Good Reading : September 2010
SEPTEMBER 2010 ı goodreading 9 behind the book 1 Their stories are noble and tragic. Frank McGovern was a young able seaman from Paddington in Sydney who survived the sinking in 1942 and made it through the hell of the Railway of Death, as they called it.They packed him into a ship to be transported to Japan, and he was torpedoed again in the South China Sea, this time by the Americans, along with hundreds of other Australian prisoners. Some of those men were later rescued by American submarines, but Frank was not. The Japanese captured him again and he was sent to work in a factory outside Tokyo, where he was nearly killed in the American firebombing raids of 1945. Paralysed from the waist down, he avoided execution by a Japanese officer by somehow forcing himself to walk. He is alive today -- I went to his 90th birthday party in October 2009 -- and a finer Australian you could never hope to meet. To tell the story of these men and their ship has been a privilege and an honour. It took some four years of research to get it all down, but it was always a labour of love. I had two sorts of readers in mind: the professional sailor who wants all the facts and language as shipshape as can be, and the average person who might not know port from starboard but who wants a rattling good yarn.As I got into the job,I saw it as writing history that would read like a novel, in the drama of stor ms and war at sea, or misery and death in the jungles of Burma and Thailand. I hope I have struck that balance. Cruiser: The life and loss of HMAS Perth and her crew by Mike Carlton is published by Random House, r rp $55.00. HMAS Perth fires a 21-gun salute as she enters New York Harbour, August 1939. Photo: Naval Historical Society of Australia Chief Petty Officer Reg Whiting, lost in the sinking. He left behind a wife and two young boys. Petty Officer Ray Parkin, who was at the wheel when Perth was sunk. Petty Officer Stoker Charles ‘Jock’ Lawrance. At the time of writing, he was Perth’s oldest living survivor, aged 97.