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POW's biography reveals emotional pain of WWII

CELEBRATING A SURVIVOR: Terry Tweedie has put on record the testimony of WWII POW Don Tweedie.
CELEBRATING A SURVIVOR: Terry Tweedie has put on record the testimony of WWII POW Don Tweedie. Belinda Scott

DON Tweedie was not a literary man, but his experiences as a World War II prisoner of the Japanese in South East Asia scorch the pages of Don Tweedie Fighting Bandsman's Last Stand.

The heart of this biographical book is several hundred hand-written pages of first-hand accounts that Don Tweedie penned after his return from Japan in 1945.

Those accounts, kept secret by Don for more than 50 years, show not just the physical but the mental damage inflicted on this Digger and other POWS by their captors and sometimes by others, even other captives.

They also demonstrate the love and loyalty that soldiers gave each other, helping many to survive their brutal situation.

Don returned to Australia with major eyesight and hearing problems which dogged him for the rest of his life.

He suffered years of insomnia, nightmares, depression and anxiety and a succession of mental breakdowns.

He left city life for the peace of the bush and his beloved animals, but struggled to make a living out of dairy farming at Ramornie near Grafton.

In 1957 Don Tweedie was declared totally and permanently incapacitated and granted a TPI pension.

He still managed a full and active life, farming and breeding cattle and poultry at Ramornie; at Orchard Hills near Penrith, where he began a jersey stud and at Forbes and later Gooloogong, where the family moved after he was advised to find a drier climate.

He and his wife raised a family of five boys and Don pursued his interests in dairy and beef cattle and Rhode Island Red fowls, as well as his interest in band music as a drummer and teacher in the town band.

The book follows Don Tweedie to his death at the age of 88 in 2007, providing a valuable picture of post-war farming life.

The author of the book is his son, retired forester Terry Tweedie of Coffs Harbour Terry, who holds a university degree in natural resource management, said writing the book was very different from writing reports and surveys on threatened species like the Hastings River mouse.

But he has brought academic rigour to the task, including an index, extensive notes and a bibliography for those interested in learning more about WWII and the POW experience.

After half a century of being unable to speak about his war, his father had finally wanted his family to "know what really happened and tell them to tell their kids."

"He was always proud of being an Australian soldier and he was a very determined man. He wasn't going to give in to them," Terry said.

Terry said he was encouraged to write for a wider audience by a friend who is a Vietnam War veteran.

Terry will hold a local book launch and book signing at Sawtell RSL on Thursday February 15, the 76th anniversary of the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in 1942.

Don Tweedie Fighting Bandsman's Last Stand is available directly from the author in both softcover and hard cover format. See www.terrytweedie.com email: tdtweedie@bigpond.com or call 0428711725.

Topics:  books coffs coast entertainment wwii


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