Carolyn Holbrook reviews 'The Battle Within: POWs in postwar Australia' by Christina Twomey

The director of the Australian War Memorial, Brendan Nelson, recently announced plans for a $500 million underground expansion of the memorial. In justifying the expenditure, Nelson claimed that commemoration ‘is an extremely important part of the therapeutic milieu’ for returning soldiers; ‘I’ve particularly learned from the Vietnam experience it is important to tell the stories and tell them now. We tell them broadly and deeply and we don’t wait a decade.’

Christina Twomey’s new book, The Battle Within, traces the experiences of a group of returning soldiers who had to wait a lot longer than a decade to have their stories told. It was not until the 1980s that prisoners of the Japanese during World War II were invited into the temple of Anzac. Twomey uses the metaphor of the Thai–Burma railway, which she first saw as a twelve-year-old in 1980 and revisited in 2012, to describe their passage from exile to the increasingly elaborate centre of Anzac commemoration:

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Published in August 2018, no. 403