It was March 1942 and Australian prime minister John Curtin was battling with Winston Churchill to recall his troops back from overseas to defend their homeland from an imminent attack by the Japanese
Darwin had already been bombed and the Japanese had steamrolled through Malaya, laid seige to Singapore and bombed Pearl Harbour. It seemed that nothing could stop them.
The Japanese next step was inevitable, surely: the invasion and occupation of Australia.
So as Curtin fought with Churchill, people on the home front were doing their own bit to pitch-in as best they could, torn between "she'll be right and near panic".
On Our Doorstep is the latest book by acclaimed author Craig Collie.
Full of first-hand accounts, many previously unpublished, the book tells the story of this dramatic period in Australian history while resisting becoming a traditional recollection of war.
I can't understand the mentality of the Australian people. One day they are in a panic about the war and the next they want more race meetings.
On Our Doorstep is the story of how Australia and Australians - the government, the military and the people - prepared to face this calamity of potential invasion by a juggernaut enemy, and the events that persuaded them of its probability.
In the end, Japan found it had stretched itself beyond the reliability of its supply line, but had it ever intended to invade Australia?
Although Australia has not been invaded by a foreign power since 1788, it persuades itself from time to time that another invasion is just around the corner. In the colonial era, as an outpost of the British Empire, it had to live with the possibility of military action by British enemies and rivals.
It's the snippets of recollections and memories of ordinary people, recorded through the pages, that turn this book from a purely dry account of a challenging time in Australian history into a fascinating human perspective of a country believing it faced the almost unimaginable scenario of invasion.
They felt very keely there might be an invasion at that stage. They even put a guard on the Millicent (South Australia) powerhouse - which was two diesel engines with about 60 horsepower.
The phrase 'Battle for Australia' was used by John Curtin following the fall of Singapore. Craig Collie's book says the case for Japan's High Command planning to invade Australia "is largely built on anecdotal evidence that isn't always coherent and doesn't bear close examination".
History buffs will find much of value in the meticulously researched On Our Doorstep but so will readers who enjoy gaining a glimpse into Australian history and psychology and the mentality and fortitude which helped forge much of what we know today.
It is a very readable book which examines the country's relationship with Great Britain during the war years and it's growing relationship the United States of America which would ultimately lead to its involvement in a number of other conflicts.
About the author:
Craig Collie is the author of the highly acclaimed The Path of Infinite Sorrow: The Japanese on the Kokoda Track and Nagasaki: The massacre of the innocent and unknowing, as well as The Reporter and the Warlords: An Australian at large in China's republican revolution. He is a TV producer-director by background and was series producer of A Big Country and Quantum. He has been Production Executive at the Australian Film TV & Radio School and head of TV Production at SBS.
On Our Doorstep, allenandunwin.com RRP $32.99.