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No Ribbons or Medals Review

In today’s society, National Security is often taken for granted. Aside from the period of heightened security brought on by the events of 11 September 2001, the majority of the population are unaware of the important role undertaken by the security services. The same can be said about Australia. During World War II, all the allied countries experienced heightened levels of internal security. Many internment camps were formed to hold people considered to be a possible threat to the nation. Australia was no exception, with suspected foreign nationals being held in specific parts of the country.
Valdemar Robert Wake’s book No Ribbons or Medals deals with the subject of internal security with Australia during World War II. The author discusses how his father – Bob Wake – played a pivotal role in Australian national security during the conflict. Bob Wake’s role was to actively seek out potential threats, to infiltrate them and in all cases stop them from achieving their aims.
The author has attempted to write a definitive biography of his father, but in doing so has unavoidably created a biased account that contains elements of obvious hero worship. Bob Wake’s post in the secret service meant that his family did not know what he did for a living, and (according to the author) his achievements have been completely erased from official Australian history. Whilst other books have mentioned Wake, many of them have criticised his dealings with minor incidents of civil unrest between ex-patriots.
No ribbons or medals is worth reading to gain an insight into the private life of one of Australia’s more accomplished spy masters. The nature of the Intelligence Service makes it hard for the author to expose any new facts, but it is still a shame that all of the cases cited in this book are already in the public domain. Valdemar Robert Wake’s book should appeal to the general reader, but its appeal to an academic audience is fairly limited as it brings nothing new to the plethora of intelligence books currently on the market.


- Adam Davis University of Luton 20 April 2005

The Enemy within is often the greatest threat to effective intelligence

The fallout from the Jack Roche affair finds Australia's iontelligence services again on the defensive.

Is there, as has been suggested a deep-seated cultural problem in the intelligence community that has now assumed a frontline position, as it did in the Cold War, in security issues?

The collection and analysis of intelligence is an exacting task, most of it is just hard slogging, the value adding is the inspired thinking that seizes on the hitherto, overlooked point and joins the dots where no one else suspects dots existed.

It requires a rare ability to think outside the square, but as has been shown repeatedly, such people, who tend this way are unorthodox, and are therefore an anathema to the rigid conformity of the intelligence community.

To think laterally among the herd of unbending conformists or to achieve success in the company of plodders, makes you a target, and the intelligence services, like revolutions, have a nasty habit of devouring their own.

Bob Wake was one such intelligence operative...

Norman Abjorensen
Canberra Times
17 June 2004

A long ago war story surfaces out of Australia via Yellowknife

Thirty-five years ago, reporting from the gold-mining town of Yellowknife, I occasionally hit the taverns with Valdemar Robert Wake, a rangy Australian with a broad Queensland accent who worked for the CBC.

We'd glean gossip from prospectors, trappers and bush pilots, hard rock engineers and the occasional slumming bureaucrat.

There was the added satisfaction of sending the bill to those editors who got you out of bed to confirm spellings like Uluqsagtuuq and Sangiluaq.

One ANZAC day. with my wife as the designated driver, we crammed into her battered red pickup and drove past Gaint Mine toward the barrens. Besides the frozen lake, Val proposed a toast to the Queensland boys who fell beside my granddad at Gallipoli, then one for the boys who stopped the Japanese at Kokoda in the New Guinea jungle, and so on.

That summer, Val appeared in the Gold Range pub with a companion, another raw-boned, soft spoken Aussie- his Dad. Robert Frederick Bird Wake had jouorneyed Up North from Down Under party to see how his son was making out on his great Canadian adventure but mostly to see his granddaughter, Claudine, born in Yellowknife and about to celebrate her second birthday...

Steve Hume
Vancounver Sun
28 September 2007

No Ribbons or Medals

Born in Melbourne in 1900, Robert Frederick Bird  "Bob" Wake, was the subject of this life by his eldest son, joined the Department of Navy as an 18-year-old and became associated with Naval Intelligence. This was the launch pad for a career in counter-espionage, which took off in the later 1930s. Apponted to the Commonwealth Investigation Branch (CIB) of the Attorney-General's Department in 1934, in 1935 Wake the Inspector heading the Queensland section. By 1943 he was the Queensland Deputy-Director of the Commonwealth Security Service (CSS) formed in 1942 and a Lt.-Colonel in the Army. In 1944 he was forcibly retired from the Army for making false statements in his application for a commission in 1939, in claiming that he had served with counter-intelligence in London...

Professor John Perkins
AQ Journal of Contemporary Analysis
vol.78 issue July-August 2004