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02 Aug 2019

Book Review  

The Thousand Doors  

Volume Four in the Australian Doctors at War Series  

Author: Colonel Robert Likeman  

Publisher: Halstead Press  


Review by Chris Johnson

Some books are extremely valuable for their subject matter alone. Even more so when that subject is treated with good writing and thorough research.

The Australian Doctors at War Series’ fourth volume is all of the above.

Titled The Thousand Doors, volume four of this series deals with the Middle East and Far East 1939-42.

Author, Dr Robert Likeman OAM CSM, is a highly celebrated retired Colonel in the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps who was, among many other things, Director of Army Health and also appointed Medical Officer to John Howard as Prime Minister.

His outstanding career is extensive and varied – and will be the subject of a profile feature in a future edition of Australian Medicine. He is well-placed to produce this book series about Australian medics serving in war.

The Thousand Doors (which could have been titled a ‘Thousand Hours’ by the obvious amount of work that has gone into it), is a book that had to be written in order to document forever the service to country of so many doctors. The book took two years to write.

With more than 700 mini biographies, it provides an extensive picture of the raising of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force, and medical officers who took part in the campaigns in North Africa and Syria, Malya and the Pacific between 1939 and 1942.

The biographies are arranged in units in which the medics served, and the book provides information about these units and brigades.

“The war in the Western Desert was a very different kind of war from the war on the Western Front,” the author writes.

“The doctors who took part in WWII were also different; not only had there been enormous advances in medicine in the preceding 20 years, there had been fundamental changes in society.”

This volume is a fascinating insight into the turbulent times the world endured and the brave medics who cared for their fellow humans.

As Major General A. W. Bottrell wrote in his eloquent foreword to the book:

“While The Thousand Doors is primarily a historical reference, it is also a story about individuals – the subtext is a story of discipline, devotion to duty and service.”

Indeed. And it is a beautifully produced hard bound volume. Dr Likeman is well into the next volume in the series, covering 1943-45.


The Thousand Doors can be purchased through online stores and at   





Published: 02 Aug 2019