About The Author
Linda Goetz Holmes is a Historian appointed to the U.S. Government Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group, tasked with locating and declassifying material about World War II war crimes.
The author’s central figure, Australian Staff Sergeant Cecil Dickson, had been a reporter for a Melbourne paper. Already a veteran of fighting in the Middle East, he was returning home with his battalion in January 1942 when it was diverted to Java. Eventually, the battalion joined masses of American, British, Australian and Dutch prisoners working under brutal conditions on the Singapore-Burma railway.
Between stories of suffering and sadistic cruelty the author focusses on the months after Japan’s surrender and Dickson’s return to Australia utilising the letters he had written to his wife.
I enjoyed the different perspective with the protagonist focussing on wars end and getting home to his wife , Binks. It wasn’t until October 1945 that Dickson finally left Asia for Australia and between the lines we get that he could have departed earlier except that as a journalist he was interested in writing the POW experience for the Australian public.
Dickson was pipped at the post by Rohan Rivett, a fellow POW, who wrote the POW Bible, Behind Bamboo, released in 1946, which was the Go To book when I was a student.
One particularly tragic tale refers to the POW who survived years of incarceration only to ring his wife in Perth, Western Australia, on his journey home to learn that she had formed a liaison with another man. He quietly slipped over the side of the ship never to be seen again.
Dickson also relates that as he disembarked off the ship in Melbourne a “ charming woman came up and chatted to him”. It didn’t click that it was his wife of 19 years, Binks.
We have absolutely no idea, do we ?