To sniff or not to sniff’: should historians visit battlefields when writing operational history?”, Genres of History: Australian Historical Association 2006 Biennial Conference, Australian National University, Canberra, 3–7 July 2006

“Gavin Long and the ‘Bean’ tradition”, Mars and Minerva: Intellectuals and War in Australia and New Zealand, University of New England, Armidale, NSW, 4–6 February 2006

“‘Fellow citizens, the war is over’: Bougainville, August 1945”, Canada and Australia: Experiences of War, University of Wollongong, NSW, 10 November 2005

“‘It is considered that no nurses or AWAS should be brought into the area until American Negroes have departed’: attitudes to race as reflected during the Bougainville Campaign, 1944–45”, Visions: 12th Biennial National Conference of the Australian Historical Association, Newcastle, NSW, 5–9 July 2004

“Uncle Stan and the Staff Corps”, Feast by the Murray: Australian Historical Association 30th Anniversary Conference, Mildura, Vic., 28 September – 1 October 2003

“Australia’s war in the South-West Pacific, 1944–1945: a work in progress”, People and War: Aspects of Military History, University of Wollongong, NSW, 16–18 July 2001