Great es­cape grip­ping from get- go

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - BOOKS - WAR­REN BREWER

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.

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