Monday, 22 October 2012

The Naked Island

The Naked Island by Russell Brandon (ISBN 0-330-02169-9) is his story of joining the Australian Army in 1941 and his capture and imprisonment for 3 years by the Japanese Imperial Army.

This was apparently one of the first books written about such experiences, and was first published in 1952.

It is a powerfully written and evocative account.  Russell writes with a keen eye for detail, a amazingly robust sense of humour and excellent character portraits.

His description of training and deployment by the Australian Army ought to be read by anyone interested in the military.  The farcical deployments and movements and 'training' contrast appallingly with the courage and heroism displayed by the troops in combat.

His time in captivity, is harrowing, and I can only describe it as being like memoirs of a concentration camp survivor.  The treatment of prisoners by the Japanese Military was appalling beyond words. In fact, at one stage in the book, Brandon himself struggles to describe the existence he endured.  The relentless 18 hours of work and brutality passing in  a haze where one incident blurs into an endless stream of torture  so bad that few incidents stand out for recall. Working 18 hours a day subject to beatings and witnessing unimaginable cruelty, Brandon survived by determination,luck and telling himself nothing mattered.

That the suffering inflicted by the Japanese Army was both deliberate and unnecessary is without doubt.  I can't help but feel for the British/commonwealth/USA troops who had to endure it and who saw their comrades suffer and die, yet were treated abysmally after the war and got little in the way of compensation or apology.

No comments: