Book One of my memoirs Heaven Tempers the Wind. Story of a War Child will be in print by September. The title is taken from Psalm 6: 2. In Charles Kingsley’s book Hereward the Wake, the prota…
Source: BOOK ONE OF MY MEMOIRS
Heaven Tempers the Wind. Story of a War Child by Hazel Barker will appeal to both sexes. Lovers of war stories will be interested in learning of the American Volunteer Group, the Chindits and Merrill’s Mauraders. In the next few days I’ll be writing a few notes on these brave men who helped re-capture Burma from the Japanese in 1945.
The American Volunteer Group was officially employed by a private military contractor, the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company. Although called a volunteer group, they were the highest paid combat fliers, their monthly salary being no less than $600, while pilots in the American Armed services were receiving no more than $170 per month. Besides their monthly salary, pilots received $600 for every Japanese plane shot down. The 1st and 2nd squadrons were assigned to both ends of the Burma Road, and based at Kunming, in China. The 3rd squadron was based at Mingaladon airport, a few miles out of Rangoon. AVG fighter planes were painted with a large shark on the front. The pilots were the only Allied pilots trained in Japanese combat tactics. They fought against odds of more than five zeros to one P40. During the first two raids over Rangoon, on 23 and 25 December 1941, the AVG had only 14 planes at Mingaladon, but they shot down 36 Japanese planes with a loss of only two AVG fliers.
Between 23 December 1941 and the beginning of March 1942, they flew the oldest model P40, the Tomahawk, shooting down well over a hundred Japanese planes.
Book One of my memoirs Heaven Tempers the Wind. Story of a War Child will be in print by September. The title is taken from Psalm 6: 2.
In Charles Kingsley’s book Hereward the Wake, the protagonist Hereward says, “They say heaven tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, but it tempers it too, sometimes, to the hobbled ass.”
Heaven Tempers the Wind. Story of a War Child tells the story of a Eurasian family caught up in the Japanese occupation of Burma during World War Two. Much of the family story is told from the point of view of the fourth child. It depicts their flight from invading forces, and gives vivid accounts of the war.
The narrative follows the family from a comfortable life under British colonial rule, to the invasion of a foreign power which renders them homeless, sick and starving. The story concludes with the end of war.
Heaven Tempers the Wind is a story of suffering which never fails in its universal appeal. The resonances then, are twofold: firstly, the conflict is one that is familiar in the Australian collective memory; secondly, another less obvious appeal lies in the retelling of some of the history of contemporary Burma, in particular the part played by Aung San (father of Aung San Suu Kyi). Readers familiar with contemporary politics would be interested in the history preceding it.
The popularity of personal war stories is widespread. Within the context of a familiar war, Heaven Tempers the Wind tells an unfamiliar story that will also be of interest to readers who still live with memories of the war in Asia. Part of Australia’s national mythology is defined by war, and particularly potent are those stories of war that involve suffering. Gallipoli is evocative, not because it is a place of victory, but for the opposite reason.
HAZEL lives in Rangoon with her family in the wonder and bliss of childhood until the bombing of Burma in Christmas 1941 wrenches them from their home.
Sickness and starvation take their toll. The youngest sister gets smallpox and the older one dies of plague. A brother takes part in sabotage against the invaders. Another feeds his younger siblings with bones brought home by their dog.
Caught up in the traumas of war, Hazel thinks she’s on a holiday at first. Later on, she pines for her comfortable home, her dolls, and above all, her beloved sister.
Will the family survive the war, and will Hazel ever overcome her long-lingering emotional aftermath?
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