Book of the month: Digger's Story
Author: Brian Robertson
Imprint: FIVE MILE PRESS
Book of the month for: August, 2012
David ‘Digger’ Barrett was given his nickname at an early age by his father. It was prophetic: as an 18-year-old looking for fun and adventure, he enlisted as a private and served in World War II. After surviving the Malayan Campaign, he would spend over three years as a prisoner of war of the Japanese. The prisoners were moved to work on the Thai–Burma railway – also known as the Death Railway – a 415km track hewn by prisoners through rock and tropical jungle that cost more than 100 000 lives. Digger’s job was digging graves for the dead, or nearly
dead, every single day. It would take Digger more than 50 years to rid his mind of the hate he felt for the guards of the Imperial Japanese Army. His story of courage, mateship and survival takes him from the prison camps of Thailand and Burma to the fight for reparations for all Australian POWs of the Japanese.
1. Digger’s behaviour shows great hate combined with a burning determination to survive and seek revenge. Did you regard this as a worthy combination of character traits?
2. The book explains that not all POWs showed these traits. Why do you think some POWs were less vengeful or determined?
3. To what degree, if any, do you believe that Digger’s experiences during his time as a POW influenced his success as a salesman and businessman in his postwar career?
4. Was it David’s thirst for revenge that drove him to found the Australian Reparations Committee, more than 40 years after the war?
5. Did you enjoy the humour in the book? Is there a place for humour in a book about such intense suffering?
6. Some Japanese politicians have made attempts to apologise for Japan’s behaviour during the war. But why, unlike Germany, have they never offered reparations?
7. Do you believe that reparations from Japan might have been forthcoming if David had got his way to further embarrass the Japanese after 1990?