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

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

The Battle Within: POWs in postwar Australia

by Christina Twomey

NewSouth, $39.99 pb, 320 pp, 9781742235684

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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Carolyn Holbrook

Carolyn Holbrook

Carolyn Holbrook is an Alfred Deakin Research Fellow at Deakin University. She is the au-thor of Anzac: The unauthorised biography (NewSouth, 2014), which won the New South Wales Premiers’ History Award and the Queensland Premiers’ Literary Award. She is the convenor of the Australian Policy and History network.

Published in August 2018, no. 403

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