Great escape gripping from get- go
RESCUE AT 2100 HOURS By Tom Trumble ( Viking, RRP: $ 29.99)
IT WAS February 21, 1942. The invasion of Timor by the Japanese had begun. Swarms of strafing aircraft screeched from the tropical sun.
The tiny airstrip at Penfui erupted as their planes carpet bombed with devastating effect.
From afar, a bombardment of shells from a fleet of Japanese battleships rent the sky with shock waves.
The aerodrome and nearby Kupang township and harbour shivered with the impact. Then, like a cloud of doom, the sky was filled with enemy parachutes.
Thirty eight Australian airmen, mostly signalmen and meteorologists, gathered in trepidation. Now they could not be evacuated and they faced capture or worse.
In panic, they burned official documents, diaries and maps, smashed equipment and gathered as much other vital items that might prove useful and fled.
Amid hostile fire, they plunged into a world almost as formidable as the one they were escaping, the near impenetrable rainforest jungle.
These vivid images inflame the pages and the book smoulders with intensity in your hands.
This is high drama and this is only the beginning.
The story that unfolds stretches belief.
The privations these men endured for 58 days and the courage and resilience they displayed becomes one of the real World War II escape stories told.
Driven by love and respect, Tom Trumble recounts their journey into hell with journalistic flair, empathy and restraint.
What makes the book more potent are the chapters revealing the fanatical and brutal actions of some Japanese combatants.
The images are not for the squeamish. The deaths of thousands of Dutch, Timorese and allied personnel, mostly non- combatants, are a sad reminder of that and other bloody conflicts.
The inclusions here were made possible by exhaustive research and personal interviews.
Rare photographs provide added authenticity. All but four men were rescued spectacularly.
The events might have come out of a movie script. Indeed all the elements for a screen adaptation are here.
It’s gripping reading. The leader of the gallant airmen that survived is Trumbles’ grandfather and his gratitude and pride in this man’s astounding accomplishments shows. This book resonates.