Line of Fire
After Pearl Harbour came Rabaul
By Ian Townsend
Published by Fourth Estate/HarperCollins
RRP $29.99 in paperback • ISBN 9781460750926
Ian Townsend had planned to write a novel about life in 1942 but along the way he stumbled across the tantalizing true story of an Australian woman and her 11 year old son executed as spies in 1942. His book, Line of Fire, is the end result of his journey.
Not long after the attack on Pearl Harbour, the Japanese swept into the strategically important coastal town of Rabaul in the then Australian Territory of New Guinea.
Marjorie Manson, a dressmaker from Adelaide, was living in Rabaul at the time with her son Richard (Dickie). She had left her husband in Adelaide to live with plantation owner Ted Harvey in Rabaul.
When the Japanese invaded, the trio, along with Marjorie’s brother Jimmy and plantation manager Bill Parker fled into the jungle. They were a small part of the 1500 Australian contingent in Rabaul at the time.
Unfortunately they were betrayed. When caught they had in their possession a pistol and a radio. After a three day trial, the five Australians were found guilty of being spies and soon after executed by firing squad.
Townsend has captured the mood of this terrible act in a story that successfully combines fact with fiction.