Bastard behind the Lines: The story of a true Australian hero


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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s