Sir Horace Robertson was one of Australia's most colourful and controversial generals. His career spanned forty years and two world wars, as well as a lengthy period in Japan and Korea between 1946 and 1951. Australian Brass not only charts the life of 'Red Robbie', it uses his career as a vehicle to trace the development of the Australian regular army and professional officer corps. It is also the first acount of the occupation of Japan from a senior officer's perspective, as Robertson was Commander-in-Chief of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force after the Second World War. This episode is set in the context of the changing relationship between Britain and the Pacific dominions. The Australian regular army was not a principal source of military advice to the country's leaders. Government moved from a reliance on amateur citizen forces to a conscious policy to develop a force of modern military professionals. Sir Horace Robertson was a central figure in this maturation of the army. An early graduate from Duntroon, he was commissioned in the AIF and went to Gallipoli with the 3rd Light Horse Brigade.
Between the wars Robertson developed his skills, gaining a reputation as an extremely capable and devoted training officer, although during World War Two he was known as much for his displays of bombast and egotism as for his victories. In 1946 he was sent to Japan to command a multinational Commonwealth force and his work there was much admired, althought the Commonwealth occupation force never realised its original aims. Few of those who knew him are ambivalent about Red Robbie, but he will be remembered as 'a true personality, a character, and a grand leader of men.' Australian Brass makes an important contribution to military biography. It will be of interest to readers of Australian history and all those interested in the Commonwealth occupation of Japan.