Roger Maynard: Ambon
Tom Keneally Centre Reading
Roger Maynard reveals a little known war-time drama played out on the Indonesian island of Ambon.
The capture of Ambon could have almost certainly been avoided, however the military top brass pursued a strategy to deliberately sacrifice Gull Force. By the war’s end, barely 300 of the 1500 men of Gull Force taken captive would be alive to tell the tale.
Roger Maynard spent more than two years investigating the Ambon tragedy, uncovering the shocking and surprising tale of the top brass deliberately sacrificing the island, and why the death rate was 77 per cent of all those held in captivity.
In one horrific incident, the Japanese put some 300 Australians and Dutch to the sword as retribution for the sinking of a minesweeper during the opening days of the Japanese invasion.
Incredibly, Ambon was even bombed by American planes on a number of occasions when forces knew that allied POWs were held there. Who was responsible for such a military debacle and could it have been avoided?
The allied officers and men also turned against each other as order broke down due to the cycle of forced labour, boredom and plummeting morale. As a desperate measure to impose order, the officers built ‘The Cage’, a prison within a prison to incarcerate POWs accused of stealing food and other minor misdemeanours. The cage gouged a wound that even after 70 years refuses to heal.
Amazingly, some prisoners managed to escape the Ambon camp and island-hopped their way back to Australia. How they did it is a story in itself.
About Roger Maynard
In a journalism career spanning nearly 50 years, Roger Maynard has worked as a reporter for the BBC, The Times, CNBC, The South China Morning Post, The Daily Express and the ABC. He is the author of seven non-fiction books covering true crime, military history and the world of business. Maynard is a past president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Australia and also works as a video journalist. For more information visit www.RogerMaynard.com.au
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