During the war…
My quest to ‘find’ my grandfather (see “Searching for Jack”) has lead me into a rabbit hole of research. I am only just coming up for air, having immersed myself in the history of the war in the Far East, specifically the aftermath of the Fall of Singapore, one of the most shameful military disasters of the twentieth century.
From the little that Jack revealed, and the history I had absorbed, I knew that the conquering Japanese forces were brutal in their treatment of prisoners and native populations alike. I hadn’t realised that they actually did not recognise the Geneva Convention and placed themselves so far outside the mores of the wider world that the men and women in their control had no protection whatsoever, moral or otherwise. My research has taken me into a labyrinth of horror and sorrow, lightened only by evidence of humanity flickering weakly in the shadows.
It’s commonly known that the men returning from World War 2 rarely spoke of their experiences. I had always assumed that this was purely the result of trauma, plus perhaps a certain amount of mid century chivalry that dictated that such things were not for the ears of the women and children at home. I didn’t realise that they were instructed specifically NOT to talk about the war. They were told that they had “suffered enough” and that they should go back to their lives and put it all behind them. I wonder what psychologists dealing with combat trauma today would think of that. An entire generation of men, a high proportion of whom must surely have spent the rest of their lives dealing with undiagnosed PTSD.
There are countless books about World War 2 written by erudite historians, contemporary accounts (by far the most poignant), Films, documentaries and TV series. However, as was the case at the time, the events surrounding the war in the Far East have, until quite recently, been less well known than the war in Europe. 13th February 1942 marks the 75th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore – described by Churchill as “the impregnable fortress” – and I intend to publish my book about Jack’s experiences to coincide with that.
Within the sweeping theatre of war, there are countless discrete stories, many of which have never been adequately told. By telling these stories we can both honour the people who lived them, and use them as a barometer for the state of the world today. I am taking one such incident and turning it into a work of fiction. Because it is a true event, involving “real” people, I will insert fictional characters into the story, so that I can protect the reputations of the men who served. I only hope I can do them justice.
I’ll be posting updates on my progress here – you’re very welcome to join me!