Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

A very readable military history.

Much has been written about the fall of Singapore in World War II, but this carefully researched history of the 2/20th Battalion AIF is a very readable account of events with special insight into what it was like for a soldier’s family back home. It describes the pre-war conditions in New South Wales, pre-embarkation training, passage from Sydney to Singapore on the Queen Mary early in 1941 and their training in Malaya.

It follows the battalion’s disastrous battle for Singapore and their subsequent capture and imprisonment by the Japanese. As the author tells the story of the Battalion’s training in Malaya in 1941, she captivates the reader with her description of the unfolding war, woven together with the regular eloquent letters written between her father-in-law Capt Bill Gaden and his family. Bill’s letters tell of their living conditions, encounters with the local population and amusing experiences during periods of leave. They reveal little of the growing tension, as the soldiers’ excellent training and confident preparation give way to poor leadership and lack of support from mother England, as the Japanese eventually overwhelm Singapore.

The author draws on a variety of sources to build a picture of what it was also like for the family at home in war-time Sydney Bill and many others from the 2/20th became members of ‘D’ Force on the infamous Thai-Burma railway, but in contrast to others, this book does not dwell on this horrific period and it also shows the subsequent struggle faced by former POWs as they try and return to normal life. This well-researched 320-page history is based on the Battalion’s routine orders and official war diary but is supplemented by hundreds of other sources, all carefully documented. The personal perspective is maintained by extensive reporting of the fate of hundreds of the soldiers mentioned.

The book is available at $25 plus $9.60 postage from the author

Book Review by Lt. Col. Peter Winstanley OAM RFD (Retired) JP Inaugural President, Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association (Inc)  email