On the afternoon of Monday 18 May 1942, Richard Manson, Dickie to his family, sat in the back of an uncovered utility truck belonging to the Japanese Navy and watched the river of dust swirl and tumble away behind him.
He might have imagined, as 11-year-old boys sometimes do, that the road was moving and he was not, and that if he jumped it would carry him away to the mountains, where no-one would find him.
Last chance, then for this story to end differently.
His mother, Marjorie, took his hand and wouldn’t let go
In 1942, in the midst of world War 2, five Australian civilians were captured by Japanese soldiers and later driven to a pit at the base of a volcano and executed as spies. The civilians included a woman, her brother, husband and friend – and her 11 year old son. How did a child end up in such a situation? And why did even his family not know the full story?
Line of Fire traces the stories of the five civilians, with particular focus on the stories of Marjorie Manson and her son Dickie, detailing the events that lead to them being in Rabaul and, ultimately, executed. Using a combination of documents research, visits to Rabaul, interviews of the few people still alive with memories of the events, and some guesswork, the story is pieced together in a a work that will both appall and fascinate history buffs.
Line of Fire, by Ian Townsend
Fourth Estate, 2017
It was a Saturday morning, the day jobs were advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald. I scanned the ‘Positions Vacant’ and spotted ‘Wanted for Rabaul, book-keeper with Island Merchants, apply with written application today…’
‘Where is Rabaul?’ I asked Frank. ‘It’s the capital of New Guinea, I think,’ he said.
So began Ted Fulton’s lifelong love affair with Papua New Guinea, where he would spend most of the next forty years of his life as a gold miner, soldier and plantation owner. Arriving in Rabaul in his early twenties, he soon learnt that if he wanted to make his fortune, a job as a book keeper was not for him. After working a variety of jobs he eventually became a gold miner, before the second world war interrupted.
As a soldier, Ted fought in the middle east before returning to Papua New Guinea, where he was deployed behind enemy lines. When the war finished, he settled briefly back in Australia, before taking his wife and first child back to Rabaul, where he became a successful planter.
For any one with an interest in the Pacific and especially Papua New Guinea, this is a detailed account, told in a no-nonsense first person voice. Fulton is matter of fact about his recollections of the hardships of war and of life in remote jungle areas, leaving the reader to interpret some of the emotions those experienced must have engendered.
A wonderful insight into one man’s life and to the events of the times.
No Turning Back, by E. T. W. Fulton
Pandanus Books, 2005