The Emperor’s Grace
Untold Stories of Australians Enslaved in Japan during WWII
Clayton, Vic: Monash University Publishing, 2021
Paperback 208pp RRP $34.96
Reviewer: Robert Dixon, March 2022
The Emperor’s Grace focuses on the war-time experience of three Australian Army officers who were captured by the Japanese in Singapore. The work is well researched and very well crafted. While focusing on the experiences of three officers the author reveals to us a far larger story, the story of the men of C Force – the first contingent of Australian, British and Dutch prisoners of war shipped from Singapore to Japan in November 1942. These men worked in the Kawasaki Shipyard in Kobe before the American firebombing campaign razed the city, and then the infamous Fukuoka coal mine before the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought World War II to an end. While the horrors of the Thai–Burma Railway and Sandakan are well documented the fate of the 3800 Australians sent to work as slave labourers in the factories and mines of mainland Japan are less well known. This work goes a long way towards making up that deficiency and would be ideal for a school or municipal library.
The title The Emperor’s Grace is taken from a speech made to the POWs by the Commander of Osaka POW camp when they first arrived in Japan. The speech included the words ‘You fought well but lost and were taken captives. It would be all natural and possible that you would be standing before a firing squad before long. However, by the august virtues and grace of His Majesty, The Emperor, and also benevolence of our military authorities, you are still sound and alive, having necessary quarters to live in with clothing and food properly supplied.’
The book includes forty-one photographs, five of which are photographs of drawings made while he was a POW by Robert Mitchell, himself a member of C Force. The book also has a Roll of Honour, six pages of endnotes, a select bibliography, and a very comprehensive index.
Mark Baker is one of Australia’s most experienced journalists. He covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was wounded while covering the civil war in Bougainville in the early 1990s. He is a former Senior Editor of The Age and Editor of The Canberra Times.
The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.