Jack Frith left his family and his life to go to war like so many others, uncertain whether he would come home. Whilst in a convoy bound for the Middle East the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, triggering Allied entry into the Pacific War. Hastily regrouped and ordered to the Far East, the now ill-equipped convoy peeled off for Java and elsewhere. Slipping the moorings, Jack could not have known that years of captivity and brutality, starvation and forced labour, and yet worse, awaited him.
This is no cry for revenge but justice, laying bare actions and exposing inaction, demanding long overdue apologies and uncovering past atrocities. It is also a moment of reflection on the forgotten armies of the Far East, in remembering each subsequent generation owes a great unpaid debt of gratitude to those who gave so much for our present freedom. The price of that freedom was by no means free.
MY INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR!
When did you know that you wanted to be an author?
I’ve been writing since I was small, I wrote plays and scripts with my brother when we were about seven or eight, and I won a regional school prize for a short story I wrote in 1979. I’ve always written, whether academically for my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, or in museum and conservation work within my archaeological and conservation career. I’ve written dozens of short stories, papers and articles but not until discovered the truth in 2010, about my namesake great uncle did I seriously consider writing a factual novel. I expected it would probably not be a long book, but the published 474 pages of Unwritten Letters to Spring Street would seem to say otherwise.
What inspired you to write this book?
I describe the dawning of this story in my book, Unwritten Letters to Spring Street as I walked across the railway track at Tha Makham, and later as I came to understand the Far East PoW story at Kanchanaburi museum in Thailand. That evening I sat on the deck of my rented wooden house overlooking the Indian Ocean and discovered injustice heaped upon tragedy piled upon war crime, concealed and concealed again, then forgotten and I knew at that moment I would write this story.
If you could sell this book in one sentence what would it be?
Jack Frith and the PoWs of Ambon were forgotten men, on a forgotten island, part of a forgotten army subjected to forgotten atrocities, if this book can help shed light upon those lost crimes and offer remembrance to these brave men, their sacrifice will be all the less in shadow.
What are you up to next?
I begin PhD study on the International War Crimes Tribunals in the Far East 1945-1949, and the memorialisation of British Far East Prisoners of War from Java and Ambon: Suez Maru case study, in the autumn. I have also begun a second book, on the so-named ‘D-Day Dodgers’ of Salerno and southern Italy, which will probably now also take ten years to complete, this is based on the forgotten armies of Italy; the D-Day Dodgers who dodged nothing and of which my maternal grandfather was one.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Without a doubt my parents. With little money but a fierce energy for learning, reading and adventure they brought me and my brother up to know no bounds of your dreams or goals, whilst also being loving and fun parents. One of my first memories is walking barefoot through the Sistine Chapel, aged four and looking up at the incredible frescoes. I am following their lead daily in bringing up my six year old son, Joe.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jacquelyn Frith is a postgraduate archaeologist and writer previously specialising in medieval metallurgy and scientific finds analysis, and although she has written many papers, articles and an MPhil thesis, this is her first actual book.
She begins PhD study on the International War Crimes Tribunals in the Far East 1945-1949, and the memorialisation of British Far East Prisoners of War from Java and Ambon: Suez Maru case study, in the autumn. She has also begun her second book, on the so-named ‘D-Day Dodgers’ of Salerno, which may also take ten years to complete.