- Book reviewer
- History - WW2, Book reviews, Biographies
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 1983 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Yield Not To The Wind By: Margaret Clarence. Published by the author
This is an easy book to read, as the subject is extremely interesting, and once you pick it up you will not put it down. The story concerns two people, both strong willed to the extreme, setting out to make their fortune in the Solomon Islands. The author is a daughter of the two stars in the story, and is in a good position to record the facts as they happened. We find ourselves becoming really involved in the life of the Islands, we follow the massacre on Malaita, and we follow the volcanic eruption at Rabaul. It was through her parents’ strong wills, neither was prepared to give in, that the story follows two distinct trails.
Charles Bignell, the father, was a local born Australian, whilst the mother, Kathleen, was born and raised in Scotland, and was kept well and truly under the thumb. But Kathleen was not the type to take things lying down. Her marriage to Charles Bignell was happy enough at first, but between the wars, they were married in 1914, they had virtually parted ways to pursue their own business trends. Kathleen took over the Rabaul Hotel, and was taken prisoner by the “sons of heaven”.
It is the description of her life as a P.O.W. that really cuts deep. Talking of conditions in P.O.W. camps for women in Japan, the following makes interesting reading at the present time. “The eighth of each month was Degradation Day when the few vegetables they were issued with would be thrown into a cesspit from which they had to rake them out before cooking. Then they had to kneel and bow in the direction of the Emperor’s Palace.” They learnt to remove their glasses and false teeth at roll call so that they would not be broken when their faces were slapped.” Cardinal Gilroy’s famous words “To know the Japanese is to love them”, had a hollow ring about then, and to many of us, still has. The Japanese had a bad habit of keeping the Red Cross parcels sent to the P.O.W.s, a habit also practiced by the Germans, but after reading this book the nasty taste still remains.
To my way of thinking this book should become a textbook for social studies in schools. We have read much of the treatment handed out to our fighting men, but too little about the treatment dished out to civilian women prisoners. But overall, the book holds the interest from the very beginning, and the illustrations are first class. Margaret Clarence had quite a few adventures herself in the Solomons but is quite modest about them, treating her exploits in a very much matter of fact manner.
Naval students will enjoy the photo of both “SYDNEY” and “ADELAIDE” in Tulagi Harbour, as they certainly will enjoy the vivid scene of the evacuation during the Vulcan eruption at Rabaul in 1937. The book itself is an invaluable record of life in the Solomon Islands from 1914 to 1941, it is very readable, is direct and straight to the point. It is one of the best books I have read for a very long time. Very highly recommended.