He escaped from Singapore's Changi prisoner of war camp to become one of Australia's great World War II guerrilla fighters.
'The way I look at it is this...When you're behind the line and get yourself into trouble, you've got to get your bloody self out irrespective of anybody else. That's why I like it.'
Scottish-born but a Queenslander to the bone, Jock McLaren was a true Australian hero. As a prisoner he escaped twice, first from Changi and later from the infamous Sandakan POW camp in Borneo. After paddling a dugout canoe across open sea, he fought for two years with American-led Filipino guerrillas, his exploits so audacious the Japanese put a price on his head.
At the helm of his 26-foot whaleboat, the Bastard, McLaren sailed brazenly into enemy-held harbours, wreaking havoc with his mortar and machine guns before heading back out to sea. In early 1945 he joined Australia's secretive Z Special Unit, parachuting into Borneo to carry out reconnaissance and organise anti-Japanese resistance ahead of Allied landings. He cheated death on numerous occasions and saved his own life by removing his appendix without anaesthetic, using 'two large dessert spoons' and a razor blade.
Drawing on Allied and Japanese wartime documents, Bastard Behind the Lines brings the story of a courageous digger vividly to life and throws light on a rarely explored aspect of Australia's Pacific war.
Tom Gilling is an acclaimed novelist. The Sooterkin, Miles McGinty and Dreamland have all been published in Australia, London and New York. His non-fiction works include The Lost Battalions and Project Rainfall. He is also co-author with Clive Small of the highly successful Smack Express, Blood Money, Evil Life and Milat.
Allen & Unwin
Allen & Unwin
Paperback - C format