Tag Archives: Hazel Barker

“Chocolate Soldier. The Story of a Conchie” by Hazel Barker

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Review by Abigail Cobley.

This book is a true testament to his courage and convictions and I highly recommend it!

Too little is known about conscientious objectors’ roles in the Second World War and Hazel Barker does a terrific job of bringing the story of Clarence Dover to our eyes. To stand in front of a judge at the tender age of 20 in the midst of war and tell him that you will not fight is such a courageous decision. Clarence did so, and by joining the Friends’ Ambulance Unit, he went on to risk his life stretcher-bearing in the London Blitz. After this, he travelled to India and China where he helped transport medical supplies.

This book is a true testament to his courage and convictions and I highly recommend it!

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Three Miracles by Hazel Barker

Three Miracles

Hazel Barker

In 1944 Japanese forces occupy Burma, my father is jobless and Mum has sold all her jewellery to buy food. We are starving.

Dad’s non-Christian relatives are wealthy merchants. Despite the war they live comfortably, often enticing us to abandon our Christian faith by promising delicious meals and ice cream for dessert if we convert to Islam. With quivering limbs, we children listen, swallow hard and lick our lips. Already our legs and bellies are swollen with beri-beri. My eldest brother, Rupert, also shivers and shakes with bouts of malaria.

Although sorely tempted by their offers, we don’t abandon our faith. Mum is adamant she would rather die than give up her faith. She instils in us the strength to bear our sufferings and to believe that the Lord will come to our aid.

Our plight worsens when our young sister Rose burns with fever and her body breaks out in spots. We can’t afford a doctor, so Dad calls in a herbalist. He tells Mum to lick the rash on Rose’s face, especially around her eyes, to prevent sores and loss of sight. Then he orders them to remain isolated from the rest of us, as smallpox is highly contagious.

Mum follows all instructions.

The period of waiting wears on: long and monotonous. The hint of death drives me to despair. I creep to my bed like a wounded animal in its cave. My stomach growls. I hold my distended belly. My legs feel too weak to carry me. Sleep remains my only solace. Time drags on. I don’t see Dad except at nights. Perhaps he remains with his relatives during the day and has his meals with them.

Even though we haven’t abandoned our faith, every evening the relatives bring something for us to eat. I am only eight and am at home, almost alone, because I was kept at home for fear the Japanese would capture me for their brothels. Rupert is too ill to accompany Dad or to eat and Mum refuses to have a bite. She is praying in her room. I wait until my brother, Bertie, returns home from his wanderings. He shares the food between us and we eat in silence. Then he relates his exploits.

Bertie keeps me going during the terrible period when I live in fear of death. I’d always been fond of him, but from then on, he remained a rock I clung to.

As the weeks drag on, in an attempt to re-take the country from Japanese forces, Allied bombing increases in intensity. Dad and the boys dug a trench in the back yard, and every night when the sirens scream, Lancasters rumble overhead. We rise from our beds and race into the air-raid shelter. Mum and little Rose can’t shelter with us in the trench until the danger of contagion passes, so Mum grabs her and crawls beneath the bed whenever the sirens sound their shrill warning.

I huddle in fear and pray for them.

Late one night, bombers fly over in force. They come in waves, breaking the silence like rolls of thunder. The earth trembles from the roar of anti-aircraft guns and the crump of bombs, dislodging dirt from the sides of the trench.

Amid the noise and confusion I hear a dull thud from the direction of the house. I expect a blast to follow, and picture a bomb falling on my mother and Rose as they crouch beneath the bed. I imagine them buried below a pile of rubble and long to rush indoors to save them.

But no explosion follows.

I half-rise to my feet.

Bertie cries, ‘An unexploded bomb must have fallen on our house.’

Hands on the damp earthen sides, we feel our way and scramble out of the trench, now filled with dust and smoke.

Mum runs through the haze towards us with Rose in her arms. Tears streak down her dust-covered face like snail tracks. ‘The house is on fire,’ she screams, above the drone of the planes, explosion of bombs and pounding of anti-aircraft guns.

The full moon lights our way until we reach the house and race up the stairs. An odour, which I learn later is cordite, assails my nostrils. Flames leap and roar in the boys’ bedroom.

Mum stops me before I enter. She hands my sister to me. ‘God will protect you, Hazel, and not let you catch small-pox from Rose. Look after her. I’m going to help put out the fire.’

I extend my arms, and the toddler nestles there, looking angelic with her eyes shut. Fresh scars, from which scabs have already fallen, pit her face. To prevent her from scratching, Mum has tightly secured her hands. Rose is swathed in a soft, white sheet like a shroud, with only her face visible. I hold her close and enter the room. The incendiary bomb sizzles, letting out blue sparks and orange flames. The heat from the blaze warms my skinny limbs. Smoke stings my eyes. I sneeze.

The boys drench their beds with water and Mum and Dad douse the incendiary bomb with sand. Finally, the fire is extinguished.

I squeeze my little sister, happy that she and Mum have escaped injury.

Next morning Mum beckons us. ‘Sit down and let me tell you what happened last night.’

Her eyes glisten as she talks. ‘Last night, while the bombs rained down, Rose sang Father, We Thank Thee for the Night. Her eyes were shut as she trilled out the hymn. I placed my hand on her forehead. Her temperature had dropped. I knew the crisis had passed.

‘My heart beating wildly, I fell to my knees and said, “Thank you, God, for saving my child.”’

