Bastard behind the Lines
By Tom Gilling
Published by Allen & Unwin
RRP $29.99 in paperback | ISBN 9781760875879
Scottish-born but a Queenslander to the bone, Jock McLaren was a true Australian hero. As a prisoner he escaped twice, first from Changi and later from the infamous Sandakan POW camp in Borneo.
After paddling a dugout canoe across open sea, he fought for two years with American-led Filipino guerrillas, his exploits so audacious the Japanese put a price on his head.
At the helm of his 26-foot whaleboat, the Bastard, McLaren sailed brazenly into enemy-held harbours, wreaking havoc with his mortar and machine guns before heading back out to sea. In early 1945 he joined Australia’s secretive Z Special Unit, parachuting into Borneo to carry out reconnaissance resistance ahead of Allied landings.
He cheated death on numerous occasions and saved his own life by removing his appendix without anaesthetic, using ‘two large dessert spoons’ and a razor blade.
McLaren’s story first came to light in Hal Richardson’s book ‘One-Man War: The Jock McLaren Story’ published more than 60 years ago, which Gilling believes relies too heavily on recollections.
Instead, Gilling has drawn heavily on Allied and Japanese wartime documents to retell the story of a courageous individual who did what he could to disrupt the enemy and improbably survived to tell the tale.