The Emperor’s Grace
Untold Stories of the Australians Enslaved in Japan during World War II
By Mark Baker
Published by Monash University Publishing
RRP $34.95 in paperback | ISBN 9781922464033
The horrors of the Thai–Burma Railway and Sandakan are well documented. Less well known is the fate of the 3,800 Australians sent to work as slave labourers in the factories and mines of mainland Japan.
Of the total figure of 22,000 Australian military personnel captured by the Japanese, more than a third would die from malnutrition, disease and violent abuse.
With access to the material left by the late Doug Lush, who recorded his wartime experiences, and the diaries of others who survived such as Ken Trumble, author Mark Baker has written a compelling story of the hardship the men endured and of the mateship that helped them survive, all set against the backdrop of the unspeakable brutality of their Japanese captors.
As Baker writes, the experience of war would remain a powerful undercurrent throughout Doug Lush’s long and prosperous life – he passed away at the age of 97 in 2015 – but it left him forever asking the unanswerable question:
‘How could they [the Japanese military] have done what they did?’
A question that no doubt remains unanswered to this day.