Historian, Writer, Commentator, Consultant.

Consultancy

Peter is available for historical consultancies. He has fulfilled commercial, publishing, film and television consultancies.

Anzac Day in Canberra, 2001. By John Mewett.Anzac Day commentaries

From 1998 I did a series of commentaries on Anzac Day and other events for the ABC. From 1998 to 2001 I was part of the commentary team for the ABC TV broadcast of the Sydney Anzac Day march, with special responsibility for the army contingents (the largest component of the march). This commitment, which was one of the most involved about an hour of more-or-less impromptu commentary. The vastly experienced ABC producer, Kinsey McDonald, who was a joy to work with and learn from, always assembled a huge amount of briefing material, and gave the commentary team an armful of folders at the briefing. But on air, while you could keep an eye on the folders and try to keep up, you basically had to follow Kinsey’s lead and, as he said, ‘talk to the screen’. I always enjoyed this job – which was an unpaid consultancy because all the ABC offered was travel and accommodation – and regarded it as a great honour. It marked in some ways the point at which I felt accepted as an Australian.

On 1 January 2001 I had fun sharing the commentary box with Geraldine Doogue, commentating on the ‘defence’ segment of the Centenary of Federation parade in Sydney. It was a bizarre mish-mash of participants, with Militia and Vietnam veterans marching after Land Army women and goodness knows what else. The thing I mostly recall of this event was the lavish hospitality offered to the on-air talent. Hello, I thought, this could be a good gig …

Later in 2001 I was in the commentary box on Anzac Parade for the dedication of the Korean War memorial. This was less celebratory, but I’m sure that this was the first time I worked with ABC presenter Alex Sloan, who must be one of the most genuinely nice people to spit into a microphone in an industry notoriously full of phoneys with super-size egos.

In 2002 the Australian War Memorial forbade me from working with the ABC and gave me the task of providing the live commentary over the open microphone at the Anzac Day national ceremony, held at the Memorial. Though this was heard by many fewer listeners, it seemed all the more nerve-wracking. It was also technically more demanding because of what I call the ‘Nuremberg effect’ – the reverberation from the speakers as you speak – and the fact that the narrator is entirely at the mercy of groups arriving – or not arriving – on the parade ground on time.

In 2007, now no longer working for the Memorial, I was free to go back to the ABC. Producer Eric Napper – another veteran of outside broadcasting and another lovely fellow – asked me to do the commentary of the national ceremony, this time from the ABC’s tiny outside broadcast caravan, apparently a converted hot-dog stall on wheels. This was a much more relaxed job, and I very much enjoyed working with ABC TV presenters such as Vanessa Hausegger and Chris Kimble. However, by 2010 I felt that I was becoming a bit dissatisfied with this job. This was partly because the march changed very little from year to year and so offered fewer challenges, and partly because I felt uncomfortable with aspects of the ceremony. I always felt that the fly-past was utterly uncalled for, destroying the quiet of the ceremony in a display of noisy and macho hardware. Having seen about thirty of them since the late 1970s, in my view the ceremony had become noticeably more militarised than it had been, though as commentator, whether on the open microphone or in the ABC van I was of course unable to express any reservations. (The best you can do as a commentator if you see something you don’t approve of is just to not say anything.) Still, while I had always enjoyed these jobs, I looked now for a fresh challenge. Fortuitously, even before the 2010 march, I had had given Eric Napper my notice, having accepted an invitation from Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours to lead one of its 2011 Battlefield tours.

Australians at War (TV series)

Second World War book

Unibic series

In Their Footsteps

Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours

Publishers

I have provided confidential readers reports to many Australian publishers over the past thirty years.