Review Blog

Oct 24 2014

Ambon by Roger Maynard

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Hachette Australia, 2014. ISBN 9780733630484
(Age: Senior Secondary) Subtitled: The Truth About One of the Most Brutal POW Camps in World War II and the Triumph of the Aussie Spirit. This book describes the deployment of 1150 Australian soldiers in a unit called Gull Force, to the island of Ambon in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December, 1941. At the end of the war less than 300 had survived captivity by the Japanese. The reviewer's father who is vividly described in the first chapter of the book was one of the lucky survivors.
The book would be useful for senior students who are studying Australia's involvement in conflicts overseas and the ethos of Australian mateship. The stress imposed on a group of men subject to isolation, boredom, forced labour, starvation, cruel treatment and illness, resulted in loss of trust in leadership and the breakdown of discipline and mutual respect. The book also details the massacre by beheading of 300 Australians and Dutch in February, 1942 and asks questions about why soldiers were sent to the island to face almost certain defeat, death and captivity.
An index, 8 pages of photographs, footnotes and a bibliography are included in the book.
Paul Pledger

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