She shakes her head and goes on. ‘If my faith had wavered when I witnessed the family sick and starving, this sign from Heaven only served to strengthen me. I got up, my trust in the Lord restored. As the bombs exploded, I held Rose to my breast and hid in the bomb-shelter we’d made beneath the dining table. I used my body as a shield, and prayed as the planes roared above. The house shuddered with the vibration from their engines. A bomb whistled down. I heard a thud followed by a sizzling, like a fire, from the boys’ room. Still holding on to Rose, I rushed towards the sound. An incendiary bomb had burst into flames between the boys’ beds.’

Mum clasps her hands and looks heavenwards.

I grip the arms of my chair and gasp. Surely the Lord had performed three miracles for us that night. Not only had he saved my sister’s life from a deadly disease, but he had prevented my brothers’ death by ensuring they were in the trench before the bomb landed, and saved my mother and sister from the bomb too.

I thank God, grateful we hadn’t succumbed to the temptation to abandon Him for the sake of a full stomach and ice cream for dessert!

 

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Wine & Cheese Night, Star of the Sea

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Book launch of Chocolate Soldier. The Story of a Conchie, 29th October, 2016

A big thank you to all those who attended the book launch and bought a book.

Everyone had a wonderful night thanks to Star of the Sea parish.

 

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Book launch of “Encounters” anthology

Encounters. A collection of short stories and poetry was launched on Friday the 21st October at the Carindale library.

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Four of my short stories have been selected for publication in the anthology. They are excerpts from Book I of my memoir Heaven Tempers the Wind. Story of a War Child (Armour Books) and my as yet unpublished manuscripts.

The stories are:

An Encounter with my Boss  excerpt from Book II Hope Springs Eternal – Memoir

Death excerpt from Heaven Tempers the Wind. Story of a War Child – Memoir

Milan excerpt from The Soprano Historical Fiction

The Promise of Tomorrow excerpt from Book II Hope Springs Eternal – Memoir

All profits will be donated to the Silky Oak’s family support programs at Manly West. The book is available for purchase at $16 per copy.

For more information email:  carindalewritersgroup@gmail.com

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Review of Heaven Tempers the Wind

Hazel Barker was a four-year-old living in Rangoon when the Japanese invaded in 1941. Until that time her father worked for the British establishment and the family was relatively well-to-do, but that all changed on Hazel’s birthday with the onset of bombing, causing the family to flee to Mandalay, then north again, until the invading Japanese army caught up with them. For the next four years the family’s fight for survival became ever-more desperate as the family savings dwindled to almost nothing and they were forced to live on the charity of relatives in the area of Mandalay.

The background of Hazel’s family is told incrementally; an Anglo-Indian mother, Burmese father, her two elder brothers, Rupert and Bertie, her elder sister, Jane, and the infants Rose and mentally-handicapped Herman. We are told of the tribulations suffered by her mother at the hands of her father who could be violent, and who, as the years progressed, became ever more isolated from his kin. This is doubly confronting when money is spent on liquor while the rest of the family are starving.

We learn of the bravery of Hazel’s brothers in the face of the enemy, of religious conflict between a Christian mother and her children pitted against a Muslim father and his relatives, of beriberi that afflicted all the children, of malaria that nearly claimed the life of her brother, Rupert, and of the death of her sister, Jane, following a vaccination given by the Japanese.

Adding to the story are insights gleaned from Hazel’s research into the war in Burma and from interviews with others who witnessed the invasion, or were involved in military action against the Japanese.

This is a compelling tale of courage, love and endurance, told largely from the perspective of a child. The book passes the critical test of compelling the reader to keep turning the page. After the Japanese were forced out of Burma Hazel’s father regains employment with the British and the family is required to return to Rangoon from the relative comfort of Mandalay. But at the close of the book the living conditions are desolate and only a sense of duty, or powerlessness, binds mother to father. What becomes of Hazel’s parents and siblings? How did she come to end up in Australia? This is all revealed in her next book, yet to be read by me. I look forward to it.

Review by Martin Line, retired academic and author of several publications in various disciplines.heaven tempers the wind cover

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Book launch of Heaven Tempers the Wind by Hazel Barker

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A big thank you to the staff of Victoria Point Library for hosting my book launch of Heaven Tempers the Wind, to all my lovely friends – old and new – for attending this wonderful event and to Sarah Davies for her photos of this memorable day. Last but not least a big hug to my publisher Anne Hamilton of Armour Books for introducing me and my dear husband Colin for all his support. Without his help this book wouldn’t have eventuated.

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Chocolate Soldier. The Story of a Conchie by Hazel Barker

chocolatesoldieresHazel’s debut novel Chocolate Soldier will be released by Rhiza Press in October, 2016. Book One of her memoirs Heaven Tempers the Wind was released by Armour Books this month. Both books are set during World War Two – the former in England and the Far East; the latter  in Burma.

Hazel Barker lives in Brisbane with her husband Colin. She taught in Perth, Canberra and Brisbane for over a quarter of a century and now devotes her time to reading, writing and bushwalking. From her early years in Burma, her passion for books drew her to authors like Walter Scott and Charles Dickens. Her love for historical novels sprang from Scott, and the love of literary novels, from Dickens. Many of her short stories and book reviews have been published in magazines and anthologies.

Adults, especially those interested in history of World War Two, those with a strong stance on involvement in war versus conscientious objections, would be inspired by this book. There is a faith/beliefs struggle which some may identify with or be inspired.

‘Historical facts taken from diaries of a real person going through the trauma of war make this compelling and very impactful. Interesting historical and cultural information about Britain in war as well as aspects of war from Egypt, India and China. Captures the internal battle of a conscientious objector in war: the prejudice he faced as well as the questioning of his beliefs.’ CALEB unpublished Fiction Manuscript Report 12/4/2012

 

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