Australian Prisoners of War in the Twentieth Century
Edited by Joan Beaumont, Lachlan Grant, Aaron Pegram
RRP $59.99 in paperback; ebook and hardback editions available
Published by Melbourne University Publishing
It seems quite ironic that having blogged about The Changi Book a couple of days ago, the next book I pick up also has Lachlan Grant among its editors, and, again it’s about POWs.
Lachlan Grant is an historian in the Military History Section of the Australian War Memorial.
Co-editor Joan Beaumont’s seminal work Broken Nation: Australian and the Great War, was published in 2013, and yes, that is on my bookshelf too.
The origins of this book, published in June this year, lie in a two-day conference sponsored by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and co-hosted by the ANU and the Australian War Memorial on the subject: Prisoners of War: Australian prisoners in the 20th century. This event was held 5-6 June 2013.
Over the twentieth century 35,000 Australians suffered as prisoners of war in conflicts ranging from World War I to Korea.
Beyond Surrender seeks to present the reality of their captivity and the diversity of the Australian ‘behind-the-wire’ experience, separating fact from fiction and myth from reality.
The book examines the impact that different types of camps, commandants and locations had on surrender, survival, prison life and the prospects of escape.
The insights into the crime and the black market that operated in Changi are interesting. Unsurprisingly there was resentment at the privileges of rank that the officers enjoyed. In the end participating in the black market became a matter of survival as food rations were cut.
As Joan Beaumont writes, one of the purposes of this book is to provide a much more diverse picture of captivity and perhaps, in doing so, to provide some understanding and insights into what she describes as the ‘memory boom’ of recent years.