Twomey, Christina: The Battle Within: POWs in Postwar Australia

Christina Twomey

The Battle Within: POWs in Postwar Australia, NewSouth, Sydney, 2018

This landmark and compelling book follows the stories of 15,000 Australian prisoners of war from the moment they were released by the Japanese at the end of World War II. Their struggle to rehabilitate themselves and to win compensation and acknowledgement from their own country was just beginning. This moving book shows that “the battle within” was both a personal and a national one.

Prize-winning historian Christina Twomey finds that official policies and attitudes towards these men were equivocal and arbitrary for almost forty years. The image of a defeated and emaciated soldier held prisoner by people of a different race did not sit well with the mythology of Anzac. Drawing on the records of the Prisoner of War Trust Fund for the first time, this book presents the struggles of returned prisoners in their own words. It also shows that memories of captivity forged new connections with people of the Asia-Pacific region, as former POWs sought to reconcile with their captors and honour those who had helped them. A grateful nation ultimately lauded and commemorated POWs as worthy veterans from the 1980s, but the real story of the fight to get there has not been told until now. (blurb)

The book is reviewed for Honest History by John Myrtle. Martin Crotty reviewed the book for Fairfax. Review note on Blue Wolf Reviews. Christina Twomey interview with Mat McLachlan (audio only). ABC RN program from 2014 includes comments from Christina Twomey and Martin Crotty. Google Books extracts. Tom Hyland review in Inside Story. Janine Rizzetti review. The book wins the 2018 Australian History prize in the NSW Premier’s History Awards.

Honest History has other material on POWs: a note about the 2013 conference where Christina Twomey spoke; the book of the papers from that conference (reviewed by Kristen Alexander); Clare Makepeace’s Captives of War, on British prisoners in World War II (Kristen Alexander review).

Christina Twomey is one of Honest History’s distinguished supporters. She said this about The Honest History Book: ‘This book puts Anzac in its place, and offers stories and analysis that account for so much of Australian history that the “Anzac spirit” cannot explain’.


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