Having as a 7 year old child being told stories by my late grandfather of service in WWI, of battles where weapons were frozen, of him carrying wounded onto the beaches for the boats, running under fire with wounded across his shoulders of once being yelled at, “why are you carrying that”, only to find that the patient upon his shoulders had been hit a second time and had no head. I often wondered why his son my uncle Lionel Victor (Vic) Kearns stories of his service in WWII were muffled whispers and never once from his mouth, why he never spoke of his service and why I was sternly advised to not question him of his time. Why as the family story went that each ANZAC day he would lock himself away.
I have found your book un-put-down-able!!
As an 83 year old I was too young to for war service but my neighbour and life long friend Harry Sharland, from Sidcup in Kent, (UK) spent much of his war at Kanchanaburi and as a result I have an abiding interest in that particular phase of the war. I have since met and befriended a number of other men who were on the railway. …
Harry was a bank clerk before the war and he used his experience to sneak out of the camp at night and meet Boon Pong, who exchanged officers’ cheques for medical supplies and food. And all those cheques were honoured after the war. Page 105 (Digger’s Story) tells me that you (David) had similar dealings with Boon Pong: maybe you and Harry were known to each other?
Review from Fellow Digger Jim Ellwood
I am writing to let you know how much I enjoyed it (the book Digger’s Story) and how impressed I was by his extraordinary experiences. What a man he was and how I wish I’d known something of his history when we were together. Tribute has also to go to Brian Roberson, for doubtless he had a part in producing an account which is a cut or two above, indeed well above, the generality of the genre, which of course is not to detract one whit from David’s input—his amazing experiences.
A Case Study in Tenacity and Aussie Fighting Spirit
There is history with a capital H, which is dates and times and famous men and then there’s history at the personal level, fashioned from the lives of individual people. And in many ways this is the most difficult to get in a written form. It is the sort of history that mostly disappears with the death of the teller. So in many ways we are really fortunate that Dave “Digger” Barrett ran into someone with the ability to put it on paper: Brian Robertson.
Pattie Wright Review
While I was reading toward the final pages of ‘Digger’s Story’, the book’s author was dying. After living to a great age, David Barrett had no final opportunity, no few hours left, to read the review he had asked me to write. No chance to read my comments about what a good and important book he had written with his friend, Brian Robertson.
Timing is everything in life: I think few would disagree. Therefore, in taking the glass half full attitude to David’s loss - as he was an optimist - happily he was able to live long enough to see the publication of the collaboratively written story of his life. And, with even more satisfaction, Brian Robertson and David knew they had done a good job; a fine job of telling David’s remarkable story as a Medical Orderly in the 2/9th Field Ambulance of the AIF from the fall of Singapore to the end of the war, via the Thai Burma railway.
Glued to the Pages
I spent every spare moment with my nose glued to the pages. Digger's character is very strong indeed, and his sense of humour which undoubtedly helped him through horrendous times also assists in alleviating the reader's distress. However much one has read or heard about the horrors of the Japanese camps over many years, to read about them again is still gut-wrenching!
Very moving to me is Chapter 19 about the health of Ex—POWs. David's self analysis is a brilliant piece of writing. What a pity that it was not available years ago to all those families closely associated with ex prisoners who in attempting to adjust to their normal lives tried to lock down their memories and refused to discuss them openly, or who, worse still, tried to discuss the horrors of these years and who were told to forget them and get on with things! I fear this happened a lot, as it did more recently when the troops came home from Vietnam.
Okay, will wipe away my tears, put Digger's Story aside and have a strong cup of coffee. Congratulations to you both for a very fine book that deserves to do well and should be read by all the younger generation, who don't really know how lucky they are.
Justice and Compassion
David’s strong sense of justice is closely intertwined with his humane compassion. His continuous search for justice for former POWs of the Japanese Imperial Forces, even decades after the war, has moved many people, not only his fellow former POWs, but also Japanese supporters, including myself.